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I just came across this SO user whose username is

Z̷͙̗̻͖̣̹͉̫̬̪̖̤͆ͤ̓ͫͭ̀̐͜͞ͅͅαлγo

which spans more vertical space than "normal" characters when rendered on page, which looks ugly especially as a comment author, as seen here.

Should such characters be allowed in user names?

Also, if you see the comment, it's

O̷̼͓̤̣͕͍̠͍͝ͅͅM̵̶̛̙̟̫͇̪̖̯͕̩̝E͏̡̢̤͈̩͍̯̗͕͎͎̥̫̘̙͖͇̤̻͢͜ò̦̳͈̰̩̣̙͇̖̭̪̲͖̤͡͝ͅͅͅn̷͉̼̱͉͎̜̰͜_Ȩ̷̝̦͕̮̫͇͖̪̪̀͟͝ͅ ̶̱̳̼̝͖̹̹̻̣̺͓̜͜͞͡Ś̴̢̛̥̪̭̳̥̞̩̞̙̼͍̟̗̻̮͟A̵̛̮̪̗͎̺̼̯̠̘͉̼͠ͅi҉̩͔͖̳̰͕͉͕͓̘͚͙͔̰̦͔̜͘͝ͅd̥͔͖̥̠͎̻͍̣̯̞̗͇͜͜ ̕͞͏̰͕̠a̴̭̟̠̞̳͇̙͕̻̫̘̭͈̲̹̕͠ņ͉̣̻̩͜_ṇ̵̢̼̺͎͟ͅó̡҉̼̫̳͙̰͔ͅÝ̶̲̞͇̪͈̥̮̫̹͕͡Į̶̛͖͕͔̩͖̼_N̷̜̩̜̤̲̬̞̯͘͜G̟͍͔̹̣͈͢͡?̡̹̹̟͖̕͟͜͠

which also raises another closely-related question of whether such characters should be allowed in comments.

My opinion is "no" and "no", but such characters should probably be allowed in questions and answers, because they may be relevant/necessary.

However, if such characters are in Q/A posts just for "decorative effect", they should be edited away.

Opinions?

  • 2
    Yes do away because they are annoying and don't render in most non PC device browsers. No because we are all geeks, like some fun, and welcome freedom to express. I am on the fence and will wait for some more opinions in answers. – James Apr 14 '15 at 4:48
  • 1
    I immediately close the tab with anything that looks like that. It makes reading difficult and I almost closed this without reading at all just due to those characters and 'bleeding'. This is, however, only the third time I've seen it - so how prevalent is it? – HeXanon Apr 14 '15 at 5:13
  • @James I like fun too, but I'm using Google Chrome browser and Windows 7 on desktop, very much a PC non-device, yet those characters aren't rendering correctly for me. The main issue is prevalence though. If it is really uncommon, then it might not be worth making another rule about it. – Ellie Kesselman Apr 14 '15 at 6:19
  • Here's some more of the problems caused by weird characters in user names, mostly for non-PC devices meta.stackexchange.com/questions/168118/… – Ellie Kesselman Apr 14 '15 at 6:22
  • The name is now plain, dunno if user did it himself, or changed by a mod though. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Apr 14 '15 at 7:02
  • 2
    Those combining characters do have a legitimate purpose, and flat-out banning them would stop some people from being able to make their display name be their chosen name. However, perhaps some sort of limit on vertical combining is in order. – raptortech97 Apr 14 '15 at 11:58
  • @EllieKesselman What do you mean by "fun"? My comment was serious. I was pointing out both sides of the argument and that I was undecided. If something is causing an issue we should look at it, but at the same time we cannot abolish something just because some people don't like it (not you necessarily, some will argue it's "annoying"). :) – James Apr 14 '15 at 15:28
  • @James By "fun", I was merely quoting you! Yes do away because they are annoying and don't render in most non PC device browsers. No because we are all geeks, like some fun, and welcome freedom... YOU said fun, not I. I am very serious :o| – Ellie Kesselman Apr 15 '15 at 6:45
  • @EllieKesselman I thought you thought I was being funny by the way I portrayed both arguments. But, yes, I said fun. I truly can be an idiot sometimes... – James Apr 15 '15 at 12:49
  • 1
    "Stop that! It's silly!" (from Monty Python - the only python I am familiar with). – user291305 Oct 19 '16 at 17:48
4

Although using unicode characters in usernames to create a certain "look" seems cute, it actually changes the characters to mean something else. This might seem harmless, but it can cause three effects:

  1. For visually disabled people using screen readers, your username either won't get pronounced, or will result in a totally confusing combination of sounds which do not make sense to the reader.
  2. People who actually read those characters as their native language might misinterpret your username, or you may inadvertently have created a word which is offensive or inappropriate.
  3. The whole layout of the page with your username will break or be annoying to read (usually this is an effect which is being perceived as "funny" by the creator of the username).

Although all three are technically harmless, and for a proper unicode system supporting multiple languages unavoidable, I personally find it inconsiderate to appropriate glyphs from other languages to mean something they don't.

  • 5
    For the sorts of massively stacked combining modifiers this question is discussing, the first and third of those effects apply to sighted users as well, and the second one is highly improbable. (If there are three dozen stacked combining modifiers, I guarantee that represents no sound on Earth, much less one anyone could be offended by.) – Nathan Tuggy Jan 26 '19 at 9:12
  • That first effect doesn't apply at all to sighted readers. A sighted person looking at the whole page can see the separation between the characters and even work out the different letters themselves. A screen reader cannot do this, and unsighted users cannot get around the issue. – Nij Jan 26 '19 at 22:02
3

I can understand why some users would find these names annoying, but I don't see any actual problems being caused by them.

A comment starting with or mentioning that username is still perfectly readable, and it only very negligibly diminishes the readability of the comments around it. The "disruption" does not cover enough pixels to obscure any elements of the UI or links in other comments (assuming the link has an anchor longer than one character, which it should anyway). And I don't see how they "adversely affect formatting" in any way; everything else on the page is being rendered quickly and correctly for me on my laptop and my phone (both of which are fairly outdated).

Since comment replies no longer require you to figure out how to type these names, the only real downside is that the username itself might be unreadable, but I don't think that's any more problematic than the fact that many people probably misread Zαлγo as "Zanyo" even after ignoring the weird bits.

But, that's just usernames. A whole comment consisting of O̷̼͓̤̣͕͍̠͍͝ͅͅM̵̶̛̙̟̫͇̪̖̯͕̩̝E͏̡̢̤͈̩͍̯̗͕͎͎̥̫̘̙͖͇̤̻͢͜ò̦̳͈̰̩̣̙͇̖̭̪̲͖̤͡͝ͅͅͅn̷͉̼̱͉͎̜̰͜_Ȩ̷̝̦͕̮̫͇͖̪̪̀͟͝ͅ ̶̱̳̼̝͖̹̹̻̣̺͓̜͜͞͡Ś̴̢̛̥̪̭̳̥̞̩̞̙̼͍̟̗̻̮͟A̵̛̮̪̗͎̺̼̯̠̘͉̼͠ͅi҉̩͔͖̳̰͕͉͕͓̘͚͙͔̰̦͔̜͘͝ͅd̥͔͖̥̠͎̻͍̣̯̞̗͇͜͜ ̕͞͏̰͕̠a̴̭̟̠̞̳͇̙͕̻̫̘̭͈̲̹̕͠ņ͉̣̻̩͜_ṇ̵̢̼̺͎͟ͅó̡҉̼̫̳͙̰͔ͅÝ̶̲̞͇̪͈̥̮̫̹͕͡Į̶̛͖͕͔̩͖̼_N̷̜̩̜̤̲̬̞̯͘͜G̟͍͔̹̣͈͢͡?̡̹̹̟͖̕͟͜͠ does become totally unreadable and imo is deserving of a custom flag reason. You can probably still read this paragraph through the "interference", but for me this crosses the line into "non-constructive" fun that needs to be cleaned up a bit (though it's probably okay on meta).

P.S. If I'm just lucky and these names are actually causing technical problems with the site for a significant number of users, or if people start making usernames as messy as that comment, then I would absolutely be in favor of restricting them.

  • It seems strange that I've gotten several upvotes and downvotes on this post, yet no one else has posted their opinion yet. Are we all waiting for an SE employee to comment or something? – Ixrec Apr 16 '15 at 19:17

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