# Should we encourage use of real names as usernames?

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Both MathOverflow and CSTheory encourage users to use their real names as their usernames. Quoting from the MO faq

We also encourage you to use your real name as your username. In your own enlightened self-interest, realise that participating in blogs, MathOverflow, the arXiv, and mathematical publishing are all forms of advertising for your "brand", even if that’s not your principal purpose (and hopefully it’s not). Since job applications require you to write your real name, you might as well use it everywhere else, too.

Using real names reminds everybody that they are corresponding with real people, and it demonstrates a certain level of personal investment in your MathOverflow identity. If you use a pseudonym and you get into some kind of trouble (e.g. fights in comment threads or spammy-looking posts), the moderators are much less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

I quite strongly feel that we should adopt a similar policy. If so, now is the time to do it, as we will no doubt have a bunch of new users joining once we reach public beta next week. This is not to say that pseudonyms should be banned, simply discouraged.

The quoted passage above probably explains the reasons for doing so better than I can, but I would like to say that it is a great way of ensuring or at least encouraging that discussion is at a fairly civil level, but also it is very helpful to know where your answers come from. So what do people think? In case I haven't convinced you, I'll leave you with a screenshot from MathOverflow, which might change your mind.

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asked Sep 15, 2011
Agreed, I think this is a good idea! Also adds more "seriousness" to the site.

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We have quite a bit of discussion on this from time to time at meta.mathoverflow.net. I don't know whether or not anyone would be interested in this discussion but if so then there's a reasonable thread at: http://meta.mathoverflow.net/discussion/335/1/why-not-real-names/

My position is that real names should be strongly encouraged but not enforced, and my reasons can be easily found in that discussion. (If they can't, or someone thinks it worth summarising them here, leave me a comment and I'll do so.)

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answered Sep 15, 2011 by (0 points)
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Simple question, why is the use of the Real Name field not sufficient?

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answered Sep 15, 2011 by (240 points)
I don't think other people can see this field

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I was not aware.

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@rcollyer: if you have filled it in I certainly can't see it.

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So, I guess that answers my question: the Real Name field is not sufficient because no one else can see it.

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Yes, I think so. Also, even if it was there you would need to go to their profile, etc, which would be less smooth.

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Truthfully, smoothness is less important to me. I can see where it would be helpful, though. Personally, I prefer psuedonymity to avoid confusion between myself and others with my name, however I don't mind encouraging the use of real names, in general.

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