Scott Hardie | October 19, 2002
Someone wanted to use my site, but did not want to use their full name. Today I talked to the person and worked it out. This is not the first person to feel this way. Matt, the first registered user of the site, also feels this way, but he gets past it by not linking to his web site anywhere. (Registered users can find it.)

This person who didn't want to use their full name had a legitimate reason for wanting online privacy, and I definitely respect that reason. On the other hand, I dislike people going by aliases and usernames online. If I could have let this friend go by a fake name while forcing strangers to give their real names, I would have, but I've got to be fair to everyone.

Why am I such a stickler for real names? It's because usernames really drive me crazy. It's worst on bulletin boards, where I try to have meaningful conversations with people who I know only as a string of letters and numbers. If I don't know anything about them, how can I make a connection with them? And how can their words have any meaning to me if I can't make a connection to them? Ideally, I should be able to see them as a unique person through their writing voice, but let's face it, most people don't have that unique of a voice online. It's just letters on a screen.

It's still bad in games, though, too. Just as I like to feel a connection with the other person in conversation, I need that for competition as well. I feel like I'm just going through the motions otherwise, like I may as well be playing against computer opponents in a video game. I can only really get into a game if I feel like there are real people involved in it. And why would I run the goo game if I couldn't get into it?

I understand the opposite perspective. Many people I know are to some degree concerned (or paranoid) about their personal information being revealed online. On this site, only other registered users can look you up, but the world can still see your real name. There are reasons why that can be troubling.

Matt, who is one of the people who wants privacy online, said the thing that convinced me to take this policy. He simply reminded me that it's my web site. I realized that I have to put up with usernames everywhere else I go on the web, so in my online home, it's real names or nothing. And yes, I'm not the only person using this site, but I simply cannot enjoy it if all I see are those strings of letters and numbers when I look at the other users. If I can't enjoy my own site, I'm not going to do it.

This policy is self-centered, I don't mind saying it. That's why I don't hold it against anyone who won't register with their full name. To those of you who have signed up with your real names, especially those of you who decided that using my site was more important than your privacy concerns, I'm grateful. Thank you for accepting the policy.

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