Let's say I'm a member of StackOverflow under my real name and I've built up a reasonable reputation. I use my real name as this is my profession and I want to be identified as the author of my questions and answers.

What if I might want to join the proposed sex/relationships SE or one of the new religion SE sites, but I'm in the closet?

I could create a new account under a different OpenID, but I'd have to acquire that new OpenID and SE makes it very easy to auto login when I move between sites and I wouldn't want to lose that. I'd also have to start with only 1 rep instead of 101 rep, even though I'd have earned that rep.

What I suggest is that at the point you create a new user of a new SE, it asks if you want to link your user to others in the SE network. At that point, have a checkbox that says "Yes, please link my new user to these others, but please keep this link private. I understand the mods will know who I am."

After this, if anyone (not myself or the mods) looks at my user page on either the new site or the old, there would be no link visible between the two users, but I'd still have the auto-login ability.

Perhaps to prevent it being used frivolously, the new user account could only be given (say) 81 points instead of 101. There could also be a "this user is a pseudonym" flag on the new site's user page.

I'm mostly thinking about sites where people might be in the closet. I wouldn't like to speculate on which sites would have that issue. (Beyond sex/relationships and religion.) Are there any closet photographers? :)

UPDATE: Thanks to discussion in comments, I'm specifically suggesting SE allow pseudonyms to work by allowing someone to hide the publicly visible link between associated accounts. Retitled.

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    I think parenting might qualify for this also. Posting under your real name about your real child is something we did a lot of 20 years ago, but fewer people are willing to do that now. – Kate Gregory Nov 30 '11 at 14:28
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    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. I think what you want is to still log in with your associated account, but you don't want your accounts publicly associated? Why not just create a new login? One site can auto log you in just as easily as another. – Won't Nov 30 '11 at 14:30
  • When you go to a user page, there's a list of all the other accounts on the SE network that person has. – billpg Nov 30 '11 at 14:33
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    Yes, those are your associated accounts. Pseudonyms are different. Check my account here and on SO. I use a pseudonym here. What you want is to hide your account associations, which != pseudonym. – Won't Nov 30 '11 at 14:35
  • Fair enough. That's exactly what I want. – billpg Nov 30 '11 at 14:36

I can see where you are coming from on this, but I'm not sure it would be useful enough to warrant implementation.

The fact that you still want the reputation bonus from account association is the problem - other users will see this but see no linked accounts. It might make it more likely that people will try to find your "real" identity.

It's far simpler to create a new account with a different OpenID and use that. Several users already do this and have two (or more) sets of accounts that aren't linked to each other. Actually the fact that they are the same user is known despite the fact that the accounts aren't linked.

  • I'm sure the devs could write it so the hidden link isn't visible. It would be up to me to present myself in such a way that the link isn't obvious. (Selecting a different gravatar, not revealing personal information, etc.) Is it worth their time? That is the question. – billpg Nov 30 '11 at 14:54

Suppose this feature were implemented. Now consider the potential downsides of a future bug allowing information about supposedly 'hidden' links to leak out. Not very pretty, I'm sure you'd agree. Given that, I'd say taking the half-decent currently available approach (namely, create a new account and accept that fact you start with 1 rep) would be the best overall move.

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