[Home]UseRealNamesRefactored

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Since this thready discussion is really unfocused, I think it's important to reorganize it into some sort of coherent text so we can refer newcomers to something that they can digest. We're already becoming petulant about arguing the case over and over again, as all societies eventually do about their core values, so I'm going to launch into this right now. While I won't be going for a NeutralPointOfView as that wouldn't be a fair representation of our decidedly non-neutral position, the purpose isn't to reflect the opposition as simpletons. The purpose of this text is to give a detailed reason to convince people WhyUseRealNames, not to look like we have a "rod up our ass." So, if you think that I'm being uncharitable, please speak up. Naturally that isn't an invitation to continue arguing in the middle of refactoring as that is just plain annoying. Please wait until I'm done to continue the development. However, of course, if you want to comment about the refactoring itself, please do so on my namepage. -- SunirShah

1. The Policy
2. Background
3. Clarifications
3.1. AnonymityVersusPseudonymity
3.2. What's a RealName?
3.3. Pseudonymity from RealLife
3.4. Pseudonymous UserName without signing
3.5. One-time pseudonym
3.6. IPs and domains as pseudonyms
3.7. Signing pseudonymously expecting others to erase your signature
3.8. Using a DramaticIdentity
3.9. Fake RealName
4. Points in Favour
4.1. Professionalism
4.2. Fun and friendly
4.3. Costume Party
4.4. It's our community
4.5. Measure of commitment
4.6. Accountability
4.7. Pseudonyms are an illusion
4.8. Take responsibility
4.9. Keep your copyright
5. Pseudonyms are ego-centric
6. Points against
6.1. The technology allows me to use a pseudonym
6.2. Values
6.2.1. FreeSpeech
6.2.2. ContentOverCommunity
6.2.3. Failure to apply PrincipleOfFirstTrust
6.2.4. Anonymity
6.3. Personal Security
6.3.1. Pseudonymity in RealLife
6.4. Identity
6.4.1. Consistent Pseudonymity
6.5. Because I want to
6.6. Fear of Discrimination
6.7. Don't want to lose my valuable face
6.8. North American culture
7. Prove it
8. Suppression of dissent
9. To be refactored
9.1. Trust in Real Names
9.2. Real Names may not be 'unique'.
9.3. Residue


1. The Policy

While on MeatballWiki, please:

  1. Use your real name.
  2. If you do not wish to use your real name, post without any name.
  3. If you want to remain truly anonymous, don't post. If you post, your IP or domain will appear in RecentChanges.


2. Background

MeatballWiki members have used their real names since the beginning. In part this policy was a holdover from WikiWiki, much like the LinkPattern and the MeatballWikiCopyright. However, when setting the direction for MeatballWiki, the choice to use real names was a reflection of experience with many online fora. Real names were judged to create a more professional and more personal atmosphere than handles. It's important to understand that the choice to use real names was one of the most important founding principles of this project, chosen to set the tone and timbre of discussion here.

Real names are not the ulimate reality here, of course. Open access is another founding principle of MeatballWiki, and it was judged to be wrong to require contributors to universally submit to our policy. We observed from other wikis that it was a perfectly reasonable approach to allow people to either post without any name or with their real names. What we really sought to exclude were pseudonyms, aka PenNames. In this respect, the policy may be restated as anti-handle, although we really do encourage people to use their real names because we feel it's a lot more friendly.

As another founding principle of this site is social accountability, we weren't prepared to allow anonymous individuals to avoid any sort of accountability. In keeping with other wikis, we created an AuditTrail on RecentChanges that tracked each IP address or domain for each change (limited by ForgiveAndForget as well). This explains in part why we instruct that individuals wishing true anonymity to not post.

From these very simple beginnings, this policy has generated more discussion, controversy, and enemies than any other on this site. In part it's because it the complete opposite of prevailing Internet culture. In part, it's because it is an identity issue, a concern very important in American and Western societies. But perhaps it is simply that it is the very first aspect of Meatball culture that a newcomer must contend with--and, as it turns out, it reflects much of our CommunityIdentity here. After defending it for so long, it has also progressed from a philosophical value to an emotional value, and that fact should be considered before arguing against it.


3. Clarifications

3.1. AnonymityVersusPseudonymity?

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

3.2. What's a RealName?

3.3. Pseudonymity from RealLife

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

3.4. Pseudonymous UserName without signing

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

Tarquin breaks new ground.

Has the "precedent" in question reverted to an IP address? Interesting. It's an interesting little dilemma, C. What do to? Become a Wiki:AnonymousDonor? Defy CommunityExpectations and use your handle? Bite the bullet and follow UseRealNames? Or simply leave? Whatever you choose, I sincerely hope it's not the last one. -- StephenGilbert

The "precedent" isn't really a precedent. Tarquin's idea and motivation were honest and fair. He just thought it was stupid for people to keep associating his domain with his identity; something I'm not exactly in disagreement with. However, since it seems to be confusing, maybe this new practice should be thought out a bit more. -- SunirShah

3.5. One-time pseudonym

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.

3.6. IPs and domains as pseudonyms

But the main point is to note that saying "post anonymously" is baldly inaccurate. Call it what it is, if you care about accuracy.

Acknowledging that IP-based pseudonymity is pseudonymity undermines the arguments against other forms of pseudonymity. So, we can understand why one would persist in using the inaccurate term if one decries pseudonymity. Could the persistence in the "post anonymously" usage derive from some cognitive dissonance on this count?

No, because one doesn't "choose" one's IPs as a testament to their identity. Nyms are clothes. Names are tartans. Pseudonyms are costumes. IPs are uniforms.

There are different kinds of uniforms, and absent compulsory service, uniforms still reveal individual choice and achievement.

I chose my ISP very carefully. I chose it because it gave me a static IP at no additional charge or hassle, and that it bridges the DSL connection, to boot. Given that its a small ISP, in a wiki context, my IP effectively affords me SerialIdentity.

In fact, this element of SerialIdentity is exactly the aspect of IP-based pseudonymity that makes publishing IPs useful to EnforceResponsibility.

3.7. Signing pseudonymously expecting others to erase your signature

A strategy of TheCunctator

Continuing to use the handle for signatures which we have to remove, however, really flies in the face of CommunityExpectation. -- AlexSchroeder

3.8. Using a DramaticIdentity

e.g. NameWithheld?, AnonymousDonor

Spitting in our faces by creating a UserName of AnonymousDonor isn't a very positive move. You don't have to be disappointing about this.

I'm not trying to spit in anyone's faces. I'm willing to make contributions anonymously. I need to choose some "anonymous" username because that's more anonymous than my IP number/hostname showing up in the recent changes/edit history. That's all. -- TheCunctator

I don't really mind the AnonymousDonor username, as long as no one attempts to create an actual persona out of AnonymousDonor or stakes out personal real estate on the page AnonymousDonor. UseMod would allow a second person to sign up as AnonymousDonor, so all it does is display AnonymousDonor on RecentChanges instead of an IP.

Logging in as AnonymousDonor is also better than logging in using a handle, which causes handles to appear on RecentChanges, and which allows a persona to be built around that handle (although I'm not sure yet if i think just logging in with a handle is a really bad thing at all; I was leaning towards thinking it's fine, but after reading some of Sunir's recent thoughts, I am now right in the middle again). -- BayleShanks

Others have said that the signature/moniker of "NameWithheld?" is also a community resource which, conventionally in many communities, is available to all to use when they so wish, and doesn't actually belong to just one person. Some even say it is anti-community to co-opt this resource for personal usage.

The premise that "NameWithheld?" is for the personal use of one individual has not yet been decided/accepted in this community. Visitors are invited to read NameWithheldPseudonymityDebate? for more background. --anon.

3.9. Fake RealName

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. -- BayleShanks


4. Points in Favour

4.1. Professionalism

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. -- SunirShah

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? --anon.

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

It's a DressCode.

If you notice, all the net.luminaries in "SocialSoftware" use their real names, simply because it is their profession. It's hard to make money if no one can write you a cheque. If 100% of the people I want to attract use their real names, and 99.999% of the people I don't want to attract use pseudonyms, it's a pretty good barrier to entry. -- SunirShah

4.2. Fun and friendly

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. -- SunirShah

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). --anon.

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.

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

That's your personal opinion (perhaps you are comparing it against just having a last name?). I find it just as easy to form friendships with people who have chosen a nickname, not least because it is usually something distinctive, but also because I interact all the time with people who use them. -- Laurence (aka GreenReaper)

I was about to note that I feel much the same way, but I don't think I actually do. While I interact all the time with people who have chosen their own handles, I can't honestly say that I consider my relationship to these people as equivalently close to those whom I know in MeatSpace. I know at least two people who has changed their entire identity because they have undergone sexual reassignment, but they do not treat their new name the same as I treat my handle. They treat their new name as a new RealName, and when I address them as this name, I have a very specific relationship with them that is much more intimate than the relationships I hold online. I know at least one of these people by their handle as well, and were I to address them (in MeatSpace) by their handle, it would imply a significantly different relationship.

I agree with Sunir that knowing and addressing a person by their RealName is a major issue. Those who I know pseudonymously simply don't have the focused relationship that I have with those that I interact with with RealNames. I have even exploited this in real life, when I chose to use pseudonyms when I was in my sexual experimentation period. I believe this is because the choice to reveal names reveals a choice to expose vulnerability, or alternatively, to discard the invulnerability of pseudonymity. -- LeeDavisThalbourne

I have (rarely) used psuedonyms as well, in similar circumstances. There is a difference between that and between a choice of consistent identity. People who call me "Laurence" don't get a closer relationship with me - quite the reverse, in fact. They are far less likely to be someone who knows the "real me". If they knew me, they would use my name. -- Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

Even with those whom I share a SerialIdentity, I consider that identifying my RealName to a person to be a very intimate action. Knowledge of my RealName, in some ways, is quite dangerous to me. Those who know my RealName can do very terrible things to me, in areas that I cannot escape easily, namely my real life affairs. Revealing my RealName to people is a very explict action of trust - I trust that, with the knowledge I have given you (namely, my name), you won't use it to nefarious ends. It's much how, in MeatSpace, we attempt to be careful in giving our other personal details. It is (to me, at the very least) an explicit action of trust to tell others details of your personal life, and it is the hallmark, I think, of close MeatSpace relationships that we share and share alike this information.

This may not be the case with your name in particular - you clearly have little attachment to it. But can you say the same of your other personal details? Or, perhaps, the most intimate of disclosures, being given the key to a house? Can you honestly say that those who you have entrusted with your address, your phone number, and (at the very extreme) the keys to your home, are not closer than those who have not been entrusted with these things?

I feel the same with my RealName. I wear it with pride, but online, I reserve it's revelation to those with whom I want to create a certain trust, and I believe that much of the emotional weight of UseRealNames is tied up in this. Also, I feel that as those here have revealed their names to me, It is important that I reveal mine in return. -- LeeDavisThalbourne

Some people are, of course, closer to me than others. But the things that distinguish them are things that are deeply personal about me (or simply the accumulation of conversation over the years), and my legal name is not one of them (nor is my chosen one, though it comes closer). And so I return with a question: Are people who do feel that their legal name is less relevant than their chosen name intentionally made unwelcome, simply because they do not have the "right" item of personal commitment to offer? Isn't too much focus being spent on MeatSpace when it is, for some people, close to irrelevant, especially for the purposes of this wiki?

I get the impression (as, like you, I'm actually not an established member of this community), that despite their distances, many people here actually converse both online and in MeatSpace, at various symposiums and conventions. In such a case, the community does have very definite connections to MeatSpace - the MeatBallCommunity? is both online and offline. You, personally, may not participate in the offline component (and I don't either, being incapable of doing so financially), but for many in the community, these offline gatherings are very important.

In regards to the first question, I don't think they are intentionally made unwelcome, I think they are unfortunate casualties of a war against another kind of member that looks very similar to them. I also think that this community does ask something very specific of it's members, something that not every prospective member is capable/willing to give, and if this is the case for a prospective member, perhaps then, for this group, they would not fit in particularly well anyway. Not every prospective member is right for every community, simply due to the dynamics of a given community. -- LeeDavisThalbourne

I do not feel that names are of inherent worth; but if I did, I would far prefer to use GreenReaper, which has more meaning to me and (I believe) to others than LaurenceParry. People could attack me online, after all, and since I spend most of my time online, it might actually hurt more. If MeatBall's definition of real name was not restricted to legal names, I would not have an issue with it. I just don't see the problem with changing the definition to "a name which you have a long-term association with that would take significant time to change". Doesn't that cover the bases? It should be easy enough to determine if a person is telling the truth (or at least that such an identity exists - you don't know for sure that it's the same person, but you wouldn't know that for a legal name without checking, either, and checking names used online is easier).

I think that, for this community, the line is set a little further back than it should because there is a fear of precedent. If your RealName is considered a handle, then it opens up the gates for people who's RealName isn't a handle to use it as well, breaking down the convention from the inside. It's true that this has holes in it (and I'm sure the community here know this), but every community has conventions that aren't really justifiable, and as long as the consequences of these conventions aren't heinous in some way, there's no need to change them. After all, the handle culture is also not easily defended either. -- LeeDavisThalbourne

Laurence, I don't think that Meatball's definition of a RealName is, in fact, restricted to legal names: "Birth certificates or other legal institutions do not a name make." For example, AlixPiranha does not disclose his legal name but does use (one of eir?) real names here. However, your CV says "Laurence Parry", which would seem to imply that you do use that name in a professional context. Contrast with [MegaZone]: his real name looks like a handle, but that's the name listed on his [resume], so it would presumably be accepted here without complaint. --BtTempleton

There's a contradiction, then. My legal name is on my CV because as far as the world that the CV is concerned with, that is my public name. I've only actually used that CV once, though, for a temporary placement with Motorola at university. My current job was obtained with people who knew me for years as GreenReaper (and I only obtained that job because they knew me that well - they probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble of importing a random person from the UK, even if he did have a good CV). So on the one hand contributors are meant to use the "professional" name (which cannot easily be changed without causing problems in MeatSpace), but on the other we're meant to use the one that we would give to people who we wish to share a personal connection with, and which has greater value to us.

As an aside: All of my experiences that relate to this site have been obtained through one identity using one name. Laurence Parry didn't adopt a chat room or lead two wiki communities to maturity; GreenReaper did. It seems more appropriate to write about such things under that name, so that even if I'm not signing my name on something, people can check the history, do a search, and know that it was written by someone who might know what they were talking about. -- Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

Incidentally, I don't have a phone number (at least, not one that works in this country). It's something else unimportant to me - there is usually email, after all, or Skype. -- Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

Alternately, I'm eternally connected via my MobilePhone, and it's one of the most important tools in my friendship group (e-mail being the other). The revelation of my MobilePhone number is an important part of forging relationships with others, since it makes an implicit assumption that the person I've given it to is someone I don't mind talking to (It's not the most intimate thing I can give to another person, but certainly it's a gateway to other things). Of course, it also helps considerably with short-term organisation, and last-minute organisation (whereru?). We do seem to be two very different individuals, with very different experiences, so I don't think we'll ever agree on this, but it's an interesting conversation nonetheless. -- LeeDavisThalbourne

4.3. 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. -- SunirShah

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?

MeatballMission states, "Meatball aims to be a community of communities", not an impersonal reference work. The goal here is 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? -- StephenGilbert

4.4. It's our community

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

Posting anonymously is discouraged, for a variety of reasons. But the primary one is that MeatballWiki is a community of people who are willing to stand up and commit to working together. Using your real name is a basic and simple way of declaring that commitment. --anon.

Understood. It definitely would be more valuable to realize this discussion won't be resolved any time soon, so we should take it more slowly. -- SunirShah

Arguing a case for status quo favors delay, of course. I'll entertain backing off, again, but want to show some solidarity for others in UseRealNamesCases.

You forget that we were here first. -- SunirShah

That would be the RoyalWe, one must suppose. --anon.

I don't understand that rebuttal at all. Logically, of course we were here first. And I definitely can claim that I was here first, ignoring the test pages Cliff put up originally. -- SunirShah

So, it's really you who are demanding us to conform to your values. -- SunirShah

Demand? Who is demanding anything? Do what you want--go ahead and use your real name, if you like.

You can choose not to be here, and it's your desire to be here that's pulling us together to discuss it.

Yes, I *am* forcing you to type. Bend to my will!

Is this author arguing from the perspective that Meatball is not owned or controlled?

You forget that we were here first.

That would be the RoyalWe, one must suppose. --anon.

As for suppressing dissent, I thought you had already stated that you were not going to follow the policy and that was that. My interpretation was that you were saying "I know this disagrees with you, but I am going to use the fact that this software allows me to write what I please, and what I please is to sign my handle". I actually don't have a problem with that approach in this case, as long as you don't delete stuff, but you should recognize that it entails that others will also do what they can to your text within the limits of the software; in my case, that meant I moved the stuff on your homepage over here.

In other words, instead of arguing about the policy I thought you wanted to just do stuff and see if others supported the policy enough to stop it; i.e. maybe there would turn out to be a "silent majority" which supported handles, in which case any deletions of your handles would get undeleted by others, etc. So just doing stuff sometimes makes sense. But if that was the presumption then I thought I was perfectly entitled to move your text here and delete the other page, too. Perhaps I was too hasty. --meatball

Here's another good point. Perhaps if your case were being argued by someone who is already a member of our community (there are some who take your side who I think are members here; StephenGilbert, for one; but the anti-UseRealNames doesn't seem to be as important to them as UseRealNames is to us), it would make more sense. But for someone new to come along and insist on changing something like that isn't quite fair to us. I mean, why shouldn't we be allowed to have a UseRealNames community if we want?

That's good--in order to change the rules, you must be a member. But to be a member, you must agree with the rules as is. See what is meant here by "Catch-22". As for "accepting" them without "agreeing" to them, well, that seems a little to close to hypocrisy or double-dealing to me--the proof is in the pudding, you can tell what people really agree to by what they do.

I think "accepting" stuff without "agreeing" to it is necessary in many, many situations. As I noted above, to not accept anything that you don't wholeheartedly agree with means that no community rules are possible without unanimous agreement. It is even more ridiculous to try to have a community whose rules are accepted unanimously not only by everyone in the community but also by everyone who ever considers joining it. I don't think it is hypocritical to compromise and follow something you do not think is correct unless that something is downright immoral (and even then, it has to be pretty bad for me to think it's hypocrisy).

This is not to say you can't govern by unanimous consent. Just that sometimes folks must compromise and consent to something that is other than the way they would do things if they were in charge.

Yes, that goal can be changed, but that would mean those who are already meatballers would be the ones to change it.

If anyone could walk in any change that goal at will, it wouldn't be possible to have a UseRealNames community, or indeed any community with any norms not universally agreed upon by all humans. Which doesn't seem optimal.

-- BayleShanks

which is why, I guess, it's nice that there is this nebulous middle ground of not-quite-anonymous, only-somewhat-pseudonymous, identity method.

well, as you've noticed, some people like me can't really keep the various anonymous IPs/handles/people straight so to me you are almost truly anonymous.

Real names is part of what attracted you here in the first place.

And it is one of the things that is pushing me away, as much as I find this an interesting place. -- Laurence (aka GreenReaper)

4.5. Measure of commitment

In a sense, it's interesting to see the limits placed on VulnerabilityToCommunity. To the degree that one is vulnerable to a DenialOfService attack, one is vulnerable to much more than the community of posters who have accepted community standards. And, again, those who contribute via small ISPs are more vulnerable than those who contribute through much larger providers for whom such attacks are more quotidian and more trivial--a DoS attack is a more credible threat to my tiny and quite vulnerable DSL bandwidth, but the same attack against an AOL point of presence would probably be more annoyance than threat.

4.6. Accountability

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

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

I'm a newcomer to this conversation, though I have browsed meatball quite a bit in my time, and have just registered using my standard handle. In response to ThomasBushnellBSG, if you want to connect what I say here (not that I've said much so far...) with what I say elsewhere then 'HappyDog?' is what you need to look for, as I never use my real name on the internet, so you would be unlikely to find it. This doesn't make me any less accountable. HappyDog? is my on-line identity as much as my real name is my off-line one - it is still me! There are other people who have used the name HappyDog?, just as there are other people with the same real name as me, but having a consistent user identity is very different from using a random pseudonym. Surely it is the latter that you want to discourage?
Also, if I found there was already a user here with the same name as me, what do I do? I would have to use a pseudonym! --HappyDog?

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. --anon.

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. -- SunirShah

I think we see this very differently. You see a nickname as some way of concealing oneself, of escaping the requirement to be consistent and to identify oneself. I do not. --anon.

4.7. Pseudonyms are an illusion

One interesting thought to add to the discussion of posting the domain/IP addresses of authors. How do you know SunirShah wrote all those entries during his trip through Europe and the United States? He certainly doesn't read everything on the site anymore. Consider even when he was in Durham, he wrote from different IPs within minutes of each other. [Southpoint mall has multiple free Internet drops.] How do you really know? Certainly you can correlate against his itinerary, but not always. The answer of course is that Sunir's identity is more than just his IP or domain, isn't it? Meatball's motto is People, people, computers, and people. His persona is more identifying than his network address. And that's another reason he might think that pseudonyms are bogus. -- SunirShah

Do you really think I wrote PublicScript? I don't even think I wrote it, and I wrote it. -- SunirShah

I don't think mental footprints are as distinguishable as you think; if someone faked someone else, we might notice an inconsistency, but then assume they were just in a different mood that day. Why do I believe the stuff signed SunirShah? I expect that is enough stuff was signed as you that you didn't write, you'd protest and we'd know something was up. Maybe after that we'd start questioning other things, and even emailing authors for confirmation every now and then. Thankfully, this isn't needed yet.

But I think most of the "business" of the wiki can be conducted anonymously. So even if we had to mistrust names, we could carry on discussion. I guess it wouldn't be the same kind of community anymore, though. And for making contentious decisions we'd probably end up email-verifying a bunch of things.

And no, I don't think a mailing list would be more efficient in that case. -- BayleShanks

the basic assertion that an online handle is not anonymous enough to be anonymous but not real enough to be real is somewhat silly. -- TheCunctator

I understand the UseRealNames argument, I think. Is "the basic assertion that an online handle is not anonymous enough to be anonymous but not committed enough to be commitment" more accurate? -- TheCunctator

"...people hiding behind pseudonyms..." -- SunirShah

PracticalObscurity isn't "hiding". An incendiary villification of what in the MeatSpace so adored by the UseRealNames proponents is common and non-problematic. I'm comfortable saying what I'm saying, as I'm sure other's in UseRealNamesCases are.

Obscuration is hiding. Dictionary:obscure

Reserving a piece of information is not the same thing as obscuring it *or* hiding it. I'm not hiding or obscuring my SSN here, I'm just not going the extra step of offering it.

4.8. Take responsibility

Wikis are public places. When different opinions come together, you will want to argue for your points. Very often the personal background and experience will play an important role. But you can only put your weight behind your arguments when you stand for them with your real personality.

For many of us who spend all our time in CyberSpace, our real personality is online, and invested in our chosen nicknames. Most of the stuff that LaurenceParry has done barely has any relevance to who or what I am, but GreenReaper is definitely me. -- Laurence (aka GreenReaper)

4.9. Keep your copyright

Some people believe that online communities are entertainment. Others believe that they create values and that its important to become a part of the community and an owner of what is created. You can't be a owner without a real identity (that's the disadvantage of a faked real name).

Aliases and pen names have long been accepted in courts of law. If people can prosecute you for being JackTheRipper?, you can prosecute others for stealing your work, as long as it is attributed to a clearly defined identity. -- Laurence (aka GreenReaper)

5. Pseudonyms are ego-centric

>> several Meatballers are ego-invested in the UseRealNames meme

Yes, I am. I am proud to sign my messages with my real name, and now that I've decided where I stand on this issue I am happy to promote UseRealNames. What's more I get a nice part-of-a-community feeling because I feel like supporting UseRealNames is protecting something that is cool about MeatBall.

and you will too once you start using your real name.. join usss.. join usss..)

Heh. The whole point about mentioning ego investment was Sunir's claim that individualism damned psuedonymity. There are additional problems with Sunir's claim, but it's nice of you to offer such a fine example of how UseRealNames fosters its own focus on individualism.

Well, I'm glad you found it useful, I guess. Are you against individualism yourself, or are you trying to refute Sunir's UseRealNamesGauntlet? argument by showing that using real names may even promote individualism, or do you mean something else? The reason I like UseRealNames is different from that UseRealNamesGauntlet?; it's more that "Meatball lives in MeatSpace, but is accessed through the Internet", although I didn't know how to express that until Sunir said it. -- BayleShanks

Mostly I was just pointing out how common cause makes strange bedfellows--you and Sunir agree on UseRealNames, but for vastly different reasons (anti-individualistic and pro-individualistic). In my eyes, that detracts from the case for UseRealNames. For my own part, I favor serial pseudonymity to the extent that it helps people track those who would otherwise be effectively anonymous (ie, for those who don't have the time/energy to follow the AuditTrail of IPs in RecentChanges). My support for serial pseudonymity comes from the recognition that a tag--even an "unreal" one turns a PrisonersDilemma into an IteratedPrisonersDilemma, with a concomittant win for the community, since cooperation becomes the winning strategy, rather than defection.

Why does there have to be one reason? There could be many reasons, even some contradictory. (a la Zen) That only makes it a stronger case.


6. Points against

6.1. The technology allows me to use a pseudonym

You forget that we were here first.

That would be the RoyalWe, one must suppose.

So, it's really you who are demanding us to conform to your values.

Demand? Who is demanding anything? Do what you want--go ahead and use a your real name, if you like.

You can choose not to be here, and it's your desire to be here that's pulling us together to discuss it.

Yes, I *am* forcing you to type. Bend to my will!

.

In other words, instead of arguing about the policy I thought you wanted to just do stuff and see if others supported the policy enough to stop it; i.e. maybe there would turn out to be a "silent majority" which supported handles, in which case any deletions of your handles would get undeleted by others, etc. So just doing stuff sometimes makes sense. But if that was the presumption then I thought I was perfectly entitled to move your text here and delete the other page, too. Perhaps I was too hasty.

6.2. Values

6.2.1. FreeSpeech

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

6.2.2. ContentOverCommunity

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. --anon.

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. -- anon.

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 think that one makes a commitment to a community or a wiki by putting some damn work in, not waving a name badge. Actions count, not meaningless gestures. so that knocks down the "give us your real name so we can trust you" argument -- TarQuin

6.2.3. Failure to apply PrincipleOfFirstTrust

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? -- SunirShah

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 what are you saying - that you had problems with trolls, but as you lacked the technical ability to stop them, so instead you rely on a policy that alienates those who simply prefer not to use their MeatSpace names? That sounds like a SocialProblem? looking for a TechnologicalSolution?, not a good excuse for continuing the policy. -- Laurence (aka GreenReaper)

If the solution is solved with a CommunitySolution, then why look for a TechnologicalSolution?? TechnologicalSolution?'s are often HardSecurity, with all the problems that entails, while CommunitySolution's are more often SoftSecurity, which is often far more useful and forgiving, and less likely to shatter.

It is true that there are often unfortunate side effects of a CommunitySolution, but such is the case with TechnologicalSolution?s as well! -- LeeDavisThalbourne

Given the amount of friction it has caused among people who do seem to care about contributing (enough to write about it, anyway), the solution seems almost as bad as the disease - perhaps worse, if the disease is now solved, but the MeatBall community is addicted to the "cure". I am aware that the general view of this community is to prefer SoftSecurity, but I believe that technology can be a better solution, with fewer side-effects. It is not really possible for MeatBall to change the world's expectations, and so this problem is not going to go away.

Scaling the number of technologists and making sure that the implement the "right" features are problems, but I think they are soluble ones. I assume (dangerous, I know, but am I wrong?) that they have just not been solved here. My impression is that just one person actually works on coding this site. That seems too few - would you expect the results to be good if only one person was in charge of reverting vandalism, or copyediting? -- Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

6.2.4. Anonymity

It is also a mistake to believe anything you write on the Internet can ever be anonymous. This myth has repeatedly been defeated. The venerable anon.penet.fi fell to the Church of Scientology, for instance. While it's not enough to just claim that anonymity is impossible, for certainly we could make it easier, it's also wrong to give this power only to the site proprietors to abuse. In that case, by not publishing the IP, we create the illusion that you are anonymous. It wasn't clear that anon.penet.fi wasn't abusing its privilege, you just took their word for it. So, in the PostWELL world, users should accept this, at least until you can construct a better network (see FreeNet). Even HAM radios are traceable.

That myth is a strawman. A desire for PracticalObscurity is not necessarily a search for absolutes or guarantees. It involves a cost-benefit analysis comparing non-optimal choices, along the lines of "how much do I benefit from having my email address accessible" vs "how much does it cost me to have that availability result in my receiving spam"?

By the way, this reminds me: I would like to change the script to publish the last octet of the IP address. Currently it reads something like 127.0.0.xxx. This is bogus on two levels. First, Cliff and I have access to the full IPs. Second, those of us with hostnames, have them published fully resolved, creating an imbalance. Those opposed? -- SunirShah

Yeah, that is bogus. Looks like those whose IPs don't resolve through reverse-lookups get more practical obscurity than those whose IPs can be. It would be a good change. You could go one step further towards full disclosure, and post the IPs of those who read, as well. That would close the circle completely.

This is true. I could amend the HitCounts script accordingly, although I'm not going to do this without a discussion. -- SunirShah

That would be a pretty rotten thing to do to viewers (and possibly illegal, but I wouldn't cross my heart on that). The simple way to have everyone be happy would be to use ID numbers assigned by MeatballWiki instead of IP addresses or hostnames to tag AnonymousDonor's. That would respect their desire to contribute anonymously but allow the community to EnforceResponsibility.

I will not support any attempt to publish the addresses of Meatball readers. (I would rather shut the site down.) The only exception would be general statistics like the number of unique readers, or the number of readers in different countries. --CliffordAdams

Why should anyone care to respect the desire of others to contribute anonymously? If a system allow anonymous contributions - ok, then anyone may use that feature. If the contributions are valuable - fine. I tolerate anonymous members and contributions in "my" wikis, but I surely do not "respect the desire", because I think this desire is silly. GoByCar. -- HelmutLeitner

6.3. Personal Security

6.3.1. Pseudonymity in RealLife

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. ;-) -- Tarquin

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.

6.4. Identity

6.4.1. Consistent Pseudonymity

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.

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. -- PrinceOfStories?

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

6.5. Because I want to

well how about "because I would like to"? -- TarQuin

Goddammit, yes. Why can't people just admit that? That's the motivation for all these arguments, but to date you are the first pseudonymous person to say this. I know I've suggested that reason many times before, and I've been surprised that no one has admitted to it. I think the case for pseudonyms has been hurt by being so disappointing when it comes to being emotionally honest, which I think is a fundamental quality of MeatballWiki's efforts. -- SunirShah

is UseRealNames creating more problems than it prevents? -- TarQuin

If MeatballWiki intends to become the central point for wikis in general, it may be necessary to drop the real names requirement to match the policies of the other sites that we integrate with.

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. --anon.

It's not a demand. UseRealNames is a demand, one that is enforced. The use of PenNames?? just is. We use them. You act against them, and try to rationalize it. --anon.

6.6. Fear of Discrimination

Sometimes people don't trust the community. They may believe that they will be discriminated if they give their real identity. That's no problem if you are white, male and North American. It might be a problem if you are from Mexico, Iraq or Pakistan. It's a responsibility of the community to show that these fears have no foundation.

6.7. Don't want to lose my valuable face

There are famous people that interact online quite naturally. Other think that they might be attacked in a way they are not used to, that they will make errors and be ridiculed or loose their face in other imaginable ways. So they may prefer to use a pseudonym which acts as a kind of protection.

6.8. North American culture

the real-life community argument is based on a North American model of real-life Disney-communities where everyone has perfect teeth and smiles all day (okay, I'll toen down the sarcasm in the final edit, promise) -- TarQuin

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... ;-)

And yet... 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. --anon.

7. Prove it

It may not be hypocritical, but it is very ineffective as far as demonstrating one's point and elaborating upon it practically. It's one thing to argue that it's dangerous for the human body to travel at speeds greater than 50mph, from a theoretical standpoint while staying with the speed limits. It's quite another thing entirely to do the experiment, to build a machine capable of traveling faster, climb into it, and race off in it to see whether the naysayers and scaremongers and theoretical trouble-borrowers are completely correct, or not. So many are so obviously afraid of the anonymous bogeyman, 'hiding' behind his anonymity or pseudonymity the nefarious (or, at least, unserious or 'ridiculous') motives they impute upon him, what better way to make the point than to *demonstrate* that, trolls and other evil creatures of the online world aside, it isn't *always*, *necessarily* the case, these fears they cherish? Of course, there will always be those who discount or reject evidence not in keeping with their theories, but then one can't afford to care about those, since they are beyond learning, anyway.

Fortunately, MeatballWiki is not the entire universe. There are plenty of other examples in the world to demonstrate what a culture of PenNames becomes, and there is certainly plenty of opportunity to demonstrate one that functions much in the way MeatballWiki does. There is no necessity for MeatballWiki to be all things, or to try all things. In fact, that would be impossible. It is possible for others to pursue contrary models, and we encourage them to do so. All of us then learn from each other.

8. Suppression of dissent

As for individualism, it is clear that several Meatballers are ego-invested in the UseRealNames meme. It is clear that dissention about what could be HealthyConflict is suppressed here, the message is "submit, and then discuss". The act of submission, though, also concedes the point. So, it comes down to, basically "agree, or leave". Hence the conflict is suppressed, rather than resolved. No synthesis ensues.

Ironically, I just wrote about that paradox on OutcastNewcomer. I agree with you that it's potentially bad, but it's also not sufficient to just accept anyone. Extreme liberalism is like forcing consensus, a totally failed concept.

Since no organization is completely egalitarian, unless you prevent people from communicating altogether, you have to accept that there will be power imbalances. Fortunately, there are many middle grounds between totalitarianism and pigeon holing, like FairProcess. I don't hear anyone proposing anything better than our middle ground, which is permitting anonymous users to post in the first place.

It could also go the other way. For instance, we could adopt WhyClublet's luncheon policy, where you have to meet someone face to face to join. If you want, we could do the same here as well. It can always go another direction. The challenge is to find something reasonable.

What's wrong with submit, then discuss? It's not like you're a political minority being denied the right to vote. There is no catch-22 here. You do not lose the chance to ever disagree by giving in once.

>> The act of submission, though, also concedes the point.

Well, no, it doesn't concede the point, although we would all know what your real name was. But you could still argue against real names. It's not like we'd be able to say, "Oh, you don't really mean that, because you just told us your real name!". You wouldn't be giving up any rhetorical ground.

-- BayleShanks


9. To be refactored

9.1. Trust in Real Names

[Is SunirShah a real name?] 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. -- anon.

You may wish to contemplate the following:

I will suspend this list, since any further interjections should probably be removed to a separate page.

-- HansWobbe


9.2. Real Names may not be 'unique'.

I don't like putting this on the end of a nice re-factored page like this, but I noticed there is one big issue with the use of real names that hasn't been addressed here - what if there are duplicate real names? A RealName is much less likely to be unique than a pseudonym. I generally prefer using my RealName to any of the pseudonyms I have picked up, but to interact on the Internet it is absolutely necessary to have a pseudonym, because all the usernames are already taken with real names on many large services, and so to maintain a coherant identity a unique pseudonym is required. My pseudonym is more likely to give you information on my identity than my RealName - just compare googling for the two. --MichelleHart?, usually known as ChessyPig?

There exists a legal (pre)sumption that Name + Address is a 'unique' identifier.

One of the reasons that news stories about criminal convictions generally use "Joe Blow, of 123 Anystreet" (even going so far as to cite "Joe Blow, of No Fixed Address) is that Name + Address are generally assumed to be a unique identifier.

Extrapolating this a bit beyond the previous specific case of a 'residential' address by recognizing 'residence' as one of several 'domains' into which an address is a pointer...

For example:
  1. Residential address
  2. Employment address
  3. (static) IP address
  4. telephone number
  5. interWiki (e.g. Wiki:HansWobbe)
  6. ...

helps solve the case of duplicate names, at least within a community such as meatball, where I am unlikely to encounter another HansWobbe.

Expanding beyond the facet of 'domains', other 'scope' concepts can also be considered. For example:

  1. Drivers licences frequently imbed Date Of Birth in the licence number. In 'net terms, this might suggest appending some part of the McDyMmDd?. Obviously extending this from right to left is more likely to preserve anonimity, while still extending the Name key to add uniqueness.
  2. ...

-- HansWobbe

One of the primary reasons for choosing my usual handle is that it is unique to me: as of last Google every instance of it on the web referred to me or something associated with me, whereas there are several other people online with my name, some of whom are similar enough in some respects that their output could be confused with mine. (I make it a trivial effort to find the RealName behind the handle. I want people to know my identity -- which is why I use the handle. Though I do sometimes like my gender not to be immediately apparent.) -- KatWalsh


9.3. Residue


Hey, don't know if this is the appropriate page for this. I'm not sure the categorizing of the page UseRealNames is a good idea; it adds more than the minimal number of links to a "for beginners" page. I doubt that people looking for pages in CategoryIdentity, etc would manage to forget about UseRealNames; but if necessary, I suggest the page be linked to by CategoryIdentity and CategoryRealNames. Also, we want people curious about UseRealNames to first look at WhyUseRealNames before they get lost in CategoryIdentity, right? -- BayleShanks

Perhaps. My main motivation was collecting all the pages to be refactored. We can remove the category labels later. -- SunirShah

I hope my additional tweaks don't get in anyone's way. -- HansWobbe


I am not sure whether this is the right place to post my message: I have written some interesting papers on online communities and I was interested to publish them on your wiki, which I was reading for some time. After I noticed your policy on realnames I decided not to come here again, not even as a reader. GoodBye.

Best wishes to you. I hope you find a place to publish your papers that is to your liking. Keep in mind, however, that most journals would also like your real name. ;-) -- StephenGilbert

Journals are offline and friendly but this place is unfriendly since it doesn't respect my privacy.

You could always post your papers here anonymously. All we can see is your IP, then, and you're using an anonymizer anyway. -- ChrisPurcell

Bye then. Why not check out one of the MeatballAlternatives to see if there's another site that you would find more appropriate? --MartinHarper


There are also other visitors than Meatball community members. They lurk here, or may write something without revealing their names. Or they use a search engine to find all the pages with my name. I trust you but I don't trust those lurkers. If I wrote here with my real name, some of them could use it against me, to manipulate me, to discriminate me in Internet or outside it. I shall not write here with my real name unless I can watch the watchers. (This argument should have its very own heading.)


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