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I just reviewed (and rejected) a suggested edit on a story ID question by user "Scottybrown100" attempting to edit a post by user "Scott Brown". It appears that this is the same user, but the person lost his login credentials for the original "Scott Brown" account. The edit was to add more details to the question description.

What should we do in cases where a user suggests a substantial edit1 because he appears to have lost the login credentials for his original account and is therefore forced to suggest the edit from the new account?

Although I'm pretty sure this is the same user (especially since it's a story ID question), my concern if we approve these suggested edits is that a malicious user could create a new account with a similar username to pose as the original user in order to vandalize a post. Consequently, I rejected the edit.

I see a couple of possibilities here:

  • Reject the edit for some reason like "attempt to reply". Reviewers can't be sure it's the same user, and the user can't approve answers with the new account even if it is.
  • Reject the edit and flag for a moderator. I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that mods can see a user's IP address, so a mod could confirm if the two "users" are using the same IP address.
  • Approve the edit (perhaps only for questions, since a lot of new users -- who might lose their original account information -- ask these questions). Essentially, the reviewer assumes it's the same user.

1Substantial here means that the edit changes the meaning of the post, such that the edit would be rejected if the editor was obviously not the original poster. If the edit is a simple spelling correction or similar, there is no issue whether the editor is the same as the original poster or not.

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How can I recover a lost account?

The correct procedure in this case is not for the user to create a new, but similarly named, account, but instead to go through account recovery. This will also ensure that the possibility of malicious editing is avoided.

I agree that you should reject the edit, but adding a comment to the effect that lost account recovery is possible and pointing the user at the URL outlining the recovery procedure seems an appropriate (and helpful) addition.

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    Yes, and also consider adding the detail as a comment (if it's brief). – Valorum Apr 16 '15 at 17:32
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    Rejecting a substantial edit basically wastes the effort of a presumably well meaning user. Not Nice – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 17 '15 at 20:04
  • @DVK - I've had what I presume were well-meaning edits on some of my answers before, but where the edits have removed important content or changed my intent, I've rejected them. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're not saying that I shouldn't have. That aside, we're not talking about the general case of rejecting edits here but a very specific case where the edit appears to be coming from the same user under a different account. There is already a procedure for dealing with this - account recovery - so you shouldn't apply a general case guideline to it. – user8719 Apr 18 '15 at 11:40
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    @DarthMelkor - on the balance between "teach them a less on following arcane instructions" and "not destroy a clearly diligent effort to improve site content", the former clearly should be fully disregarded. There's a difference between rejecting a well meaning edit because it was an invalid edit; and rejecting a well meaning edit because it didn't follow some legal technicality but produces better content. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 19 '15 at 3:54
  • @DVK: But rejecting a suggested edit does not “destroy” the user’s effort — the user can go into his user “Activity” page, click on “all actions” → “suggestions”, and recover (copy) the text of his suggested edit, to use it when he gets his account situation straightened out.  Of course, a brand new user is unlikely to be able to figure that out without help.  Also, it raises the question: When a moderator or other entity with super powers merges two accounts, will the resulting account contain all the history from both individual accounts? – Peregrine Rook Apr 29 '15 at 23:50
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Regardless of who the user is, if the suggested edit changes anything about the original intentions of the poster, I reject it. If the edits are things like spelling, grammar, or formatting, I'd let it through.

There is no fool-proof way for me to know that Null2 is really the same person as Null, so I'm not going to assume that they are the same person.

If you think it may be the same user, I'd suggest rejecting it with a custom reason and telling them that they should follow the procedures to recover their other account and merge the accounts as necessary.

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    Good point about edits for things like spelling corrections -- I updated my question to exclude such cases, as they would obviously be fine whether it's the same user or not. – Null Apr 16 '15 at 17:21

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