Pseudonyms, etc

I was asked, apropos to the Scott Adams thing, if I ever walk the Internets in a guise other than myself and/or bearing a screen name that does not make it clear who I am.

The answer is no, and for two primary reasons. The first is that it’s a hassle to remember a whole bunch of pseudonyms depending on which site I’m at; it’s easier just to be me at all of them. The second reason is that I’m not particularly concerned whether the words I post online are attributed back to me, since my personal opinion on the matter is that it’s better for me to own my words than not. I have had pseudonymous screen names before, waaaaay back in the day, because at the time it was what you did; the one I used most often was “Edwin Booth,” who was a famous 19th century actor and also a distant relative of mine. But for my day-to-day social Web wanderings I can’t think of a site I currently use for which I have a pseudonym.

This is not to say that I think no one should use pseudonyms online; there are reasons some people are more comfortable doing that, and I wouldn’t gainsay those reasons (unless it’s to be a sockpuppet for yourself, in which case you’re still an idiot). But for me, meh. I’d rather be me.

But it’s also the case that generally speaking I don’t do a huge amount of commenting elsewhere on the Web at this point, either. I have here, and then I also blather on Twitter and (to a much lesser extent) Facebook. Between those three I pretty much say what I want to say. Outside of those, the only place I regularly comment is Metafilter (the place where Scott Adams got himself in trouble) and occasionally in the comment threads of friends’ site. But usually when I want to say something, I say it here. That’s what here is for.

105 thoughts on “Pseudonyms, etc

  1. Okay, you’ve got my curiosity running: How distant a relative IS Edwin Booth?

    And do you know of any possible reason why you might find it necessary to adopt a pseudonym online?

  2. My domain registration has my full real name, plus home address and phone number. I figure that if I’m going to make a fool out of myself regardless, as I so often seem to do, then I may as well own it.

  3. I generally use “Mark S” as my name wherever I comment. It makes it easier to remember who I am across the blogosphere. If there is any time where it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment using the “Mark S” name, then I really need to think twice about whether or not I should actually comment.

  4. Have you read Karen Joy Fowler’s wonderful story “Booth’s Ghost”? It’s largely about Edwin and Junius. Though of course John Wilkes creeps in a bit.

  5. I respect people who own up to what they say online. Too many people take the internet’s anonimity as a reason to be assholes. There are ways to have opinions and defending them without having to resort to being mean.

    So, way to own up Mr. Scalzi. I wish more people did.

    G!

  6. Mark S:

    “If there is any time where it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment using the ‘Mark S’ name, then I really need to think twice about whether or not I should actually comment.”

    Well, and that’s the thing, isn’t it. If you’re about to post something somewhere that you think you should not post under the name most associated with you, I think you have to ask why and whether you really should. Because among other things, as Scott Adams found out, these things have a funny way of getting associated with you anyway.

  7. I generally use my email, I consider it a pseudonymous name – people who know me in real life will recognize it/me. It’s the nickname my Mom came up with for my baby sister to use. (At 12 she still calls me ‘Pooh’ sometimes. :)) It’s easy to remember (been using it for a decade) and I feel weird using my ‘real’ name after all this time as my screen name. There are times I don’t necessarily want MY name attached to something but I’m also not really trying to hide.

  8. I’ve been on Television Without Pity lately, and near as I can tell NO ONE uses a real name. But people use the same names for years (you progress from a level of Just Tuned In through things like Channel Surfer and Couch Potato to Stalker) and get to be well known. It’s kind of interesting.

    I sometimes wonder if I’d be more apt to go under my full name if a certain sister wouldn’t have a major fit about it. (As in, she’s not talking to one of my other sisters over something similar.) Sigh.

  9. As much as I hate using pseudonyms on the interwebs, painful experience has taught me that it is sometimes a necessity for me.

    I live in a very religiously conservative part of the country, and while I am a Christian, I’m not the right kind of Christian in the opinion of the majority around these parts. Some comments on my old blog and on Facebook a few years ago resulted in a few requests (demands?) to my Pastor to tell me I was no longer welcome at my church. (I’ve since left that church for various and sundry reasons).

    My former employer of 19 years was a religious (read conservative evangelical Christian) media company. Over the last 10 years I was there, some comments I made on the Internet under my own name almost cost me my job. I didn’t post anything about our company or my work, but the religious and political opinions I expressed were diametrically opposed to those of the company’s CEO and founder. Nor was my job something that put me in the public eye. Our division was downsized last year, and all but two of the employees – myself included – were laid off. I don’t know that my comments on the Internet affected the decision to lay me off, but I can’t help think that they did.

    Now that I’m in the job market, I’m even more acutely aware of the fact that employer’s Google every applicant. I’ve been very good about managing my Internet reputation and privacy, so if you Google my name you’ll find nothing embarrasing and very little about me in general. Thankfully I share a name with a few people who warrant more attention than I do. But, if I broadcast my religious or political views under my own name on the Internet, given the religiously and politically conservative culture in which I live, I’m giving a potential employer a reason to not consider me for a job, and a potential consulting client a reason to not hire me and instead choose someone more simpatico with the client’s religious and political leanings. (And no, moving is not an option).

    So I’m left with two options: don’t express certain opinions on the Internet, or express them anonymously or pseudonymously. And because I don’t really like posting pseudonymously, I’m more and more just stifling myself and not saying anything at all. Maybe that’s the better course of action anyway.

  10. Wouldn’t being a distant relative of Edwin Booth also make you a distant relative of JW Booth?

  11. I saw a one-man show once about Edwin Booth. I was nine or ten, too young to understand it, and I wish I could see it again now. (It was not The Tragedian or Haunted Prince.)

  12. As far as legitimate use of ‘nyms, well, I chose this one because my True Name is terribly generic; there were something like 12 or 14 listings in my local white pages that might’ve been me. (Indeed, my name’s so generic I could’ve snagged a fellow-Steve’s gig at Yuk-Yuk’s. That Steve now has a regular gig on the CBC. A pity I have this archaic thing called “a sense of fairness”…)

    In contrast, a Google search for my ‘Nym (*cough*) shows me to be unique, at least so far. In a blow for irony, my “nom d’ordinateur” makes me *more* identifiable than using my street name would.

    If my brain was less clogged, I’m sure I could come up with more examples of “legitimate” reasons to use an alias.

    – Steve

  13. Like Kenneth B, I keep to a screen name online, though I haven’t had any really bad experiences — mostly when I was applying for grad students, I was surprised when a professor commented on some art I had posted to my personal website, and decided to minimize my non-science presence when Googling my real name.

    On the other hand, it’s an open secret. My email has my real name on it, and I don’t obfuscate my department and university in my blog. And, well, professional astronomy is not a large community. And I keep a consistent screen name (either Becca Stareyes or Stareyes) across sites, so I’d feel like saying stuff under that name is as real as saying it under my real name. Mostly I want some control over what Google’s bots see.

  14. I still maintain a pseudonym for many online activities, and I’m quite careful to maintain the divide. It’s a throwback to the BBS days when I got my start, and I still have an ingrained pause before I sign my real name to anything on the net.

    Pseudonyms are good. The idea that you’re “hiding” behind one is nonsense, except to the extent that you’re using throwaway names that don’t matter. My pseudonym has a reputation and a history in the communities where I use it, and with the reputation comes every bit as much accountability and “owning up to what you say” as I’d experience if I used my real name.

    In fact, I’d say it comes with MORE accountability. None of you lot are going to call my house if you don’t like what I say here – the fact that I post at Whatever using “Tony Dye” is completely separate from whether I own my words. On the net, my pseudo-name is just as real as my real one.

    So, is Ghislord your first or last name?

  15. I wound up with my Internet name mostly because the first real interaction I had was at AncientSites, where taking a two part pseudo-ancient name was required. It was a long time before I started posting elsewhere and by then my Internet identity was pretty solidly established. Also I have a very common first name and I share a first-last name combo with a major character in a blockbuster movie from several years ago. Renders me generally unfindable and makes it hard to establish a nick that’s related to my real name.

  16. @15

    Well, both actually. It’s a throwback going back to ’94 when it was still all the hype to be original. Far as I know I’m still the only one out there.

    Ghis stands for my first name “Ghislain” and Lord for my last “Leduc” (Yes, I do be of the French variety) which means The Duke in english… thus a lord. So it was basicallt a play on my own name. And I am not afraid to admit who I am.

    G!

  17. I have had something of the inverse problem in that in pre-internet days I was accused of being a pesudonym for several someones. Yes, I was supposed to be fictional construct used at least 2 people, one tall and thin and white, the other short, slight and black. And my wife was once accused of being a false ID established by a former Worldcon chairman. Use a false name? Heck, I am having trouble using my real one.

  18. My given name is the top English women’s given name for about five centuries and my surname the 64th most common English last name. I share it with an actress, a folk singer, a lawyer, a technology adviser, and several others. Oh, and a well-known science fiction editor.

    Then too I’ve had my online handle for over a decade. In the art communities I participate in, that’s my name. (Unfortunately as time wears on, I’ve had people also hit upon it as a nick name. I got it on Twitter, DeviantArt, ConceptArt, Blogger, but somebody else registered it on Facebook and somebody else got the gmail account.) And if anyone goes to my website, it’s pretty clear what information is hooked up to this ‘nym. It’s more a nickname than a pseudonym.

    I have posted pseudonymously on some sites, usually about something health related, or something that I may not want to my Mormon parents to see.

    Women who are in abusive relationships might also have reasons to post pseudonymously. People whose jobs are at stake. Whistleblowers. Folks who run outside the mainstream of their smaller communities. Plenty of good reasons to have a pseudonym. (I just don’t think calling yourself a genius on MeFi is one of those reasons.)

    Plenty of good reasons to disclose who you are too–I was telling somebody that when it comes to journalistic things, I respect those people who disclose possible conflicts of interest religiously. Scott Adams would like to argue the opposite–that trust increases when you hide the conflict of interest–but I think that falls in the category of lying by omission.

  19. Well, I use several similar but different first names across the various areas of my life: Jerry as my “business card” name, Dusty to my friends, J.D. as my “pen name” (my publisher’s suggestion). I’ve occasionally adopted brief throwaway pseudonyms for various purposes, mostly humorous.

    One time, at the suggestion of a female friend, I adopted a clearly female screen name. The results were…enlightening. Even though it was a completely non-sexy name, I got hit on immediately and relentlessly, in a lot of ways, many of which were rather gross. I dropped the name.

  20. It may just be self-justification on my part, but I would suspect that there will be a fairly clear divide on this issue between women and men. I often use a pseudonym on-line for security reasons, unless I am communicating in a professional capacity about my business. Even in professional venues, I tend to keep my sharing of personal facts such as address and phone number to the bare minimum.

    Yes, this does make me feel I’m being a bit paranoid at times, but all I have to do is recall the times I’ve gotten home to phone messages like, “I Googled your name, and I’m positive you’re the woman I met in a bar in Iowa ten years ago. This is my third message. Why won’t you call me back?!! I know it’s you. Look forward to seeing you again!” Get a few of those and you might reconsider being on-line in any capacity, except then you realize it’s too late, and all you can do is limit the damage in the future. I just thank God I have a very common name. And no earthly claim to notoriety.

  21. “Theophylact” is basically the only screen name/pseudonym I use (although on one forum I show up in my full glory as “Theophylact the Unbearable”). Sometimes a version of my real name appears, because it gets accidentally linked to my Gmail ID (which is of the form “firstinitial nospace familyname atsign gmail dot com”. My family name is rare enough that practically everyone in the US and Canada is a family member or ex-wife, and I don’t need spam.

    I’m also a federal government employee and I wouldn’t want people to mistakenly think that my opinions belong to anyone other than myself.

  22. Whoops! Read “practically everyone in the US and Canada who shares it is a family member “.

  23. I usually use some variation on my name (first name only, first name with last initial, full name) the exception is when i comment on gawker, because the pseudonym I use there is a holdover from back in the day and I haven’t bothered to change it (but probably will now that I think about it). It struck me as silly to use pseudonyms when commenting on blogs, when I always add a link to my blog, where I use my real name and have my real bio for all the internet to see. I’m also a big fan of transparency. Own your words, people. Ultimately, it’s all we’ve got to define us on this here internet.

  24. My pseudonyms is mostly used in computer games and my current one has elements of my game names from the 1980′s. Since there’s currently 42 people with my real name on IMDB alone it makes it useful searching for mentions of me online.

  25. Wait just a darn second here. Does this mean that when Gingerhottie1963 claimed to be The John Scalzi last night she/he was lying?

  26. I use more than one online identity. Why? Because I don’t want my hobbies and personal life mixed up with my professional life. If someone wants to hire me, why should they stumble across which computer games I play or which authors’ blogs I comment on in my spare time? Why should they trip over home school forums when they just want someone to play at their wedding reception or teach their kid’s music lessons?
    I’ll keep my real name for things that pay me money. If our host here happened to be active in circles not related to his income earning activities on the internet, enough so that those activities would be the first returns for googling his name rather than his income earning activities, he might be of the same opinion. ‘Sunbee’ is a handle that goes back to a Pern PBEM, one of my first online activities, and generally is not already taken on websites I’m interested in joining. So I just keep on using it online. Several of my real life friends, people who would be interested in the websites I frequent, know I use it, for that matter, so it’s not an ‘I don’t want people I actually know to know I use it’ issue. It really is an ‘I don’t want people I gave my business card to tripping over stuff not related to business’ issue.

  27. I use this name simply because I used to blog with it back in the day, and still do on occasion at a pop-culture site. I don’t actually care if anyone knows who I am — and I’ll tell people if they asked me — but I am an attorney in private practice and I’d rather not have my internet comments come up in a casual search for my background. Not that I don’t stand by what I’ve said, but because it’s off-putting to some clients to have any sort of non-professional internet footprint.

  28. I use my real name here, on Facebook, and in my email, but I’m Nightshade/Nightshade1972 everywhere else online. My LiveJournal is open for public scrutiny; my Facebook is friends-locked.

    I’ve been asked if i’m a scifi/fantasy fan because of the Nightshade nick, apparently it’s a character in a book/series I’ve never read or heard of. I actually picked Nightshade as a nick because nightshade, the plant, is alternately referred to as “belladonna”, which means “beautiful lady” in Italian. So I’m stroking my own ego. So sue me.

    :-)

  29. I’m lucky enough to have a rare first name, so I can be reasonably distinctive without posting my full legal name. I’m also lucky enough not to have Orwellian employers (a public-school teacher who works near me got fired for posting a photo of herself holding a glass of wine on her Facebook page), stalkers, angry ex-whatevers, or any number of other annoyances. But I do recognize that some people have any or all of the above to deal with, and might need to switch online hats, as it were, from time to time.

  30. I continue to be amazed at people who suggest pseudonym = no accountability, or that you can’t own your words unless the name your parents picked is attached to them. Reputation is everything on the net, and maintaining a consistent nickname across multiple venues to build that reputation makes it, over time, more genuine a representation of you than your actual name.

  31. Heh. I’ve been using ‘Gilmoure’ since my bbs days, starting in ’79 (Ti-99/4a with coupler modem). The only time I use a different name is when Gilmoure is not available on a particular service (Twitter, Yahoo). In that case, I use ldgilmoure. I’ve also been using this name in the SCA (Lord Gilmoure of Storm, aka Gilmoure the Trimarian) so there’s some RW documentation out there.

  32. I have always used my real name in everything I do on the internet because I like to own what I say. I am having a problem with people who leave anonymous nasty comments on my blog because they aren’t stand up enough to do the same.

    I don’t have a problem with pseudonyms, but I do have a problem with people who want to say something mean about me and not put their name to it. If you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face and let them know it is you saying it, you probably shouldn’t be saying it at all. We are very lucky to have the right to free speech in this country, but the internet has opened up a world where anyone can say anything to anybody without having to worry about the consequences and, because of this, they say things they would never say out loud directly to the target of their comment.

    If you’re using a pseudonym across websites and not being nasty or mean, then I can’t think of a problem with it. I can see a problem though with expressing your opinions with your real name if they are negatives about your employer, since as someone commented above, employers google everybody they hire now.

  33. I haven’t used an out and out pseudonym for years. I used to use one on usenet, but even then it wasn’t so much a disguise as handle/nickname. That seemed to be the norm back then. It was probably traceable back to me if anyone cared to try.

    I do tend to use contractions of my name online, but I wouldn’t consider that to be pseudonymous.

    I googled my full name recently, and found a prison record for heroin possession… Lucky I’ve never actually visited that part of the US.

  34. I think a philosophical problem is that people conflate anonymity with privacy. The idea goes, if I am not allowed to post comments across the Internet anonymously, then I have no privacy! But that ignorant. Privacy prevents people from coming and getting into your business; privacy is not supposed to allow you to get into other people’s business without accountability.

    That being said, there are exceptions where anonymity is justified, namely for political speech where reprisals are feared. But the vast majority of anonymous speech in our country comes with no justifiable fear of reprisals from the government. No, people are afraid of reprisals from their parents, their neighbors, their co-workers, spouses and friends. People are afraid to be labeled and asshole after they go and do ass-holey things on the Internet. But, thing is, you SHOULD be labeled and asshole for doing ass-holey things, whether they are on the Internet or at the supermarket.

    So if it isn’t clear, I don’t like pseudonyms. I think people should put their names on their comments, and they should link back to their Facebook page for the whole world to see. If you can’t handle that, then don’t make your comments.

    NOTE: Spell check changed assholey to ass-holey for me. Way to clean up my profanities, spell check!

  35. My policy is the opposite of KennethB’s @10 – starting about a decade ago, I’ve always use my real name online when I think I might be offending somebody, because having all my worst features come up first in a Google search means I’m that much less likely to be hired by someone who’d only end up firing me later for them, or dating someone who’d end up ending the relationship over them, or entering into any number of other doomed interactions. I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s worked out so far.

    The one time I’ll stoop to using a pseudonym is when I want my opinion to carry less weight – not because I’m worried about how it’ll reflect on me, but because I’m worried about my name lending unjustified “expert” credence to something I’d rather have evaluated more critically.

  36. Starting a few years ago I switched to always using my own name. Prior to that I used shalter mostly out of habit due to older sites just allowing a limited number of characters as a user name.
    As John mentioned, if I don’t think posting something under my own name is a good idea, then it’s probably not a good idea to post it in general.
    However, as megalith @ 21 mentioned there are personal security reasons some might not want to post under a real name. Much like many females only list their first initial in a phone book listing.

  37. John:

    Being the Yoda of Snark that you are, does your lack of a pseudonym on-line have an element of “If you don’t have the stones to bitch someone to their face (or over your real signature), you shouldn’t do it behind their back”? If so, you’re a class act.

  38. Having said that, Megalith @21 is right — I have a good friend who writes for a feminist group blog under a pseudonym. Some of the troll-istic comments (up to and including rape threats) are bad enough; I wouldn’t want psychos like that knowing where I live and work.

  39. Wrote a bunch of stuff on this yesterday, but briefly:

    John’s definitely lucky on this count. Not only is he self-employed, but the vast majority of his audience is likely fully aware and approving of what he has to say outside of fiction. There’s virtually no chance of him losing his job, home, family, etc. if someone didn’t like what he has to say here.

    Definitely not the case for many (most?) of the rest of us. I wouldn’t necessarily lose my current (media) job if the stuff attached to my primary handle were to be connected with my professional name, but I’d probably have a hard time getting a new one. Like it or not, my name is publicly attached to my work, and there would be questions raised about my credibility and moral fiber. Those wouldn’t be legitimate questions, mind, but the news-consuming public is picky about these things, which would mean most folks would think twice about hiring me.

    I’m lucky in that community and family support aren’t an issue where this is concerned (my neighbors don’t even know my name and I’m already the liberal, feminist black sheep of the fam) but I can certainly see situations where that would be an issue for others.

    It may seem to some that this sort of closeting is dishonest, but for most, it’s a matter of survival–just as it is for the other kind of closeting. We’re not all lucky enough to be fully “out” about our political views, hobbies, personal quirks, etc., and that necessitates some measure of discretion for most of us.

  40. I don’t see it as ‘out’ or ‘in’. To start with, it was just the way things were done, before the Web was as it is today. Matthew, Chelle, if I insulted you with my pseudonym, there’s plenty of accountability attached to that. I’m scattered over a dozen forums, comment on hundreds of blogs, maintain a publicly searchable Disqus database of everything I say. That’s plenty of history and accountability. As I said, you’re not going to call my house if I cross a line, so what have you gained by knowing I’m called “Tony” instead of “snugglekins poofyface*”? It’s still me, and more people call me “snuggle” than call me Tony. Thousands of people know my nick and everything I think or say through it, but only a few dozen know my name. My reputation is tangible and susceptible to damage online – why is that somehow illegitimate?

  41. I use a nom de plume for things seperate from my normal, every day life. In real life I work in accounting (to support my book habit), but under the other name I write, do book reviews (don’t want unhappy authors to fire bomb my house) and teach classes in things like science, cooking, folklore and comparative theology. Accountants generally do not see the value of I-Ching and Norse Runestones. Even have a different e-mail for this purpose. Actually had someone try to track me down to pressure me to do a Tarot reading for her. That was a little scary. Then let’s add the local religious fundamentalists.

  42. I use my LiveJournal name here and elsewhere for many of the same reasons other people, especially women do. My job is under civil service and we are not supposed to express political opinions publicly. I don’t think my employers are trolling the internet for forbidden speech, but why take the chance?

    My Real Life name is out there online and I haven’t had any real trouble, but again, why take the risk that some nutcase will decide to fixate on me? I’ve had one letter that was semi-scary; I don’t need any more.

    I don’t use my semi-annonymous status to snipe at people; I use it to feel more secure.

  43. Exactly.

    Also, FWIW, I’ve been involved in internet kerfluffles that did come with (realistic) threats of violence. Had my real name been attached to any of that, I might not be typing here today. Even seven years on from it, I still try to keep my home address as private as possible, and installed an alarm system just in case. And this was just fandom drama, not even politics or religion or any other hot-button issue that gets people’s dander up.

    So… Yeah. Going to still keep some parts of my online life as anonymous as I can. I don’t fear “accountability.” I fear obsessive fangirls.

  44. I’ve always used either my first name or my nickname – mostly my nickname, because I just like it. Even my LiveJournal name contains my nickname, and that’s a carryover from Open Diary, where a pseudonym was REQUIRED. It’s an open secret, though. Friends call me Missy in real life, it’s just what I’ve used online for years.

    My own thought on things is that pseudonyms are fine, as long as you’re not using them to hide behind whilst being an asshole. There are many valid reasons for using a pseudonym online – for instance, if you’re active in gay communities, but haven’t come out to your family for fear of reprisals; if you’re active in political communities that your employer might get a hair up its ass about; if you’re into BDSM and don’t think your Grammy really needs to see your discussions in communities dedicated to such. That’s all fine. Using your pseudonym the way Adams did? That’s not.

  45. I’ve used a pseud on Usenet for years (a pseud that came prophetically true) that, for various reasons, I’d rather not reveal. I used my real name on a writing newsgroup, but once got in an argument with a self-righteous (epithet).I was posting in another newsgroup using the pseud at the same time, and forgot to switch back when I continued the argument. When the person I was arguing with called the pseud I’d accidentally posted under a (really really bad epithet), I had enough. I tried to explain the posting irregularity, but then, what’s the use? If was my second smack-in-the-face lesson about arguing on the Internet.

    My first good smack-in-the-face lesson came from Raymond E. Feist…

  46. I’m kind of lucky – the last few times I’ve egosurfed for my name it was overwhelmed with an NFL player. At least the porn star doesn’t come up anymore. :P

    Googlefail on my part: I see that JWB was EB’s brother.

  47. I generally agree that it’s better to own my words, and I will not hide behind a psuedonym. Nevertheless, I post as ‘aphrael’ almost everywhere (and not under my actual legal name). But I’ve been doing that for twenty years at this point; while there are other ‘aphrael’s out there, ‘aphrael’ is just as much a part of my identity as my real name. So it’s not a psuedonym, in a sense; or, if it is, it’s so well developed (and so easily linked to my real identity) that it doesn’t serve any use at all for hiding behind.

  48. I write (and at the moment, post) under a pseudonym because, despite having a fairly odd and uncommon name, I share it with another struggling author who went and got himself a website with our name. I suppose I could just try to become a famous best-selling author under my real name, but my doppelganger is friends with Neil Gaiman, who I can only assume would crush me like a bug if I tried.

  49. I work on contract. I have strong political opinions (discovered you via balloon juice – turned me into a reader of your books, have to thank Mr. Cole for that some day).

    I feel it is safer to separate my real world identity from my online one because you never know what a potential employer might look at when screening candidates. But I have never once said anything as frank or frankie that I would not be willing to say as MeRL. But in RL I know who is listening & I would not say everything I WANT to say in some situations.

    I would never create a sock puppet to support me in an online pissing match either. Mr Adams is a dick, a certified one at that.

  50. I’ve used the same pseudonym a number of places, starting at a now defunct local newspaper forum, up through slashdot and offshoots. I really only use it one major place now, which is one of those offshoots. Nearly everyone there knows my real name, or can if they want. (I am facebook friends with a lot of them) but I prefer to keep it just to have a place to rant that isn’t immediately googeable. I have no illusions about true secrecy.

    I am fairly certain that I lost out on a job at one point when I used my real name ill-advisably as I had ranted about how a certain online retailer sucked due to some shipping problems. A year later a job fell through and I discovered that rant was a top google hit for my name. (My surname is quite rare. If I ever try to get a job for the “I hate Scalzi” association, I’m screwed.)

    I use yet another nickname for online gaming because frankly I prefer not to be contactable by a some of the people you find in that community.

  51. My most-frequently used username, ajdecon, is closely derived from my real name, and you can find out who I am with a simple Google search. This is largely habit: I’ve been ajdecon on every computer system ever for so long, it’s a major pain to remember another username in cases where they’re auto-assigned. I even pestered my University to change it.

    That said, I can get away with it because I do my best not to post anything controversial in public on the Internet. Most pseudonyms can be connected to a real name, especially if the investigator is willing to exert a non-trivial effort, and owning my real name online reminds me not to shoot my mouth off. Besides, I strongly prefer to have heated discussions in private, face-to-face or via e-mail, not publicly.

    The few times I’ve decided I absolutely have to be opinionated in public, I use throw-away usernames that are continuous only within that conversation. I don’t want a pseudonym with a continuous reputation, it would make me more likely to continue the habit.

  52. I am about as closely related to Abraham Lincoln as you are to John Wilkes Booth, Scalzi. COINCIDENCE?

    I think so.

    I am pseudonymous a lot of places on the Internet, but not anonymous–I choose not to go by my full legal name everywhere because creeps abound (I’ve mentioned the death threat from a hardcore Martin van Buren fan here before), but generally share that name with folks in private messages or similar where it’s useful.

  53. I think that, in general, it is easier for men to post under their full legal names on the Internet than it is for women, because fewer rape threats. (It is perhaps surprising how little one gets used to that, at least if that one is me. The six hundredth is just as annoying/scary/icky/WTF as the sixth.)

    There are a few places, like MetaFilter, where I’m pseudonymous but my legal name is in my profile there, partly because I have a few pseudonyms I’ve loved and used since the days of the BBS when using your legal name was frowned upon.

  54. I’ve been posting online as Daephene since I realized that a google search of the name only turns up references to me, mostly blog and BB posts. There is always another Sara. There is never another Daephene. I don’t like using my full name because it feels overly formal.

    The google search for Daephene will quickly reveal my name to anyone who’s really trying to find me out, so I’m not hiding anything. Assuming I ever comment in the same place often enough to be noticed, it will be easier to recognize me this way.

  55. I am pretty protective of my privacy, just because of the aforementioned creeps (though the mind reels to think of what sin must be committed to get a Martin van Buren fan to make a death threat! Or that there are hard core fans of the man at all….) and as such I think it is the consistency of the use. I have often used my initials, though of late I just decided that it was easier to use my name, mainly because I have very few places anymore where I post.

    There was a time when I was active on a few boards and was even a moderator on a couple. I have known people who not only used a wide variety of pseudonyms, but had various personalities to match each name; I had no idea this was called sock puppetry, but the term sure fits. It seems tiring at best and somewhat pathological at worst, that amount of identity management.

  56. Having a psycho ex- who scours the web for any sign of what I am doing in an effort to make my life hell has been reason enough for me. I use my real name on work and career related things though.

  57. Steve: I should note that I lied, a bit, above, in that I have on occasion posted under a psuedonym specifically to keep people I know in RL from knowing what I’m talking about, usually when I’m talking about something (like applying to law school) which they will all know about in due time but which I’m not ready to talk to them about yet.

  58. In an ideal world I’d use my own name.

    However, prospective employers/business partners/editors/etc have a practice of googling for you, and I have a feeling that my “blatherations” across the internets wouldn’t bode well for me. It’s career protection.

    My pseudonym has very special significance to me… but obviously I can’t explain why.

  59. Incidentally, we seem to be entering a new ‘age of the pseudonym.’ It may be standard practice in a decade or two to have a pseudonym – or more than one – for various activities, as normal as having a driver’s license.

  60. As my full name is currently the only one of its kind in America, possibly in the Western Hemisphere (and it’s definitely not Eastern at all), I’m saving it for when I become legitimately famous. Or not.

    (I only use permutations of my real name, though.)

  61. Oooh, I just remembered one. That “only” should be “mostly.” Just in case this post comes back to haunt me someday.

  62. If “Publius” was good enough for Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, “MasterThief” is good enough for me. Internet debate is too quick to degenerate into ad hominems and tu quoques; removing the hominem with a pseudonym, in my opinion, forces people to consider the merits of the thought expressed, and not the person expressing it. Especially in a situation where you’re disagreeing with everyone else. But YMMV.

    On a personal note, I find it helpful to separate the internet from real life. I can count on one hand the number of people who can connect my pseudonym with my real name, and I like it that way.

  63. I use this pseudonym because my real name is hard to spell. Not for me, for other people. So since this is the name I write under, this is the name I use so people can associate my identity as a commenter on others’ blogs with my writing identity. Should I ever get significantly published.

  64. I use three names, two of which are not my own, on the internet. I don’t link them together because I want those three compartments separated from each other. My fandom stuff has one name, my commenting on blogs and such has another, then there’s the real life stuff that has my real name (Facebook). I’d never hide behind or ever make rude comments on anyone’s blog. It’s not worth the time and effort. Fandoms on the internet have so many issues and crazies out there (as many have mentioned already), it’s just easier and safer to have a pseudonym instead.

    As MasterThief said, I like to separate the internet from real life too. Employers, family, friends, etc. know how to use Google. Be careful out there what you post, even under a pseudonym. It could come back to haunt you.

  65. Most places I’m just “Rick,” but after a time or two of posting here I noticed that there is at least one other person who posts here by the same name. So I fell back to “Canyon42,” which was originally my username on an old chat board that no longer even exists. It was going to be “Mountain42,” because, well, I like mountains, but the site required no more than 8 characters. So I went with “Canyon” instead, because, well, I also like canyons. The “42″ came from a nod to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

    Wow, what a convoluted and ridiculous way to get a name.

  66. Apropos of nothing related to the main thrust of the thread: dude, you’re related to John Wilkes Booth???!!!

    I suppose that this is as good a year as any to put that out there, with the sesquicentennial and all.

    Re: pseudonyms: I work for a government agency, and so have to be very thoughtful about what I post where. I typically double-think a lot of my comments, and probably delete as much as I actually post. In my experience that seems to be a good rule of thumb for life in general: think twice, speak once…even if the “speaking” is actually typing.

  67. I work in Law Enforcement and see too much personal information online. For me, it is to protect my identity but it has its drawbacks: I had an article on Michelangelo Antonioni re-posted and discussed on Fox News and nobody believed that it was mine! I started writing as Alex a few years ago on Netflix and became one of the top reviewers (when the community function still worked) and people began searching for my name.

  68. I use a pseudonym or two consistently around the net; it’s a chosen name I went by IRL for awhile but then went back to my legal name, which I’ve consistently used for business purposes. I have a fairly rare surname and while there is at least one other person in the US with the same firstname lastname combination I have, hits on that combination mostly turn up me, as an alum of my high school and university.

    They don’t turn up my facebook page (using a variation of my name that I haven’t used elsewhere and an email address that exists for no other purpose) which is locked anyway, because a prospective employer or client does not need to see pictures of me at my brother-in-law’s holiday party. I’m pretty conservative about what I post there anyway – FB is for the benign, normal parts of my social life.

    Geekery, religion and politics take the pseudonym(s). Because I just don’t need to deal with that much potential conflict in the context of my job or extended family.

    All privacy is illusory anyway; someone with the resources of the FBI or indistinguishable-from-magic levels of hackery could in theory chase me all over the internet and track me by my IP numbers. But most of the people I care to have leave me alone aren’t going to work that hard.

  69. I tend to use my first name alone when commenting on blogs. I’m not sure why; it’s not uncommon enough to specifically identify myself (and sometimes I would like to be remembered a little), but then, I don’t post often enough for it to matter much. I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted in an environment where someone else was actively posting as Robin, though I think there was another one posting here before I started commenting much.

    I have two pseudonyms which started out as gaming messageboard identities. The second one came about because at one point I was working for a videogame publisher whose actions tended to polarize people and I wanted to be able to comment on the games themselves at GameFAQs without my posting history at the publisher’s messageboard (which predated my hire) prompting either greater or lesser weight being given to my comments. Later I joined a different messageboard with some of the same people as were on the GameFAQs boards, so I continued using that pseudonym, but that’s an entirely different genre of games with, so far as I’ve noticed, no overlap. I have never used both names on the same forum, and I never disclosed my employment by the publisher on whose board I first established my online presence. That first name is also my knitting-related name, because I joined LJ due to people I knew at the publisher’s forum, and then joined a knitting community there and later some other knitting online presences. Because of that, it wouldn’t be hard to link my real name to it, but I’m not so worried about it at this point; enough people in its primary gaming community know my name anyway. I still keep that second name fairly separate though.

    I never use my full hyphenated last name, though. Last time I checked I was the only real Google hit for it (neither of the other two people in the family with it showed up), while my first name and first half of my last name are sufficiently common to obscure me.

  70. The reason why I use my handle would lead folks fairly quickly to my name.

    But why make it easy for them?

    (Though if they want it, they can get it…)

  71. I use three different names on-line. My real name for actual work-related things, another for when I’m writing the blog that my family and friends follow, and the various blogs that link to it – all non-political stuff, since that’s an extremely touchy topic in my family, and then Tapetum for when I’m places where I want to comment on politics or the like. Both pseudonyms are long-standing, consistent, and used in completely different places on the internet.

  72. I deliberately use my real name in most forums (including some where pseudonyms are more common) for personal reasons. But I could easily see myself using a pseudonym in different circumstances.

    And I’m planning to recommend to my kids, when they get a bit older and start writing on the open Net, to use a pseudonym online as a matter of course while they’re young. Why let the mistakes and embarrassments you inevitably go through as a kid or a young teenager haunt you as an adult when people Google you? (Since their real names are unique, they’d be easily Googleable.)

    I realize that this doesn’t particularly work well with sites like Facebook that want you to use your real name. But I have problems with Facebook (and hope there will be some good alternative social sites in common use when my kids are old enough to want to use them.)

  73. Edited from the other thread, about my username

    htom, I always start to mentally correct to “Thom” (as short for Thomas) when I see your name. I guess it’s not that far off.

    No, no, no. ;) Thom is someone else!

    OK, I’ll tell the story. “Thom” was Tom C. I was “HTom”.

    Before that, 1966 or 1967, there were seven of us named Tom, all engineers at a campus radio network and stations (there were about 30 engineers total). Policy was that orders needed typed signatures for legibility, to demonstrate the friendly nature of network communication, first name only. (I did not make those policies!)

    One day the Network Manager boiled into my office, thrust an order into my face. “Who is this?” he demanded. I read the order, said “Tom G.” He showed it to my secretary, who said the same, and to Tom C, who agreed. “This is so confusing, all of you named Tom. From now on, you :pointing at Tom C: are going to sign “Thom”, which you do anyway when you write Tom (Thom C was Italian, perhaps that’s where it came from?) You :pointing at me: I know what your real first name is. You don’t have to use it, but from now on, you’re H.Tom.”

    He also assigned other names — Little Tom (who was 6’6″, at least, the largest of us), Big Tom (5’6″, the smallest), Red Tom (a Native American), A-Tom (US Army artillery officer, qualified to shoot special materials warheads), and stuck, for a minute, asked if Tom G (who had wandered in) was in the Jazz Band. Yes. You’re their drummer! Not the drummer, the percussionist. Aha! You’re Tom-tom!

    All of us had new names, for station and network business.

    The period disappeared in the first week. The lower cased version arrived when I got a job in a lab using Unix, and tomt was already in use as a login. I’ve given up on ditching it, it’s just too useful. It’s pronounced as if you have a severe Cockney accent, the initial “H” is silent.

  74. I’ve used other names as a disk jockey (you won’t believe the woes a celebrity stalker can cause you), or if htom isn’t available (Wikipedia comes to mind.)

  75. My name is not “Pip R. Lagenta”. That is an anagram of my real name. I started out using my real name on the web. But then I became active on the talk.origins newsgroup debating with creationists. I soon came to realize that some creationists are nuts. My real name is very close to being unique… or maybe it is unique. In any case I did not want to be tracked down by these people. So, I started using the anagram. Then, at first in a small way, I started doing creative stuff on the internet. I made some videos for the YouTube and made some photoshop images and photos that I put on Flickr. Over time, I stopped going to the talk.origins newsgroup, but I kept the anagram. These days I have almost 400 videos on the YouTube, and over fifteen hundred images on Flickr. (One of my videos on the tubes of you features a John Scalzi reading. Most of my videos are music.) As far as the Internet and the World Wide Web are concerned, I am Pip R. Lagenta. Changing back to my real name, now, would be a nightmare. I even do facebook with the Pip R. Lagenta name. My cousins are so confused. Oh, and as Pip R. Lagenta, I can mock and belittle religion all that I want to, and my employer does not have to be bothered about it. My employer is the Catholic Church.

  76. I find it strange how some people value a given name as a greater signifier of authenticity, even when it may be extremely generic and widespread, compared to a single well developed pseudonym. The content of the searchable history is the same and unless you know the individual personally it has as much (or more) identifying value. I’ve got a pseudonym that is substantially more distinctive than my personal name and helps identify me as the same individual across a multitude of boards for politics, computer gaming, and science. That pseudonym has a decade and a half of history behind it now and will continue to accumulate more. My real name by contrast wouldn’t get anything in the first hundred results even if I posted under it simply because random blog/board commentator girl is less notable than the people who have accomplishments, careers, and reputations built on our name.

    Also to the various comments about being harassed or stalked online due to using a obviously female name – Does that still happen? I encountered that occasionally back on IRC and some of the MUDs I played in the 90s but haven’t had a single instance in the last decade, despite posting under my first (or whole) name about half the time. I had assumed that the problem mostly went away as more appropriate standards of behaviour developed and socially inept men began to make up a smaller portion of the internet using population. Have I just been lucky in not personally encountering this in recent history or are you accounting of distant past experiences?

  77. I have a pseudonym. This, in fact, is it.

    I use it exclusively for my Unsugared Syntax blog, which I use to relate anonymized anecdotes about my career in software. This is so that I don’t get sued or damage future job prospects.

    Everything else, I do under my own name.

    – Pike

  78. I am SomeCallMeLaz everywhere I go on the net, with only one exception (fanfiction), and it’s been that way for about 10 years now. Having talked to some crazies in my time, I absolutely WILL NOT EVER use my real name. Most of the time I’m also mistaken for male, which is also fine by me because no matter what anyone says, being female on the internet is still like having a neon sign above your head flashing ‘ABUSE ME!’. I don’t think I even say anything particularly contentious these days. All that said, if someone really wanted to find out my real name, possibly they could, if they were willing to put in the time and effort. Doesn’t mean I have to make it easy for them. Fortunately, once they have my name, which is very unusual (but even more fortunately not unique) I don’t show up on a Google search and I’m ex-directory so I’m not showing up in the phone book either. My chances of being tracked down by a nutter are as low as I can make them. Maybe I’m a paranoid female, but I can definitely live with that. I do not hide behind my pseudonym, however. If I get a bad rep with this name, I lose 10 years of making a good name for myself and the many friends I’ve made will know if I’ve been an arsehole. I try to make a point of never saying anything (in RL or online) that I wouldn’t be prepared to say to my granny.

    I’m personally of the opinion that anyone using their real name online for anything other than professional reasons can’t be entirely sane.

  79. I’m relatively new to the Interwebs, and (to be painfully honest) the worst I’d have to contend with vis-a-vis friends/family/employers reading my posts would be massive disinterest. That said, I tend to follow the perceived etiquette of the site. On pages where almost everyone has a pseudonym (io9 comes to mind), I use “burtonianinstitute” – it’s unique enough to be an available choice, but it’s still connected to my real name, and many of my friends would recognize it. (And yes, there’s a story behind it, but remember that “massive disinterest” comment and spare yourselves.) Otherwise, I just use my real name.

    As an aside, a Google search for “Jeff Burton” would first come up with either the actor who played Dodge in the original “Planet of the Apes” (a fact I’ve considered supremely awesome since I was about eight) or, far more likely, the NASCAR driver (not so much).

  80. I use several pseudonyms on the Internet. I think that is about as deceptive as wearing a tux to some social gatherings and leather and denims to others. In my case, at least, it creates very little more obscurity. But it would actually require some slight effort to link most of my identities, for anybody who doesn’t happen to know me already. I’m entirely happy with the fact that doing so is not a trivially automatic process, and that’s about as far as I care about it.

    If I had any solid real-world reason to suspect that people would stick their beaks into my business with evil intent, you bet I’d segregate my various roles with big enormous firebreaks that only trusted friends would know about! And I’m in a fairly privileged position as far as such things go: live in a big anonymous liberal city; have reasonable employers in unsellable non-government institution; lack stalkers and serious enemies. The baseline commonsense precautions that are good enough for me are certainly not good enough for everyone.

    What I do think is off, except as an obvious joke, is to post under multiple identities to a single community.

  81. My full name is unique but the components are quite common and generally taken, so I’ve used ‘Suzdal’ or ‘CmdrSuzdal’ as handles for years and years now and basically consider them as aspects of my name, or near enough and most places I’m essentially using both (like LJ or Twitter). Luckily for me my life is not such that I worry terribly about employer Google-fu so I can afford to have little distinction between my on and offline identities.

    OTOH, back in the heady mid-90s BBS days there was a local chat service ON which you could create new identities very easily and I had quite the little stable of personas, it was not uncommon and sometimes entertaining trying to guess who was who and generally horse around with the possibilities. It helped that the community was pretty small I suppose… and I managed to catch the first boy I ever dated trying to cheat on me with another one of my own personas… so I retain a fondness for the concept still even if my own anonymous days are long behind me.

  82. I use my real name – usually first name only for comments.

    On the other hand, I’ve also got a rule that I never say something on the internet I wouldn’t stand up in real life too. Not even in my blog, not even in comments.

    I google myself regulary, but most stuff that comes up is actually my art. And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

    So far it worked out well.

  83. And of course saying it here allows you to smack down the trolls or those with strongly different opinions.

    As for me, it matters not if I use my real name, Jim Smith, or not. I have what is considered a google free name. The common and boring name I have allows me to disappear, somewhat, on the nets. For full invisibility I of course would have to spoof my ip and MAC address. But then it gets a little silly.

  84. Yeah, tricky subject, here. I learned (After a co-worker) do NOT critiscise your boss on FaceBook, it can come back to haunt you. On some of the sports blogs the pseudonym is like high school students trying to be funny, but even there, it won’t hide your personality. I would love to have an outlet to complain about corporate misdeeds, but as you all have shown me-thanks, John- it has to be you being you, and there are reprecussions for saying something angrily or accurately. If I can publish something in Fantasy/Science Fiction about my work experiences, believe me, it will be Seriously fictionalized & yet too weird to be made up. [Terry Pratchett said that first/earlier about his work experiences.]

  85. I never use my real name online, and I learned in my early days of chat rooms and online gaming to use a gender neutral or even male name instead of an obviously female name. The nonstop requests to cyber were annoying enough, but the graphic threats of rape, even though I knew there was no way the poster could carry out such threats, were extremely offensive.

    I don’t know what the overall environment is like today, but I have heard that women gamers who use their microphones in online games are still subjected to the above harassment.

  86. I tend to use my first name and last initial in a lot of places. When I want my online friends to be sure it’s me, I use a pseudonym. This is because I have a very, very common name. If you search for my name on Google, you will get 12-13 million hits. If you google my most common pseudonym, you’ll find me.

  87. I use one pseudonym everywhere I comment online, and it’s this one. I use it because I have a high-publicity IRL job. I do *not* use it because I am afraid that my opinions would ruffle feathers, and I do not use it because I want to avoid being associated with my words because I’m ashamed of them or anything. I use it because of the importance of google as a marketing tool; I don’t want would-be clients, opposing counsel, associates at the ABA, etc. to have to sort through my fairly extensive online extra-curricular presence when trying to find an antitrust lawyer or do business together. It’s the same reason that my Facebook is as locked-down as it’s possible to have Facebook be, but my Linked In is completely open. I try to keep my professional life and my personal life pretty superficially separate to the extent I can. I have a professional twitter and a personal twitter.

    That all being said, for all of that pseudonymity, I still think I am accountable for my words. On every website I comment on, and all over livejournal and Making Light, there are any number of people who’ve met me in real life, know my real name, know where I live, etc. That includes here, I’m 99.9% sure. I email folks, when I do, using my email that has my real name on it, including the few emails I’ve sent our kind host. If someone really wanted to know who I was, they could find out without too much work, and I’m always aware of that when I’m typing where everyone can see.

    I don’t use any other names, though, and I never post anonymously. It’s either the Kimberly name or the pnkrokhockeymom name. I think once or twice I didn’t leave the “u” and the “c” out, but if you google my pseud you typically get both, as far as I can tell.

  88. I have a perfect excuse. I use a pseudonym because I’m Ukrainian and nobody can spell my real name. It took even me a year to learn to spell it, and my entire family has been pronouncing it wrong for twenty-five years. I continue to pronounce it wrong out of habit and call it “the anglicized pronounciation.”

    I make no secret of my real name, as long as people don’t try to pronounce it from seeing it written, or spell it from hearing it spoken.

  89. @matthewcaffery #46: I would be interested to see you come back into this thread, after having read all of the other comments that people have made, to see whether others’ experiences and viewpoints have made any impression on you.

    I’m singling you out perhaps because it seems like yours have been the strongest statements representing the not-uncommon viewpoint that the only reason to be either anonymous or pseudonymous (not the same thing) on the internet is so that a person can act like an asshole without repercussions. And while I don’t disagree with you, in a limited way, that that is what some people use internet anonymity to do… it would surprise me if you could read the rest of these replies and still maintain that there are NO other reasons to use pseudonyms, let alone, good reasons.

    As many people have already pointed out here, using a pseudonym (which is often adhered to in most or all internet activity, and used for years) is quite different from being anonymous. Also, apropos of Scalzi’s previous post — we have a word that describes “when someone uses a non-persistent pseudonym to be an asshole, or engage in some other usually-nefarious activity” — the word is “sockpuppeting”, and it is as useful to separate it as a practice from the creation and maintenance of persistent pseudonyms as it is to distinguish between pseudonymity and anonymity.

    I certainly laud the basic principles behind “be willing to stand by what you post, or think twice about posting at all”, yet there is a certain chilling quality about such a blanket statement. It doesn’t engage with the idea that there are things you may say/post on the internet that are perfectly “innocent”, but that may put you in danger unfairly. And I would like to see some of the folks who espouse that position come back in and address the direct question: do you agree, then, that it is the right of an employer to pass judgement on what their (current or potential) employees post on the internet, even if what their employees post is completely unrelated to their employment? If so, why do you hold that position?

    In my job, I work with students. I am acutely aware of this situation, and acutely aware of the importance of my not becoming over-familiar with any of these students, even if they are not minors. I have a good (professional) relationship with them — but honestly, they do not need to see my fan-art, and they do not need to read my fanfiction. It would not help to maintain our working relationship. Yet, I also maintain that I have a perfect right to conduct pleasure activities on the internet. It has no bearing on my ability to conduct my job, and being pseudonymous about it in fact allows me to do my job better.

    I unfortunately, in a rash moment, signed up for a Facebook under my real name. I have never posted a single thing there, but I keep getting “friend” requests from people I went to kindergarten with, and if I answered them at all, which I won’t, I would say, “Do you not recall that we didn’t like each other?” Every new such request feels slightly creepy to me. I don’t like the way a site like Facebook tries to combine my personal life with my professional life with my pleasure activities. And I am not someone who particularly has to worry about stalkers… at least, I hope not. I am a woman on the internet, and I have known too many people who did have to worry about that in a serious way, not to take the issue seriously.

    I switched to a new pseudonym recently, this one, because my previous ones were a bit too generic. So I have every intention of being accountable under it. If you look for it, you’ll find me. If you tried hard enough, you could figure out who I am in real life. But the shield is thin enough for comfort, if not for true protection — which I hope I’ll never need. But I know why I MIGHT need it. I hope some other people are reading this thread and having their eyes opened as to why some might need it, as well.

  90. Hi Eregyrn,

    Yes, after reading through all the other comments I do have a better understanding of why many people choose to use pseudonyms. If someone literally is concerned over there personal safety, then that would trump any counter-argument. As far as extending that same argument to protect yourself from losing your job if your employer doesn’t approve of your views, I suppose I have to accept that on a general level – but the morality of that gets murky and depends on the example.

    I also think that for gamers, it makes sense to use your character name in game related forums. And I understand how people with a history with a pseudonyms would want to keep using it because of the reputation and relationships built with that name. Sure, I get that.

    I think it all depends on context. Where I do most of my comment are on mainline political blogs (Matthew Yglesias, Atlantic, Slate, etc), and the topics I post about are typically subjects commonly talked about in general society, so I have little concern about my friends or family reading my posts. But I understand that if I were posting on more sensitive topics (personal topics like sex and health, or not socially accepted topics like drugs, furries!, etc) I would want my privacy.

    My frustration comes more form the use of pseudonyms in the public forum political discussion areas I inhabit. Sometimes the discussions get heated, and I have grown to discount opinions from posters who are afraid to put their name to their post. So please read my earlier comments more narrowly to focus on that particular region of the Internet, and I apologize if I offended anyone who really does fear for their personal safety and relies on pseudonyms to protect themselves (or their jobs) from harm.

  91. I use a pseudonym online to decrease my anonymity. My real name is so common that I estimate there are 30,000 males in North America (most of them better-known than I am, outside a two-mile radius from my home) that share it. There are only about four people worldwide who use my pseudonym, so it’s more identifiable as me than my given name.

    On topic, I’ve never been tempted to engage in sockpuppetry. If my position is so weak I’d need to pretend to be someone else to support it, I’m undoubtedly better off rethinking things.

  92. Kevin@49: Any relation you’re aware of to John Wilkes Booth?

    Since Edwin was JW’s brother, yeah…

  93. I’m with alot of people in the thread as far as pseudonyms go. I use them pretty consistently with my gamer one being more of a nickname that people I know from WoW use (both on FB and IRL) even if they know my real name. Which is kind of weird if you think about it too much. I also use this one for blogging and such, including on political sites and then a different one for Discus. I have never been tempted to use socks as that’s just stupid, although there is a sports board that I frequent that is sometimes overrun with BS like that. IMO, use of a sock is not only a sign of a weak argument, but also generally of poor social skills.

    I use pseudonyms because I don’t want to have to deal with social misfits emailing me or contacting me because they get worked up over something they read online. I also don’t want people who I work with to start judging me on anything besides my work performance. Finally, I want to try and avoid a situation where email or facebook has now enabled you to have those awkward political conversations that come up at Christmas or Thanksgiving with your crazy uncle (or whoever) to occur year-round, and I think delinking your name from your political handle helps with that.

  94. @Matthew #96,

    I actually know you from your Atlantic Monthly comments, and you probably have read comments I’ve left under my pseudonym. From the commenters at Yglasias and particularly at Slate, I’m surprised you consider it “polite society”. I think you’ve got the right idea on esrb ratings, btw. I disagree with you on DC statehood – there are better, more Constitutional ways to skin that cat.

    Are you the IT guy at StoneRiver? Or the PM at Fiserv? Either way, we should have lunch sometime – I’m in Austin too.

  95. Stoneriver is a spin-off from Fiserv – so I am both! The comany is up in Denver, but I work from home in Austin – I write software for insurance companies. Very boring job, no one cares if I am a communist revolutionary, Birther Republican, Gay S&M Dominatrix, furry freak, whatever. In fact, I am all four and they just don’t care. I realize now that not everyone’s life is set up quite the same way where no one cares about their political and personal lives, so that is why I backtracked from my original more strident statements…

    As for the polite society, you are quite right. Slate is really unmoderated crap where rarely an honest conversation is had; I really shouldn’t bother to comment there anymore. Yglesias has a lot of very intelligent commenters, but no moderation and so the noisy blowhards stand out.

    The cream-of-the-crop is at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s joint at the Atlantic. He actively participates in and moderates his own forum, and he won’t allow anyone to get off topic or be rude. In fact, he really won’t let anyone argue poorly. John sometimes steps into threads at that level here, particularly on political issues. TNC does that all day every day. It must waste a ton of his time, by the by-product is a very, very high quality commenting community.

  96. Except in my own mind, I don’t have enough fame to make much of a pseudonym. Oh well! But if I did pick one, it wouldn’t be Dave. Ridiculously confusing.

    I read the metafilter discussion and found Mr. Adam’s behavior reprehensible. Trolling someone is one thing, but the reveal was just pointless and stupid. I liked how the other troll told him he wasn’t doing it right.

  97. So I guess if you are related to Edwin Booth, you are related to his rather more (in)famous younger brother. Well, not too many people would want to take credit for that. Did this give you any particular interest in the Civil War? I was just wondering, what with the 150th anniverary remembrances going on.

  98. I don’t advise anyone do this, but the last time I was threatened with real life violence, every time I went to a con I made sure the first thing I did was email my “enemy” and let them know where I was, in what room, etc., just in case they wanted to stop sending me emails and settle things.

    My wife put a stop to that. I have a firm set of guidelines for aspects of my personality better left suppressed.

    Bill
    SubPress

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