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I've seen a number of users who have appended "Reinstate Monica" or "Supports Monica" to their display names, resulting in a very long name. Back when I started on Stack Overflow (around 9 years ago, I think), using the platform for this kind of messaging seemed to be highly frowned upon. Has that changed? If so, can I put "Abolish ICE!" or "Punch Nazis!" in my display name? Or are only certain political opinions acceptable there?

To clarify: When I originally posted this question, I mentioned that the long name is awkward to @ to reply to, and that including it in replies might be disagreeable to the person replying. These are indeed part of the motivation for the question, and indeed still an aspect, but some mitigations have been offered in comments. The main point, however, is about use of the display name field for off-topic messaging in front of every one who sees the user's questions/answers/comments, whether there's policy on this (vs just de facto tolerance), and whether the policy (or tolerance) will be applied equally.

Update: I now have mods retaliating against me because of this question.

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    You know you don't need to type the whole name when replying, right? It will auto match for you. – Rory Alsop Dec 9 '19 at 18:33
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    They haven't stopped us, so it appears that it's allowed. Go ahead and put "Supports Trump" in your username – user245382 Dec 9 '19 at 18:33
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    Yes I'm aware there's auto-completion. It doesn't work on mobile, and on mobile the excessively long name ends up consuming like half a line. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:34
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    @R.. You don't even need to let it autocomplete IIRC. Just the first three letters should be enough. – Rubiksmoose Dec 9 '19 at 18:35
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    How do comment @replies work? – Rubiksmoose Dec 9 '19 at 18:35
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    That's good to know for how @ replies work, but it's aside from the point of the question, which is using your display name to put content which otherwise would be off-topic in front of other users while they're reading your questions/answers/comments. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:36
  • @Mast: No, it does not, and I've clarified that now. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:38
  • I wondered about that too. It seemed so untypical of SO. Usually "political" contributions get deleted rather quickly and they are also known for changing user names if necessary. I guess it is tolerated so far. – Trilarion Dec 9 '19 at 21:26
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    "support trump" is political, "support monica" is not. As for punching Nazis, One relates to SE the other does not. – dustytrash Dec 9 '19 at 21:30
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    Assuming good faith should be a part of all online interactions, here, or elsewhere. It's easy to see curation as retaliation, but correlation does not make causation. It weakens your argument. – fbueckert Dec 10 '19 at 14:43
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As far as I can tell company position on these matters has been stated few years ago in a similar discussion at MSO as follows:

To summarize: Yes, political statements are allowed in display names. Calling for them to not be allowed there is calling for any advertisement in a display name to not be allowed, which is simply not something we can enforce adequately, or really have any interested in enforcing. We're sorry if that policy causes issues with viewing our site due to particular phrases, but keep in mind that we and the users with these display names are not the ones actually causing problems for you.

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    Thanks, this is really helpful. I'm accepting this answer, and will probably give it a try and see if the mods are really following this policy. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 10 '19 at 15:08
  • So it would be all right if I changed my username to "David opposes homosexual marriage" — a perfectly legal political standpoint? I thought the whole Monica thing was the result of a policy designed to protect people from feeling threatened. If someone feels threatened by being called he or she, he or she or whatever is certainly going to feel threatened by such a username. (And what is the authority for your assertion, anyway?) – David Dec 30 '19 at 22:43
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For people supporting a fellow user and highly-respected mod, it is but a small token of solidarity; it creates unity and fosters a strong sense of community.

You are the first I have heard mumbling irritation at these long usernames. However, some extremely long usernames are not mildly political in nature: there is more than one user who regularly changes the string of words connected to their core identity, and they have been around for years. And as someone else said in the comments, you only need to write the first three letters (I'd play it safe and go for five) and a notification will be received.

From the link supplied by @Rubiksmoose in the comments:

If the first word in the display name is at least three characters long, then there must be a starts-with, case-insensitive match of at least three characters in the display name. This means @a and @ab will never match anyone, unless a user uses a first word that is only two characters. Like: @Jo will notify Jo Miller, but not John, and @B. will notify B. Gates, but not B.Gates. If there are more than three characters in @name, then all given characters must match (neither @alix nor @aliceinwonderland will match user Alice).

I am certain Stack Overflow is not run amok by usernames containing "Support blah, blah" or "Reinstate blah, blah". In fact, the actual number of usernames containing the name Monica on MSE is quite small; it was estimated to be around 154 on November 8.

All things considered, it's a very small annoyance in the grand scheme of things, don't you think?

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    But those are the more active users... – user651518 Dec 18 '19 at 12:31
  • @JL2210-SupportMonica "active" on Meta does not necessarily equate with "productive" on SO or in any of the 170+ sites. We are all dispensable. – Mari-Lou A Dec 20 '19 at 7:15
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There is precedent - at least, on Politics.SE - for removing inappropriate political statements from usernames. Specifically, someone appended "Is RBG Dead Yet?" to their username, in reference to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and a moderator decided this was inappropriate and removed it. I imagine your examples of "Abolish ICE" and "Punch Nazis" may well be considered inappropriate too.

Statements about reinstating Monica, however, don't strike me as being political, as the main objection the community to her dismissal is that it was done without warning, without evidence, and without any chance for her to respond as she was observing a religious holiday at the time. Those are not politically-motivated objections, and so "Reinstate Monica" should not be considered political messaging.

I'm also aware that the community as a whole is currently quite... tetchy about the idea of SE censoring them, especially with regards to Monica and her situation. If, tomorrow morning, SE took action and removed the pro-Monica statements from everyone's usernames, there would be outrage. I suspect SE know this and, regardless of anything else, are letting it slide because to do otherwise would make things even worse for them.

  • I don't want to litigate Monica's case here, but in my mind, the topic is highly political and is about how companies respond (and how they should be able to respond) when an employee does something that undermines its efforts to fix a culture of bigotry and end discriminatory treatment. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 23:46
  • And while I disagree with this distinction you're making, +1 for actually attempting to answer the question and including information about policy/precedent. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 23:51
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    @R.. "when an employee does something that undermines its efforts to fix a culture of bigotry and end discriminatory treatment" except that Monica never was an employee, but instead chosen by the community and in addition never did anything publicly that would undermine any company efforts. – nvoigt Dec 10 '19 at 8:44
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Yes. They're allowed so much as they've not been removed.

Now, arguing for punching someone in the face isn't quite the same, but sure, try it. I doubt anyone supports not punching Nazis in the face, do they?

I hadn't considered it before, but I think it's important to think about the relevance of the message. While I agree with the idea of ridding the world of Nazis, it's not something I'm going to stick in my name, as it is of little relevance on this site (or any site on SE at all).

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    There's a difference between being allowed and being tolerated. In Dutch, we call this 'Gedoogbeleid'. – Mast Dec 9 '19 at 18:40
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    Thank you for at least attempting to answer the question rather than deflecting and shifting the discussion to a subpoint of minimal relevance. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:40
  • @Mast: Absolutely. And the reason I ask is that I have a strong feeling that if a bunch of us started adding "Abolish ICE" or "GitHub Supports ICE" to our display names, we would not be getting the same tolerance the "Reinstate Monica" folks are getting now. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:41
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    What did the Institution of Civil Engineers do wrong this time? confusion – Mast Dec 9 '19 at 18:42
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    @Mast: ICE – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:43
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    @Mast someone just hates canada – djsmiley2k in darkness Dec 9 '19 at 18:43
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    @R.., if that was really a subpoint of minimal relevance, you could have omitted it. Some of use actually thought solving Not to mention, it might be disagreeable to the person replying to put the message in their reply would work for you. – Frédéric Hamidi Dec 9 '19 at 18:43
  • @FrédéricHamidi: That's why it was parenthetical rather than being the main topic of the question... – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:44
  • @R.., all right :) Then, to address your main point, MSE is quite a bit into politics now (from "both sides", so to speak), so it naturally reflects in the names of some users. I believe it's sustainable as long as the messages are neutral enough (e.g. reinstate X or unban Y). – Frédéric Hamidi Dec 9 '19 at 18:46
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    @FrédéricHamidi: These display names are not exclusively on MSE but displayed across all SE sites the users post on. BTW I edited the question again to deemphasize the less important subpoint. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 18:49
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    @R.., yeah, global profiles, you know. However, you raise a potential point -- a majority of users on some of these other sites may not want to see the messages replicated "on their turf" (so to speak). You might want to ask that on, say, MSO, and see if you can gather a consensus. – Frédéric Hamidi Dec 9 '19 at 18:52
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    I doubt anyone supports not punching Nazis in the face, do they? I do. I don't support anyone punching anyone else in the face. – Jonas Wilms Dec 9 '19 at 22:24
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As you've changed your question:

There's no policy other than not being offensive. If you change your name to something offensive, then a mod will likely revert the change, with the possiblity of a suspension or further action depending how insulting the name was.

Who decides what's allowed? That's down to a combination of the mods, and community managers. Right now, you can infer that the support for Monica via usernames, is allowed - because it's not being removed.

I personally think of it this way - those posts which protray little useful infomation to me, are the ones I spend the least time thinking about. If someone posts a insightful or helpful message, the very least I can do is read their username.

  • I don't think I've changed it substantially. I de-emphasized a small aspect that a number of commenters were focusing on "debunking" apparently for the sake of derailing the overall question. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 20:02
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    @R.. Can you kindly stop assuming that all the commenters/answerers are part of a secret plot to destroy your question? To many of us, the name length seemed to be a major aspect of your question and nobody claimed it was the only one. I have no idea how commenting on your question would ever work to derail it in the first place. At some point you just have to accept that your question was confusing to readers at first (and has now been clarified). – Rubiksmoose Dec 9 '19 at 20:45
  • @Rubiksmoose: I don't appreciate being treated condescendingly like some conspiracy theorist. It was clear to me that a number of commenters did not like the question and immediately "latched on" to the part they could make an "argument against" rather than asking clarifying questions if my original statement of the question was not sufficiently clear. This is really hostile treatment and I do not appreciate the gaslighting. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 9 '19 at 23:41
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    Read your original post again. "Excessively long" was first and foremost. And you listed length and difficulty in tagging first in your question and in a way that made it seem like a primary concern. That's why I, at least, addressed that part first, but only in a comment since it obviously didn't solve your entire issue. We thought your question was clear and thus didn't ask for clarification. I'm not gaslighting you, and I'd appreciate you not ascribing malice where there is none. – Rubiksmoose Dec 10 '19 at 0:46
  • I've been asked to "assume good intent" from a lot of folks who come across as TERFs. Yet the folks who assumed my question was clear, and was clearly a bad question, rather than asking clarifying questions, were not giving me the same benefit of the doubt. If a question looks bad, a much less hostile response would be trying to figure out if there's some idea the asker had in mind that is reasonable, that just wasn't conveyed clearly, and using comments to draw that out, rather than immediately hammering the downvote button and posting hostile comments. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 12 '19 at 23:39
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To me, the purpose isn't for those in Meta.SE already, but for the content sites. (Granted, my participation in those has been greatly reduced since this.)

However, I do see in other metas, people asking "what's all this Monica stuff in the user names?" That allows the curious to be redirected to the "Firing/Cooperating" post or other relevant ones.

In other words, it keeps "the Monica thing" from being merely a "meme of meta" but a reminder of something that affects MANY of the SE sites in MANY ways, and it's an invitation for others to learn about what the SE organization has done and could do again.

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To me this is all kind of unsolicited advertisement, like spam. I don't think the purpose of user names should be to convey messages of any kind, it could be seen as abuse of the name feature (depending on the outcome of another discussion about what user names are actually good for).

I really support Monica and I think the company treated her really badly, but I don't want to be reminded on a daily basis of who else of the more than 1500 people who support her is doing so too. The gofundme campaign "Defend Monica from Defamation by Stack Overflow" has collected so much money from more than 370 donors already, that naturally at some point everyone who wanted to support her this way will have it done already. Is there a point in advertising for her anymore? I'm not sure that talking about her case is helping her more now. The matter is in the courts and must be resolved there. It cannot be resolved here.

(Mis)using the name feature distracts from the content. It's very similar to adding your favorite statement at the end of every contribution. I think it weakens the value of the content and that's the thing I don't like about it. I could probably solve the problem with a userscript (shortening user names) for me though.

I support Monica, but because of it, I don't need to be convinced. Instead, I'm a bit bored by these messaged names. But in the end it's the company decision. They could maybe invent a FAQ on name usage.

  • I agree with your view that it's a kind of spam, but this doesn't seem to be the SE position. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 10 '19 at 15:08
  • @R.. SE and me agree 100%. I say it's advertisement, they say it's advertisement ("A political statement in a display name is effectively an advertisement."). I say it's their decision, they say they don't want to enforce a ban. So that's it. The thing left to do is writing the userscript because I, personally, am already convinced of the cause and don't need to see the advertisement. You can go and test the limits of their decision from back then. Good luck. – Trilarion Dec 10 '19 at 16:20

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