An answer to one of my questions has been commented on by the POTUS ... O RLY?

While Jeff can't ask for the birth certificate of all the users, should suspected cases of impersonation be flagged by other users? Is it our place to be the impersonation police?

  • if only the WMD editor could filter netspeak, and detect if it's used in "irony" too (and still remove it)
    – Chris S
    Aug 7, 2009 at 11:48
  • 8
    Does "O RLY" imply someone is impersonating Bill O'Reilly? Aug 7, 2009 at 14:43
  • 1
    I'd rather impersonate Tim O'Reilly. Aug 7, 2009 at 16:34

7 Answers 7


You should know that if you choose this path, you are attracting attention to yourself, both from moderators and everyone else in the community.

Make sure it's the kind of attention you are comfortable with.

On the whole I would advise against it.

  • 13
    Very well put. The trouble is that on most internet forums, when you see someone posting as Barack Obama, they're a troublemaker. So if you post on one of these sites as Barack Obama, you look like a troublemaker, even if, a priori, you aren't. It's that old "guilt by association" thing. Aug 7, 2009 at 14:58
  • 37
    You should both know that on most internet forums, when you see someone posting as Jeff Atwood or Joel Spolsky, they're a troublemaker. Aug 7, 2009 at 17:37
  • 14
    So at least SO is consistent...
    – Shog9
    Aug 7, 2009 at 18:36
  • 2
    @JoelSpolsky to be honest such people rarely manage to write in coherent English and get their answers deleted anyway. They're normally too busy patting themselves in the back at how smart they are for using somebody else's name and saying dumb things as them to do menial work such as reading the FAQ :P
    – badp
    Mar 12, 2012 at 18:45

Well, there is that guy claiming he is Jon Skeet. So, why not?


There is no requirement that you use your actual name and picture to use this site (see me as an example).

If you want to impersonate the President of the United States, I really don't care. I was a little bit confused about the user in question, but it was more because I couldn't remember who he was prior to the name and avatar change.

Plus he wasn't very good at the impersonation. Come on, Hamilton, Ontario? We all know Barack is from Kenya.

  • 19
    That's not your real picture? That actually explains a lot. I had always wondered how you typed with hooves. Aug 7, 2009 at 11:50
  • 5
    Typing with hooves is easier than typing with boxing gloves and Strong Bad does that just fine.
    – Welbog
    Aug 7, 2009 at 12:01
  • @TheTXI: I saw your avatar pop up on a segment of The Rachel Maddow Show last night. Freaky! Aug 7, 2009 at 14:46
  • 1
    No relation to Mister Ed? Aug 8, 2009 at 2:42

It was a joke from a question a few days ago; the change was never meant to be permanent. However personally I don't feel like you need to know one's name to begin with, several such people in this question alone don't provide it. I can promise that no one actually believed I was the POTUS, nor did I try to impersonate him further than my gravatar/display name.

I never meant to cause a problem, and I still answered questions properly and with maturity. Anyone could just as easily impersonate someone else and no one would ever know (or complain). As the name I chose was obviously not me or anyone else here I thought it was harmless. I think the reaction is a bit overboard myself, but I indented to change my name back anyways, and have done so.

  • 2
    Is it now a Face/Off deal where you're still wearing the other face?
    – random
    Aug 7, 2009 at 14:44
  • You can blame gravatar for that one, but honestly my avatar doesn't make a difference. Aug 7, 2009 at 14:51
  • Could you link to that joke? Aug 7, 2009 at 16:47
  • 1
    Here's the question meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12731/…, the initial discussion is in the comments Aug 7, 2009 at 16:50
  • the question has since been deleted. Jun 4, 2010 at 3:05

So, what do we do if somebody wants to impersonate a famous person?

Bear in mind that some of this may be legitimate. People will have the same name as a famous person. I used to know a guy named James Bond (he was born and named before the movies came out). What would we do with a George Bush or John McCain, considering that none of those first and last names are actually rare?

I think any regulation would be more trouble than it's worth.

  • 6
    I have the same name as a famous person whom I don't particularly care for.
    – mmyers
    Aug 7, 2009 at 17:03
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    @mmyers: HA! i knew that bizarre pseudonym was hiding something! It's... Michael Bolton, isn't it!!
    – Shog9
    Aug 7, 2009 at 17:55
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    NOOOOOOOO! I've been outed!
    – mmyers
    Aug 7, 2009 at 21:14

While it most likely won't do much actual harm to anyone, I personally find it somewhat distracting and don't really like it. So I wouldn't mind if such a thing were to be listed as something that's not allowed on the SO family sites.


He's not running around SOFU with the US President's name, only on Meta.

On the other sites he's using his own name, (or is it?) so it appears harmless since it's contained here.

  • Isn't he using Obama's photo on the other sites? Aug 7, 2009 at 7:55
  • 6
    Yes he is. Not sure if "Yes he can"
    – random
    Aug 7, 2009 at 8:00

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