[Home]UseRealNamesDiscussion

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See also UseRealNamesRefactored.

I have this theory that login/passwords encourage people to create pseudonyms (see AnonymityVsPseudonymity). You see, in the RealWorld, I don't have to authenticate and identify myself every time I walk into the store or go into the library. Ideally, my identity is only given out when it is absolutely required, say when I write a personal cheque or borrow a book. However, in the paranoid universe online, HardSecurity is considered "normal" and perfectly acceptable. It's perfectly "reasonable" for me to have to log in (Free registration!' gack...) to read news [1] which would otherwise be available anonymously through a newsstand. Since this is unacceptable, people use pseudonyms as they are at least marginally disconnected from your actual identity.

In addition, it's very difficult for people with generic names like "John Smith" to uniquely identify themselves with just their name. Thus, a separate pseudonym is usually created.

Personally, minus the "fun factor" of creating a false identity (see below, "costume party"), these two reasons don't appeal to me. First, I just don't log in to places I don't like unless I really have to (which makes me angry). In those cases, I have the luxury of creating a unique identity for myself at, say, example.com by giving out the email address: example_com@sunir.org. Secondly, my name is unique already; I have never had an identity crisis every time someone does roll call.

On the other hand, other folk like ZeroKnowledge?? and some CypherPunks go the other way and think that your online experience needs to be perfectly anonymous. I think this is extreme. You cannot be a member of society if you refuse to introduce yourself to it. At best, you will be a hermit in the online space.

Now, for MeatballWiki, I believe strongly in UsingRealNames for two good reasons (one worse, one better):

1. Worse. This site is more serious than it may seem. You should approach it with some modicum of professionalism or academic rigour. I think that using your real name goes a long way towards encouraging meaningful discussion because you can't hide behind an ever shifting, discardable alias. You should feel you are responsible for what you say (see PeerPressure, PeerReview). If you don't wish to take direct responsibility, you can post almost-anonymously, but in that case you shouldn't expect the same trust and respect for your post as when you sign it. That is, I do agree with Precious Roy on [Kuro5hin:Collaborative Media: Who do you trust?] that it's easier to trust people when they sign their real name.

2. Better. Heck, it makes it more friendly and communal. It removes that little psychological barrier so we can get on with the real stuff.

Really, I think the first reason is much, much less important than the second. People are always more important than work.

[Costume party] In contrast, on other sites that are less serious, more play, pseudonyms are a nice relief. They're like a never ending costume party. I certainly enjoy that in some contexts, especially when I play network games or when I'm on ICQ. I usually make it clear who I am, though. Sometimes I don't, but that's the devil in me.

By the way, my handle these days happens to be "fooz." -- SunirShah, aka fooz.

From a discussion about authenticating people against their RealWorld identities...

Currently, I'm treating this wiki more as conversation than as a tome for posterity. Philosophical musings are a good and even necessary part of developing one's point of view. Unfortunately, U.S. courts seem to think that anything I type into a computer is supposed to be part of some of official record, and taken seriously in court.

At least in the current incarnation I can have some plausible deniability (ErikDeBill might not be my real name. In fact it's the name of one of my rivals. I'm laying the groundwork for some serious embarassment at this very moment!). Force something like a SSN, or a credit card and that goes down the tubes.

Even using my real name makes me nervous - my first reaction when I went to create a user name was to create a Pseudonym. Unfortunately, none of my normal ones (or others I could quickly think of) fit the LinkPattern. I wouldn't be surprised if "ErikDeBill" disappeared some time soon - and someone else appeared. I'd just rather be more anonymous. I produce enough digital efluvia in the course of day to day life without adding another source to my permanent record.

If this all sounds paranoid, well, it is. But I don't see how something being attributed to ErikDeBill or someone else makes a difference to the substance of the interaction. They are both just labels, with little bearing on reality. --ErikDeBill

Are you questioning the ImportanceOfIdentityInOnlineCommunities?

Questions for ErikDeBill:

1) Is ErikDeBill your real name? This is a yes or no question. You might say "yes" and be lying, and I admit that possibility. But I ask because I want to force you to either admit to using a fake name, or else tell a deliberate lie.

Asserting it does not make it so. It is a yes/no question only to those with an inability to TolerateAmbiguity. --NameWithheld?

2) Why are you concerned about people repeating what you say here? Why, exactly, do you want deniability? Is it because you aren't giving us the truth? Or because you want to lie elsewhere? I really find it hard to understand: exactly what is it that you want to deny?

And a comment. Here's why it matters to me whether you are ErikDeBill or someone else. I want to be able to connect what you say here to what you say elsewhere. I expect you to consider what you say here carefully, and not just spout of random bullshit. The knowledge that someone in the future might hold up what you say to you and say "did you really say this?" acts as a very useful deterrent preventing you from spouting random garbage or doing other destructive things. It's a form of SoftSecurity that is exceedingly useful.

I *want* you to be held accountable for what you say here, because in that way, your behavior is that much more likely to be a positive contribution. (I'm not singling you out or anything--I don't have some reason to think you are likely to be ill-behaved, mind you.) There are cases where there are good reasons to prevent you from being held to account, but unless you can identify what that might be--concretely--and unless the community agrees with the reasons, then I at least ask that you (and all others) use real names here. --ThomasBushnellBSG

It's a mistake to believe that people can be held less accountable (except in a legal sense, maybe) by their nicknames. An established nickname in a certain community is not a thing you'd risk any more lightly than your real name. -- At the same time I understand that it's an important thing to respect an established community's conventions when you join it, so even though I'm Mych on the UnrealWiki and in the Unreal community at large, I'm MichaelBuschbeck here. -- MichaelBuschbeck

A response, and not from ErikDeBill, to your position is that you never know when someone out there will use something you say, or some personal identifier of yours in a way that you wouldn't agree with, or a way that is not in your best interest. For example, I once (stupidly) posted to a newsgroup of professional interest to me and used my real name and email. Now I receive spam at my work email. Simply using my real name can result in spam. For my personal email, I use my real name. I want my friends and family to recognize mail from me without having to translate a username to a real name. They see the 'from' field and they know it is from me. Simply by stripping out the names from a wiki and then trying some permutations (add .s between names, or _s) and sending junk to the major providers, one could see what doesn't bounce and then sell this list to spammers. This could all be automated and made routine. Because I am not comfortable using my real name, and because you and others apparently feel strongly that I should, I simply will not come back, and, in all likelihood, will not use wikis. I read an article recently that put forth the notion that for people in the US, a fundamental underpinning of freedom is the ability to be anonymous. It struck me as novel. I had never thought about it that way before, but now that I have, I must say I agree. -anonymous

The freedom to be anonymous is not the same as the right to be pseudonymous. You may post anonymously, but not pseudonymously.

What about those of us who use nicknames in real life too, or who consistently use an online nickname? -- Tarquin

IMO create a homepage for your nickname, where you give your real-life identity. -- HelmutLeitner

Why not use the name you would put on your résumé? -- SunirShah

[CategoryIdentity CategoryWikiConventions]

Using something that LOOKS like a real name is completely useless. I don't use a pseudonym here or elsewhere to hide my identity, and I wish to be totally open, contactable and to have a consistent, non-morphing identity. But I've been using the handle Oneiromancer or, when unavailable, PrinceOfStories? since I was 15, and that's just who I am online. It allows me more consistentcy to be known this way than by using my birth name, and what's more, it allows me a layer of protection. Now, I don't much beleive in the idea of rampant internet stalkers or anything, but I don't want an employer or someone who thinks I stole their girlfriend or something from "real life" going to find out as much as they can about me and finding everything I ever wrote about online. My online and offline identity are permanantly connected, and I'm not saying someone who really wants to can't break from either one to the other one, but it does provide a modicum of insulation, like a firewall, and I don't see any real benefit to the community, its members, or myself, to removing that layer of insulation, or that connection to my history online. My name won't mean anything to you unless you know me peronally, which is unlikely, but my pseodonym might. It's a lot more likely in an online community with some common interests to cross paths with someone from elsewhere online then from elsewhere in person. -- PrinceOfStories?

PS - the "kind-of pseudonym" offered above is unsatisfactory, because a) I don't want anonymity, I want consistency b) I do change computers and IPs all the time, so not only would I not have consistent identity with myself elsewhere online, but I wouldn't have consistent identity with myself here. I came across WikiWiki by way of c2.com, and maybe if this is unacceptable to you I'll just stick with them, but you need to see the failure of such requirements. I know the well did it, and for a time thrived, but it just doesn't make sense.

LorraineLee apologizes for using the handle LoriZ. Are diminutions and/or initials of a RealName? acceptable, e.g. LoriL??? As for a real email address, I've been down that road, and I can't imagine anything positive resulting from it.

Please accept my apologies. Anonymity and pen names can improve the group process since it allows people to say what they feel without personal reprocussions. In EIES we asked realname, anonymous, or penname whenever a user entered an item. The nice thing was that pen names were shown in "quotes" so you could always distinguish them from real names. We also allowed a reserved the pen name so others could not use it. Though I seldom use it myself, anonymity has an important role in group communications. It is better that one says what they think in a pseudonym than to not speak. -- JimScarver

"It is better that one says what they think in a pseudonym than to not speak." That statement is a commonly accepted value in many online communities. SunirShah (the "editor" of Meatball) made a different choice of values when forming this community. I used to disagree strongly with that choice, but now I think that the anti-pseudonym policy is a reasonable one for this community. Meatball uses SoftSecurity guidelines which effectively require identification of participants. --CliffordAdams

I think we have to realise that the "real names" requested by SunirShah, our host, are just a particular text pattern. "John Smith" is a valid pattern. There's no proof that it's real, and it could just as easily be a made up name which satisfies the pattern. With people from many cultures coming together, some genuine names may seem outlandishly bizarre, yet be real -- how do we distiguish between those and MadeUpNames?? which fit the pattern? What about cultures that don't fit the pattern, because they don't use surnames, or use exactly the sort of names most of us would treat as made up (such as DancesWithWolves??)? -- UseMod:Tarquin

This argument keeps coming up, but it's fairly bogus. Real people who use real names are identifiable in other places. It's very difficult to create a believable fake identity--don't forget that a truly disconnected identity is clearly fake. But really it's not a matter of what we think, but it's a matter of what you think. Do you want to be here? If so, why? Then, do you not think that us using our real names is part of the reason why this place is somewhere you want to participate? So, if you want to participate, please be accommodating. It's not a difficult request. But it's not fair to us to use a PenName when we use real names--that just becomes an example of the TragedyOfTheCommons. -- SunirShah

True story: at university, I met a friend of a friend whose name was "Ferret". Just that. She'd had it changed by deed poll, it was on her credit card and everything. It's not that extreme a case. Plenty of English eccentrics change their name in this way, some to the most bizarre things. What do you mean by a disconnected identity? Someone might feasibly have been using the same online nickname for years, and you might find no trace of their real name. I think we see this very differently. You see a nickname as some way of concealing oneself, of escaping the requirement to be consistent & to identify onesself. I do not. The line you have drawn is arbitrary. What do you say to a David Smith who is commonly called "Dave"? Must he be DavidSmith??? Is DaveSmith?? alright? -- but DaveSmith?? is not his real name! Shock! What about all the names from other cultures which seem foreign to me? I have no way of knowing if they are real. All I can do is trust that the people who sign with them will continue to do so, and that I will be able to fabricate an idea of their identity as I interact with them. For that matter, I have begun to wonder if SunirShah is a real name. It's already been pointed out how appropriate "Sunir" = "s'unir" is to Meatball. And Shah = King = GodKing, maybe? Could it all be a Wiki:DramaticIdentity? Sure, you're plastered all over the internet, but all that proves is patience and the ability to think long-term. I can muse on this, but ultimately, I have to make a choice: to interact with you on your own terms, or not. As you can see I'm still posting as an IP. :-) I appreciate the spectre of the TragedyOfTheCommons hangs over a community like this. I'm just not sure that the line you have drawn is effective.

It's possible that I could construct a faux net.persona and get away with it, although somehow I doubt my high school and university would play into such a charade. Nonetheless, I also make efforts to make connections in the RealWorld with others. That's the difference between using a PenName and a nick name--a nick name is still part of the base person whereas a pen name is false. Sincerity is hard to fake. If you want to try, good luck. If you're found out, don't ask for forgiveness. This may be the Internet, but there's no sense in living in TheWell all the time. -- SunirShah

I was only teasing about you being a dramatic identity... it would have been very intriguing had it been true though! In the RealWorld I interact with people but I don't necessarily give them my address, or my surname, or my telephone number. [ Yes, this problem in availing of PracticalObscurity is one that UseRealNames proponents frequent fail to address or acknowledge] I suppose I draw a heavier line between my private and public sides than you do. By your definition, I use "Tarquin" as a nick name rather than a pen name: I'm not using it to hide, it's just my choice of (consistent) label. My lack of a real name actually tells you more about me than my real name would: I'm a non-conforming co-operator, with an occasional cavalier disregard for rules. ;-)

random comment:

I'm not sure if I think UseRealNames is definitely a good idea (I dislike the atmosphere of handles, but since people can have pretend real names maybe we should AvoidIllusion), but I think it's definitely a good experiment. If anyone has really good reasons for doing otherwise, I'd be cool with exceptions, but so far I haven't heard any really good reasons by any putative non-real-namers on MeatBall.

I'm not sure what I think of using a handle as a UserName but posting anonymously. Maybe o.k.

Here's something I would be cool with if someone really didn't want to post with their real name (too long to write out, they don't like it, etc). They make up a fake real-sounding name, get it "approved" publically by meatball, move their wiki HomePage to that name, and perpetually leave a notice on that homepage with at least link to a place where you can see their real name (like their actual WWW homepage).

The reason for this convoluted process (rather than just making up a silly-sounding handle and putting a link to the real name on their wiki homepage) is mostly to prevent others from thinking non-real names were allowed, and partly to preserve atmosphere.

The reason I would allow it is that I think it's perfectly fair for someone to dislike their name and not want to use it, but to not have gone to the trouble to change it in real life. As long as accoutability is there, and silly sounding names aren't everywhere, everything would be fine.

Also, not to nitpick too much, but I don't care if the real name matches exactly the legal name (my bank accounts say Baylis Shanks). My guideline would be: your real name is either your legal name, or whatever you would call yourself in a job interview (with a serious company).

-- BayleShanks


In the RealWorld I interact with people but I don't necessarily give them my address, or my surname, or my telephone number.

Since this is also the "RealWorld", the question is, are you merely "interacting" with people here on MeatballWiki? Aren't you doing something more defined, more involved? I think you would be hard pressed to continue volunteering at any organization without ever introducing yourself, and you certainly wouldn't be trusted if you introduced yourself as Homey the Clown.

Yes, don't "interact". Just contribute. Demonstrate your ability to do so in spite of the provocations of those who will not AssumeGoodFaith, but who insist on interpreting disagreement as an attack.

On most places on the Internet, the stakes are so low, it doesn't matter if you are trusted or not, so you can be a pseudonym or not. Do you really feel the stakes are that low on MeatballWiki? If so, why are you bothering us?

One could easily say that the anonymous user could easily attack us, but usually anonymous people aren't interested enough in attacking. Pseudonymous people on the other hand make an emotional stake through SerialIdentity, and it takes an emotional stake to become angry.

These days, it's become fashionable to make a big splash with your pseudonym, argue with the community, and then start posting "anonymously" even though it's really just a continuation of your pseudonym since everyone knows who you are. This is an interesting twist, but still an ungood twist, as it successfully subverts the entire community.


WhyUseRealNames discussion area

I thought there should be some place to discuss what should be on the page WhyUseRealNames so as to keep WhyUseRealNames itself kind of concise. So here's my proposed spot:

Thanks for setting this up BayleShanks. I have to take one point here with SunirShah's second reason for using real names - that using real names is more communal and friendly. Hey, what's all that about? I use my pseudo-name and I've never been accused (yet) of being unfriendly, or uncommunal. In fact, some of the communities that I belong to are almost inhabited by signature names and there are some very friendly places out there. I do not have a psychological barrier with names that people call themselves. I have psychological barriers with some things I read that people think, but not with what they call themselves (actually, if it's offensive- ie. swearing, then I normally do steer clear from them).

Also Sunir wishes us to approach this with 'academic rigour', but then fails to apply any methodology to his claims, which would be a normal academic exercise. I haven't found any research here which identifies why people wish to remain anonymous or which would be considered by an academic department. So, by claiming that by using real names we will become more academic, then you ought to start applying some methodology to what is being claimed in point 2. What evidence do you have that it is more friendly to use real names? To what extent does it make it more communal, and why? Why is most academic research carried out under anonymous conditions?

I should note that I have no idea if Sunir still thinks the communal and friendly stuff is important -- last I heard he was most interested in the "MeatballWiki is in MeatSpace" and "UseRealNames gauntlet" side of things. I included #2 not because Sunir supports it but because I think it is one of the common reasons that some people around here like UseRealNames. Also because I personally like that reason.

Maybe the "communal and friendly" point suffers a bit divorced from it's original context (which said that UseRealNames encouraged, first, seriousness, and second, communal friendliness). I guess other communities with handles might be just as communal and friendly; I just personally feel more comfortable here with the real names. Maybe I am confounding this with other factors that are making me feel comfortable, though.

As for academic study, I assume that when people say MeatballWiki wants to be "academic" it means academic like an academic letter-writing society, or like the Enlightenment dudes of old, rather than like a modern scientific journal. -- BayleShanks

If you want to be taken seriously, then you should try and address some grammatical errors in your writing (as above) - only then will your writing be seen as worthy of an academic letter-writing society. Names do not matter - content does.


UseRealNames still strikes me as a bit of a HardPolicy? for a site that believes in SoftSecurity. Daft names aren't desirable here; and we want to maintain a fairly serious atmosphere. But I think it is more within MB's principles to draw a soft line rather than a hard one: a FuzzyRule? rather than a HardRule?. Of course, that is much harder to enforce, simply because no hard line is drawn. Each case has to be decided separately. (cf. BuildInTolerance)

It isn't that hard. If you don't want to use your real name, you can PostAnonymously (more or less). This is really more pseudonymous than anonymous, but in this case we remove people's ability to call themselves MrHappyPants or what have you. Note that people do go and create well-known pseudonyms, like Tarquin, but we dampen their ability to pervade the site with them. Typically they just create a namepage, which we don't normally delete, and then post without signing. The community doesn't encourage that, as it is very disappointing, and you will have to fight harder to gain credibility from the violation of our trust in addition to the weakened SerialIdentity, but for now we're not willing to raise pitchforks.

Now I understand considering the number of battles we've had that it seems that we're hard on UseRealNames, but I think the heart of the issue wasn't the real names policy, but our desire to exclude flamebaiters. The real names policy is merely the front line, as no troll will use their real name. Which is the whole point. -- SunirShah

So, just to clarify this, you wish people to use real names, to discourage trolls?

That's one reason. There are many reasons, most positive. You shouldn't discount how much easier it is to form friendships when you can address people by their first names, and how much easier it is to emotionally distance yourself from people when you hide behind a mask. -- SunirShah

You shouldn't assume people want to form friendships when they participate in a joint-editing project. I don't go to the library to make new friends, I go to the library to look stuff up, to check out books. I don't write a letter to my political representatives because I want to find new chums. Maybe in the process of exercising these mundanities of citizenship, I meet some people who become friends, but structuring these places or events based around friendship misses the mark. I didn't come here for a group hug, I'm here to fill in the stuff I think you get wrong, or that you haven't (apparently) thought about, or haven't thought through, or that you don't know about or sometimes just to correct a typo or . . . I'm here to tell you what that weird, multifaceted but slippery thing we have the hubris to call "the truth" looks like from over here, at some distance from where you're standing and looking at it. If we can be friends

in the process, that's great, but it's a subsidiary goal, at most.

MeatballMission states, "Meatball aims to be a community of communities", not an impersonal reference work. The goal here os to foster trust. If you're not in for that, and are here for the reasons you state, what's wrong with posting anonymously, like you are right now? Even after the exhaustive discusion of the subject, I've seen only one solid reason for using a pseudonym: if a person has used a single pseudonym all over the net, that person is better known by his handle than his real name. I don't think that outweighs the advantages of UseRealNames, especially when you can explain on your HomePage "Hi, my usual handle is Snaps Weatherbane". -- StephenGilbert

Our founding metaphor is BarnRaising. That's only partly about the work, and mostly about the community. That's our philosophy because we feel it leads to better results. If you disagree, that's fine, but you should realize that is our position. -- SunirShah

I'm really sorry, but can you point me to the reasons for using real names?

You mean besides the above arguments? :) Try WhyUseRealNames for a short list.

Besides, the question is more like Why not use real names? ;)

My reason for not using real names is because a name is only a tag. Most of my friends actually call me by my name that I use on the net. So in some sense, that becomes my real name - or does it? The question is not why to use real names or not use real names, but who judges what a real name is or isn't. You guys seem to act as judge and jury on that one by not accepting that people have different names in different situations, and not allowing people to call themselves what they wish to be known as.

Your real name is the one you would use when meeting someone for the first time in MeatSpace. And I'm afraid you still haven't provided a good reason for not wanting to use this name. ;-) If "a name is only a tag", why do you feel the need to make up a new one? -- StephenGilbert

I think there are cultural differences between North America and (say) the UK which cause problems here: we're not dealing with the same frames of rreference ... I get the impression (correct me if I'm wrong) that North Americans give their name & surname as soon as they meet someone -- at least this is what I see on TV and in films. In the UK, we ... well, we just don't. I live in a small village of about 2,000 people, and 90% of the people I say hello to don't know my name, and vice-versa. Those that do probably only know my first name. It was over 2 years before the (regular) staff at the library and I began to be on first-name terms. Over the last 6 months I've become good friends with a guy on my street, and it was about 3 months before he got round to asking my surname. In fact, those that do know my full name are those I've had a business contact with, such as the local plumber. Now Meatball is meant to be a community, not a business relationship, no? And it's not just small communities, I've lived in London too. (this is not the same anonymous user as the previous anon comment BTW... ;-)

Yes, we just want the same name that you would give in a job interview -- we're trying not to judge which name is acceptable any more (or less) than people do in MeatSpace. In an interview, you might say, "My name is ____, but please call me KabAds?" -- we're looking for the same sort of thing. You probably wouldn't say "You can call me KabAds? and I'd prefer not to give you my legal name", right? -- BayleShanks

No - wrong; in this instance I would say, "my name is Kabads". If queried, then I explain it was a name that was given at school and one which has stuck quite a bit. Nearly everyone knows me as that and are surprised when they hear my real name. I also agree that there is a cultural difference. Here in the UK we don't give out our name a lot (in everyday life), unless it's required of the situation. Both my neighbours next door obviously have surnames, which I don't know - and the situation doesn't call for me to ask them. For that matter, I don't need to know their surname, it wouldn't affect our friendship anymore than knowing their date of birth. Names are tags which are associated with a personality and reputation. I have not made up my new tag - it is one which was given to me some 22 years ago at school and has stuck. What made StephenGilbert think I made a new one up?

Sorry. I didn't know who I was talking to. ;-) In your case, I would say Kabads is your "real name". You are the judge. I know a man who's given name is Raymond. However, everyone uses "Buddy" as his first name. Many people think "Buddy" is his legal name. The founder of WikiPedia goes by Jimbo Wales. I would say these are real names. Thus, when I asked on your user page, "Is Kabads your real name", you could honestly answer yes, couldn't you? -- StephenGilbert

Given that definition, then yes, it is my real name. However, it's not on my birth certificate.


While I only visit Meatball occasionally, I find it very entertaining when I do, and I'm not sure why I don't visit more often. However, I still find the UseRealNames policy one of the most bizarre and arbitrary that I have yet encountered. IMHO, UseRealNames is an attractive nuisance with paradoxically unknown and unknowable consequences.

Am I who I say I am? More important, how much time and effort should be expended trying to track down and punish people who aren't who they say they are? Even more important, what good can come of such enforcement efforts? The irony here is that I really am who I say I am, but I am also well aware of the fact that I would would find it nigh on impossible to prove that fact to anyone, just as it would be nigh on impossible for anyone to prove that I am not who I say I am. Absent some compelling reason -- i.e, a court order or an offer of monetary compensation -- I ain't gonna give up any personal information that might be used against me. -- DavidPrenatt

Well, we trust that you're being honest. (cf. PrincipleOfFirstTrust) -- SunirShah

Who said anything about tracking down and punishing people? I assume "enforcement" means trying to force people to UseRealNames via HardSecurity; no good would come from such efforts. If a person insisted on using a PenName, I suspect the only thing that would happen is that someone would remove that person's signatures from their contributions.

That fact that you can't prove who you are is a non-argument against the policy. In most everyday circumstances, you don't have to offer proof of your identity. You say your name is David Prenatt, and I believe you. I don't need your driver's license, verified digital signature or personal history before accepting who you say you are. -- StephenGilbert


I thought the site rules were that there wasn't even permitted anonymous posting? Ah well. (I read the full page, btw.) -- LionKimbro

Of course! I know we all sign everything these days, but that's because we're all retarded. -- SunirShah

Why hasn't anyone referred this person to FermentWiki yet?

I suppose because it would be preferable that AntHere contributes here using his real name. Perhaps after a while he will see the advantage. As Sunir is absent, there is no one religious about RealName (e. g. I think that rules should not be followed too strictly). There is also no cooperation between MeatBall and FermentWiki, so there is on reason to send them potential contributors. -- HelmutLeitner

If demanding people exercise their RightToLeave is your only solution to all social problems, you are a really shitty leader. We do not welcome new people who disagree with us to go elsewhere. This isn't a GatedCommunity. -- SunirShah

I disagree; I think Lion made the right choice. If you do it in a friendly way, like Lion did, I don't think it's unwelcoming. What would be unfriendly would be to not appraise AntHere of all of her options because of our selfish desire for her to contribute here.

Second, as to demanding someone exercise their RightToLeave, we've already given AntHere an ultimatum. Telling someone "tell us your real name, post anonymously, or get out" is only slightly more friendly than saying just "tell us your real name, or get out". If the latter is shitty leadership, than the former probably is too (I don't think either are). We certainly are a GatedCommunity with respect to our insistence on UseRealNames.

-- BayleShanks

Hey, what an interesting storm of editing on this page. May I - after a couple of editing conflicts - finally post here? Tak.

I do strongly doubt that Lions only solution to all social problems is to demand people to execute their RightToLeave, but I do agree with Sunir that it's a "pretty personal style" to welcome people by giving them advices how to leave. Anyhow, you shitty leaders... --MattisManzel

I think that people should have a certain period of time to move freely under a kind of "guest status" where the rules are not enforced like on members. After a while they should either decide to follow the rules and become part of the community or move on. -- HelmutLeitner

I don't know why you equivocate terms so much or what you have against MeatballWiki. We aren't a gated community. I don't believe anyone said "tell us your real name, post anonymously, or get out". Maybe it's in the page history somewhere?

I'm not interested in appraising a French person considering moving next to me in Ottawa of her option to live in Vanier. Or I suppose for you Americans, a black person to live in Harlem. Or a pseudonym of FermentWiki. Read EnlargeSpace's negative side.

Helmut is half there. You have to engage the person in discussion first as if they are an adult. In other words, you have to be an adult. -- SunirShah

I might be convinced of the opposite and that might be of advantage to the community (MindTheGap) -- MattisManzel

I don't believe anyone said "tell us your real name, post anonymously, or get out"

Well, that's how I read both the page UseRealNames and MartinHarper's comment on the page AntHere.

I'm not interested in appraising a French person considering moving next to me in Ottawa of her option to live in Vanier. Or I suppose for you Americans, a black person to live in Harlem. Or a pseudonym of FermentWiki. Read EnlargeSpace's negative side.

I think the circumstances are totally different. A black person who moves somewhere has not demanded an exception to any local community law. This is more akin to telling someone in the U.S. who demands medical marijuana to move to Canada, where it's legal (or so I've heard).

Which is less friendly? "You can't smoke marijuana here", or "You can't smoke marijuana here, but I know some place that you can". It depends on context and delivery. -- BayleShanks

I think the circumstances aren't totally different, but one is more extreme than the other.

I'm going to say "You can't smoke marijuana here, but I know some place that you can," is less friendly. It signals that you aren't interested in further discussion as not only are you just saying "No," but you are pushing the person out of your face at the same time. -- SunirShah

You're kind of too provocative all together. Could we please - after all today's fuzz - commonly - the english/french/german/and-who-else-there-is-to-come-speakers - roll this joint and smoke it! -- MattisManzel

Hmm... SunirGoesToEurope?. -- SunirShah


From CommunityWiki:UseRealNames...

Evan, why do you have to use your nick to talk about using your nick? Just because I am fooz when playing Quake doesn't mean I need to be fooz here. Different names for different contexts, as described on RealName. -- SunirShah

Sunir: the question is not why must I use a nick, it's why can't I use a nick! Why would describing Quake culture using a nick somehow be less valid?

The implicit messages of UseRealNames are that a) we won't take you seriously unless you use your given name, b) we are afraid we won't be taken seriously as a community if you don't use your given name, and c) we consider this community to be outside the domain of the great majority of online communities.

All of those messages combined imply that a community with a UseRealNames policy has little or no respect for the great number of online communities that do allow pseudonyms. Now, how can anyone talking about online communities expect to be taken seriously if that's their implied position? --EvanProdromou

By implied, you mean inferred, right? I've been using online communities for about 12 years and I know in great detail the role pseudonyms have played in online communies and why. I take people seriously when they use pseudonyms. I take communities with pseudonyms seriously when they use pseudonyms. I consider communities that use pseudonyms almost exclusively to be communities. My prof maintains the LambdaMOO archive, and I'm planning to rip through the MrBungle case this semester.

A community that uses real names is different than one that doesn't. There is now a large body of evidence building for pseudonyms and real names online. I chose real names knowing this evidence and having experienced both cultures because it fits the style of community I want to build, which is more methodological in nature and less philosophical in its exploration of PostHumanism. There are enough such places on the Internet that I don't care to be them.

While Meatball is trying to research and document the whole history of online communities, that doesn't mean it is trying to be reflective of mainstream Internet culture. Meatball is trying build our own brand of online communities that centres around SoftSecurity, openness, trust, mutual respect, and close knit social integration. There are other online communities that centre around fun, around grief, around sex, and around artifacts. We are each free to be ourselves, and that's why we can be called a community. We have our own identity.

This either works for you or it doesn't. I don't know if you should take Meatball seriously. If what is written there is convincing and useful, that should a good measure of whether or not we are successful. If it isn't, or it is clouded by excessively false mythologies, then we deserve to fail. But we also hope that people find Meatball a warm enough and sufficiently inviting place to convince them to use their real name, which has so far worked in our favour. -- SunirShah

Thinking more about this, do you want to make MeatballWiki the 'Pedia of OnlineCommunities? That isn't our MeatballMission; that's FermentWiki's (as best as I understand it). We're here to develop online community theory and best practices, and the mainstream Internet culture doesn't work very well, so I don't see much benefit in bowing to it just for popularity or pluralism. -- SunirShah

CommunityWiki:EvanProdromou suggests you won't get a response here...

Sometimes a response is necessitated by statistics rather than individual relationships. I think Evan is representative of a large number of people, although individually I think he is a very intelligent person who would have been a valuable contributor. I don't know if he now doesn't like us or is just apathetic, but his dramatic exit would suggest negative feelings. Over TarQuin, that's a bit of a stretch, though. -- SunirShah


...pen names and handles have become the default... (quoth WhyUseRealNames)

This is not the case in some large areas of the internet. The usenet advocates real names.

Please note that the problem with real names seems to be highly culture dependent. If we divide the internet culture roughly in American - European - Asian, only the American internet culture suffers from this conflict. The Europeans generally accept a real-name policy if it exists. The Asian seem to respect community rules to a much higher degree, so conflicts about any rules seem to be rare - open conflicts between individuals and the community hardly exist. -- HelmutLeitner

There's a reason why Meatball is heavily Euro-centric, and why WikiWiki is heavily American West coast, and often cultural disputes in both places are European to American. CulturalDimensions are nothing to scoff at. -- SunirShah


It is worth noting that UseRealNames creates an un-LevelPlayingField. Some names are so common as to be essentially unsearchable. If I perform a google search on my name, I get around 600 hits. Only a handful of these have much to do with me, but there are few enough all together that a determined reader could work through them and find stuff that I have published on the web. On the other hand, if I search on "John Anderson" I get half a million hits, and that's too many for anyone to read through. --anon

Except people are more than names. We expect to form a relationship with the people here, and that means they will tie their writing here with their lives elsewhere. A name is only a label; we want real people, not real names. Just knowing you are talking about John Anderson is one thing, but knowing that he is the leader of FooWiki whilst he also writes on WikiPedia on botany and the Australian Republic, and that he works at Cisco Systems in Melbourne with his wife of three years with whom he just had fraternal twins means something much more profound than Google:"john+anderson" could ever mean. Wherefore arth thou Romeo? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, just as talking about the flower xyzzy would not conjure any smell, even through a Google search. -- SunirShah

That sounds almost like a u-turn! --anon.

No. The purpose of UseRealNames is to eliminate the masquerade ball that is predominant on the Internet. This comes from the myth that the Internet is fantasy. So, as inane as it is to have such an obvious rule as UseRealNames, it is necessary because Internet culture is even more inane as it is (hypocritically) constructed as a PostModern PublicArt experiment--just to see what would happen. Why is the San Franciscan net.culture better?

The post-modern public art experiment is obsolete. The Internet is no longer the domain of geeky academics in San Francisco and New York and Finland. Cyberpunk is sophmoric, and it's dead for a reason: it was wrong. You'll have to do better than inertia to maintain this broken new mythology as momentum is not on your side. Meatball's position is only revolutionary as some have claimed if your sense of history only extends back to 1993 and your awareness of reality is measured in centimeters between your nose and your screen. I can always rebut every argument with, "UseRealNames has worked everywhere else in life, so why not on the Internet?"

This is very important because all the insanity on the Internet right now comes from the false schism that the Internet is a fantasy land free of the problems of reality, when it is completely the inverse relationship. The Internet is part of our real lives and our real lives are part of the Internet. Separating the two is a psychosis at both TheIndividual level and TheCollective. Bowing to that myth is a recipe for failure. -- SunirShah

Indeed, the idea that identity is composed of more than a unique name (or SSN or other key) is relatively recent. In fact, the concept that a person could be uniquely identified dates back only as far as the use of fingerprinting (about 100 years). Prior to that time, the identity of a person was described in many facets -- not only the name by which they are called, but also their occupation, place of abode, and familiy relationships. This is still true in rural communities in the USA, and possibly elsewhere; it is not unusual for someone to introduce themselves to a stranger by describing their relationship to someone the stranger already knows. --anon

I have never fingerprinted my friends, yet they UseRealNames when talking to me. I haven't even checked their IDs. -- SunirShah

In that case... does that mean I'm a real person, since people here know me already from WikiPedia? Should we call the policy be a real person instead of UseRealNames? -- TarQuin

No, because you're still holding back to everyone except me. That makes this an abstract philosophical exercise rather than a meaningful case. -- SunirShah


Perhaps I misunderstood. Is your advocacy for UseRealNames limited only to MeatBall? I had thought, at a minimum, that you were trying to lead by example. I believe there was also a UseRealNamesElsewhere? discussion at one point. --anon

As always, there are overlapping contingencies. MeatballWiki is an OnlineCommunity, but it also talks about OnlineCommunities. Things get blurred. Yes, I want to lead by example, but I would only care that we enforce our own policies here. I think pseudonyms are stupid for a place like MeatballWiki and for most places in fact; if we put everyone into a room together instead, it would be obvious how stupid it would be to call yourself by a pseudonym, as long as you weren't a geek.

Arguments for pseudonyms so far have been atavistic retreads of literary theory arguments from ten years ago or older that have since been rebutted by sociological evidence to the contrary of the original hypotheses. I do understand the value of pseudonyms in certain contexts. While I would like to explore all of this, this issue has a lot of vehemenance embedded within, and thus it gives me a headache. After all, although MeatballWiki is meant to write in the ContingentPointOfView?, that does not automatically mean that everything we recommend we have to follow, and as long as people confuse this, we cannot have a meaningful discussion over nyms. -- SunirShah

We could perhaps do with a more general discussion of NamePolicy?s - what the alternatives are, the pros and cons of each option, and so forth. That would put meatball's choice of UseRealNames into a wider perspective, I think. --MartinHarper

I always wanted to build a fuller nym pattern language than CategoryIdentity, but I keep getting derailed defending UseRealNames. Identity issues online are interesting. -- SunirShah


One argument that popped up for me is not "to use the name one would put on his resume" but "What do you tell people you have met at a conference?" Typically you introduce yourself with your full name and organisation you are representing. "How would you think about people who walz into a BirdOfFeathers? session and announce that they are called TheMenace?" Has this argument merit? -- DavidSchmitt

Note to government and security personnel

Government employees and people working in security-related professions may like to remain anonymous or not contribute at all. Always remember that anyone can "Google" your name. (anon)

Well, they might. Wouldn't they know this already? This seems like more of an argument against our UseRealNames policy than advice to newcomers. And sure, it's an argument (though not a new one for us) and we can have that discussion, but we should have it here, not there. --MartinHarper

I don't think you can assume they will know this already or that it will be obvious to them. People new to the internet can be surprisingly naive about these issues so a reminder is a good thing in my opinion.

Sure, but if they have a sudden change of heart/enlightenment/panic, they always have the RightToVanish here. Given the nickname culture is the default on the 'net at the moment, I don't think this is a big problem. Perhaps some older meatball folks can say if we've had any problems with government employees contributing under their real names and subsequently deciding that this is a real bad idea? --MartinHarper

No one has complained. It may be the case that people working in security-related professions are allergic to Meatball (and vice versa). -- SunirShah

I just pay attention to what I post, same as if I was talking in casual conversation. -- JoeWeaver, DoD? stooge


From ThePsychologyOfCyberspace? [1]:

The higher prevalence of misbehavior among anonymous users may be more than just a "disinhibiting" effect. Rather than the anonymity simply "releasing" the nasty side of a person, the person may experience the anonymity - the lack of an identity - as toxic. Feeling frustrated about not being known or having a place in the group, the new user acts out that frustration in an antisocial manner.

i have some notions that i haven't seen represented yet.

this will be long. but i figure i spent some time the last few days reading through all of your discussions, you deserve more than me just slinking right back out of here; it was a fascinating read, and this looks like a very interesting wiki -- you talk about so many things with which i have a lot of experience and which intrigue me greatly. however, your UseRealNames policy basically keeps me out, so i will only restrict myself to this discussion. here's my story: ... whoa. this turned out way too long, and seems in some ways out of place because it is very personal. well, names are very personal, and i feel you might find it interesting. i didn't know where to put it so it'd not be completely out of context, so i've created a temporary HomePage under PirAnha?. if this is all entirely wrong, please let me know and i'll change it to whatever is better.

--piranha@gooroos.com [my journal]


(Copied from XiongChangnian's FrontLawn.)

Xiong, I am confused (What do your co-workers call you?), but personally cool with your name. By the way, cf. ConstitutionalCrisis. -- SunirShah

(My comment may not make sense unless you know that (a) I am not Chinese; (b) I did live in China for a few years; and (c) 熊 is the Chinese word for "bear". This last is written in pinyin Romanization as "xiong" or "xiong2" where "x" indicates a sound not found in the American language, somewhere between "s" and "sh"; and "2" indicates the rising tone.)

Thank you for your understanding (and the link). You might be interested to know that UseRealNames would not make much sense to a Chinese; Chinese culture assumes that each person has several names in his life, and none of them are particularly real; the only real identity is the matrix of one's relationships to others.

Chinese culture is intensely context-sensitive; Chinese are utterly unable to answer even simple questions without a supplied context. On meeting, Chinese do not ask "What's your name?" -- unless in the context of showing off their American language skills. Instead, they ask "Where are you?" meaning "What is your danwei?" or "unit", your primary group. (Primary outside your family, that is.) A student's danwei is his school; a worker's danwei is his company; a farmer's danwei is his village or production team. The danwei is all-important, providing cradle-to-grave care for each member, and assumes responsibility for all his actions. It is probable that my failure to join such a paternalistic unit was the primary cause of my being asked to exercise my RightToLeave.

To answer you directly, it depends on context. Americans in America, in both social and business face-to-face contexts, generally call me "Bear". Online workers call me "Xiong". American-speaking Chinese, especially in China, and especially in a business context, call me "Mr. Bear" or "Mr. Xiong". Chinese speaking Chinese generally do not address anyone by name, in any context; they almost always refer to others and address them by their relationship. Thus, if a student addresses me as a teacher, he will call me laoshi (LAOW-SHR), "Old One", or "Teacher". One who aspires to be my friend may call me pengyou (PUNG-YO); "Friend". Names only emerge in formal contexts; unless my American-ness is being promoted (for example in school advertising), my name will be written by Chinese as 熊长年 -- of course. --XiongChangnian

I need to add a few other points to this very short explanation of an extremely complex concept -- one which I don't entirely understand, either.

Relationships define names for a Chinese, in general; he will always call his elder sister "Elder Sister". But peer relationships are different; in a sense this is a neutral relationship without definition. In this case, nicknames proliferate and a person may have different nicknames from one peer to another, although usually only one that circulates in a tightly-knit peer group, such as a regular drinking or clubbing crowd.

Foreigners are another exception; generally we have no defined relationship to any Chinese. In a sense, we do not exist within the Chinese social system. Thus Chinese tend to apply nicknames, often humorous or derogatory, frequently with scatological overtones. An important visiting official might be astonished to learn that, within the community of Chinese with whom he does business, he is known as "Stinky Fart" or "Huge Hairy Scrotum Nose".

Leaving China aside for the moment, I've noticed that some American couples create relationship nicknames for one another. For instance, both partners may call each other "Honey". The distinguishing element here is that the nickname is identically applied to each partner. I suspect Chinese do not do this.

UseRealNames is an approach to ReputationManagement?. In this role, an assumption is made that someone's name will be seen in another context. This may or may not be true. UseRealNames is also an attempt to encourage good behavior via the threat of an impaired reputation. It may be effective within a narrow band between the people who are automatically responsible under all circumstances and those who simply don't give a damn. I'm not sure how many fall into the wishy-washy in-between group. -- XiongChangnian


Online, I often use my real name, but misspell it to prevent people I know from RealLife from using a search engine to find my entire online history. Is this a pseudonymn? -- anon

Dear anon, for practical reasons of responding to you and possible later refactoring this page, I allowed myself to add an anonymous signature to your question. I have never heard of authors, who published something under their pseudonyms with deliberately using their misspelled names. If you live in a totalitarian state, even such a misspelling could be used as a hint to identify you, having a negative impact on your personal wellbeing. On the other hand you might have a look to [AboutusOrg:RealNames], encouraging you to sign your writings under your real name. -- FridemarPache


Googling for my real name should return academic papers or my job resume, not Meatballwiki.

Accountability is perfectly fine with me. Just look up who owns the domain nethack-wiki.com. I am that person. -- Anon


See also: AnonymityVsPseudonymity, UseRealNamesCases, UseRealNamesElsewhere?, UseRealNamesForWomen


CategoryIdentity CategoryRealNames

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