Consider Changing Your Forum Username to Your Real Name
post by Patrick Gruban (gruban)
I was positively surprised to find out that I was able to edit my username in the forum to be my full name. As I was previously under the impression that this was impossible, [EA · GW] I wanted to share this and encourage users to consider switching to their full names.
The suggestion in the how-to-guide [? · GW] is:
In general, we think that real names are good for community bonding, and we encourage you to use yours. But it's not required.
I think this is a good policy. I can imagine cases where using a pseudonym might make it easier to communicate openly without people outside the community being able to connect the post to the author. For most posters, especially the frequent posters, it seems relatively easy to find out who the author is. After meeting several users at EAGs I'm building up a mental database where I keep track of real names (used on Swapcard and emails), forum user names, and sometimes nicknames and Twitter handles. This seems unnecessary.
Connecting names you saw in comments and posts to name tags at conferences makes it easier for people new to the community to start conversations based on what you read. It's also easier when you hear others refer to people by their real name.
In a growing community that aspires to be welcoming, I think it's a good norm to make it easy for people to learn about the engaged participants. In addition to using the real name, I would also like to encourage adding a description to the profile. This can include the current organisation, group, university, cause area or GWWC membership. Similar to Swapcard at the EAG conferences, it helps to understand better where someone is coming from or is currently active.
A counter-argument might be that readers might defer too much to people with impressive affiliations instead of focussing on the content. I would agree with that. However, currently, many pseudonyms seem to be known to engaged members, which leads to different levels of knowledge.
Looking at the posts with the highest karma [? · GW] it's nice to see many using real names already and I hope to see more in future.
Comments sorted by top scores.
comment by Peter Wildeford (Peter_Hurford) ·
2022-04-26T17:13:42.579Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I'd add that as a person who has done recruiting for EA orgs, I like to try to hire from talented-seeming EA forum posters and it is a lot easier to try to recruit someone when their full name is accessible from their username or bio.
Replies from: edoarad
comment by MichaelA ·
2022-04-27T07:40:29.247Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I think you mean "your first name" or something like that, rather than necessarily "your full name"?
My suggested default would be to write your full real name in your bio, fill in other info about you in your bio, and make your Forum name sufficiently related to your real name that people who at one point learned the connection will easily remember it. (As I've done.)
If one does that, then also making one's Forum name their full real name seems to add little value and presumably adds some risk to their 'real life' reputation if they want to later pursue a policy/political career or something, since a lot of discussion on the Forum would look pretty weird to a lot of people. (Though I'm not sure how large that risk really is, or how much of it occurs anyway just via the sort of approach I've taken where my name is in my bio.)Replies from: Bluefalcon
↑ comment by Vilfredo's Ghost (Bluefalcon) ·
2022-04-27T15:58:50.729Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
My policy on this, to the extent I have one, is a sort of soft lockdown: I don't mind sharing enough personal info on here that an EA who knows me in real life could figure out my identity, but I need to always have at least plausible deniability in the face of any malicious actor.
As far as the risks in policy careers, I think the risk is very high for appointed jobs and real but lower for elected ones. Politicians are more risk averse than voters, and when they can pick from a pool of 100, they'll look for any reason to turn you down. When the voters have to pick one of two or a small handful of candidates, they gotta make a decision, by election day, and maybe they don't care so much about a few mildly controversial statements.
If EA-aligned employers are using ppl saying smart stuff on here as a basis for hiring, but only if they have a real name account, I suggest they simply stop arbitrarily eliminating a major portion of their potential talent pool. Pretty easy to reach out to someone and ask for their identity if u are interested in hiring them.
comment by Jackson Wagner ·
2022-04-26T19:18:08.689Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Hugely seconded. When I was signing up for an account, I considered going anonymous (what if I want to discuss controversial things!), but I figured the upside career & social potential of using my real name outweighed the downside risk that cancel culture might someday come for Effective Altruism. Since then, my decision has been totally vindicated -- numerous people have reached out to me for conversations about EA stuff, or even ask if I'd like to apply for a job at their EA org. I feel like this would have happened less if I wasn't using my real name, since people wouldn't be able to take the intermediate getting-to-know-me step of googling for my linkedin, visiting https://jacksonw.xyz/, or etc. That intermediate step of internet research probably makes people more comfortable reaching out and making a connection.
comment by Sarah Cheng (syc) ·
2022-04-27T23:00:00.030Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Thanks for the post! We do encourage people to use their real names as their usernames.
Our current policy is that each user can change their own username once - you can do this by going to the Edit Account page [? · GW] and updating your "Display Name".
After that, further changes to your username need to be done by moderators. Please contact us [? · GW] to ask to change your username. :)
comment by marswalker (Will Kirkpatrick) ·
2022-04-26T23:33:29.218Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I'm sure you've all seen the EA hub post that was put up about a month ago. But it's worth re-stating that it's hard to find someone specific in EA sometimes.
I sometimes use the forum when I'm trying to get in contact with people, primarily by searching their name!
comment by Rasool ·
2022-04-27T21:42:49.295Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I also thought this was impossible, so ended up creating a new account with my name as my username. In fact even now I can't see how to do it, I don't see an option in either my profile or account settings?
Replies from: syc
comment by Guy Raveh ·
2022-04-26T19:57:19.141Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I'd add that having people use their real names adds to the forum looking like a platform for professional discussion, and adds transparency - both of which are important because of the impact and reach we wish to eventually achieve as a movement.
While pseudonyms have some use cases - the main one I can think of, is when one may fear retaliation for reporting bad behaviour of another EA or organisation - they should indeed be otherwise extremely discouraged.
Edit: ok, this paragraph was in hindsight somewhat exaggerated, and I can think of a few use cases that may be more common. But I still think anyone using a pseudonym should at least have a good reason in mind.
Replies from: Khorton
↑ comment by Kirsten (Khorton) ·
2022-04-26T20:28:52.319Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
"Extremely discouraged" seems a bit dramatic. Some of us would rather not have our heavy EA involvement be the first thing that shows up when people Google us.
Replies from: jackmalde, Guy Raveh
↑ comment by Guy Raveh ·
2022-04-26T21:19:52.165Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
I don't personally think that's a good reason to not use one's name, but I'll concede my phrasing was indeed a bit too dramatic. It's probably because my experience on the forum is that it's really frustrating not being able to connect other commenters to a human identity.