Anonymous mode – would that lower the barrier to posting?


(anonymous) #1

In another topic we are discussing how daunting it can be to post in a new community, especially if you are new to the subject/industry.

That got me and Rich thinking, and there is another option – you can post anonymously if that makes it a more comfortable proposition to ask questions.

This is actually HAWK posting… if you click the little spy icon under your avatar you can temporarily go into stealth mode.

I’m interested in trialling this to see how it works for us. I’m interested in your thoughts/feedback.

Would it have made you more comfortable to post the first time? Can you see drawbacks?

New Homepage - Your Thoughts
(Shreyas) #2

This is a really interesting move and I love the thought that has gone into this. For some reason, I’ve never been a huge fan of real name policy and have had conversations about this at my previous company, where we had enforced it to reduce trolling. I came across this article by The Coral Project on this topic.

I started participating here(and almost on every other forum) by commenting on existing discussions. It took a while before I asked my first question (also because every time I create a new discussion, I think a lot about the title and tags that are relevant). Would this also allow me to comment anonymously?
I think this is extremely helpful for a someone to ask questions about their community strategy while not giving out the name of the community they’re managing.

If, at some point, more and more discussions are posted anonymously, would it affect the sense of community that we have here?

(Richard Millington) #3

I love the idea of this. I wish it was an option next to each post you make though. You could tick a box if you wanted the post to be anonymous. At the moment it’s a little too hard to find.

The drawback, perhaps, is it could be used to attack / spam people. But I find that relatively unlikely. Even if it were, I imagine it would be relatively easy to narrow down the list of culprits by whomever was online around that time.

We tried this with our community platform tool recently. I think around 1/3rd of the reviews were anonymous.

(Robert McIntosh) #4

Why make it anonymous to admins? While I can understand that a user might not want to have their name attached to their post publicly if they were rather uncertain, there is no reason that in a system where they are required to create a profile, then ‘switch’ to anonymous mode’, that the admins should not be able to identify that user and therefore keep them honest!

(I am assuming they have profiles, otherwise the system could just allow anonymous users and therefore no need to turn on such a facility)

As others have noted, it could increase the likelihood of irrelevant and anti-social comments. I suspect it would be a tool more likely to be used by someone who was already well-versed in a community (as I am doing) to comment, than it would be for someone new to the space.

I don’t honestly believe that it would do much to encourage ‘lurking’ participants to start posting, personally. I suspect that the reticence is a behaviour issue and the pressure of that ‘maiden post’, so probably better to do more with sandboxing a new user instead, and get them to add content in a non-stressful way.

I really like the new Discourse Narrative bot idea that gets users to actually use the site on arrival. You could also then ask or invite them to complete a short profile or survey that encourages them to trial post.

(anonymous2) #5

Can you really not tell who posted this?


(Sarah Hawk) #7

By default it is.

I thought the same thing, but this is based on literal feedback from our audience (i.e. they don’t feel like ‘experts’) so I figure it’s worth a try.

You raise a good point though – how will people know that it exists?

(Robert McIntosh) #8

I hadn’t realised it existed as an option, so I went to the Discourse documentation. I believe that it was mainly developed as a tool for sites where conversations required a means of anonymising content for logged in members who were otherwise vetted (in order to create a profile) but who did not necessarily want the content to be linked to their name (such as for medical queries).

I’m not sure that it would be that effective for inducing nervous new members, who are not posting largely because they are unfamiliar with the environment, to start to post because it is fairly complex to set up.

(Sarah Hawk) #9

Interesting assumption. I’m not sure it’s environment related, but I hear you. As Rich mentioned, it would be a lot easier to use if you could turn it on at a post level.

Ah well, let’s see how it rolls. We have nothing to lose and if it helps just one person it’ll be a win.

(Richard Millington) #10

You could be right, but I don’t think it’s the technology holding people back here. Discourse isn’t the easiest tool, but it’s pretty simple to figure it out if you’re motivated enough.

(Robert McIntosh) #11

It isn’t just how easy a tool is to use though.

It is about being confident about using it - knowing how to do things, what will happen next, how to get tone, content, style, etc right for the place.

Let me put it another way more familiar to me and not about technology.

I like shopping for wine. I can go into any one of a chain of wine shops (e.g. Majestic in the UK) and despite not knowing where any particular wine or region is, I know there is a tasting staton somewhere, that I can help myself to bottles and cases, that I am encouraged to buy 6 bottles, that staff will answer my questions, and that there is often a special ‘cellar’ area for better bottles. I don’t need to know any person there, nor where any specific bottle is, but I feel pretty much as confident in my usual shop as one in a town I’m visiting for the first time.

Now, if I go into an unfamiliar, independent wine shop, I have no idea whether I need to ask for someone to help me. I do not know how they range the wines, nor whether there is anything to taste. I might see a great wine, but not be sure whether the price is only if I buy a case, not a bottle. I might not be aware of the extra display space in the basement. I don’t know if the person at the till is just a shop assistant taking payments, or an expert who can help me choose a good bottle.

In both cases MY expertise is the same. In both cases I have the same motivation. But I am much more likely to interact with staff and other customers in the first instance than the second. I am also more likely to buy in the first instance. That is the point of “chains”

Therefore, if I am familiar with Discourse sites, I may quite happily leave a comment knowing that I will get an email notification of a follow-up, or that I can send a private message but only after I’ve been on the site for a certain amount of time.

That is why folks are more likely to leave comments in Facebook groups, or YouTube videos of complete strangers, because the process is familiar (Arguably that also has its drawbacks).

So, my point above was only that “getting to know the system so you are comfortable with it” is an EXTRA barrier to interaction. Increasing the complexity of the process in order to reduce possible social pressures may have no net effect on behaviour.

On the positive side, it is why I think Discourse is a good platform because it offers a reasonably consistent interface across different communities. While other platforms sell themselves on their customisability, it means they do not benefit from habits built elsewhere.

Apologies for long post - also trying to express something that was more of a reaction at first

(Graham Perrin) #12

It’s a very neat feature. Great to know that it exists, and I like that the feature was not mentioned in FAQ or any automated message.

Gut feeling: for each newcomer, if/when the time comes for a member of staff to reach out with a first private message:

  • from the first private response(s) it should be possible for the member of staff to tell whether the newcomer might benefit from being told about the feature.

Side note: I sought this topic after reading Privacy in Feverbee?

(anonymous11) #13

Cool feature.

P.S. Having played around with it a little, I’ve found it to be is like icing on a cake: I don’t really need it but the site looks even better with it.

(remah) #15

I am @anonymous11 - now that I remember to get out of stealth mode first. :grinning:.

If I had known about this feature then I would have used an anonymous response in my first week.

The stated intention is for new members to post anonymous questions. This would be very useful if I were a customer and there were some doubt or concern that I didn’t want to colour our relationship. But I’m not a customer so I will probably only ever use it for responses.

@HAWK, this feature has me thinking of Feverbee as innovative. :fireworks: I now realise that I will be exposed to further innovations and tests/trials simply because you will keep trying to improve. This is a good reason for staying involved.

(Bas van Leeuwen) #16

If you can now ask questions about your community, without it being tied to your person, that is a very useful thing :slight_smile:
A bit like what was happening with Community Geek; people felt a bit more open to share embarrassing stories and/or ask vulnerable questions.

Especially if you want actionable advise about a specific situation (e.g. my member asked this and think I might hurt his feelings when I reply that, what do you think?), without the chance of it backfiring because that member read it online :slight_smile:

(Nick Emmett) #17

I’m going to be honest - I’m not a fan of anonymous posts.

I’m big on relationships in community, and getting to know who people are and what makes them tick. If I can’t see who you are in any way then that’s a barrier for me to getting to know and connect with you.

I also think it’s difficult for anonymous people to build any kind of credibility.

(anonymous13) #18

But I could be be the bigliest community manager in the world, with all the best advices, you would never know!


(Nick Emmett) #19

My point exactly!

(Piper_Wilson) #20

Me either. If I need anonymity, I’d rather that ask someone else to post on my behalf. If that’s not anonymous enough, I’d have to question the value of, or my motivation for creating the post to begin with. (I hope that makes sense.)

(remah) #21

Why would a member with an excellent reputation post the best advice anonymously? Why decouple their argument or opinion from their community persona?

I thought that this would be an extreme edge case because it defeats the purpose of building credibility. I changed my mind when I thought of several scenarios where it could be reasonable to post anonymously. I now like stealth mode even more.

  • To play the devil’s advocate and take a position they don’t want others to follow but they do want to encourage the participation of others taking that position.
  • To set-up a straw man to argue against. To establish a dialectic, if you like.
  • To express a personal opinion that goes against a key tenet or ideology of the site, e.g. decrying abortion on a radical feminist site. To avoid a cyberspace “lynching”.
  • To support another user who is being roasted or lynched by the majority. Attempting to ameliorate excessive reactions without risking their trusted position in the community and without becoming a target for that antagonism. To be a voice of sanity in an insane situation.
  • To tell a joke or reveal an embarrassing story about themselves.
  • To ask genuine questions revealing their ignorance in an area where they might be expected to know more, but without this affecting their credibility.
  • To express an outrageous opinion, have a YOLO moment, sow wild oats, etc.

(Nick Emmett) #22

Generally speaking, I’m not sure that they would. This thread is more about getting around a barrier to posting and how potentially the ability to post anonymously might help people get around that barrier.

Most of the items on your list, whilst definitely being reasons why some people may consider posting anonymously, if they’re able, are all reasons in my opinion that again devalue the stance/post/intention of the poster and can often be seen to be flaming/trolling etc.

Playing devils advocate is much more effective (IMO) when done in the open. Same for the straw man.
Anything else is at risk of being construed to be trolling - regardless of the intention.

Is it really a personal opinion, if the poster hides behind an anonymous ID?

I’m not sure that this would be seen this way from an anonymous poster - the voice of sanity/reason would have more impact and standing by an open poster.

Obviously these are just my opinions and I have no facts, science or even anecdotes to back myself up :slight_smile: