If a question is not very popular and one wants to delete it, one may do so. But, after it gets a certain number of upvotes (or possibly some other criteria are met), the owner may no longer choose to delete it. I would guess that the rationale behind this is that if 5 people have upvoted it, then it stands a reasonable chance of being useful to someone in the future, and thus deserves to be protected.
However, sometimes I feel like I would like to remove particular questions from my history, despite their popularity. One might be quickly prone to dismiss this as only useful for cheaters trying to hide the fact that they asked for help on the internet. While this is a possibility, I would point out that most of those questions would not have received 5 or more upvotes, and could therefore be deleted anyway. Also those questions are frequently asked from guest accounts in the first place.
There are, however, legitimate reasons for wanting to dissociate a question from one's identity. I'll put myself on the line and give an example. Two of my top 5 upvoted questions, https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/85649/undergraduate-research-topics-in-analysis, and Compact = Closed + Bounded + (?), are soft, naive, frankly embarrasing to have on my profile. But, having 20 and 12 upvotes respectively, I cannot delete them. I understand that other people may have benefited from these questions, and so deletion is not the best option. But, if I could somehow anonymize the question, then I would not have to live with the embarrassment, and people could still benefit from the question.
Thus I propose the following rough outline of an "anonymize" feature.
- At the bottom of a question or answer that one has written, there is an "anonymize" option.
- Anonymizing a question will change the username to "anonymous" or "removed" or something of that nature
- Anonymizing will remove all formal @references to the user in the question, changing them to @anonymous or @removed. There is not much we can do about misspellings or informal references, but this is better than nothing.
- Upon anonymizing a question, all gained reputation/view count/link count related to the question are forfeighted
- The question is removed from the user's profile and this of course implies that the user will no longer receive automatic notifications about the question if there is new activity.
- Anonymization is permanent, one cannot reclaim an anonymized question or answer after forfeiting it (just as one cannot undelete a question or answer).
- Possible requirements: users can only anonymize x many questions per day, users must have x reputation to anonymize
Please use this thread to discuss pros, cons, feasibility, and desirability of this feature in the MSE community. Constructive criticism and idea improvement are both welcome.