What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 134 Stack Exchange communities.

Obviously one of the things that this site encourages is the building up of reputation which is a reflection of how the community perceives you. However, after spending a while in any given tag, you can't help but get familiar with people by their SO user name and interpret their input accordingly. This is especially the case with comments: you have to click-through to the user's home page as their rep is not immediately visible.

Hence it's pretty confusing when certain users keep changing their names:

  • Is that someone who I have learnt to respect?
  • Is that trollish behaviour, or has the user made a genuine error/comunication problem?
  • Do I give this user the benefit of any doubt?

I must say that I find this is particularly the case on meta. I'm not suggesting that user-names should be permanently locked but perhaps there could be a limit to how often a name could be changed (e.g. no more than once per quarter year).

share|improve this question
6  
per quarter of hour? –  jmfsg Nov 16 '09 at 20:34
2  
This is a rather timely suggestion. Rich B's suspension ends in an hour: meta.stackoverflow.com/users/5640/rich-b –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 21:14
2  
I'm sure one of these days there's going to be a Spartacus event –  CodeByMoonlight Nov 16 '09 at 21:51
6  
Reputation for commenters is viewable via mouseover - no need to open up their user page. –  Andrew Feb 4 '10 at 4:09

6 Answers 6

up vote 16 down vote accepted

New rules:

  • only one display name change is allowed every 30 days
  • user accounts less than 2 days old may change their displayname at will
  • there is a 15 minute grace period after each change during which you may change your displayname at will
share|improve this answer
15  
This seems like a solution in search of a problem. –  Ether Feb 4 '10 at 0:48
5  
@Æther the problem is, it's too much of a PITA for me to keep track of who is who -- and I can't tell who I'm talking to. It harms discourse. –  Jeff Atwood Feb 4 '10 at 0:52
2  
+1 This should clear up a lot of confusion. –  Jonathan Sampson Feb 4 '10 at 1:22
30  
Perhaps this could be modified to post a warning regarding these limitations: "Are you sure? You will not be able to change your name again for 30 days." (And of course allow moderators to change anyone's name, so it's still possible to flag for moderator assistance here.) –  Ether Feb 4 '10 at 1:29
8  
Also, let me know how much time before I can change my name again, without having to first edit it and try to save the profile. One more thing: booh. –  alex Feb 4 '10 at 7:09
8  
-1 I like @Shog9s solution much more. Also, 30 days is way too long! –  fretje Feb 4 '10 at 9:17
8  
@Jeff: "It harms discourse" - I thought So was not supposed to be a discourse site. It is Q&A so who you are or what you are named has no bearing. This is in contrast to a lot of what I thought you were pushing for this site. –  tim Feb 4 '10 at 18:58
    
@Jeff: cool I agree on this too. @Ether well I agree also on your suggestion. –  Marco Demaio Nov 8 '10 at 17:55
    
Wonder how you guys implement policies like these in code. I would be interested to know the design. –  ardsrk Feb 4 '12 at 6:54
    
This change was made on the 6th birthday of Facebook ;) hehe.. –  Afzaal Ahmad Zeeshan Feb 16 at 11:59

Personally, I found it much more confusing when certain users who had gone months under one name suddenly switched to new names (and, in at least one case, new gravatar images).

Rate-limiting would do nothing to prevent this, but banning name-changes outright would hamper those who picked unfortunate pseudonyms, were poorly-named by their parents, or decide to change their names out of some misguided ideas of transparency.

So I suggest one small change: keep a list of past pseudonyms attached to each user's bio somewhere. Let them decay over time, perhaps dropping old names after a month or so.

share|improve this answer
1  
I agree. But at least you'd have some time to get used to who it was. As it stands, they change again and again and again. –  oxbow_lakes Nov 16 '09 at 20:41
2  
I like the small change idea. That would make life easier for lots of folks. (Of course, with only one notable exception that I can recall, this really is just a problem on Meta. And you can always use the "associated accounts" tab to determine the user's "real" name as a result.) –  John Rudy Nov 16 '09 at 20:43
    
Maybe for the first 48 hours after a change, there should be some notification by their name in their activity that indicates it has just been changed. –  YeZ Mar 20 at 21:43
    

Though it's incredibly annoying, I'm reluctant to support a restriction on this. The questions and answers should feature and stand by themselves. It's a Q&A site, and as such WHO is posting the answer (and whether they were the same yesterday) isn't as important as the answer itself.

share|improve this answer
3  
Offensive, confusing, or user names in bad taste can be handed via the existing mechanisms of post flagging. –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 20:35
1  
This right here's the answer. –  John Rudy Nov 16 '09 at 20:35
1  
It does break commenting, but commenting is a secondary feature that was added only under extreme duress anyway... –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 20:37
1  
It's not just questions and answers though, is it? Half the content now seems to be in comments. And meta in particular is much more opinion-focused than SO itself - knowing the personality/background of a poster is important. –  oxbow_lakes Nov 16 '09 at 20:42
21  
@oxbow_lakes: half the content may well be in comments, but it's the unimportant half. Except for this comment. This comment is very, very important. –  Shogging through the snow Nov 16 '09 at 20:50
2  
"knowing the personality/background of a poster is important" - Only if the poster is unable to clearly and fully articulate their thoughts, or if the reader is intent on sussing out some hidden intent, agenda, or meaning. Otherwise there is no need for additional background knowledge. –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 20:52
5  
@Shog9 - thank you for pointing out that comment's importance. I've upvoted it so it may stand above the others, as the shining beacon of commentitude we all should strive for. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 20:54
2  
@Adam - who is able to clearlt articulate their thoughts in 500 characters? The internet is not a great medium within which to avoid ambiguity of intent! –  oxbow_lakes Nov 16 '09 at 20:56
    
If a thought or expression requires more than 500 characters to describe, one may post several comments, or more appropriately, post a whole answer. I still don't see a reason to post half-formed comments and expect your readers to remember your name and fill in the blanks based on other work you've posted. How can you even expect them to read all your posts? –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 21:00
1  
This comment can be understood fully only if you've read all my other posts and comments on this and all other SO sites: "Ponies coalesce iridescence skeet." Please refer to my voluminous works for translation. –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 21:03
2  
@Adam: +1 each for "commentitude" and "Ponies coalesce iridescence skeet." –  John Rudy Nov 16 '09 at 21:08
    
@Polly, @John Can someone explain Ponies coalesce iridescence skeet ?? –  RichardTheKiwi Feb 15 '11 at 19:44
1  
@cyberkiwi I have a marvelous explanation for the phrase which this comment box is too small to contain. Please refer to my voluminous works for translation. –  Adam Davis Feb 15 '11 at 20:35
    
@polly - Right. That helps... –  RichardTheKiwi Feb 15 '11 at 20:36
    
@cyberkiwi - It's a joke. It means nothing. It was made to point out the absurdity of the idea that people should expect others to understand what they are saying based on who they are and what they've written before. –  Adam Davis Feb 15 '11 at 20:39

The frequent name-changing seems only to be the case on meta, and I'm finding it quite amusing: aside from the meme which provides humour value in its own right, I'm finding it a good exercise to take every comment on its own merits rather than my perception being coloured with my mental image of the author in question.

share|improve this answer

Why?

Really.

  1. Has it been a problem outside of meta?

    1. The ones that do it on meta, know who each others are, and know enough to look at the profile after each unexpected change.
    2. Those who come from the outsidestackoverflow, don't really care who you are, because for them you are John Doe.
    3. If you want to know the standard nick of a user, just look at the assosiated accounts.
  2. Why should I have a cost assosiated if I were to want to use my real name?

  3. What if another user signs in with the same name and I want to distinguish myself outside of my gravatar, should I pay up?

  4. You are no fun anymore!

share|improve this answer
    
-1 because I can't pronounce your latest name. –  mmyers Nov 16 '09 at 23:11
    
voy-lambda-ger? –  perbert Nov 16 '09 at 23:14
1  
Is the problem that you cant type it? Does your keyboard not have a λ key? –  perbert Nov 16 '09 at 23:15

How about having it cost reputation to change your name more than once per day? Say 100 points per name change. This doesn't restrict the user from making any changes and doesn't penalize any user making legitimate changes, but it does discourage name changes for the sake of name changes.

share|improve this answer
1  
It only matters when people who are "well known" in the community change their names. People who are "well known" are generally ever-present, answer many questions, and get a lot of rep. They typically don't care too much for rep, and it only takes an hour or two to get back 100 rep. I don't know that this solution would actually solve the problem. –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 20:56
1  
Thinking about it further, it would start more fighting. If someone "pays" to be "Jet Atwood" with a funny avatar, and that is changed back due to a site ban, they might claim ignorance and demand their rep payment back. More work for the team, with little payoff... –  Adam Davis Nov 16 '09 at 20:58
1  
I'm thinking no refund policy, warn user prior to change. –  tvanfosson Nov 16 '09 at 21:18
1  
+1, but make it more prohibitive; 1000 rep at least. And yeah, absolutely nonrefundable. –  ChssPly76 Nov 16 '09 at 21:30
1  
@Adam - I think I know who you're talking about, but it would take me a week to earn back 100 rep :( –  ChrisF Nov 16 '09 at 21:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .