Right now you are permitted only one chat username for all the chat sites network wide. For a variety of reasons, many users use different usernames on different sites - for instance I'm BaffledCook on the cooking site, but GUI Junkie elsewhere.

When I show up in the Unix chatroom, however, I'm showing up as BaffledCook, as that's the site where I've earned the most reputation. I can change my chat username, but it's the same username across all chat sites. If I choose to hang out in chat.cooking and chat.unix at the same time, I'm going to be confusing at least one group as to who I am.

To improve concordance between main, meta and chat sites, it would be a good idea to have 'multiple chat usernames'.

If a user goes to the chat of site X where he/she has a certain username, he'd be visible with the same user name.

See what I mean?


If I choose to hang out in chat.cooking and chat.unix at the same time, I'm going to be confusing at least one group as to who I am.

If you're aiming for least confusing, then pick a name and stick with it. Otherwise, accept that you'll probably end up confusing someone.

Right now, SE chat is a mostly-separate system from the individual SE sites, with some periodic synchronization. You have a separate profile on Chat that is associated with one of your SE site accounts, from which it pulls your name, picture, etc. Users who've signed into chat and have chat accounts can be invited into rooms, notified of comments, etc.

Chat rooms also have an associated SE site, from which they take their color scheme, tags, etc. By default, visiting Chat from the link on a SE site will present you with a list of all rooms associated with that site. Note that rooms can and do exist which are not associated with any SE site.

So this suggestion could be implemented in a number of ways...

  1. Room association overrides user association: Upon entering a room, the system checks your account for a possible connection to the site associated with the room. If you have an account set up on that site, your name and picture from that account are used in favor of those associated with your chat account.

    Upside: Chat remains separate, multiple names, images just work.
    Downside: Potentially confusing for users who click through to your profile and find little connection to the user they were just chatting with. Impossible to search for your per-site name in the Chat user directory.

  2. Per-site chat accounts: Like how Stack Overflow and Meta Stack Overflow have (but perhaps without the completely separate systems). Visit chat.sitename and you're signed into a matching account, visible in the user directory, and with no confusion about who you are when you're in a room vs. elsewhere. Only rooms for the site you originated on would be available (to enter other rooms, you would need to enter chat from a different URL).

    Upside: Very straightforward behavior for users who don't use a lot of different sites. Closes "20 rep points on one site lets you chat on any site" loophole.
    Downside: Can't chat with (or even find) users from other sites unless they visit your site first (or you visit theirs). Site moderators would need to be more active in chat, since there would be no cross-site chat moderation (not necessarily a down-side).

  3. No chat accounts: Like "per-site chat accounts", but with no separate account system at all. You are who you are on the site associated with a room; if you don't have an account there, you don't chat. The user directory is the one on the site.

    Upside: fewer accounts to worry about. Ability to ping / invite anyone on the site, even if they hate chat.
    Downside: No inviting users without an account on your site to chat with you. If you're on the site, you're available to chat. Huge and probably entirely unrealistic change to how Chat works. Bears.

Personally, I don't see a big advantage to #1, and #2,3 sound like a ton of work for somewhat dubious advantages. The separate Chat.SO thing already confuses people.

  • So you're saying that allowing different usernames on different sites only begets confusion and is a bad idea? :P – Matthew Read Aug 11 '11 at 2:53
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    @Matthew: didn't say anything about "bad idea"... ;-) – Shog9 Aug 11 '11 at 2:54
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    @Shog9 if Stack Exchange is going to support usernames on a per site basis, is it really unacceptable to ask them to support it on chat? I understand the reasons for this are historical, and it's quite possible they're going to a one user name to rule them all model, but they should choose one or the other. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Aug 11 '11 at 3:01
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    @Adam: the problem goes beyond names - in order to implement this properly, you'd have to have a separate chat account for every site you have an account on. That would give you parity with the SE behavior. Does that sound less confusing? – Shog9 Aug 11 '11 at 3:07
  • @Shog9 I'm saying that the per-site chat should match the per-site name. That would be less confusing than either the current situation, or the one you seemingly propose where one can have two names per site - one for the site, and one for chat. I'd suggest getting rid of all the clutter and make it simple. If you go to the electronics chat it should match the electronics username, period. Chat, right now, exists largely outside the network in this regard - it should be brought into more close alignment with the sites. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Aug 11 '11 at 3:47
  • Alternately, force everyone to have the same name on all the sites, and make chat match. I don't see a reason to have the strange middle ground that they've currently chosen to implement. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Aug 11 '11 at 3:49
  • @Adam: How is this simple? You want to have two identities simultaneously - there's nothing simple about that. The SE sites do it by maintaining a separate account for each... Y'know what, I've updated my answer. If you think this is worth doing, then post your own answer describing how it would work, what changes would be necessary to the behavior of the existing Chat system to accomplish it, and how having multiple, simultaneous custom names is totally worth it. – Shog9 Aug 11 '11 at 15:49
  • @Shog9, Thanks for the input and the complete answer (in fact I'm going to delete mine now). I always thought we worked on #2, and hope that they implement that at some time. – Lance Roberts Aug 11 '11 at 16:11
  • I'm also in favor of #2. Thanks for the answer. And about confusion, I thought it was more confusing to use GUI Junkie on a cooking site as this username is 100% IT oriented. – GUI Junkie Aug 11 '11 at 17:59
  • @GUI: consider, "Gooey Junkie"... – Shog9 Aug 11 '11 at 18:04
  • "Chop GUI" is also good :) – GUI Junkie Aug 11 '11 at 18:13
  • Hey, there you go! – Shog9 Aug 11 '11 at 18:21
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    I think 2 and 3 would be detrimental. We want to make it easier, not harder, for people to move from just participating on one site to participating more broadly on the network. If the cost of that is that I have one global name as far as chat is concerned, that's fine. We don't need to take away per=site names outside of chat (and shouldn't). – Monica Cellio Feb 4 '14 at 17:31

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