There are, on SO, more and more users with names such as user220755, user281482, user198729, ...

This is better than the "unknown (google)" kind of stuff we had before, but it's becoming quite confusing, with so many names that all look quite the same.

And some users with such names have already been on SO for quite some time -- for instance, the third one I linked to currently has more than 3k reputation, and has been a member for 3 months.

Would it be possible to suggest to those users that they should choose a better display name, pointing them to the edit-profile page?

This might not be necessary for users who come, ask a couple of questions, and never come again; but maybe this could be suggested to users with more than, say, 200 reputation?
(i.e. users who have been on SO for a while, and might stay longer)

By "suggest", I'm thinking about the orange bar that's displayed when we get a badge, or have new comments.

  • 2
    They do look all the same in the general case (haven't noticed many of these users). Feb 25, 2010 at 23:24
  • 9
    As an incentive, the auto-generated names assigned to users who haven't yet given themselves a name should be embarrassing. How long would you put up with being called ugly_dumbass, cretin_breath or visual_basic? Jan 18, 2011 at 16:52
  • 1
    I also don't like user names like that. If they can't even bother to type in a user name, once, why should we bother answering their questions? Jul 7, 2012 at 13:24
  • Well, this is related to the whole problem of letting unregistered users do anything at all, let alone such important things as ask questions, which comes with a level of dedication that a lack of registering or chosing a proper name just doesn't go hand in hand with. I know, we should be open and not cliquish and make it easy for people to step into the site, but honestly, if you don't register you're not going to return anyway ever and I'm not too inclined to answer your question, sorry. Sep 24, 2014 at 16:53

4 Answers 4



I find it very awkward addressing @user in the comments. I don't know why it bothers me---odd, un-pronouncable, and "not real" names don't---but it really does.


We already do this -- a topbar reminder to fill in your account info -- at the time users register.


  • 2
    Have you hi-jacked someone else account? :P
    – YOU
    Mar 1, 2010 at 9:36
  • @S.Mark - given the high user id (243745) my guess is that Jeff has just created a new user to take the screen shot.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Mar 1, 2010 at 11:27
  • 6
    Oh, I did absolutly not remember that one ; thanks for the answer ! But, still : would it be possible to re-display that message when the user has a bit more reputation ? (For instance, when registering, one might think he won't stay, and not fill in those informations -- and a couple of days after... He's become addicted) Mar 1, 2010 at 11:54
  • 1
    +1 to a topbar reminder periodically, no less than a week apart to avoid nagging, up to (say) three times in total (including the registration one). After that, if they haven't changed it, they're not going to. Jul 12, 2011 at 10:15

We now prompt new users to set a custom display name and avatar at signup. We'll automatically populate those fields based on info we receive from their Open Id provider, but users may edit (or remove) them.

This doesn't affect existing users who have not customized their display name, but has drastically reduced the number of new users with generic names.

More info: New! Smarter profile creation and syncing


Meh - what's the difference between user12345 and OMG Ponies? Less to type, but otherwise arbitrary. We can change the username at will, and comments would be the only thing to break.

Reminding people about acceptance rating I can get behind, because it has a quantifiable impact, but not usernames. Some are annoyed enough about acceptance rates, so I say "pick your battles" and don't believe this one to be worth anything.

  • 8
    I think it's much harder when you see user267825 to know it's someone you already answered to than when you see OMG Ponies ;;; and it's also harder to type @user263745 than it is to type @OMG Ponies. Feb 25, 2010 at 21:58
  • 8
    I may have clocked user232332 as an idiot, but was it user233232 who gave that good answer? At least with "OMG Ponies" I know I can safely ignore you with minimal effort...
    – gbn
    Feb 25, 2010 at 22:26
  • @Pascal MARTIN: Type?! What happened to copy'n'pasting? If I'm unsure, I check the users questions - the hyperlink to the name displaying with a "used" colour is a tip.
    – OMG Ponies
    Feb 26, 2010 at 1:48
  • @gbn: So that was a moment of weakness? :) I'll endeavour to change it, just to keep you on your toes.
    – OMG Ponies
    Feb 26, 2010 at 1:51
  • 4
    When typing a comment, it find it much easier/faster (when the user has a name that's easy to identify, that is) to also type the login of the user than to move my hand to the mouse, find the cursor, move the cursor to the name of the user, select, ctrl+C, re-click inside the comment's textarea, ctrl+V Feb 26, 2010 at 5:17
  • Not so "at will"
    – juan
    Feb 26, 2010 at 21:16

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