Enabling Anonymous Mode in Discourse


(Robert McIntosh) #1

What is it and how does it work?

Anonymous Mode is a core Discourse function that allows registered users of a community to post content using a temporary account so that they may participate in conversations without associating this content with their personal information, for example when discussing private health matters.

This is not the same as allowing unregistered users to post content. Discourse is built to encourage civilized discussion, so in order to avoid spam and unacceptable behaviour all members must first register and meet the requirements of the community. However, there are times and subjects where Community Managers may wish to allow their users a level of public anonymity for the content being posted.

This setting applies globally to the community and cannot be restricted to only certain categories.

Anonymous Mode is not fully private and admins are able, if necessary, to associate anonymous accounts with the user in order to maintain the integrity of a community, but this is not a standard admin tool and is discouraged.

The setting is not enabled by default as in many cases anonymous posting will not be appropriate, but it is available where required.

Enabling (Admin Settings)

To enable Anonymous Mode in your community:

  • Go to Site Settings and select the Users options

  • Check the box to enable allow anonymous posting

Options:

  • anonymous posting min trust level is set to TL1 - increase this to restrict who has access to this mode

  • anonymous account duration minutes is set to 10080 minutes (1 week). Accounts are kept active by posting, and they expire after this period from the last post by this account. If this mode will be primarily used to post single messages, then reduce the time period so new accounts are created regularly. If users are likely to need to continue conversations, this can be increased.

Anonymous Mode accounts …

CAN

  • create topics
  • reply
  • edit their posts
  • send and receive messages
  • bookmark topics
  • share links

CANNOT

  • like
  • flag
  • receive email notifications
  • add posts or topics via email

Enabling (User Settings)

To post using Anonymous Mode, registered users should click on their avatar and they will see the Anonymous Mode icon (or :spy:). Click on this button to Enter Anonymous Mode and start an anonymous session.

image

The user’s avatar will switch and a new username is created, @anonymousX where ‘X’ is a next available numerical digit, cycling as new accounts are created. (Note: this differentiates Anonymous Mode accounts such as @anonymous18 from anonymised user accounts that look like: @anon1234567)

To exit Anonymous Mode, the user should either log out, or click the exit anonymous mode button :no_entry_sign: in the avatar menu.

image

To log back in, users need to enter their original credentials. Switching back to Anonymous Mode within the site’s Anonymous Mode time period re-enables the same account, giving access to notifications and messages. If that period has expired, a NEW Anonymous account will be created.

Users are not able to create a new anonymous profile until the current profile has expired.

Benefits of Anonymous Mode

  • Specific circumstances may require users, who have been validated, to post content without sharing personal information. Examples include sharing sensitive health-related information, to share useful advice without divulging company details, or to give honest opinions without upsetting personal relationships.
  • This may be useful in encouraging shy or reticent participants to engage and become active users.
  • By only allowing registered users to enable this mode, oversight is still maintained but added privacy can be offered.

Drawbacks of Anonymous Mode

  • Anonymity can encourage inappropriate behaviour, so should only be used if required
  • Over-reliance on impersonal accounts breaks down the benefit of building personal relationship, and trust, within a community. Anonymous accounts do not gain Trust Level credentials (they remain at TL1)
  • As a technical solution that requires users to enable and disable, it could be a barrier to getting new users to interact. It might be better to engage them through other trust-building interactions and on boarding

Related topics:
How will anonymous posting mode work?
Is anonymous posting possible?
Anonymous Mode restriction per category?


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