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Take this example: all SO user accounts of user known as "icepax".

I can imagine of any human reasons to create a new user account at SO, e.g. willing to restart with a clean (reputation) history. But particular this one is extreme. The user known as "icepax" currently already has 10 accounts, each involved in only one question/answer.

How and why would one do that? There is certainly more at matter here. Shouldn't it be our task to merge the accounts and inform the user in question about how to use SO and the OpenID properly?

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user was merged into stackoverflow.com/users/227255/icepax –  Jeff Atwood Jan 14 '10 at 15:47
    
Nice, but how would you ensure that he don't create new one? I would have sent him a mail with explanation about the merge and have instructed him to stick to OpenID XYZ to login to SO. –  BalusC Jan 14 '10 at 16:06
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4 Answers

up vote 26 down vote accepted

It is not a problem to have multiple accounts, as long as they aren't voting for each other and doing other sockpuppet-y things.

Though it is generally discouraged, as what legitimate reason would you need for multiple accounts? Idle hands are the devil's playground, etc etc.

That said, for this particular user, it seems accidental. Maybe he has his browser configured to drop cookies on close, and isn't interested in registering? Anyway, I merged him.

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I think one "legitimate reason" for using an alternate account would be if there is a question you want to ask that you would find particularly embarrassing to have on your "official" accounts records. I never let the two accounts cross each other, so I think that's acceptable use. –  AgentConundrum Jan 14 '10 at 16:05
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Or just stuff that you feel you -should- already know, and, say, wouldn't want your work to know that you -didn't- know. I could conceive of someone wanting that kind of anonymity. –  Kzqai Apr 28 '10 at 22:26
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Loads of legitimate reasons. Off the top of my head: 1) To keep a low profile if you are female/a minority and fear harassment a la Kathy Sierra. Lots of people do this to feel safer. 2) You find it personally useful, for instance having an account for java questions and another for C questions because that helps you keep them organized. 3) You have an account that is associated with (or could be traced back to) your company and your question might compromise security or taint your brand's image. 4) You think logging in is a hassle, so you make a new account every time your cookies clear. –  lala May 11 '11 at 17:54
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5) You want to test newbie-specific features of the site, to see them in action (maybe again) for yourself so you can help others to better understand them. –  Iszi Aug 22 '11 at 16:58
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I'm not sure how #1 is a reason for having multiple accounts. Just have one account that doesn't have your name on it. #2 is somewhat iffy. #4 is just lazy. #3 and #5 are legit, though. –  Nicol Bolas Nov 7 '11 at 1:56
    
It is explicitly stated that it is not allowed for a person to vote for a post made from one their accounts using another of their accounts. Is there a mechanism for detecting when multiple accounts from one user are voting for the same post made by another user? –  robjohn Nov 28 '12 at 18:04
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Interestingly, it doesn't look like a sock-puppet, but based on the gravatar, those are all the same guy. OpenID issues perhaps?

They should definitely be merged. That'll be a job for a mod.

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No they should not. Merging accounts without the owner's permission would be wrong. –  Andreas Bonini Nov 15 '10 at 7:45
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Multiple accounts are gently discouraged without enforcement (or perhaps with gentle, human moderated enforcement from the team).

Sock puppetry and vote gaming with multiple accounts are addressed to some degree by the voting anomaly detector. I image that if you are really persistent in such things you'll get the attention of the team, and then....

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If you check out the various account pages in the Google link, you'll see they're not doing sock puppetry -- it's like the guy created a new account every time he signed on. He often "answers" his own questions with things like, "I solved it by ... " He seems more confused than malicious. –  John Rudy Jan 14 '10 at 15:16
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They have been merged (and before I ever got to see them seperately), but all the cases were I've seen same-gravitar/same-name have been new users errors. I was just writing to the title question. –  dmckee Jan 14 '10 at 15:32
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The way to make multiple accounts is to not register, and to drop cookies (or use a different computer) each time you want to create a new account.

Early on in SO is was made clear that the system would NOT combine accounts with the same email except at user request to avoid possible exploits.

Multiple accounts on purpose is frowned upon, and if it is found that the accounts are being used to game the system in some way the user is banned for a period of time.

If you see suspicious activity regarding multiple accounts, flag one of the user's posts for moderator attention.

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