Make anonymous posts


(Yeonho Yoon) #1

Is it possible to allow approved users to make anonymous posts?

This is different from letting unregistered users make posts. Instead, users who are registered and authenticated would have choice to make posts anonymously or not.

This feature is pretty common in the internet forums where I live (S. Korea). It is usually present where all members of the forum belongs to a common group, such as students in a university. The ability to post anonymously can encourage more user activity on certain topics.

Of course, anonymity can lower the quality of posts. So there should be some limit to number of anonymous posts a user can make according to their trust level, etc.

Is this feature rare in western internet forums?


Plugin that allows anonymous posting
How to balance confidentiality with openness in Discourse configuration
(Kane York) #2

Perhaps a plugin could do this.

First, add a checkbox to post editor that’s submitted with the post.
Then, there’s a few options for the backend:

  • [Option A] upon post/reply, inspect the checkbox. if marked & sufficient trust, modify the posting (i.e. change User to the anon user, set hidden real_user field)
  • [Option B] simply store the boolean (filtered for trust), and modify all outgoing data (This might help with tracking/notifications, but hurt with updates - need to re-check all potential output points)

When I say “filtered for trust”, I mean like both not displaying the post-as-anon for low-trust users as well as server-side clearing the post-as-anon setting.


(Jeff Atwood) #3

It is not unheard of, but it is not commonly requested.

The workaround is fairly simple – sign up with another account under a different email, or use plus addressing and create an unlimited number accounts under the “same” email account.


(Simon) #4

The problem with just using a second (third, fourth, …) account is that you still can identify that particular user and all the topics/posts he or she has made. Sometimes this is enough, sometimes not…

True anonymous posts are not connected to a particular user (at least visibly) and just are posted by “Anonymous” with some generic avatar (maybe some special user name background color).

I guess this could be a nice plugin though.


(Jacob) #5

I would love an anonymous feature. I think it would be cool to just have the ability to make an “Anonymous” category and anyone who posts in that category would be automatically Anonymous.


(Jeff Atwood) #6

To be clear, this is a mode you would have to explicitly enable. It will NOT be on by default.

The current thinking is to allow people to quickly switch via their profile menu drop down, to an alternate anon account (with an automatic naming scheme like “anonymous 1234”) which we will create for them, if it does not already exist.

Once switched to their anon account, they proceed as that user, and all functions work normally as if you had logged out and logged in as the anonymous version of you.

To end anon mode, use the same profile menu to switch back to your primary, non anonymous account.

There are a few concerns:

  • email will have to be synthesized for the anon user as emails are unique keys in Discourse. The user can edit the email on the anon account to whatever they like, of course, but it cannot conflict with existing emails, including theirs.

  • no cross user notifications. If someone replies to your anon account you will not know until you switch into it. (We could provide a nudge and message you that “n notifications are waiting on your anonymous account”)

  • stats may be a little shifted or off as one person now has, basically, a sock puppet, two accounts attached to the same user.

What I like about this is that it is simple, all the code paths go through the regular places as if you had logged out and logged in as a different user. So we don’t have to special case a bunch of logic all over the place for “anon mode”, it is just another user account. We simply made it much easier to do than manually signing up for another account and manually logging in and out every time you want to be anon.

Any concerns? Anything we did not think of?


(Michael Downey) #7

If you are always anonymous1234, are you really anonymous, or just using a pseudonym?


(Jeff Atwood) #8

The idea is that three or four anon users can talk and tell each other apart. Having one generic anon user would make that hard.


(Michael Downey) #9

I assume something like tripcodes would be a real pain to implement?


(Nindita Giwangkara) #10

What if once the anon exits anonymous mode and then gets back in, he gets assigned another new anonymous id maybe like anonymous5678.


(Jeff Atwood) #11

Impossible, you are always assigned your anonymous “twin” account.


(Michael Downey) #12

The more I think about this the more I worry. Our community isn’t big on anonymity, but some are, even for legal reasons. Anyway if I were in that position I’d be thinking twice about making assurances of anonymity to my users if I couldn’t reasonably assure it. With the consistency of ID each time, it seems awful risky.

Anyway this is just my perseveration on the topic. Perhaps someone affected can speak up about it. :slight_smile:


(Greg Swallow) #13

Some sort of indication or status bar at the top that you are in anonymous/incognito mode might be good, using an icon something like this maybe:

(bug? - the wikipedia url ending in .png didn’t copy and paste well here, had to shorten it)


(Sam Saffron) #14

This is practically impossible the ip address making the web request is logged by NGINX for starters, only way you can properly assure anonymity is by having users run TOR and create a throwaway account and even then the NSA is trying quite hard to take over TOR so you would probably want to throw in a few proxies in the middle.


(Nindita Giwangkara) #15

If I were to choose between the single anon or this “twin” ID system, I’d go with the single anon to ensure anonymity. let the users figure out themselves how to distinguish between them.


(Jeff Atwood) #16

Bad idea, this would make conversation impossible. Discourse is a system of conversations. And how would you PM this one giant anonymous?


(Nindita Giwangkara) #17

I suggest like this, anons are just cosmetic at the front-end, it’s not real ID, so if anons get PM’d the message will go through real users behind it.


(Michael Downey) #18

I dunno, image boards like 4chan seem to survive.


(Jeff Atwood) #19

For some value of “survive” that includes “produces terrifying horrible monsters”, yes.


(Jens Maier) #20

Yeah, but what would the world be without memes?