Anonymous questions


(Sarah Hawk) #1

How do you handle anonymous questions on your community?

I’m referring to situations where someone needs information or support but doesn’t want to post publicly for fear of repercussions (from employers or otherwise).

I belong to @Suzi_Nelson’s community (Facebook based) and she has an #Anonymous question ‘service’. People can email with questions to be asked on their behalf. Great idea.

Yesterday I made this post on behalf of someone else that contacted me via DM, for the same reason.

It got me thinking about how many other questions don’t get asked because people are nervous.


(Mark Williams) #2

I wish more platforms had this option (as an optional option) and/or the ability to have separate “identities” per sub-forum/topic. There was a great talk that the co-founer of Reddit had on pseudonyms. It can be incredibly useful to be anonymous or hide behind a mask. It can be terribly abused as well. I think Quora’s take is one of the better ones out there.

I’ve only had to do it a couple of times and that came through email, similar to what you mentioned.


(Suzi Nelson) #3

It’s funny, only like 10 people have ever taken me up on that offer. A few emailed in, but I was able to help them wihtout making an anonymous post. But I think people like knowing that the option is there.


(Darren Gough) #4

Slightly off track but something I’ve always found fascinating is how anonymous identities gain their own value over time. As that user begins to build a reputation under the pseudonym they become protective of it as they would their own reputation.

It became a powerful weapon for us to threaten to revoke the username because it had become a “real” thing. We had one chap, banned for some pretty abusive stuff, email us around once every month to PLEAD to have his username back (despite starting numerous other ones).


(Richard Millington) #5

I wonder how hard it would be to develop a button people could select that would post a question anonymously.

Is that something we can do? I’d love to test that.


(Duncan Field) #6

This is a big question for me as we develop a community of practice in the non-profit sector. In a way it can seem like each charity is in some zero-sum, Hobbesian state of nature where dollars going to one aren’t going to the other.

My organization wants it to be fully identified (i.e. not anonymous), but I wonder what effect that will have on contributions. Will people be hesitant to open up to ‘competitors’? Maybe that’s a naive concern.


(Sarah Hawk) #7

Anything’s possible on Discourse (with $)!


(Sarah Hawk) #8

It’s not a naive concern, I think it’s very real. Different people have different requirements for anonymity. It never occurred to me that anyone would feel the need to be anonymous here, but there are actually many people, some of whom have made it clear that if they have to use their real name, they won’t post. I think it’s our job to respect that.

I’m interested to hear the organisation’s rationale for the insistence of identifiers.


(Duncan Field) #9

The concern from leadership is that they want it exclusive to people in the industry, even talking about requiring charity registration numbers to make an account. The talk is that by using real names and companies, people may take the actual contributions more seriously. Part of the goal is to help connect people from live events to continue the discussion online, so having it be more obvious who’s who would make that easier. Also talk of a searchable database so you can find and connect with specific people as a user.

Maybe its my own background in anonymous communities, but that idea seems a little uncomfortable to me. Maybe there’s evidence to show the pro’s and con’s of anonymity/public names in communities of practice?


(Sarah Hawk) #10

A few conversations and articles:

Do you require (and display) real names?
Pseudonymity – is it always appropriate?
Anonymise user
Anonymity vs Attribution
Why Members Want To Be Anonymous Online

Impact of Anonymity on Information Sharing through Internal Psychological Processes

@JoeNarusis Do you know of other relevant resources?


(Richard Millington) #11

I’d say they are massively over-thinking this. There are a tiny number of communities where it benefits members for everyone to use their real name and be approved as someone in that field. I remember PoliceOne and some of the doctor sites (like Sermo etc…) were like this. And there are very good reasons why you want to check a cop’s badge number or a doctor’s license before they trade advice and ideas in their work. I think there have been a few for teachers at all.

But for everyone else, it’s really a matter of preference. I prefer it here, but don’t enforce it here for the very reason above. I’d really try to push against this. It really won’t make a difference in activity levels on a community of this size at all.