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Inspired by a comment thread on this answer.

Typically, we are advised to keep a degree of anonymity in SE sites. However, I have gleaned from posts the identities, or presumed identities, of certain users (and I know at least one personally).

In other words, is anonymity really important on Mi Yodeya?

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    "Typically, we are advised to keep a degree of anonymity in SE sites" Source? – Double AA Jun 23 '15 at 16:43
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    possible dupe meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/q/91/759 – Double AA Jun 23 '15 at 16:44
  • @DoubleAA, I looked at that question before posting this one. the answer I saw seemed to be about how anonymity is permitted, as forcing individuals to not be anonymous would be highly difficult. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 23 '15 at 16:46
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    Why do you have the impression that anonymity is important to have the question to challenge that? Seems to me that although the majority of people here are anonymous, some are not, which leads me to believe that it is a matter of preference. – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 23 '15 at 17:15
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    Many SE users, including the founders, use what appear to be their real names on the sites. I'm not sure there's widespread advice to the contrary. – Monica Cellio Jun 23 '15 at 18:54
  • @MonicaCellio, You, Isaac, Yishai, Alex, and myself use at least part of our names in our handles. Then others, such as your fellow mods, Double AA and msh210 use handles which have no apparent value for others. In short, it seems a matter of personal preference. However, I am unsure whether SE or J.SE has a preference above that of individuals. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 23 '15 at 22:23
  • I actually meant the founders of Stack Exchange, Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood. There's definitely a mix, on the network in general and here on Mi Yodeya in particular, and I don't know what the distribution looks like. Anyway, just offering a tiny bit of information -- not meant to be an answer, for which I would use an answer. :-) – Monica Cellio Jun 23 '15 at 22:30
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt msh gave away his identity before (and msh means something to others) – Shmuel Brin Jun 25 '15 at 6:03
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt I find it interesting that you noted that I'm not Shmuel Brin – Shmuel Brin Jun 25 '15 at 6:05
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    @ShmuelBrin, I assumed that your handle wasn't your name as I've seen other names when addressing you (Shmuel Brill for example) – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 25 '15 at 14:44
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I am taking the question to be whether anonymity of users is importantly beneficial to the Mi Yodeya community. The importance to individual community members of their own anonymity is, as far as I'm concerned, their own affair.


I believe that it is useful to the orientation of the community that there are many users who provide valuable content without revealing their real-world identities or credentials. As I explained in an answer to a very early related question, one of the benefits of allowing anonymous participation on Mi Yodeya is:

  • To underscore the point that if your argument is well-reasoned, founded properly in the sources, and well-presented, it really doesn't matter who you are in an informational (i.e. not for professional advice) forum like this one.

In addition, given that we do allow anonymous participation and want participation from people who prefer not to share their identities, the presence of active users who don't share their identities makes it clear to such potential new users that such participation is accepted by the community de facto, and not just de jure.

On the other hand, it is also useful to the community in various ways that some users reveal their identities:

  • Site promotion: If new prospective users are introduced to Mi Yodeya in the context of seeing clearly that someone they know is an active user, that could provide some motivation for joining the community. When I founded mi.yodeya 1.0, I intentionally did so under my own name for precisely this reason - so that I could bootstrap the community by inviting friends and family, who would choose to participate partly as an expression of friendship to me.

  • Building community: There have been some meetups of Mi Yodeya community members, which I like to think are useful for strengthening the community atmosphere. Coordinating such meetups is facilitated by at least one coordinator revealing his/her identity online and more or less depend on participants revealing their identities to each other in person.

  • Sharing experience: In many cases, both questions and answers (such as the one cited in the question here) benefit from the inclusion of the author's personal experience in life or studies. Such inclusions naturally leak at least fragments of information about the author's identity. Community members who attempt to maintain strict anonymity may feel compelled to exclude or severely mask such information, potentially depriving our readers of the benefit of germane, useful experience.

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  • Re "more or less depend on participants revealing their identities to each other in person" -- more or less; I still don't know who some of those people were. :-) – Monica Cellio Jun 23 '15 at 22:45
  • For more pros and cons, see the answer linked to in this answer, and its question. – msh210 Jun 23 '15 at 23:06

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