I’m the digital PM for a cancer support charity that works with 0-24 year olds and we have an obligation to safeguard our service users, particularly those under 21. I’ve been reading up on threads about anon posting and I tested it out myself on our staging platform of Discourse which we are setting up to support young people with cancer (16-25) and a separate one for significant others of those young people.
Although I think it’s great you have this feature I feel that there are significant flaws when it comes to safeguarding and usability.
We already have a forum up and running for 16-25 year olds but we wanted to move to your system should it provide what we already have in the way of features. Overall I think that Discourse can do the majority of what we wish a forum to do but with a few exceptions described below:
Posting anonymously - when a user posts anon on Discourse we as admins are unable to see who that user was. If a user is posting about having suicidal thoughts or abuse then we need to contact their social worker immediately, we are unable to do that currently on your platform.
We want our service users to open up and talk to one another on the forum. In a recent survey we ran, 46% of our current members said that the anonymous feature we provide on our bespoke platform was important to them, without it they wouldn’t open up to their peers and our forum would not be as active. However to enable users to post anon on your site requires a bit of thought by navigating to the anon icon in the profile avatar to switch this feature on or off. I can imagine many of our users simply won’t think to go to that part of the site to post their message anonymously and will simply presume it’s not a feature that’s available and therefore not post what’s on their mind. Additionally I can imagine if they do figure out how to turn the feature on they might also forget to turn it off.
Would it be better in terms of UX to simply have a tick box at the create message stage so the user can post anonymously?
In a similar vein to the above, our members in the same survey said they would love a space to message each other privately. However, again due to safeguarding, as admins we would need access to these messages if abuse, suicidal thoughts and even grooming etc were flagged, but I can’t see a way to view these messages in the admin area of Discourse.
Finally, we run regular Ask the Expert sessions which require messages which include the topic hashtag e.g. #moodexpert to automatically be hidden until the expert answers the message (can be up to 24 hours), do you have this feature, or something similar, already?
I realise this is lengthy and I thank you in advance for your help.