I originally thought about this as an alternative option for DMs but didn't want to derail the DM request!
For folks who haven't used Tumblr, an ask is a direct message that can be sent by another user to a blog's inbox. They can also be submitted anonymously, if the blog owner allows it. The recipient can then either send a private reply (if the sender is not anonymous) or publish the ask and their reply to their blog.
This power has been used for both good and evil. They're a fantastic way to send creative prompts or take specific questions about something you're teaching, and they're also a great way to wake up to an inbox full of anonymous harassment that you can only address by posting the comments publicly. I do think they're valuable enough when used in good faith, as long as there's an option to turn them off.
One of the biggest benefits to being able to answer asks either publicly or privately is that it's much more of a one-off thing than starting a private real-time conversation with someone. I don't have any strong feelings either way about DMs on Cohost, but it's very easy for folks with poor boundaries to interpret private chatting as a gesture of trust or intimacy. I tend to spontaneously become a best friend candidate to people with high expectations simply by agreeing to one-on-one conversations with total strangers, so I avoid doing that. You can go back and forth with asks if people keep sending them in response to your posts, but it's not an open channel.
Some suggested features I'd like to see over Tumblr's system:
additional feature concept suggestion: ask box topics. ask boxes strongly resemble ticketing systems, and a thing i like about ticketing systems is that you can be explicit about what kind of topics are solicited (e.g. ‘feature requests’ and ‘bugs’ :p). maybe you don’t want random asks about anything all the time, so you can just list the topics you’re ok being sent messages about. i could also see things like having a separate inbox for art commissions being useful, especially if you can turn that inbox off.
with explicit topics, inboxes could also have mandatory anonymity in addition to optional anonymity. “i sent an anonymous ask and explicitly ticked the anon checkbox” reveals more information than if it were “i sent an anonymous ask because that was the only appropriate inbox for that topic,” and if you are sending/soliciting anon asks, you are probably specifically trying not to reveal unnecessary information.
Another great benefit of this feature is that is would make character askblogs viable again, which have greatly fallen out of popularity after the tumblr exodus. I've seen a few twitter accounts try to recreate them with curiouscat, but I haven't found much of them to the extent of the old tumblr days.
I feel like the most cohostish way to implement anon asks would be to only allow them to be sent by logged-in users... if you received abuse in your inbox, you could flag it, and staff could take action without you needing to know who it was.
Just made this suggestion in the DMs feature request before I saw this, so I'll definitely second it here. This would be particularly valuable if staff are hesitant to implement a full IM system, as some ability to send information privately feels essential for a social media site. I don't necessarily need a chat feature, but I shouldn't have to publicly link to an outside account for someone to contact me privately. Anyone who doesn't want to receive any private messages should be able to just turn this feature off.
Regarding your final bullet point, Tumblr now allows non-anonymous asks to use formatting, and the maximum length has been increased significantly.
I think anonymous comments could be neat, but I don't see it fulfilling most of the purposes of an ask system. It doesn't allow users to send information in private, for starters. It also doesn't allow the recipient to pick and choose what's shared publicly. I also think that being able to share asks is good and fun, and I'd generally prefer for fun, interactive features not to be blocked because someone could theoretically use it in bad faith. (Someone could also bait you into answering a trick question by replying to your post, after all.)
I think the potential downside of "someone might send you some sort of trick question" is fairly limited, and could be further mitigated by allowing users to turn off shares of posts after they are published. (Which I think already exists? Can't check at the moment.) Additionally, allowing users to choose whether to receive anonymous asks, or asks at all, would mitigate the attack space for bad actors.
Agreeing with Caro above.
There are some very heavy topics people might appreciate asking me about anonymously, and I'd like to be able to have an ask box for this. But those kinds of topics also attract a lot of anon hate, so I have never run an anon ask box anywhere.
It would be great if Cohost could let me run an ask box I could configure to work as follows:
- You must be logged in to send an ask
- If you send me abuse, I can block you from asks, without having to report you and get staff involved, so I can be heavy-handed in blocking
- At no times I have any way to know your identity, even if I choose to block you
I don’t have tumblr experience with this so I can’t make any kind of general judgement, but I’d personally not enable asks in a system where asks are visible publicity, whether that be anonymous comments or some kind of separate profile tab. At that point I’d find preferable to just have an ad-hoc ask system based on @-mentions sending notifications (already a feature request). Then you could see someone mentioned you in a post, perhaps with a question, and then simply share that post with your answer. (…kinda exactly like twitter)
But that’s a hypothetical on top of a hypothetical. I’d certainly still like to see an ask system with private inboxes (maybe multiple inboxes :3). I’m willing to believe in good faith and that it isn’t inherently abuse-generating! and, well, if it really sucks that much, it can always be removed again…
I definitely like the idea of this, whether anonymous asking is allowed or not.
I'm happy to see this has a "planned" status!! It's one of my favorite aspects of tumblr that I miss so much!