Anonymous post or comment pony June 18, 2004 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Secret pony request. I was wondering if it could be made possible to obsfucate a username in AskMetafilter? There have been times, and I imagine I'm not the only one, that I would have liked to post a question anonymously. This could be for a variety of reasons, ranging from the ethical to the legal, but I have lots of questions that I may not want linked to my user page forever.
posted by cedar to Feature Requests at 2:11 PM (43 comments total)

So you want double anonymity..? Using the behavior stemming from the first round of anonymity as an example, I'd hate to witness the misbehavior of those who would have a two degree seperation of anonymity for their comments..
posted by jazzkat11 at 2:25 PM on June 18, 2004


I second. Also, cedar's phrasing covers this implicitly, but could we have the same facility for replies as well?

Of course, it is always Matt's prerogative to ensure this feature isn't abused.
posted by Gyan at 2:27 PM on June 18, 2004


This, I believe, would be a great troll facilitator.
posted by Hackworth at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2004


Maybe questions could be posted anonymously on the wiki?
posted by interrobang at 2:33 PM on June 18, 2004


Yes, anonymity would be fantastic. I long for MetaFilter to reach the civility and intellectual discourse of the message boards below news articles on Yahoo.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:34 PM on June 18, 2004


XQU.... : That isn't exactly what I meant. Obviously posting would still be restricted to registered members and Matt would have the user specifics readily available for any given post in case things got out of hand.

I was just thinking, almost always a bad thing, that it would be nice to be able to switch my name off from a given post (and only on AskMetafilter). Google has a long memory and I'd rather a moments stupidity didn't come back to bite me in the ass years later.
posted by cedar at 2:42 PM on June 18, 2004


The solution for this may lie in your handy-dandy new contacts lists.

Those people are your friends, your posse, your people, supposedly. Get one of them to submit it, or go a further degree of separation down that line to a friend/acquaintance/fuckbuddy of theirs, and that way, it'll be harder to trace a given question back to you, and yet you'll get the question asked and answered in a relatively trustworthy way.

I'm with XQ. I see a true anonymity feature causing more harm than good. Many of us (okay, many of you) have personalities now, and such a pony is no longer realistically rideable.
posted by chicobangs at 2:44 PM on June 18, 2004


we had this before and i - and others apparently - emailed the person wanting to ask an anonymous question offering to post it for them. so you could pick someone who's posting history leads you to trust them and ask a favour...

takes opportunity to post a question about that embarassing rash, hoping people will suspect it was for cedar.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:50 PM on June 18, 2004


If you don't want your mom/employer/family/google to see it, don't post it.
posted by riffola at 2:50 PM on June 18, 2004


(or whose use of grammar you trust.)
posted by andrew cooke at 2:51 PM on June 18, 2004


cedar: my...uh, nephew says you can always speak on behalf of your relatives.

Or neighbors, even (to paraphrase the statement of a friend of a friend)...
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:55 PM on June 18, 2004


How about a rigid user -> anonymous mapping?

So, I'm and always would be Anon00242. Only #1 knows the mapping. It's upto the user's discretion to not give away his/her identity.
posted by Gyan at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2004


Don't worry, it's just a rash.
posted by adampsyche at 3:16 PM on June 18, 2004


Maybe questions could be posted anonymously on the wiki?

Actually, from what I've seen of the Wiki, it's even less private, it records the IP of the poster as well as user name right there in the change log, right?
posted by milovoo at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2004


Hell, just tell everyone that you're posting for a MetaGrey "special friend" and everyone will assume it's Weston!
posted by five fresh fish at 4:27 PM on June 18, 2004


milovoo: Yes, it does. I suppose you could use anonymizer or some similar IP-obfuscator to hide yourself but there must be better ways of asking anonymous questions - maybe using anonymous email?
posted by adrianhon at 5:33 PM on June 18, 2004


The question is who you're trying to be anonymous from. If it's just Google, that's easy to implement (although there's an issue as to whether Matt would want to) -- hide them in the same way email addresses are hidden now. If you want to be anonymous from other logged-in members but still let Matt track you, that'd be relatively trivial too, and difficult to abuse. If you want to be anonymous from anyone who can see the server logs (in case they're subpoenaed or whatever), then that's more difficult, and likely open to abuse unless it was moderated, which then probably opens up all kinds of legal cans-of-worms.
posted by reklaw at 5:53 PM on June 18, 2004


I want (in AskMetafilter) the part with my name to say, 'none of your f'ing business'. I want this to be a simple check box on the posting form. Then I want it to make me breakfast and not smirk over coffee while it thinks remembers how often I fell down the night before. And, Mr. Selectable Checkbox, I didn't know you guys were together. Really, I swear.

Too much to ask?

It's not Google I want to hide from, it's you I want to hide from.
posted by cedar at 6:54 PM on June 18, 2004


We are legion.
posted by interrobang at 7:03 PM on June 18, 2004


metafilter proper needs this. metafilter could use a few more trolls. seriously.
posted by bargle at 7:11 PM on June 18, 2004


You're either anonymous or you aren't. There's no such thing as half anonymity. If we have full anonymity then it'll be abused. If Matt knows who we are even when we're anonymous then he gets subpoened the first time somebody posts something that passes the threshold where the government takes interest.

So it doesn't protect anybody for anything that posting as 'cedar' wouldn't and wastes Matt's time with ugly legal bullshit.
posted by substrate at 7:29 PM on June 18, 2004


well funk my wagnalls.
posted by quonsar at 7:51 PM on June 18, 2004


Or, alternatively, I could have you email me and use one of my legion of secret MeFi proxy posters, most of which went unused on the last round.
posted by weston at 8:33 PM on June 18, 2004


I don't get why this is a big deal. Use the anon idea just for posting questions to AskMeFi with the stipulation that the user must be logged in so Matt knows who asked. If the quesion is a troll or egregious, the person is banned or some harsh punishment to make it not worth while to abuse the system.
posted by jmd82 at 9:00 PM on June 18, 2004


Oh, and I know stuff Matt has said is far from set in stone, but ...
posted by jmd82 at 9:03 PM on June 18, 2004


Yeah, I've got some questions I'd like to ask anon myself and I will build in a way for folks to submit a question, which I'll just check over and approve, then it'll get posted as anonymous.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:19 PM on June 18, 2004


See^^ See^^

I'm not crazy. Someone else thinks it's a good idea.
posted by cedar at 9:27 PM on June 18, 2004


I'm with you, cedar. If someone wants to post anonymously, then cool. If just the poster is kept undisclosed, then there's no chance of it turning all yahoo.

And for anonymous answers - e.mail.
posted by triv at 2:45 AM on June 19, 2004


There's no such thing as half anonymity.
Although Doctors would disagree.

In the context of Ask, this is a great idea.
posted by seanyboy at 6:16 AM on June 19, 2004


Ask Metafilter: It's you I want to hide from.

I agree with cedar, personally. There's been a couple things I've wanted to ask about but couldn't, because they were job search-related, and I didn't want the questions getting back to my employers. And then there's the strange burning sensation when I pee...oh, wait!
posted by vraxoin at 8:11 AM on June 19, 2004


If Matt does get some sort of anonymous AskMe thing going, everytime I see a post by anonymous I'll think, "Oh, there goes cedar, again." ;-)
posted by jaronson at 8:54 AM on June 19, 2004


I agree that this is a great idea -- on a community site I run, I essentially do the same thing (although for entirely different reasons).

Anyone clicking the "post anonymously" checkbox gets assigned the name "unknown" for all intents and purposes -- but the database records their actual user id.

When people want to post something anonymously, they can do so -- but anytime someone abuses it, I can call up the database and ban them as I see fit. With AskMe, it would be a matter of just trusting Matt (and I think we all do) -- while the anonymity might not hold up in court, I also don't think questions that might be submitted as court evidence are the kind that are encouraged, period, on AskMe. But if someone had a potentially embarassing question, or a question about their employer, or about their relationship with their spouse, this would be a lot easier and better than e-mailing someone else.

For what it's worth, I don't find anonymous posting to be abused at all. People tend to be more snarky and brutally honest, but not problematically so. Granted, my site has a mere 350 or so active posters, but the most troublesome users are always are pretty proud to display their username.
posted by rafter at 10:12 AM on June 19, 2004


So only mathowie will know about your nasty, um, rash. Cool.
posted by rushmc at 10:22 AM on June 19, 2004


then again, he probably caused it!
posted by quonsar at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2004


He has been getting around lately.
posted by chicobangs at 11:45 AM on June 19, 2004


Cedar, just cause some one else thinks it's a good idea doesn't mean you're not crazy.
posted by theora55 at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2004


Mathowie:
Why do you need to see it at all? If the questions are going to be anonymous to everyone else, and all you're evaluating is the content of the question, then shouldn't we be able to submit it to you anonymously in the first place?
posted by Evstar at 3:55 PM on June 19, 2004


i agree, this is a good idea, and i really don't see any possibility for misuse. It's not really anonymous, as matt would still know who it was and since matt is the only one moderating the site anyway that's fine.

if it's going to be checked for appropriateness first, like matt said, it could actually be really anonymous though. but would you still have to be a member? and if not would that cause a flood of nonmember questions? I for one would like to see how many questions we would get if asking was opened up to anyone, member or not.
posted by rhyax at 7:25 PM on June 19, 2004


Not having the information could:

(a) save the admin trouble from any nosy folks coming around, curious if he knows who posted what.

(b) cause trouble if any really nosy folks came around and wanted to use some technique from a little known branch of physics called quantum serialism or something that could help them recover the posters IP even though it wasn't recorded and we'll have the server back in 30 days, thank you very much.
posted by weston at 7:58 PM on June 19, 2004


I think anonymity can be a good thing for AxMe questions.

I wanted to post a question a few weeks back, but really debated whether I wanted to tip off certain "real-world" MeFi friends. I think anonymity would encourage people to pose more personal questions (which is also a good thing because the reponses to my question were very helpful).
posted by subgenius at 9:16 PM on June 19, 2004


In Lessig's Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace he uses a (physical) bulletin board at some ivy league school as an example. There's a rule that everything posted on the board needs to be signed. The loophole is that it doesn't need to be signed by the author, so there are missives, screeds and manifestos all saying "Signed (but not written) by Real Name." It allows writers to be anonymous while still requiring a non-anonymous user who is willing to put his or her name behind the message.

Basically chicobangs' contact list suggestion, but with a real world example.
posted by revgeorge at 11:32 AM on June 21, 2004


I'm sort of up in the air about this idea..i dont really see the need for anon...nimity.. or whatever. of course i dont mind looking like an asshole, since i pretty much am.

If anybody wants to, I'll gladly post any rash questions you have, if only until #1 decides to implement this.
posted by bob sarabia at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2004


if this is going to be implemented, what happens when someone asks the anonymous-asker a question, say for clarification or more info? how do they respond and still keep their anonymity?
I think it's a great idea, otherwise...
posted by j at 9:05 PM on June 21, 2004


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