A few (new) users have unusual names like "LaTeX" or "google".

I personally think we should not allow such names i.e. tell this users to rename their accounts, because they are just confusing in comments. Imagine someone writes "The solution given by LaTeX" or "As stated by google" inside a comment.

I think users should not be named using "reserved keywords" (like they would be called in a programming language), i.e. TeX executables, package names and TeX primitives as well as well known software or web applications.

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  • Just for info: LaTeX isn't a particular new user, and TeX (formerly xport) has been here even longer (actually, there is also a user tex). google is an unregistered user. – Caramdir Mar 4 '11 at 20:35
  • “... stated by @google” would be unambiguous. – Caramdir Mar 4 '11 at 20:36
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    On the other hand, people should be encouraged to stick to one username. Since the displayed name gets updated but the @namess in comments don't, it can be very confusing. Also, it's nice to be able to link questions and comments to "names" - I hadn't realised that TeX was xport. – Andrew Stacey Mar 4 '11 at 21:11
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    @Andrew Stacey: Most users don't know, but you're only allowed to change your name once every 30 days (and it doesn't warn you in advance). So when you change your name to something like "Andrew Stacey's sockpuppet" for a quick laugh, you learn the lesson the hard way. – Martin Tapankov Mar 4 '11 at 21:26
  • @MartinTapankov: Do you really think badp didn't know that this would stick for a month? :-) – Hendrik Vogt Mar 4 '11 at 21:45
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    @Hendrik: He most certainly did :-) I wonder however how many unsuspecting folks did this without knowing.. I remember seeing somebody complained about not being warned about it just today on meta.SO. The username in question was something like "Unicorns are yummy". – Martin Tapankov Mar 4 '11 at 21:48
  • @MartinTapankov: The moderators can change the name as well. I'm not sure if the 30 days restriction applies then as well. (Not that I planning to change any names) – Martin Scharrer Mar 4 '11 at 21:49
  • @Caramdir: You don't think that 23 days is very new? – TH. Mar 7 '11 at 6:02
  • @Jasper: This might have changed in the last few months, so you are probably right (or there is a small grace period to change your mind). But the 30-day period was indeed in place before. I'm not willing to risk it, though :-) – Martin Tapankov Apr 25 '11 at 8:02
  • My previous name Wissen Macht Frei (that has a good meaning of Knowledge will set you free) has been changed to the current cryptic one. Hopefully this information is useful for others. – Not A Zoomed Image Sep 18 at 12:05

I think that it's appropriate to say to a user with such a name: "I know you don't mean it this way, but some new users might get the idea that you are speaking as an official representative of LaTeX (TeX, google, etc.)" Would you consider changing your name to something the represents you uniquely?

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  • I agree with this. Maybe a moderator could contact LaTeX, TeX, and tex and ask them to change their names. – TH. Mar 7 '11 at 6:04

We recently had some discussion about this on MathOverflow. You can read it at https://meta.mathoverflow.net/discussion/335/3/why-not-real-names

I guess that "real names" and "weird names" aren't quite the same thing, but I think that they are similar enough that it's worth at least linking to the discussion there.

My position is that I would like a culture that encourages real names, or at least identifiable ones, but does not enforce this (within the bounds of taste). I like to build a picture of who people are and if there's something vaguely name-like about their username then I find that it helps me to do so, and that then helps me to answer their questions. So it's purely for selfish reasons that I would like to encourage people to use realistic usernames: I'm more likely to try to help them!

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  • I was thinking about changing to my real name some time ago, but decided that (a) it is too long and (b) it would just be confusing. – Caramdir Mar 5 '11 at 18:28
  • As you can see, I am of a similar opinion, but that is of course a personal position :-) – Joseph Wright Mar 5 '11 at 18:56
  • @Caramdir: actually, I'd argue against you changing your name. I think that you've gotten enough recognition in your username that changing it would be as confusing as xport now calling herself TeX. I seem to need something "name-like" but it doesn't have to be an actual real name. But "Bugs Bunny" doesn't work, whereas "Caramdir" is close enough. I agree (as Joseph says) that this is personal opinion and personal experience. My point is that what I think about this does affect others' experiences on this site so opinions shouldn't be ignored. – Andrew Stacey Mar 5 '11 at 19:09

I think forcing a change of one's username should be reserved for drastic cases, such as hate-speech and obscenities.

While I agree to some extent it could be confusing, with the proper context (and as Caramdir said, with "@" in front), there will be little room for confusion, even for the casual observer.

For context: if someone's name happens to be deeply offensive in your language, should you request that it be changed to something acceptable, even if it sounds perfectly normal to everybody else? There are a few proper names of TeX-SE users which would make me blush if I have to say them in civilized company, or write it in my language. That would be much worse for me than seeing somebody named "google", "ConTeXt", or even "LaTeX sucks".

It's a slippery slope, and one that I think should be avoided.

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  • I agree. The problem I have with the username "LaTeX" is that it's just too generic, so I like "wishihadabettername" much better. But the problem is just not big enough to take action. – Hendrik Vogt Mar 4 '11 at 21:49

As Martin mentioned, obviously if the name is hate speech or offensive (or the gravatar for that matter) we require that it be changed.

Beyond that, the only time we require username changes is when there could be actual confusion that the user officially represents Stack Overflow, or could be construed by an average user to be some sort of special moderator of the site.

I suppose you could extend that to say that a user falsely named "Donald Knuth" could be an issue as well, but ... I can't think many tex.se users would realistically believe that.

In general these cases are quite rare.

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