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I know this has probably been beaten to death, but there really needs to be a way to remove yourself from posted content. I understand deleting content has its issues, but certainly you should be able to transfer something you posted to an Anonymous account.

I'm really going to open myself up to trolls here, but not being able to delete things you posted is a major issue for the new careers feature. I'm not talking about stupid questions / answers I've posted so much as smart ass remarks / troll posts. You will probably say that one deserves to have their inflammatory comments stay attached to their name. I think that everyone has bad moments though, and there should be a way to publicly delete it. Not having delete forces people to create new accounts just to use the careers feature.

Edit: I just want to make it clear that I agree you shouldn't post anything you don't stand by. I'm saying though there should be some recourse for when you did.

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I like the transfer to Anonymous account idea. –  Lance Roberts Oct 21 '09 at 21:06
Anon account? How would that work? Just some random account everyone can send to? –  Troggy Oct 21 '09 at 21:17
Yeh, probably something like that. –  Lance Roberts Oct 21 '09 at 21:25
I had posted this idea here (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3721/…), but I'm glad someone made this into a `feature-request. –  Kyle Cronin Oct 21 '09 at 21:57
And then when people start making obscene or spam posts and start tossing it to the anonymous account, then what? –  GEOCHET Oct 21 '09 at 21:57
then you take the usual moderator actions - warn, ban, etc. it should still be traceable to moderators –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 22:02
@Shawn: But that is not transparent to the community, and it does not make it easy for people to flag like the system allows now. Either everything should be anonymous or none of it. –  GEOCHET Oct 21 '09 at 22:16
you're right. the comments would seem transparent to the community, potential employers, your grandmom, etc. however this is not going to give users free reign to start cursing each other off. flagging would still work the same, and moderators would be able to do the normal things. i wouldn't mind a cooldown either. like, you can't delete content until 1 month after you post it. –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 22:32
While this is not yet implemented, see How do I remove my name from a post, in accordance with CC:WIKI? –  Arjan Jul 7 '12 at 11:10
+1 Yes, this is important because meta people are pretty crazy about giving millions of downvotes which is not nice as a marker for a person interested in you, and doing some research. I stand the disagreement, but I do not think the person looking for you will read it from A-Z. –  lpapp Oct 27 '13 at 13:35

8 Answers 8

The Creative Commons license under which contributors post their content specifically retains the moral right to remove your name from any content that you do not want associated with your name. As such a simple request to the SO team ought to suffice to have your content disassociated from your account.

Quoting from the Other Rights section (moral rights hover-over):

In addition to the right of licensors to request removal of their name from the work when used in a derivative or collective they don't like, copyright laws in most jurisdictions around the world (with the notable exception of the US except in very limited circumstances) grant creators "moral rights" which may provide some redress if a derivative work represents a "derogatory treatment" of the licensor's work.

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Doesn't that imply that the right to disassociate your name from content only applies to a derivative of your content? –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN May 5 '13 at 4:08

Perhaps you shouldn't be posting things that you would later be ashamed of in the first place.

I don't think the system needs to change to accommodate this problem.

Just think of the avenues of abuse for this.

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so basically people should just create a new account ? –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 21:04
Creating new accounts is frowned upon - see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/26735/… and the linked questions –  ChrisF Oct 21 '09 at 21:06
I should add that I'd give people the benefit of the doubt if they created a new account, but it would be seen as gaming the system by others. –  ChrisF Oct 21 '09 at 21:08
@Shawn: No, you should just grin and bear it. Be responsible for your actions. –  GEOCHET Oct 21 '09 at 21:56
i would like to know more about the avenues of abuse this creates that couldnt be circumvented by creating a new account. furthermore i don't think there's anything positive or constructive about your tone. it comes off as unhelpful and condescending. –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 22:06
@Shawn: don't sweat it. It's just Rich B. He is not such a bad pal, he just has a way of communication that can make you feel he is mad at you. He is not. –  perbert Oct 21 '09 at 22:13
@Voyager: This is true. I don't get mad. I do mock people I am laughing at though. –  GEOCHET Oct 21 '09 at 22:15
Well, Jeff has decided to delete another comment with no offensive material in it. Guess you don't get an answer. –  GEOCHET Oct 21 '09 at 22:19
For some reason, I find it hilarious that RichB is advising people to not post things that they would later be ashamed of. –  Jeff Atwood Oct 21 '09 at 22:37
@Jeff: Why would I be ashamed of anything I post? I thought you disapproved of comments attacking other users? –  GEOCHET Oct 21 '09 at 22:40
To combat the problem of abuse, the 'disassociated' content can just be displayed as 'anonymous' but still be associated in the background with it's author. This way the mods know who to beat down if any transgressions are commited ; ) –  David HAust Dec 4 '09 at 1:29
@GEOCHET: I disagree completely. None of us are infallible and should be able to dissociate ourselves from content we provide. If SO wants to delete or remove it as a result, I have no problem with that, but that's the price we pay for dissociating from particular pieces of content. –  casperOne Jun 4 '11 at 23:44
@GEOCHET: Additionally, you've indicated that one should "think of the avenues of abuse for this" without actually indicating what they are; of more help would be to indicate what the abuse should be instead of providing ambiguity. –  casperOne Jun 4 '11 at 23:46

I don't think this is a good idea. However, there has been an interesting change in the "contract" between Stackoverflow and its users. Previously, we were communicating primarily with our peers, and knowledge and "rep" were the only currency. Now we've added potential employers, and real money may be at stake.

My suggestion would be to delete any comments and answers that you don't want an employer to see. If you have a question that you can't delete, flag it for moderator attention or email the team and see if they can do something about it (like transfering it to the community user).

In an extreme case - if your account is garbage and you want to start from scratch - rename your account to something innocuous, ask the team to delete it, and create a new one (tell them what you're doing so they don't merge the accounts).

Going forward, anyone using the careers feature will have to be on their best behavior. Ultimately, this is a good thing. If we did have a feature to transfer your post to a junk user that would only make it easier to post rants and noise.

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That's a good point about increasing the noise level. –  Lance Roberts Oct 21 '09 at 21:26
you make a lot of great points –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 21:27
while it may increase the amount noise, they can still be downvoted, voted closed, marked offensive, as usual. in addition, moderators could warn / ban / etc. –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 22:03
@Jon's Evil Twin: While deleting comments will purge the comment from the system (you can't see it, and it's not in the Comments table in the Stack Exchange Data Explorer), if an employer has 10K rep or more, they can see the deleted posts, so that isn't a sufficient solution. –  casperOne Jun 4 '11 at 23:52
@casperOne If the employer has 10k or more rep, he/she is already around enough to know who's behaving like an immature idiot, regardless of any attempted cover-up on the user's part. –  HedgeMage Jun 28 '11 at 17:15
@HedgeMage: I think it's unfair to quantify it as a cover-up; some people simply want anonymity at some point. There is not always a nefarious reason behind a cover-up. –  casperOne Jun 28 '11 at 18:48
@casperOne: I 100% agree that there are legitimate uses for anonymity when invoked before the fact. However, I can't envision a situation in which something you didn't know should be anonymous before you did it should be made retroactively anonymous. One requires a little forethought, the other smacks of "there should never be consequences no matter how stupid I act, how much a jerk I am, or how little self-restraint I have". –  HedgeMage Jun 28 '11 at 19:34

This is, IMO, a positive side effect of the careers side of Stack Overflow. I've been meaning to blog about this, actually.

Anyway -- as far as removing content, you can easily do this:

  1. change your display name to "Anonymous" or whatever you like

  2. email us to delete your account, which permanently denormalizes every post with your current display name "Anonymous"

Bam, done, all trace of your old identity is gone forever.

If you don't want to do that, you can of course delete your posts. Deleted content is only visible to 10k+ rep users, and I think it's verrrrrry unlikely employers will happen to have 10k+ stack overflow accounts.

It is true that some questions are protected from deletion depending on how many votes and answers they have, but if you flag them for moderator attention indicating you want them deleted and we agree, we can delete them for you.

It seems to me, you can already do what you want to do, for the most part.

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i wouldn't mind doing this but i would hate to lose userid 26 : ) –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 22:39
Sell it on e-bay... –  Shogging through the snow Oct 21 '09 at 23:01
It's very unlikely that anyone in the postion of hiring developers would have 10K rep? I can't be the only one. –  user27414 Oct 22 '09 at 12:58
If an employer has 10k+ rep, he or she surely understands how SO works and that jokes or nitpicks sometimes have better score than good, useful answers :-) –  Pavel Shved Oct 22 '09 at 20:56
As of my posting this comment, Joel Spolsky has > 8k SO rep. That's very close to 10K and I want to work for Fog Creek. –  please delete me Oct 25 '10 at 5:50
How would one go about disassociating a single, closed question that has even a single answer, without disassociating everything and without totalling an entire account? I tried the flagging process. Multiple times. Deletion seems apt, but not supported by peers. This isn't about employment or shame, just desire (and rights?). –  Grant Thomas May 22 '12 at 15:15
Oh, and sorry for bringing this up on such an old post. –  Grant Thomas May 22 '12 at 15:19

As stated by tvanfosson, the CC license on Stack Exchange content allows you to have your name removed from your content.

It's pretty simple to make this happen; just flag your post for moderator attention, use the "other" option, and explain that you'd like it disassociated. The moderators can relay this request to the developers, and the question will be removed from your account (and your name from the question). It's generally a rather quick process.

An example of this is this question. As you can see, the user's name is replaced with the non-link "anon", both in the usercard at the bottom of the question and in the comments on the question.

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I'm a moderator and I just handled one of these last night. Moderators can decide whether to delete or ask SE to disassociate. Humans are involved so it might not be immediate, but the system works. –  Monica Cellio May 5 '13 at 19:09

For what it's worth... Disassociation was suggested many months ago on UserVoice, and got roughly the same response there then as it is here now.

I still think it's a good idea. There would need to be some safeguards (for instance, your name should stick around in the revision history, and I would hope that moderators would see everything you've posted and disowned just as they see deleted items now), but I don't see any insurmountable problems.

Furthermore, it already happens. If you delete your account... or if a question is migrated to a site where you don't have an account... then the association appears to be largely broken (apart from an entry in the revision history). Turning this into a feature could also help to smooth out some of the rough edges associated with the scenarios where it already happens.

That being said, if you're posting stuff you don't want potential employers to find... using a name you care to re-use... on a site that has only soft-delete and keeps permanent revision history... You're a little bit naive. Even if you could convince SO to wash the revision history as well (which I think would be practically an invitation for abuse, and hardly think they would ever agree to), there are regular, public data-dumps: and you're never gonna cleanse all of those.

SO needs to be careful not to give new users the impression that they have any hope of cleaning up their tracks... or they'll quickly come to the same sad realization you did.

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You can delete your comments.

You delete your answers, with certain constraints.

You delete your questions, with certain constraints.

Admittedly, I don't use the careers site -- does it expose prior-deleted information?

And like Rich says, don't post anything publicly you'd be embarrassed of later.

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the main issue you can't delete questions or edited answers, or closed questions / answers –  Shawn Oct 21 '09 at 21:12
You can't delete locked posts, questions with more than a couple of upvotes on answer(s), or answers that have been accepted. AFAIK, you should be able to delete edited answers, providing they're not locked or accepted. –  Shogging through the snow Oct 21 '09 at 23:00
@Shog9: Those would be the constraints. I didn't know you can't delete a locked post, though. Anyone know why that is? –  John Rudy Oct 22 '09 at 2:58
Because it's locked. Locked means that no one can do anything to the post. –  mmyers Oct 22 '09 at 14:56

If you aren't comfortable with your comments and posts being the headline tomorrow in the Toronto Star, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, London Times, or "substitute local paper of good repute", then don't say them; and don't write them.

Grow up!

Accept responsibility for your words, and your actions!

If you have made snarky comments that you now regret, then track them down and apologize if you are an adult; or delete them if you are not. Do it yourself, don't make it SE's job.

Having a personal account and professional account is fine; I see nothing wrong with that. But to make it SE's task to rewrite your personal history because it is now inconvenient for you to own it is out-of-line. OP should have thought of that before making the snarky comments from an account with rep.

Like it or not, members look up to members with higher rep to learn what the appropriate standards of behaviour are on the site. When members of higher rep behave in unpleasant or snarky ways, they also teach other members that such behaviour is acceptable. Now OP wants it both ways, with SE taking responsibility for the clean-up and (cover-up). I believe that is out-of-line.

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See this question for why this is wrong. –  AAA May 5 '13 at 3:19
@djechlin: Having a personal account and professional account is fine; I see nothing wrong with that. But to make it SE's task to rewrite your personal history because it is now inconvenient for you to own it is out-of-line. OP should have thought of that before making the snarky comments from an account with rep. –  Pieter Geerkens May 5 '13 at 3:24
One, it's not out of line, it's a moral right guaranteed by the Creative Commons license. I'm perplexed you're of the opinion that we have statutes of limitations for crimes, but comments? Nah, those are permanent. Two, this isn't for snarky comments. Some things need to be kept confidential from other parties. E.g., worksplace.SE fields questions like "Should I tell my prospective employer about X?" If the answer is "no," then what on earth are you proposing the asker do? Not ask that question in the first place and not learn? Share it anyway? –  AAA May 5 '13 at 4:06
@djechlin: (1) Can't a user transfer to Community Wiki when the no longer wish to be associated with specific content? Now the onus is on them to specifically identify said content, and perform the requisite labour. (2) for "going forward" circumstances, if (1) won't work create an anonymous account for that specific purpose. If one wants/needs to be anonymous, then be anonymous. –  Pieter Geerkens May 5 '13 at 14:58
@djechlin: re the CCL: My understanding of that clause is different; that "where a licensor is unable to control the deletion process themselves, they can require disassociation be exercised by the licensee". For SO, the licensor can always delete themselves, and this is respected by SO. The "collective" that is SO is sufficiently different from a book anthology or a binary distributable (which is where the CCL wording comes from) as to require different implementation (IMHO). –  Pieter Geerkens May 5 '13 at 15:01
How is it out of line to request SE help you not be perfect and/or psychic? That exact same logic applies to most everything that makes any service useful. Why does SE let you edit a post when you should have just got it right the first time? It's not their fault you weren't perfect. Or change your username. Or change your vote. Whether the feature request is worth it is up to TPTB to assess, but they have no way to know the benefit if no one clamors that it would be helpful for them. –  AAA May 5 '13 at 23:36
@djechlin: Thank you for your comments. They haven't changed my mind, though they have lead me to re-examine some of my assumptions, and to examine the CCL again from another perspective. This will be a judgement call by SE management, who will (we assume) take all the viewpoints presented here into consideration. May I presume that I am not winning the bounty? ;-( –  Pieter Geerkens May 5 '13 at 23:45

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