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Two months ago there was a question asking about whether it would be possible to implement some semi-automated tool for changing one's username in past comments, answers bodies, etc.

I've recently found myself in a very similar situation, having been quite active before changing my name. I'm also transgender, and seeing my deadname multiple times a day causes me significant suffering (I've been struggling with suicidal ideation since March, coming from this and other sources of gender dysphoria).

While there's currently no such semi-automated solution, is it possible to carry out such username changes "semi-manually", say by contacting support with a list―in whichever format would be most convenient for them, hopefully minimizing how much time would have to be spent on their side―containing all relevant comments, answers, etc.?

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    Tagging this status-review - I think this question warrants an official reaction from staff (even if that might be: sorry, this is not technically feasible). There is an automated way, cf. this answer but I'm not sure how much programming it requires (disregarding the fact that many users won't be able to pull this off).
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Nov 23 '21 at 13:20
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    You can already do this yourself manually on questions/answers by simply making (or suggesting) edits.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Nov 23 '21 at 13:51
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    Is your old username unique or is it something very common, like your current one ("Alice")? If your old one is relatively unique, that would make things easier.
    – terdon
    Nov 23 '21 at 13:51
  • @Glorfindel Thanks! I'll try to set this up, I think it would definitely help a lot.
    – Alice
    Nov 23 '21 at 14:57
  • @terdon It used to be my full name, but later I changed it to just my deadname, which is relatively quite common :/
    – Alice
    Nov 23 '21 at 14:58
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    To manually edit everyone's comments is possible but neither practical nor certain to be done correctly, see: I changed my oldname to currentname ... now the @ me comments point nowhere. What if there were users named Roberta, Roberto, Robert and Rob - and Roberta wants to change their name to one of the other three - if people had pinged @rob they could be replying to any of them - who's comment do you edit and which name do you change it to?
    – Rob
    Nov 23 '21 at 15:08
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    @Rob OP indicated they changed their name. If they changed their profilename they can still use their global inbox to track the comments they were mentioned in and use that to assemble a list of them, or flag them for removal.
    – Luuklag
    Nov 23 '21 at 15:17
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    Does your site inbox show your old at mentions? It's in your profile, under "activity" then "responses".
    – Laurel
    Nov 23 '21 at 15:21
  • @Luuklag, how does your comment address the first sentence in my comment?
    – Rob
    Nov 23 '21 at 15:29
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    @Laurel Yes, though I think not all direct replies containing my deadname are there; there are also those without @'s (which I can however find by going through my questions+answers+comments one-by-one), and also a couple mentions without @'s and which are not direct replies; these are quite trickier to find.
    – Alice
    Nov 23 '21 at 16:24
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    Site moderators can see that page, so for someone about to change their name, it might be worth asking a moderator for help before renaming. But since you already changed your name I wouldn't go back for that. There are tools like SEDE that seem more appropriate now.
    – Laurel
    Nov 23 '21 at 17:29
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    @Laurel I haven't changed my username to my chosen name yet. I thought it would probably be a good idea to leave everything untouched before knowing how to sort the issues with comments first, so now I've just completely stopped using my account. Would this be helpful, even if my current username is relatively common (being just my former first name)?
    – Alice
    Nov 24 '21 at 8:43
  • I posted an answer to this question here. Hope it clarifies the ways we can help.
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    Dec 22 '21 at 18:16
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I wanted to post this as a comment, but it was too long, and I think is the best course of action at this point. So I'll post it as an answer:

I think you bring up a very valid point. But currently there isn't any real tooling that allows what you are looking for. I guess it would depend on the site where most of these comments reside, but on small(er) sites you could try to contact a mod to ask them for some cooperation. You would then just need to flag all comments that contain the content you wish be removed, and flag that as No Longer Needed. The point of contacting the mod(s) is so that they know what is going on here, and why those comments have become problematic. You could help out by deleting any comments you posted yourself in that chain, to minimise the workload.

As you are the account owner your inbox should include at least all instances where you have been @-mentioned. You can access your inbox through https://stackexchange.com/users/current?tab=inbox

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    Thank you very much, I think this would most likely work very well for the particular site the comments are in. Being able to track the @'s via the inbox notifications is also going to be extremely helpful, as my deadname is only mentioned a couple of times without an @, I think. Thank you!
    – Alice
    Nov 23 '21 at 14:58
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    tbh, if you had a list, and a helpful enough mod with time on their hands I feel like its doable, heck even something someone could write a tool to do.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Nov 23 '21 at 15:17
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I think it would be helpful to have a semi-automated tool. I see the technical challenges with making one (yes, the words "denormalized text field" mean something to me), but I think it's more than possible to make one that's good enough. I imagine a tool where a moderator (on the request of a user) would input the user's ID and their (old or soon to be old) display name, and get a list of comments that refer to the display name, using the same algorithm that shows you what's in your inbox (all comments on your posts and also comments containing @name; maybe in the case of a more unique name all comments should be searched). The moderator would then have to select one of several options for each: skip (leaves the comment alone, used if it's a false positive), edit (replaces the old name with a new name), or delete.

But nothing like this exists right now. The option that's most convenient — for moderators at least — is probably yes, for you to compile a list and start flagging those comments after first explaining your situation. You should flag from your main account, the one the comments were addressed to. (You likely don't have enough flags to do this in one day, though.)

However, I suspect needing to do that will be distressing to some, so if you have this problem on the site where I moderate (Writing), you can drop a single "in need of moderator attention" flag explaining your situation and we'll see about helping you. (PS I hope you are working to get through your feelings so you can feel better soon.)

If you can hold off on changing your name, then a moderator can find comments addressed to you using your site inbox, which is found in your profile, under "activity" then "responses". Otherwise, it's possible to use SEDE to find the comments, including some missed in your profile. I found this very basic query which sometimes works well, sometimes doesn't. The information there is only updated on Sundays. (If there's too much noise, then the query would have to be edited to be restricted to only certain comments, maybe by filtering based off a list of parent posts that you were involved in: posts you made or have visible comments on. However, I'm not sure if it would time out, like even the basic query did for me on Stack Overflow.)

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  • The site with the comments carrying my deadname is not Writing (thank you so much for offering to help!), but I think the moderators there will be understanding. Thank you!
    – Alice
    Nov 28 '21 at 0:14
  • (P.S. While I'm definitely at the worst I've been, I've been taking action lately to get better. Thank you so much for your kindness :)
    – Alice
    Nov 28 '21 at 0:14

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