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Use of real names

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?

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1.
edited January 2011

I'm with you. Still I prefer my Florifulgurator handle for at least a technical reason: It is a unique google search term, so it makes it easier for me to find my old stuff (I'm a quite forgetful Florifunctor, so google is an important tool for me).

My real name "Martin Gisser" also seems unique and has a chance to stay so (there aren't many "germanic" Gissers, and for the jewish Gissers the first name Martin would be extravagant). Still, that would be two search terms and give suboptimal results when googling.

The other extreme: What if my name were "Ludwig Huber"? Thousands of Bavarians have this name. It would amount to anonymification using "Ludwig Huber" instead of Florifulgurator.

Comment Source:I'm with you. Still I prefer my Florifulgurator handle for at least a technical reason: It is a unique google search term, so it makes it easier for me to find my old stuff (I'm a quite forgetful Florifunctor, so google is an important tool for me). My real name "Martin Gisser" also seems unique and has a chance to stay so (there aren't many "germanic" Gissers, and for the jewish Gissers the first name Martin would be extravagant). Still, that would be two search terms and give suboptimal results when googling. The other extreme: What if my name were "Ludwig Huber"? Thousands of Bavarians have this name. It would amount to anonymification using "Ludwig Huber" instead of Florifulgurator.
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2.

Janet D. Stemwedel in this blog post Why would anybody want to blog under a pseudonym? says:

Some good reasons (from the top of my head) to blog under a pseudonym:

1. Your workplace frowns on blogging (even if you are not blogging about work at all) and you want to stay employed.
2. You are a student whose advisor will equate your blogging with time not spent doing research (even though you only sacrifice the time you would otherwise have spent sleeping, eating, exercising, or otherwise attending to your physical or mental well-being to write the blog).
3. You're about to go on the job market and you have no idea whether prospective employers will view blogging favorably or unfavorably.
4. You are trying to get a promotion/tenure and you have no idea how the committees that will be deciding whether to promote/tenure you view blogging.
5. The subject matter about which you blog is something utterly distinct from your professional identity -- and you'd like to keep it that way.*
6. The subject matter about which you're blogging (say, your political or religious beliefs, your sexual identity, your body image, your substance dependance) is something you're still working through -- and you'd rather not have all the people you interact with in your day-to-day life barge in on the safe pseudonymous space in which you're trying to work it through.
7. You want to be judged on the basis of what you have to say, not on the basis of who people think you are from your identifying details.
8. Blogging about what you blog about under your own name might significantly reduce your safety. (This might include doing research with animals, providing reproductive health care services, even just blogging about events in the region where you live if there's a creep stalking you.)
Comment Source:Janet D. Stemwedel in this blog post [Why would anybody want to blog under a pseudonym?](http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/2008/10/why_would_anybody_want_to_blog.php) says: > Some good reasons (from the top of my head) to blog under a pseudonym: > 1. Your workplace frowns on blogging (even if you are not blogging about work at all) and you want to stay employed. 2. You are a student whose advisor will equate your blogging with time not spent doing research (even though you only sacrifice the time you would otherwise have spent sleeping, eating, exercising, or otherwise attending to your physical or mental well-being to write the blog). 3. You're about to go on the job market and you have no idea whether prospective employers will view blogging favorably or unfavorably. 4. You are trying to get a promotion/tenure and you have no idea how the committees that will be deciding whether to promote/tenure you view blogging. 5. The subject matter about which you blog is something utterly distinct from your professional identity -- and you'd like to keep it that way.* 6. The subject matter about which you're blogging (say, your political or religious beliefs, your sexual identity, your body image, your substance dependance) is something you're still working through -- and you'd rather not have all the people you interact with in your day-to-day life barge in on the safe pseudonymous space in which you're trying to work it through. 7. You want to be judged on the basis of what you have to say, not on the basis of who people think you are from your identifying details. 8. Blogging about what you blog about under your own name might significantly reduce your safety. (This might include doing research with animals, providing reproductive health care services, even just blogging about events in the region where you live if there's a creep stalking you.)
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3.
edited January 2011

Curtis wrote:

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.

So far we've been urging, rather than requiring, these things. (I assume that by "write a paragraph or two on the Wiki", you mean writing a paragraph or two about themselves.) I'll remind people why:

This is a serious project with an extremely ambitious goal, not an internet chat room. We want it to have significant effects on science, technology, and public policy. In the "real world", where decisions are made, I think people take much more seriously comments by people with known identities and known reputations — people who are willing to stand behind their remarks with their whole reputation.

I successfully persuaded David Tweed and Curtis Faith to use their real names.

I would like to ask fderoo to let Andrew change his username here to Frederik de Roo. It's clear that Frederik hasn't been trying to hide his real identity.

I would also like to ask Florifulgurator to let Andrew change his username here to Martin Gisser. Again, it's no secret. And it's a beautiful pseudonym — but if we're going to get certain people to take our opinions on biochar seriously, Martin Gisser works a lot better than Mars Johann Pictor Florifulgurator.

Other people here with monickers include WebHubTel and roflwaffle. So far these two are just getting started contributing to the Azimuth Project. If someone just does a bit here and there, I don't see that a pseudonym does much damage. But if someone wants to get deeply involved, I think it's important to

1) use ones real name

and

2) make information about oneself available on an Azimuth Project page.

If you're a forum member, make sure that the page says

category:members

at the bottom.

It might simplify things to make these into requirements, but let's start by seeing what our pseudonymous friends have to say.

Comment Source:Curtis wrote: > 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. So far we've been _urging_, rather than requiring, these things. (I assume that by &quot;write a paragraph or two on the Wiki&quot;, you mean writing a paragraph or two about themselves.) I'll remind people why: This is a serious project with an extremely ambitious goal, not an internet chat room. We want it to have significant effects on science, technology, and public policy. In the "real world", where decisions are made, I think people take much more seriously comments by people with known identities and known reputations &mdash; people who are willing to stand behind their remarks with their whole reputation. I successfully persuaded David Tweed and Curtis Faith to use their real names. I would like to ask fderoo to let Andrew change his username here to Frederik de Roo. It's clear that Frederik [hasn't been trying to _hide_ his real identity.](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Frederik+De+Roo) I would also like to ask Florifulgurator to let Andrew change his username here to Martin Gisser. Again, it's [no secret](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Florifulgurator). And it's a beautiful pseudonym &mdash; but if we're going to get certain people to take our opinions on biochar seriously, Martin Gisser works a lot better than Mars Johann Pictor Florifulgurator. Other people here with monickers include WebHubTel and roflwaffle. So far these two are just getting started contributing to the Azimuth Project. If someone just does a bit here and there, I don't see that a pseudonym does much damage. But if someone wants to get deeply involved, I think it's important to 1) use ones real name and 2) make information about oneself available on an Azimuth Project page. If you're a forum member, make sure that the page says category:members at the bottom. It might simplify things to make these into _requirements_, but let's start by seeing what our pseudonymous friends have to say.
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4.

Comment Source:OK, username change requested
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5.
edited January 2011

P.S.: BTW, one Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus Paracelsus is still taken serious by some... :-)

I'm planning some biochar & putrefaction experiments this summer together with a paracelsist. Serious.

Comment Source:P.S.: BTW, one Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus [Paracelsus](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracelsus) is still taken serious by some... :-) I'm planning some biochar & [putrefaction](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putrefaction) experiments this summer together with a paracelsist. Serious.
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6.

I always thought Paracelsus was too Bombastic to take seriously.

Thanks for agreeing to reveal your true identity, Martin! (And Frederik too!)

Comment Source:I always thought Paracelsus was too Bombastic to take seriously. <img src = "http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/emoticons/tongue2.gif" alt = ""/> Thanks for agreeing to reveal your true identity, Martin! (And Frederik too!)
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7.

I feel as though there has to be a better way of implementing this than everyone emailing me asking to have their usernames changed. The simplest is to make it possible for people to change their own usernames. I disable this by default since it is slightly open to abuse (though the abuse it allows is very mild since username changes apply retrospectively, so if you change your name to, say, "John Baaez" (duplicates are not allowed), make some nasty comment, and then change it back again, the nasty comment always shows with your current username). Something else to look in to is to change the display on the comments to show a person's name instead of their username. This is slightly complicated, not least that it says in your account page that your name will only be shown on the account page (and members' list) which is only visible to people who are logged in.

So, shall I make it so that everyone can change their own username?

Comment Source:I feel as though there _has_ to be a better way of implementing this than everyone emailing me asking to have their usernames changed. The simplest is to make it possible for people to change their own usernames. I disable this by default since it is slightly open to abuse (though the abuse it allows is very mild since username changes apply retrospectively, so if you change your name to, say, "John Baaez" (duplicates are not allowed), make some nasty comment, and then change it back again, the nasty comment always shows with your current username). Something else to look in to is to change the display on the comments to show a person's name instead of their username. This is slightly complicated, not least that it says in your account page that your name will only be shown on the account page (and members' list) which is only visible to people who are logged in. So, shall I make it so that everyone can change their own username?
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8.
edited January 2011

I feel as though there has to be a better way of implementing this than everyone emailing me asking to have their usernames changed.

So, shall I make it so that everyone can change their own username?

Umm, I think time-dependent pseudonyms could be more confusing than time-independent ones.

Here's what I'll do. I'll hereby decree that all new Azimuth Forum members must use their real names.

I'll put this decree on the application instructions and reject applications that disobey it.

Then you're left with a very small number of existing members to deal with.

If you do

Florifulgurator $\mapsto$ Martin Gisser

and

fderoo $\mapsto$ Frederik De Roo,

we'll be left with about 3 more: roflwaffle, WebHubTel and a guy I approved earlier today, who has done some great programming and wants to join in....

Comment Source:> I feel as though there has to be a better way of implementing this than everyone emailing me asking to have their usernames changed. > So, shall I make it so that everyone can change their own username? Umm, I think time-dependent pseudonyms could be more confusing than time-independent ones. Here's what I'll do. I'll hereby decree that <b>all new Azimuth Forum members <i>must</i> use their real names.</b> I'll put this decree on the application instructions and reject applications that disobey it. Then you're left with a very small number of existing members to deal with. If you do Florifulgurator $\mapsto$ Martin Gisser and fderoo $\mapsto$ Frederik De Roo, we'll be left with about 3 more: roflwaffle, WebHubTel and a guy I approved earlier today, who has done some great programming and wants to join in....
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9.

Okay, I've changed the Forum help page to require that people use their real names as usernames.

If I get applications from people whose names I don't know and can't look up, I'll ask them some questions. That's what I've been doing all along...

Comment Source:Okay, I've changed the [[Forum help]] page to require that people use their real names as usernames. If I get applications from people whose names I don't know and can't look up, I'll ask them some questions. That's what I've been doing all along...
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10.

What if there is a name collision? That is, if there are two people with identical names? (John Smith, Wen Hu, Markus Müller? Even "Tim van Beek" is not as rare as it would seem.)

Comment Source:What if there is a name collision? That is, if there are two people with identical names? (John Smith, Wen Hu, Markus Müller? Even "Tim van Beek" is not as rare as it would seem.)
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11.
edited January 2011

The possibility of collisions is already present. I don't know what Andrew's software does if it gets a second application from a "Tim van Beek". Maybe it triggers the destruction of the Universe. Maybe it sends out a robot to kill the first "Tim van Beek". I hope that instead it sends the new user a message saying "sorry, that one is already taken". And so maybe I should re-include my email address, and say that people can get in touch with me if there's any problem. I can suggest that they add a number "2" or whatever they like to avoid collision while remaining identifiable.

Comment Source:The possibility of collisions is already present. I don't know what Andrew's software does if it gets a second application from a "Tim van Beek". Maybe it triggers the destruction of the Universe. Maybe it sends out a robot to kill the first "Tim van Beek". I hope that instead it sends the new user a message saying "sorry, that one is already taken". And so maybe I should re-include my email address, and say that people can get in touch with me if there's any problem. I can suggest that they add a number "2" or whatever they like to avoid collision while remaining identifiable.
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12.

It tells you that that username is not available. Note that the real user identifier is the "User ID". The username is simply something memorable so that the computer can link you to an ID. Once it's done that, it doesn't care about usernames any more (except to print them here, there, and everywhere).

Comment Source:It tells you that that username is not available. Note that the _real_ user identifier is the "User ID". The username is simply something memorable so that the computer can link you to an ID. Once it's done that, it doesn't care about usernames any more (except to print them here, there, and everywhere).
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13.

I've added a phrase saying that spaces (and capital letters) are legal in usernames. It's quite common for spaces not to be allowed on forums so one often sees things like "AndrewStacey" or "Andrew_Stacey" which look plain ugly.

Comment Source:I've added a phrase saying that spaces (and capital letters) are legal in usernames. It's quite common for spaces not to be allowed on forums so one often sees things like "AndrewStacey" or "Andrew_Stacey" which look plain ugly.
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14.

Here's what I'll do. I'll hereby decree that all new Azimuth Forum members must use their real names.

Is this decree still valid?

Comment Source:> Here's what I'll do. I'll hereby decree that all new Azimuth Forum members must use their real names. Is this decree still valid?
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15.
edited February 2011

Yes.

There are some existing members, mainly WebHubTel, who have resisted my plea to switch to real names.

Comment Source:Yes. There are some existing members, mainly WebHubTel, who have resisted my plea to switch to real names.