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I'm working on an app that creates random usernames (in the form of usr+id: usr12351) and passwords automatically, which are then given out to employees.

My questions is: Should the employees be allowed to change their usernames? Or just allow them to enter an email in their settings and then let them to use their emails to log in? Or both?

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Let them change username. usr12351 is so impersonal in a workplace - it shows a lack of humanity and kind of undermines and undervalues employees by representing them as a cold number rather than a person. I am not a number –  Roger Attrill Dec 11 '11 at 15:25
    
@RogerAttrill you should post this as an answer –  Naoise Golden Dec 12 '11 at 11:20
    
@NaoiseGolden - I think you're right. I meant it as a quick recommendation rather than an answer, but have now given an extended answer below. Thanks for the nudge :-). –  Roger Attrill Dec 12 '11 at 11:56
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Let them change username - but with some consideration of the caveats below.

Permanent tagging with an id like usr12351 is so impersonal in a workplace - it shows a lack of humanity and kind of undermines and undervalues employees by representing them as a cold number rather than a person.

I am not a number ('The Prisoner' on Wikipedia)

Using an email, or even the part of the email before the @ symbol is better, but not always great as it's not always chosen by the user, but it's better than an id as suggested above.

In a workplace environment, you (or others in a similar situation) should consider such factors as the following:

  • How formal is the workplace
  • Are the usernames exposed to groups outside the workplace
  • Does the employee need to be visually determinable from the username alone (without lookup required for 'Real Name')

For example, is it acceptable for an employee to choose a username such as always-drunk-on-fridays ? It's not great for a workplace ethic; indicates something of an attitude; wouldn't be desirable for exposure to clients or visitors, and does not visually identify the employee.

If you do give users carte blanche to create a username - you have to accept that maybe not 100% of employees may necessarily create desirable names for themselves.

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If this is an internal application then they have email addresses or, likely, usernames. Why not use them?

Many users have problems remembering usernames and passwords. You avoid "collision" problems when two users choose the same name and leverage an authentication system that probably exists already if you choose to use what is in the business already.

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As it is internal - you are talking about employees - can you not use email instead? OK, not everyone has email, but if they do, then the problem of making them unique has been already taken.

Otherwise, if there is a need to generate them like this, then let them change them, and validate their uniqueness when they try. Otherwise, like passwords, they will write them down, which makes them meaningless, and they will be irritated by having another user name to remember.

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