Real Names Please Discussion

This is an attempt to summarize the main points of the lengthy discussion below.
The Case For RealNamesPlease:

Use of real names encourages the sense of community in the Wiki. We should use the same names that we would be using if we were speaking to one another face-to-face. It reminds us all that we are interacting with real people in the real world. It reminds us all that we must TakeResponsibility for what we write.

Withholding one's identity is a sign that one does not AssumeGoodFaith from other readers, and that other readers therefore cannot AssumeGoodFaith from the withholder.

Use of online "nicks" is often associated with chat rooms, game playing and other non-serious activities. Fantastic names lead many readers to automatically discount or ignore the statements associated with them, or to automatically categorize the writer as a troll. A fictitious name can be confused with a DramaticIdentity or an abstract role.

Many users would like the Wiki to have an academic or professional flavor. Real names are preferred in such an environment.

Anyone who does not want to reveal a real-world identity is always welcome and encouraged to contribute anonymously. (See NoNamesPlease.)

Contributing to Wiki is a voluntary act, and all should respect the implicit obligations that go along with being a participant. The Internet is a big place, and those who do not want to follow the WikiSocialNorms should have no problem finding an outlet where they can express themselves as they wish.
The Case Against RealNamesPlease:

It is very arrogant to tell a person what name(s) they are allowed to use, or to treat them with disrespect because they do not use a name that you consider to be "real". Some WikiZens use RealNamesPlease as an excuse to DisagreeByDeleting. Such abuse against people who choose to not use real names should not be tolerated.

Some real names can't easily be turned into WikiWords, requiring their owners to either mangle their real names or choose something else.

Everyone should have a right to privacy even when participating in a public forum. PseudonymityWithUntraceability and OneNamePlease are fair compromises.

Many highly respected people are best known by PenNames, stage names, or other pseudonyms. The use of pseudonyms has been respected in literary circles for ages. A pseudonym used in the "real world" should be just as valid for wiki authors.

One's "real name" cannot be clearly defined. Most people commonly use names that are not identical to what is on their birth certificates and other legal documents.

A real name is usually an arbitrary label. A real name may connote various attributes (nationality, cultural heritage, religion, gender, parents' values, etc.) that do not reflect the real attributes of the individual. In contrast, a name one chooses for one's self can be more personal and more revealing.

Younger people are more likely than older people to have established pseudonymic identities on the Internet. Denying them the right to use those identities is a form of ageism.

There is no way to verify identity or use of real names in this Wiki. Without verifiability and accountability, this policy has no significance. The absence of hard security here means that spoofing and identity theft are trivially accomplished; the popularity of this site with search engines means that such theft is potentially quite harmful, both personally and professionally.

Any rule that inhibits some people from expressing themselves as they wish is a bad rule, and should be revoked or routinely broken.

More reasons against using RealNames:
What Is a "Real Name"?

In the context of Wiki, your "real name" is the name that you would want your peers to use in a relaxed-but-respectful environment. In general, this will include a first name (or nickname) and a surname, and will be in some way related to your legal name, the name on your driver's license, or the name you put on your resume.

For example, if your full name is Robert Louis Stevenson, then "Robert Stevenson", "Bob Stevenson", "Bobby Stevenson", or "Lou Stevenson" would all be acceptable UserNames. But even if all your associates on Usenet and IRC know you as "Lover Bob" or "Emperor Ming", you should still use plain-old "Bob Stevenson" here.

If you still don't know what acceptable "real names" are, see RealNamesPleaseDiscussion.
2 places for names

On most wiki, there are 2 places one can put a name: People used to other discussion forums (that only have 1 place to put a name) may be surprised to learn that we prefer those 2 places to be different: There are several other options that we support or at least tolerate -- see UsingSignatures.


You know, I was recently greeted by the sight of the text "A fake name (... see RealNamesPlease)." on my page. To say the least I was not pleased by this. Perhaps those who wish to inform people of this "policy" should do so in a less abrupt manner. I, for one, only have a fake-looking name because of the WikiCase requirements. -- TaralDragon

The abruptness but also the humor of such situations has been increased on WhyClublet by the phrase HaltWhoGoesThere.

Fair enough on the tone (I wasn't the one who edited your page). But you go on to describe how you are not using a real name, so I can see why it happened.

I wouldn't have thought that TaralDragon was a fake name, not by itself. I've seen stranger real names. [e.g., Tony Millionaire of Maakies fame really *is* named "Tony Millionaire". It's French.] The doubt swings the other way with something like PsychoDad? however.

Well, now I hope I've made it clear. Now I have to go clear this up on WhyClublet too. -- td

WhyClublet will club you until you are signing on with your full name exactly as it appears on your birth certificate.

Three immediate points on that: the birth certificate has never been the key thing, we have shown some flexibility in practice and most importantly the ClubbingIsAlwaysMeantKindly?. What's certainly true is that we have not only said that we don't want PseudonymityWithUntraceability but that, as hosts, we have taken steps to dissuade people from doing it. This is not because we hate the people concerned but because, like Ward, we feel the community is better for RealNamesPlease. With the volatility of our subject matter we decided we needed to be stricter in this area. Now it may well be time to consider if Wiki hasn't been a little too lax in its efforts to stay as Ward intended. -- RichardDrake

Note Pete's comment in WarClublet? regarding RealNamesPlease.
Shocking, isn't it. There they are over there, a different wiki, on a different server, with different people hosting it. Sometimes, contributors to Why aren't even Wiki old-timers! And yet they dare to have different community standards from Wiki! Worse yet, they encourage contributors there to do so within those same 'community' (ie., 'host') standards. And yet, even with all these unreasonable constraints, they hold guns against people's heads forcing them to contribute there against their wills.
Are there legitimate pseudonyms?

Would it be all right if you decided to name your home page after a pseudonym but then to reveal your real name on it? That way, people who really wanted to know could find out, but you'd be able to present the "face" of your choice.
What is more real about some names than others? I think what you intend is that I use the name I use in the rest of my life, and I am happy to do that. But what you actually ask when you use that word real also implies some expectations about what a real name looks like, and possibly even some doubt as to the possibility of choosing my own name.

And on top of that, wiki does not let me use my real name, River~~, wiki wants me to drop the non-alpha characters and to fulfil a cultural quota of capital letters. So I'll sign this, as my other postings, as close as I can get -- RiVer

(ps: some languages have single letter names - U Thant, a former UN secretary general for example could not have used his birth certificate name as a wiki name)

actually, 'U' means roughly 'Mr' and isn't actually part of the name, although convention has it that you use it more often than you would 'Mr' (partly because his name would otherwise be just Thant which is also not a valid WikiWord.) But it's not just Wiki that makes you do this sort of thing: I have heard of a person of Mongolian descent who had to make up a first name (I think he chose 'Steve') because his bank refused to open an account in the name of anyone who only had one of them.
Use the name you would apply to a job with, or you would put on a published research paper. Usually this is your legal name, which may legitimately have been changed. Wiki is not perfect, so get it as close as possible. Pseudonyms, nom de plumes, etc. are discouraged.

No, that's your professional name. Your 'real' name may be more suitable.

I ask, what's the difference between a professional name and a real name. Any examples where they differ significantly?

Your 'professional' name might be 'James MacCormack?' (it appears on your checks, licence, books and papers) but your 'real' name (one that colleagues and friend call you) is 'Jim MacCormack?'. Using 'Jimmy Mac' as your nom de Wiki should be discouraged, unless there are several Jim MacCormacks? lurking around (as there were with the two MikeSmiths).

Remember a drummer named Ringo? Do you think that name was given him by his parents? Similar point re Lulu. Also, many a married women retains her maiden name for professional purposes, but otherwise uses her husband's surname. A famous example of a slightly different nature is Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898), whose 'real' name (note the initials) was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson... but some sources give Lutwig (or Ludwig) instead of Lutwidge. Then there's Nicolas Bourbaki, a pen-name for a group of authors (bet you don't know their real names, though). Modern examples include John Major (a politician) (apparently christened Major, that being the stage surname of his father, Tom Ball, but whose brother has surname Major-Ball), and HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (who apparently legally changed both his names). There are doubtless better examples.

Thankfully, it will still be some years before the programming world is rife with personalities that can be identified by one name (Madonna, Cher, Twiggy, Prince). Ringo Starr, Lewis Carroll, MarkTwain and countless other nom de plumes or stage names are professional names (i.e., each is widely recognized to be the person described).

That may be so for most of the programming world, but it's increasingly common to see the occasional obvious nom de plume in the References section of a paper about cryptography and computer security. -- PaulCrowley

I understand RealNamesPlease to mean:
  1. Don't use somebody else's name
  2. Don't use a pseudonym in order to deceive people
  3. If you contribute to this InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas, and you wish to use a name as a signature, please use a name that people (in real life) would widely recognize as you

I don't think it's about avoiding deception. Rather, the discussions in this wiki will be taken more seriously if they have people's "serious identities" attached rather than juvenile handles like FrodoBaggins?, LeetHaxor?, RollerGrrl?, etc. -- KrisJohnson

Totally agree with the positive point but not the critique at all. Avoiding deception is absolutely crucial, it's the first base of entrance criteria and that's well put above. Ignorance of the norms and thoughtlessness are the next targets. The difficulty with deception is of course: how do you deal with those that do, that "use a pseudonym in order to deceive people". My tactics are two fold:

Unless there are viable sanctions in the serious case all the stuff about RealNamesPlease is in fact hot air. Well, not quite. But those that comply are always at risk of manipulation and disappointment. I dislike that intensely. It's simply not fair, either to present contributors or past ones. -- RichardDrake

I understand why people are hesitant to use their real names. There are privacy considerations. Regardless, if you're unwilling to use your real name, don't sign your contribution. Establishing an identify on the Wiki is a voluntary act that has perceived obligations. One of these is the convention to use a real name. -- SeanOleary

The point of RealNamesPlease is to avoid silly nicknames and the lack of mutual respect that comes from that. There is no real accountability on wiki - anyone who wants to commit fraud can do so without fear of punishment. The easiest thing to do about deliberate deception or misuse of the wiki is to just ignore it. -- KrisJohnson

I'm not sure I agree with 'there is no real accountability on wiki'. The accountability is the credibility of the poster. If the poster jumps through a series of hoops to obfuscate their identity, the WikiGnomes will just fix what breaks. I agree about ignoring though... For example, once I confirmed that NoelCoward? understood RealNamesPlease, I began ignoring his postings. It's probably a bad idea for me to SetTheBozoBit, but since he's content to ruminate on ZenBuddhism, it's no big deal to me. I also like the phrase 'lack of mutual respect'. I think that's what makes some people so serious about this issue. Many of us are here because we appreciate collaboration. Collaboration is hard. It's even harder without mutual respect. RealNamesPlease encourages mutual respect (plus it's more convenient than NoNamesPlease). -- SeanOleary

By 'no real accountability' I meant that there is no way to prove/disprove anyone's identity nor any way to punish offenders. And I think that's okay. Our reputations are important, but it is unlikely that bad people can seriously damage them. If someone starts writing "This XP stuff is all complete BS" and signs it as KentBeck or WardCunningham, I don't think anyone will be fooled. I don't understand why some are so concerned: it seems like a non-problem to me. We've all at one time or another been frustrated by some anonymous coward who derides our well-considered opinions, but the best response to that is to LetItBe. The openness of wiki is its greatest strength. The people who see great risks to their reputations should simply choose not to participate; there are plenty of locked-down forums where those people can air their opinions without fear of anonymous attack. But with a little tolerance and patience, wiki is a lot more interesting. -- KrisJohnson
I have also understood the RealNamesPlease directive to be somehow related to the way that many folks on Wiki place a high value on holistic thinking and living. On one hand you have folks talking about how "less-real" names work well if you spend a lot of time online, or if you're an international pop star. On the other hand you have pages like LifesJustTooShort nagging us all not to spend too much time doing one thing. Real names, with all their conservative, orthodox associations, seem like they might ground us to the "mundane" reality around us - a reality that, according to a page like LifesJustTooShort or WabiSabi, actually contains quite a bit of modest beauty in it.

-- the person almost-always called FrancisHwang, whether he's studying DesignPatterns or cooking dinner or walking in the park

Awesomely the case. Thank you. -- RichardDrake
I'm not sure what the intention is - to 'require' (in a very loose sense of the word) people to use a real name, or simply to eliminate 'online nick' style names. I use the name I use because it's the name I use almost everywhere in the world (except to my bank manager :-) ) - why would anyone object? -- TorneWuff

Is TorneWuff the name you use on your resume? -- anon

Do your friends (real-life not online) call you Torne? I think the point is we want to talk to you not a pseudo-identity. If Torne is you then by all means be Torne. Otherwise just be you it's better like that. -- anon

I'll admit that I don't use it on my resume either =) But everybody who knows me even vaguely in the real world (including my supervisors for my university courses) calls me that - I introduce myself as Torne and don't usually bother to tell people my legal name at all (which confuses them when they try to look me up on the email directory...) Thanks for the comments. -- TorneWuff

The resume is perhaps relevant because of the emphasis here on holistic thinking. If you use a different name at work than in your social life, it might imply that the two are very separate in your mind. This isn't such an unusual situation, and it largely stems from the fact that most people don't like the work they have to do to pay the rent. -- anon

But there are a number of pages here that ask us to be more idealistic: What if you could find a job that was a truer expression of who you were, deep down inside? One where you didn't have to be mildly embarrassed, as many people are, of talking about your work to a stranger at a party? Would you be able to use one name then?

Very good point! In my case, I don't consider it to be a separation thing - I am not trying to be someone different at work. It's mostly that I'd be too embarrassed to explain why I wanted to be called that to my coworkers - many people don't seem to understand names that aren't 'nicknames' or contractions. I don't know if that's an adequate answer. -- TorneWuff

Are you embarrassed to try to explain it to us? I, for one, don't understand why someone would use a name that is completely unrelated to one's legal name, except as some form of anonymity or adoption of a different identity. -- KrisJohnson (actually Kristopher David Johnson)

Do you have to understand to allow someone to do something they think important? Or can people only behave in ways you understand? -- FranklySpeaking?

I'm not disallowing anything, nor am I requiring that people act in ways I understand. Torne has been kind enough to open his case for discussion, so I'd like to take this opportunity to learn about something I don't understand. Would it be better to remain ignorant? -- kj

The name is from a book I read when I was young, and was my initial 'nick' once I got online. I started using it in the rest of the world when at IRC meets and eventually I just started using it in most places, because I like it and am used to it. When I started at university there was a whole new set of people to introduce myself to, and I universally used Torne to do so - few people at university actually know what my legal name is (they ask sometimes, since the room list at the bottom of our staircase says 'R. Coles' and nobody knows what the R is for), so now almost all the people I interact with only know me as Torne, which becomes self-perpetuating (people introduce me to other people as Torne..etc) That's not really a full explanation but I'm not convinced I could give one. I don't distinguish between the names as identities - it really is just like preferring a contraction to one's full name. -- TorneWuff

Do your parents call you Torne? -- francis

Almost all the time. -- TorneWuff
I stand firm on the qualification of such explanations as "ridiculous", but let he who has never gotten carried away cast the first stone. (And, of course, I could well be wrong, for neither the first nor the last time.) -- LaurentBossavit

It seems that no matter how 'ridiculous' it might be to have to explain what a RealName is, discussion of the concept is non-trivial. For instance, a RealName is not the name you were born with, the name on your birth certificate, the name on your resume, nor the name on professional papers you author.

There seem to be two concepts involved. Firstly, of having a consistent identity across space and time. Secondly, of an explicit tie to the RealWorld, one which is believed by many to lead to more respectful discussion. Yet if all that's required is a stake in one's identity and the reputation associated to it, then it seems that a permanent name like TorneWuff is sufficient. Or is there some magic involved in having a real-looking name?
I am a newcomer to the board, and though I came in intending to be initially deferential with regard to local etiquette, I find it difficult to accept this policy as anything but an arbitrary mandate with virtually no utility towards its apparently intended purpose. Now, I was never a member of the Well, but they had the same policy, and I would not make the same statement with regard to that policy in that context. I might not agree that it was the best course of action, but at least insofar as they felt it was important they did it in a context where it was meaningful, where the real world identities were verified, where preservation of copyright could remain meaningful, and where disclosure of your identity was private, even if the only boundary to its accessibility to differentiate it from being public was the requirement of knowing where to look (ie you couldn't google the whole web for their name, you had to know the person belonged to the well) and being able to pay to join.

In this context, by contrast, there is no protection of the community from the outside world, and there is no verification process to make the names meaningful. I understand this last point may seem irrelevant in light of the trusting nature of Wiki, but it's a fundamentally different kind of trust, trusting people not to arbitrarily destroy or subvert the system itself, which there is little motive in place for, and this kind of trust. Putting aside the impracticality and intrusiveness of it, it wouldn't be any better if you required verification of identity without the protection that the Well provided, and frankly that protection is not desirable as it means that people can't stumble across discussions here while searching for related things, as I did. I would have preferred that the Well keep track of identities to keep them serious and consistent, but to allow people the expressiveness and the recognizability across different mediums that using a pseodonym has provided me. Having a pseodonym or handle provides a great deal of freedom, and I don't mean freedom to behave immaturely or vandalize or conspire or to assume multiple pseodonyms concurrently or consecutively, I mean the freedom to be known as you choose to be known, without having to announce your or be conscious of others' race, sex, or religion. There are also real security concerns, beyond the far-fetched (but possible) scenarios involving personal confrontation with someone who was offended or insulted by something you said. I may have some significance in the real world which I don't want to expose. In a free society, we don't demand verification of people's identities for discourse and discussion, nor do we even ask that they use their real names. We accept what they choose to call themselves when we come in contact with them, because that is the nature of freedom. I would not use the name Oneiromancer or PrinceOfStories in daily life, if only because they are cumbersome to speak, as indeed my full name would be. The repeated insistence on the name you would use on a resume is absurd because a resume is the most formal and least interesting or differentiated presentation of yourself. It involves by its nature a kind of advertising that, while hopefully not specifically deceitful, is the furthest thing from real and meaningful honesty that I can imagine. Formality and clarity of expression and thought I appreciate, but if a resume is the model for communication that is accepted by all here, than why would any of us choose to participate in this? Is that what we are after, a process of improving our resumes instead of actually exploring meaningful and sophisticated dialogue on complex and stimulating subject matter?

-- BrianOneiromancer

The RealNamesPlease directive is not based any sort of hard security, or verification. It would be very easy to give a fake "real name" and fool all of us, and nobody would be the wiser. Most everything here is based on trust. Just because you can lie to us doesn't make us gullible.

Mostly, people enjoy interacting with other people more when they know a name that has some relation to non-online life. Personally, I like the idea that I might be at some programming conference and see somebody's name from this Wiki, and can come up and introduce myself.

Again, it comes down to thinking that the mundane offline world is just as important is the rarefied online world. Is the PrinceOfStories? persona here the same that you present to your classmates, coworkers, friends, and family members? If so, then welcome to Wiki, Mr Stories. If not, many of us would like to know your real name.

Part of the utility of RealNamesPlease is that it lets a visitor instantly distinguish topic pages from personal pages. For example, when I saw PrinceOfStories in QuickChanges, I assumed that it offered an amusing anecdote about someone well versed in the art of using stories in ExtremeProgramming. From the comments on this topic, it's apparent that I'm not the only person who thought PrinceOfStories was a topic page.

The problem is that in contexts where it's not obvious that a NomDePlume is a name, it's liable to be misinterpreted. (Imagine the confusion that people with the pseudonymns ExtremeProgramming, DesignPatterns, or RecentChanges might cause!) I'd rather not be disappointed when I go to a page with an intriguing title, expecting to find a fresh insight or interesting discussion, only to find it's a personal page. That (I'm sure completely unintentional) misrepresentation makes the wiki as a whole less useful, and strikes me as missing the clarity, honesty, and simplicity of WikiNature.
I for one am skeptical about the average sophisticated, intelligent user's ability to distinguish a subject from a name/title/handle/WhatHaveYou?, in a vast majority of cases. People want names to sound like names, or titles, or in any case like a person of some kind. Nobody would choose to call themselves DesignChanges? or TheMediumIsTheMessage?. On the other hand, you have a great many topics on this Wiki that look like and are real names, but are in fact instead places to discuss somebody's works, ideas, etc. What's more, the idea the clicking on a link and finding the page isn't what you thought hardly seems like a tragedy of Elizabethan proportions. As for whether this is the same persona I present to friends and coworkers, well, it is the same persona I present to friends, not the same one I present to all coworkers, though perhaps to some. But I'm not sure that persona is what you meant. My name is not my persona, my name is my identifier. The fact is, we all present ourselves differently in different environments, and also differently in different mediums. So, though I just said I present the same persona to my friends, that is at best misleading, as the closest interaction to this one that I have with friends is text messaging, which is not how I primarily stay in touch with them, and even text messaging, by its real time and one to one nature is drastically different from this.

Lastly, obviously I was aware there was no intended or desired security in your RealNamesPlease policy, but my point was that I didn't see any real utility in it, and as I mentioned above I see a lot of costs and detriments associated with it, none of which have been addressed (except the proposed utility of distinguishing pages quickly, which I feel I have discredited, and the desire to recognize me or others at any events we might encounter each other at, to which my only response is that it should be my right to decide if that is a kind of contact I wish to allow others to engage in with me, should I be attending such an event, and in particular that if I was attending such a programming conference, that it would most likely be in a professional capacity and that such dealings might not seem entirely appropriate to me, my employer or my co-workers).

-- BrianOneiromancer

What's more, the idea the clicking on a link and finding the page isn't what you thought hardly seems like a tragedy of Elizabethan proportions.

This is exactly the sort of thing that many people here take quite seriously, as a matter of form.

The best interfaces are those in which each part's purpose is immediately apparent. Clarity merits advocacy.
I don't think RealNamesPlease has anything to do with rights. Nobody is suggesting that those who choose to not use real names should be punished or banned from wiki. It is simply a description of community preferences. If you choose not to follow the desires of the community, you can certainly do so. But don't be surprised if people give you funny looks once in a while.

A metaphor: You are in a pub. You and most of the people there are dressed in comfortable, casual, nondescript clothing. There are also a couple of people dressed in suits, and a couple of people dressed up as cartoon characters. That's fine - the suits and the cartoon characters are welcome. You may even find the presence of the suits and cartoon characters to be amusing, and that the people wearing them are interesting. However, there is little question that your initial reaction to those people is colored by their clothing. And if too many people show up in suits or in costumes, you might think about whether you might be more comfortable at the pub across the street.

-- KrisJohnson

To extend the metaphor: are you sure that the pub you're about to walk into really is a pub? It might be someone's home that just looks like a pub.
To me, RealNamesPlease encourages the idea that participants on this wiki are RealPeople, and present themselves as such. What we're avoiding is being subjected to internal mythologies or fantasies that interfere with discussion. In other words, save the Renaissance Clothes for the trip to the Renaissance Faire. To put it baldly (please excuse), using a "fantastic name" makes you look like a dick. If that's ok with you, it's ok with me.

-- DirckBlaskey, Obvious Man


To me, people who refuse to use their real names (as defined nicely by Francis below) take me for a fool. It seems like they don't care about our relationship enough to tell me their real name. It feels like they don't care whether or not I really know them. It has become apparent then that people like TorneWuff do not fall into this category. He has (patiently) told everybody that Torne is as close to a real name as it gets for him. Fine. But please don't try to tell me that you are more comfortable when I call you Austin Powers or Saruman the Wizard. Both are obviously not your name and obviously refer to completely different personas than those that could ever possibly be interested in an InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas or in a PortlandPatternRepository.

Maybe I'm over-reacting but I have always put a great deal of stock in what people call themselves. It is the face that I present to people. I have different names depending on where I am. On IRC/Starcraft/Jedi Knight I call myself one thing. In real life, I call myself another. I acknowledge the fact that on IRC I am not interested in "connecting" with the people there. I find that the use of pseudonyms in the context of this particular wiki shows a lack of respect towards the community that already exists and has pre-established rules. It would be one thing to join the community, follow its rules and work from the inside to change the community's feelings. It is another to show up and decide to bold-facedly ignore the community's polite requests. -- IainLowe (24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 1/4 days a year... except when I don't want you to know who I am)
I think what I say and what I don't is the only thing that makes me look or not look "like a dick." I can't speak for others who choose to use handles or pseudonyms, but my choice of name has nothing to do with roleplaying a fantasy. I don't speak in verse or in old english or ask that because I used the word prince in my name that I be addressed as royalty... let's be clear what are your misconceptions, your assumptions about pseoudonymity, and what are mine. If you think I look like a dick because of how I sign my posts, that's your small-minded judgementalness, and I trust that you are in the minority on that, even if many others here would prefer to know my legal name. By *not* sharing my legal name, I feel free to speak my mind, to be myself, to contribute without having to censor myself as to what I'm saying. I have a consistent set of information I make available to the electronic world as a whole, and by keeping consistent with that, I don't have to worry. If I decide "oh, I don't want to mess with the conventions around here" suddenly I can't share my e-mail address, the address of my journal, references to other places where I depend on the security of my electronic alter-ego, and putting aside the fact that it's already too late to prevent most of that, I don't want to because it just doesn't make sense to me. I appreciate WaldenMatthews? assessment of the situation, and agree. In this community, that choice may make me something of an outsider, but only to those who choose to see the distinction. Everyone however is still free to engage in debate, dialogue, discussion with me, and free to contact me privately for any and all matters they choose. Distinctions like "outsider" are fairly insignificant to me, for though part of the appeal of a system like this is that of being a part of a community, I can't be bothered with making sure everyone in the community is comfortable with my being an "insider" here by conforming to your every norm and standard for no other reason than because that's the way you do things around here. So, thanks Walden, for being the first to respect my decision, and I hope if I continue to participate that at some point the distinction of "outsider" towards me will come to seem a little less meaningful. -- BrianOneiromancer

My intent was not to insult, but to express a simple perception that you should be aware of. When I see a post signed with a fantastic name, it does color my judgement, and affects my perception of the opinions expressed by that name. What a person chooses to be called says a great deal - it has much greater significance than the name they are given at birth. (In a similar way, a person's choice of halloween costume says volumes about their internal world and self-perceptions.) Even if the name actually has nothing to do with role-playing a fantasy, just be aware: that is what it communicates. If I read enough of your content, I hope my impression shifts away from the first impression given by your 'handle'.

My post was rude and I'm sincerely sorry if it was offensive; I intended to color it as lightly as possible while still meaningfully communicating my perspective. Please try to take it in the spirit of a friend telling you your hat looks silly. Kris certainly said it better.

However, I think it does get right to the point of what the posts here are trying to say; The Wikizens are vigorous in the defense of their community, since it is a completely open forum. Obviously, they've been giving you a hard time about this, so it is important that you understand why, because it will help you understand the community. The wikizens have a definite idea of what their community is about, and it is not about a room full of people wearing silly hats (er, SixThinkingHats aside).

I was certainly turned off by my first excursions on usenet, by the participants there quick to jump on any post they considered inappropriate or a waste of usenet bandwidth. Please don't let this minor tangent tarnish your view of wiki, but please do consider the perspectives presented here.

-- d
As to what constitutes a real name: Whatever you end up using most in the real world, I think. To me that's what's important. What do your friends call you? What do your parents call you? What do your coworkers call you? Most significantly the RNP rule serves to tell people "Don't adopt an online nick here." For most people, what their real name is is fairly easy for them to determine. For somebody else like TorneWuff, it might be much fuzzier. Personally, if Torne's parents are calling him "Torne", that seems plenty real for me.

"PrinceOfStories" is a much tougher sell. Beyond the fact that it's cribbed from another person's creative output (NeilGaiman), it seems to turn a name into a statement of subcultural allegiance, which to me seems problematic. And personally, for me it brings up a whole list of completely unfavorable associations. Mostly it reminds me of awkward Renaissance-festival kids who form their own fantasy ghetto, people whose interests in imaginary worlds increased as their ability to grasp the real world diminished. POS (an unfortunate acronym, also) might in fact be brilliant and sensitive, but I'll probably never be able to take anything he signs seriously. Call me narrow-minded if you like.

Not that the online nick is the sole province of the USian, but there does some to be something distinctively American about it. The fantasy of self-reinvention, the belief that you just move to New York or L.A. and take a new name and boom! all of a sudden you're AndyWarhol? or something. Its lure is seductive, but it also can make things anonymous and transitory in a way that I believe this Wiki often stands against.

The nice thing about your real name is that it bears your history with it. Back when I was an awkward junior-high-school kid, unable to talk to girls, my name was FrancisHwang. Back when I listened to Bon Jovi and Pink Floyd, my name was FrancisHwang. And when I moved to NYC, I didn't say "Hey, I want to disown the self that I used to be so I'll change my name to BigPimpin? and then the old self that used to like Bon Jovi will be just a faded memory." I have friends here in NYC who've known me since high school, and they can bring up a lot of stories that are embarrassing as hell, right at the bar while I'm trying to impress some girl.

But that's real life for you: embarrassing, inconvenient, imperfect. And quite endearing for it. -- francis
I usually go by Alfvaen online, but of course that isn't a proper WikiName, nor was I tempted to use AlfVaen instead. Usually I call myself Alfvaen but don't bother to hide my real name, and I don't insist people call me by it.

I know several people who use their middle name instead of their first name, and a good friend was "Mary Christian" but went by Christa by choice. I also know a man who legally changed his name to R'ykandar S'i'tagta Korra'ti, and his wife changed her name to Sh'k'anna when she married him. They had some trouble getting cheques printed with their names, apparently... If they came on here I expect that they wouldn't be able to use their real names as WikiNames without removing apostrophes as well as spaces.

But yeah, I would also say that PrinceOfStories? is going a bit far, and it will be difficult to take anything he says about programming seriously. There will be this underlying image of somebody who tends to program in Basic on his Amiga or something, not someone who's seriously interested in design patterns and refactorings. Not that that is necessarily everything that this wiki is about, but it is the core of its intent as far as I understand it.

-- AaronHumphrey
OK, I wouldn't call myself won over, and there still a lot of points that I'm a little disappointed to see unaddressed (believe it or not, my purpose here was not simply to piss off, nor did I expect you to change your policies to suit my gripes, but I did hope to have some reasonable discourse as to WHY you choose this policy and to make you see some of the very real costs associated with it), but if it will appease the angry spirits, I will redub myself BrianPseodonym? for purposes of my identity here, as I prefer that to the above-suggested alternative of BrianPrince?. It may not look much like a name, but for me, at this point, it's either that or HiroProtagonist, which I somehow don't think you guys will like any better. And by the way, I never claimed I had exclusive use of the name Oneiromancer or of PrinceOfStories, and I acknowledge its source freely. Just a handle I picked up in homage to a favorite creation of a favorite author. Yes, it is a subcultural reference, although the term "subcultural allegiance" to my mind has entirely the wrong connotations, for it implies some kind of conspiracy or secret society, when in fact it is merely a reference which I look forward to having other people recognize.

FYI, the main points I feel were entirely unaddressed were 1) the desire and opportunity for what I see as a more meaningful kind of continuity, given that the likelihood of random OnlineCommunity to OnlineCommunity overlap is greater than the likelihood of random OnlineCommunity to MeatSpace overlap, 2) The gender/ethnicity/religion neutrality that is possible with pseodonyms and difficult with real names, 3) The fact that many many RealName pages are in fact not users pages but are entries about individuals and are in essence subject pages that are indistinguishable from user pages to anyone who's never heard of that person, and calls into question how significant a factor being able to distinguish pages at a glance really is to users of this Wiki.

I never really tried to hide my first name (it happened, coincidentally, to be revealed in my first post because I posted a response to a letter I sent regarding the delay in NealStephenson's new book QuickSilver), and wouldn't really mind using it if the BumpyText? requirements didn't require the appendage of something mildly distasteful to the end of it to satisfy your desire for intimacy in a real world shape and my desire to maintain some level of privacy. I hope this is satisfactory to all of you, but I would still like to hear reaction to the above points, and I will wait for some consensus about what hybrid RealName/NomDePlume you would all like me to use.

-- BrianToBeDetermined?

Addressing #1, there is a perception that online communities which use nicks or handles pervasively are immature and lacking in respect. Assuming this to be true, continuity with these communities is a bad thing.

Addressing #2, you've merely replaced gender/ethnicity/religion with subculture. Admittedly, it's voluntary but that goes both ways; a person can choose a name with subculture values even more easily than one that's value neutral. The clique that forms doesn't have to be of your making. Consider the authors above who decided that they would probably not respect what you say because of the cultural reference in your chosen name.

Addressing #3, RealName pages are about individual people whereas the complaint with PrinceOfStories is that it sounds like a role that a person might play in an ExtremeProgramming environment. The distinction people are trying to maintain is not between WikiHomePages and other pages, but between pages about a person and other pages. Whether that's a useful distinction is another matter.

In asking for help choosing a pseudonym, you run against the problem that this community has already decided it won't endorse nor be seen to endorse their usage. If you insist on using one, it would probably be easiest if you chose a real-sounding, culture-neutral pseudonym and then deleted all reference to its being a pseudonym (including this sentence). And above all, stuck to it forever. Which is why WikiZens will be uneasy with your request to manufacture a pseudonym; if you do it now, who says you won't do it again?

The option the Wiki community is most likely to favour is to use your RealName as your WikiHomePage but never, or rarely, reference that homepage anywhere else (only use, initials say). That way someone who's very determined will be able to find your name by matching the ip address on your edits with your homepage (assuming you edit your homepage) but most people will not. How often you reference your homepage provides you with varying degrees of anonymity. Unfortunately, Google does let you search for "-- JD" (or whatever your initials are) so using your initials anywhere in your homepage leaves a big hole in your anonymity.
You know, there's a really simple way to side-step the whole RealNamesPlease debate: NoNamesPlease. Not using a name reduces the perception of 'ownership' of your words (possibly more than using the OpenAuthor tag), helps you resist ThreadMode, and makes you feel like a WikiGnome. Of course, you don't get a reputation (this could be a plus or a minus). I've been gently reducing my signatures and it's been quite refreshing.
I actually haven't been putting my name on most of the recent things I've added, and for non ThreadMode topics it makes sense, but the simple fact is not all discussion necessarily should avoid ThreadMode. There are some things that won't be settled, and where it's useful, IMHO, to understand what subtle differentiating points are coming from different authors, and potentially what else those authors have had to say on other matters.

As for the above discussion regarding a pseudonym for me, the author seems to ignore everything that proceeds it, as if I were unfamiliar with the Wiki's disinclination towards pseudonyms, and as if I hadn't already made it clear that I don't plan to share my last name. I'm agreeing to be identified by my real name, but that is not the same thing as my full name. I'm agreeing to give you something that is more identifiable as a RealWorld person rather than a character or a subculture reference, but I'm not agreeing to be deceptive about whether that name is my real name. It's part of the premise that you trust that what name someone uses is their real name, but must you also insist that if I won't tell you my real name I must defy that trust and do all that is in my power to deceive you and other users into believing that whatever name I use for your benefit is in fact my real name? I won't do that. It's absurd. I'm suggesting BrianPseudonym?, and I'm suggesting that perhaps that would be a good convention for others who have similar feelings to mine to adopt, to give themselves an inoffensive identity that uniquely identifies them, but that does not bother the denizens of this Wiki. If this is not to your liking, make an alternate suggestion, but not one that involves my using my full name, and not one that involves some conspiracy of deception on my part.

-- Brian

I respect your willingness to compromise, but I think BrianPseudonym is a little ugly and inelegant. I'd suggest that you use something else for your last name that is personal and real, like your middle name, the name of the city where you were born, the name of a street you lived on, your mother's maiden name, etc. Or how about BrianOneiromancer? (I also think BrianDePlume? sounds kinda cool, but I don't think it's a good idea.) -- KrisJohnson

Let me suggest BrianStories, BrianDotName, or JustBrian. -- JustDirck
If BrianOneiromancer is acceptable to those of the community who are actively willing to accept a kind of pseodonym, I will go with that as it provides that modicum of continuity I crave. Point of information, I have observed the perception here that other online communities are immature or lacking in respect, but that perception, though it doubtlessly has basis in many communities, and probably is true of some members of any community, is a stereotype. Stereotypes are rarely unfounded, and can and should be discussed, but they should not be applied to particular instances without experience, as that is the nature of prejudice. The particular online communities I might wish to have continuity with should not be assumed to be typical, and more to the point, the continuity is not really with other communities, but with other individuals who have mutual experience in other communities, and to judge those individuals as immature or disrespectful for having engaged in dialogue even at a community that you feel those labels apply to is just as prejudicial.

On a different note, once my name has been resolved, I have an idea which I'd like to consider trying on this Wiki, but that I thought I should first open some discussion on to see if there were any thoughts on how or whether it should be done. Since this isn't a RealNames based discussion, I'll create a new page, PhilosophyJournalDiscussion?, and I'll look forward to any and all contributions to that discussion.

-- BrianOneiromancer
For some reason I was just reminded of the lines in TheMatrix : (Agent Smith) "[This] is the sound of your death. Goodbye, Mr. Anderson." (Neo) "My name... is Neo !".

And now, the RealNamesPlease version:

For some reason I was just reminded of the lines in TheMatrix : (Hugo Weaving) "[This] is the sound of your death. Goodbye, Mr. Reeves." (Keanu Reeves) "My name... is Keanu!"
As yet another of these untrustworthy aliasers, I should probably speak up too. Firstly, thank you, Francis, for bringing this page to my attention. The Wiki is clearly a place built on remarkable levels of mutual respect, and from all I've read here, almost everyone seems generous and intelligent. I agree with most of BrianOneiromancer's points, though I also agree with most of the other people here that PrinceOfStories? looked a bit silly. :-)

In particular, I completely second Brian's response about communities which use nicknames, I've participated in several, in none of which was there much immaturity. I think people are projecting their own preferences for RealNames onto other people, possibly with some ageism thrown in (remember that programmers often start young). Allowing nicknames is closer to multi-culturalism. I won't have much respect for any "Neo"s either, but in general they are in the small minority in such communities.

The point of the rule is clearly to help people concentrate on more important issues. My own nickname is likely to cause some cognitive dissonance the first time people see it. I hope that they can soon get over that, and I'm hoping that this page helps. Someone mentioned usenet. Fortunately the Wiki doesn't yet have the same problem of CommunityVigilantes?, and I hope it stays that way.

With respect to privacy, I'm strongly in the "be paranoid" category. There's no limit to how scarily all-knowing google-like technologies can get in our lifetimes, or who will be using them. Multiple personas are a useful tool. I think a good analogy is with programming - you limit which modules know about which other modules as best you can, mainly because you know how much harder it is to get that separation later.

Finally, can anyone point me at the original page where Ward explained why he decided on the RealNamesPlease policy?

-- AnAspirant.

AA, you're not the first person to express this paranoia about real names, but I've never understood it. This Wiki isn't a rape crisis center, and it's not a corporate whistleblower's hotline. We're programmers talking about programming. We're (mostly) a bunch of guys in slacks talking about whether or not we like Ruby better than Python. What could you conceivably be paranoid about? -- francis

I don't understand the "ageism" accusation above. How is RealNamesPlease ageist? Do young people or old people not have real names? Or is it that us old folks aren't hip to the whole online persona thing? -- KrisJohnson

The "ageism" argument is indeed bogus (as the 'denial' isn't restricted to an age group) and by association unfortunately seems to lower the credibility of the rest of the arguments against. Perhaps it should be removed ... -- DjAdams

Well, more that I think that many people (myself included) have some preconceived notions about both the "immature" behavior which we'd like to avoid and implicitly of the likely other traits of the perpetrators. I don't want to make a big thing of it because it's a definite distraction from the main topic, which is wandering enough as it is. Anyway, it's a case of "if the cap fits, wear it", and if not, just ignore me. -- AnAspirant.
I won't have much respect for any "Neo"s either...

Well, I'm the originator of the Neo quote, and I have much respect for the fictional Neo's insistence on being called by his real name. Your and Brian's reactions are helpful in that I can better articulate why RealNamesPlease is a worthwhile policy: by stating our real names we are "wearing our hearts on our sleeves" and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in precisely the ways that you fear. Our vulnerability is matched by an increase in mutual accountability and is directly responsible for the elevated levels of trust you've observed. We have shed our armor in a trade for intellectual flexibility. Yes, personas are useful tools - but they are cumbersome ones. -- LaurentBossavit

I'm not convinced that "persona" is a useful term in this discussion, since it suggests additional or different behavior from normal. Using a different name to my real one should not affect my behavior. I also have to point out that I didn't notice trust, I noticed respect. As I say below, I don't think that trust is particularly relevant. As an example of the distinction I'm trying to make, if I were to play an online game with someone, I might respect their skill, chat and play happily and yet trust would never be an issue. Setting aside explicitly role-playing games, and concentrating on, say, a multiplayer tetris with chat facilities (quick tetrinet plug), "persona" wouldn't really be an issue either. I don't see that the Wiki is a particularly different situation. Politeness, friendliness and so on don't require trust. Another way of looking at my stance could be to say I like it "strictly business", which I see as the overall form the Wiki takes anyway. People are friendly to each other, but the pages are all extremely content-based. I don't think RealNames are relevant to the discussion which take place, so I don't see enough payoff to give up my anonymity yet. -- AnAspirant
Francis, "slacks"?!? I wear jeans, and Python r00lz! But seriously... I've always considered that WardsWiki was just some sort of UsersGroup?, but with really REALLY bright people. I wouldn't put anything on wiki that I wouldn't want on the front page of my local newspaper. Sure, maybe some future employer will see that I think (or thought) that "Python r00lz!" and not hire me, but frankly, if she doesn't get the joke, I don't want to work for her. Like DavidBrin says in TheTransparentSociety, privacy is mostly an illusion. You have privacy as an accident of not sticking out. Set up a web site, or start a WebLog, or star in a movie and you're not part of the crowd.

Which reminds me on another (off-topic) quote: Instead of "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes", it's "In the future everyone will be famous to 15 people". Does anyone know where this idea is from? I've heard it but I want to attribute it... -- SeanOleary
As WardCunningham has stated elsewhere, use of a RealName says "I'm proud of what I do here, and I want you to know it's me."

I've always used my real name online (except when playing some game where roles are part of the fun). Sure, if you do some searching on my name, you might find a few things that I am not proud of. Like when snot-nosed college-student Kris said that KentBeck didn't really understand object-oriented programming. Or when I complained that some of the porn pictures in that alt.binaries.* newsgroups were in a format that my Mac couldn't read. Or when I predicted the imminent demise of Microsoft when OpenDoc appeared. Or all the stuff in the wiki about how much I hate programming and how much I suck as a manager. So what? That's who I am (or who I was). It's a lot easier to just be myself than it would be to try to hide things or to shift personas once in a while. It's also easier to trust people who are willing to share their true identities.

-- KrisJohnson

I don't think there's really any reason for trust to be an issue. We're having discussions, not lending each other money. The only sense in which you're trusting other people is that you're trusting them to stick by the rules, and the best guide to whether they'll do that is whether they have done in the past. If anything I find it harder to trust someone who wants to know my real name, because it's equivalent to saying they don't trust people they don't have some control over. It's like asking your waiter for his or her name, it gives the impression you're threatening to report their behavior to the boss. I also distrust the notion of trust which using RealNames gives. At least you know where you stand with a name like AnAspirant, which is that you don't know where you stand. With a name like FredMartin? you either have to take it on faith that that's a real person or google them. For example, I haven't googled you Kris, and don't intend to, since I consider it an invasion of privacy. You might be chair of the naked frog garglers association of illinois for all I care, I already know all I need to about you from the Wiki, which is that you're interested in some of the same stuff I am. Anything else about yourself which you wanted me to know, you would have told me. -- AnAspirant
Another nice thing about real names: They're easier to shorten. If I'm having an extended conversation on some page with KrisJohnson, I can just call him Kris. What do I call AnAspirant for short? "An"? "Aspirant"? I guess AA will have to do, though when I read "AA" the first thing I think of is AlcoholicsAnonymous. -- francis

AA, Aspirant, Asp, Aspy, whatever. Plenty of real names don't shorten particularly well either. And the brevity you gain when referring to other people is lost when you sign off your own name in full anyway. Ok, in this case you haven't, but Kris usually does. Incidentally, I'll be honest and say that I don't think I'm likely to change my opinion any time soon. I think we may have to agree to differ for the time being. I can always change them later if I change my mind. If any of you really can't stand "AnAspirant" and have an alternative non-real name suggestion, speak now. Sensible suggestions only, please :) -- AnAspirant

Certain people grew "militant" when I did not use my real name for what I considered to be valid reasons. I was very disappointed by this behavior. Can't people find something more important to be militant about? Is it truly sacred enough to many of you to wage an edit war about?

Perhaps the symbolism of the idea is more important than the idea itself. WardsWiki is sort-of just another web-based discussion platform, and yet it functions very differently than almost anything else out there. RealNamesPlease does seem to serve as a very useful litmus test as to who has the sensitivity to understand the importance of respecting differing cultural norms, and who blunders in thinking that this is just UseNet, SlashDot, or UltimateBbs?. -- francis

Useful how? Isn't another word for a "litmus test" of that form "prejudice"? If I were to claim that there was a sub-culture within Wiki who did not believe in RealNamesPlease, where would the need for sensitivity to differing cultural norms lie then? (Actually, I think sub-cultures don't form easily in Wiki because there isn't the privacy that spatial separation provides, but that's a separate debate). To be honest, I'm a bit put off WardsWiki by this whole thing. I might change my NomDePlume to a more Real-looking alias anyway though, since the confusion argument does hold some water. I'd go for ThomasAnderson?, but I think NeoHere? has first dibs on that. How about Alias00001? -- AnAspirant
Certain people grew "militant" ...

I'm not aware of that particular episode, but I do have an opinion on the matter. If you're thinking about using a fake name, consider this: Wiki is a community based primarily on usefulness of content. A fake name is not useful for your fellow WikiZens, in fact it is misleading. Because it is misleading, it is better to use no name at all than to use a fake name; that's why there's such a prevalent anonymous VoiceOfWiki. Now if you want to remain anonymous, that's a well-accepted mode of contributing to Wiki, simply don't sign your contributions, or use AnonymousDonor in place of a signature. But maybe you want to have a page with some info about yourself or somewhere people can leave comments addressed to you. In that case, you'll want a WikiHomePage; great, we welcome you! Now you have to choose the name for your home page. Is the page about you or your alter ego? Well, your fellow wikizens wouldn't find info about your alter ego very useful, so better to make it about yourself. Therefore, you should choose a name that represents your real name.

If that doesn't convince you, then all I have to say is that RealNamesPlease is one of our WikiSocialNorms, and WhenInRome... -- AnonymousDonor

I had reason for using a pseudo-name. I will not state it again because people keep deleting it when I do as part of the intimidation effort to "enforce" the name code. I have given up on my pseudo-name push anyhow, and just do the anonymous thing. My point is I think people get carried away with "enforcing" such a social norm that they vandalize content with slurs in an admitted effort to intimidate me out of such a practice. It was bad social form IMO. Fine. If in Rome you get e-beaten for not acting like a Roman. I get the message.

Newbies, be warned. Avoid the House of the Rising Pseudonym at all cost. No "excuse" is good enough.

By the way, are there any other such "mandatory wiki social norms" I should know about?

Yes, see WikiSocialNorms.

I kind of meant sorted by how militantly they are "enforced". IOW, violation of which ones result in the kind of harassment I suffered under RealNamesPlease?

Look, WardsWiki is an existing community, with its pre-existing ethos & politics. We try our best to write down our beliefs in ways that make it easier for newcomers to acclimate here, but basically it boils down to this: If you enter this community with no interest in respecting the desires of those who came before you, then you're going to treated like a brash, wet-behind-the-ears newbie. And if you're the sensitive type, then sometimes when you do that your feelings will get hurt. Not too different from other communities, really. -- francis

In other words, Welcome to Salem.

No, in other words: This is a community that works in a certain way. Those rules seem to work for a lot of people. If they don't work for you, then maybe you don't belong here.

What if we like say 98% of it, but the other 2% sucks eggs royally? The choice is then to FixTheWorld?, PlayHurt, or move on. It seems a shame to let that 2% wag the dog, though.

And you honestly think these sorts of comments are going to be effective for you to plead your case? You honestly think that you're the first person ever to have questioned and challenged the RealNamesPlease idea here? Of course there's nothing wrong with disagreeing with something, or with wanting to change it. But if you think you can barge into a pre-existing community and ask them to change their rules just 'cause you just showed up to the party, you must not know that much about how people work.

Seems like a really clear and helpful statement of the problem to me. -- AnAspirant

I guess I am too riddled with the American ideal of raising up against tyrannies of groupthink. Perhaps I should adjust my culture to be more of a European mindset - a comfortable middle that values diplomacy and getting along more than attempts at improvement and the risk it brings.

I don't see it as American vs. European, myself. (I'm a USian, myself.) I think of it as being pragmatic vs. simply making a scene. If you think RealNamesPlease is dumb, your most effective way to change it is to gain the respect of members of this community, and then make your argument from that position. This requires patience. Patience is a virtue. -- francis

Gain "respect" as an AnonymousDonor? That is going to be interesting. Besides, that seems to suggest that wiki is based on AdVerecundiam evidence instead of the merit of ideas alone.

I never said you'd be able to do so as an anonymous donor. You'd have to use your actual real name to do so. But, yes, people are more likely to change their minds if asked to do so by somebody they already know and respect. Even the people on Wards Wiki. Good Lord, we're not robots here.

I don't want to use my real name for reasons that keep getting deleted. I can't even use a number (without harassment) for Pete sakes!

So it seems that people didn't find your reasons very convincing. -- francis

Perhaps, but the best way to handle unconvincing arguments is to post a reply rather than delete. Otherwise the same issue will come up and there will be no history to learn from. Wiki is about documenting (alleged) mistakes as much as successes. There are as many lessons in mistakes as their are in successes.

I am curious how respect can be gained by fictitious names, such as the current discussion about NeoHere?.

It's a big world. Find your place in it. -- francis

Do I detect a "(Not here.)"? -- AnAspirant
result in the kind of harassment I suffered under RealNamesPlease?

I'm only guessing who you are, but you may be referring to the AnonymousDonor formerly known as TabliZer. In that case, from where I sat, harassment seemed to be coming from one or two people who were familiar with an off-site persona with that name.

But so far they appear to be mostly bothered by the name issue and not TabliZer-like content. Odd. I guess one should be glad that adherence to RealNamesPlease alone was mostly sufficient to calm them, though. Count one's blessings. But it is still a behavioral puzzle to me.

Frankly, I thought the entire episode to be puerile and overwrought. That being said, usually once someone pings you with a RealNamesPlease, you're free to do what you like. You just have to live with the preconceptions an UnrealName? brings. Because of the RealNamesPlease tradition, I mentally TwitFilter unreal names on Wiki and ignore them (see: NoelCoward?). Others may not be so generous. Regardless, if you contribute to this InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas in a positive meaningful way, you can call yourself WinnieThePooh for all I care. -- SeanOleary

"I mentally TwitFilter..." and " can call yourself WinnieThePooh for all I care" seem a bit at odds to me. Still, the latter sentiment is appreciated (as, incidentally, is the excellent recent refactoring of this page). -- AnAspirant

Galileo could perhaps have made more exchanges of ideas if he'd had a way to use a pseudonym. -- AnonymousDonor
It is said that everyone has three names: the name they are given, the name they choose, and the name they deserve.
My 'real name' if you mean the name on my birth certificate is a slang term used in the USA as an insult. It also is reflective of another individual indirectly related to me who I dislike. The name I have chosen for myself is short, original, precise and reflects me in many ways, on several levels, whereas my legal name does not reflect me at all. I have used my preferred real name for some time, and I am introduced to people, in real life, using it. I have people at the school I used to attend who call me by it. My friends who I meet up with in real life, call me buy it. I have a metal tag I wear around with me (similar to a ID tag) which has 'Ashen', the name I think of myself, and what I define my identity as, engraved into its metal. I have no doubt whatsoever that Ashen is my 'real name' and it is certainly not the name I was born with. I have used 'Ashen' in everyhwere from light roleplay or as a fictional character to taking an international vacation with my life partner and not using my legal name once excepct when called to show my passport at the airport terminal. This is the extent to which I use the self identity which I refer to myself as both online and all over my 'real life'.

Personally I believe that thinking long and hard, then coming up with a name they wish themselves to be known as which truly reflects their personhood is both a good exercise in self definition and gives you a much more valid name then one simply assigned to you as an infant. I don't reveal my legal name online, not because I do not trust people with its use, but simply as its actual utterance is offensive to some!

Eventually, I hope everyone will abandon generic and impersonal names like 'Joe', 'Bob', 'Bill', etc., and create themselves a name which represents who they are and which they excersise their right as a thinking, willing, self directed person to define themselves and deal with their relation to the world in a proactive and existentalist way. I find the idea proposed by TaralDragon of a child name, and later, an adult name chosen by the individual, very much appealing.

There is no need to require legal names from all to secure permanent, unique identifiers for people, you could use, for example, OneNamePlease.

-- AshenWolf?
I prefer to avoid taglines on contributions because:

While I like the idea that using a name might lead one to more careful discussion, I prefer the idea that we are most careful when working on the communal knowledge.

-- ChrisFay
Fake real names:

The English WikiPedia is struggling to decide what names are acceptable now. (We've recently been joined by a user named Saddam Hussein!) But that's not what I want to talk about. Instead, I'm wondering what people here think about the random name generator <>? -- Toby Bartels <>
Are you still allowing discussion here? I did read RealNamesPlease and I understand it. However, in my particular case, almost NOBODY knows me by my true legal name. A smaller subset of people know me by a nickname for my real first name plus my current legal last name, which is the SECOND legal last name (i.e., name on my social security card) I have had. My legal last name will be reverting to the original in a fairly short amount of time, so you can see why I really prefer not to be known as anything but the name which I've used on the 'Net for almost 20 years, Lothie (or for Wiki purposes, LothieBelle). -- LothieBelle, obviously

I have a technical problem with RealNames - I use MozillaFirefox (Firebird before that), and I have to remember to set my cookie each day (which I don't). I'd like to use my real name automatically, but I don't see how to fix this. -- LayneThomas [See AboutCookies.]

I'm sorry to bring this discussion back from the dead but please, a small question if I may.. If you see an interesting remark somewhere (ThreadMode), and there's no signature, how can you contact that particular person about it? -- TheChance?

Like that.

I think one should allow contributions of a contributor desiring a means of contact in ThreadMode (Not DocumentMode) if the contributor has any serious reasons not to reveal his/her birth name so long as the contributor effectively contributes (AnyNameIsOkayIfYouImproveTheWiki?). -- TheChance?

Contributors: AaronHumphrey, AnAspirant, BrianOneiromancer, DirckBlaskey, FrancisHwang, IainLowe, KrisJohnson, LaurentBossavit, RiVer, RichardDrake, SeanOleary, TaralDragon, TorneWuff

See: RealNamesOnlyOrAnonymous, OneNamePlease

View edit of November 16, 2014 or FindPage with title or text search