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Today I've discovered that one user who I was, let's say, following is not any more in TeX.SX. His account is now a gray user.... without any link.

Of course I don't know the reason for this change, may be he deleted the account or SE referees decided to do it.

In any case, some of my answers show his original account name to link his answers. Should I anonimaze these references?

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    Why would you want to do that? Any comment directed to this user will still read @C...H..., so unless TeX-SE automatically converts all these strings to @ user.... your changes won't be too effective. The fact that they do not automatically convert these, seems to indicate that there is no point in making the changes you suggest. – marmot Mar 19 at 18:08
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    @marmot you had me worried for a minute as I share those initials, but I checked, and I stilll exist. – Chris H Mar 20 at 9:35
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    @marmot I was talking about references in answers not in comments. If the user deleted his account, may be doesn't want to be related with this place, otherwise he could just left an inactive account. – Ignasi Mar 20 at 9:42
  • I know that you talked about these. My point is that there are references that you cannot change (without deleting them). Therefore, anybody who is interested in doing that will be able to find out the user name. – marmot Mar 20 at 13:40
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IMHO there are two possibilities. Either SE replaces all the explicit user names in comments by a generic name like user... or they don't. In the first case, they will find it easy to also replace the explicit names in answers and so on. In the second case, our attempts to go through our own questions and answers to change the user names will be futile because we won't be able to edit the comments. Just deleting all the comments in which this user gets addressed is IMHO a bit too drastic a measure that could be taken.

I do see the point that a user can ask for all references to their (real or whatever) names being erased. Of course, it would be great if SE would offer such a functionality, not only when one quits but also when one just updates the user name. But this is not in the hands of individual users. Therefore, I would answer the question

Should we reformat references to deleted accounts?

addressed at single ordinary users with

No.

At the same time, I would like to argue that SE should provide us with a function that allows us to replace all explicit occasions of our user name with some updated name. (Of course, I understand that this is nontrivial because user names are not necessarily unique.)

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    Agreed. The average user may not even know that a user decided to delete their account. It would be nice to have a feature that converts a link to someone's profile tex.meta.stackexchange.com/users/121799/marmot directly to their current screen name (similarly to what is done for links to questions and their titles). Then it would be easy for SX to change the name and anonymise it if need be to userXYZ. – moewe Mar 20 at 15:27
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This really is a non-issue primarily because links to user profiles are far less likely to be followed than links to posts. There might be the odd user who want's to learn more about person X you mentioned through a profile link in your post, but it's definitely only a handful*. If someone finds a post that has a link to a deleted user, they can edit it out; there's no need to automate some removal process because the post content should still remain in tact and sensible even though the user link might not exist anymore.

For future reference, it's far better pointing to a post than a user profile if you wish to attribute some solution to some individual, since posts will always remain (even if deleted).

* I don't have any proof of this, but usually only high-rep users have a high number of profile views compared to the rest of the community. And by default, high-rep user accounts are unlikely to be removed... maybe abandoned, but not removed.

  • It is my understanding that if you use someone else's code in your post in a way that requires you to honour the license (CC-BY-SA) you would be required by stackoverflow.blog/2009/06/25/attribution-required to include the author's name and a link to their profile. – moewe Mar 21 at 10:21
  • @moewe Of course, there is the added complication of when an active user voluntarily changes their username from @xxx to @yyy, which has happened in at least 2 cases I know of. Then one can read comments where I am addressing @xxx and a reply comes from @yyy. But I agree with Werner that this is a non-issue. – Steven B. Segletes Mar 25 at 10:47

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