I reply less to short term, temporary identities. Why?
They don’t have a positive reputation. They haven’t shown any past willingness to put in effort, past knowledge, etc. They’re just throwaway accounts.
People often repeat the same mistakes. When they use a consistent name, I can know what to expect from them. I can work around those mistakes, or not reply when I know it's repeating something that already came up before, or refer back to a prior conversation.
If a new person makes a mistake for the first time, I’d handle that differently than an existing person making a mistake for the tenth time. With a new anonymous account, I can’t tell which case I’m dealing with. So it’s hard to answer.
I could ask a question but that brings us to another problem. Anonymous people are less persistent. They more often leave at any moment in the discussion. Asking a clarifying question is investing in the future – it’s doing something with no immediate benefit for me right now in hopes of maybe getting something good in the future like a better conversation. That is generally not an investment I want to make with anonymous people who might leave at any moment.
What can anonymous posters do to help with these problems? Here are some ideas: Put higher effort into your posts, and make the effort visible – e.g. say what your goal is and what actions you already took to try to accomplish that goal. If you couldn’t find the information on google, say that instead of just asking a question that I might think you could answer by googling. Provide more upfront value instead of potential later value. Address why you’re anonymous – e.g. if you want privacy for a specific personal topic, I’ll be more sympathetic since that reason makes sense. You could also direct message me your identity if you just want anonymity from the general public. You could also make stated commitments about how much you’ll persist in the discussion, however that doesn’t work well when you can just break your word and switch names.
Having no reputation to protect can result in worse behaviors.
I have talked multiple times about how to ask better and higher effort questions. I’ve talked about explaining your ongoing, independent, autonomous problem solving process, what you already did, and where you got stuck. When people ignore this, I respond less. When short term anonymous accounts ignore it, I don’t really have a good option except to ignore them. Trying to tell someone about higher effort questions is a reasonable option with a persistent identity which I can tell once or twice, and then if they keep doing it I can point out it’s a recurring problem. I sometimes like to talk about patterns of errors. They’re an important issue. I might or might not want to do that with a persistent identity. But if it’s an anonymous account, they could do the error ten times on ten different anonymous accounts without me knowing there’s a pattern. They could be a very bad listener without me seeing what’s going on. Having short term anonymous names, and switching them, deprives me of information about the problems in the conversations, and makes the conversation even less like an unbounded, rational conversation with ongoing long term problem solving.
In general, I’m trying to demonstrate other people’s flaws to them less, even if asked, but especially if not asked. It’s not my job to point out their errors. And I certainly want to do that less with anonymous accounts that’ll probably not appreciate it and will probably just stop responding. Or they might get upset, be a jerk about it, say things they shouldn’t have … and then switch identities for the next conversation so that I’ll underestimate the risk of the new anon getting triggered. (I’m also more distrusting of explicit appreciation or praise than I used to be. The majority of the time it’s actually done for manipulative reasons, not as part of the pursuit of objective truth. That’s very foreign to how I think and act, but I’ve come to accept that it’s widespread. Note: This does not mean that you should cut back on praise or appreciation comments. I do not prefer that and I’m not requesting it. For more of what I think about that, see Specialist Creators with Small Audiences.)