What are the 'consequences' of changing your name?

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(Andrew Brown) #1

I just changed my user name from ‘Andrew’ to ‘Drew’. Does this name change follow me on all forums? Are past messages updated to reflect the name change? Can someone swoop in and take my old name and besmirch my nascient Discourse reputation? These are questions which require answers!


(Adam Davis) #2


(Jeff Atwood) #3

Yeah, that’s one of those bits of copy we need to improve.

To be honest, I am not clear myself what the consequences of changing your username are.

@Neil can you clarify here?

However, that said, we want to strongly discourage people from arbitrarily changing their username. One of the big mistakes we made on Stack Exchange was letting people change their usernames literally every time they posted…

So my idea is that you get a small grace period after you sign up to change your username, and then it’s locked in forever.

(And if you register here at meta, we register your username at discourse.org so it is globally registered against all Discourse instances that have the “validate usernames against the central directory” option on, which is a default…)


(Neil Lalonde) #4

No one can swoop, nor can they besmirch!

I promise to get back to this thread with a more thorough answer soon to all your points.


(hamburglar) #5

One shortcoming of other forums which allow username changes (e.g. vBulletin) is the way blockquotes are displayed. There is no real metadata associated with a quote, it’s just a matter of including the string “[quote=Neil]…” in your message text (later versions of vB include a post id in this, but it’s still just part of the text and thus up to the quoter not to dork with it). This means that if the quoted person changes their username, posts that quote the old username stay the same and things can get confusing. I was hoping you’d address this problem and make quoting a post have a more durable meta-link between quote and quoted-user. Any thoughts on this?


(hamburglar) #6

Just curious what happens when I tamper with the quote block…testing!


(Jeff Atwood) #7

You’re right and that’s exactly the way we do it too – which would be a good thing to mention perhaps? Rather than

Unspecified bad things may happen if you change your username.

say

If you change your username, all prior quotes and mentions of your posts will be broken.

Worth reiterating that we only want to allow username changes very early in the life of an account. After that you are locked into that username essentially forever, short of some extraordinary act of god.

For example if I wanted to change my username on Twitter, it says…


(hamburglar) #8

Or change. :smile: I mean, if your goal is to change the lame way forums have been doing things for years, one of the obvious ways is to improve the amount of useful metadata associated with posts. It’s not like this is for nothing – we’ve just identified a fairly ugly way in which this lack of metadata fails us, right?

EDIT: further, one reason it sucks to be allowed to change your name with impunity is that it causes confusion by leaving little turds of incorrect attributions around the forum. If you solve that problem, you lessen the negative impact of name-changes.


(Jeff Atwood) #9

Not really – frequent username changes would mean nobody ever knows who they’re talking to. And that’s far more toxic to community than some busted metadata.

So it’s just a bad idea to allow name changes outside a small grace period when you sign up. No good can come of name changes. If you want a new name, just create a new account.


(Daniel Fischer) #10

Having the ability to change a username is not recommended for communities that want “vetting” behind who someone is. If you don’t do this then you get something like 4chan or, reddit when you allow multiple registrations for a user. When this happens there’s a lack of accountability. It’s banned on my major forums to create multiple usernames, and a username change usually is never allowed.


(Jason) #11

Just curious, is there currently a grace period then our name gets locked in or is this going to be added at some point in the future? If there is, how long is it currently set to?


(Johann Visagie) #12

Be like Microsoft and charge 800 Points to change the username.

(Sarcasm tags. Where are the sarcasm tags?)


(hamburglar) #13

[quote=“codinghorror, post:9, topic:424”]Not really – frequent username changes would mean nobody ever knows who they’re talking to. And that’s far more toxic to community than some busted metadata.

So it’s just a bad idea to allow name changes outside a small grace period when you sign up. No good can come of name changes. If you want a new name, just create a new account.[/quote]

(bolding mine)

The problem is with frequent name changes, not name changes, period. I belong to a couple forums where name changes are only available via admin approval, and on one, there is a thread which documents all the name changes that have been granted with a big list that says “joe schmoe” -> “jeffrey lebowski” [date]. Changes would not be granted if someone was just being abusive, so it’s kept to a minimum. However, these are still vBulletin forums, so even though most posters are completely comfortable with the “name changes within reason” policy, old quoted posts of those users are busted. That is a fixable problem. By opting not to fix it, you are ignoring a need of forums who wish to allow a “name change within reason” policy which is the result of simple boneheadedness on the part of ancient forum software (the lack of durable metadata about quoting, despite that being a pretty easy problem to solve).

If the username change is effectively just a change in the cosmetic presentation of a user – in other words, if the user before the change is easily equatable to the user after the change – then the “vetting” aspect is intact as long as old posts retain their connection to the new username. It’s true that trolly trolls might try to change names to make people forget who they are just because they don’t recognize the names, but that should be dealt with by having a “name changes within reason” policy – moderators can use judgment to decide whether a name change is within reason or just an attempt to dodge reputation.


(hamburglar) #14

And here is a perfect example of post metadata that is lost by having a weak blockquote attribution ^^^. I have replied to two people in that last post. Is that information actually retained in a reliable fashion? From my perspective, it appears not.


(Adam Davis) #15

[quote=“Mr_V, post:12, topic:424, full:true”]Be like Microsoft and charge 800 Points to change the username.

(Sarcasm tags. Where are the sarcasm tags?)[/quote]

I don’t remember Zynga being on the investor list…

7,500 gold coins for $3.99!

3,500 coins needed to alter username or avatar, or 5,000 for both!

Get 12 likes for your new topic for 50,000 gold coins!

You can read 10 topics today for FREE! Each additional topic you want to read or re-read is only one gold coin!

Each like you receive gives you another gold coin!

Man, Discourse.com is going to have an amazing ROI.


(Simon) #16

The current implementation certainly “knows” (or at least is able to determine) which posts contain quotes to which other posts, otherwise the “in reply to …” and “x Replies Below” boxes at the top and bottom of a post would not be possible. So actually, it seems possible to update that information, though it might become quite resource intensive in a large forum where a user has made thousands of posts and then changes his/her name.


(Jeff Atwood) #17

I moved 9 posts to a new topic: Does Discourse check if the quote info is actually correct?


(RolandS) #18

Might a problem for bigger companies that might want to support (internal) customers with Discourse (like mine :smile: ). I think they would like ways to change the username (Moderator option, not manually by the user) Merging accounts would be nice as well. Again, Mod. option.

Usage like that would not run into the problem of huge amounts of user name changes. It’s more for when someone get’s married and their network log in name changes. (you will probably get requests for Single Sign On based on Active Directory or some other stuff)


(AM1) #19

[quote=“hamburglar, post:13, topic:424”]
The problem is with frequent name changes, not name changes, period. […] even though most posters are completely comfortable with the “name changes within reason” policy, old quoted posts of those users are busted. That is a fixable problem. By opting not to fix it, you are ignoring a need of forums who wish to allow a “name change within reason” policy[/quote]

I think it is fairly clear that there are many factors that may lead to a user reasonably wanting a name change, but maybe it is worth trying to enumerate them:

  • real name changes (due to marriage, as mentioned by @RolandS above, or for other reasons), and user wants to keep Discourse name in sync with real name
  • another person using the user’s Discourse name on non-Discourse media emerges (especially if high-profile), and user would like to be able to use the same name on Discourse and in these other media
  • one or more people are abusive toward the user and unfairly attack, referencing his or her Discourse name, through posts in non-Discourse media (changing names would not necessarily eliminate the problem here, of course, but could help)

…any more?


(hamburglar) #20

I have occasionally seen people register on some forum with their real name as their username, post for years, then think better of using their real name online and want to change it to something fanciful and less easily associated with them in real life, although that’s sort of a pre-emptive variation on your third reason.