Meta: How should LW account deletion work?

by matt1 min read8th Apr 201150 comments

10

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At 2011-04-08 LW user account deletion is broken. We (Trike) will fix it… but how should it work?

Options:  

  1. Easy complete deletion: At the click of a button you can remove your account, all of your posts, and all of your comments. It's just that easy to scrub your activity from the site.
  2. Delete = Disable account: The account deletion process removes your ability to log in and your user page. Your posts and comments remain. (You get warned that you're about to lose the ability to change anything you've previously posted and that your username will continue to be associated with your previous account activity.) Actually deleting everything requires you to do it manually.
I favour 2 (Delete = Disable account). Poking a hole into all of the conversations you've been a part of should be hard - it reduces the quality of the site's archive.
I've made three comments below: "VOTE: Easy complete deletion", "VOTE: Delete = Disable account", and "VOTE: Karma balance". What do y'reckon?

(Detail - Under the Delete = Disable account option: Your username would continue to be unavailable to others. Your user account page would be replaced with a "User account deleted" page. Your old account activity would remain and link back to the "Account deleted" page.)

 

 

50 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 4:48 PM
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My vote was for disabling, but I think this should also change your username to something suitably anonymous (like "Account deleted").

How about username-change as an option without also necessary disabling? Possibly with restrictions against abuse.

The necessary disabling is a restriction against abuse.

Yes, and a reasonably good one, but is it the best one?

Unless someone proposes a specific better one, I don't want to let the best be the enemy of the good.

Agreed, it should be possible to fully withdraw from the site without breaking all conversations one was involved in. People shouldn't have to choose between leaving their username visible in some places and deleting all their comments.

Except that deleted accounts should all have different deleted-account usernames, so that if some unfortunate thread has two participants who later delete their accounts it doesn't become completely impossible to make sense of the discussion.

What if it just kept the first three (or so) letters of the login name? The chances of two people with the same first three letters discussing the same thing is, while not infinitesimally low, well within acceptable limits. If you knew the person before deletion, it would let your recognize them, but it would keep their name from turning up in searches (the main reason, that I know of, for deleting accounts).

There's a nonzero number of people with three-letter usernames.

What's more, Spencer was replying to one of them!

My vote was for disabling, but I think this should also change your username to something suitably anonymous (like "Account deleted").

That is a very good idea.

This. In fact you should still be able to login and edit, in case you put specific private info in a comment you want to delete. Just your display name should change to (Account deleted).

This. In fact you should still be able to login and edit, in case you put specific private info in a comment you want to delete. Just your display name should change to (Account deleted).

Your preferences in this thread appear incompatible with each other.

Hm. True. Perhaps someone could request an unlock from a moderator. The way the interface is currently set up, I can't edit other user's comments.

You should probably be given the ability to modify deleted accounts posts.

[-][anonymous]10y 0

Agreed.

VOTE: Delete = Disable account
The account deletion process removes your ability to log in and your user page. Your posts and comments remain. (You get warned that you're about to lose the ability to change anything you've previously posted and that your username will continue to be associated with your previous account activity.) Actually deleting everything requires you to do it manually, one by one. Your username would continue to be unavailable to others. Your user account page would be replaced with a "User account deleted" page. Your old account activity would remain and link back to the "Account deleted" page.

I favor disabling over deletion, and further, I would like to remove the ability to delete comments that have replies.

For people who really want to disassociate their user name from their comments and posts, it could work to have an "anonymize account" feature, that would change the user name (perhaps to a meaningless string of numbers) and disable the account.

I favor disabling over deletion, and further, I would like to remove the ability to delete comments that have replies.

If that were implemented I would encourage users who desired to delete a comment to instead edit it such that no text remains. Unfortunately that wouldn't allow them to wash their hands of the entire debacle but it is better than nothing.

If that were implemented I would encourage users who desired to delete a comment to instead edit it such that no text remains.

I would also like to see a history of edits, as is common in wikis.

I would like to see edits frozen after 24 hours.

Please no. The unlimited ability to edit comments is a feature, not a bug. And it's one of my favorite features of LW -- I use it all the time. I've posted in forums where edits are frozen, so I know I don't like that. There shouldn't be an arbitrary deadline for changing your mind.

It would furthermore be unfair to freeze edits without also freezing voting.

There shouldn't be an arbitrary deadline for changing your mind.

You are always allowed to change your mind, and to write another comment indicating that you have changed your mind. Why should you be allowed to edit recorded history so that you have always thought what you think now?

It would furthermore be unfair to freeze edits without also freezing voting.

Why should those issues be linked?

I for one frequently review my comments well after the fact to correct stupid mistakes in the wording which I failed to catch the first time around. When I change my mind after more than a few minutes of reflection, I prefer to create new comments to draw attention to the fact that I no longer endorse the statement(s) made in previous comments, but I do not like to create new comments to point out "This comment would have been worded differently if I were a competent editor."

I for one frequently review my comments well after the fact to correct stupid mistakes in the wording which I failed to catch the first time around.

I agree that this is a legitimate use of the edit feature. Because there are such legitimate uses, I favor allowing edits, but keeping a public history so that abuses can be called out.

I think that's appropriate, as long as it doesn't leave a more obtrusive mark on the comment itself than is already used.

Perhaps just add a button for 'review edit history'

Why should you be allowed to edit recorded history so that you have always thought what you think now?

Because it is a reality of human psychology that people will status-penalize your current self for the mistakes of your past self, even if they (say that they) try not to.

Also, it would be undesirable to have a bunch of new comments of the form "I've changed my mind about that semicolon". Such comments might even be downvoted, resulting in a no-win situation for the commenter.

And you're not actually editing recorded history. People know the rules, and know that comments can be edited, so expect that people will try if possible to make all their comments make their current self look good.

And if someone quotes your comment before you edit it, you still suffer all the consequences.

It would furthermore be unfair to freeze edits without also freezing voting.

Why should those issues be linked?

To prevent a situation where someone is hemorrhaging karma and unable to do anything about it.

In general, this a case of "leave well enough alone", or, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Editing comments -- like any feature -- has potential for abuse, but it's not currently causing any problems severe enough to outweigh the benefits.

Why should you be allowed to edit recorded history so that you have always thought what you think now?

Because it is a reality of human psychology that people will status-penalize your current self for the mistakes of your past self, even if they (say that they) try not to.

That may be a general problem, but on Less Wrong, what I typically observe is that people get upvoted for accepting counter arguments and changing their mind and for apologizing for rude behavior. Sometimes downvotes are even removed from the rude comment that required the apology.

Also, it would be undesirable to have a bunch of new comments of the form "I've changed my mind about that semicolon". Such comments might even be downvoted, resulting in a no-win situation for the commenter.

As I have said, that is a fair use of the edit feature. But it is not the use that you were defending.

And you're not actually editing recorded history.

That seems to me to deny basic facts. The comments are a record of a discussion, editing them to say something different destroys that record.

People know the rules, and know that comments can be edited, so expect that people will try if possible to make all their comments make their current self look good.

The fact that people know the rules, and do their best within those rules, does not mean there are not better rules that allow people to generally do better.

It would furthermore be unfair to freeze edits without also freezing voting.

Why should those issues be linked?

To prevent a situation where someone is hemorrhaging karma and unable to do anything about it.

People who generally write high quality comments are not going to hemorrhage enough karma from their momentary mistakes to put them under any thresholds. Once you are above 20, additional karma is just license to screw up.

In general, this a case of "leave well enough alone", or, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Editing comments -- like any feature -- has potential for abuse, but it's not currently causing any problems severe enough to outweigh the benefits.

It doesn't happen very often, but it is quite irksome when someone edits their comment so my reply doesn't make sense. (And it tends to happen more often in more heated discussions.) I expect this to happen more often as Less Wrong attracts more members and the level of the median member goes down, even as the level of individual members goes up over time after they join.

[-][anonymous]10y 2

It doesn't happen very often, but it is quite irksome when someone edits their comment so my reply doesn't make sense.

You're probably okay as long as you quote the bit you're answering.

It doesn't happen very often, but it is quite irksome when someone edits their comment so my reply doesn't make sense.

You're probably okay as long as you quote the bit you're answering.

Yeah, I do that sometimes for that reason, but doesn't it look kind of silly that I have quoted your entire comment that I am replying to (this time I just did it for the illustration)? It would be nice not to have to do that, and to read comments that are written like that.

That may be a general problem, but on Less Wrong, what I typically observe is that people get upvoted for accepting counter arguments and changing their mind and for apologizing for rude behavior. Sometimes downvotes are even removed from the rude comment that required the apology.

Even so, it's still much better from a status perspective for people to forget or not to know about "bad" comments if possible.

Though you will also observe that people often don't delete their mistakes, and explain them instead. I myself have done this more than once; and in fact I have become somewhat self-conscious about editing comments since I found out about the asterisk that results (which I went nearly two years without noticing).

Nevertheless, I derive significant comfort from knowing that I have the ability to "rewrite history" if I really need to.

Also, it would be undesirable to have a bunch of new comments of the form "I've changed my mind about that semicolon". Such comments might even be downvoted, resulting in a no-win situation for the commenter.

As I have said, that is a fair use of the edit feature. But it is not the use that you were defending.

If that's what you thought, then you misunderstood, because it most certainly is (among) the use(s) I was defending. I see a quantitative continuum between this kind of revision and more substantial kinds, not a qualitative separation.

And you're not actually editing recorded history.

That seems to me to deny basic facts. The comments are a record of a discussion, editing them to say something different destroys that record.

It destroys that record, but there's nothing stopping anyone else from keeping another record and preserving the content themselves -- the simplest way being to quote the comment in reply. And even the most notoriously deleted posts and comments ever to appear on Less Wrong are currently preserved off-site.

The argument that to revise is to rewrite history applies Fully Generally against any kind of revision of any public document. Should blog authors not be allowed by blogging software to edit their posts? In fact, why should anyone be able to delete their account on LW at all? Even making comments anonymous destroys part of the historical record, namely the information about who wrote it.

However I think that archiving previous versions while allowing revisions is probably an acceptable compromise (provided the archive link is unobtrusive and perhaps slightly inconvenient).

People who generally write high quality comments are not going to hemorrhage enough karma from their momentary mistakes to put them under any thresholds. Once you are above 20, additional karma is just license to screw up.

Karma is also a proxy for status, and in fact it's the hemorrhaging of status that I was most concerned about. And flurries of bandwagon downvotes on old comments have happened more than once, including to me.

It doesn't happen very often, but it is quite irksome when someone edits their comment so my reply doesn't make sense. (And it tends to happen more often in more heated discussions.) I expect this to happen more often as Less Wrong attracts more members and the level of the median member goes down, even as the level of individual members goes up over time after they join.

I'm not sure why you would expect lower-level members to edit more than higher-level members.

That seems to me to deny basic facts. The comments are a record of a discussion, editing them to say something different destroys that record.

Currently, the record can be destroyed by deleting it, so I don't see this as a big deal.

It doesn't happen very often, but it is quite irksome when someone edits their comment so my reply doesn't make sense.

That's often a compliment.

If I have a long, complicated comment, I don't like appending a series of patches to it. It makes it less clear instead of more clear. This goes doubly for posts.

If a comment has been replied to, it's good to highlight changes with eg ... , if they change the interpretation of a reply.

Both sides have merit. If LW continues to grow, it will probably reach a point where I'd prefer freezing edits after 24h, because it will have a higher proportion of users who abuse the ability to edit.

I would not like to see an 'easy complete deletion' feature available. That would be too tempting for people to use impulsively while disgruntled and mean people who just aren't interested in LW for whatever reason to remove all their contributions without thinking much even though they don't have a strong desire to do so.

I support the continued ability to delete individual comments. If for some reason a commenter wishes to delete everything they have ever commented then that is fair enough.

How about disabling login, leaving comments in place, and also replacing all instances of the user's name on their comments with something that looks the same but is obfuscated in such a way that it won't turn up in searches for that name? The anonymous user who recently asked how to delete his account was specifically concerned with search results, and as a result he went through and individually deleted all his comments, which we want to discourage.

I'd suggest deletion removes the account entirely, and has an option for deleting all posts that is of by default. Posts from deleted accounts should simply say "deleted account" as the poster. There should be an extra, trivial inconvenience added for deleting all the posts to discourage people from doing it.

BTW, Roko gave permission for LW to restore his comments "under an anonymous username (if it's technically possible)".

The fact that Roko's comments were not restored is understandable because restoring them from e.g. back-up media probably would have been a heck of a lot of work.

But I would like the maintainers of the software to keep an eye out for opportunities to make it easier to restore a whole mess of deleted comments and posts the next time someone mass deletes in a moment of high emotion.

Errr... what is the status quo exactly? I know it isn't complete deletion. That takes work.

The 'account disabled' feature we more or less have available now within a couple of steps. That is, change email address for recovery and then change password without writing it down. (And clear it from your browser's cache.)

Errr... what is the status quo exactly?

Account deletion apparently doesn't work at all right now.

I approve of Delete = Disable account, for the reasons you outlined.

I think that, in addition to whichever choice is implemented, the code should be modified so that post titles are parsed as SQL so that if you want to delete a User, you can just inject commands to that effect.

Why did the parent receive downvotes? It does not seem to be an objectionable suggestion.

VOTE: Easy complete deletion
At the click of a button you can remove your account, all of your posts, and all of your comments. It's just that easy to scrub your activity from the site.

Would this allow a restoration option (within some window of time, perhaps) if it were somehow done by mistake?

Seconding this suggestion. The effects of deletion should be seen immediately (everything you wrote becomes invisible), but the action should remain undoable for 20 days or so.

What about some sort of a "waiting period"? I agree that having this as the default or even one of the options might make this too easy... but what if you could request it, and the system would start some sort of timer, allowing the option to be granted, say, after a month.

This way, you can't just hit the "wipe" button without having to go through the waiting period.

Actually... after typing this suggestion, I guess I don't see why if someone really, really wants their stuff eradicated... they shouldn't have to go do it themselves. I just have a hard time envisioning what could be that bad here, even though it has come up. I'm still going to leave the suggestion as it stands. It's an idea.

Actually... after typing this suggestion, I guess I don't see why if someone really, really wants their stuff eradicated... they shouldn't have to go do it themselves. I just have a hard time envisioning what could be that bad here, even though it has come up.

I could see why Roko deleted his entire account when he did. And I expect the experience of clicking each comment individually was cathartic!

I'm trying to estimate how long it would take me to delete all of my comments manually. I'm thinking in the order of 4 or so hours. A LOT of text would be gone! On the other hand writing a bot that would refresh my user page and click every delete/confirm would take about 15 minutes. :)

Indeed, and after seeing the comment to that effect, I realized how much superior that proposal was. Everyone is happy -- comments stay put, no insane hand-work is required, and there's no tracking the person to their old content.

In rethinking about it again due to your comment, I agree that there's no way I could mean what I said with respect to someone (like yourself) with a huuuge amount of content. For someone who made an "oops" and posted some stuff without thinking about a good user name, perhaps it was a reasonsable suggestion.

I didn't think through all of the situations in which someone would want to remove an account, and should have done so.

The suggestion for a simple change of username is wonderful.