I would like to discuss the "don't sign your message" rule with other StackOverflow users and -- hopefully -- persuade the appropriate people to consider modifying the FAQ and removing the rule.

I take great pride in affixing my signature to my written work, whether it is written by hand, or typed on a computer and posted on the internet. I realize that Stack Overflow automatically appends a signature block, and that it might seem redundant for me to type my name ("Aaron") at the end of a message or question. However, I feel very strongly about the importance of human beings signing their own work, rather than delegating that task to a machine. I understand that "every post you make is already signed with your standard user card, which links directly back to your user page," but it is personally important to me as a human being that I sign my own messages. I also believe there is a precedent for this type of personal signature that can be traced all the way back to the earliest days of the WELL.

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    I don't want to discourage you but I don't think you'll stand a chance with this - there is overwhelming community consensus that this rule is a good one. I understand where you're coming from but within the Q&A format of these sites, signing stuff simply isn't the way to go. Especially as every contribution can be edited by someone else to correct errors and such, watering down the "this is a piece of work that I did with my hands" aspect. There's a time and a place for everything - I use "Hi" or "Hello" and "Best regards" etc. in every E-Mail I send. But they have no place here on SO – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 14:12
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    Technically, all posts are signed...just not manually. – Time Traveling Bobby Oct 5 '11 at 14:15
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    Also, you are not perceived as a troll. As I already said: Questioning points of the FAQ is fine, but you can't expect to get a lot of sympathy either. Especially for stuff a major part of the community agrees on. (If that's the main point of your question here) – slhck Oct 5 '11 at 14:17
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    @Aaron it has nothing to do with bandwidth, and also not really with efficiency. – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 14:19
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    The bandwidth can support it, but quickly skimming through solutions and comments, I'd like to do without all the "Hi User XYZ, how are you? Thanks for your immediate reply, I really appreciate your help!" noise. We are not a social network. It's about getting actual content. If you need to get in touch with people, Chat has proven to be very efficient to do so. – slhck Oct 5 '11 at 14:19
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    @Aaron on Stack Overflow, the quality of the content is regarded more important than who the author is. Plus, any contribution you make can theoretically be edited by any other user. Many contributions that have evolved over time (Often those marked "Community Wiki") can have three, five, dozens of authors who corrected, added, changed things. Also, by posting content here, you are publishing it under a very permissive – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 14:27
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    CC-Wiki license that allows everyone to freely redistribute and modify your work (as long as you are named as the author, and a link to SO is provided - which is where the automatic "author card" comes in). In light of all this, attaching your name on your contributions makes little sense. As far as I'm concerned, if you need to do that, start a blog – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 14:29
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    Aaron - Should I append my signature after yours when I make an edit? – agf Oct 5 '11 at 14:36
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    I'm -1'ing because I'm perfectly comfortable with removing signatures - still, this is a perfectly fine question and as others have said, questioning the FAQ is never viewed as trolling as long as things are put as coherently and politely as they are here. – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 14:43
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    Every community has rules, and this community's philosophy discourages signatures and extraneous comments (e.g. "thanks" or "sigh") in both questions and answers. Pekka explains this philosophy well as the belief that "questions and answers are not personal messages from one human being to another" because the thread is intended to benefit countless people who view the exchange. I understand this perspective, but it is also one with which I disagree. – Aaron Delwiche Oct 5 '11 at 15:33
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    "I understand this perspective, but it is also one with which I disagree." You can disagree that it's good that Stack Exchange is about information and not communication as we're used to thinking about it, but you can't disagree that the posts aren't personal messages -- that is contrary to their definition in this context. I think the point about "machine-driven elements [taking] precedence" is invalid -- it has nothing do to with machine driven elements. Stack Exchange is an encyclopedia, or a textbook, not general nonfiction. That's the format we've chosen. – agf Oct 5 '11 at 15:57
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    @Aaron the rule banning signatures doesn't have anything to do with the struggle between man and machine. SO could be a collection of stone tablets in the babylonian desert, and you could still have a rule banning individual signatures on each tablet. (@agf puts it pretty well: This site strives to be an encyclopedia. Nothing to do with machines at all really.) – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 15:58
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    As a college professor you no doubt know that many educational establishments (and perhaps even your own) require that student term papers be written up and presented in a particular format. If I was to enrol as a student at your institution then I would have to comply with these standards and conventions regardless of how much it annoyed me that I couldn't write smileys in the margins or change the line spacing. If I don't comply then I don't get my college degree. It seems fair enough that when you participate in our community all we ask is that you respect our standards and conventions. – Kev Oct 5 '11 at 16:01
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    Well, my first question asked about the process by which a community member could make the case for a change in the rules. I quickly realized that there would be no support for such a change. If you read my comments above, you'll see that I acknowledged that these are the rules of the community and explained why I am troubled by them. – Aaron Delwiche Oct 5 '11 at 16:18
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    I guess, all I ask of a community is that there be (a) a process by which rules can be changed and amended and (b) the ability to make a case for or against a certain practice. – Aaron Delwiche Oct 5 '11 at 16:20

it is personally important to me as a human being that I sign my own messages

This is fundamentally incompatible with the Stack Exchange philosophy of high signal, low noise -- if you really need to do this, you should do it on one of the millions of other sites on the Internet where it is allowed.

  • I don't think the act of affixing a personal signature is noise. Declaring it to be noise and assigning the human act of "signing" to a machine-driven process strikes me as seriously problematic. – Aaron Delwiche Oct 5 '11 at 14:26
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    @Aaron "Signing" by typing your name on the keyboard is not a human act anymore. I could "Sign" Aaron Delwiche with my own keyboard and my imitation would be indistinguishable from yours. But I cannot write a post and use your Stack-Exchange built-in signature, so this signature is more meaningful than anything you could type. – DavRob60 Oct 5 '11 at 14:37
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    @Aaron but why is it problematic? After all, it's not done for the sake of the machine, but so humans can process the content more easily. A personal signature is not always important. Questions and answers are not personal messages from one human being to another, and the intended audience that is supposed to benefit from the exchange goes far beyond just the asker and the answerer - thousands will find the question through Google and profit from it – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 14:38
  • At one point I thought we discouraged edits to only remove salutations and signatures, is that still true? – tvanfosson Oct 5 '11 at 14:47
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    @tvanfosson That is still in a FAQ about editing somewhere, but I always assumed it mostly meant suggested edits, since you're wasting other people's time on a minor issue. But I don't think I've ever seen a post with a salutation and / or signature that didn't also need some other editing. – agf Oct 5 '11 at 14:54
  • @tvanfosson that was probably a Lex Geoffrey Chetwood and I hope that bit is still somewhere in the rules. I find people doing mass edits like that terribly infuriating – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 15:04
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I note, ironically, that you are concerned with being able to sign your posts personally, yet you are happy to use the generic gravatar.

In addition to that bit of personalization which is featured on each of your posts, once you reach a certain level of reputation your user card will display a popup on hover that you can personalize in any way you want by creating a <!-- summary: --> within your profile. Its pretty much beats the living crap out of any old "Thanks!" you can tag to the end of your posts...

enter image description here

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    Oh man, the narwhal is even frowning! Still, the OP did address the automatic signature in his question – Pëkka Oct 5 '11 at 15:07
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    @Pekka: Yes, but my point was that he is so concerned with personally identifying his post yet cannot be bothered changing the default gravatar. Editing to clarify. – Won't Oct 5 '11 at 15:13

You can always sign your posts in an invisible comment.

<!-- insert your own signature here -->

This way you can both satisfy your own desire for a personalized signature and the SO community consensus of not adding unnecessary noise to the posts.

  • Except that it will still not survive the first foreign edit and adds nothing of value, either way... – Time Traveling Bobby Oct 5 '11 at 14:22
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    @PaddedCell: it won't survive the edit if it is manually removed and yes, I totally agree: it adds nothing of value (in my opinion and according to the SO consensus), but it also doesn't reduce the value by introducing noise. – Joachim Sauer Oct 5 '11 at 14:23

WELL used signature files in software to "sign" posts. Fidonet users had software sign their posts. Bluewave offline reader had signature settings. Usenet clients have signature files, with machine inserted sigs. Modern www forum software has signatures in the user settings.

Your claim here:

I also believe there is a precedent for this type of personal signature that can be traced all the way back to the earliest days of the WELL.

Is simply an appeal for Stack Exchange to do what it is already doing; for SE to append a signature automatically.


This has been discussed and fixated, you're free to add your own opinion to that discussion. I don't see why you'd need a new question for that, there's plenty of space for new answers under that question.

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    But there wouldn't be room for new answers there if everyone added their signature to it... – Charles Boyung Oct 5 '11 at 17:43

The fact of the matter is that you are in the minority here. This policy is not going change, no matter how much you would like it to.

The best you could hope for is to thumb your nose at the policy and continue adding your signature anyway, and in the process put up with frequent edits by others who (lawfully) remove your signature in the course of edits. The only thing you have going for you is the edit war rules favor giving the OP the benefit of the doubt, but even here mods are likely to lock posts sans-signature.

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    We had someone take that stance and, I believe, he got suspended for his troubles, due to all the edit wars he created... – Won't Oct 5 '11 at 15:15

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