Wikipedia:Delete unused username after 90 days

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This proposal gathered community consensus from the wikipedia community and is currently under discussion with the developers at Bug 6614. Brion Vibber rejected its implementation, though, and closed the bug.

Delete unused username after 90 days is a proposed Wikipedia policy to delete usernames with zero edits that have not logged in for 90 days. Registered usernames with emails will be warned after 60 days of inactivity. Usernames with at least one edit will be kept for the entire life of the database.

Blocked accounts[edit]

Indefinitely blocked accounts which have never been used will usually have been blocked because the name itself is unacceptable. Three possible reasons for this are

  1. The name is an attack, or inherently offensive.
  2. The name is part of a known pattern of vandal accounts
  3. The name could easily be confused with another legitimate user, a famous living person, or a position of authority on Wikipedia.

None of these will ever be useful to an innocent editor; even if created in good faith, they will be blocked on sight.

There is some disagreement whether these should be deleted. The first case is clearest: these do some direct harm by existing in our data base, even unused and blocked. The second and third cases are harder; these are names some new user might choose in good faith and ignorance. By keeping them around, blocked, we prevent this affront from happening, and we may interfere with the vandal or impersonator who would like to create such an account. On the other hand, they do take up space on the database.

Summary of proposed amendments[edit]

  • Increase the inactivity period from 90 days to 180 days (6 months)
  • Apply retroactively/ex post facto (accounts created before this policy will apply to the rules)
  • Don't delete blocked accounts
  • Accounts created in accordance with Wikipedia:Doppelganger account should not be deleted. These will have no edits of their own, but will have {{Doppelganger}} on user or user talk.

Reasons for this proposal[edit]

  • Lately, username namespace has been greatly expanding, even outgrowing the article namespace, with a large percentage of these usernames not used, ever.
  • Deleting unused accounts would make it easier for newcomers to find names they can memorize easily. This would make it unnecessary to use obscure usernames
  • Having a username just for having it on your name, i.e. registering it for later use when usernames will become scarce can be seen as simple vanity.
  • Making the SQL tables smaller, thus, ultimately, speeding up Wikipedia
  • Currently, out of a total of 1,150,000 accounts, more than 800,000 (~70% of the accountspace) do not have any edits. The number of accounts grows far faster than the number of articles: in the last month (i.e. March), it increased by about 15%.
  • Some accounts were created by vandal bots.
  • Some accounts are likely forgotten or "sleeping" sockpuppets.
  • While a large number of users may be useful for advertising purposes it delivers a misleading number not truthfully reflecting the size of the Wikipedia community. Deliberately promoting misleading information is biased and ultimately contrary to the fundamental principles of Wikipedia.
  • Keeping large numbers of inactive users in the database for no apparent reason could be construed as vanity on the part of the Wikipedia community and reflects poorly on the project as a whole.
  • In the spirit of quality before quantity it is not in Wikipedias interest to focus on meaningless numbers such as “Total number of accounts” rather than “Contributing editors” as this emphasizes a philosophy contrary to the overall goals of Wikipedia..
  • Other, more active editors might like to use the username
  • The sole purpose of an account is to edit. It is highly unlikely that someone would create an account, not edit and subsequently get ill, go on holiday/camp, go to prison or lose Internet access for three months. In any event, coming back and having to register again should neither be surprising nor unreasonable.

Counter-arguments[edit]

  • The work needed to implement these changes may not be worth the benefits.
  • Some people do return to Wikipedia after a long absence (i.e. the timeout period is too short)
  • Once a user created his account he probably wants to retain it. This could possibly discourage users who have registered. Though, as they have not made one single edit with that account, the chances are high that they will not in the future, either, though this can be debated.
  • The database load caused by unused accounts is completely negligible.
    • Do you have a technical explanation or a comparsion to other database loads to back that statement up? Any database, no matter how powerful the server running it is, will be slowed down by a large and growing set of records.
  • The "username shortage" arguement is incorrect because there are so many username possibilities usernames will never be scarce. For a 10 character username using only ASCII characters that can be used in page titles, the total number of possibilities is 2.48*1019.
    • But most of those are just random letters stuck together.
  • Creating an account is necessary to set preferences, which are useful even for readers who never edit.
    • fixed :-) bogdan 17:20, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
      • How ? It doesn't look like fixed. phe 09:40, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
  • 90 days is about 3 months. People get ill, go on holiday (or on a camp), are in prison, are banned by parents from using the internet; indeed, there a whole multitude of reasons why someone may not use Wikipedia for 3 months. The length of time is simply too short. Batmanand | Talk 19:20, 28 March 2006 (UTC) Not really applicable for accounts with zero edits. Batmanand | Talk 13:18, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
  • People may join up with the intention to contribute, but may for a whole plethora of reasons not contribute for 3 months. A period of 6 months may be a better figure, as it gives people more of a chance to contribute, if they haven't done naything by then, then an e-mail being sent to them warning of their account closure would be the sensible step to take. --Wisden17 20:03, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
    • This policy is about UNUSED usernames without any edits. As in they haven't visited the site login for over 90 days. ems 06:49, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
  • It might be simpler (and far less destructive) to just create a process whereby users can request the deletion of such abandoned accounts which they want. I got access to my username in such a way. - Mark 13:35, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
  • The Doppelganger vandal has been impersonating users with modified names. To counter that, many users create accounts with possible doppelgangers and make no edits, in order to prevent their use. If this policy was used, the doppelganger vandal could do far more vandalism. Bart133 01:40, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
    • We could create an exception to the policy that doppelganger accounts clearly labelled as such are exempt from this policy. TheProject 19:55, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
    • You could just log into your doppelganger and edit the Sandbox or something, forever protecting it. Melchoir 00:27, 17 June 2006 (UTC)
      • And the vandalbots will presumably be updated to do just that, no? -- 00:13, 18 June 2006 (UTC)
        • Umm, isn't the point of a vandalbot to make edits in the first place?
          • How about screen-name linking? For those protecting against doppelganging, they just have to note that on the doppelganger and indicate the main user name, which could generate a message on their discussion wall (just in case someone is ascribing a new user name to them that isn't them.) That way, the doppelganger doesn't take on an existence of its own and just forwards to its relevant user. Make sense? Pat 17:26, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
            • Present policy is that if you create your own doppelganger account, it should not be used, and it encourages use of passwords which are not memorable, to discourage theft of the account. Septentrionalis 16:05, 5 July 2006 (UTC)
  • A person who registers an e-mail address is given a text-recognition test, which is intended to foil automated registration. Can people who register Wikipedia accounts be given text-recognition tests? If and when automated registration foils text-recognition tests, can picture-recognition tests be used for the same purpose? What about analogy problems and Bongard problems?
    • I would be strongly against making registering on wikipedia more difficult. Currently one needs only to enter a name and a password. Adding tests will discourage new members, cause problems for those with disabilities, using screen readers, using certain browsers, and generally make an unnecessary obstacle. There should be nothing wrong with creating a new account, and then even forgetting about it, as long as after 90 days those never-used accounts get removed. -213.219.152.231 11:16, 18 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Is it possible for Wikipedia software to keep a catalog of look-alike characters which can be used for Doppelganger accounts? Then, is it possible for Wikipedia software to reject new accounts which are similar enough to current accounts that they might be used as Doppelganger accounts? What about Doppelganger accounts in non-English versions of Wikipedia (including the Chinese version)?
    • As far as I understand it, this policy would be confined to the English Wikipedia, although it may be transwikified if the other 'pedias like the idea. —Vanderdeckenξφ 17:15, 17 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Accounts are needed to have watchlists. Some users may sign up in order to watch an article (eg about themselves), so they can quickly know if a change has been made. Then and only then may they want to start editing. This is surely a valid reason for wanting an account, and deleting it may drive them away from Wikipedia. Batmanand | Talk 13:20, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
    • This policy is about UNUSED usernames without any edits. As in they haven't visited the site for over 90 days. - Bevo 15:24, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
      • Correct me if I am wrong, but visiting the site and adding pages to one's watchlist are not counted as edits. Batmanand | Talk 18:09, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
        • But if you want to use your watchlist, or personalize skins/date preferences, etc., you have to be logged in. As I understand it, this applies to accounts, with no edits, which have not logged in for ninety days. TheProject 19:50, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
          • Sorry you are absolutely right and I am absolutely wrong. Batmanand | Talk 07:51, 17 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Accounts are needed to alter one's preferences, such as skins, date preferences and so on. Some people may not be interested in contributing but want to personalise the way they use Wikipedia. --Kwekubo 14:44, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
    • This policy is about UNUSED usernames without any edits. As in they haven't visited the site for over 90 days. - Bevo 15:24, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
  • What about doppleganger accounts? I know I registered "Digital me", but I will probably never log in to it. It simply redirects to my userpage. How would this be addressed?--digital_me(TalkˑContribs) 16:53, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

Please list other counter-arguments that you can think of.

  • Military personnel can be deployed regularly beyond a ninety day time span, there are some who will not have internet access for extended lengths of time.
    • But it would make no difference, as the usernames have no point due to the fact that they have no edits. --Neur0X 05:28, 3 July 2006 (UTC)
  • A maternity leave that started earlier than planned, with twins or one colicy baby will keep one from editing anything, and easily for more than 6 months. This does not mean that the parent(s) won't get back and contribute, once things settle down a bit...
    • The above groups can simply make new accounts when they are able to contribute.
  • Isn't there a risk that this policy could result in spurious single edits just so a user can keep their account, thus reducing quality?
    • Not in particular if those edits are to the sandbox. TheProject 16:22, 17 June 2006 (UTC)
    • Spurious edits in real articles will just get cleaned up just like other vandalism. How many accounts were created just to vandalize an article with a single edit and then abandoned?
  • People don't seem to be reading the heading properly. It says delete usernames with zero edits that have not logged in for 90 days. This only applies to someone who has never, ever, edited a single page. So even if their account was deleted they would lose absolutely nothing because they can just re-register. EamonnPKeane 12:37, 18 June 2006 (UTC)
  • A number of accounts are listed as having no edits simply because all of their edits got deleted. How should tha be dealt with? 17:13, 18 June 2006 (UTC)
    • If your edit gets 'deleted'(read: reverted) it actually is never deleted. It is overwritten by another edit. Thus it counts as an edit. So the username will not be deleted. Msoos 22:23, 18 June 2006 (UTC)
    • No. What I mean is the edit(s) don't even show up in the history anymore after the deletion (and restoration) of a page. 23:16, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
      • What about if the page is deleted, not edited? I sometimes find an user with has an only (vandal) contribution to his userpage. What to do? I simply blank it to leave it into the user contributionlist. A similar case are accounts made to upload images. Images have bad source/license status and get deleted. What to do with them? Thay did edited. They appeared on the logs, but it doesn't show now... Platonides 21:09, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
        • You would have to search the deletion archive as well as the ordinary revision table for edits. Deleted edits could be undeleted, you don't want names to be reassigned before this happens. -- Tim Starling 14:27, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
  • ^ Too much english for me (i.e. if someone mentioned this, just delete my comment). I dont know about you guys, but in the Hebrew Wiki we ban offensive user accounts on sight. Therefore, some of these accounts have zero edits. Allowing to recreate them isnt smart. But you can bypass this issue and delete only zero edit accounts that have *NOT* been banned. --Yonidebest
  • What about username blocks like Willy on Wheels and such. If the account is deleted, is the block going to be able to withstand the deletion of the account? — The King of Kings 21:26 June 23 '06 21:26, 23 June 2006 (UTC)
    • My understanding is that it would not, but a WOW account would only be deleted if it had never even been used. I doubt very much that any vandal who makes tons of accounts is keeping track of the ones that were blocked three months ago, as it would be just as easy for them to make a new account under a slightly different name. BD2412 T 21:38, 23 June 2006 (UTC)
      • Yes, but undeleting the account would make that option of recreating the account available again. Most of his account are unused with zero edits. Most accounts named: "Willy on Wheels!", "Willy on Wheels!!" etc. are going to be deleted and Willy or his variants are going to be able to create them again. I guess we could always block again, but I think the developers should be able to delete the account but if they have a block on thier name, it should stay. — The King of Kings 21:46 June 23 '06 21:46, 23 June 2006 (UTC)
        • See my discussion on the talk page. Cheers! bd2412 T 19:38, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
What about people who create their username on other wikis to avoid impersonation, or to have one just in case? I make a point of editing at least my user page and talk page once, but some people might not do that... —Nightstallion (?) 11:01, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
See here for a discusion about that. Garion96 (talk) 11:42, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
What happens if user edits or creates an article which is later afd'd. I think their edits then disappear from user contribs. Do their accounts go away then? Ideally I'd say the account should be kept if it's been logged into a few times (let's say, logged in at least once AFTER the account is more than 1 month old, even with no edits) but I don't think Wikipedia should keep long term records of which users have logged in, so there's a conflict. A lot of dead accounts were probably made, played with briefly, and abandoned; getting rid of those is fine. Phr (talk) 09:44, 16 July 2006 (UTC)
  • A user registers hir real name, edits, is stalked/libeled, get a username change, registers hir real name again (2 years ago say) just to prevent the stalker/libeler party from creating and controlling that name. With this proposal, that protection registration would be deleted, possibly causing the stalkee more problems. -- Jeandré, 2006-08-22t20:27z
    • Read the effing manual before complaining; said user need only make a single edit to his user page and everything's fine. —Nightstallion (?) 11:49, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

Move to vote?[edit]

I recommend that this matter be either put to a vote, or settled by an admin. --FrostyBytes 16:53, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

  • An admin couldn't settle this! A steward, or b'cat perhaps! Computerjoe's talk 18:41, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

*user datreky: i say vote

  • Please sign your posts by typing ~~~~ at the end of your message. —Vanderdeckenξφ 15:57, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Admins and B'crats are editors with extra buttons. Editors with highly valued opinions, perhaps, but the flags themselves don't make that person's opinions more valuable. They'll be the first to remind you. :) ~Kylu (u|t) 18:15, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

Vote: I agree that if someone doesen't use their username for 3 months without one edit, they should be deleted. 99% of people do post or edit. The remaining 1%... they have 90 days. Aquaspoon 04:41, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

It's more likely the other way round, actually. As much as two thirds or even more of the userbase may be unused accounts, IIRC. —Nightstallion (?) 18:03, 13 September 2006 (UTC)