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Some people are offended by some names, because they contain swearwords, because they are insulting, because they are profane, because they are misleading, and so forth. Some so much as to exercise their RightToLeave over the particular SemanticsOfIdentity.

A common LegalSolution is a "no offensive usernames" policy, as used on EnglishWikipedia. The problem is that it's hard to define "offensive", and people online come from many different cultures and traditions and ways of thinking. For example, the US has a stronger tradition of unrestrained FreeSpeech than many countries. Of course, once something is written down, some RulesLawyer? will come along and try to find cracks in it. AntiAuthoritarians don't make things any easier.

Almost invariably, offensive names are WalledIdentitys. Thus, a policy of requiring either RealNames or longstanding PenNames is a useful workaround, but this may be too big a step for some communities.

Interestingly real names can be offensive too. In the Olympics the English rider "Pippa" has been renamed "Phillipa" incorrectly by the Greek media because Pippa is apparently very rude in Greek. Similarly President Putin is called Putine in France.--AndrewCates


My opinion is that "offensive to the consensus" is the way to go (but maybe disallow "phrases that may be offensive", rather than "phrases that anger a lot of people here"). Phrases that can be offensive are pretty well-agreed upon. If the community can't agree on that, how are you going to make consensus agreements about other stuff?

To clarify: I see why it would be contentious when someone chose an offensive name when there was no policy either way --- but if there was a pre-agreed-upon policy in place before it happened, I think a strong enough consensus would develop as to whether a particular name was offensive or not (in reply to The problem is that it's hard to define "offensive"...) I'm not suggestion that "a proper" community would agree so much that they could instantly agree on what the proper policy should be when an issue like that came up, just that if they managed to agree upon one beforehand, I don't think the judgement of exactly what is offensive would be a problem later on. -- BayleShanks

There wasn't a policy beforehand, and I don't think it was even discussed. Presumably everyone felt it was one of those things that goes without saying. (cf. BehavioralNorms)

For the record, one user of an OffensiveName on EnglishWikipedia stated that he chose the name because user names were the one area of Wikipedia that couldn't be edited by the community. It was a test case, and an intentional refusal to cooperate with the community. What can an open community do when a person tries to force an issue such as this? -- StephenGilbert

Isn't it obvious? Send in the Name Police! --anon.

That person isn't really forcing the issue. They're just being childish and really not particularly clever. It's clear that anyone can create a "UserName" that is offensive, just like anyone can continuously write profanities on the site. It's not an amazing achievement to recognize this. Indeed, we AvoidIllusion to LimitTemptation to do this sort of thing. So, ask yourselves what do you normally do in a social situation when someone, say, starts making fart noises? Glare at them like they are idiots and then turn your backs to them. It's not wrong to shun annoying pests from your online community, although also be careful to avoid the compsci tendency to maximally include, but permanently exclude.

It's a particularly cryptonautic thing to formulate policies (a LegalSolution) for every possible situation, but in general you should just rely on your innate social skills, which are far more adaptable and tolerant and powerful than any written policy could be. That is, a CommunitySolution. -- SunirShah

Opposite point of view: changing a username typically requires use of godly powers by an individual, so it's not a CommunitySolution at all. You need some mechanism to make sure that the use of godly powers is reflective of the community and endorsed by it - otherwise you (A) piss off the person who just lost their username (B) lose community support and cohesion at exactly the point when said pissed off person decides to force the issue (C) become a GodKing. A good LegalSolution is a way of formally endorsing the godly decision - like a UN resolution.

It doesn't require godly powers. You can simply apply PeerPressure, which is the exact opposite of a GodKing.

Another interesting case yet to be digested is how a potential intellectual property donor pulled back from Wikipedia after seeing the nick CrucifiedChrist? posting. He decided Wikipedia wasn't a serious attempt at an encyclopedia. [1]

Much of this discussion is specific to the situation with the MediaWiki software which ascribes greater significance to user names that UseMod. A MediaWiki user cannot change their name without losing their sysop status (if they have it), their watchlist, and their list of contributions. All these capabilities are, for at least some users, critical to the Wikipedia experience.

A subsequent case at Wikipedia involved a username "Jesus Is Lord!". The username was, apparently, nothing more than an effort to provoke conflict, in which regard it was successful; also, it was revealing of a degree of anti-Christian bias among the contributors.

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