Why UseRealNames? – SunirShah argues elsewhere (MeatBall:GetProteus) from a diversity point of view:

On Meatball, we just don’t believe it’s good to create a culture where people have to hide their identity to fit in. It’s better to be capable to fully express oneself in an environment that appreciates each person for who one is. I don’t want to create a counter-current here that creates an escape route for people who want to hide their identity or abuse others for their identities. The following superb article which should be available at your local library explains this more clearly than I could:
Thomas, D. A. and Ely, R. J. (1996) Making differences matter: A new paradigm for managing diversity. Harvard business review, September-October, 79-90

The point is that pseudonyms hide all differences. We automatically assume the people behind them to be part of majority. Today, online, that would be young, white, male, American, etc. Using real names and providing some real background doesn’t allow the minority to hide behind a pseudonym, and it forces the majority to acknowledge the minority for what it is.

If we live in a tolerant society where diversity is possible, this will enrich our experience and teach our values to newcomers, as intolerance will automatically lead to friction, which will catch our attention.

There are a few failure modes that don’t apply to wiki environments, we hope:

  1. A true need to hide your real name or background based on your real life.
  2. Too much friction caused by existing intolerant members leading to automatic selection against minority members.
  3. Enough friction to distract for the main topic of the online community, eg. recurring discussions about the use of real names.

MeatBall:WhyUseRealNames has a longer explanation of the tradition as it originated on the WikiWikiWeb and it also discusses how using real names is different from current net culture, and why this is important.

Note: Using real names in order to curb vandalism, hate speech, harassment, or anything like it apparently does not work. For a longer article, see The Real Name Fallacy.


EditNearLinks: SunirShah WikiWikiWeb CategoryIdentity