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Prompted by the arrival of a new user that admits being a shared account.

As mentioned in the comments to that answer, I was not sure wether shared accounts are allowed by Stackexchange's Terms of Service.

I asked in chat and fooot points out that apparently it is not the case, but tolerated.

What do we want to do here on Aviation.SE? (both in general and in this case in particular)

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On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog. Or two people, or a classroom of people, or someone representing someone else, or whatever.

In other words - and leaving aside the ToS for a moment - we should look at the contributions, not at the person or people behind them. That's essentially the StackExchange ethos and I think it's the best way to approach this. We really have no idea who or what is behind all the accounts posting here, and finding out that one is a teacher using it for educational purposes is hardly shocking or disturbing. There's no way for us to verify or manage the 'ownership' of an account anyway, so why should we care? If the account is used for commercial purposes, spam, self-promotion etc. then of course we should react accordingly, but that's the same no matter who is behind the account.

There is still the point that the current ToS say that accounts must be "an individual":

Subscriber certifies to Stack Exchange that Subscriber is an individual (i.e., not a corporate entity) at least 13 years of age.

In this specific case, the subscriber has said s/he is a teacher posting questions on behalf of the class and that sounds like an individual to me. I have no idea about the legal niceties of how the ToS of a US site apply to a German teacher (there's another site for that), but I'm fairly sure that using StackExchange for educational purposes in that way is completely in the spirit of SE, even if it's theoretically breaking the ToS. Personally, I don't care at all about it and I suspect most others don't either, on any SE site.

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    $\begingroup$ I have no idea about the legal niceties of how the ToS of a US site apply to a German teacher it applies to the user, regardless of location (i.e., if the SE admin decided to enforce the ToS, they could ban the account for breach of said ToS) $\endgroup$ – Federico Feb 2 '17 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ My first thought when I saw that comment was that the teacher is an individual using it to post content on behalf of his class, in which case it isn't a shared account.... $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 9 '17 at 21:13
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In my opinion, in general we can tolerate it, but we should not incentivize it, trying to stop it when the case arises.

When multiple persons use the same account and admit it, we should try to convince them to have personal non-shared accounts, both to be in line with the ToS and for their own benefit.

For example, a shared account is weaker than a personal account, a phishing attack on one of the holders is enough to compromise the whole account, possbly losing it altogether.

Or think of two friends parting ways in a non-amicable way, who should keep the account?


For the case in particular, in line with what I just wrote, having a different account for each student would benefit them directly, as they would be free to explore the network and ask their own questions on other SE sites even after they leave the current group and keeping with them the reputation that they might have earned in the meanwhile.

They should be extra careful in not falling foul of the system by upvoting their friends (too) often, but I guess that our moderation team is well equipped for any contingency.

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I agree with Pondlife in this instance. It sounds like the instructor or some other designated person is doing the posting. Doesn't sound like a problem to me. Definitely within the spirit of SE. I think in the ToS they're trying to prevent corporate spamming, basically. And also, I guess, trying to keep folks from gaming the rep system by combining accounts.

And if one or more of the students wants to create his own account they can do that at any time.

It might make sense to ask them to use individual language, just to make it fit with the rest of the entries. That way it won't encourage more people to create collective accounts so it doesn't get out of hand

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  • $\begingroup$ trying to keep folks from gaming the rep system by combining accounts uh? having a single account makes it harder, but the ToS do not want a single account. What do you mean with your statement? $\endgroup$ – Federico Feb 3 '17 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ If Charle, Mike and Oscar all put their posts under a single account their rep would be times 3. Seems like it would be way more trouble than it's worth, though. Just trying to figure out the downside of allowing combined accounts. It really seems like they're trying to avoid corporations. That's one of the things that turned me off to Facebook. When Walmart can have an account it's no longer really "Face"-book $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Feb 3 '17 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ "I think in the ToS they're trying to prevent corporate spamming". This may be true, but I'd also consider that a company could also try to enforce their rights when their employees share what they consider confidential or competitive advantages, etc. Dealing with individuals and common laws is likely more simple than taking into account business regulations and trade rights worldwide. $\endgroup$ – mins Feb 7 '17 at 23:37

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