I'm working on a web application that takes anonymous submissions from users and displays the data on the website in a helpful manner. (It's basically a 'citizen science' kind of project). One of the main concepts behind it was that it would be extremely quick and easy for users to submit data - they'd do it without having to make an account or sign-in, and by doing it directly from the homepage.

However, I realized that, while this setup is working great, it also makes it very easy for a user to accidentally submit data that is wrong or inaccurate. Thus, if users accidentally post something inaccurately, that data will be 'stuck' on the website, and there'd be no way for them to delete their submissions, which would be frustrating for them and would make the website display wrong information to the public.

Of course, an obvious fix would be to require users to make accounts before submitting so that they could be authorized to delete or edit their own submissions, but I'm trying to avoid that as much as possible.

Is there another viable solution that I'm not seeing? Is this issue not as big of a deal as I'm making it?

3 Answers 3


As a couple of variants of Franchesca's answer:

  • You could display a short URL after submission, e.g. http://example.com/edit/3ft6dggr that a user could copy should they want to edit/delete their entry. The trick is taking (reasonable) steps to make guessing valid instances of such links difficult.

  • You could store the "page codes" (e.g. the 3ft6dggr above) of pages/data-sets that someone has created in a cookie. If they revisited their data (from the same machine; without clearing cookies) then you could recognise they were the creator and allow them to edit/delete.

  • You could take the above one stage further: essentially create a random account code for the user and either display it to them and/or store it in a cookie. You then store the "page codes" for all pages/data-sets someone has created against their account code. If someone enters their account code (or you see it in a cookie), you can let them access all the pages/data-sets they've previously created.

None of these are as secure, or permanent as a full-blown account system, but may be sufficient for your needs.


Account creation requires an email. If we are willing to gather an email address from the user, then why not just email the user a unique url for a page where they can view and edit their previous submission. This is a similar design pattern to the one used for changing forgotten passwords, without the overhead of actually creating the account.


How do you validate the data that is inputted by a visitor ? Manual moderation or other visitors validate the data or no moderation at all.

I`m asking this because what you could do ( but depends on how the actual system is made is versioning the data. Example : A visitor submits a piece o data. The visitor notices that he forgot something. He has the option to edit this or any other visitor can edit it but it goes to a moderation that will either be done by admins or by other visitors users than can confirm that the editing is not spam..

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