Obviously one of the things that this site encourages is the building up of reputation which is a reflection of how the community perceives you. However, after spending a while in any given tag, you can't help but get familiar with people by their SO user name and interpret their input accordingly. This is especially the case with comments: you have to click-through to the user's home page as their rep is not immediately visible.

Hence it's pretty confusing when certain users keep changing their names:

  • Is that someone who I have learnt to respect?
  • Is that trollish behaviour, or has the user made a genuine error/comunication problem?
  • Do I give this user the benefit of any doubt?

I must say that I find this is particularly the case on meta. I'm not suggesting that user-names should be permanently locked but perhaps there could be a limit to how often a name could be changed (e.g. no more than once per quarter year).

  • 9
    per quarter of hour?
    – juan
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:34
  • 4
    I'm sure one of these days there's going to be a Spartacus event
    – MartW
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 21:51
  • 11
    Reputation for commenters is viewable via mouseover - no need to open up their user page. Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 4:09

6 Answers 6


New rules:

  • only one display name change is allowed every 30 days
  • user accounts less than 2 days old may change their display name at will
  • there is a 15 minute grace period after each change during which you may change your display name at will
  • 24
    This seems like a solution in search of a problem.
    – Ether
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 0:48
  • 7
    @Æther the problem is, it's too much of a PITA for me to keep track of who is who -- and I can't tell who I'm talking to. It harms discourse. Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 0:52
  • 3
    +1 This should clear up a lot of confusion.
    – Sampson
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 1:22
  • 44
    Perhaps this could be modified to post a warning regarding these limitations: "Are you sure? You will not be able to change your name again for 30 days." (And of course allow moderators to change anyone's name, so it's still possible to flag for moderator assistance here.)
    – Ether
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 1:29
  • 8
    Also, let me know how much time before I can change my name again, without having to first edit it and try to save the profile. One more thing: booh.
    – alex
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 7:09
  • 8
    -1 I like @Shog9s solution much more. Also, 30 days is way too long!
    – fretje
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 9:17
  • 9
    @Jeff: "It harms discourse" - I thought So was not supposed to be a discourse site. It is Q&A so who you are or what you are named has no bearing. This is in contrast to a lot of what I thought you were pushing for this site.
    – tim
    Commented Feb 4, 2010 at 18:58
  • @Jeff: cool I agree on this too. @Ether well I agree also on your suggestion. Commented Nov 8, 2010 at 17:55
  • Wonder how you guys implement policies like these in code. I would be interested to know the design.
    – ardsrk
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 6:54
  • This change was made on the 6th birthday of Facebook ;) hehe.. Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 11:59
  • 1
    @JeffAtwood Why the free changing of names for accounts less than 2 days old?
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 2:11

Personally, I found it much more confusing when certain users who had gone months under one name suddenly switched to new names (and, in at least one case, new gravatar images).

Rate-limiting would do nothing to prevent this, but banning name-changes outright would hamper those who picked unfortunate pseudonyms, were poorly-named by their parents, or decide to change their names out of some misguided ideas of transparency.

So I suggest one small change: keep a list of past pseudonyms attached to each user's bio somewhere. Let them decay over time, perhaps dropping old names after a month or so.

  • 1
    I agree. But at least you'd have some time to get used to who it was. As it stands, they change again and again and again. Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:41
  • 2
    I like the small change idea. That would make life easier for lots of folks. (Of course, with only one notable exception that I can recall, this really is just a problem on Meta. And you can always use the "associated accounts" tab to determine the user's "real" name as a result.)
    – John Rudy
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:43
  • Maybe for the first 48 hours after a change, there should be some notification by their name in their activity that indicates it has just been changed. Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 21:43
  • Funny you should mention that, @YEZ
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 22:22

Though it's incredibly annoying, I'm reluctant to support a restriction on this. The questions and answers should feature and stand by themselves. It's a Q&A site, and as such WHO is posting the answer (and whether they were the same yesterday) isn't as important as the answer itself.

  • 3
    Offensive, confusing, or user names in bad taste can be handed via the existing mechanisms of post flagging.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:35
  • 1
    This right here's the answer.
    – John Rudy
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:35
  • 1
    It does break commenting, but commenting is a secondary feature that was added only under extreme duress anyway...
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:37
  • 1
    It's not just questions and answers though, is it? Half the content now seems to be in comments. And meta in particular is much more opinion-focused than SO itself - knowing the personality/background of a poster is important. Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:42
  • 23
    @oxbow_lakes: half the content may well be in comments, but it's the unimportant half. Except for this comment. This comment is very, very important.
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:50
  • 2
    "knowing the personality/background of a poster is important" - Only if the poster is unable to clearly and fully articulate their thoughts, or if the reader is intent on sussing out some hidden intent, agenda, or meaning. Otherwise there is no need for additional background knowledge.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:52
  • 6
    @Shog9 - thank you for pointing out that comment's importance. I've upvoted it so it may stand above the others, as the shining beacon of commentitude we all should strive for. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:54
  • 2
    @Adam - who is able to clearlt articulate their thoughts in 500 characters? The internet is not a great medium within which to avoid ambiguity of intent! Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:56
  • If a thought or expression requires more than 500 characters to describe, one may post several comments, or more appropriately, post a whole answer. I still don't see a reason to post half-formed comments and expect your readers to remember your name and fill in the blanks based on other work you've posted. How can you even expect them to read all your posts?
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 21:00
  • 1
    This comment can be understood fully only if you've read all my other posts and comments on this and all other SO sites: "Ponies coalesce iridescence skeet." Please refer to my voluminous works for translation.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 21:03
  • 2
    @Adam: +1 each for "commentitude" and "Ponies coalesce iridescence skeet."
    – John Rudy
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 21:08
  • @Polly, @John Can someone explain Ponies coalesce iridescence skeet ?? Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 19:44
  • 1
    @cyberkiwi I have a marvelous explanation for the phrase which this comment box is too small to contain. Please refer to my voluminous works for translation.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 20:35
  • @polly - Right. That helps... Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 20:36
  • 1
    Who's @polly? ;)
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 14:32

The frequent name-changing seems only to be the case on meta, and I'm finding it quite amusing: aside from the meme which provides humour value in its own right, I'm finding it a good exercise to take every comment on its own merits rather than my perception being coloured with my mental image of the author in question.




  1. Has it been a problem outside of meta?

    1. The ones that do it on meta, know who each others are, and know enough to look at the profile after each unexpected change.
    2. Those who come from the outsidestackoverflow, don't really care who you are, because for them you are John Doe.
    3. If you want to know the standard nick of a user, just look at the assosiated accounts.
  2. Why should I have a cost assosiated if I were to want to use my real name?

  3. What if another user signs in with the same name and I want to distinguish myself outside of my gravatar, should I pay up?

  4. You are no fun anymore!


How about having it cost reputation to change your name more than once per day? Say 100 points per name change. This doesn't restrict the user from making any changes and doesn't penalize any user making legitimate changes, but it does discourage name changes for the sake of name changes.

  • 3
    It only matters when people who are "well known" in the community change their names. People who are "well known" are generally ever-present, answer many questions, and get a lot of rep. They typically don't care too much for rep, and it only takes an hour or two to get back 100 rep. I don't know that this solution would actually solve the problem.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:56
  • 1
    Thinking about it further, it would start more fighting. If someone "pays" to be "Jet Atwood" with a funny avatar, and that is changed back due to a site ban, they might claim ignorance and demand their rep payment back. More work for the team, with little payoff...
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 20:58
  • 1
    I'm thinking no refund policy, warn user prior to change.
    – tvanfosson
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 21:18
  • 1
    +1, but make it more prohibitive; 1000 rep at least. And yeah, absolutely nonrefundable.
    – ChssPly76
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 21:30
  • 1
    @Adam - I think I know who you're talking about, but it would take me a week to earn back 100 rep :(
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Nov 16, 2009 at 21:55

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