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The forum help page which contains the directions for the forum says:
Please use your real name as your username, or at least a pseudonym that lets us recognize you. Unrecognized people may not be accepted. You can send an email to John Baez at baezatmathdotucrdotedu explaining who you are.
This will probably seem funny coming from me given that I started out here with a non-obvious username, but I think we ought to consider enforcing a requirement to use real names. Further, I think we should make it a policy that new contributors write a paragraph or two on the Wiki when making forum posts. Anyone who is really interested in helping will find this to be a pretty small hurdle and it will help us understand each others backgrounds and interests as we grow.
I noticed that most all of the old-timers here use their full names. That's why I wanted to have mine updated too. But it isn't obvious when you sign up that you are stuck with a display name that is what you logged in as. So some of the new people may not have realized that they were committing to a display name on the forum when they picked the login name they did.
Scientists publish under their actual names. And we generally know the names of the people here anyway since we're not hiding them, so I don't see any benefit to using internet forum handles like are typical elsewhere.
However, I do see one downside that is significant, namely we miss out on an opportunity to stand out. When someone comes to this discussion forum and sees a bunch of actual people with real names, that in itself distinguishes this forum from a lot of places with a low signal-to-noise ratio. It makes it seem like what it is, a serious place to work together on some of the most important issues we have ever faced as a species. But if someone visits and sees the typical internet handles, they'll be more likely to conclude that it is a typical place. So if we want to stand out, I think that using our full names is one way to do so.
It may not seem like a big deal, but first impressions are important.
This is the kind of change we could make today without much trouble. There are relatively few people we'd have to update and it would be a few minutes work on Andrew's part. If we wait it will become progressively more difficult as the number of forum contributors rises.
What do you all think?
Is anyone strongly opposed to this? Have I missed out on some important benefit?