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!
mark: A photo of Mark kneeling on top of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines. It was a long hike. (Default)

[staff profile] mark 2012-04-11 10:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for taking point on this!

To the community: this is something tough and hard for any site to handle. Coming up with a solution that makes everybody happy is probably impossible, but I hope that we can come up with something that works well for the community as a whole.

Thanks for your input. I look forward to reading it!
phagocytosis: photocons (ˢʰᶫᵒᵖˢʰᶫᵒᵖ)

[personal profile] phagocytosis 2012-04-11 10:57 pm (UTC)(link)
I personally don't really care about username squatting, but I can definitely see how it would be annoying!

The only thing I'd like to point out is that it does seem somewhat unfair to me to create a rule and implement it after the fact. The feeling of unfairness sort of lies in punishing those who do have a lot of usernames that were created before there was ever 1) a voiced problem with it particularly enough to warrant DW's attention or 2) basic guidelines for them to follow. If that makes sense?

However, total respect for you guys even having the discussion in the first place!
cerebel: (Default)

[personal profile] cerebel 2012-04-11 11:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I really appreciate you guys taking the time to outline a lot of different issues involved with this. You're right; it's the kind of thing that's relatively easy to point at and say "yup, that's hoarding" but difficult to define in words.

I do have one suggestion that might be helpful: you could tie it to icons. Someone who registers a hundred usernames for a particular character, or who's sitting on three hundred various usernames for no particular character, probably hasn't uploaded any icons to those accounts. They're looking to grab as many usernames as possible, not set up as many character journals as possible -- obviously, this would let the minor hoarding slide, but would be a good sign of major hoarding.

Again, thanks for taking the time to discuss this!
brighthearted: (Default)

[personal profile] brighthearted 2012-04-11 11:04 pm (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 think i like this best - sets a limit without too many invasive restrictions. course, people could just make multiple dummy email accounts, but you can't stop everything.

i am still concerned about the (literally) hundreds of names that have already been taken and are being squatted on as is though. but that's so much harder to come up with a fair solution for.
cerebel: (Default)

[personal profile] cerebel 2012-04-11 11:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Also, further question (and I believe both answers are valid): Are you looking for wording/guidelines that allow you to act how you believe you should, or are you looking for guidelines that mean you don't have to spend as much time on research to investigate hoarding accounts?
phagocytosis: fistfuloficons (ᵃʳᵉ ᶫᵃᵐᵇˢ ᵃˢᶫᵉᵉᵖ)

[personal profile] phagocytosis 2012-04-11 11:20 pm (UTC)(link)
That makes total sense! And yeah, it's very true, a lot of people more-so came over particularly after the LJ drama - obviously. Eitherway, that's really the only thing I wanted to bring up! I am okay with future regulation, my only point is harsh penalization for previous actions churn a little uneasy to me. That said, if there was a way to downregulate the amount of usernames people have, the people themselves could be contacted to trim down their list to a more reasonable amount of numbers as a warning system, as well - I think a lot of people would be willing to give up the usernames they were excited to grab if they know it's bothering people and the DW staff.

Overall, I definitely like the option of future regulation in terms of email accounts associated with account creation. Someone already pointed out that people can use fubbed email accounts, but if it becomes a huge issue, a lot of the time similar accounts are associated with a musebox, so on and so forth.
thekidsare0kay: (2mile)

[personal profile] thekidsare0kay 2012-04-11 11:23 pm (UTC)(link)
What if you implemented a system whereby it automatically locks you out after signing up for a certain number of accounts (possibly a relatively low number) within a certain period of time, but that you have the option of requesting a special invite code that would permit you to do another bunch.

This would allow people who are registering a tonne of them for a particular project to just let you know what they want it for, and get clearance, but doesn't prevent people from slowly accumulating lots of accounts over a long period of time.

And people who consistently request a lot of them but then squat could be redflagged as people who are probably squatting.

I also wonder if there's any way to redflag a transfer of a username automatically, in order to catch people who are username trading? Probably it would be tied to a change of email, which probably happens a lot more than it would be feasible to investigate, but I just thought I'd ask.
lollobrigida: (TW = Jack Clueless)

[personal profile] lollobrigida 2012-04-11 11:24 pm (UTC)(link)
While I do appreciate that you are looking into it, and I do agree that there are certain individuals that I'm sure have far too many names - this is all coming up after all the other comments that have been made about how DW would never revoke an account.

Granted, I'm sure notifications would be put into place so someone wouldn't have a username snaked out from under them, but it still seems like an issue that is far too complex to just set a standard rule down.

Requesting that people trim their username lists down, possibly approaching those with large lists and asking them to set some accounts to delete so that you can purge those, with their permission, and open up the names to others without a fee, or even limiting people after a certain # of accounts are created seems a far better option than trying to figure out who is using what for what and how often.

I know that there are accounts that don't seem active that don't even have validated email addresses, since I have tried to PM the owner of some of them asking if they would be willing to delete the account so that I could rename one of mine, but you can't PM anyone without a validated email.

I also know that for a lot of RPers your username is what identifies you. There are cases where you can have your username and then someone takes the same name but places an underscore into it. It's a very tricky situation and our usernames and ownership of them is something a lot of us really pride ourselves on. Creating a name and then creating the variation with the underscore could also be seen as "hoarding" but for us, it's a matter of not wanting to be mis-identified as someone else.

I have created back-ups for archiving and for claiming OpenID accounts so that imported comments match up. I have taken names that I had wanted but were too long for LJ standards, and I try to utilize what I have before I make more, but there is always going to be an instance - especially in RP circles - where you're just going to want to play someone new.

Putting limits on how long an account is active, how active it is - that's where the trouble comes in.

Considering how supportive DW is of the RP community and how much we all talk about how great you guys are and how much we appreciate all you do, I would have thought just asking those people with lots of accounts if they could stop making them or to delete X number of them or something -- that they wouldn't deceive you and try to claim they plan on using them. That's possibly wishful thinking, too, but it still stands that we ask you guys all the time for things - so why not ask those users to help you guys out?
wehappyfew: © 𝒸𝒽𝓇𝑜𝓂𝑒𝓇𝒶𝒾𝓃𝒷𝑜𝓌 | band of brothers. (❅ i'm just a love machine)

[personal profile] wehappyfew 2012-04-11 11:32 pm (UTC)(link)
I will fully admit to having a lot of usernames/journals made within the short time I've been on dw (and this post is making me think about going through and deleting some so they can be used without the issue of trading) I just have a lot of characters that I want to play someday and think of awesome usernames that are available.

That said, my biggest issue with username hoarding is when someone creates 5+ usernames for one character and isn't planning on using them. Like you said in the post: it's one thing if they play that character in a couple different places and have to use different journals for each place. It's another thing if they just wanted to create that many so they could take all of the possibly awesome usernames for one character in a Highlandering type of mindset.

It definitely is a tricky situation, especially since people can use variations of e-mail addresses (which most people do in order to do labeling via gmail, myself included) because - as far as I know - you guys can't really keep track of e-mails attached to accounts if they have the +username thing added to them.

BASICALLY I have no idea how to fix this, am guilty of it myself to an extent, and hope that you guys can find a solution for this because it can be really frustrating. And I'm glad you're trying to tackle it.

And now I'm going to go through my usernames and see which ones I can free up for others to snag.
mugler: ([SKATING] weir ✘ b&w)

[personal profile] mugler 2012-04-11 11:36 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you guys for taking the time to discuss this with us or try to find a solution. There are a handful of people I've seen with over hundreds of usernames, sitting unused and it's really not fair to those of us who would be putting them to use.

I'm not sure what the best way prevent it from in the future is, but one thing I wanted to comment on is where the squatted names would go. I really don't think it's fair to just purge them and throw them up for renaming since most of them weren't even being used in the first place. $15 might not sound like a lot, but for a username I know to a lot of people it is. I've bought maybe three renames in all my years previously using LJ, 2 as gifts and the biggest/most significant one was for my personal journal after years of the same name and serious consideration.

These usernames don't really have the same status, if that makes sense. And I think for most RPers, spending $15 on a bunch of great names that were hogged by squatters unfairly is almost like punishing or putting part of that penalty on them in a monetary sense. Most of us love DW and how great you guys are--I'm always willing to buy paids and will be interested in legitimate renames if and when the time comes. But to make a username that really has nothing in it and doesn't technically "belong" to anyone because it isn't being used and is just part of a hoarded collection more than half the price of a premium account seems drastic.

My two cents is that squatters with public lists should continue to be reported, maybe some sort of limit for the number of usernames registered in a week or month period for everyone (I'm not sure if you are able to do that by IP address rather than email since people might just make multiples). Those who have been reported and clearly have hundreds of names with no use could have them taken away and reopened for registration by others. I feel like having the names taken away is a punishment in and of itself for the squatters, but perhaps some sort of temporary ban on their registering usernames could be an added restriction as well.

I'm not sure how the nuts and bolts of some of this stuff works or if it's even possible but I thought I'd just offer another opinion since it's a somewhat relevant topic to me as an RPer.

As always thank you guys for being so wonderful and responsive. :)
littlefingering: (Default)

[personal profile] littlefingering 2012-04-11 11:38 pm (UTC)(link)
i will preface this with the fact that my entire opinion comes from the roleplay side of this so it might not reflect the overall opinion of all (especially those who don't generally need but one or two sns) and my primary concern is the purging aspect, as i don't really know what exactly i agree with myself with what you've listed as options here. so here it is!

i think one problem i have with force purging or making purging the only option is that if a majority of usernames get set to being $15 a pop, they'll be just as long gone as if they were squatted. i know isn't that much in the long run but for me, i guess the way i think about it is that's like 10 bucks away for 6 months of a premium account. does that make sense? the reason i've seen people trading names between each other is because it's free.

in essence, i think you're locking down those screenames just as much as squatters have by forcing them pay-to-have. and i use forcing only because that seems to be the only viable option as you guys aren't for trading (though i recognize your reasons for this are completely valid).

now, if you were to drop the cost of renames or go back to an invite code only system (where essentially if you bought a paid account for 3 dollars, you got your sn), i'd be more for that myself. otherwise i just really feel like people won't feel inclined to pay.

i want to end this by saying i'm in no way suggesting you guys shouldn't get compensation, i'm more than happy and do support you guys whenever the opportunity comes up but those accounts could be used regularly and could be upgraded to paid accounts just as regularly which in my opinion would benefit you more than sitting on a lot of purged sns. as far as a pricing suggestion would go-- insanejournal has renames for $5, which i thought was crazy cheap but incredibly reasonable (though i know they also have less traffic than you guys so that might be why they can get away with that) but i'd even go so far as to say $10, which i feel less apprehension about dropping for just an sn alone.

maybe you can do a package deal where if you rename, 2 months of paid time are added in or something like that-- something to sweeten the pot and make renaming seem a little more worth it as far as the purged stuff goes.
blue_rampion: Arnold Rimmer in a gingham dress, with Mr Flibble, the evil penguin puppet (Mr Flibble)

[personal profile] blue_rampion 2012-04-11 11:39 pm (UTC)(link)
This is definitely a really tricky issue. I know I would personally like to see less name squatting (it happened more so on LJ, but the number of times I've thought up a great username only to find that someone registered it years ago, and never did anything at all with it...), but how to actually stop it...that's a tricky one.

I do like the idea of making a number of restrictions per week/month/whatever. Even for rpers with our large numbers of accounts, I don't think it's too restrictive. You can easily just wait until you can make new journals again, and plan around that. The only trick there would be people moving over from LJ or somewhere else, or in the case of new games starting up that need a number of NPC accounts. For that though, having it kick in after you have a set number already might work better. Although the question for all of this is also how do you track how many accounts people have? If it goes by email, people can easily get around that by using an alternate. And I know all of my accounts have my email set as, so I can use gmail's filtering. Whether or not the system can pick up that they're all actually going to the same email, I don't know.

Something else to consider might also be making it easier to give up an account and then make it freely available. Like, you have to pay for any deleted usernames, which kind of acts as a disincentive if you have a username a friend would like, and you'd be happy to give it to them. The only way to actually do so without making them pay money is by handing over the account's password. It also takes a while for purging to happen (I'm don't know how long exactly), so that also adds to the disincentive. Perhaps having some kind of system that could allow people to legitimately transfer usernames securely - and would allow Dreamwidth to properly regulate it and make sure that no one is asking for money - might help. Either that or remove the cost of taking up a deleted username (although I imagine there must be some reason why a cost is needed for that?)
blue_rampion: A man with a duck on his head shares an ipod with said duck (iDuckman)

[personal profile] blue_rampion 2012-04-11 11:44 pm (UTC)(link)
...Although now it occurs to me that some kind of legitimate system probably wouldn't do anything to stop the mass-squatters, sooooooo maybe that one's not such a good idea.
nicki: (Default)

[personal profile] nicki 2012-04-11 11:49 pm (UTC)(link)
I have a few possible suggestions, though I don't know how workable they might be, as they would take some admin time.

1)(variation on idea 3 or 4) a randomized and changeable account/account creation limit that pops a message that says something like "Hi. You've reached the account creation limit for today/this week/this month/all time. Please contact (whomever) to have your number reset if you need to create more accounts." This would give you a way to take a look at people who exceed their limit(possibly several times) and a way for a legitimate account creator to continue using the site.

2)(variation on 1 and 4) When you get a complaint, freeze the accounts with a notice to contact an admin to discuss unfreezing (Hi, we've noticed that you have 150 unused accounts under the names of popular fandom characters, please contact the administration to unfreeze the accounts, we would love to hear your secret for living your life and still having time to play 150 characters) and then rename if there isn't contact in a certain amount of time.

3)One free rename to rename an account to account_archive (or similar). This could free up popular Role-play account names for use by someone else once a game is done or simply allow someone who is no longer using the site, but doesn't want to delete their account either (or spend extra money on a rename token) to still free up the name for someone else.
myownbestfriend: (I might just have figured something out.)

[personal profile] myownbestfriend 2012-04-11 11:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Adding a rule that says "ignore anything between + and @" wouldn't be too hard. I could do it and I suck at programming.

Anyway, I think getting the word out to the RP community that account trading violates the TOS would help. A lot of people don't realize it, and are offering up accounts they made during the Great R88 Exodus in good faith.
wehappyfew: © 𝒸𝒽𝓇𝑜𝓂𝑒𝓇𝒶𝒾𝓃𝒷𝑜𝓌 | band of brothers. (Default)

[personal profile] wehappyfew 2012-04-11 11:51 pm (UTC)(link)
YOU KNOW that would be lovely because some people forget they even have certain accounts and can't do the e-mail search because of that.

I will definitely be spreading the word!
mark: A photo of Mark kneeling on top of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines. It was a long hike. (Default)

[staff profile] mark 2012-04-11 11:53 pm (UTC)(link)
We probably wouldn't force-purge the names. We'd rename them to something else so that the user still has the account, they're just named something like "ex_23748234" or whatever. I don't want to force purge because they might have some content in some of these situations.

If we did force-rename them, the old name would be immediately available for free.
windykind: (Default)

[personal profile] windykind 2012-04-11 11:53 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm sure there will be an instance where someone thinks up a username on a whim and goes, "I want that one," but then they have some obstacle in the way of creating it -- e.g., not being near a computer. And when they do get near one again, they forget all about it. So even if it doesn't stop the mass squatters, it may do something to lessen the 'casual' people; placing restrictions may cause them to forget about it, and if they couldn't hold on to the idea for as long as it took for them to get back to a computer, then they probably didn't need it in the first place.
blue_rampion: (Elfangor in a top hat)

[personal profile] blue_rampion 2012-04-11 11:58 pm (UTC)(link)
With the RP community, it's not just things like accounts made in the R88 Exodus - you have things like mod accounts, which by nature need to be shared by multiple people, or NPC accounts which might have to change hands because of changes in who's rostered on to play those characters. It's not actually trading, since the original owner hasn't 'given up' the account, but for all intents and purposes it could look a lot like it. (And there is definitely room for abuse - I've known of a few cases where game moderator accounts have been compromised because of a ex-mod.)

Mostly the RP community does just genuinely want to help out and share their usernames if someone asks for them, but there's also quite a few cases of grey area ownership.
blue_rampion: Arnold Rimmer in a gingham dress, with Mr Flibble, the evil penguin puppet (Mr Flibble)

[personal profile] blue_rampion 2012-04-11 11:59 pm (UTC)(link)
...Are you referring to the weekly/monthly/whatever restriction? That I think would actually act as a good deterrent to mass squatters. I was meaning more that a legitimate system of trading might not be so good, since...well, if they picked them up to trade them, they can still do that.
windykind: (Default)

[personal profile] windykind 2012-04-12 12:01 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, sorry, I should have clarified. I was referring to the restriction.
littlefingering: (Default)

[personal profile] littlefingering 2012-04-12 12:03 am (UTC)(link)
thaaaaaat would be amazing! i guess the only thing with that is what if the person in question just registers it again? would you block them from doing that or would they be able to dispute it before someone else picked it up?

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