Asaf's comment ("No Names policy") on a meta question of mine has kept me wondering:

When is it appropriate to identify a user for the purpose of discussion?

What benefit is there to a "No Names" policy, especially on a site where so many users use pseudonyms?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the idea is to keep meta from getting too confrontational. However, I'm not sure how effective it is. $\endgroup$ – Alex Becker May 7 '12 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ My opinion is that naming people is a good thing. M.SE should be community controlled and part of that is that the community is able to judge. Posts on M.SE are public, so there is no infringement of privacy or anyones right (quoting from emails is a different matter). And usually it is possible to figure out who is not named, by wasting some more time. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod May 8 '12 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ @TheChaz Please keep in mind that many folks do use their real names, and MSE shows up very high in Google search results. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 8 '12 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, @Bill. If this is a concern, maybe some past meta threads (e.g. "The b**** incident") should be edited to remove such names as - in this example - Arturo, Theo, and Bill. Come to think of it, I can't really see a reason to keep that thread around, but it was before my time... $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 May 8 '12 at 19:48

My impression/view that if what happens is that you see a kind of behavior that occurs with some frequency and you are interested in discussing the behavior, it's better to keep it at the generic level than the personal. E.g., my recent post on quick down-voting (mind you, I don't have any particular names to offer, but even if I did, I would probably have tried to keep it at the level "if this something we should try to avoid?" rather than "is what X is doing okay with people?"). The point is to try to keep the discussion dispassionate and objective, and to try to not import any emotion that might be attached to the particular individual rather than the actions themselves.

On the other hand, if what you are discussing is a very particular action of a specific user, then it makes, IMHO, little sense to try to keep it at the generic level; especially if it is not something that seems to recur (except perhaps by that person). As an example, I might note a user who has been putting profanity in his user name (it's been dealt with via flags so far). In fact, this kind of activity probably can be dealt with in the specific via the moderators, and then discussed in the generic in meta at leisure.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree: discuss individuals with moderators, discuss behavior on meta. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 8 '12 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry (and Arturo): In the case of an innocuous behavior by a user, where unambiguously identifying the user might benefit future visitors to the discussion, would the "No Name" policy still be best? There might be no such scenario, but I thought the recent thread about Bill's last-minute nomination to be similar to such a scenario. In this case, it might be hard to identify the sequence of events (after some time has passed), and Bill didn't do anything wrong or objectionable, so ... ? $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 May 8 '12 at 4:06

This answer is posted to allow both Up and Down votes on the statement

naming people is a good thing

which was originally posted in comments. There have been claims in other threads about the popularity of this idea, based on the comment votes alone, and it would be good to see the total with both up and down counts before drawing conclusions.

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    $\begingroup$ To such a general statement, I give my downvote. Had this been a focused statement "Naming people in situation X is a good thing", I might have voted differently. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Feb 24 '13 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ It is precisely the general, absolute statement whose evaluation is sought. The original comment was quite absolute and the rest of it only gave reasons why the absolute statement is correct, not limitations or exceptions to the general principle (other than email privacy, which is a different matter as the comment stated). $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 24 '13 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ As the author of the "absolute statement", it was of course meant to refer to incidents related to specific persons so that users can inform themselves about the incident. I wrote this as someone who had never ever a problem finding the incidet and the persons involved- by wasting time. I'm not advocating that for every annoying behavior, we attach a list of all the sinners. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod Feb 24 '13 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ The original statement did not contain any such qualifications and did contain additional general, absolute principles. The ideas that "M.SE should be community controlled [such that] the community is able to judge" and "posts on M.SE are public, so there is no infringement of privacy or anyones right" go well beyond the incidents related to peculiar conduct of specific persons. In any event, the references in recent threads to upvotes and popularity were made about the comment in the form posted in May 2012 and without any later explanations. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 24 '13 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ So you are admitting to ignore the context the original author of the comment has given? You should run for president. :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Feb 24 '13 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ Asaf, this new "context" was not in the question or the comment, could not have been guessed without this sudden intervention by the author, and is not part of the application of the original comments by others. When another user writes that "Greinecker's comments were ... very popular" based on upvotes, and the upvotes had no such context to work with, any evaluation of the actual popularity should be based on the original statements without any later explanations. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 24 '13 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ But now the author has provided context. The comment was popular, perhaps because at the time its context was clear, so people agreed. We don't know when these votes were given. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mod Feb 24 '13 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx WHy do you think people did not know what I meant? There were various events at the time that made the question imminent. But the 10th thumbs up was seemingly prompted by this post of yours. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod Feb 24 '13 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker, I have no thoughts on what inferences people did or did not make as to "what you meant", except that it is very unlikely that all of the 429 people who read this question prior to my posting, all automatically assigned your comment the same interpretation (or "context") that you have just presented. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 24 '13 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf, there were 9 upvotes at the time I posted the answer and at the time of the claims by others about popularity. Possibly all 9 magically understood MG's meaning to be exactly what he just said, despite contradictions between this later interpretation and the original broad statements. Contradictions are not surprising given that short comments are not always able to comprehensively represent a commenter's complete thoughts on a subject. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 24 '13 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ @zyx Can you explain where I contradict myself? $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod Feb 24 '13 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx Language is always context dependent. If you want to make an argument on behalf of a no-naming-policy, you could have written an anwer arguing for it. Your discussion with MJD reveals that even Arturos answer leaves room for interpretation. In fact, I find no reason for disagreement with it (and have upvoted). If you accuse me (and this is my real name) of an authoritarian approach, please have the decency to be specific. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod Feb 24 '13 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ @zyx You arrived at a contradiction by giving an overly strong interpretation to a short comment. None of the people who gave a thumbs up to the comment downvoted Arturo's answer, so I am not the only one under the delusion that they are compatible. Obviously, my comment concerned meta discussions. I certainly do not advocate opening a meta thread whenever I think a users behavior is troubeling. In that case, I flag for moderator attention- but these issues are seldom meta-worthy...2bcontinued $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod Feb 24 '13 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx Meta relevant issues are either about individuals and sufficiently extreme or so prevalent that it makes no sense to name individual users. I do have much more trust in the moderator team efficiently dealing with flags than when I made the comment, another important context that is left out here. We had lots of these discussions about individuals because Bill prevented efficient handling by the remaining team of mods. I would modify my previous comment as far as users who post under their actual names are concerned. But making context info available makes still sense to me. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Mod Feb 24 '13 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelGreinecker, to keep it short, this will be my last comment. The question here has nothing to do with what your (past or present) views may be, or whether they were exactly conveyed by the comment from 2012. It is simply a poll on what the ratio of up- to down-votes might have been in case both types were allowed on the comment, and this is relevant to the discussion in the other thread. I think enough information was provided that anyone wanting the original context before voting could find it by looking through the comments. The results appear to validate what I told MJD. $\endgroup$ – zyx Feb 25 '13 at 23:17

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