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Is there a "Verified Account" feature at Stack Exchange like the one used by twitter? If not, should there be?

I ask because I just saw this answer from new user "Jeffrey Richter," and I am not naturally suspicious, but — no wait, I am, hence this question.

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no thank you, this isn't a social 140 character limit site (thank God). –  JonH Dec 8 '11 at 17:04
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Are you saying you wouldn't mind if someone else claimed to be @Jon Hermiz and was posting bad answers on jQuery questions? And you wouldn't mind if that same content was scraped and shown on other sites with that very same name, but without any comments that might have been added on the original site? Or that the fake profile might show that Jon Hermiz is suspended? (That point of view is very much okay of course; I just want to be sure it's not just an allergy against Twitter et al.) –  Arjan Dec 8 '11 at 17:26
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I think you can tell if someone is being an impostor or not. The wording, the actions, etc clearly show the difference between someone who is and someone who isn't. The effort to implement such a thing is not worthwhile. And anyone who wants to be an impostor obviously has too much time on their hands. –  JonH Dec 8 '11 at 17:39

7 Answers 7

up vote 9 down vote accepted
+100

No, this doesn't exist and it's not something we're planning to provide.

devinb's answer does a great job explaining why it would be against the spirit of the site. Add in that it would be difficult to maintain (how do we verify? whom do we verify?) and that's two big strikes against it.

I could maybe see verifying somebody's website URL (ala Joachim's answer) and only showing this on the user page so that it doesn't influence voting, but I'm not sure how many people would find this useful.

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even twitter doesn't even do this any more, FYI. support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics/topics/… "This program is currently closed to the public. This means we are not able to accept public requests for verification." –  Jeff Atwood Dec 13 '11 at 6:23

The more important question is Why would this feature be desirable?

StackOverflow has always been about actionable questions and answers. There is a certain (forgotten) onus on each user to test the provided help/code before they fire it into production. This means that whether a user is the real Jon Skeet or a heinous imposter, I do not care as long as the advice works for me.

Many of the users with huge rep were not famous before StackOverflow (and still aren't, actually) and they gained reputation by providing solid advice.

The fact that (the real) Eric Lippert uses the site does not mean I will upvote him unless the solution works.

We should never encourage taking any advice on blind faith, because that runs counter to the goals of learning and figuring it out for yourself.

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Yes - you are voting on the usefulness (or otherwise) of the post not the user. –  ChrisF Jul 26 '10 at 14:37
    
While this post makes very valid points, "famous" users will almost always gain upvotes just for being well known, e.g. "well, if Jon Skeet says it's true it must be true - +1". When I read the question I thought (and this might need clarification) that the OP was unsure whether this might have just been someone signing up pretending to be Jeff Richter and reaping the reputational benefits of being well known. Anyone remember the fake Jon Skeets? –  Andy E Jul 26 '10 at 16:15
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@Andy, The root of the problem is as Chris notes, people are paying attention to users instead of posts. The "verification solution" is the opposite of a solution, because while it cures a symptom (upvoting based on infamy) it implicitly encourages the disease (upvoting based on user, not content). –  devinb Jul 26 '10 at 17:36
    
@Andy just looking for a discussion really. But suppose 'fake steve jobs' signed up here as 'steve jobs' and proceeded to post with the 'fake steve jobs' persona. That might be interesting to lawyers, which would be bad. –  AakashM Jul 26 '10 at 19:29
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@AkashM: Or his real name could be Steve Jobs but it begs the question, What is Steve Jobs doing spending his spare time on a Q&A web site? :) –  Andy E Jul 26 '10 at 20:50
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@Andy, what makes you think it's spare time. I think most of SO usage is definitely when people should be doing other things :p –  devinb Jul 26 '10 at 20:58
    
@dev: ha, I know that's true for me. SO started as a place to help me with my work, now it just hinders it by distracting me lol :) Fortunately I work for myself so it's not too bad. –  Andy E Jul 26 '10 at 21:42

I think this should be revisited. Google, apparently, loves us. Not only are they sponsoring the and tags (among others) and has us front-and-center on http://developer.android.com as the resource for answering development questions, but now the Gmail Community Manager is answering Gmail questions on Web Applications. Or is she? See, we don't know for sure.

I think if the developer of an app is answering questions about it that's important to know, because they're obviously not working off of supposition or cause-and-effect experimentation.

Of course, it's probably more important to know that someone is impersonating an app developer.

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How you suggest we verify such things? Ask the person to send us himself holding his passport? –  Shadow Wizard Aug 17 '11 at 13:30
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In addition to figuring out "how" to do the verification, but also the "who". Who's important enough to be "verified"? –  Anna Lear Aug 17 '11 at 13:35
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@Shadow: That is the sticky wicket, isn't it? I'm afraid I don't have a magic solution. Posting a link to their SE profile from some verifiable location (the blog for the app, for instance) would be one way. –  Al E. Aug 17 '11 at 15:50
    
Now that StackExchange has sites dealing with financial matters, I think this feature just became a tad more significant, as is being discussed here –  David Perry Apr 11 '13 at 8:25

I too don't see a real need for it (along the line of @devinbs answer).

But: if any given "famous" person wants to verify their identity over here, it's rather easy to do: They should link to their SO profile from their known-good personal site/blog/company site/... and for extra credits link back to that site from their profile.

Voilà! Instant self-verification!

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Er, perhaps not quite. –  Steve Jobs Dec 12 '11 at 18:55
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Your profile links to apple.com, but I presume apple.com doesn't link back to your profile. (Or maybe it does; I didn't check.) –  Keith Thompson Dec 12 '11 at 19:26
    
True, @Keith, but still: should not having a link from his site to this profile satisfy Mr. Rubin? –  Arjan Dec 13 '11 at 18:36

No, there is currently no Verified Account Verified Logo feature. This hasn't been an issue so far. We have had a few famous faces on SO and they all seemed legitimate.

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"This hasn't been an issue so far." -- we decided to celebrate the one-year anniversary of this question by screwing that up –  Michael Mrozek Jul 26 '11 at 17:19

@devinb has the correct answer here that I'm going to expound upon a bit.

Information, not the deliverer, is the key component of stack overflow and the primary reason I'm here. I don't give two shakes about whether the person providing the answer is "jon skeet" or "fake jon skeet" as long as the answer holds true.

Quite frankly I find it disturbing that a large number of people do place more emphasis on the person delivering the answer than on the quality of the answer. By quality I mean accuracy and truthfulness. Even worse, it's apalling the number of people that won't bother taking even 5 minutes to verify and instead downvote those who provide a solution different from their "chosen" champion... again, regardless of suitability or accuracy.


An interesting aside: There is a sub story in one of Isaac Asimov's books (Foundation series) in which a group gauged how far a society had declined by how far removed said society was in gathering first hand knowledge.

In other words, as more people placed a higher degree of trust in who said a thing versus directly determining and weighing the facts then that society was believed to be sliding into darkness.

To bring this back, you can tell me all day long that feature X is better than feature Y. However, I won't believe you until I test this for myself. I don't care if you were the author of both features or even if the "group think" is that feature X is better. Why? Simply because people are prone to mistakes and the lure of marketing. I'm a small business owner and a developer of high availability systems. Neither profession allows for much wiggle room in the direction I choose and, therefore, the "answer" must be truly correct regardless of where it came from. Hence I verify first, then trust.

So, based on the above, I don't like the proposed feature and think it not only adds nothing to SO but would further detract from what SO is about.

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Don't see why you need it unless you are going to start doing AMA's like Reddit where an admin verifies true identity.

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