Some background: Why was this comment chain removed from the moderator questionnaire?: A candidate in the moderator election on SO recently changed her user name to make a statement about something that was mostly discussed on Meta SE.

Normally the people of main site of Stack Overflow do not participate on Meta. They don't know what goes on here, who says what, who supports whom and who is against whom.

It is very dangerous if a candidate changes their name during elections to support what they were previously against about. Whatever their intentions might be, this is a breach of trust on their part. Votes can sway in their favour because majority of main SO users do not follow discussions on meta. They may simply see the new username of the candidate and assume something which may not be true.

I do not want such name changes possible in the elections. Elections cannot be unbiased this way.

  • 19
    Isn't it a bit like killing a fly with a bazooka? I'm willing to bet the majority of user handles (heck, even the majority of highly active users) don't reference causes or issues. Jul 16, 2020 at 17:05
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    I'm fine with idea of disallowing name changes during elections, not so fine with the reasoning. I would keep it to something simple; a candidate's name changing can lead to confusion. Jul 16, 2020 at 17:06

7 Answers 7


To say it with Heretic Monkey's words: Please yes, implement that because changing user names of candidates during elections can be confusing.

Voters rely on the name to identify people and they may check in at various times during the election and if then the names of the candidates change that could lead to situations where people cannot find anymore a candidate they wanted to vote for or just get confused about the identity of the candidate. I think this is a real possibility while I don't really see any big disadvantages of not being able to change the user name for a few days.

Make it a rule, write it down when announcing new elections and rollback manually if needed.


Name changes during the election should be allowed. Like Makoto I can imagine plenty of innocent reasons to change a username.

I wouldn't object tying username changes during elections to some rules though. The ones described in Let's disallow moderator nominations from people who've been suspended in the past year could work.

Make sure name changes don't:

  • lead to speculation and personal attacks.
  • leave insufficient opportunity to demonstrate good faith.
  • distract everyone from the most important question in any election: who will make a good moderator?

Users can flag posts of people whose username they deem inappropriate, I would say if things like this arise, flagging if the username change meets the above requirements again makes more sense than outright banning all username changes.

Moderators can review flags and reset usernames. If they don't want to touch it/don't know if it should be touched, they can ask for guidance from Community Managers (assuming there's still one or two overseeing active elections, actively). If the name isn't changed, I think something similar to part of this answer applies:

If the nomination is allowed to continue, folks are going to just have to trust that we (the Community Growth team) reviewed everything there is to review and determined that the user shouldn't have been suspended.

In other words, if you've flagged the name change and it's allowed to stand, trust that it's been reviewed and that it's been determined to not be detrimental (enough) to the election going on.

  • 3
    Folks, before starting off an argument on whether the name change that sparked this discussion violates any of the bullet points, you should instead voice your concerns on the appropriate site meta.
    – M.A.R.
    Jul 16, 2020 at 21:56

I would disallow (or for a less bureaucratic setup: roll back when needed) name changes that somehow deceive voters. A name is meant to be the identifying mark and if the name change tries to circumvent that, it should have no place in an election.

For example, if Alice where running for Moderator and someone posts "hey, wasn't it Alice who did the bad thing?" and suddenly Alice changes her name to Barbara, so people forget about the bad thing, because it's associated with Alice. That's deception, that should not be allowed.

However, the candidate in question is very much just as identifiable as before in our case. Alice renamed herself to "Alice-SaveTheWhales" so to speak. Whether she actually wants to save whales, well, that's up to the voter to figure out. But I see no harm in this change, the purpose of a "name" as identifier is preserved, nobody is deceived about who is running.

  • 15
    I kindly disagree with your last point. Suppose there are people who know about MonicaGate, but didn't spend their time reading every Q&A on Meta.SE on the subject, they might have missed that Yvette was originally fighting hard against Monica, as most of it was in comments if my memory serves me right. There were hundreds if not thousands of comments to parse at that time, it is highly possible that not everyone knew about her stance on the subject. Changing her name to show that she supports Monica is deceiving in that sense. I believe that a Meta post and a link via her questionnaire...
    – Laf
    Jul 16, 2020 at 19:30
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    ... (or simply an additional entry in her questionnaire) would be better suited to show her change of heart rather than a change of name. Given how the events unfolded, it looks hypocritical, and that can have an undesirable impact on the election.
    – Laf
    Jul 16, 2020 at 19:30
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    Well, claiming you are somebody else would be fraud. Claiming you hold a certain opinion or you'll do something after you're elected is... called politics I guess? Moderator actions especially in elections should be impartial. Anybody can read the old posts and form their own opinion. If people don't, but rather trust a slogan on a hat so to speak, then that's sad, but also not a matter that needs to be policed by moderators.
    – nvoigt
    Jul 16, 2020 at 19:37
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    Not everyone can read deleted posts on Meta.SE though, and some of her comments are part of those deleted posts. I agree that it is politics, but I would argue that honesty over politics is the way to go on a technical site that attracts millions of visitors. I get your point, but I believe we should stand against such actions if we can, without revoking her rights to choose a name that suits her and the site's greater good.
    – Laf
    Jul 16, 2020 at 20:00
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    they might have missed that Yvette was originally fighting hard against Monica...(or simply an additional entry in her questionnaire) @Laf Again, this information is already in the questionnaire. She put it there herself well before the name change. No one needs to go hunting through comments.
    – BSMP
    Jul 16, 2020 at 22:34
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    Your argument that Alice is still recognizable when adding to her name holds, but does nothing to address the controversy that may go hand in hand with such a change. What do you propose for a situation where Alice changes her name to include/refer to something controversial (either on here or real life) and thus causing comments, meta posts, etcetera that all deflect attention from other candidates/the election itself?
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 17, 2020 at 7:01
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    @Tinkeringbell "Saving the whales" might be controversial, incite people, get people mad in radio and TV shows. If the person had been pro whaling previously, you might criticize them and maybe call them a hypocrite, but none of that would be a justification to call the police to forcefully strip that sign away from them. That's what we are discussing here. Calling the cops (mods with mod powers) on someone because they hold up a sign that people think is not okay politically. The only rule I want to see enforced is that the name serves it's purpose of identifying the account.
    – nvoigt
    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:11
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    And as far as controversial goes? What is the difference between Alice changing her name to "Alice-AnimalLifesMatter" and Alice posting on meta that #AnimalLifesMatter or Alice having a link to her personal blog in her signature where she posts about animal lifes that matter? (I leave it as an exercise to the woke reader to figure out which side this might be offensive too, I have no idea, probably both if they want to take offence) Would we restrict all of that?
    – nvoigt
    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:15
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    Hmm. I see. I'm seeing the problem with some name changes like 'savethewhales' not in light of whether or not people think it's okay/not okay politically, but in the light of whether or not elections should be places for people to start holding up such signs in the first place, causing comments, meta posts,etc. and deflecting attention from the other candidates/the election itself. Besides that, I think you're making a pretty skewed between the potential impact of adding savethewhales and changes that refer to a controversy that also impacted the site Alice will potentially be moderating.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:51
  • 1
    So yeah, I do feel some restrictions are prudent, even though I'd expect moderator candidates to be aware of most pitfalls already to a point where I'd say 'they shouldn't be necessary' if I didn't have this situation as an example of them being prudent. But I have my own answer for that, and I now understand where you're coming from better. Thank you for explaining.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:52
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    @BSMP She mentionned she had a spat with Monica, but that is only a very stripped down depiction of what really happened. I did see she mentioned it in her questionnaire, but what was said at the time is part of who she is (or rather who she was, since she claimed she has changed), and I feel this is important information when it comes to electing the next person who will be representing and moderating SO's community. I will grant you that people can change, but your past will always be part of who you are/were.
    – Laf
    Jul 17, 2020 at 13:27

I'm going to take the Devil's Advocate approach and throw this out there as a reason why this might not work.

Suppose you've been using a pseudonym, and as a part of your wanting to become a moderator, you decide/announce/proclaim that you're going to change to using your name, or a different pseudonym. Should that be disallowed if it's a circumstance in which someone innocently wants to be referred to as something else?

The reason I want to support this is that if a name is changed to something which stokes polarizing emotions, or continues/perpetuates an argument, that could be seen as a problem. But, I can't disagree that there's an innocent usage which could get trampled on here.

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    My point is let the candidate change whatever he wants to change before and after the elections. Not in between. Jul 16, 2020 at 17:57
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    And my point is that there could be a circumstance where it could happen in-between. Why punish those circumstances which are really innocuous and harmless with ones that aren't?
    – Makoto
    Jul 16, 2020 at 17:58
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    Well, I think that a person doesn't nominate himself as a candidate suddenly. He has to think a lot about all this and changing username should occur to him during this decision making. Because these decisions don't take place overnight so the person has a lot of time to think beforehand and in any case a line should be drawn somewhere to prevent mallicious practices. Jul 16, 2020 at 18:01
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    Also, if it is an innocent move then perhaps he can send a mail to the community managers and let them decide whether the new username is alright or not. Jul 16, 2020 at 18:06
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    The only time that someone from moderators or CMs would ever get involved is if the new nickname was offensive or vulgar. I really don't think that holding the candidate's hand as they make a big boy/girl/person decision to change their display name is warranted.
    – Makoto
    Jul 16, 2020 at 18:07
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    I don't find your devil's advocacy very persuasive. Like Aquarius Girl, I think that the time to change your pseudonym is when you nominate, not in the middle of the election. That said, I'm not necessarily persuaded that this special case needs to be handled by adding code to the platform... Jul 16, 2020 at 18:10
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    @CodyGray: It's really something I threw out there as a justification to disagree with the proposal. I personally don't think people should be changing their names during the election, but I'm thinking this could be seen as a reason why.
    – Makoto
    Jul 16, 2020 at 18:13
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    Two users with similar or the exact same name happen to nominate themselves in the same election. A user has a job title or company in their name and that changes mid election or their employer asks them to take it out.
    – BSMP
    Jul 16, 2020 at 19:03
  • @BSMP Both unlikely scenarios, yet worth the consideration.
    – Mast
    Jul 17, 2020 at 7:39

If a user modifies or changes their username it is up to them.

–as long as the username is not offensive and does not slander anyone–

The same principle applies to a candidate regardless if that change occurs during a moderator election.

It is very dangerous if a candidate changes their name during elections to support what they were previously against about.

First of all, the candidate did not change their username, they added a tagline. As long as a candidate remains identifiable, tagging a slogan shouldn't make any difference and there is nothing “dangerous“ about it. Moreover, completely changing a username during an election is counterproductive, a candidate wants to be recognised.

The OP's blatant mistrust of the candidate may or may not be warranted but one thing is clear though, that ‘political’ statement during the election period has backfired on the candidate. If they want to shoot themselves in the foot, let them do so. Even the simple act of changing or modifying a username during an election provides significant insight into the candidate's personality and/or their stance on a position.

Consider this: SE decides to roll back the recently modified username, and… cue uproar from community. Accusations of censorship, blocking free speech, double standard, questions on whether it violates CoC etc. etc.

The Community Managers and moderators on Stack Overflow did absolutely fine not to intervene. Sometimes it pays to step back and allow nature to take its course.

I checked the election page, and noticed that the candidate's username no longer carries the familiar slogan of last year. I have no idea how, when, or who instigated this change.


The name was changed back by the user themselves. No moderators or staff were involved @Cody Gray

The candidate's request to delete their account on Stack Exchange has been granted.

  • 4
    The name was changed back by the user themselves. No moderators or staff were involved. Jul 17, 2020 at 7:16
  • 8
    @CodyGray well, again this erratic behaviour only illustrates the candidate's fitness. P.S Isn't there an imposed 30-day limit before usernames can be changed? Jul 17, 2020 at 7:18
  • 8
    Yes, but there's a well-known workaround that involves changing your name on another site and copying over your profile. Jul 17, 2020 at 7:22
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    +1 for allowing the candidate to shoot themselves in the foot if they want to. So long as the discussion in comments on the candidates isn't censored, I think it would be difficult for a candidate to deceive enough voters to make a difference, if that was their intent. If their intent is not deception, then comments would allow them to discuss what their real motivation was.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 17, 2020 at 15:42
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    While I want to agree with you, @Colleen, the principal concern is that the vast majority of voters never read Meta or the questionnaire. Jul 17, 2020 at 23:39
  • @CodyGray Well, then it probably wouldn’t change their vote at all if the name were changed. On what basis do they vote? By looking for someone they’ve interacted with before and recognize? I don’t know that there’s any way to design a reasonable system around a willfully ignorant voter.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 18, 2020 at 1:31

To handle potential issues of confusion while allowing users the same freedom to change their name, could we handle it similar to this proposal for handling prior moderator suspensions? Just have a disclosure area for prior names, quite possibly populated directly from the database. For example, this could look like:

Hello, my name is Cooldood1995 and I would like to be your moderator.

I'm really awesome and I fart rainbow unicorn sparkles. I also never perspire and can recognize spam seven out of ten times if I have a head start. Here's some other stuff about me....

Cooldood1995 was known as John554 from 15.05.2017 to 02.01.2019.

Cooldood1995 was known as SupportTheCauseCAUSE from 02.01.2019 to 03.08.2019.

Cooldood1995 was known as CauseIsTheGreatestCauseSupportMe from 03.08.2019 to 01.01.2020.

Cooldood1995 was known as Cooldood1995 from 01.01.2020 to present.

  • 3
    That's looks like much effort. The question is if the additional gain would be worth it. Also the question would be if users want their previous names to be kept. A name change so far is also a possibility to kind of restart. Jul 17, 2020 at 11:23

If a candidate wants to change name to distance themself from some of their actions in the past, why do you think they'll do it during the election, not before it? As your proposal simply won't work if the candidate renames themself before election, I suppose there is no sense in implementing it.

Just look and revert manually. Renaming for non-moderators is limited by one time per month as I recall.

  • 2
    There are high probably for dirty laundry to be shown during election. Less people would vote for Alice, so becoming Barbara is tactical move, which should definitely be dissallowed. Though I am not supporting the idea with some kind of restrictions, I think flagging (and reverting name back) is enough.
    – Sinatr
    Jul 17, 2020 at 8:20
  • @Sinatr, she can change it before nominating herself. And it'll work if you don't want to disable renaming for all users while nominating is possible, what would be very strange. So manual mode only.
    – Qwertiy
    Jul 17, 2020 at 12:31

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