5

Similar to how authors use pen names, is it ok (does not violate TOS) to create multiple accounts sometimes spanning the same StackExchange site?

The goal here is to psuedo-unlink various questions/answers a user posts. This would be useful for mitigating socially engineering attacks.

For instance, if I say in an InfoSec.sx question that I am a sysadmin and have an addiction to cherry filled danishes in a health.sx post I would like to have two separate accounts to limit the exposure while still maintaining links to all of my asked questions (just compartmentalised) to protect against someone snooping on my profile and showing up the next day at my work with donuts (I realized this is an exaggerated example, but the threat itself remains).

update: Another example on the same site, would be a sysadmin answering 'how best to secure wifi' while also asking 'how is an ad-hoc wifi connection insecure?' an attacker could potentially target sysadmin's network more effectively (once again, oversimplified example).

Assuming you do not abuse the system (creating sock-puppets all over), is this allowed? Is there a better method?

As an aside (I've created a feature request for this here), would it be beneficial to have an option where users can 'hide' things on their profile's page -for instance, specific questions they've asked?

12

It is very straightforward to use different accounts on different sites : simply use different email addresses. You can decide whether you want them linked or not.

For the case that you want to have unconnected accounts on the same site, you can do this, however you cannot allow the interaction between them to gain you any benefits. 'Sock Puppets' are seriously frowned upon on Stack Exchange, and in fact the sock detection tools are very effective at finding them and deleting them, as are members of the community.

That said, as long as you do not let the two accounts interact with each other, there is no ethical problem here, and we do indeed have members who do exactly this, using different accounts for different purposes.

And of course your fall back position is to use an anonymous account - you can link it at a later date if you want.

As for your final sentence - that would be a separate feature request.

  • My only real concern is with the sock puppet detection. I wouldnt want to get flagged for just having a second account on the same site... I thought about the just posting as an anonymous user each time but that may get tedious and then you'd still have to keep a reference of them somewhere. – Matthew Peters Sep 3 '14 at 20:34
  • 4
    As long as you keep them separate, having them is not a problem. One of the guys here has two that are both high rep accounts, and his rule is to not let either one vote on any question the other has activity on. – Rory Alsop Sep 3 '14 at 20:41
  • I like that. I may be way off base here but perhaps we can allow for the user to self restrict their own accounts to prevent 'accidental' incidents. For that matter, we could potentially have a link on your main account for "click here to create a [safe-]sock-puppet" where that link would make another account that will be linked (on the backend only) to your main account and prevent you from becoming a sock-puppet (by predefining restrictions but only applying them to your main account). Am I just overthinking this whole concept? – Matthew Peters Sep 3 '14 at 20:47
  • 2
    I think you may be overthinking it a little :-) Have a read of these for some wider visibility of what is currently done: meta.stackexchange.com/search?q=sock – Rory Alsop Sep 3 '14 at 21:06
  • Thanks! I didnt even know there was a meta site for meta discussion (now who's overthinking things;) – Matthew Peters Sep 3 '14 at 22:28
  • 2
    @MatthewPeters I'm one of the Community Managers at SE. This has come up numerous times in the past, on multiple sites, and Rory's pretty much got the current state of things exactly right. For what it's worth, we have discussed hiding of individual posts or profiles from the rest of your linked accounts internally, and it is a goal, but unfortunately, it's not a trivial change, so it's not going to happen in the near future. – Pops Sep 11 '14 at 21:35
  • To expand on Rory's example, the two high-rep accounts mentioned are Thomas Pornin and Tom Leek (colloquially known as "The Bear"). Combined they have almost four times the rep of the next leading user. Both accounts (they're the same person) have been around for a long time and have always followed the rules, and both provide high-quality contributions. Just goes to show that it can be done well, without sockpuppeting or breaking any rules. – Polynomial Sep 18 '14 at 20:55
6

To complete @Rory's answer: what is frowned upon is the specific action of sock-puppeting, where you have multiple accounts on the same site and you abuse the "game rules" with the coordinated action of these multiple accounts. As the powers-that-be on SE say it, it is OK to have multiple accounts as long as "they don't vote for each other, and they don't vote for the same thing". To be really separate, you may also refrain from voting with one account on a question where another of your accounts provided an answer, though that case would not be deemed sock-puppeting.

An important corollary is that sock-puppet detection systems won't be triggered if you behave "ethically", since they concentrate on vote-related actions.

If you do maintain several accounts on a single site, then it is simpler never to vote with any of the "secondary" accounts.

On distinct SE sites, do as you wish. You can keep them as separate as you want to.

  • 10
    Having one of your accounts commenting on an answer from another of your accounts could be construed as borderline: it is not a vote per se, but it can help in building an image of crowd support. So, ideally, when you have one account comment on another, be sure to express disagreement. (Tom, you are an insufferable buffoon.) – Thomas Pornin Sep 12 '14 at 7:51
  • @ThomasPorin, I don't see why you would legitimately need to comment on your own post apart from convenience (having to switch accounts) which is exactly my point and why I think there should be a sanitized sock puppet account option -or the like. – Matthew Peters Sep 12 '14 at 21:05
  • Tom, I think having an option to essentially make another account but restrict it to anti-sock-puppetry actions would be a viable option here. (The name could use some work though) I say this to prevent both the temptation and accidental/indirect lapses. – Matthew Peters Sep 12 '14 at 21:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .