Hey there! No big thing, but it's time for a general reminder post about what's okay and what's not with sockpuppets, alternate accounts, Brand New Days, and other multiple-accounts-related stuff on Metafilter.
Since we're always getting new users (and new Metatalk readers), we thought it'd be good to go over some of this account stuff as a sort of reminder/update/primer for everybody and consolidate some of the issues that have come up in past discussions or that live in the FAQ into a single omnibus post for easy reference. So:
1. You are you.
The core deal with Metafilter accounts is that you're expected to have one and only one
main account. This is you, this is your continuity of identity on this site and in this community; you participate with others here as a known quantity, in good faith with no account-related hijinks or identity weirdness. Everything below is a qualified exception of some sort to that basic expectation, and it's all in the territory of a privilege, not a right: if you seem to be abusing the spirit of those exceptions, we will ban the accounts involved.
2. Privacy account.
It is okay for privacy reasons to have a spare account that is publicly unrelated to your main account. This is okay specifically for commenting anonymously in threads where you're uncomfortable associating a sensitive subject (related to work, private life, etc) with your established main-account/real-life identity, or to ask questions in a functionally anonymous way without having to use the Anonymous Ask Metafilter process itself. You are expected to keep use of this account to only those sorts of things; no casual commenting in threads, no making Metafilter posts, etc.
3. Brand New Day.
If you want to have a fresh start on Metafilter, it is okay to close or walk away from your existing account and start up a new one instead that's not publicly related to the old one. This is commonly called "Brand New Day" on Mefi, or BND for short. If you are doing this because you want to distance yourself from your previous behavior/history/reputation, it is on you
to make the effort to change your behavior along with your mefi handle. When we talk about "Brand New Day" we aren't just referring to a different username, we're talking about a fresh start where you meet the mods and the userbase halfway by genuinely making the effort to not do the same old problematic things or have the new account be a poorly-maintained open secret. If you're going to start over, you need to really start over. The ability to have this fresh start is extended as a courtesy, not a given, and it depends on you holding up your end.
4. So you want a new username.
It's also okay to publicly
transition from an older account to a new account if you want to change usernames for some reason. If the goal is not to privately do a Brand New Day thing but just to change handles, it's a good idea to leave a note on your profile page of both the old and the new account noting that e.g. "I used to be Swizzle Schtick" and "I am now Abraham Stinkin" so folks who wonder what happened to that user or who the new person is can figure it out easily. Note that this is the
official option for changing usernames; we will not alter the username associated with an established account (it messes with site continuity in weird ways to retroactively change a handle like that), so you will have to set up a new account if you're unhappy with your current username.
Changing accounts once is generally fine. Changing accounts a lot is not so great, and we will contact you if we see you churning through accounts on an ongoing basis.
5. Joke accounts.
If you want to make a one-off (or sparingly
recurring) joke with an aptly-named new account, that's fine. But that needs to be all you use that account for, and you should make a point of not getting carried away with it to the point where you are annoying other users or disrupting conversations.
6. Privacy is to the userbase, not to the mods.
The mod team will make a very serious effort to protect your identity regarding use of new or alternate accounts for Brand New Day or privacy/anonymity reasons; we will not reveal your identity to the userbase or the public without your explicit permission or prior acknowledgement.
That said, you do not have an expectation of privacy from the mod team itself; we need to know who is using what account to prevent misuse/abuse of multiple accounts or banned folks trying to return to the site on the sly, etc. If we find that you are in some way misusing multiple accounts on the site, we will address the problem to you as best we can; if you can not or will not resolve that problem yourself, we will close one or more of the accounts involved. If you put us in a position where we have no practical options other than outing you or banning you, we will ban you; we will not facilitate weird identity games or sockpuppetry or other have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too scenarios.
7. Posting limits are per person, not per account.
Having multiple accounts is not a license to post more often than the built-in site limits. This has primarily been an issue with Ask Metafilter: the seven day wait between questions is firm and not something that we are okay with users skirting around with multiple accounts. We will contact you if we see something that looks like this is happening, and we will close one or more of your accounts if the problem persists.
8. Don't share accounts.
If you have a roommate or a spouse or a friend who also uses Metafilter, they need their own account. The two-or-more of you asking questions, discussing stuff, etc. under the same handle is problematic for the rest of the userbase and for the mods and if it's an ongoing thing you need to buy them (or tell them to buy) an account that they can use independently. If you share a computer with another account-holding Metafilter user, you need to not post under each other's usernames—be sure to log out consistently, or just use different browsers entirely, however you need to manage it. It's important that your identities not get tangled up via misposts.
9. No sockpuppetry bullshit.
The above scenarios, as defined, are pretty much the only contexts in which it's okay to operate more than one account (whether serially or in parallel) on the site. Anything else is likely to be taken as abuse of the site and can be grounds for a quick banning. Among other problematic things:
- Do not use a spare account to have two voices in a thread.
- Do not use a spare account to promote your business/projects/whatever on the sly.
- Do not use an account to pretend to be a disinterested third party about something you have a stake in.
10. Broach account-hijinks concerns privately to the mods.
If you think something weird is going on with an account or set of accounts, please do not make a public accusation in-thread. Instead, contact the mods directly via the contact form
, and we will look into the situation and deal with it accordingly. Public accusations of sockpuppetry, suspected Brand New Day identities, etc. are problematic and dramariffic and usually wrong to boot, and can lead to some seriously bad feelings and misinformation with zero upside. Don't do that; help us discreetly do our jobs instead.
11. When in doubt, ask the mods.
If you've got a specific situation you're not sure about regarding a second account, please feel free to check with us at the contact form. You'll never get in trouble for asking, we'll keep the discussion private to the mod team, and we're happy to help you suss out the okay vs. not-okay angles on any given account-related dilemma before you act so that there's never a site problem to begin with.
I think that's just about everything. Have at it with the clarifying questions and comments and such. We'll plan to update the FAQ a bit to make sure it's hitting any key points currently missing.