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Yesterday I saw a proposed edit by "gutto" to a question asked by "guto". I rejected the edit with a note saying he should use the same account to edit as he did to write the question. He wouldn't need anyone's approval to edit his own question anyway. Also, having the same user speak from different accounts causes confusion.

I thought multiple accounts where against the rules, or at least discouraged, and I know mods can merge accounts (I learned this when a particular user that is now in the penalty box for a long time kept creating "sock puppett" accounts, and I heard mods talk about "merging" them to his real account. See fourth comment down by Kortuk.). This guy managed to get his edit thru with the second account anyway, so I flagged it for moderator attention figuring a merge was in order and perhaps a warning to the guy to not create multiple accounts in the future. However, my flag was declined with the cryptic note "Ask in meta about it for more feedback, but it can actually be very hard to recover an account if they loose it. The process is not obvious and I can no longer just merge for them. Do not reject edits".

Now I'm really confused. That note raises more questions than it answers. Something changed recently so that mods can't merge accounts as before? What can they do? When is it appropriate? What really is the policy on multiple accounts? Isn't having the same user, particularly in the same question, using multiple accounts a bad thing? What is meant by recovering a account if someone looses it? What do you mean "loose" it anyway? Note that the edit with the second account was only about 9 hours after the question, so the original couldn't have been considered inactive or something. What is meant by flat out "Do not reject edits"? Isn't that what the edit queue is for? If we're never supposed to reject one, what's the point of having us review edits?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have a really short limit on giving you feedback on that, and I have to turn down the flag to give feedback, which I also dislike doing. Often we will not correct a rare bad behavior to avoid telling someone that their flags are bad because people can be very very sensitive to that. And ha, I meant lose* not loose. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 10 '13 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: I wasn't trying to be picky about the spelling. I meant how can a account get lost? They don't just go away, at least not within 9 hours of last use, right? I'm missing something. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 10 '13 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ still, I am embarrassed I had that error, must be loosing my mind. If they are using internet cafes, which is very common in large fractions of the world they may have changed computers. They may have been using their home computer and wiped cookies on their browser, I am sure there are 100 ways you could lose your browser cookie. If you lose OPENID it is easy, but if you are using browser cookies it is really really easy to lose your account. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 10 '13 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: I use SE from several different machines, at least 3 routinely. Sometimes I have to log in again. That's a minor annoyance but no big deal. You are definitely not limited to using a account from a single machine. You don't need existing cookies to log in, only to automatically keep you logged in. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 10 '13 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ you have an OPENID account then, the cookie keeps you logged in. Users can log in with a cookie only, nothing else identifying them, if they loose that cookie their account is gone. We had a few active users years ago that only used the site that way and I had to merge so they had the same account at work at home, no idea why they made that choice. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 10 '13 at 15:47
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Mods can not merge accounts anymore

We lost this right because if we merge accounts, incorrect, we can give someone private information about the other. This is a privacy violation, so merge now must go through a more standard channel. You must use the Merge Function under Help. Take a read through the procedure, it is not very quick, especially for those using browser cookies.

We can still do other things, in relation to the link where I talk about dealing with Tony we just destroy all the accounts, instead of merging it back to his account, so you wont be able to tell who was a random user and who was Tony in 6 months, but his content is still deleted.

Want multiple accounts?

You can have as many accounts as you want, I have had an SE employee suggest I get a couple others and use the site from them occasionally so that I know how it looks and feels to others. For a long time I thought that everyone could go back and edit comments indefinitely... Many issues like that arise.

A user can have multiple accounts, what you were seeing was probably symptomatic of someone having an account based on a browser cookie and loosing the ability to access that account and having to make a new one.

We have an issue if your sock puppets are voting for you and you are voting for them, then it is vote fraud. We also have an issue if you are creating multiple accounts to get around an existing question ban or suspension.

Do not reject edits...

if it is from the same user trying to update their question (I hit the character limit with 0 characters left at the end of that sentence). Of anyone, that use has the most rights to edit their question. For all you know they have contacted SE via email for a merge and are waiting for it, but they don't want to leave a crap question on the site and are trying to improve it.

You can reject edits for the normal reasons, but seeing that a user has more then one account is not one of them, previously when I would see this appear I would just fix it, but that is no longer an option, so cut the user some slack.

There is no damage done by this, it might look a bit odd, but who cares, most people pay no attention to edits. We just want the best quality answer we can have.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, that explains a lot. Sorry, I wasn't trying to do something bad or annoy any mods. I really thought you could just merge two accounts together, which would have been appropriate in this case. As for edits by the same user, that's fine, but the point was this wasn't the same user. When someone speaks as "I" in a question, it should only be the original user. In this case you could tell it was probably the same person, but without it being the same account you don't really know. I still think two accounts in the same question by the same user is bad all around. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 10 '13 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop Was not annoyed, I just did not know a way to give you feedback easily minus that message \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Mar 10 '13 at 17:31

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