Prohibit Curators from Changing Username

Platform(s), such as mobile, website, API, other:
All platforms.
URLs (aka web addresses) of any pages, if relevant:
https://www.inaturalist.org/people/####/edit

Description of need:
I have seen people abuse the ability to change their usernames. This is most egregious when curators do so, especially when used to hide their identity or masquerade as another user.
I do think that users in general should be free to change their username, although I may ask for this to also be somewhat limited in a separate request (eg once per month).
It would also be helpful to the general user base if Curators have consistent names, so that it will be easier to remember them in case they need help.

Details:

Prohibit Curators from changing their name without permission from staff.

Include a note/warning in the curator signup documentation that the name they choose will be semi-permanent. Also, if they do change names, make sure there is a public record of the change and perhaps prohibit others from taking past names.

One caveat is that if a Curator needs to change their name for personal safety, there does not need to be a public record (eg in case of stalking), but staff should still know, of course.

I am a curator and would like the flexibility of changing my username, but I won’t until something like this https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/make-mentions-unique-to-user-id-not-just-username/9041/ is implemented.

11 Likes

Personally I think in order to change your username you should have to email help@inaturalist.org or some other new email. This would mean you could still change your username but there would be a delay, making it harder to abuse the system.

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yeah, sure. the real target of this request in my eyes is to prevent abuse, lightly for general users and strictly for curators, in whatever method is practical.

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It seems weird that you can change your username at all except in extreme circumstances like stalking. Seems like everyone should have consistent usernames that don’t change.

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Agreed, but in addition to the stalking example, I could see someone picking a goofy user name when they were in their teens then wanting to change to something more “professional” (such as their real name) later in life. (Never been all that fond of pseudonyms on the internet, but I get that they sometimes have an important reason behind them.)

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I think that there needs to always be some way of changing usernames for everyone, curator or not. If there needs to be some intermediate step, like what @raymie proposes, that’s fine, and @bouteloua 's point about making sure that tags from before the change still work is a good one. But, some potential reasons besides stalking to have username changes:

  1. Someone gets married and wants to update their name everywhere.
  2. Someone gets divorced and wants to update their name everywhere.
  3. A trans person changes their name and needs it to update everywhere (which cis people can do too!).
  4. Like @ jnstuart notes, someone may have picked a goofy name before and wants a serious name now.
  5. For some kind of safety reason, as several users have already commented.
  6. To avoid confusion with a similarly-named iNat user (I’ve definitely mis-tagged some people before and would guess that gets annoying to people to whom that happens often)
  7. A religious conversion or other religious or cultural event. Sometimes names are changed for religious or cultural reasons.
  8. Someone switches languages and wants their name to change as well (I have several friends who use different names in different languages, and if they made their account in one but then switch over to the other, they may want to change their name)

This is just a list I came up with off the top of my head, and, for most of those, having a public record could be problematic or unsafe. Many are personal and having the whole of the internet or even just the whole of the iNat userbase aware of the history could be quite bad for the person involved. Really only #4, #6, and potentially #8 are cases where a public record isn’t likely to present some potential problems, and even then, I could see cases of #4 and #8 where the user would rather there not be a public record.

I realize that @ trh_blue 's point about potential for there to be abuse of the system by some people is a good one and worth thinking about. But if a user is abusing the system, isn’t that just a problem anyway? I feel like a curator abusing iNat generally isn’t a good thing and should probably be dealt with anyway?

(Also, side note, this is my first Forum post, so it won’t let me tag more than two people. Sorry about that!)

19 Likes

I won’t get into specifics but I have seen users (including curators) take advantage of being able to so easily change their username.

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I’m glad this post is creating discussion. So long as we can arrive at some acceptable compromise it’s all good to me.

I agree that it users should always be able to change their username. I do think it should be slightly less freeform than before. I’ve seen both sides. I’ve seen curators use the feature in… unfortunate ways. I’ve had several users impersonate me maliciously. And I have had to temporarily change my online names in order to conceal my account from a stalker. Who, by the way, is still out there being a creepy douchebag, but the threat of the cops (and a lawyer) is keeping him away.

I also agree that using username swapping to abuse the system should be a bannable offence, but naturally, it is hard to catch someone when they keep changing their name… :/

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The user ID number doesn’t change though, so maybe a compromise might be to show a history of usernames?

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Why is it weird? I added my first username that holds a lot of history for me through more than a decade, but it actually wasn’t the best choice and seeing other’s usernames I also decided to change mine, why should I stick to the old one? It’s not right to take out that possibility from users.

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As a variation on #4…correcting a typo or even just “buyer’s remorse”*.

*e.g. I’ve debated trying to drop the 3 from my username.
It’s only there b/c when I first joined I was in a hurry to sign up so I could post my first observation, and the site said just “Star” (yes, it’s my actual name) or any of the translations or variations I tried were not available.

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Shortly after I joined iNat I also changed my username because the original username I chose “suggested” that I was only interested in plants (which is mostly true only because I look at plants the most… I like all nature) when I was uploading and identifying observations of fauna as well, so my username just didn’t seem appropriate. I was happy that I was able to change it just like lots (most?) of other media sites

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that would be an issue for help at iNat. Reporting bad behaviour.

I don’t care whether an iNatter uses an obvious 'nym or an apparently real name like John Smith - but I appreciate consistency.

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my name was actually a mistake, i put my first name in the username field on accident when i registered for iNat, in 2011. I never use ‘Charlie’ as my internet name, but now i think it is funny because iNat got so big and it wouldn’t be possible to get a first name username like that, so i don’t want to change it.

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I don’t understand why curators should not be able to change their username but other users can. Some of the comments here suggest that users should be able to change their usernames to avoid stalking or other malicious behaviour but why should curators not be able to do the same thing?

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That’s the point of this request, they will be able to change their name, just not every day.

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Even Linnaeus, father of biological taxonomy, went through some name changes in his life – Carl Linnaeus, Carl von Linne, Carolus Linnaeus, Carolus a Linne – depending on where he published and when, so who am I to criticize revising a username.

My concern for iNat, if it’s overused, would be the inability to keep track of who the curator is who might be making changes on the website. The option to change a name should be used sparingly, should not be extremely easy, and perhaps should be tracked somehow behind the scenes by iNat staff.

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Lots of very reasonable justifications in this thread for why people might want to change their usernames. If I understand rightly, the main reason that doing this on iNat appears to be an issue is that it breaks some links to the user’s previous identity. I think most of these concerns could be overcome if there were (semi-)automated processes in place to update various aspects of the user’s iNat presence to use the new name.

As a comparison, Wikipedia has had to address similar issues for longer and with a larger and far more contentious user base. And yet username changes are generally permitted (for all users). I think this is because changing your username happens globally to all aspects of your identity, and so there’s less concern that it could be abused. Take a look at these pages for comparison:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Username_policy#Changing_your_username

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Changing_username

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@bouteloua linked a topic about it, please vote! https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/make-mentions-unique-to-user-id-not-just-username/9041

1 Like