Community Wishlist Survey 2021/Anti-harassment/UserBlind mode

UserBlind mode

  • Problem: Certain discussions, particularly those dealing with individual user conduct issues, are difficult to participate in in an unbiased manner and without generating side-effects like occasional animosity between editors. The fact that users know that particular other users have passed negative judgement on them can make it difficult for those users to work together in the future. The concern over this can also cause people to avoid dealing with conduct issues entirely.
  • Who would benefit: All contributors, but more directly those dealing with reports of conduct issues (including Arbitration Committees and users active in fora like enwiki's ANI, AE, etc). Also contributors to wikis with "unblockable" users which the community has difficulty fairly judging.
  • Proposed solution: A [selectable] "UserBlind" mode, in which [for you only] all visible usernames would replaced by tokens, eg "[USER #23]", effectively anonymizing other users while the mode is enabled. This would allow fair assessments of conduct reports in a impersonal manner. Not only would the person passing judgement on the actions not know whose actions they are (thus evading bias), the person whose actions are being judged would not have reason to think that the commenting user has anything against them in particular, thus avoiding inter-user tension.
  • More comments: Links: Proof of concept, VPM post
  • Phabricator tickets:
  • Proposer: Yair rand (talk) 05:51, 30 November 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  • @Yair rand: - how would individuals handle verifying evidence and doing further investigation with this process? Neither AN or ArbCom can function like judges where evidence is just provided - it needs to be cross-checked (in ANI, the closer doesn't do investigation, but everyone else participating would follow it down the rabbit hole). Additionally, when I'm reviewing people for certain roles, such as at RfA, then I need to be able to review their ANI participation to know the quality of their judgement. Nosebagbear (talk) 16:02, 2 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Jo-Jo Eumerus, MarioSuperstar77, Braveheidi, Firestar464, Tyrekecorrea, KlauRau, Lollipoplollipoplollipop, I-Bin-A-Bibi, The Hand That Feeds You, WikiFer, valepert, Gereon K., Lostinlodos, SarahSV, Klaas, Shushugah, HAL333, I am concerned that you might not understand what you've voted against, so here's my attempt at an explanation. If you had a significantly different idea, then you might want to remove your comment ('oppose votes' aren't counted anyway).

Current situation:

  • The policy says you are supposed to w:en:Wikipedia:Comment on content, not on the contributor.
  • Some editors find it difficult to follow the policy if they can see who said what. Instead, they find themselves evaluating comments based on the reputation of the editor who posted them. For example, if there's a snarky comment, but you see that "I" posted it, then you just know that it was kindly meant or at least not meant to be mean-spirited, but if That Other Editor posted the same words, then you know that it's terrible behavior.


  • Do not change anything whatsoever about your own editing or what you can see in the page history.
  • Do not change anything whatsoever about what's stored in the database. Every edit gets recorded with each editor's permanent username.
  • Offer, as an option, for people who happen to recognize that they're interpreting comments in certain ways, or voting in RFCs (and maybe even in this wishlist proposal) on the basis of "who" said something, rather than focusing on "what" the editor said, a button that would replace all the usernames on their screens only, and not affecting anyone else at all with a number.
    • Set this up so that it's easy to tell which comments on the same page came from the same editor (e.g., every comment from the first editor named on that page is from "User 1", every comment from the second editor named on that page is from "User 2", etc.).
    • Set this up so you can turn it on or off whenever you want.

I see in the oppose votes below that there are a lot of IMO misplaced concerns about transparency and conflicts of interest. What I don't see is any explanation of how transparency suffers by simply not requiring me to see your username at the end of your comments. Nobody's being prevented from seeing the usernames; the proposal here is merely to stop forcing me to see your lovely usernames if (and only if) I don't happen to want to see them. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:19, 14 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

WhatamIdoing, there's no benefit in cutting myself off from "this user who is proposing A is the same as the user who proposed the very damaging B last week, so I need to look closely at all this person's ideas." How is this proposal related to anti-harassment, by the way? SarahSV talk 23:08, 14 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
SlimVirgin, is there any benefit in you requiring all editors to see everyone's usernames? Some people think there is a moral imperative to ignore an editor's reputation. They could choose to use this feature; you could choose not to. You said that letting people voluntarily choose not to display usernames on their own screens would reduce transparency. That's not the same as just saying that you wouldn't choose to use it yourself.
(I assume that this is in anti-harassment because not knowing editors' identities means that jerks won't know who's female. The "r u female?" jerks didn't cease to exist when AOL chat rooms died, and some communities have a fairly significant problem that way.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:42, 15 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
WAID, there is a script that does this at de:Benutzer:Martin Kraft/hideUserComments.js. If it's voluntary, the jerks will see the names. I can't think of a way this would help anti-harassment. As for reducing transparency, will this remove names and histories? Because if you click on a user name, you'll see the other issues that person has commented on, and it will often become clear who they are. SarahSV talk 06:48, 16 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm sorry, I didn't realize there was a script for enwiki too. Why does it need help from the WMF if we can already do it? SarahSV talk 06:51, 16 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I suspect few people would opt in to this and leave it on for themselves wiki-wide, especially if they perceive that nobody else is doing so. An interesting variation would be to mark specific pages with a keyword that turns on BlindMode by default, with a button for the user to unblind at will. (Button could toggle off-on-off, save state in a session cookie so that it works for anons as well as logged-in users.) Pelagic (talk) 02:44, 16 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If a person clicks Edit, will the names still be aliased? Then they would need to be translated back on publish/save/commit. It would be hard to catch instances where people mention others by name in plain-text without wikilinking, doubly-so if the mention isn't their exact username, like this: Yair, WAID, SarahSV. Still, I guess you could start with the easiest case (sigs, read mode only) then progress to the harder ones (mentions, editing). Pelagic (talk) 02:44, 16 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If I reply to or @-mention "User24" and it turns out to be "User:WhoImInteractionBannedWith" is that going to go badly for me? How would I prove that I'm interacting blindly with them? What if I criticise a bunch of different User65, User31, etc. across multiple pages and it turns out to be the same person, then I get accused of harassment and stalking? Pelagic (talk) 02:44, 16 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]