I know we've had a few questions in the past similar in concept, but this question indicates one of the potential issues with open naming.

Other Stack Exchanges like Stack Overflow, where legal issues and real ethical issues are not being presented, don't have this issue. We can use our real names there, and so on.

In this one, where there are both real and hypothetical situations with major implications, people have been using their real names, their websites, their real pictures, and everything they shouldn't be potentially posting in their questions.

Is there a practical way of reminding the user before the question is posted? I know it's relatively easy to trace a user history back for most people on the site, but when Google caches this question almost instantly, the anonymity factor is immediately gone.

I assume this warning can be provided when a tag is provided, such as ethics, legal issues, or any sort of misconduct. I know StackOverflow has such a feature for tag synonyms.

StackOverflow Tag Warning

  • would you give an example for the warning tags in SO? I would go one further step and ask: is it possible to somehow change/isolate the OP identity completely (make the OP avatar unclickable or something) only for this question - after OP agreement- . People sometimes do not understand the consequences of such questions.
    – seteropere
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:51
  • 1
    @seteropere I have attached the image. The function is still being developed (the finalized box will probably not be red as it is meant as advice, not admonishment). It's a newer feature that obviously hasn't seen much use, but would be helpful, especially for legal-issues and the other tags we have that likely need a "Just FYI..."
    – Compass
    Nov 7, 2014 at 0:15
  • Related in the Mother Meta: Allow users to hide connections between accounts.
    – E.P.
    Nov 17, 2014 at 18:27

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure how this would be accomplished. Having a warning present every single time a user posts a question leads to the warning being ignored. Users see their name and image every time they log in, which reminds them that their actions are associated with their ID.

Any time a user wishes to submit anonymously they can simply create a throwaway account and post from that. If they forget to do so, or if a question becomes problematic only after comments/answers are posted, users can flag their question and request that it be dissociated from their account; Community Mods (i.e., Stack Exchange employees; not the Academia mods) have the capability of doing that. I would personally advocate that users used those approach rather than add extra text that users are likely to ignore anyways to the question page.

  • 7
    The warning would only appear for high-risk tags, such as legal-issues, academic-dishonesty, research-misconduct, and ethics. It would not appear for stuff like teaching or applications.
    – Compass
    Nov 7, 2014 at 1:31
  • 2
    @Compass - That does make it better, but I still think it's up to the user to be anonymous when they want to. I guess it's a question of how much you want to protect the user from themselves, and I think this may be just a bit more than is needed.
    – eykanal
    Nov 7, 2014 at 14:42
  • “Having a warning present every single time a user posts a question leads to the warning being ignored.” This only effects people who have already posted multiple questions. I would expect that many of the sensitive posts are from one-off questioners, who haven’t posted many questions (if any) at academia.se before.
    – PLL
    Nov 16, 2014 at 6:52
  • I think "High Risk Tag" would be extremely difficult to quantify without some serious legwork by moderators or the community.
    – Fomite
    Dec 4, 2014 at 4:17
  • "Any time a user wishes to submit anonymously they can simply create a throwaway account and post from that." Is this behavior generally accepted on SE?
    – SK19
    Mar 4, 2018 at 14:52

From a personal experience, in some cases you would want to anonymize the post after exchanging some comments or making some edits or updates.. In other cases people are not even aware of the severity of not being anonymous.

Moreover, I don't think that users should be obliged to choose between either keeping and raising their scores, badges and points on one side, or being anonymous.

If adding a customized feature in Stackexchange Academia is possible, I would suggest a voting feature (similar to that of closing questions), such that a question is made anonymous after certain number of votes in addition to being either approved or initiated by the asker.

For example, X posts a question, Y and Z think it should be anonymous, so they vote for that and then X approves or rejects. Or X publishes a question and states his desire that it should be anonymous, then Y and Z would see the asker's desire, and could vote to anonymize it as well.

  • 2
    Setting up a separate voting system for this is pretty much overkill and so is allowing anonymous posts and gaining reputation and badges for them. What could be feasible, is a button for admins to completely detach a post from a user, but whether this is actually worth the effort is upon Stack Exchange to decide.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Nov 12, 2014 at 15:08
  • I would personally prefer that the user ultimately decides the fate of the post. If the user sees a warning and ignores it, then we should move on. The more recent threads we've had, the warning has only been made by a user after it's been posted.
    – Compass
    Nov 12, 2014 at 15:14

In so much as the poster needs to have common sense to realize they may not want their name attached to something on the internet, I am not sure how much responsibility the site bears towards informing them. It is, in the end, up to the individual to assume as much risk as they want. Although comments to the poster, warning them, might be appropriate. For example, this question How to intentionally get denied entry to the US, without getting into trouble had implications that it was important that no one from the OP's family find out. The account was a throwaway but a lot of people (including me!) posted to warn the OP of being tracked on her computer. In this case it was advice from answerers, rather than a policy of the site.

Giving people the option to post anonymously could help those who do not want to be identified so that they do not have to create throwaway accounts. However, the privilege should be fairly strictly monitored. I am thinking that moderators would be able to see how many flags a person has, if not for what, and strip the user from being able to post anonymously in the future (this would NOT remove anonymity from anything currently posted but these could be deleted), and any further action taken (like putting the user on suspension) would happen as normal except the moderator would not know who it is.

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