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The recent question by Joel on Logo (it has since been deleted) got me thinking. This has been raised on user voice, but has been declined.

Would someone with lesser rep or a less famous name have received the same number of votes/answers as Joel? I know the question was briefly closed, but it got reopened when the intent was made public. I think someone did try it, but I don't think their question was suitable for the experiment and it was soon closed.

Similarly, do answers by Jon Skeet and others with > 20K rep garner more votes than equally correct votes by others less notable? Is this because of their name, their rep, or the fact that the answer is correct? I would hope it's the latter, but perhaps we ought to find out.

I wonder if the following experiment would yield any useful information: If Jon created a second account under a pseudonym and posted a few answers along side slightly "worse" answers credited to Jon so we can see which ones garner the most votes.

Another experiment (though this would require a change to SO) could be to hide the identity of the poster for a period (a day?) but leave the (approximate) rep score visible. This might show whether people were using the rep as a guide. On a personal note, if there are two equally correct answers I tend to award my up-vote to the one with the lowest rep score - to spread "the love" around (so to speak).


I'm not saying that questions and answers should be permanently anonymous, or that there shouldn't be a way of finding out the identity of a poster straight away. I just feel that the question or answer should be judged on its own merits rather than the perceived merit of the poster.

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10 Answers 10

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Great idea -- should be an option for both poster and reader.

Poster/answerer should be able to remain anonymous as an option, and change that option.

Reader should be able to set an option to, by default, not show names of posters/answerers. Maybe a global default setting, with mouse-over to reveal specific names when they really want to see.

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I never thought about the poster requesting the anonymity - interesting. –  ChrisF Jun 30 '09 at 21:01
I think this might be the solution I'm looking for. –  ChrisF Jul 2 '09 at 20:14
as long as this anonymity expires in a day anyway, right? –  forget it Nov 25 '09 at 10:25
At first, I thought a 5 minute delay would be appropriate as I state in my post below. However, upon additional reflection, a 10-15 minute window of opportunity, or until 3 answers have been posted - whichever occurs first - would be plenty of time. –  IAbstract Feb 11 '10 at 16:43
This option should be set by the poster. Names and Reps will appear only if an answer is accepted. This would encourage answer acceptation. –  Larry Apr 8 '11 at 8:17

Maybe rather than hide the poster information for a day or two, you could just make the "answered by" an expandable area closed by default. This would "hide" the poster from people unless they explicitly clicked the link/button to show the answerer.

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This is an interesting idea & one I (obviously) hadn't thought of. Could it be done via a roll-over rather than click? –  ChrisF Jun 28 '09 at 18:35
Doesn't this defeat the purpose of anonymous? –  Evorlor Mar 16 at 22:57
You could also track how often people expand this section to gauge if they care who the poster was –  Iconiq Apr 30 at 5:36

I just want anonymity as a poster because there are some very niche specific questions that I would much rather not have my name associated with.

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Yes, that is how I found this thread. I want to ask a question, but I don't want my present or potential future employers to see it. It should still be associated with my account, but nobody should know I asked it but me. –  Apreche Oct 19 '10 at 12:40
And at the same time all the rep points etc from that anonymous post connected to an account could still be accumulated anonymously.. –  Power-Inside Jan 22 '12 at 16:54
That's a valid use-case, Quora has it already implemented. For SE sites, I do use a second account, where I put the questionable-questions, just to prevent problems like this. Also, I am aware about many very good programmers that do not have accounts on SO just because they are afraid of having a low or bad reputation. –  sorin May 6 '12 at 14:09

The best way to sum this up is too look at john resig's all-time points to questions answered here. NB There are probably better examples of this on SO.

Answers (and comments) should be anonymous for a period of time to avoid the personality based voting. This would also help if we had mandatory downvote comments to avoid chasing the downvoter for retaliation.

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The premise of the question is (imho) incorrect.

Answers from high rep users don't get more votes because they have high rep.

Certain users have high rep because they know how to answer questions effectively and quickly.

That being said, there is also a factor of who is answering the question. Users have reputations way beyond the number. If Jon Skeet answers my C# question, there's a pretty darn good chance that he's right. He's earnt that level of respect. That's a good thing for a question asker to have rather than hiding it on the grounds that doing so somehow creates a level playing field. That just means all answers are equally untrustworthy. Not good.

That doesn't mean Jon automaticaly "wins" any answer "contests" though. Other answers can be better, quicker, more to the point and so on and be rewarded as such. I've certainly seen this happen.

Good, timely answers will get upvoted and it doesn't matter who they come from.

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"Answers from high rep users don't get more votes because they have high rep." Sure they do. People see the name and they upvote. –  Evan Carroll Feb 11 '10 at 18:49
I agree with the points cletus made, except for one: I often found high rep users getting more upvotes even though there were better and earlier answers. –  mafu Mar 23 '10 at 22:24
"Other answers can be better, quicker, more to the point and so on and be rewarded as such. I've certainly seen this happen." An example would help convince. –  Carl Brannen Feb 25 '11 at 6:19
I would be interested in seeing some scientific tests that would validate or not these. I don't think that our personal oppinion would be relevant here. Let's see some statistics. –  sorin May 6 '12 at 14:12

I don't understand why the author's answer must immediately show the rep, etc. See this question on SO. This is indicative of the higher rep author getting the up-votes and accepted answer when clearly another answer is more complete and provides a code example. Give a 5 minute window before the author's information is visible.

I would also add that this is not a singular, or rare occurrence. There have been a couple of occasions that this has happened to me.

Although this question on SO does not directly reflect a need for anonymity during a grace period, it does show a disparity in the amount of reputation one answer will get over another even though the answers are essentially the same. I view both answers as identical

In addition:

  1. Can I "inline" a variable... - although, props to the author of the accepted answer for editing his answer and referring readers to a better answer in the same thread.
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In your example I see a 20k+ user with no upvote. Doesn't really prove the point. It was more a case of "first correct answer got upvote", then "upvoted answer calls for more votes", in my opinion. –  Gnoupi Feb 9 '10 at 7:12
The times are not descriptive enough to provide a more detailed depiction of events. The top 2 answers appeared within a minute of each other; the answer wasn't selected until several minutes later. I had been writing an answer when the 1st answer appeared. Soon after (*within ~30 seconds), the 2nd answer appeared. I felt that the lower rep user, providing a higher quality answer, was/is given a disproportionate amount of reward for the answer. Even now, people continue to up-vote for the accepted answer (currently 2-1). –  IAbstract Feb 9 '10 at 18:12

I agree that it'd be nice to address the herd mentality type of voting. Sounds like a good experiment.

From a user perspective, however, I think hiding that information would be frustrating. If you're in a rush, sometimes you'd like to skip the white noise and go straight for the solution. Some people just post good answers the majority of the time.

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I'm not denying that some people are usually correct and relevant with what they post. I suppose what I'm saying is that someone whose not famous (either generally or just within SO) posts an equally correct and relevant answer they aren't rewarded to the same degree as someone who is. –  ChrisF Jun 28 '09 at 18:33

For what it's worth, I was the first to answer that Logo question, and I didn't notice (at first) who had asked it. (I noticed immediately afterwards, hence the jocular comment.)

If anything, I'd have been less inclined to answer the question if I knew it was from someone "famous". I suppose that's an argument for anonymity, from the other end.

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I'm all for having complete, un-expiring anonymity when you want it. When asking a question, and when posting a comment. You should still be awarded points if you're up-voted too. If anybody abused the anonymity, there's always the flag - and moderators do/should have the power to look beyond that veil of anonymity.

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I never thought about the poster requesting the anonymity - interesting. –  ChrisF Jun 30 '09 at 21:02
In the physics den where I hang out, there are certain questioners who get minuses not because of the question they've asked, but instead because of their known beliefs (which knowledge is used as extra information about their question). I have no doubt that this question: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/5453 for example, would have gotten decent answers if it was from a beginner. Instead it got +2-9 and was closed as subjective and argumentative. But the arguments occur only in the comments. Are comments enough to justify argumentative? –  Carl Brannen Feb 25 '11 at 6:29

I have no doubt that upvoting and downvoting of questions as well as answers are biased to some extent by the reputations of the posters and the answerers.

I think all posters and answerers should be anonymous by default. The anonymity can be removed once a reader commits to a vote.

I would go further and suggest that if there is a way for the anonymity to be removed, and a reader chooses that option, they should be barred from voting on that question/answer.

This will ensure that all votes are based purely on the merits of the question/answer and not on the reputations of the posters/answerers.

I haven't thought about how this will impact the policy of reversal of votes.

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