denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote in [site community profile] dw_biz2012-04-11 06:02 pm

RFC: username squatting: how should we handle it?

So, one of the things that has come up repeatedly recently is the question of username hoarding and account trading/selling. We've been trying very hard to work out a policy to manage the problem (and how to handle it when it happens) that will be fair to everyone and will only affect people who are honestly abusing open account registration, not people who are using the site legitimately.

People have reported some of the most egregious squatting/hoarding and trading, and we've been holding off on taking any definite actions because we've been having trouble formulating a policy that's fair to everyone and working out what consequences there should be.

We have an idea of what we think we should do, but we also know that this has the potential to negatively affect people who are using the site in a performative/creative style (roleplay, fiction projects, collaborative performance art) instead of a personal journaling style. We don't want to interfere with that legitimate use, so we'd like to hear feedback. To keep the discussion away from "pick holes in a specific proposal", I'm not going to share the full range of what I'm thinking yet; instead I'm going to lay out the problem and let everybody brainstorm.

The goal here is:

* To formulate a policy regarding username squatting that prevents squatting, without placing undue restraint on the many and varied ways people use Dreamwidth for performative/creative work;

* To prevent rewarding people for bad behavior and encourage fair play and community responsibility;

* To prevent username trading and selling (which is not only a violation of the Terms of Service but is a very bad idea because a traded account will never and can never be secured);

* To take away the advantages of username squatting/hoarding with minimal administrative overhead and in a way that returns desireable squatted usernames to the pool of available usernames.

1. The Problem

Open account registration means that people can create accounts easily, which is great for activity and ease-of-use but has also led to multiple people creating hundreds of accounts in order to sit on usernames they think will be useful or valuable later.

This is a problem for multiple reasons:

* It leads to people trading or selling usernames that have some kind of value to the community. (A side note: Trading or selling an account is against the Terms of Service, because a traded account will never again be secure or secureable. We have asked and asked and asked people to stop doing it, and it's still happening. We're likely going to start cracking down more on account trading and selling, whether it happens on or off Dreamwidth. If you have an account you don't want to use anymore, set its status to 'deleted', and the username will be available for renaming to after it's fully purged from the system; the rename process is deliberately set up to both move the old contents of the account out of the way and to prevent security problems in the future.)

* It leads to people registering accounts and usernames they have no intention of ever using, because those usernames have value and can be used in those trades. This prevents people who would actually use the account (and the username) from having access to those usernames, and encourages people who would not otherwise want to violate the Terms of Service to participate in account trading because they want those usernames.

* It rewards people who are behaving badly and penalizes people who are not behaving badly, encouraging a "land grab" mentality where people who would not otherwise behave badly feel that they have to act now or lose out. (In short, it's a textbook example of the tragedy of the commons.)

* It results in hundreds of accounts with usernames that are desireable to the community sitting around empty and unused.

* It requires us to spend dozens of person-hours adjuticating disputes, handling complaints, and researching situations of username hoarding and account trading, which is time that could best be spent elsewhere.

(One note I should also add: for all of this, I'm only discussing personal accounts -- not communities. Communities can be passed from admin to admin without the same security risk.)

2. Additional Considerations

Putting any kind of numbers on what constitutes "legitimate" use, and addressing any question of how many accounts one person can have, quickly runs into a problem. There are legitimate reasons to have and use multiple journals, and any time you try to quantify the question, you quickly run into the problem of separating abusive account registration from legitimate account registration. There is simply no easy way to put one set of numbers down and say "this is the limit", because Situation A can wind up being abusive account registration despite not hitting the numbers (if the person registering the accounts has no intention of ever using them, or is registering them because there's a very slim chance they might want to use them someday but it isn't likely) and Situation B can wind up being legitimate account registration despite exceeding the numbers (if the person is using those accounts, has used those accounts, or honestly intends to use those accounts relatively soon).

(Not to mention, someone with malicious or self-centered intent could always say that they do intend to use the accounts very soon, when in reality they don't intend to use the accounts for anything other than trading, selling, or hoarding.)

We definitely know there are multiple reasons to want to have multiple accounts, and on the surface, it is often impossible to separate abusive account registration from legitimate account registration. It's a spectrum, and it's wickedly hard to develop any kind of objective metric: there is an inherent amount of subjectivity, and intent plays a huge part. (And, of course, we can't know what someone's intent is, not for sure; all we can look at is behavior.)

We do need to do something, though, because there are few definite cases of what we consider abusive account registration going on: not only is it unfair to the community as a whole, but if we don't do something about it soon, the problem will only get worse as others see that there is an advantage to behaving badly and no incentive to not behaving badly.

3. Some Examples

Using some examples from roleplaying that people bring up a lot whenever this sort of discussion arises, I'll give some examples, in order to properly calibrate what I'm talking about.

You'll note that in each of these, instead of giving numbers, I'm saying "a high number of accounts" or "an extremely high number of accounts" -- I don't want to get into giving numbers, because that makes people immediately focus on the numbers and start thinking of ways that they can imagine needing X number of accounts instead of thinking about the underlying questions. Whatever numbers we go with, if we do go with a number-based policy, will almost certainly be set by looking at the actual patterns of registration and use; instead of saying "500 accounts" or "1000 accounts", we will instead say "registration at one standard deviation" or "registration at the 99th percentile" or something like that. (We also won't ever go looking for instances. I'm talking, here, about what we should do when they're reported to us.)

I'm also not defining "activity" (or 'light activity', 'regularly used', yadda) based on concrete numbers -- number of posts, number of comments, etc -- because if we say something like "any account with fewer than 5 posts and 10 comments made by 2 weeks after creation" or whatever, then people who are looking to hoard usernames will create an account, make 5 posts and 10 comments within the first 2 weeks, and continue onward. (Not to mention, people who want to make trouble for other people will hover over accounts that have been created by people who already have a lot of accounts, and on that 14th day will report them to us and say "look, this is being squatted!")

With those caveats in mind, examples of what I would consider all the way over on the "this is probably abusive account registration" side:

* the person who registers an extremely high number of accounts within a very short period, with multiple usernames for every single character they can think of all at once, without any plans to start using those accounts in the near future but just to have the names;

* the person who registers every possible variant of every possible username that they can think of for a particular character in order to try to keep anyone else from being able to play that character without coming to them to trade/sell the account;

* the person who sees that a particular fandom is getting popular and goes to register every variant of every username they can think of for every character in that fandom so that they have a lock on the fandom;

* the person who registers every username they can think of for a character or fandom, then immediately lists them for sale/trade.

All the way over on the "this is probably legitimate account registration" side:

* the person who has a high number of accounts, but regularly logs into each account to make posts or comments with the account;

* the person who's been playing heavily on DW for a long time, so has a high number of inactive accounts that still have content in them (because each account was active once and was retired when the game ended/they dropped the character/etc) who wants to keep the old content for posterity's sake or in order to keep a game's archives preserved;

* the person who plays the same few characters in a number of different games that each require a unique journal, so they have multiple accounts/username variants for each character but each one is regularly (or semi-regularly) used;

* the person who has a high number of regularly-used (or previously-used-but-archived) accounts, but also has a handful of accounts that aren't being used yet, for characters they're developing.

In the middle, and not at all as clear-cut -- things that could be perfectly legitimate if done by Person A but, if done by Person B, could be an attempt to circumvent any policy we wrote by looking like legitimate account registration while really being a cover for abusive account registration:

* the person who has an extremely high number of accounts, a small number of which are heavily used, the larger part of which are very lightly used (one or two posts, the occasional comment), and a large part of which are being held in reserve (any/all of: a placeholder post, a filled-out profile, a lightly-customized style, but no real activity past the initial creation and placeholder setup);

* the person who has an extremely high number of accounts, each of which was very lightly used for a very short period of time and then allowed to fall inactive;

* the person who has an established pattern of registering a large number of accounts for characters they might want to play someday, but who has a pattern of not doing anything with those accounts for a very long time (if at all).

4. The problems of putting that into policy

So: how do we write a policy that allows us to distinguish "almost certainly abusive account registration" from "almost certainly legitimate account registration", is sensitive to the grey areas in between, and can't be easily gamed by people who are trying to look like they're creating legitimate accounts but are really just abusing the system?

One thing that is not helpful in cases like this is looking purely at numbers of accounts registered. Whenever this comes up, some people immediately ask, "Well, what do you need all those accounts for?" There are perfectly legit reasons to have a large number of accounts, though: that is absolutely not in doubt and we don't ever want to get to a place where we put absolute hard limits on usage. People who are using the site heavily are awesome! People who are doing great creative things on Dreamwidth are awesome! We love seeing it!

We just don't want to reward the people who are trying to capitalize on open account registration, and we want to strongly encourage people against registering accounts "just in case". In an ideal world, people would only register an account when they're ready to start actively using it very, very soon. (Barring a margin of error for "I made this account and then my life exploded and I had to put everything on hold for a few months", of course, which is a major problem with any time-based guidelines.)

Another problem: given that there are all these grey areas and all these huge whopping questions of intent, any time something like this is reported to us, it requires a ton of research. We don't want to spend hours of our time looking into every single last case of "this person has a lot of usernames registered" that's reported to us in order to figure out where on the sliding scale of legit vs abusive that particular situation falls. We've got very limited resources for investigating that kind of thing: DW has two full-time employees, three part-time employees, and a bunch of volunteers, but most of those people are technical (and everybody who handles ToS stuff also does tons of other work) and we flat-out don't have the resources to spend much time on this kind of thing.

Any answer has to take all this into account.

5. Disincentives

There are a few disincentives we can apply to prevent username hoarding and trading/selling. There's advantages and disadvantages to each; I won't get too far into them, just list them off and hit the highlights.

The solution can also be a combination of some or all of these, and when we start talking about "eminent domain" type solutions of confiscating squatted usernames, I'm definitely not talking about unilaterially taking all the accounts away from somebody we think is username squatting without contacting them first and talking over each particular, unique situation, arriving at an agreement about what constitutes reasonable usage in that situation, and letting people decide which accounts they want to voluntarily relinquish. I'm also, again, not talking about us going out and actively looking for possible squatting scenarios: I'm talking about what to do when people report potential squatting to us, and we think there's a really good chance that at least some squatting is involved.

That having been said, here are some of the possibilities:

* We can manually rename accounts that have been squatted. We've done this before, in the early days when people were trying to "land grab" popular usernames: the account still belongs to the person who registered it, it just gets renamed from "username" to "ex_username123", just like a rename token does. Big advantage to this one is that it preserves anything that might have been in the account, just under a different username. This makes the system think "username" has never been registered, so it can be created from the account creation page as though it never existed in the first place. Disadvantage is that it is work: we have to write a custom script for each instance.

* We can scramble the password so it can't be logged into, force the account status to deleted, and purge it from the system. This preserves any comments that were made elsewhere (in communities and in other journals) -- they show up with the account username crossed out -- and frees the username up for being renamed to. It can't be registered from the account creation page, but it can be renamed to using a rename token. Disadvantage is that it doesn't preserve any content that was in the account itself, and (like the other option) it's a lot of work.

* We can put in some kind of technical restrictions on account creation, trying to limit how many accounts someone can register per week/month/whatever. (We already do this with communities, in order to prevent landgrabs there: the restriction is set at a level where few people ever run into it during the course of legit use, and those people who do run into it with legit use can just spread out their comm creation over time. Anything we did to similarly restrict personal account creation would be set at a point where we thought people wouldn't run into it regularly unless they were deliberately trying to namesquat, and then be adjustable over time if it gets tripped too often by legit use.) I'm really on the fence about this: I think it would be too likely to interfere with legit use. We could always implement this and then set the limit to something we think is really high, though.

* We can implement some kind of technical restriction on account creation that kicks in after you have a certain number of accounts registered somehow -- either a blanket "after you have X accounts registered, you can only make Y accounts per week/month/whatever", or something that we can enable for specific people who we think are abusing open account registration. The advantage to this (and to the previous bullet point) is that they're relatively hands-off and don't need much attention from us; the disadvantage is that it might start an "arms race" of people trying to work around the restrictions, and it doesn't do anything to handle cases where someone already has an extremely high number of accounts registered.

* We can say that we don't care at all about how many accounts people have registered or whether they're using them at all, but if/when any kind of account trading gets reported to us, we can "confiscate" the account (whether it's already changed hands or whether it's just been listed for trade). The advantage there is that it would keep us from having to do any kind of judgement call about squatting, and it would definitely address the trading/selling problem. Disadvantage is that it would just drive trading/selling even further underground than it already is, and we'd have more problems verifying whether the trade/sale offer was actually made by the person who controls the account -- it would tempt people to try to "frame" holders of popular usernames (post somewhere saying the account is for trade even though they don't control it, screenshot the post, report it to us) in order to get a popular username. It also wouldn't address the case of someone squatting on hundreds of usernames for the "ooh shiny" factor rather than future trading/selling.

* Or, of course, we can officially say that we don't care about any of this, let the situation stay exactly as it is, and not do anything if people are squatting on a ton of usernames. We're kind of on the fence. I mean, this is all a lot of work to handle what is, right now, not very many instances of truly egregious cases. The only thing that makes me a little nervous about picking this is that this sort of thing spirals: what's a relatively minor problem right now could become a major problem as people feel like they have to grab everything they might want someday as fast as they can, leading to squatting as defense against squatting. Still, we could always officially Not Care as a service, and leave it up to the community as a whole to enforce whatever social norms they felt was appropriate by methods of expressing disapproval, community shunning, etc.

I'm sure there are other possibilities I'm not thinking of, so that's why I'm posting -- to see what ideas y'all come up with!

There are a ton of other things I can think of, but this is long enough already and I don't want to make it too overwhelming. I'll turn the discussion over to the floor and see what everybody comes up with.

Parameters for discussion: you don't need to give more examples of legitimate use or reasons why people might want to have multiple accounts. Likewise, please don't offer up specific situations (either hypothetical or actual) and ask "is this squatting?" We know there's tons of reasons why people would want to have lots of accounts (and we want to encourage the creative use of DW and avoid having any kind of "chilling effect" as much as possible), and we're not ready to talk specifics yet.

As always in discussions such as these, please remember there are many different ways to use Dreamwidth, and a) any solution we put into place has to work for the benefit of the service as a whole; b) we're looking for solutions that will, at best, only slightly inconvenience legitimate good-faith usage, while stopping things that are negatively affecting the entire community; c) however, it may not be possible to completely avoid affecting legitimate good-faith usage completely and this is a trade we may have to make.

With that, I'll turn it over to the floor for discussion!
endlessdream: (pompoms)

[personal profile] endlessdream 2012-04-12 02:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Chiming in to say I like the idea of renaming accounts because it frees up the names for free, immediate use.

Also I like the idea of restricting account creation within a certain time. Maybe even getting tighter restrictions with each limit one hits. Like being able to get 20 one week, 15 the next, 10 etc. and then just capping it at 5 from then on. That way people just coming over and registering have more leeway, but those who want to just do a bunch find their account creation throttled. Maybe even restricting it to the minute; such as someone can't create two accounts in a row, they have to wait five minutes between.

I think it's understandable to have good-faith usage affected, especially since I'm sure someone using accounts for good reasons can find a way around it. For instance re-using usernames for another character or another version of the character. If they're doing enough to hit limits to affect squatters, I'm sure they'll have plenty already.

And I think it's great that DW is willing to do something about this rather than leave it up to the users who... really can't do anything big about it.

Also, I know you don't want to do numbers, but what about percentages? If a person has 100 accounts but is using only 20 of them, I think that would fall into squatting just as much as someone with 500 but is using only 100. If looking into what constitutes as activity, I think comments posted should definitely be part of it. I didn't like how when LJ started purging they also tried purging accounts that may not have had any posts, but did comment. I think if an account has been created but then never had anything done with it (no comments, posts, even icons) that should be counted as not using.

I also don't think there's anything wrong with using human discretion. If someone has five posts that say "random posting to make sure I don't get purged," it's pretty easy to see that the account is being squatted on regardless of having a certain number of posts. And if someone gets their accounts taken because of squatting they should be able to defend themselves and explain why they have them, and maybe monitored to make sure they're actually using them in the way they explained.

I know that's a lot of human work, but I like the suggestion someone made of having a volunteer team to help out.
aedifica: Photo of purple yarrow flowers. (Achillea millefolium)

[personal profile] aedifica 2012-04-12 04:35 pm (UTC)(link)
I like this:

the idea of restricting account creation within a certain time. Maybe even getting tighter restrictions with each limit one hits. Like being able to get 20 one week, 15 the next, 10 etc. and then just capping it at 5 from then on. That way people just coming over and registering have more leeway, but those who want to just do a bunch find their account creation throttled.

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[personal profile] godfatherly 2012-04-12 02:38 pm (UTC)(link)
I'd like to see DW do what LJ did a few months ago -- send an email to all accounts that have never posted, give them two weeks to post something, and then purge the account. Some hardcore squatters will make posts, but I think this is a very easy first step.

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[personal profile] reziac - 2012-04-12 21:42 (UTC) - Expand
unveiling: of things (Default)

[personal profile] unveiling 2012-04-12 02:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Is there a way to create a system where, in order to trade an account, you can go through a system of "once you do this, it is no longer linked to your account" etc. like open-ID is permanent? This might deal with the issues involved with trading.

Furthermore is there a way to maybe suggest that if someone took a bunch of accounts, they have an option of deleting and returning it to the username pool without having been used? I'd guess this would take some complicate algorithm, but you could look and see if, beyond the account verification, it had been used (therefore with zero comments, etc.) and if the person decided to give up their account, the next person wouldn't have to pay for it?

Personally, I am not a huge fan of purges and I have some usernames (I have a very small list of "unused" ones, though I do have a lot of RP journals) that I intend to use in the future pending canon review and all that. My personal journal wasn't used until recently, for instance, or had just one or two entries. On LJ, for example, I lost a lot of usernames despite signing in to save them; furthermore, a lot of these were usernames I had used. They had thousands of comments in communities, had icons uploaded, etc. but they lacked entries. How do you qualify what needs to be purged?

However, I am certainly fine with restrictions but keep in mind that all someone needs to do is create a new email and link that email up wit their old one. Gmail has facilitated that and made it much easier to do these days.

The problem is, I can see where this is a money problem for you as much as it is a burden. The other issue is that, yeah, RPers are doing this and there are places like [Bad username or unknown identity: bakerstreet"] that don't require you to put a whole lot in your journal to play without much stress, and you could probably get away with playing 100 characters there in a year if you just wanted to "try them out." Is there a way to measure if this was done? And what counts as squatting if that was done?

Overall, I think it's a delicate issue. I'm not sure any of my suggested proposals are any good, since I'm pretty clueless about computer stuff.
mark: A photo of Mark kneeling on top of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines. It was a long hike. (Default)

[staff profile] mark 2012-04-12 05:22 pm (UTC)(link)
We can create anything, really, so we could make something like an official account trade tool. This is definitely out of scope for the current conversation, though, but if you want to submit a suggestion then the community can look at it:

Re: the purges, we do not want to do "inactivity purges" and we're not considering that. LJ made the decision to do it, Denise and I don't think it was a great idea, and we're not doing anything like that on DW.

Yes -- very delicate. We talked about it for hours and hours and have come here for feedback -- proving how difficult this issue is. Alas.

Similar to domain squatting

[personal profile] reziac - 2012-04-12 21:33 (UTC) - Expand
pauamma: Cartooney crab holding drink (Default)

A lot of this is handwavy but...

[personal profile] pauamma 2012-04-12 06:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Assumption: there are ways to achieve the requirements below that aren't nightmares or abysmally bad ideas for performance, privacy, or general "this would piss off a substantial share of our userbase" reasons.
- count accounts created (or likely to have been created) by the same person as part of a single batch or (this is likely harder to implement, maybe much harder) in several batches.
- monitor the number of accounts belonging to the same person that got initial use (basic customization some unspecified time after creation) and ongoing use (more customization, posting/commenting/PMing, etc.) over time.

If the owner of the accounts is squatting on them, I would expect that at some point:
- the percentage (per week/month/year/whatever) of still-unconfigured accounts getting their initial configuration in that time period will go down to 0 or something very close.
- the percentage of already-configured accounts never active before that got their first activity during $time_period will fall down as well.

At this point, it becomes worth to have a closer look at the accounts. This may be a false positive, that is, there may be valid reasons why this is happening. It may also be someone who genuinely intended, initially, to make use of all these accounts, but was unable to for a number of reasons (life issues, Peace Corps, lost interest, etc.) In any case, if/when this happens, it would be worth IMO (perhaps after checking for other redflags to be determined) to ask the owner for their future plans for the accounts.

How does that sound?
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)

[personal profile] liv 2012-04-12 08:02 pm (UTC)(link)
I really really think the best solution to most of this problem would be to let RPers use their display names properly. That would take away most of the value (financial or social) of squatted names. If your username is just a URL, not your identity, but your character appears as "Harry Potter" (or whatever) when you use the site, you can just register throw-away names like [profile] hp3007.

Problem: you're really against the idea of giving prominence to display names. I'm only bringing it up again because I think you're painting yourself into a corner on the namesquatting issue for this very reason.

Problem 2: non-RPers do see their username as their identity. So the only way to implement this would be to give people the option to be displayed on the site as either username or display name, and you have very good reasons for not wanting more options. But given you've got two very conflicting use cases (journallers versus performers), and you've got a potential social and security problem with namesquatting, I think making this into a switch would actually be worth the extra decision at account creation. I'm willing to work on coding styles so that they can cope with a show display name versus show username Boolean (and no, I'm not suggesting hiding usernames altogether if the former is selected).
shigeharu: (laaaaazy.)

[personal profile] shigeharu 2012-04-12 08:45 pm (UTC)(link)
I think this will only go so far, personally; I'm all for more prominent use of display names, but I don't think it will negate the value of a username to most RPers simply because a lot of us do tend to get hung up on aesthetics, and the username does still show up enough that I imagine people are going to want a nice one.

And it does still act as identity to some extent simply because of the popularity of some characters - it's one of the easiest ways to talk about different instances of the same character, because it's the thing that's guaranteed to be different between them. You could say "the Harry Potter at insertgamehere," but if more than one person have played them there over time, you might still have to get more specific. You could say "so-and-so's Harry Potter," but some players go by the same or similar nicknames (I was once in a game with three other Sams, and started listing myself as Sammich just to try and make it easier to keep straight). Usernames are always going to be different, though, so I think there's a level of identity that's never going to go away, even if display names are given greater prominence.

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[personal profile] ashy 2012-04-12 08:11 pm (UTC)(link)
I have a ton of rp accounts that are in various states of being used. My writing partners and I tend to rotate where we are playing and when, so we may be really busy with one group for a couple of months and then switch over to another for a few months and so forth. In my userinfo I have it stated clearly, the username is not open for trade and will never be for sale. I don't consider this squatting.

Especially given I pay for a ton of accounts every month to be paid accounts. I don't use this, my mun account, very often, so I've stopped paying for it more often than not. My rp accounts? I rotate them around, but there is never a month where I don't have 20 or more as paid given what plot we are currently working on. I'd be really upset if I ever logged in and saw that someone got miffed because they thought I'm squatting as they can't see anything in the journal since they're used for communities, and reported it leading to my account being renamed. I would hope the staff would contact me and allow me to explain the current situation going on with said account.

Also, I know several people who registered accounts for games they were in on other servers, and are holding on to them until their cowriters get tired of jumping through the hoops of those other servers and move over. Is it really so bad to hold on to those accounts knowing you will be using them eventually rather than having them taken away because normally the people who whine and complain are the ones who are used to being allowed to trade for profit for good names?

I guess my point is, I feel like there are a million excellent names available here on DW because it's still relatively new. Some people jumped on over the moment you guys opened up and we reserved names we know we will use. I don't think we should have to give those up because someone sees the name and decides, but I want it and it says it will never be for sale, so I'll go report it. If you get a report of someone hoarding names to sell them? Absolutely you should do what you need to do there. But if You see that certain emails have a lot of accounts and out of those accounts a good portion are paid for several months a year, if not all year long, then that should be proof enough that user isn't a hoarder.

I've always respected how you guys have run things here. You've always been really fair, so as someone who falls in the category of having a lot of writing accounts in various states of being used and someone who always pays for some accounts each month to ensure the site I love is being financially supported by me, I'd like to know I'm safe from logging in one day to see my username has been changed to ex-something here because someone complained when they have no idea what my motivation for the account is. Just my two cents.

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[personal profile] seekingferret 2012-04-12 08:18 pm (UTC)(link)
* To prevent username trading and selling (which is not only a violation of the Terms of Service but is a very bad idea because a traded account will never and can never be secured);

I have no opinion in this debate, but this caught my eye and made me nervous. Why is this the case? Surely if one changed the password, the registered email address, and the verification question the old owner wouldn't be able to access the account, right? What am I missing? If anything more than that were required to secure an account, how is a regular, non username-trading user to be confident that their account is secured?
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[personal profile] ashy 2012-04-12 08:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Forgive me if I give the wrong info. But I believe, at least the way it used to be on LJ, the original email associated with the account can always come back and claim they were hacked. I could be wrong, but I saw that happen over there, which is why they always encouraged people not to pass accounts on. Because you never know when someone will decide to take the account back and you could lose what you put in it.

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[personal profile] yvonne 2012-04-12 08:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I would like it if there was an option of "freeing up username" I would free up some of names I have and not use rather than deleting and purging them.
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[personal profile] 0jack 2012-04-12 09:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Like a "surrender name" option, that would let you just rename your account to ex_awesomename_001 the same as if the system did it?

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[personal profile] unsymbolic 2012-04-12 10:16 pm (UTC)(link)
From what I've seen come up in conversations where people reflect on the number of idle accounts that they have and don't have any plans to use, it seems to me that one of the things that happened when many of us migrated here from LJ was a land grab in response to the impression that account creation without invite codes was temporary and only available for a very limited time.

Because of that, it seems that a lot of people rushed to snag as many user names as they could, anticipating that at the end of 2011 their ability to create accounts at will would be limited.

But now that the frenzy has died down (and people see that they're still free to create accounts without invite codes), it also seems that a lot of those people who participated in the names land-grab would willingly self-regulate and that some of them feel rather bad about the excessive number of accounts they're sitting on. (I think at least some of the attempts to give away user names are coming out of a sense of guilt at the glut of names people have but know they aren't going to use.)

So before any other policy is instituted, I would suggest holding a period of amnesty for surrendering horded user names so that they could then be made immediately available to others--a sort of "no harm, no foul" chance for people to help rectify the issue themselves.

I'm sure it's overly optimistic to think the problem would go away, but I think a user name amnesty might turn out to show that the scale of the problem is actually a fair bit smaller than it's looking now, and that might mean that a new site-wide policy doesn't actually have to be instituted at all.
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[personal profile] trageteas 2012-04-13 12:45 am (UTC)(link)
This is a great point and very true in at least my case. I've got several dozen usernames and barely any of them were made when I realized I would have plenty of time to make more later. (And yes, there are some that I'd give up now!)

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[personal profile] biodamped 2012-04-12 10:56 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't have any constructive feedback that hasn't already been mentioned, but I am very pleased to see solutions being considered! And I'm curious as to whether whatever gets put into place for username squatting will affect obviously inactive accounts with "popular" names that might not have been taken in a mass grab. Say for instance, someone has two or three accounts registered from when the site first opened, that have never been updated, never been customised or had icons uploaded, and only have the default DW subscriptions. Will these eventually be deemed inactive and purged, and would it be under the username squatting policy, or just a more general inactive account policy? Two or three empty accounts doesn't look like "squatting" as such, but if they're all variations of one another and all empty from back in the days of closed beta, I don't really know what else I'd call it.

(And yes, I ask mainly because I have a currently unused RP journal that I worry about, but also because there's an empty journal with a username I'd love to rename this journal to, and I'm curious as to whether would ever be purged and how/why.)
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[personal profile] outstretched 2012-04-14 05:31 pm (UTC)(link)
It seems that small instances of older, unused accounts will never be purged, as stated here and here. What they're really concerned about is large-scale username hoarding, not just one or two cases here and there.

(I feel your pain; I am totally distressed that the username I am absolutely pining for will probably never be open to me, and has never even been used, and there's no way to PM them. Sadness.)

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[personal profile] rho 2012-04-12 11:05 pm (UTC)(link)
My own personal intuition on this one is just to let it be and not really do anything. There are two main reasons why I think this.

1. That usernames get taken is just one of the facts of the internet. Highly desirable names are pretty much never going to be available on any service. If they aren't being squatted then someone will snap them up in no time flat. Yes, that means that somebody got the name, but for the majority of users, the result is the same. Further, the bigger the site gets, the less significant the desirable usernames become. The top 100 most desirable usernames are significant when a site has 1000 users, but not when a site has 10,000,000 users.

2. Asshats will always be asshats. No matter what rules you come up with, people absolutely will find a way around them. Yes, you can change the rules if that happens, but that's an arms race which you can't win. To stop people being asshats, you have to shut off every possible avenue of asshattery, whereas they only need to find one way that you haven't shut off. And yes, you could fight this if you chose, but I just don't see it as a big enough problem (see point 1) to warrant throwing the required resources at it.
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[personal profile] boundbooks 2012-04-12 11:32 pm (UTC)(link)
I think I agree with both of these points. Trying to make hard-line rules is going to be difficult and time-consuming, and all to target maybe 12 or so people.

If it's a case of 'I know it when I see it', I'd rather just have DW just go 'I know it when I see it' and just handle those twelve people with human-time resources, since while it's 100s of accounts, it's just a small number of people, and DW could just mass-reset those accounts.

Instead of spending time creating a system that might catch a lot of edge cases (in addition to the few truly blatant name-squatters), maybe focus on small things like gentle disincentives (requiring registration with X days in order to keep the account), slowly capping the number of accounts that can be made at once, a yearly email remind of 'you have registered "boundbooks" at Dreamwidth' and the creation of some way to officially trade/free-up/swap names like was mentioned in this thread.

The creation of an official method to trade is time-consuming, but it would be time spent creating something constructive and valuable for the site, which would have a lot of utility for users, especially RPers, and really add to the site's functionality and services. :)

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[personal profile] bequeath 2012-04-12 11:09 pm (UTC)(link)
The trading and selling of usernames is prohibited by the ToS - but what if someone got excited by the hype of moving from livejournal to dreamwidth and the possibility of open usernames that were either a.) taken and unused on livejournal, b.) purged on livejournal, c.) simply unavailable, used at one point, but inactive for a very long period of time on livejouranl, but is willing to simply give them up without purging and deleting them? I know that a large number of people in the roleplaying community - not just a select few, and myself included - simply jumped on the site and the open registration (although I'd had several paid accounts beforehand and have like sixty invite codes sitting around anyway), and got... well. Way too excited. Some usernames can be repurposed (and have been), some can't - but what if these people realize their error and are willing to give the accounts up? Not trade them, not sell them, just... Avoid putting someone through a name change process while still providing public access to the username again?

Also, with that being said, will these problems be handled on an account-to-account basis? Say, someone has several active journals (with at least two or three being paid), but also several inactive journals - will the individual receive punishment at large? Or will it simply be the account that is ... seized, or whatever you guys eventually plan to do with them? I ask this because I know that I, as well as other people, have just as many (if not more) active usernames as inactive, even when there are multiples for the same character.

I definitely don't have hundreds of accounts ( I DON'T THINK ANYWAY ), but I do have (regrettably) a few multiples - some empty - for a couple of characters. After the rush, though, it was a thing I felt regret for and something I personally want to rectify - and I'm sure there are also a number of roleplayers who had the same hype and feel the same. How would you handle cases like this?

All that being asked instead of offering a suggestion, I definitely second this suggestion, as well as this suggestion - options to give people an official, ToS-friendly way of surrendering, trading, or otherwise making available the usernames they've taken and left unused and have no intention to use.
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[personal profile] boundbooks 2012-04-12 11:22 pm (UTC)(link)
I think that this is a really interesting point.

Dealing with these kind of 'no ill intent' ToS violations is actually a pretty valuable service, and one where pretty much everyone on the entire site could benefit.

"options to give people an official, ToS-friendly way of surrendering, trading, or otherwise making available the usernames they've taken and left unused and have no intention to use."

I think it could really help set Dreamwidth apart, in terms of services provided, and also make the community stronger by encouraging friendly interaction and sharing/'passing on' of usernames, with appropriate ex_username123-style naming.

It would also help improve account security, by letting people have a way to pass on usernames (which is a practice that will never fully stop) by making it official, rather than driving it underground.

It would also help strip out the money aspect, because anyone offering usernames for sale instead of offering to go via the official surrendering process would immediately set off red-flags as someone looking to keep the original account, in the long-run.

Which isn't to say that off-site transactions or selling couldn't happen, but I think that just having an official surrender option makes alternatives involving cash much more shadier, instead of the current swapping which is all TOS violations.

I guess the best bet would be creating a culture where anyone offering to sell a username was kind of hilarious and sketchy, because the official alternatives are incredibly easy and transparent.
Edited 2012-04-12 23:42 (UTC)

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[personal profile] ardath_rekha 2012-04-12 11:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Hmmmm. I might possibly be one of the "offenders" in the sense that I made a lot of accounts (almost all of them RP accounts -- there are 85 of those signed up to my [community profile] dance_puppet_dance musebox) and then went silent and haven't really used them much, thanks to college taking over my life and sucking away all of my energy. However, in most cases, the accounts are duplicates of ones I had on LJ and/or IJ, and I moved in their content and/or copied over their comments (as much as I was able to, given the technical problems with claiming comments from IJ accounts with underscores) from those source sites. I have a few where I got "omg this would be such a great character for Game X" or "omg this would be such a great game idea" and enthusiastically made a journal before reality set back in and I realized that I still wasn't going to have time to play much until I get my degree. Some others have materials elsewhere that still have to be moved into their journal spaces, but I ran out of time before the spring semester took over my life again. There's maybe one account I may just dump in the future, but the rest are meaningful to me -- and have very meaningful names to me -- and I'd rather not lose them just because I'm short on time/energy for the next year or so.

If there is going to be a situation where journals' post/comment counts are being counted to determine whether or not a journal is legitimate or being hoarded, we really need to have the comment counts from the journals we claimed via OpenID counted and visible on the claiming journal's user info page. Because in several cases, what I was doing was moving over old RP journals, along with the games that they were part of, for the sake of posterity (because I don't really trust either LJ or IJ to maintain such things for posterity after a friend of mine got burned both places). A journal that seems to have posted zero comments might, in fact, have claimed hundreds of them via OpenID, and it's just not showing on their user page. I just checked to verify that that's still the case, and it definitely is, or [personal profile] puppy_shivalot would have "78 comments posted" in its profile information. I think that a lot of the allegedly-empty accounts people are haggling over might actually have similar issues, because a whole lot of us were racing to copy over our LJ content in December and January just in case it was about to be deleted forever, even if we had no future plans to use the accounts in question. An account with no posts in its own journal could still be connected to hundreds or thousands of comments in an imported (but inactive) game, and would still look empty and squatted-on to a passerby who covets the name. So right now, user info is not an accurate reflection of journal use.

The thing is, I think there we may actually need to have some kind of way of arranging to give an existing account to a specific person without it breaking the site rules. Because in a lot of cases, I still want to play the characters/make the games that I've left inactive, and so the only reason I'm going to feel comfortable/happy surrendering the journal is if a specific person has approached me and (politely!) expressed interest in having it, and I have a way of ensuring that that specific person, and no one else, gets it. Otherwise, I'm just going to be inclined to save the journal for a future rainy day of my own. I'm definitely not interested in selling journals, but I've often given people journal accounts in the past, on LJ, when I tired of playing a character and there was someone else who wanted to take up that character, back story and all, and keep going. That happened at least twice on LJ, generally with characters that had been created for a very specific storyline, where the posts in the journal contained the game histories of other characters, and especially where I really didn't think I'd ever play the character again, anyway. It just seemed like the right thing to do to give those journals to someone who was still involved in the game and had a vested interest in keeping the character and storylines going. I'd really like to have a way to do that in the future, if such a situation arises again, without breaking the rules (and I only just now realized that I would be breaking rules if I did such a thing here, eee).

I like the idea of account creation limits over a certain time period being imposed. (Heck, before invite codes were turned off in December and I brought all the rest of my RP characters over, I'd been making one or two accounts here and there, a bit at a time, for quite a while as I acquired enough invite codes. It did make sure I prioritized who/what I brought over.) I'd also be fine if invite codes got turned back on, because generally speaking it's seemed to me that when a large group or a person with a lot of accounts has come to DW, people have helped them get enough codes for what they need to do, and that interaction might actually be really good for fostering a stronger community spirit in newcomers. When a Good Samaritan (or several) has just given you some invite codes and welcomed you on board, you're more likely to branch out and explore the rest of the site and all these cool, friendly new people you've met than you might be if you and your existing circle of friends signed up for accounts without talking to anybody but each other about it. It just seems to me that invite codes are good for a site like DW. Whatever the case, though, I hope that anyone who's about to have their account closed or their username changed (if either of those two options end up getting used) will have some kind of due process and a chance to defend their claim on a name/account before it's actually taken from them. Without that, DW wouldn't be DW anymore.
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[personal profile] pocketmouse 2012-04-12 11:57 pm (UTC)(link)
I think it's got to be a case-by-case basis when reported by users, and it'll have to be someone in a volunteer position who researches just that.
Edited 2012-04-12 23:58 (UTC)
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[personal profile] unlosing 2012-04-13 12:03 am (UTC)(link)
My question is this: Will offenders be informed when this is happening, or will they look one day and see the account is one they can't get into? Like how, when LJ was purging accounts, you got an e-mail and were told how to deal with it.

I'm a roleplayer myself, but unfortunately, I've been in something of a slump lately - mostly, I'm trying to find a game that matches me and how I like to play and all. Not the end of the world, but it means I've got nowhere to really use my journals right now. That doesn't mean I don't want to, or that I don't plan to, use the accounts I do have, because I've got accounts that I do intend to use someday - even if all I've got in them is a name and maybe some icons in a few at the moment.

I suppose, basically, for the offenders who aren't meaning to offend, could there possibly be some kind of system to say "yes I do in fact want to really use this account" or... something? And, on the flipside, if name freeing up does become available, via the manual renaming or whatnot, will that become an option to people to use themselves as well?

For instance, if Player X were to have accounts that they know they weren't going to use and ones they knew they were, could they go through ones they didn't feel like they needed and free them up?
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[personal profile] immolate 2012-04-13 01:10 am (UTC)(link)
Denise did say here that there would be contact before any accounts are shut down.
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[personal profile] xoxomarina 2012-04-13 12:08 am (UTC)(link)
I agree with previous comments of limiting how many new accounts someone can create in X amount of time, or even better, implementing the need for an invite code to create more accounts after you've already created X amount of accounts. I feel like the only way to tackle this problem is to begin controlling it and preventing it from getting worse.

As for how to handle the squatted accounts already created, I have no idea what the best recourse would be. It's tough to make the call as to which account is legitimate, and which one is clearly being hoarded. But I'd say some possible red flags for hoarding include a journal with no icons uploaded, no comments made or received, and no journal entries ever posted. I feel like if an account falls into those criteria and it was opened over a year ago, having never been updated, then the account owner(s) should be contacted about this.

I really like and agree with the idea of you guys renaming those journals into "ex_journal123" for the sake of freeing up the desirable user name, rather than deleting and purging the account. It's better to have the user names available for creation for free rather than having to pay for a rename token after waiting for the name to be purged.

That's just my $0.02 on the matter. Hopefully people stop being so greedy about this because it's unfair to the DW community as a whole!
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[personal profile] ballpoint 2012-04-13 12:27 am (UTC)(link)
How would you treat accounts that were registered in 2009, when DW first opened and people registered names out of curiosity of the site, added friends, and then never did anything else and abandoned the account?
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[personal profile] aedifica 2012-04-13 01:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I know a couple of those people personally, who haven't so much abandoned the accounts as they're waiting for critical mass of their friends list to be on Dreamwidth. Not saying that's a useful way for them to go about it, but I do think it's fairly common.

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[personal profile] msilverstar 2012-04-13 03:33 am (UTC)(link)
Maybe part of the solution is to make the rename token cheaper, so people are less tempted to trade or sell them?
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[personal profile] yvonne 2012-04-13 12:15 pm (UTC)(link)
as I remember renaming accounts is a hard process and it costs so much to not make it a usual thing for people to just rename all the time. actually, I don't know how to explain properly, haha.
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[personal profile] feline_scribe 2012-04-13 01:55 pm (UTC)(link)
I think both of these are good options:
- * We can put in some kind of technical restrictions on account creation, trying to limit how many accounts someone can register per week/month/whatever.
- * We can implement some kind of technical restriction on account creation that kicks in after you have a certain number of accounts registered somehow -- either a blanket "after you have X accounts registered, you can only make Y accounts per week/month/whatever", or something that we can enable for specific people who we think are abusing open account registration.

That said, I also kind of wonder if it wouldn't be better to go back to the invite code system. Large communities or groups trying to relocate to DW always had the option of contacting the good folks here at DW for a block of invite codes if needed, and the official DW code sharing community was there to provide codes to people who wanted them.

It just seems that having open account creation (vs the invite code system), is a bit of a catch-22. Sure, it encourages more people to make journals here. BUT, how many of those folks who make accounts now that they don't need codes actually use the journals or are active in other ways on the site?

Previously, by either having to hunt for a code, or pay for a paid account, it took a little effort (and just a little) to get your DW journal. And that gave spammers, squatters, and bored "looky-loos" (my term for people who make a journal to look around for a week or two, and then abandon DW never to return again) think twice about going to the trouble.

Or, perhaps a different option would be some sort of timed request system. I.e., if you want to create a journal, you submit your email address, and after a certain period of time, you are emailed an invite code. And the system will only send so many invite codes to each email address. (I have no knowledge of coding or site design, so I don't know how much of a headache that would be.) And of course, if someone is really determined, they'll just set up a ton of email addresses. It's that old thing: build a better mousetrap, and the mice just get smarter and find ways around it.

I adore DW, and don't want to see go the way some other sites have. So, any solution you all implement that makes the site better is ok by me. :-)
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[personal profile] 0jack 2012-04-13 02:13 pm (UTC)(link)
I really like the invite code system too. I would not be unhappy going back to it and give the effort most people who want to participate will go to just making icons and setting up their info page, getting an invite code from the donation community is hardly a bump in the road.

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[personal profile] kyrielle 2012-04-13 02:44 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm not sure what a good solution is, but I have a few thoughts after reading your post (and, alas, not the comments yet):

1) Community disapproval won't affect most squatters, because *they won't care*. The ones who are grabbing the name "just in case I ever want to use it" will do so, not notice/mind the disapproval because they're not using the service, and then later if they try to use the service maybe (at most) get shunned off it so even if they do want to use it instead of squatting, they can't comfortably do so.

The ones who are selling - that's even worse, because the shunning will only matter to the buyer, *who may or may not have understood what was wrong in what they did* depending on what research they did about Dreamwidth before buying. And honestly, they may just be totally desperate besides. At most, community shunning would convince them Dreamwidth is a bad place and/or they shouldn't have grabbed the account, causing them to...abandon the account. (Heck, if the seller notices and is clever, they could retrieve it and sell it again.)

It'll make Dreamwidth uninviting to a few potential-but-unlikely users, but it won't help with actual abusers or people who mean well but won't use the account, because it has no impact on them.

2) Provide automated notices to people based on activity. This won't take care of those acting in bad faith at all, but it will help the folks who are clueless but have good (or at least neutral), intentions. The two I'd suggest (which can be *automated*):

a) After X weeks with the account being registered but not posting, commenting, or being imported to, send an email to the email address commenting that they don't seem to be using the account, and there's no requirement that they do so, but that if they determine they *won't* use it in the reasonably near future could they consider deleting/relinquishing for someone else, and including info on the no-squatting policy and that transferred accounts can't ever be secure (and why).

b) Any time someone changes the email address on an account, in the validation email, include a "By the way, if this is a normal email change fine, but if you acquired this account from someone else it cannot ever be secure and violates our terms-of-service. Please go read this FAQ/guide/whatever over here." (Only, you know, phrased like a professional would phrase it. Or at least someone more coherent. Heh.) And possibly suggest reporting the situation if they think it is warranted.
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[personal profile] kyrielle 2012-04-13 02:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh. Consider whether it would, technically and by load, be possible to provide an on-deletion option that says "also rename to a junk name to fully yield the name" (ala the current manual solution #1). It could be offered only when the account being deleted has less than X posts and Y comments total (where X and Y would presumably be picked as much for 'what will the load on the system be' as anything else). There'd have to be a confirmation because once you do it, the only way back would be a rename token, and you'd have to pay for it. (Or maybe "queue" it for Z hours/days during which they can cancel if they change their mind?)

It could rename-(change password?-)delete too, and be listed as such, so that it's understood to be a full purge.

Just deleting means the name is only available for renaming, so a tool to improve that would be great. Contacting people to determine their intent and *offering that tool* might take care of some instances with no one feeling they were "accused" of anything (because they weren't).

It won't help with the folks who genuinely mean to gather and sell names or are otherwise malicious, but it seems like it might help with some of the other instances.

Also, put notices about the "don't resell" and "don't squat" policies on the account creation page. They're not there. And on the main page, if invite codes *are* gone and *are staying* gone for the foreseeable future, remove the whole "For a limited time" bit which may still foster a feeling of scarcity in people who don't even know what an invite code is, how easy it was to get one, etc. It may encourage them to grab "as much as I can" of what they might want while they can.

I guess what I'm getting at here is, the bad actors, that's hard to solve. But how many tools can we provide to well-intentioned people who have these extra accounts they don't need, to help rectify things? Or avoid creating the situation in the first place?
Edited (Added everything after the first paragraph, and talked way too much) 2012-04-13 15:03 (UTC)
darksilverhawk: Taingong Wang from Warriors Orochi (Taigong Wang)

[personal profile] darksilverhawk 2012-04-13 02:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I like the idea of limiting the number of accounts that can be created in a day/week/period of time. It probably wouldn't make a huge difference to the hard-core squatters, but it could help with the situation a lot of people are talking about where they instinctively grab a username as soon as they think of it because they think they might eventually play the character. Instead of allowing people to register a bajillion accounts all at once because they think they might use them, it might give people some time to step back and think "Am I really going to ever use this username?" If they still want it I feel like there is a better chance of it getting used, rather than if it was created on impulse and then forgotten about. I'm sure there are legitimate to need to create a ton of accounts at once, but I feel like most of those could be spread out over a period of time, since large scale games take a while to get set up. (disclaimer: this is all pure speculation as I don't know how most RPers brains work. However, as someone in the process of setting up a multi-comm land-style game I did run up against the community creation limit recently and was not terribly inconvenienced by it.)

I also really like the idea of one free rename to archive an account and free up the name for others to use, though I'm not sure how much work that would involve on your end and whether it would be cost intensive (renames cost money for a reason, as I understand it.)
brightwing: (Moomba - Best FF Creature Ever)

[personal profile] brightwing 2012-04-13 04:22 pm (UTC)(link)
re: Trading and Selling: Personally, I think the best way to go is to have an official venue for trading/giving away usernames.

The main issues with transferring usernames is 1. that you can't be sure of the stability of the trade and 2. people charging for them.

Asking that people stop trading/giving/selling usernames will not work. Like already mentioned, usernames are a commodity in this community. They have value, and never lose them. Let me use a site that I used to visit when I was younger that I'm sure quite a few people will recognize as an example.


Way back when, Neopets had a massive problem with people trading pets. There were many problems with this: there was no way to guarantee that someone will get the pet because the only method of doing so was to abandon it and put it up for grabs and hope that the person receiving it would be the one to get it. Since most pets that were put up for adoption were common, basic pets with bad names like pet_38298532, the high value ones would be gone very quickly. The problem is in Neopets, your pet is everything. Despite trading being against the ToS and being a bannable offense, people still did it. En masse. People wanted to trade and give pets to other people and there was nothing the staff could say or do to stop it.

So eventually the administration made an official way to send pets to other users. And with this safe and secure way to transfer ownership of pets, less people got scammed for their pets, transfers went smoothly without worrying someone else would get it first. Pet selling continued to be a problem, but the value in pets as a sellable commodity went way down because it became easier to give pets to another user.

I think DW needs something like that. Because people will not stop trading/giving accounts. No matter how many times you tell them not to, because here, usernames are the equivalent of Neopet's pets. An official ownership transferral system will solve the security problem, which is the main issue here. Sadly, I don't think there's anything you can do about selling other than punish those you catch doing it, so you should be vigilant about making sure that selling is not an attractive thing to do. But DW users tend to be quite generous, and if there's a safe and secure way to get an account name from someone else, people will start using it, and people will be a lot less willing to pay for a username if they can get an equally nice one from someone else for free.
xoxomarina: (Default)

[personal profile] xoxomarina 2012-04-13 10:09 pm (UTC)(link)
I agree with this. If there were an easier and more secure way to do this, people wouldn't resort to hoarding/squatting and selling so much. :/

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vlion: A clip of my public key (gpg)

[personal profile] vlion 2012-04-14 02:36 am (UTC)(link)
It seems to me that the key abusers are going to be the 'bad actors'. The spammers, the professional abusers. They don't have a 'legit' use of the service.

I suggest some hand-wavy modification of the ToS, saying something along the lines of "Obtaining or holding accounts for the purpose of spamming,hoarding, trading, or selling is prohibited and, subject to discretion, entities performing such actions will be banned and the accounts released". Then, add a prominent 'Release Username' facility so that people who have done a land-grab unintentionally can easy drop the names.

I rather suspect that the DW crew could run a query on the database, find the top 5% and identify the bad actors by hand, and then deal with them directly in a more forceful way. "Dude, you have every permutation of Darth Vader in existence, you're just jacking around. Drop it, bro, or get banned and deleted".
crosspistols: (Blurgh)

[personal profile] crosspistols 2012-04-14 04:29 am (UTC)(link)
* We can implement some kind of technical restriction on account creation that kicks in after you have a certain number of accounts registered somehow -- either a blanket "after you have X accounts registered, you can only make Y accounts per week/month/whatever", or something that we can enable for specific people who we think are abusing open account registration. The advantage to this (and to the previous bullet point) is that they're relatively hands-off and don't need much attention from us; the disadvantage is that it might start an "arms race" of people trying to work around the restrictions, and it doesn't do anything to handle cases where someone already has an extremely high number of accounts registered.

I like this idea the best. I have multiple accounts myself but I've found that the ones I don't need or think I may not use I just delete and free it up for someone else. No matter how you cap it or place restrictions on it people will always find a way around it to cheat the system. It might be worth putting a cap on how many accounts can be registered to a single e-mail address (but even then many people add instead of just Though purging inactive accounts might not clear most of them away but it will clear an amount (which is better than nothing). Really, I think it would be better if DW returned to invite code only. Even though most of the damage for namesquatting was already done between Dec 21st to Jan 1st. (Most accounts I know of where registered on the 22nd Dec).

It's one of those things that's really difficult to say and be fair about.
mmejavert: (Default)

[personal profile] mmejavert 2012-04-15 05:12 am (UTC)(link)
As far as account creation, you could make a threshold based on free/paid user accounts. Such as a maximum of five free user accounts per month/year per e-mail address. This would deter more casual squatters since it's work to maintain a lot of e-mail addresses and I doubt people would want to pay for an account just to squat usernames. It would not deter serious users who want to have 10 different rp journals because in my experience a lot of serious users with multiple journals do tend to have paid accounts on some of them.

My personal favourite of your options for the squatters is to manually rename. However, I can understand not wanting to implement this since it takes so much work. I think what it would do is keep the journal content of legitimate users and just deter people who want the name for the name and nothing more. If there was a way to lower your amount of work, would it be more attractive to you? (Or if you could get volunteers to help you with it like the anti-spam team?) I'm still just a beginner in web coding so I honestly don't know yet exactly how much work/time this would be, but from a personal standpoint I can't say I'd be bothered by having my username changed slightly especially if I had 50 other usernames... unless I was planning on selling/trading that particular name.

Speaking for myself, if you decided after a certain period that any journal of mine I haven't posted in yet would be declared inactive and the username freed, I would only view it as a slight inconvenience. I have three free accounts, the third being recently created and currently empty, but if I continued to leave it empty I would not be surprised or upset to see it get deleted so someone else could have the username. I can't speak for anyone else, but I also would have a hard time understanding why someone would get upset over a journal they haven't used/posted in getting deleted to free the username.

People do a LOT of URL hoarding on tumblr and, quite frankly, it's one of my pet peeves. So I am very glad to see you guys taking it seriously.

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