MathOverflow encourages users to use their real names as their usernames. This is partly to encourage civility and I imagine there are a few other reasons behind this policy; in any case, I always thought it was a good idea. Does a similar policy make sense here?
As professional communities, MathOverflow and StackOverflow have very important reasons why users would want to use their real names.
With no such incentive here (except perhaps for educators), and no way to enforce it, I don't see the point in such a policy. Especially since anonymous users will be allowed to ask and answer questions anyways.
That said, I certainly wouldn't discourage people from using their real names. Just let people choose the names they like.
Entering one's real name as username would be an easier decision if it was reversible. In practice, it is not. Even if a user changes the username or parts ways with the site altogether, the comments with @FirstnameLastname will show up in Google search and disclose that person's affiliation with the site.
Personally, I would not encourage anyone (and least of all, early-career mathematicians) to irrevocably attach one's real name to a quickly evolving (or devolving, as the case may be) website with high Google rank.
[Edit: Arggg. Now I see that this topic is years old. It is probably best to disregard this whole post]
I think it is fine if people are gently encouraged to use their real names when they sign up. But if such an encouragement is given, then I would also suggest that the Stackexchange's private policy is made very clear. Some might ask: how does SE deal with my private information? If SE knows my real name and my email address, will they sell this information to a third party? But if there is a clear policy on this, then I think it would be fine with a gentle encouragement.
I understand the desire to implement policies that could increase civility. That said, I don't think the encouragement should be strong (and I for sure don't think that it should be a requirement) for, among others, the following reasons.
- Some people simply don't want any private information on the internet and that should be respected. We might drive people away if there is a name requirement. There should be room for everyone who is willing to "be nice".
- Some might be afraid that SE is turning into a social media like Facebook.
- Recently there was a discussion on why women don't participate more on math.SE. From what I understood some women don't want to use their names out of fear of being harassed. This should be respected.
- If someone does misbehave I think that it is better to just deal with it when it arises. I would prefer hitting incivility harder.
- While a name-policy might prevent an occasional troll, I am not convinced that it actually will do much for the overall tone.
- I am guessing that several people would just make up a name anyway.
I've used this name on my blog and multiple web sites for nearly a decade. I think that civility is maintained by peer pressure and the nature of a board. That said, Can an individual board of SE have difference criteria than the parent system? I never signed up here separately, my profile copied from the first site money.SE to any other SE site I go to.
One good argument for using a real name, to quote Jon Skeet's answer:
One way of thinking about it is that if you're not comfortable enough with a post (question or answer) to want your name next to it, are you really sure you want to post it in the first place?