From time to time, I see edits like this one made by anonymous users here on Meta Stack Exchange. I know that these edits are actually made by logged-out users or even users without an account. But sometimes, the edits are complicated enough to show that the user knows the SE philosophy very well, so he must have had an account or did have it earlier.

Why does that user make edits as anonymous, and not use their own account to make edits?

Answer from anonymous will be much appreciated. :)

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    One answer: we can't know. Any answer here will be purely a wild guess, unless that anonymous editor will come over themselves, which I really doubt. Believe me, I also want to know who that is and why he/she is doing it, but asking here won't answer that. Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 12:13
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    @ShadowWizard I suspect a normal human ;-) That's one user who is quite familiar with SE, but also one who has deleted their previous accounts a few times. (And yes, I know that user currently has an active account again.) Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 12:26
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    @S.L.Barth well, same here, so I asked him directly one day and he denied it. (The "anonymous edits" have greatly improved since then though, but I suspect it's the same person) Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 12:33

2 Answers 2


I'm the anonymous editor. I'm responsible for ~95% of anonymous edits in the past year here on MSE. The proof: https://meta.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/55306

First, a little about myself. Back in 2013, I created an account on Stack Overflow, so I could get help for computer programming assignments, as many of my Google searches were directing me there. After signing up, I got interested in the rest of the Stack Exchange network and got fairly active here on MSE (then MSO). I have a mental condition that causes me to want to study and know all about certain interests, and I developed such an interest in how SE works. That interest still persists with me today.

Now, I was in high school at the time, and I ran into some family issues regarding my use of SE. Basically, due to some issues, they forced me to delete my account here on MSE, which is where I was active for most of the time. After I initially refused, they stepped in and deleted it. I kept participating on other sites for another year, but due to further family issues I was forced to quit SE altogether, or face my entire network profile being deleted. As I didn't want my post ownership and reputation to be erased, I chose to quit.

But my interest in SE persisted. As such, I made my first anonymous edit to MSE in January 2014. This was my first approved anonymous edit. I didn't make any more anonymous edits to MSE until late 2014, just as I was made to quit. I then got interested further, but because I was busy at the time, I wasn't able to really start editing until late last year.

Why did I edit anonymously?

As of last year, I'm an adult, so I gained more time to keep this up. But I chose to keep editing anonymously for many reasons. One is mentioned in rene's answer: the majority of edits I made were to FAQ posts, which were marked community wiki, and I wasn't always sure of my edits, and preferred they be reviewed. Even if I started off with a totally new account, I would eventually gain enough rep to edit them directly. Also, I thought recreating my account wasn't worth it since I couldn't gain ownership of my past posts, and as an aside, I wanted to see how the community would react to seeing very knowledgeable anonymous edits.

How do I know so much about SE?

I have a great memory, and could recall experiences from the past easily. Also, I would read over recent posts and chats quite frequently. Based on these, I could quickly form conclusions as to how the system operates. It's really simple logic to me. It's not infallible, though, and is why I preferred my edits be reviewed.

Why did I choose to come out?

There are many reasons why I chose to come out, rather than keep at it editing anonymously.

  • My edits were taking much longer to be reviewed. It turns out this is due to the new top bar design, and it was beginning to turn me away from editing.
  • I ran into problems with the insta-ban filter, which filters anonymous edits and levies instant bans against IP addresses if they trip a filter. Many times I would false-positively trigger it when making large improvements to answers, forcing me to use a VPN to change my IP. It became too much of a hassle.
  • The HTTPS changeover happened, which cluttered the Community user's activity list with thousands of pages full of changes from HTTP to HTTPS, making it harder to keep track of my edits.
  • Most of my work as the anonymous editor was editing FAQs. As I've already edited most of them, there wasn't much for me to do.

Will I keep editing anonymously in the future?

I don't know. Seeing as I've recreated my MSE account, I'll likely suggest edits to non-CW posts under this account. But since most of my anonymous edits were to FAQs, I may edit anonymously if I'm not sure of myself (i.e. my edit isn't just grammar corrections, etc.).

Am I open to chat?

Unfortunately, not at this time. Due to this bug, I cannot post on Meta Stack Exchange chat at this time. Until then, I'm chatting on The Assembly.

That bug has been fixed, and I can now chat in the Tavern. (I can't go into further detail on the family issues though; those are strictly personal.)

Update: I've gone through every anonymous edit made to this site since I deleted my previous account in November 2013 to the time I created my current account (December 2017), and analyzed which ones are mine, in order to provide a full list of all the edits I contributed as an anonymous user. You can find the list here. Altogether, in the year prior to my creating my current account, I contributed 280 out of 305 anonymous edits, or 92% (close enough to my estimate of ~95%), and overall, I've contributed approximately 320.

The last 100 or so edits I made sure to do under the same cookie, so those are (semi-)confirmed as belonging to me (you can click "more" on the edit review task to see that there were 100-something approvals from the same anonymous user). Previous ones are based purely on my (generally good) memory, though you can see some patterns matching in them. I've marked a "Yes" on those that are confirmed through the aforementioned cookie or I remember performing, and an "Unknown" on those I don't remember.

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    Maybe some day we'll see a diamond after your name on MSE. Good work for your comtribution. Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 16:16
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    @gparyani not the downvoter, but I think I can probably see anyone who got annoyed seeing anonymous suggested edits... Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 4:39
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    I think, you deserve all the upvotes for your contribution by editing anonymously. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 4:49

Yes, the anonymous editor often has a better understanding of how the SE network works than regular users, like me.

I like to review those edits as they are more than just grammar and spelling fixes or trivial wiki suggestions that can be approved with just basic sanity checks. Our anonymous friend likes us to venture into the past, reading long, forgotten posts and combine and compare facts from several sources. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to decide to approve, skip or reject.

I also did wonder who it was but as no Normal Human could be that correct and passionate about having posts edited, I settled for it being done by SE staff and when you review wrongly you get insta-banned.

There are valid reasons for even experienced users wanting to have feedback on their actions. Plenty of gold badge holders seek confirmation in chat or comments if they are unsure and some even asked for being able to switch-off binding votes. The same goes for users with edit privilege, their edit is live at the moment they push the button. For most edits that is not a big issue but for some edits a please sanity check my proposal could be welcome.
Another reason could be that they don't want to be associated with those edits, for personal reasons or due to bad experiences from the past. A true believer in community wiki and shared collaboration.

Above all, they waited for someone to bring it up on Meta so they could enjoy the feeling their effort is noticed and mostly appreciated. And the chuckle that their cover is still not blown.


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