What do you think about anonymity in a community?

Part of the community I advocate for exists in a Slack instance. The community also exists in many places, such as a Discourse (yay!), Twitter, LinkedIn, online and in-person events, meetups and more.

Someone has requested in Slack to add an anonymity bot. They are new and don’t want to be treated like a woman when they ask questions.

Some folks have asked why and I’m curious to see how the conversation unfolds.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on adding anonymity to the community you advocate for? Does your community have that in place already? How does it change the dymanic of the community? What positive/negative impact has it had?

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We added an anonymous-per-forum feature into our platform. We have a lot of clients in the trauma/medical/support forums space like The Trevor Space, where they want to create a safe area within their community where people can ask questions without fear of judgement.

It’s not something I’d use widely, but for specific areas and for specific use-cases, it’s a powerful tool.

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Thanks for sharing @MattM, super useful. It sounds like a safe space is a great idea given the context you’ve described.

If I’ve understood correctly, am I right in thinking it used a model that required all members in the anonymous-per-forum to be anonymous? As in, there wasn’t a mixture of anonymous and non-anonymous members in the same space.

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We made it so you can choose. It allows registered members to post anonymously in specific areas if they wanted to do so.

You could also enforce it for everyone.

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Lenny’s Newsletter has an anonymous bot in their Slack, I think it works well.

It’s a professional community and often people seek career or work advice that they are unable to talk about publicly, but they could talk about it if it was anonymous. It basically allows people to ask questions that they are normally too scared to ask.

I think overall it has worked well, at least from what I’ve seen from a member’s perspective.

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A community that I’m part of (Bunch.ai) also uses the anonymous bot for Slack and I’ve used it multiple times. I don’t want to be anonymous all the time but the bot helps me be more open or vulnerable (?)

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I like the idea of being able to ask a question anonymously within a non-anonymous forum - that sounds like a great way for people to ask things without recrimination, but then also get helpful non-anonymous responses.

I say this because the only fully anonymous forum that I’m a part of, which is like a sub-forum of a non-anonymous community, is fairly riddled with hate-speech. It’s about 30% useful and 70% people being angry and insulting about the cultural, religious, and political views of other members - sometimes extremely targeted. Altogether, it’s a fairly toxic place even though the broader community that it exists within is very diverse and inclusive. It almost feels like the anonymous forum is used as an outlet for the people in the community who can’t express their views elsewhere.

Community owners have tried moderation, but it hasn’t really curbed any behaviour, so the anonymous forum is currently shut down while they evaluate how it can be used effectively. It’s been really interesting to watch how they’ve tried to control what is essentially an uncontrollable beast.

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Thanks for sharing, @rosiesherry @Kourosh and @hlashbrooke. Incredibly useful to learn from you all.

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