I'm having a hard time telling apart users whose "names" are a series of numbers. The avatars don't help much either, if you have three users whose "names" are @numbers answering one question or making comments and their avatars look alike, it's even more confusing.

Moreover, I avoid mentioning their "names" at all because I feel as if I'm a character from The Prisoner: "Yes, user37562 that is correct, but he or she (or it) has forgotten..."

Does ELU or the moderators for ELU advise registered users to change their monikers (handle) at any given time? If not, is it good etiquette for one user to another to suggest they do? I found this answer on meta but it doesn't fully address the issue: User name-changes and effect on comment clarity.

  • @Mitch Do I take it there is no policy about informing registered users that they "can" change their serial number? I wish to reiterate that I am NOT advocating users employ their real names. I just want something easier to call a user with, that is, a name consisting mostly of Roman alphabet letters.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 29, 2013 at 9:21
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    I don't know anything about policy, but I do know culture. My understanding is purely from the one experience I have with registering (namely when I registered) and, if memory serves, that involves a question about what you name is and I vaguely remember that 'user#####' is given as an option. So I think your complaint is not against the system but against the many users who choose the poor example. If people want to be anonymous (and with a difficult to read, easy to mistake name) then its their (I agree poor) choice. It would be as presumptuous to ask them to change as to ask you or me.
    – Mitch
    Jul 29, 2013 at 18:21
  • Also, your suggestion about Roman alphabet would have similar readability difficulties: userkjhllk, usereroit, usersadffd. Hm...maybe not so bad... if this still bothers you consider making this a suggestion on meta.SO (that the default username be alpha, not numeric, referencing meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/491/…
    – Mitch
    Jul 29, 2013 at 18:24
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    I never said ELU must implement this policy. It was more along the lines of: "Hey! Did you know you can change your name whenever you wanted to?" Then of course users are free to stick with a serial number or not. If no such message is given out (after registering) then users may believe their usernames are fixed. I only found out by accident I could change my "moniker". In other networks I don't think this is an option. I asked a question at Meta. I didn't make any complaint to the system. I now have an answer. Thank you.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 29, 2013 at 18:34
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    @Mari-LouA Where is this going.....? Jan 8, 2018 at 20:45
  • @Cascabel "Where's it going?" erm...meta? it's not going anywhere. It's an old post, I updated a link, and maybe some users who have a number as a username might consider changing it to a human name. Nest pas? :) BTW, bentornato!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 8, 2018 at 20:49
  • @Mari-LouA Guacamole, caracole. gracias...do not know how this came up here...LYT:) Jan 8, 2018 at 22:53
  • Would you prefer a random name generator instead, similar to the default gravatars for profiles?
    – NVZ Mod
    Jan 9, 2018 at 10:44
  • @NVZ no that would be horrible, I suspect that many newcomers on the site, and maybe out of laziness too, get stuck with a serial number, so they are unaware they can change their username. Maybe a reminder somewhere on their personal account page which tells them they can change their moniker. Or maybe usernames cannot have more than three numbers without a letter. I don't know, I recognizing users, and numbers don't do it for me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 9, 2018 at 10:53
  • @Mari-LouA I see. But why though? Is there some user(numbers) that you'd like to recognise when you see? What's actually the need for a change I am not quite clear though.
    – NVZ Mod
    Jan 9, 2018 at 10:56
  • @NVZ sorry gotta go. The question is clear, I've explained "why", if seeing three or four users with similar numbers don't bother you, you must have one of those minds that see random numbers as meaningful. I just see randomness, but that's me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 9, 2018 at 10:59
  • @Mari-LouA Ah, it's okay. Some brains are wired to ignore numbers; mine don't read user-numbers. All I see are randomness, just as you do. I just tend to ignore them.
    – NVZ Mod
    Jan 9, 2018 at 11:00

1 Answer 1


As a premise I like observing that elsewhere Scott Morrison, whom I agree with, said:

I think the reasons for wanting real names are as strong as ever. Writing emails doesn't directly address the problem for new users, but was very effective at reaching the present state where most of our most active users are using their real names. Perhaps it would be nice if the system could generate a 'welcome' email (on registration or association with an SE account) that requested using a real name.

Another possibility would be to arrange that the "community bulletin" box on the main page contained a link to a thread here on meta titled "Please consider using your real name!"

But, if not the real name, I agree that people should use, at least, an intelligible 'name' and to this purpose what Scott Morrison propose could work, that is:

(a) it would be nice if the system could generate a 'welcome' email (on registration or association with an SE account) that requested using an intelligible name.

(b) it would be nice to arrange that the "community bulletin" box on the main page contained a link to a thread on meta titled "Please consider using an intelligible name!"

So, as far as I can say, I would carefully avoid suggesting other users to change the default name, which could seem uneducated, and, for the same reason, I'm not sure that moderators can directly make suggestions of this kind.

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    I don't necessarily believe users have to use their "real" names or have their names verified. Any word/words/expression would do in my opinion, as long as it's not in hieroglyphics or numbers. There are several Krisses for example, they might all very well be called Kriss in real life but at least their names are "human" and I can tell one from the other by their rep points and the colour of their avatars (not always easy I admit).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 28, 2013 at 13:31
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    Embrace the Fordism. You can have any name you want as long as it's a number.
    – MetaEd
    Jul 28, 2013 at 16:59
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    I agree with Carlo's final sentence, but I won't upvote because I don't agree with Scott Morrison that users should be put under any pressure (including even a circumspect suggestion) to use their "real" names. I've been using my online handle for over 15 years now, and so far as I'm concerned, on the Internet, FumbleFingers is "me". Jul 28, 2013 at 21:38
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    @Mitch: an answer posted on a difference site (even a different StackOverflow site) is NOT a duplicate. Carlo introduced the quote and credited it; this isn't copy-paste, it's its exact opposite: a correct and proper citation. Posting just a bare link would be copy-paste.
    – Marthaª
    Jul 29, 2013 at 17:30
  • Carlo, your edits add content to your answer, so it is not objectionable to me any more (I still disagree with @Marthaª though about the original). Note that Scott's answer there was for -that- site (MathOverflow) which has a decidedly academic direction (where provenance is valued higher than anonymity (since candor and corresponding maturity of recipients of that candor are expected)).
    – Mitch
    Jul 29, 2013 at 18:30
  • @FumbleFingers, I love your comment -- as to "real name", if I were to use it, I would still be effectively anonymous. Tell me how many Mike Clarks there are in the English-speaking world! That is why I am Cyberherbalist. I've been using it for about as long as you've been using FumbleFingers, and it is me. Dec 26, 2014 at 17:23

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