Anon additions August 1, 2005 8:20 AM   Subscribe

It would be really nice if there was a mechanism for someone who posts an anonymous Ask MetaFilter thread can come back and make additional postings to the same thread. People often make anonymous postings because they are asking about something they find personally embarrassing, and consequently the original post is kind of vague or evasive. Many of the MeFites trying to help ask for additional information, but there's no way for the anonymous person to provide it.
posted by curtm to Feature Requests at 8:20 AM (20 comments total)

Search for anonymous. This has been asked before.
posted by Plutor at 8:25 AM on August 1, 2005


(But has ever before it been asked so persuasively?)
posted by nobody at 8:29 AM on August 1, 2005


Search for anonymous. This has been asked before.

Actually, not. What I'm suggesting is something quite different that what you're linking to.
posted by curtm at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2005


You're right, curtm, most of the previous threads discuss it from the perspective of helpful-but-embarassed answerers, but I think the answer (and the solution) will end up being the same. The response from Mathowie has been, IIRC, "yes, this would be a really good idea, if I could figure out a way to keep it from being exploited."

You can maybe see why this might be a difficult feature to design, neh? Bigger ponies, like MeFi Projects and a redesign are in its way, I think.
posted by Plutor at 8:36 AM on August 1, 2005


Seems like what's necessary is a private login. I'd suggest an automatic login like "anonymous-14556" where the number is the thread ID. Since Matt already reviews each submission personally, he'd have to require an e-mail address that he could send this login information to.

The login would also only be able to comment on that thread, in the best case. If not, just let it comment everywhere, but have it expire when the AskMe question dies.
posted by odinsdream at 8:45 AM on August 1, 2005


I don't think Matt is ever going to add this feature (for reasons stated above). But without it, anon posts are really hindered. So is there another solution we could use by going offsite? Could someone (me?) create a supplementary forum for continued anon discussion about questions raised on AskMe? I have some anon questions that I would like to ask, but I've never bothered, because I know people won't feel comfortable answering without being able to answer anonymously. And I wouldn't be able to clarify my question without blowing my cover. So would an offside something work (message board? blog?) Would people use it? (The anon AskMe poster could link to the external site.)

Would there be ugly legal ramifications?
posted by grumblebee at 8:46 AM on August 1, 2005


Since the thread ID is part of the login name, it's unlikely that someone would use it around the rest of the site. Even if they did, I fail to see the harm in such a thing. i.e., "Hey look, the same person who asked about genital warts commented on this Karl Rove thread.. how interesting and completely harmless."
posted by odinsdream at 8:47 AM on August 1, 2005


curtm posted "but there's no way for the anonymous person to provide it."

Of course there is. If the anonymous person knows this site at all, they'll know that anyone involved in the thread would accept an email from a throwaway account. Now maybe they are nervous or something while things are unfolding and need reminding of this avenue, but I can't imagine less than 99.9% of people who have contributed an answer would be anything less than fully helpful. Easy.
posted by peacay at 9:06 AM on August 1, 2005


Perhaps something to this effect could be put on the page view one gets filling in an anonymous question?
posted by peacay at 9:08 AM on August 1, 2005


One solution would be to use an obfuscation function (only for AskMe). So, you have two options, post as your username, or post as a number. Suppose your user ID is 31343, and thread ID is 23654, then the function would take those in, and produce some string like 424A3F4D. Now, sock-puppets could abuse this feature but they get around the problem as it is.
posted by Gyan at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2005


It all depends on how Matt has the database set up. If he were smart, he'd have a separate field in thread creation in the AskMe db for anonymous. That way the specific poster is always tied to the thread, but the post-display method always shows their userid as anonymous. Thus, any of the poster's comments, including the initial post, will show as anonymous.

I don't know how Matt is handling the user-post-history page. When you view your previous post history, the anonymous posts should not show up (obviously). You could always code in a check to verify "if logged in as [user] and [user-posting-history] then show anonymous posts," or you could just make it simple and never return results if anonymous=true.

Apologies for pathetic pseudocode.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2005


odinsdream has a good idea on how it could be done. I've gone to great pains to make sure anonymous meant anonymous, so there currently is nothing in the database linking a question to the user that asked it. But I could do single-thread logins that could only be used there.

Of course, doing this allows the question asker to post anon comments while everyone else can't, which isn't completely fair.

Currently, you can avoid the need for additional comments by trying to get your entire story out in the extended section of an anonymous question.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:50 AM on August 1, 2005


Of course, doing this allows the question asker to post anon comments while everyone else can't, which isn't completely fair.

Perhaps, but it's not any less fair than allowing them to post questions anonymously in the first place.
posted by grouse at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2005


This is why sock puppets are actually useful.
posted by Rothko at 10:25 AM on August 1, 2005


I've gone to great pains to make sure anonymous meant anonymous, so there currently is nothing in the database linking a question to the user that asked it.

That's admirable, and I think probably more important than the pony-request.

/puts thinking cap back on
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:34 AM on August 1, 2005


It seems like a quick and dirty implementation would be thus:

After the user posts the anon question they are taken to another page which says: "This page is used to add an anonymous follow-up comment (only one) to expand on the previous question sometime later in the thread. Please keep this page open until you are ready to do so."

Basically, a delayed [more inside]
posted by vacapinta at 11:35 AM on August 1, 2005


Vacapinta, to expand on your idea... I think an even better quick and dirty implementation would be as follows:

1) User submits their Anonymous AskMe question.

2) They're redirected to a page that tells them that their submission is being reviewed. On that page there is also a URL, something like

http://ask.metafilter.com/followupanon?id=3423487

... along with an indication that they should copy the URL and save it somewhere. If their question is approved and posted, they'll be able to paste that URL into their browser to bring up a ONE-TIME-ONLY followup entry textarea.

My $.02.
posted by killdevil at 2:27 PM on August 1, 2005


Why one-time only? Just set up a limit and a counter on this access page.
posted by Gyan at 2:57 PM on August 1, 2005


I think everyone should agree that anon posters will answer any requests for clarifications within the comments on some random blog somewhere. It is the poster's responsibility to find that lucky blog and put in a link to the comment area. Everybody wins!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2005


One idea: when a user posts an anonymous question his cookie is update to reference an internal, temporary, anonymous account instead of their normal account. The person can then stay that person (on that machine) until the thread is exhausted.

Then they can log back in as their normal self.
posted by curtm at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2005


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