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Show last user names if users change their user names

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−12

Recently, some users who are here for a longer time changed their usernames. It often happened that I saw a well-written question or answer from a user I supposedly have never seen before with a high activity. Of course, I know then that it must be someone who has just changed names but it sometimes it's really hard to know who this user was before changing names.

Would it be possible to list last used user names on the profile for a given time frame (for example three months)? This way, it's possible to associate the new user name with the actions of the old user name1 without having to go through all posted questions and answers.

  1. This also helps to prevent cases where troublesome users change names to temporarily lay low before they are "discovered" again.

Why should this post be closed?

2 comments

A fairly common reason why users change their name on SO is that they used their RL name and then homework vampires figured out how to get in touch with them over email or social media, to pester them with even more homework questions. Lundin‭ about 1 month ago

"sometimes it's really hard to know who this user was before changing names." The solution, of course, is to display the user id immediately after the username, that way you can just mem people's ids ;) Moshi‭ about 1 month ago

2 answers

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I disagree that this would be desirable.

First, unless we want people to focus on the user, instead of the content, who posts something should have little or no bearing on anything. Act on whether it's good or bad content (or proposal, or whatever), not on who posted it. The only case where who posts something should be relevant is for moderation purposes, and for that, the display name shouldn't matter; moderators need to have access to historical interactions from the user regardless of the display name used anyway.

Second, people sometimes want a break with a previous name they've used. Maybe they feel it doesn't represent them any longer; maybe they want more privacy than their old display name affords them (for example, changing from their real name to something else); maybe they realized that it could be misinterpreted; maybe they want to use the display name to prominently make a statement; or maybe they have some completely different reason for wanting to change it. In any case, they're changing their display name; certainly anyone who does so should realize that this will change the name their contributions are displayed as attributed to. It won't be a completely clean break if they have interacted with the site in any significant way, but they can still get most of the benefit without having to create a brand new account.

Third, it's potentially complex. Sure, the easy approach is to just show the most recent previous display name until a given amount of time has passed since the change was made. But that just means that people need to change their display name twice in short succession (by choice or by accident) for the old name to disappear. So now we're potentially considering displaying a history of past display names for a period of time. Trying to lay that out well in the UI is bound to be difficult, and of course each such past display name will need to be tracked separately.

Fourth, every once in a while, people actually set their display names to something that is genuinely offensive. (I've seen it happen, though thankfully not on Codidact.) If that happens, it needs to be possible to minimize the exposure of the offensive display name. Displaying old display names, even if only for a period, increases the amount of exposure such an offensive display name gets. If a history of past display names is displayed, not just the most recent one, they could also use that to display a message that would be more difficult to redact. This can perhaps be worked around by allowing a moderator or site admin to redact such a history entry, but now we're piling even more complexity on top of this.

There are probably more arguments against this that I'm just not thinking of at the moment.

Seems to me that it is easier to focus, first and foremost, on the content of each user's contributions.

2 comments

If someone changes their username for, say, privacy concerns, we also don't want the old username prominently available in that case. Mithical‭ about 1 month ago

@Mithical That, too. I considered that a subpoint of the "people want a break with the name they've been using" point, but it's a good example so I added an explicit mention of that case. Canina‭ about 1 month ago

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I upvoted, but on the condition that this be an explicit opt-in at the time of change (privacy by default).

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