I know that a couple of questions regarding anonymous posts have been discussed recently, but they've been in the spirit of encouraging impartiality when voting.

However, sometimes we just have a burning question about something we might think is embarassingly simple or easy. We might have given our SO username to prospective employers, or generally don't want to lose our street cred with the community. However, these could be questions that add real value to the site... through search and such.

There could be a "anonymous" questions section of the profile that simply gave the number of questions and Rep earned, without naming and linking to the questions.

  • Wouldn't people notice that your rep was going up/down anonymously? And you'd still want to get upvotes on posts that you weren't willing to own?
    – devinb
    Jul 8, 2009 at 22:13
  • 10
    Admitting one's stupidity shouldn't be embarrassing. Why be embarrassed that you didn't know something? Just ask. Let it wash over you like the realisation that you're normal.
    – Jeff Yates
    Jul 8, 2009 at 22:38
  • @Jeff: The greatest thing I learned in college was how much I don't know. Hit me like a ton of bricks.
    – Eric
    Jul 9, 2009 at 0:01
  • @Jeff: If you look at my profile, you'll see that I only have questions that stem from utter ignorance. But... I have aspirations :) @devinb: I think if you contribute material that enhances the site (as deemed by votes from the community) why not receive upvotes?
    – Feckmore
    Jul 9, 2009 at 0:58
  • @Traples, because then we have people who could have reputations that are built entirely on 'nothing'. Well, I look at Jon Skeet, I can go "Wow, those are some incredible answers he has written". In your case, there could be someone who has 1000 reputation, and not a single thing in their profile. Where is the ownership? I think you have to OWN your rep, the good and the bad.
    – devinb
    Jul 10, 2009 at 0:44
  • @devinb: I suppose that's possible, and it might detract from the ownership aspect. However, I don't know that many people would want to have a Rep score based on anonymity... to me, it sounds doubtful. I just thought this might be a way to encourage even more participation by allowing people the occasional respite from their potentially ego-laced profile. I'm not sure that I would even use this function... but then, I have no pride.
    – Feckmore
    Jul 10, 2009 at 2:28
  • Just realized an even better reason to ask/answer anonymously. If, for example, you're working on a legacy system (eg: ColdFusion, classic ASP), and you don't really want future employers to ever know you have that experience :)
    – Feckmore
    May 5, 2014 at 20:27

6 Answers 6


Since the anonymity part can be achieved by clicking "logout", it seems like kinda a low-return-on-investment use of developer time to make a whole set of mechanics for associating semi-anonymous postings with a registered account.

  • 1
    I think you're spot on - why go through the trouble of making all of that when you can just log out and ask a question? Jul 8, 2009 at 22:20
  • Logging out means no Rep increase. If the questions are valuable, then you should receive Rep. Each time you learn a new tech and prefer the beginner questions not be linked to your profile for eternity, this option would be nice.
    – Feckmore
    Jul 9, 2009 at 0:55
  • 16
    If you're not willing to put your name to something, I'm not sure you should get rep for it..
    – Blorgbeard
    Jul 9, 2009 at 2:53

You could always just post your potentially embarrassing questions under another account. Also, if you're worried about looking dumb to potential employers, Joel said in Podcast #58 that, for good employers, this is a non-issue.

I do, however, think that if a person cannot delete their post (usually because there are upvoted answers) that they should have the ability to 'disown' the post, so that it stays visible on the site but unassociated with that particular user.

  • I want to upvote the first half, and downvote the second half. But I don't have the ability to give you (+8) rep. I think that if you are ashamed of a question you should edit it. If it's utter trash, it should be deleted. I approve of the tools that encourage people to IMPROVE, not the tools that encourage them to do 'drive-bys'
    – devinb
    Jul 8, 2009 at 22:16
  • 1
    I'm not suggesting that disowning replace deleting, but only when the OP no longer has the option to delete. There are legitimate reasons for someone to want to no longer be associated with a particular post. If it's an answer they can simply delete it, but if it's a question with answers that have upvotes then they're blocked from doing so. I guess to me it's more about having control over your own content than it is about doing 'drive-bys'. Jul 8, 2009 at 22:22
  • I totally agree with you. It was wrong of me to go to 'intentions'. But I'm simply suggesting that if there are parts of a question you don't like, edit them out. But the fact that it is your question should remain. Ownership is a critical part of what sets SO apart from any other forum.
    – devinb
    Jul 8, 2009 at 23:16
  • Exactly! Originally you could delete anything you posted. While this was good for the posters, some people got understandably upset when you deleted their answers when you deleted your question. A change was instituted that blocked deletion of questions that had answers with a certain number of votes. While this is good for the answer owners, it now blocks people from removing their content at their discretion. I think that allowing people to disown their content makes it effectively deleted from their perspective, but still available for the owners of the answers. Jul 8, 2009 at 23:44
  • 2
    @Kyle, I like your suggestion as much or more. Let's say you want to learn an all new technology and have some seriously noob questions. If they're questions that you have, then most likely there are many others that will too. However, 5 months later, when you've nearly mastered it, and are trying to convince someone else, there could be an extra sense of relief to know there aren't a pile of beginner questions tagged to your name.
    – Feckmore
    Jul 9, 2009 at 0:52

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.

If your question is embarrassingly easy, you should think long and hard about whether or not it is worth being on stack overflow. If you aren't willing to attach your name to it, then why would you want to subject everyone else to reading it?

Socrates: I only know that I know nothing.

If I have a dumb question, at least I'm smart enough to know that I don't know the answer.

  • 1
    at least then it would be traceable to a real account
    – Shawn
    Oct 21, 2009 at 22:10

I think this is a great idea to allow your profile info to be hidden from a question or answer... But how would this work in the data dumps that are accessible to the public? Would the user still receive upvote and downvote credit?

  • Yes, otherwise, as other's have suggested, why not just logout and post the question. If the question is valuable to the community, you'll receive Rep and rightfully so.
    – Feckmore
    Jul 9, 2009 at 0:53

People can and do ask questions based only on wanting to contribute and add content to the site. In many cases they do know the answer.

If you phrase your question in such a way so that it doesn't necessarily indicate ignorance there is no reason to worry about employers finding it and thinking you are clueless.

In the unlikely event they do and question you on it, you can just explain that even knowledgeable people contribute questions for the sake of content and encouraging community participation.

As stated above, in any case, asking questions is likely to be valued by employers and most would understand the above concept.

For this reason I don't think you need to worry about looking foolish or ignorant - just post! :)


I'd like to point out that preventing users from disowning their questions is arguably illegal in some countries (typically, under the French Law, nobody can use your name unless without your explicit consent. I only gave a license to use the content I provided)

I say arguably because my login is associated with my questions, not my name. However, my login can be my real name, my login is associated with my email, etc.

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