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This is a curiosity inquiry, given that there has been a lot of debate recently about how "SO is about questions and answers, not about users" and people should/shouldn't vote based on a user's history.

If it's the case that SO is about questions and answers, not about the users/asker/answerer, could it potentially benefit the community to only allow users of a certain reputation to view this information, filtering the number of users who will focus on people as opposed to the information? Is who asked/answered a question relevant to anyone but the mods?

Personally, I don't want to say it shouldn't be there... but I can't think of a solid justification for its being there.

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Apparently this may be a dup: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1895/… –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 19:29
    
why is this question CW? –  Ether Aug 10 '10 at 19:45
    
@Ether - Why not? I find it more difficult on meta to understand what should be CW than on SO itself. –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 20:55
    
the same principle applies: something is marked CW if it is intended to be edited collaborateively, or (rarely) a way to say "look I don't intend to be rep-whoring". –  Ether Aug 11 '10 at 3:09
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7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I see what you mean, since you're coming from the viewpoint of not judging bad — or allegedly bad — users. The reverse, upvoting an answer just because it comes from a high-rep user, is also bad. I would argue that it's good to keep that info around for two reasons, though.

Accountability/Responsibility

On the whole, anonymity causes quality to suffer.

Pride

Many users, including me, take pride in the quality of the answers they post. Part of why SO works is that people like to have their names associated with upvotes and lots of rep. For one, they can feel good about helping others; for another, they can feel superior to everyone else. Conversely, people don't want to be associated with downvotes, so they're likely to improve poor answers or at least delete them entirely.

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I think you should be using 'accountability' instead of 'responsibility.' –  jjnguy Aug 10 '10 at 18:12
    
@jjnguy: I think it's both. you are accountable for what you post, but there's also a responsibility towards updating and maintaining it. Accountability denotes "answering for". Responsibility denotes some sort of "actions required". –  devinb Aug 10 '10 at 18:15
    
@devin, yup, that makes sense. –  jjnguy Aug 10 '10 at 18:34
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When someone gives an answer, it may not be the complete solution you need. If you couldn't tell their name, how would you know that the comments you're getting in response are from that user? And how would you tell whether two answers were posted by the same person or not?

Mechanically speaking, it also promotes some strange effects when you consider anonymous users and viewers. To set this up proper, we either have to restrict it to people with accounts, or we enforce it on anonymous users. The former is a bad idea because creating an account is an enabling act, which removing the ability to see usernames is the opposite of enabling. The latter is a bad idea because it makes this community-driven site look very impersonal and robotic.

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+1 - continuity between answers and comments is an excellent point. –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 18:13
    
Well, you can have continuity while maintaining anonymity. You could simply order the answerers as Answerer #1, etc and use that name in the comments (and the answer). –  Aryabhatta Aug 10 '10 at 18:31
    
@Moron And that makes the system needlessly complex. You'd have to deal with non-answerers posting comments, and if the question author can't even get her own name to be displayed then it's downright awkward. It's either going to be inconsistent or extremely impersonal. –  Grace Note Aug 10 '10 at 18:39
    
Agree. Me making that comment does not imply I agree with the suggestion :-) –  Aryabhatta Aug 10 '10 at 18:55
    
@Moron - not yet meant as a suggestion; more meant to help define the intent and character of the community, and discuss it in a non-antagonizing context so that when the day comes that it is discussed in an antagonizing light we can just "closed as duplicate" :P –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 19:02
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Short answer:

This gives users the ability to 'brand' themselves. It basically adds a perk for the answerer. They get to display their name next to their content. It facilitates some level of showing off, which is great motivation to post answers on SO.

This also holds authors responsible. Without having a name next to the post, users would be able to post without consequence or accountability.

Long Answer:

Wait for @devinb to answer.

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"Without having a name next to the post, users would be able to post without consequence or accountability." - I disagree; removing the name doesn't prevent people from down voting of flagging, and once a post's been flagged, as the mods still have access to that info, does it make difference if the flagger knew who it was? –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 18:11
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I'm offended by this. I'd like to expansively explain the 23 reasons why. –  devinb Aug 10 '10 at 18:20
    
Congrats @devinb; you have officially "made it." –  Pops Aug 10 '10 at 18:20
    
@Popular, that's true. You need to let me know if/when I have also 'made' it. –  jjnguy Aug 10 '10 at 18:30
    
@jjn, get in line. (Eugh, this was supposed to be fake-harsh, but it just looks real-harsh. No offense meant.) –  Pops Aug 10 '10 at 18:34
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@Popular, you are lucky I left may ban hammer in my other pants, otherwise you would be toast! :p –  jjnguy Aug 10 '10 at 18:48
    
Wait, @jjn, you own a ban hammer? And two pairs of pants??? Congrats; you have officially "made it" as well. –  Pops Aug 10 '10 at 19:11
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That actually isn't a bad idea, but I think one of the main things people like about posting answers in the first place is the recognition (however slight) of seeing their name next to an answer with a bunch of upvotes. I imagine removing that benefit would negatively affect answer rates. Someone proposed a while ago stopping the reputation count at 10k, since there's no added capabilities after that point, and a similar point was raised -- it doesn't matter if going from 12345 rep to 12355 rep does nothing to your account, people still like watching it happen

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+1 - my thoughts exactly... but one could still see a user's rep from their user account; removing the "answered by" doesn't affect that. –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 18:09
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@Richard But it will stop OTHER people from seeing how well liked & trusted they are, and that would affect their answer rate. –  Noctrine Aug 10 '10 at 18:10
    
@Noctrine - Others can see their profile, and maybe their profile could even list their answers, so long as the answers didn't link back (?) but I follow what you mean, and it's a good point that "removing that benefit would negatively affect answer rates." –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 18:40
    
@Richard If people's posts didn't link to their profiles, why would you ever go to their profiles? The only way to get to them anymore would be to browse the user list and click people at random –  Michael Mrozek Aug 10 '10 at 19:30
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Stackoverflow is where you go to get expert answers to programming questions. Content is still king, but knowing exactly who the expert is has some value. Especially because there's no barrier to answering a question.

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Then why not link directly to a personal website or a CV? Why a SO user profile? Rep Score just/mostly tells us how long a user spends on the site; not how qualified that really are. For example, I know this user personally, stackoverflow.com/users/3218/skrud and while his rep's less than a third than mine, if it came down to it there's no doubt in my mind which of us would get/deserve the title "expert." (edit: not me, for clarity) –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 18:58
    
@Richard - you can post a link to your CV, website, or whatever in your profile, which is linked at the bottom of your post. So it all works out :) –  user27414 Aug 10 '10 at 19:19
    
B - Equally then, why not only have all this info also in their profile? –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 19:27
    
@Richard - fair enough; that's another way you could do it. I think, though, that if that's how SO worked people would request that your rep appear next to your name. It seems only natural to want to know as much as possible about the person you're talking to. –  user27414 Aug 10 '10 at 19:34
    
B - this is true. –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 19:48
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The content is licensed "CC-Wiki with attribution required". If the attribution requirement were removed for answers, I doubt I would be interested in contributing.

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+1 - the legal angle! nice! –  Richard JP Le Guen Aug 10 '10 at 19:03
    
-1 for the legal angle; this reverses cause and effect. The licensing scheme was chosen based on the content provided, not the other way 'round. –  Pops Aug 10 '10 at 19:10
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From Should Questions And Answers Show The Author?

From the SO FAQ

Reputation is a (very) rough measurement of how much the Stack Overflow community trusts you. Reputation is never given, it is earned by convincing other Stack Overflow users that you know what you're talking about.

Jeff says it pretty clearly. Rep and owners are CRITICAL PILLARS of the SO formula.

From Optional anonymity to hide ignorance

I feel like 'Anonymous posting area' would end up becoming a bathroom wall of posts. Anyone who is frustrated or angered by something could seek refuge there.

Celebrity

Let's start with an easy question:
Is Reputation A Valid Measure Of Skill? NO

Reputation is an amalgam of many things, only one of which is skill. The true measure of skill resides in my posts. I take pride in all my posts. If any prospective employer were to ask about SO, I would be able to ask them to pick a random post of mine and judge me based on that.

If it becomes anonymous, I have immediately lost all that incentive. I gain nothing from posting except reputation. But, reputation means nothing unless you can point to the posts it came from.

How can you tell the difference between a user who answers two poll questions and ends up with 400 rep, versus a user who consistently answer low interest tags?

The only way to tell is by looking at their profiles and seeing what they have done. In that sense, reputation is a cover page, the user history is the actual content. Jon Skeet has certainly gained upvotes entirely from his celebrity, but if you look through his many many posts, you will discover that they are consistently incredible. This is something which he can be proud of.

We each create a persona for StackOverflow, meaningfully or not, it is the person we want to be perceived as. The only reason jjnguy was able to call me out in his answer was because my posts have my name on them. The only reason I was able to identify that it was a friend calling me out was because he has his name on his responses.

Hiding in Anonymity

How many posts have you seen where you feel like saying "I would suggest that you Peruse The User Guide". I would never do that, first of all it's rude, second of all, it's me saying it. But if anonymity was created, then there is no disincentive for me to be hideously uncouth. I could even create sock-puppet answers.

"Person A": This is ridiculous. Your mother was a hamster! "Person B": Unlike (Person A)(Link) I believe this question is valid. There are blah blah blah, blah blah!

This makes "Person B" seem wise and measured. When really it's the same person. Even if we forbid multiple answers on one question, the disincentives are reduced.

As noted before, if I cannot brag about the quality of my answers, then I don't have a real incentive to create quality in my answers.

Verification

Most question are easily testable (they are supposed to be) but this is not always the case. It occurs in some cases that the implications of testing, POCing, sandboxing, or implementing a solution could be costly and expensive. In this case, I want to know a little about the people who are answering. Obviously I don't know everything about them, but if I am able to see that one user has gained his reputation in single upvotes over thousands of spam-like answers, and the other user has gained her reputation in a remarkably short time with inpeccable answers, then I would be inclined towards her answer. Is this a reason for me to consider both answers? No. But it does give me a little meta information about who is answering the question.

With anonymity, I lose that history.

It is important to note that I'm not advocating blind faith based on past performance. I'm simply saying that in important cases where you need extra information, it would be nice to have it there.

Infamy

The downside. We aren't supposed to consider a user's past behaviour. In fact, I've been railing against that very concept for a week now.

Good Advice is good advice, regardless of the source. But for those of us who are working with someone else's money and time sometimes need a little bit extra. Again, this is not to say it is appropriate to comment, downvote, edit, disregard, or in any way modify your behaviour based on a user's past performance. This is simply regarding the actual moment of implementation.

If the user has been consistently atrocious, it may be necessary to take precautions. You should never pre-judge, however.

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Finally....Thanks for completing my answer. –  jjnguy Aug 10 '10 at 19:01
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