Hello, my name is oiler

I’m on vacation this week, and swore I’d stay off the internet as much as possible.

But this one got me.

Clay Shirky tweeted two links this afternoon to stories on the topic of real names on the internet.

The first one:

The link points to this post by Danah Boyd titled “Real Names Policies Are an Abuse of Power”.

In it, Ms. Boyd notes that she is a high school teacher (and government employee) and a rape victim. She brings up many good points about the need for privacy on the web, especially as it pertains to women.

The overall case Ms. Boyd argues specifically against Google+ is strengthened by the search company’s apparent lack of gender diversity (willingly or unwillingly is immaterial). Their real-name enforcement policies seem to come across to me as being more naive than anything else.

The second link from Clay Shirky:

That links points to a Alexis Madrigal post in The Atlantic titled, Why Facebook and Google’s Concept of ‘Real Names’ Is Revolutionary.

I’ve been a big fan of facebook commenting on websites. In theory at least. I don’t like their practice of how comments are technically displayed and stored, but that’s a separate topic.

What I do love is the idea of using the world’s most central phonebook (eg, facebook) as a way to authenticate users across the web on sites where news is posted and comments are allowed.

For me, reading anonymous comments is a useless practice I no longer take part in. Having worked with comments as a developer on a state-wide political campaign, city newspapers and most recently a NHL franchise’s website, I need to know more about the people behind the comments (hello, Quora) for them to matter.

On the web, one of the most frustrating mistakes I’ve encountered as a user is when an account I’ve signed up for prohibits me from changing my username (I’m looking at you, espn). The reason for this is most likely that whomever built that system decided to make the username a primary key in the database so it can’t be changed. And that’s a mistake not only technically, but philosophically.

You should always be able to manage your username. Like with twitter. Change the name all you want, but your followers and followings stay the same. More importantly, so do your tweets.

Online identities are real. And they are separate.

You don’t have to use your real name, but you should be tied to your account. Fake accounts and multiple identities are fleeting. In the end, you always go home.

And all of this is pointing to a new site, my.nameis.me, that supports “your freedom to choose the name you use on social networks and other online services.”

Use of real names isn’t the answer. But establishing an online identity is important. If you want that to be the same as your real life identity, fine.

Pick Mr. Anderson or Neo. But it’s important that 90% of the internet only knows you as one.