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Feature Update: Private Question becomes Ask Anonymously

Greetings Experts,

You may recall some years ago we introduced Private Questions, a way to ask which blocked search engine crawlers from indexing your question. Our goal was to assist users that feel self-conscious asking questions that could be easily discovered by a colleague or employer on Google.

We are excited to announce that we have expanded on this feature and provided further privacy by allowing users to ask their questions anonymously.

How does it work?
The option to ask a question anonymously will be present on both /askQuestion.jsp
anon on ask
and the new Post interface on the logged in homepage.
anon from post
Asking a question anonymously means your display name and avatar are replaced with our anonymous avatar and a text string indicating that the content was submitted anonymously. Aside from the obfuscation of the author’s identity, the question & answer workflow functions exactly the same.
anon question
All emails and notifications regarding an anonymous question have the author’s identity removed. Anonymously asked questions appear in lists and feeds according to topic associations and searches can return anonymous questions.
However, searches performed based on another member’s activity will not return any anonymously submitted questions or author comments. Nor will anonymous submissions be displayed to others in a member's contributions list on their profile.

How does moderation work for anonymous questions?
A request for attention can be opened on anonymous questions under the same circumstances as on any other question. If necessary, mods will be able to determine an author's identity in order to facilitate moderation. The author's identity would not be posted in any publicly accessible page and would only be used to contact the member directly.

Who will be able to ask anonymously?
Similar to its predecessor, asking anonymously is available to paid subscription members and qualified experts only.

When will ask anonymously be released?
We plan to release this update in two weeks on May 15th, 2017.

How can I provide feedback on question anonymity?
Feedback is welcome in this discussion and directly to me, RourkeCL, via message system on site.
View Previous CommentsLoad All Comments (148)
Rank: Master

Expert Comment

Craig Kehler2017-08-04 05:47 PMID: 2044590
I don't care how much honey you put on it, I don't do business with 'anonymous' things.
The analysis was done to evaluate the impact of the feature. I enjoy challenging the assumptions we make and make an effort to reduce confirmation bias. So the intention wasn't to sweeten it for you, I'd be interested in more of the why, but it seems your mind is made up.

How so ? The follow up is in fact much appreciated. But let's consider for a moment that they are following up (as promised) as a result of the change that was thrust upon us in the first place.

Users have requested this feature. Some Experts see the value in it others do not. We are discussing upcoming features on our calls often before we initiate the project, we don't have a pure democratic vote of all users on every feature. Representatives are chosen from constructive professional members to represent different personas on site. We also interview people from outside our user base in the development of some features. Maybe we should all stop using the terminology "thrust upon us" if we want to go Vulcan :)

In the spirit of collaboration I think it would be a good idea to try to steer away from comments referring to "us and them". I think sdstuber and the Moderators can attest that to the fact that we are carefully considering inputs and have an open dialogue.

>>  Why single-out members who want anonymity at all, if such a consideration is usually member-wide?

Especially when Craig's response was specifically referring to Andy's question. In which case they are already known to be anonymous... And due courtesy would suggest that all survey results / published findings would reflect statistical analysis not individual identities (even though you might want to ask them for follow up).

I think there are two things being discussed. One is the intention to survey those who use the feature to better understand why they were finally able to ask a question after all that time. The other is a concern to survey all users on their perceived value of this feature.

Regarding the statistics I think it would have been better if "Percentage Closed by Author", "Average time to first comment (days)" and "Average time to accepted solution (days)" were not displayed in the same table as the percentage based stats. All of the other items are demonstrating the distribution of these actions between Public and Anonymous Questions.

2tables.PNG
Does that 10% of the 6.6% mean that 0.66% are qualified experts - what is the quantum of the survey / sample set ?
Of the members who used the Anonymous Question feature 10% were Qualified Experts. 6.6% of the total Questions asked were Anonymous.

Exactly how many days does the sample set cover ?
73 days

Seems that Anon questions get quicker response by 0.005 of a day = 7.2 minutes is that statistically significant ?
I wouldn't conclude they get a faster response. It does seem they are generally in line with all questions. It did make me wonder if someone posting an Anonymous Question puts more thought into the formation of their question as they are concerned for their privacy.

Seems that the ratio of RA's is higher in Anon questions or is there really that many RA's in public Q's (ie >80% get RA's) ?
This is something the moderation team was paying close attention to, looking for requests that indicated disinhibition by askers. Rather we found regular types of Request Attention except for some requests made by Experts objecting to the use of Anonymity.

Don't quite understand the two 'Close' stats... Second one seems a different (more relevant) statistic, but the Auto-close + Closed by Author doesn't add up - is there other ways to Close ?
An auto-close can be requested but not performed, when the author gets the notification and then proceeds to close their own question.

 
Bit confused by the statement '58% have been anonymous in nature'. Does that mean 42% are public, or, the nature of the question ratifies being anonymous ?
Yes 42% were public.

Can we see #questions and #days and ideally #different authors
What is the problem statement you wish to address?

I am very specifically not being negative, rather very logical - channelling my inner "Spock". Apologies to anyone who may take it personally, it is not part of the Vulcan way.
Vulcan's are highly emotional and they suppress those emotions but they often leak out via sarcasm in the shows. Some may say the suppression of emotion is the cause of Bendii Syndrome. Data was my favorite character. :)

Since anonymous questions can only be asked by paying members, you should include a comparison of non-anonymous questions posted by paying members, not ALL people or non-anonymous posters.
That is a good thing to consider. I will look into it.

Number of non-paying members that upgraded membership then asked an anonymous question within a day or three?
Rourke has some reporting for direct upgrades for Anonymous Questions. This can get into a lot of other data, we look at a lot of factors of what contributes to an upgrade.

We do want to balance how much time we spend analyzing the data versus focusing efforts on areas we already know need improvement. It's helpful to me if a problem statement is made, even better if there is an example of the problem occurring.

Any feedback on the section regarding concerns, opportunities and plans?

Unfortunately I have to post and run, I have a kids birthday party to prepare for and family in town.
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Rank: Savant

Expert Comment

>>Unfortunately I have to post and run

HEY, if you don't have time to formulate anything other than a brief snippet, why bother?

On most of the points:  Fair enough!

Well, except "Data".  We can debate that another time.
1
Rank: Ace

Expert Comment

aikimark2017-08-04 06:29 PMID: 2044692
Better yet, post the data and we'll do the analysis

I answer questions because it is a way to give back to those that helped me.  At this point in my career, I don't want my help to only benefit the poser of the question.  If I have a choice of answering questions in the light versus answering questions in the fog (or dark), I will always choose the light.

Live and Gigs are completely different animals for, what I hope are, obvious reasons.
0
Rank: Prodigy

Expert Comment

Mark Wills2017-08-04 08:22 PMID: 2044702
@Craig,

Glad I am well under the 200 years of age where Bendii starts to reveal itself in the few Vulcans it affects... And still I channel the inner Spock to suppress emotion.

Seems that "Being more proactive with those who use the system to EE's benefit rather than reactionary to the experts. There is a dichotomy of ideals at play... Time will reveal. may have been misinterpreted or misrepresented.

Yes, I am quite sure the Users had requested such a feature, even more so important when it became open to all.

The dichotomy is the relationships of EE to Asker or EE to Expert or Expert to Asker. And a 4th dynamic if we consider Vendor. There are distinct interactions and sometimes we need to use "us" (per 'thrust upon us' as Experts). That is very distinct from correctly responding to those who requested the feature (the generic 'User' : be they Asker, Expert, Vendor or EE). There was no "us and them" the way you implied.

>> "What is the problem statement you wish to address?"
>> "We do want to balance how much time we spend analyzing the data...
Hence my request for some raw numbers and aikimark's suggestion " post the data and we'll do the analysis

Live long and prosper.
1
Rank: Prodigy

Expert Comment

Mark Wills2017-08-05 12:34 PMID: 2045420
@evilrix,

I am reasonably well, thanks for asking.

I wasn't being unappreciative what so ever. I did say 'thanks' and 'appreciated' but seems to have been lost in a false sense of overt criticism. It is indeed, very difficult to respond to all requests. For example, try loading previous comments or load all comments. And while this has been known for a while, it takes time to surface. It is simply a fact, not a criticism.

I can only respond to my own experiences and not part of the wider discussions you speak of. I remain optimistic that those changes will manifest in some of the interactions I engage in. Sure, Craig has followed through in this thread, but also stand by my comment that time will tell. After all, change can only ever be measured over time by repetitive exposure.

You know very well I have always said that EE as a company is free to write anything they want.

@Craig,

Yes, I do understand about how you operate and not even remotely suggesting a pure democracy. You seem to be upset about my use of the phrase 'thrust upon us' which is simply a reality. If I don't like the changes, then it doesn't matter, but still, I am affected by the changes. When my choice is not a choice and the change is indeed delivered regardless of my choice then it becomes 'thrust upon us'.  To then expand that into "us and them" is not fair and belies that spirit of collaboration.

>> What is the problem statement you wish to address?

As stated "And thanks for following up with the stats and possible moves forward. More than happy to discuss opportunities and plans once I understand the analysis."

So without the data, it is very difficult to draw any conclusions from the stats as provided and therefore impacts on discussing opportunities and plans. Some of which could be split out of this thread.

>> If you have any additional concerns or questions, please feel free to reach out to me privately or in this discussion.

Tried, Even endorsed the post.
2
Rank: Master

Expert Comment

Craig Kehler2017-08-07 04:27 PMID: 2047499
HEY, if you don't have time to formulate anything other than a brief snippet, why bother?
Thanks for the chuckle. :)

Seems that "Being more proactive with those who use the system to EE's benefit rather than reactionary to the experts. There is a dichotomy of ideals at play... Time will reveal. may have been misinterpreted or misrepresented.

Yes, I am quite sure the Users had requested such a feature, even more so important when it became open to all.

The dichotomy is the relationships of EE to Asker or EE to Expert or Expert to Asker. And a 4th dynamic if we consider Vendor. There are distinct interactions and sometimes we need to use "us" (per 'thrust upon us' as Experts). That is very distinct from correctly responding to those who requested the feature (the generic 'User' : be they Asker, Expert, Vendor or EE). There was no "us and them" the way you implied.
and...
Yes, I do understand about how you operate and not even remotely suggesting a pure democracy. You seem to be upset about my use of the phrase 'thrust upon us' which is simply a reality. If I don't like the changes, then it doesn't matter, but still, I am affected by the changes. When my choice is not a choice and the change is indeed delivered regardless of my choice then it becomes 'thrust upon us'.  To then expand that into "us and them" is not fair and belies that spirit of collaboration.

I was attempting to subtly point out that a Vulcan wouldn't look at it as they "don't like the changes" or "thrust upon", rather the logical reason for doing so or not. If we can change to tone to one of inquiry rather than reaction on both sides, I strongly believe we will be more successful.

The general persona I see in the members of this site are seekers of knowledge at different stages of development. Most Experts likely had to ask a lot of questions to get where they are today. Some asked them of themselves and did research, others reached out to those with more experience. Regardless all are members of a community and I think we will be more successful finding our common interests than segregating based on differences.

However I think I'm starting to derail this thread into general philosophy on a bigger issue than one feature. Let's use messages or start a new discussion on that aspect. Just know my intent is not to directly or indirectly blame past actions on either side for outcomes, only try to determine the most efficient path forward. A great deal has changed.

>> "What is the problem statement you wish to address?"
>> "We do want to balance how much time we spend analyzing the data...
Hence my request for some raw numbers and aikimark's suggestion " post the data and we'll do the analysis

Unfortunately we do not have an easy way to just post that data without revealing too much information. Additionally as we dig into problem statements more and more, we develop more inquiries causing the need to have access to even more data. So the best thing in the short term is to help me clearly understand the desirable or undesirable user patterns you are concerned about. Examples are extremely helpful.

I really do appreciate the constructive approach. I'm also really enjoying the semi private question discussion and looking forward to more of these in the future.
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