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There seems to be a huge number of very low-rep users called "guest." Is this the same individual, or a small number of individuals, who are using "guest" as a burner account? Does this violate either the terms or community norms of ASE?

  • (I am not the user "guest".) I often read the posts on this site and I do like guest's posts very much: Many times, the reality in academia is not so ethical as people here say in answers. "guest" often says those things as they are - not as they "should be" as most people here. This is the advantage of being anonymous: Of course, if you registered here with your name, you can not really talk about unethical practises with happen in reality. – anewguest Mar 7 at 18:35
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All the information I give here is generally available and does not come from my moderator privileges.

First of all some general information on this:

Now, some observations and conclusions on the accounts in question:

  • They have the same avatar, so they very likely come from the same IP or provided the same e-mail address. The alternative is that they use the identicon image as a manual avatar (like I use a picture of a glass head), but then again, they intend to be identified with each other.

  • They are unregistered, which makes the most common forms of sockpuppet abuse (in particular voting) unavailable to them. If such accounts commit sockpuppet abuse, it is usually by circumventing rate limits, question or answer bans, or suspensions. If you see any indication for this (or some other kind of sockpuppet abuse), please flag for moderator attention.

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    The default avatar...is an identicon based on a hash of your IP...It is extremely unlikely that two identicons coincide by chance Users sharing the same IP (e.g., users from the same institute) would share an identicon in many cases. – user2768 Mar 4 at 10:19
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    @user2768: I see no contradiction. If two users share the same IP, their identicons are identical (if no e-mail is provided) due to something other than chance. – Wrzlprmft Mar 4 at 10:22
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    There is no contradiction, sorry, I should have been more precise: I only intended to clarify a case that is probably reasonably frequent. – user2768 Mar 4 at 10:28
  • @user2768: reasonably frequent – That depends on what you consider to be “reasonably frequent” of course, but while two users may share the same IP at times (usually with a temporal distance), they also have to both use unregistered accounts (without providing an e-mail). – Wrzlprmft Mar 4 at 10:52
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    The default-avatar thing is a bit worrisome. IPv4's got a max of 32-bits of entropy; seems like an attacker could basically dictionary-attack to reverse the hash, determining someone's IPv4 from their avatar.. or do they have some sort of safeguard against it? – Nat Mar 4 at 13:14
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    Yup, looks like it's a known issue. Avatar it is! – Nat Mar 4 at 13:23
  • @Wrzlprmft Now I understand! The default avatar does not coincide for users with distinct email addresses (assuming a decent hash), it may coincide for users without email that share an IP. – user2768 Mar 4 at 14:06
  • @user2768 It uses MD5. It is salted at least and the salt is non-public. – forest Mar 8 at 9:30
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Only mods know if two accounts belong to the same user and we obviously cannot say anything. So without commenting on this particular user, a single user having multiple accounts is sometimes fine, but sometimes a flagrant violation. You cannot have two accounts to up vote your own content or artificially increase your reputation. If you are suspended you cannot create a new account to circumvent the punishment.

Some people create new accounts to ask (or answer) something anonymously. That is a valid use, as long as your accounts never interact. Some really high rep users want to be able to do things as a lower rep user and that is okay, more or less.

The most common case of multiple accounts is people either losing their login info or not understanding the system. If your see this, you can leave them a comment about how to merge accounts (contact us link at the bottom of every page) or flag it. (In this particular case, we are aware of the multiple accounts so please do not raise a ton of flags.)

  • Thanks--I would have guessed that it was something like that, except that it seems to have been going on for a while now.. I appreciate the clarification. – Elizabeth Henning Mar 3 at 5:13
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    @ElizabethHenning We're not the only community to have so many "guests", it's happening also at Mathematics Educators, and, from the style, I'd guess that in several cases they are the same person. – Massimo Ortolano Mar 3 at 8:52
  • Are they all coming from YoYoDyne's internet address? – Jon Custer Mar 6 at 19:18
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    @joncuster: Who is YoYoDyne? – anewguest Mar 7 at 18:52
  • @anewguest - an apparently too obscure Buckaroo Banzai reference... YoYoDyne Propulsion... – Jon Custer Mar 7 at 20:30

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