Use real names

For some reason many new LtU members choose not reveal their real names. This makes the site less friendly in my opinion, and perhaps even discourages discussion.

I urge people to use their real names, unless they think there's good reason not to, in which case do what you think is best.


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The reason for pseudo-anonymity (at least for me) is a combination of two things: First, anything stupid said on the internet is there forever, for friends, rivals, enemies, and advertisers to use against you, and the web, like Usenet, seems uniquely conducive to bringing out one's inner jerk. Second, I have a semi-irrational reluctance derived from the way email addresses have been harvested for Spam. If someone e.g. figures out how to scrape names and IP addresses from the web, they can associate posting patterns with a real person, and use that for marketing. I use my first name rather than some ridiculous pseudonym as a compromise, and it's probably not that hard to find my full name if you're so inclined.


The protection from accountability is exactly the problem with anonymity, and part of the reason why Usenet often brings out the worst in people. This site has a good history of civility and I think it's completely reasonable to require people to use their real names.

Ehud, you might consider enforcing the use of real names using email addresses: I don't remember if the sign-up process required a real email address, but you can always verify the address the way mailing lists do, and then if you find people using pseudonyms you can send them warnings to their email address and ultimately delete their account.

I guess if that's too harsh, I guess you can just delete someone's account if they start becoming belligerent.

Won't work

Ehud, you might consider enforcing the use of real names using email addresses: I don't remember if the sign-up process required a real email address, but you can always verify the address the way mailing lists do, and then if you find people using pseudonyms you can send them warnings to their email address and ultimately delete their account.

This kind of rule doesn't forbid people who want to use fake names/pseudonyms. I use my real name here, but who could confirm that it's my real name and not some fake persona?

I agree with Ehud's post. IMO we have nothing to hide around here so no benefit from using pseudonyms, but we shouldn't force this view on people (which Ehud acknowledges in his post).

aren't you putting the cart b

aren't you putting the cart before the horse? if this forum is civillised already then what is the justification for making real names compulsory?

people lose their jobs for posting comments with real names. there was a recent example where someone had done nothing more than happens here - discuss language choice for projects (information that was public, not confidential).

i have always used my own name, but i'm the kind of idiot prepared to walk out of a job if encessary for the right to do so. i don't expect others to feel as i do and i certainly don't want to force them.

i should also add that i've posted some quite stupid and agressive things in various places over the years - having my name there didn't stop me, unfortunately.

Couldn't agree more. I have s

Couldn't agree more. I have seen Usenet posts from the eighties (note, that _is_ twenty years ago) some authors must regret by now.

I wouldn't like all my telephone calls to be taped, neither do I like a discussion to be logged virtually forever. Do I really want my kids to read all of my digital horsedung twenty years from now?

Btw, a former collegue of me used to work in a military datacenter in the Netherlands. Cross-correlation tools are used substantially by all nations who can afford it since the late nineties. Now, I have nothing to hide, but I am not inclined to give them anything to discover ;-)

Anyway, apart from the paranoia, I want to read about _ideas_ on a forum like this, not _people_. (Which is a very outdated unacademic proposition, maybe)


PS: You see, five paragraphs of no-information and even with my first name. And now it is here, cut in stone, forever. ;-)

Anonymity vs. Pseudonymity

Marco: I have seen Usenet posts from the eighties (note, that _is_ twenty years ago) some authors must regret by now.

Oh, I see you found my college Usenet postings!

Seriously, pseudonymity, consisting of a public key by which we are each identified and a private key with which we sign all of our posts, and some kind of rating mechanism for posts/authors so that our pseudonyms have a persistent "reputation" would combine the best qualities of privacy and accountability. This is standard cypherpunk/cryptoanarchist philosophy, with which I find myself strongly agreeing: I believe it to be the future of civil society.

OTOH, I know that I, at least, have benefitted greatly from, e.g. Tim Sweeney's willingness to come here and say "I'm Tim Sweeney, the Unreal guy." That allows me to immediately infer some things about his knowledge, background, and experience that are helpful when reading his posts. OTOOH, if we had Nyms and Reputation Servers in the world at large, as opposed to just on the web, we'd have (potentially) the same benefit as knowing someone's "True Name."

Anonymity vs. Pseudonymity - the bet

Oh, I see you found my college Usenet postings!

Nah, but I am tempted to go look for them now ;-).

I like your idea about Nyms, but I guess it is actually already "realized" by people who use one pseudonym consistently. (As I normally do, well - one of five I guess. Hmm, maybe I should do that - Marco is so... uhm ... boring... I guess).

I am not sure if knowing someones "true name" actually is that interesting: there are too many names to keep track of in that case; are there even authors who get a reference to an article on LtU every year? And on the other hand, great people consistently have stupid ideas and stupid people consistently have great ideas every day. What's the value of a name?

Anyway, nyms and reputation servers are present in the world at large. Servers are called wifes, friends, family and collegues. The nyms they call people you don't want to know about ;-).

But whatever, no I didn't read your Usenet posts but know what, I am not saying you are wrong, but I'll bet you one bottle of wine that in ten to fifteen years from now I can type in the name "Paul Snively" on some googlelikesearchthingy and get some nice graphical "concept diagram" of all Pauls, posts of a specific Paul, Pauls age, all articles by that Paul, Pauls Usenet posts ;-), Pauls wedding announcement, Paul on kuro5hin, opinions of some Mary on Paul, maybe even an automated psychological profile of named Paul, etc, etc.


PS: hmm, maybe I should get rid of that gmail account. they might start profiling me ;-)))
PPS: whoops, I did it again - getting off-topic I mean ;-)

Many real names are illegal as login here

I tried using my real name as login, but unfortunately it was rejected for containing non-ascii characters.
Is using a nick, and providing the real name in the user profile acceptable?

Non-ascii names

Just speaking as sysadmin, and avoiding the thorny issue of global privacy and anonymity on the internet:

The underlying platform, Drupal, uses UTF-8, and I see it accepts non-ASCII characters on the profile page. So, I'm guessing for some reason there's a deliberate restriction on usernames. I have no idea why. I'll take a look over the weekend.

does it regard me?

I mean, I'm sharing my real name, yet I like to have a shorter username.
Maybe comments should show that, or should I change my login name or is it ok as it is?

Same here, I registered under

Same here, I registered under my real name, but my login is my usual internet pseudonym. I use shapr on #haskell channel for example.

For that matter, most of my CS community connections are probably associated with shapr rather than Shae Matijs Erisson.
So maybe I really am using my real name if you want to know about my CS background. :-)
Shae Erisson -


amazingly enough my real name isn't pantagruel so I should probably point out that I have an account under my real (first) name Bryan, but for some reason when lambda moved from the old address I couldn't get in under that account so I created a new one, I chose the name I did as I use it under Kuro5hin and a few other places and it is rare enough a pseudonym that I figure it is associated enough with my online presence, that is to say if you see a pantagruel somewhere else you might be inclined to think, hey that's that same dunce I talked to on Lambda and so forth.

Mixed feelings.

Having grown up around computers and BBS's, I got used to using a "handle" or "hacker alias"(in the good sense of hacker). It seems a bit juvenile now that I'm in my twenties :), but old habits die hard.

Of course, I don't do that good a job of hiding. I typically sign my name to stuff even when I'm using my alias, and as others have done, I consistently use the same one(chosen for a combination of coolness and obscurity that makes it fairly rare to find someone else using it), heck, its even the domain name for my website.

Of course, I use my real name here, so its not that big a deal, but occasionally it is intimidating since I'm wanting to get my Ph.D. in CSC and several people who read this board are likely to be professors at schools I apply at, so on the one hand, posting insightful comments might just help me out one day. Or I could doom my chances of ever getting into a good school by some of the people here being on the committee and recognizing my name :). Any other would-be graduate students hiding behind an alias here to keep their stupidity from making them look bad?

Just thought I would share my $0.02 on the topic.


...okay, you've caught me. "Pseudonym" isn't my real name.

Just curious about this... Ehud, did you mean real names are preferred as login ids, or did you mean that you'd prefer real names to be filled in for the user information? I comply with the latter, but not the former.

I take sean's point about bringing out one's inner jerk, but I'm curious if this is actually a problem on LtU or not. I haven't noticed any jerk-like behaviour, but then, I generally only follow the front page.

My take

It was good to read the explanations by folks who decided not to reveal their names. Like I said in my original message, I am not proposing to enforce my suggestion on LtU members, at least at this point. If problems arise, I may rethink this policy.

Quite a few mentioned the unease the feel about using their given names. Well, I feel uneasy about conversing with people who choose to remain anonymous. It's good to keep in mind that each of us has his own sensibilities.

I think it is possible to find middle ground. You can use a login of your choice (something non-offenisve please), and give your name only in the user account details. You can give a url to a homepage/blog from which people can find out who you are. Naturally, using a handle which is well known in the CS/PL community is much less of a problem than using a LtU-specific made up username.

I hope these suggestion are acceptable to large majority. Like I said before - if you think you have good reason to remain anonymous, but otherwise are playing by the rules, I am not going to kick you out. I trust your judgement, guys.


I'm happy to use my real name, (as is my habit wherever I post), and I'm glad most here do likewise. The general tone of this group is very civilised, so I don't envisage any problems if things continue as they are. My biggest problem with enforcing real names would be if someone decided to "impersonate" someone else, and act inappropriately.

However, although I enjoyed Paul Snively's references to Vernor Vinge, I don't think it would be appropriate for members to start rating each others comments. Whilst it may be appropriate for general groups like kuro5hin etc., hackles may rise when "Hey, why rate my insightful comment on static typing as a 1! Right, let's see what you've posted..." starts to rear its ugly head.


I don't think it would be appropriate for members to start rating each others comments.

I agree. In fact, I feel quite strongly against these techniques as they are currently implemented. I'd rather go elsewhere than participate in sites that implement rating mechanisms.

It was unclear what "username" meant

When I signed up, I was prompted to provide a username, but it was never mentioned that the username was what would be used as the signature on my messages. So I assumed that "username" was just an identifier, with the usual sort of limitations, and picked "francis".

I guess people can still see my real name by clicking on "francis", though.