I was thinking of starting a Tor Hidden Service based on some modified clone of StackExchange that lets everybody be anonymous, but keeps the reputation system - the nicknames would be randomized for each question, so that user A in question A would have a name different than one in question B. Also, reputation points, user profiles etc. wouldn't be shown. Could a clone of StackExchange work without identities? If not, what would break?

  • 6
    This isn't an unreasonable idea, I'm not entirely certain why this has received so many down-votes. I'll be writing a more detailed answer as to what would break (and break badly) tomorrow - this is something I've tested a few times (not as a hidden service) - stop and think about the premise for a moment, it's interesting :) They aren't saying 'let's do this', they're saying 'think about what would happen if ..' - not suggesting that the idea is good, just .. what would happen? Think about it before voting, all I'm asking :)
    – Tim Post
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:41
  • how is this different from meta.stackexchange.com/questions/243533/… ?
    – Xline
    Nov 16 '14 at 18:43
  • @Xline: the question you quoted is about proving that you have a given amount of reputation on SE without disclosing your identity. My question is about what would be the consequences of NOT disclosing neither the reputation nor the identities of posters. Do you feel the difference now?
    – d33tah
    Nov 16 '14 at 18:51
  • @d33tah honestly: no. will figure it out later.
    – Xline
    Nov 16 '14 at 18:53
  • Would the user who posted a bunch of questions/answers have a private handle to that bundle of stuff, including his reputation, or are you asking what would happen if every post were from a one-off account? Nov 16 '14 at 22:17
  • @MonicaCellio: each user would have a private handle that is not disclosed by the system.
    – d33tah
    Nov 16 '14 at 22:18
  • In a word.. gamification.
    – Travis J
    Nov 17 '14 at 10:46
  • I am looking forward to read your answer @Tim, hope you post an answer. Nov 22 '14 at 15:37

Given that much of the participation is driven by reputation and that said reputation is tied to a user profile... and reputation is tied to privileges and community moderation abilities...

See where things are going?

Seems fairly pointless, in particular given that people can already participate anonymously on most Stack Exchange sites.

  • Well, participation could still be driven by reputation, it's just that this reputation would be only visible to the owner. What do you think?
    – d33tah
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:19
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    @d33tah Reputation only visible to the owner doesn't mean anything, just by the definition of reputation.
    – Geobits
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:24
  • @Geobits: what if the user would still be awarded some privileges and we would rename "reputation" to "score"?
    – d33tah
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:26
  • 2
    @d33tah What do you gain?
    – Geobits
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:27
  • @Geobits: the idea is to build a sustainable Q&A website that provides a high degree of anonymity. The question was - do you think that would make it feasible?
    – d33tah
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:35
  • So currently it's not sustainable?
    – Bart
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:36
  • @Bart: currently it doesn't really invite anonimity, which is what my question is about.
    – d33tah
    Nov 16 '14 at 17:42
  • It seems fairly anonymous to me. Users are not required to disclose personal information. The only non anonymous part is a reputation count, the user name, and gravatar. While these are recognizable, I do believe the current system allows pretty heavily for anonimity.
    – Travis J
    Nov 17 '14 at 10:43
  • Consider open source development: you probably have no idea who the individual devs are, and could not care less, as long as the product works. If it doesn't work, it will fail anyway. Evolution - success or failure - does not really require names, identities, reputation... But here we have contributions by individuals instead of groups. Same thing on a smaller scale. Ultimately, every time you buy a new product you are taking a risk, and you decide whether to repeat or not. Same here. Reputation is reassuring, but you might not like or benefit from that person's perspective anyway.
    – user291305
    May 6 '15 at 13:15

Real reputation (not numerical score and badge count, but recognizing someone's username) drives most of the value of answers I get on this system. If the person who answers my question about product A works (or used to work) on the product A team, I feel much more secure about any unsubstantiated claims in the answer. If the person who answers my question is someone I can interact with in real life, this question and answer become part of our entire relationship.

I understand not all askers know members of their product teams. But even when I don't know who my experts are, I get to know certain usernames. I know whether someone's advice has generally been helpful in the past, or if they're one of those hobby-horse-riders who has the same suggestions for everything. So I need to know who's answering my questions - who they are in real life or at least who they are here.

What's more, when I answer, I want people to know it's me. That builds my brand. It makes my courses more authoritative. It drives traffic to me, whatever that means and for whatever that's worth. An anonymous SE would remove much of my incentive for participating. Even on nontechnical sites, I like the idea that some of the most frequent posters recognize and know each other, and are building bonds of some kind. Take that away and it's Mechanical Turk - get assignment, complete assignment, move on. Not interested.

  • Interesting... for some people anonymity is important, for others reputation is important. Maybe a site that allows both? Or, maybe we could construct a world without brands and repeated economic interactions - an anonymous world. Amazon?
    – user291305
    May 5 '15 at 18:22

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