How I Lost My Hacker News Name

I’m not on Hacker News a lot, but occasionally I do comment. When I do, you’ll see me there as sullivandanny. I’m also dannysullivan, but I can’t have that account. Forgot my password, and that’s that, apparently.

When you create a Hacker News account, unlike most places I register with, you’re not required to provide an email address. You enter the name you want, a password, push submit — if the name’s not taken, there you go.

I made my dannysullivan account 1,398 days ago. That’s nearly four years ago. I created the account to make the only comment I’ve ever done with it, on this discussion, about a story I wrote on Search Engine Land over the default search settings in Firefox allowing Bing to be one of the providers.

About two years ago, I got back into participating occasionally on Hacker News. I couldn’t remember my password to get back into my old account. There was no password recovery tool, either. As it turns out, this is because I never provided an email address after the fact. If you don’t add an email address afterward, then there’s no prompt to change your password, as there’s no way to email you a recovery option.

That makes sense, but it’s not explained. If you try to login, and there’s no email address on file, you don’t get told that. You just get told, “Bad login.”

If you’re like me, and have forgotten your password and never provided an email address, that’s why you can’t get back to your account. “Bad login” effectively means, create a new account.

I did finally got advice about all this from someone at Y Combinator last week. I’d also hoped that I could convince them to let me change my account name to dannysullivan, since that’s the name I use in many other places — plus, it’s not like the “other” dannysullivan on Hacker News is using it. But since I can’t authenticate that it’s really me (despite it being pretty bloody obvious that it is), no luck.

Again, makes sense, fair enough. Even if it sucks.