User:AxelBoldt/Real name proposal

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So you would like to contribute to the largest encyclopedia that has ever existed in the history of mankind? Help to collect and document humanity's knowledge, to be distributed for free to the people of the world? Add your writings to the 10th busiest website on the internet, serving 10,000 articles per second? Thank you, that's truly very noble of you. Surely you are quite proud of your contributions and you will be happy to sign them with your real name, just like serious journalists, scientists and authors sign their writings with their real name.

Proposal[edit]

Only users who are signed-in and have provided public and verifiable proof of their real name may edit the encyclopedia. All others can still contribute, by suggesting improvements on Talk pages.

Details[edit]

How does one provide verifiable proof of identity? That's up to each individual user. Each user has to specify at least one procedure which can be used to verify their identity. Lots of different approaches are possible, for example:

  • "Call Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, ask for Axel Boldt, and I will confirm that I'm editing Wikipedia under the user name AxelBoldt."
  • "Send me an email at axelboldt@yahoo.com and we will meet for a beer one of these days and I'll show you my driver's license."
  • "I faxed my identification to Wikimedia, they'll confirm my identity."
  • "On the last Wikipedia meetup, I showed my ID to the following fellow Wikipedians: A,B,C,D. Each of them will confirm my identity to you."
  • etc., etc. Be creative.

Once the proposal is implemented, links to talk pages should be labeled "Suggest improvement" instead of "Discussion", so that their purpose will be immediately clear to all would-be contributors. To allow for true anonymity, editing of these talk pages should be open to the Tor anonymity network, and signed-in users who haven't provided their personal information should be allowed to use open proxies to edit these pages.

Rationale[edit]

People are much more cautious when their real-life reputation is on the line. I expect that vandalism will vanish almost completely and that people will be much more careful with providing reliable sources for their contributions. Civility should increase dramatically -- flaming is an artifact of the internet's anonymity. Much of the ridiculous drama surrounding Wikipedia will go away.

Credibility of the encyclopedia will increase, as it will become obvious that writers take full responsibility for their words. Signing a statement with one's real name requires a certain level of commitment, a commitment that we should require of editors of the world's primary encyclopedia. Readers like to see real names behind statements, not infantile screen names as in online role playing games.

Wikipedia has a sensible Conflict of interest guideline which discourages editing in various situations where the editor is too closely connected to the topic at hand. How are we supposed to check for conflicts of interest without knowing the true identity of an editor? Full transparency is needed, which requires real names.

Blocking and banning users is a ridiculously pointless game of whac-a-mole if they can just sign up again under a new name. The current system of CheckUser, which allows some administrators to view users' IP address information in order to detect these cases, is inefficient (since it is only used after a suspicion has been raised) and ineffective (since people can simple edit from a coffee shop or from a remote $5/month shell account).

The current obsession with anonymity encourages enemies of Wikipedia to reveal the true identities of long-time contributors, which they have repeatedly done or threatened to do in the past. This leads to an endless source of drama (and also shows that Wikipedia cannot guarantee any level of anonymity in the first place). All that drama evaporates once identities are stated up front.

Even with a real-name policy in place, there will still be POV pushing of course, just like there is in all media. But without the cloak of anonymity and the possibility of sockpuppets it will be much more transparent and much less of a problem. Wikipedia has long believed in radical openness and transparency; virtually all edits and actions on the site can be reviewed. Extending this policy of transparency to the identity of editors is only logical. I want to be able to trace all edits a person has made to figure out their agenda.

(An argument that I have seen elsewhere goes like this: the GFDL requires that every author be listed, and arguable this means that their name be listed; an author can only release their rights to a text or image in a verifiable manner if they can be identified. I do not like nor endorse this argument: legalistic bean counter arguments, especially when involving the morally derelict copyright law, should never be admissible in any discussion.)

Answers to possible counter-arguments[edit]

  • This restricts free speech.

It sure does, but so do all of Wikipedia's policies. Wikipedia isn't a social experiment designed to maximize contributor's freedoms; it's a project to produce a reliable and freely distributable encyclopedia. It doesn't exist to serve contributors -- it exists to serve readers.

  • People contributing sensitive information can't give out their real name.

You are only allowed to contribute information that is verifiable from reliable sources. Contributing such information carries zero risk, legally and socially. Whistle blowing, reporting on new governmental conspiracies etc. are all original research and already excluded by existing policy.

  • People have a right to privacy and some may not want to give out their personal information.

That's certainly true. Regrettably, those people cannot contribute articles, op-ed pieces or letters to the New York Times, nor can they write for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, nor can they submit articles to Nature. They will however still be able to contribute to Wikipedia, by suggesting improvements on Talk pages, by patrolling recent changes and reporting vandalisms, by checking new articles and proposing them for deletion if necessary, etc.

Furthermore, it's important to realize that right now Wikipedia users enjoy only a very thin layer of privacy by obscurity. Wikimedia keeps records of the IP addresses that registered users have used (and of course also of the IP addresses non-registered users have used), and they require that these IP addresses belong to the physical computer that was used to edit. The time-stamped IP address contains all the information needed to find out a user's location and identity, and any knowledgeable person can hack into a computer given an IP address. This IP address information is available to the Wikipedians who have checkuser rights. In serious cases, any private or governmental entity can obtain a subpoena to force Wikimedia to hand over this information. Or even easier: after some digging one usually finds a user's edit that was inadvertently done while not being logged in, and the veil of anonymity is gone. Tools have been written to facilitate this kind of sleuthing.

The real-world identities of several high-profile Wikipedians have been revealed in the past. If you're paranoid about your real name ever getting out, don't edit Wikipedia.

  • I don't want a future employer or future significant other to go through my Wikipedia edits!

O RLY? I thought you were proud of your contributions. What do you have to hide?

  • I don't want my boss to know that I edit Wikipedia at work!

Personally I believe that's the true reason behind much of the opposition to this proposal, even though nobody says so openly. Throw out your TV and edit from home.

  • Open editing by anonymous users has made Wikipedia what it is today.

Yes.

Comments?[edit]

Please add them here.

  • I greatly disagree with this. By doing this, you would whittle down the population of Wikipedia immensely. What about verified users who are here now? Would they have to undergo this process? What about young people who edit? What about people without other acquaintances on Wikipedia? This would serve a limited purpose. Most would fear for their identities being stolen or fearing other types of harassment. This would never work, and I strongly oppose. Michael 06:36, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
  • Further, basically all pages would need to be semi-protected, leaving the talk pages unprotected. This would not be a good course of action to take. Michael 06:47, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the comments. Here are some replies to your points:

  • "verified users who are here now": sure, they would have to provide a verifiable name also.
  • "young people": young people who want to send a letter to the editor of the New York Times have to provide their name as well. There are lots of names of young people in the sports section of every newspaper, every day.
  • "editors without acquaintances": they can use another method to verify their identity.
  • "harassment and identity theft": how often do you hear that authors of Encyclopaedia Britannica articles are harassed and have their identity stolen?
  • "semi-protection": what's wrong with it?

AxelBoldt 06:56, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

  • I agree with much of what is written here, though restricting anonymous editing access would make Wikipedia less useful for pop culture and internet trivia, and much of Wikipedia's support from the online community seems to derive from its coverage of pop culture and internet trivia. It would possibly be more efficient if anonymous users could edit "unstable" article versions, while only authorized editors could approve changes (and should be held accountable for approving them). This feature will apparently be implemented soon, but unfortunately anonymous accounts will still be allowed. Something that puzzles me, by the way, is that real names aren't even required for administrators. See also Adam Carr's suggestions. - Fredrik Johansson 17:04, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
    • What real benefit would it even serve for someone to use a real name, and who's not to say someone won't make up an alias and ask someone else to verify it? Michael 18:40, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
      • Also, given such things as the right to vanish, this seems to be quite contrary to that. Anonymity is permitted. Michael 18:41, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
        • An interesting thought, but I'm with Micheal. If you want me to elaborate, ask me on me talk. Don't have time at the moment. Regards, \/\/slack (talk) 22:15, 5 September 2006 (UTC)
  • I've been wanting everybody to use their real name on the Wikipedia for a long time now. When I see a weird screenname, the user loses credibility because you don't know whether that person is real or not, which makes it difficult to trust that they have good intentions for the encyclopedia. People who use their real full name are more trustworthy because you know that they are serious about the hobby/work, they're not afraid to hide behind an alias. And it's not just Wikipedia. People should use their real full name everywhere on the Internet, come to think of it. I think it will certainly reduce privacy concerns, knowing that everybody uses their full name, be easier to find people you know, too. I assume that the reason most people use aliases is because they see other people use them. With things like video conferencing now, it's going to get harder for people to attempt to hide their identity. Back in the 90s when Internet users went by aliases in chatrooms- well, we're not in the 90s anymore. This is 2006/2007, and it's about time to change how the culture works. The web can be accessed by anyone now. In the "real" world, you don't go hiding yourself from everyone, do you? I didn't think so. Shimmera
    • Think of when people have received threats from others through Wikipedia. Is it entirely safe for people to have their names here? Of course not. Further, there is no way to be sure that people still don't use aliases. Anyone could say he or she was anyone. People could use other people's names in attempts of making them look bad. There is no way to ensure that people give their real names. You would only be able to rely on trust here, and many people would alter their names in some way so as to keep some anonymity. Michael 19:54, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
      • Of course, editor's names, like anything else in Wikipedia, would have to be verifiable, so simply making up a name won't work. AxelBoldt 16:38, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
  • Pen names that resemble believable, actual names are OK. Shimmera 18:20, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
    • Then, anone could still call themselves anything. They could make up a name just for Wikipedia and be held to it only here. It would be just as personal as any other username. Michael 19:02, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
  • I would say categorically that I, for one, would stop editing Wikipedia if I was forced to reveal my identity; and I think many, many others share my view. Batmanand | Talk 11:42, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
There's of course also the possibility that many new editors might join in an environment perceived to be more professional. My question is: why would you stop editing? AxelBoldt 16:38, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
Three reasons I suppose. 1. The principle: unless there is a pressing need, why should I, who has done nothing wrong, has never been blocked, has never had a RFAR or anything else filed against me, who has only contributed positively to this encyclopaedia for almost two years now, be forced to drop my anonymity? I surely have a right to privacy, and the onus is on you to tell me what need there is to remove it (this also links into WP:AFD in that Wikipedia should assume good faith of the anonymous me until evidence of the contrary - of which there is little at the moment - is found). 2. Issues of NPOV: I would prefer that no one could ever accuse me of "real world" biases that I do not wish to declare. If people disagree with what I have written in an article, then we can have a reasoned debate about it. I do not want ad hominem arguments about my real life to be brought into the fray. 3. Potential "our of Wikipedia" harassment: I do not wish to be recognised by people outside Wikipedia. It is not that I think I will be "in danger", but that, just as I do not wish to be judged in Wikipedia for things I do outside, I do not wish to be judged outside Wikipedia for things I do for the encyclopaedia. Batmanand | Talk 16:50, 16 September 2006 (UTC)
  • A strong counter argument to my proposal is provided by Aaron Swartz's essay Who Writes Wikipedia?, arguing that the bulk of the surviving text of Wikipedia articles is provided by anonymous non-logged-in contributors. AxelBoldt 16:38, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
Aaron's essay is great -- I think that we need better analysis of where content comes from in order to figure this out. I think the recent move towards making non-logged in users require approval before seeing their changes on the public versions is great. I voted for Aaron in the elections -- hope he wins! --Ben Houston 17:55, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

There is no possible way I would ever consider continuing to edit Wikipedia if I was forced to provide a verifiable real name. Ever. If this occurred, I would fork.Werdna talk criticism 04:59, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

No, no, no, no, no, no, no! - This is a bad idea. We have a lot of contributors that for legitimate reason, do not want to be identfiable, and could be at serious risk if they were, particlarly those editing topics critical of certian governments. The current system works fine - usernames, where someone wishes to use them, connect a contributor to their other contributions, and therefore allow them to be known by their reputation and their works, rather than necessarily by their name. This works. Verifiable identities wouldn't gain us much, if anything over that. - Stephanie Daugherty (Triona) - Talk - Comment - 05:01, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

  • The perception of "nicknames" or custom pen names as being unprofessional is, in my opinion and hopes, in the process of being outmoded by the internet. I was recently very pleased to see one of Discover magasine's illustrators (for scientific diagrams, not toons) credited by a pseudonym, not a "real name" or a corporate name. This was not an "artiste" (overly serious) or a comic artist (unserious) but an illustrator of scientific diagrams. (Generally something one would consider "serious" and "respectable".) Keep in mind as well that most people do not chose their "real name". Mine was given to me by my mother, and I had no say in it. While I don't really mind my name, and I do have the ability to change it, for users from some locations it will be overly complicated to do so, even very difficult, or costly (unless you are a woman who is getting married.) You may also be limited by which characters you can chose. While I have already have a legal name, it is up to me, and no one else, to decide what importance I place upon it, and whether my given name is a part of my identity in real life, or on the internet. You do not have the right to dictate how I identify myself, and you shouldn't expect it. If you would like to set up a system of accountability, set one up which is not a lazy fallback. I would also like to add that I view using a "realistic" pen name to be *more* deceptive than using one which is obviously not a person's legal name. At least "vlad222" can be assumed not to be a person's real name, however "Albrecht Lepine" might be, and it may establish a *false* identity instead of an *alternative* identity. As such, to insist on "realistic" pen names is silly, and seems contrary to the whole idea of wanting names to further honesty and accountability. (Presentability?) Real names, as already mentioned, bring up problems of privacy, of security, etc. In only a few months I have already received 2 emails through Wikipedia from Certifiables, and I'm only a minor editor, a tweaker, with very few controversial edits. Imagine if they could easily look up my personal info? (Not necessarily assuming they can't already...) So, no. - BalthCat 05:40, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
  • Horrible idea, lets examine your ways of verifying who is who, and the faults to all of them.
  • "Call Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, ask for Axel Boldt, and I will confirm that I'm editing Wikipedia under the user name AxelBoldt."\
    • Who would do this calling? Do you want to do it? And I could say "call the belmont abbey senatorial committe and ask for Jake Sparks" and when you call the number I could have a fake person pick up and redirect to a me, who will confirm that I am said person. So this couldn't work
  • "Send me an email at axelboldt@yahoo.com and we will meet for a beer one of these days and I'll show you my driver's license."
    • Really? Who will meet me exactly? This is the only way to actually find out and it's unbelievably impossible to actually get to work, there would be less then dozens IF that if this was required only.
  • "On the last Wikipedia meetup, I showed my ID to the following fellow Wikipedians: A,B,C,D. Each of them will confirm my identity to you."
    • Really? Why can't all 5 of those be fakes? And they all connect to eachother? Flawed...

This simply wouldn't work, it would kill wikipedia, I really don't even think it's worth discussing. Wikipedia is how it is because the majority of our actual CONTENT is supplied by peopel who are anonymous users, they don't even register, and you want them to meet you to verify their ID so they can register. I understand you want the best for wikipedia, but I think you chose the wrong path here.

Chris M. 05:04, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Strongly oppose I'll leave wikipedia before revealing my real name. --Charlesknight 22:04, 1 October 2006 (UTC)


I also have to take issue with just like serious journalists, scientists and authors sign their writings with their real name. Take that up with Lewis Carroll, Andy McNab, Ibn Warraq, Mark Twain, Mary Westmacott etc. --Charlesknight 08:53, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

Support I personally agree and have done for a while. This is already the case with academic research - researchers are all named so that you can contact them and their reputation is affected if they publish anything that is disreputable. As you said, vandalism and most POV pushing would disappear overnight and discussions would get far less heated. However, wikipedia is a long way from this at the moment so I wouldn't get your hopes up. I favour a form of process utopia - focussing on policy creep, e.g. extending page protection (which only allows logged in users to edit), set up a facilty to verify people's identity if they wanted to disclose this, force admins / bureaucrats to disclose their identities in full, and start getting systems that can track down vandals and exposure their true identities. That seems a better route to me - who knows people may start to see the light eventually! AndrewRT - Talk 21:06, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

Comment - discussing Peer-reviewed journals is a red-herring, the process and the politics around the Peer Review process are so different from wikipedia to make it an apple and oranges. --Charlesknight 11:57, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

Strongest oppose - before i even start talking about the logic/rationale of this suggestion, i can tell you for a fact that it will not practically work. I would leave if i had to provide any personal information to edit wikipedia. Clearly, many others would do the same. WIkipedia would lose a large portion of its editors overnight. Half the attraction of improving wikipedia is that people can immediately see the changes they make, proposing suggestions on talk pages just doesn't cut it. Besides...how do you think people start editing wikipedia to begin with? No one gets onto wikipedia one day and decides "i think i'll become a member of the Wikipedia community and start to dedicate time in editing wikipedia". Most people start by making edits as anons, then registering an account, and slowly build up to being a "Wikipedian". If people had to go through the trouble of providing an ID to take that first step of editing, most people would never start. Further more, your method will involve large numbers of volunteers to verify IDs, because without a decent system...people will just be able to cheat, and that defeats the entire purpose. That's certainly true. Regrettably, those people cannot contribute articles to the New York Times, nor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, nor to Wikipedia., that's completely wrong. For a start, people can use psudonames in real life. Secondly, the ability for anyone to contribute anon is what sets Wikipedia apart from things like the New York Times and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Wikipedia isn't meant to be just a free version of encyclopaedia brittannica, and if it became so, then everything that's good about wikipedia would be gone. --Yaksha 10:44, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

Further to this, while it's true that anoms contribute most of the content, most of the clean-up, discussion and management of wikipedia is done by a relatively small core of editors and admins. The mechanisms that hold Wikipedia would fall to pieces due to the braindrain that would occur if such a motion was passed. --Charlesknight 11:57, 6 October 2006 (UTC)

Makes sense, but... could wikipedia's knowledge be as vast as it is now if its contributors were limited to those willing to supply a real name? --Santa Dog 72 22:16, 29 December 2006 (UTC)

Need a parallel new www... I think that you need to view this in a wider context. The Internet as it is today will never get back to being a 'trusted' place as there are indeed probably 100 x more screen names out there than there are real world people on the planet. The only way around it would be to establish a guarded network within the web which would insist on a global system of authentication prior to even allowing access into it. This would then slowly replace the current jungle as a result of the superior quality of information found there and the trustworthy-ness thereof. The old rubbish (porn, spam, general trash posted by anonymous players) would just rot away in domains which are not part of this 'new world order'. In the old days your telephone number was listed and virtually nobody had a problem with that. --JOPLIGT 16:08, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

WOW! the idea directly above is really interesting. As for this current proposal I am strongly opposed. First of all, the assumption that I am proud, or rather the expectation that I should be proud of my wiki edits is presumptuous. It's AS conceivable that I would prefer real world people from knowing if I spend a ridiculous amount of time editing wikipedia. Such a value call is nobody's business but my own. Secondly, between the stark contrast of vandalism vs. britannica quality, there is a middle ground which includes contributions which may be "sloppy" by the more professional standards of the contributor. eg., I have questioned a mathematical example on AxelBoldt's invariance of domain. Now I probably overlooked something in haste. As a potential career mathematician, applicant to graduate programs, etc., I would choose not to adhere my professional name to such contributions. So I wouldn't contribute. But this good faith "sloppiness" has provided a mechanism for wikipedia to fill up very fast, and is self correcting-i.e., we correct each other's spelling, grammar, typos, and mistakes and the whole thing forms organically. This is wikipedia! Comparing it to sources produced by a tiny panel of authors and editors is not fair, the structure is totally different. Anyway, the freedom to contribute when I am 95% certain makes editing easy, versus the painstaking process of submission to academic journals, where my information has to stand up alone, without the scrutiny and support of an active network of perr editors. Finally, 0% vandalism should not be an objective. There is a certain amount of vandalism inherent in this process. It's not a big deal, evidently, as people continue to flock to wikipedia for information. Any extreme measure to stifle vandalism should be viewed with stern suspicion. MotherFunctor 01:05, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Oppose What if I went for a job interview and the potential employer decided to Google my name to see if I have a blog or something of the sort (this is a known phenomenon), and found that my name constantly pops up connected to BDSM, which is a Wikipedia page I may be often reverting from vandalism? The potential employer may not be aware of Wikiwork and might not realize that I'm working to keep the article clean. He or she may just see me connected to BDSM, and thus my name is marred.
Personally, if someone desperately wants to find out who I am, it is not hard to do so if you read my user page, but I DO NOT want my name associated with my edits to be Googlable.
If what you are concerned about is that anonymous IPs do more damage than good for Wikipedia (which I don't know is true either way), then requiring people to make an account is plenty good to keep most of the nasties away. I don't have a reference for that, but I have heard from numerous people how vandalism on their blogs, sites, whatever, mysteriously disappeared once they required a user account. People just don't want to go through the trouble. Icemuon 18:09, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Strongly opposeMany contributors wouldn't be here if this was required.In fact, I wouldn't be here if real names were required. - User:Friedpotato01

Support I generally support the idea, but I fear it will struggle to gain majority let alone consensus support. Better idea would be look at a process utopia system. Start with easy steps - encourage real names, make it manditory for admins, restrict IP editing etc... That way we could work round to a more balanced system that we want. AndrewRT(Talk) 19:29, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Too radical: I would suggest something easier:

  • No editing possibility to anonymous users
  • once you are registered, you can freely edit talk pages only suggesting improvements or re-writing parts of articles
  • after your number of edits has reached a value, say 50 (it doesn't have to be too high), you can apply to standard membership. An administrator will check that your 50 edits were not vandalism or meaningless edits of the same page, and then you're in!

I think this would be a simple approach that would stop vandals completely, keeping the free spirit of Wikipedia. Alessio Damato 14:28, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Oppose: You can give a ghost name in a book or in any paper world wide. For me 2 give my name is 2 much. i dont even give my name on any of my blogs. so why would i give it here.

"Why should I trust what you write if you aren't even willing to sign it with your name?" 

Wikipedia doesn't operate on trust. Hence the NOR policy. To only a limited degree can you trust Wikipedia as a whole, and it is only made semi-trustworthy exactly because distrusting members scrutinize and correct mistakes and vandalism. MotherFunctor 00:09, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

  • The Debian project demands verification of real-world identity prior to membership. Debian's community exhibits all the same problems as WP's does with the exception of vandalism (which, to be honest, is much less of an actual problem than cabal-type stuff in an established project with a large user base). Furthermore, Debian's community has seen a practical cap at ~1000 members (and only half active!) for over five years now. Empirical evidence shows that most actual content on WP (as opposed to vandalism patrol, AfD debates and other bureaucracy) is generated by casual or anonymous users. Shutting them off would be catastrophic. Chris Cunningham (talk) 02:19, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
  • Certain exceptions could be appropriate. What if someone in North Korea wants to edit? In that country, if you play music on a piano that is of a genre that the authorities decide, possibly after the fact, that they don't like, then you may be punished. Michael Hardy (talk) 20:29, 9 May 2008 (UTC)
  • This idea destroys the best part of the internet — the freedom to be anonymous. Giving out a real name would open doors to real-world harassment and other issues. AxelBoldt's idea could be amended, however — this would work if only administrators were allowed to see your personal information. Zeldafanjtl (talk) 02:00, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose - unworkable and discriminatory. Under this proposal, John Smith would enjoy far more anonymity than say, Dominica Fallytop (to make up a name at random). This is the reason I've never created an account with Citizendium. —  Tivedshambo  (t/c) 09:40, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
  • I think all of the ideas and comments are interesting, however, I see one major problem with this - users uploading photos of themselves doing something illegal. More specifically, I refer to photos where the uploader is breaking a drug possession law while making constructive edits to Wikipedia. I also think it is strange that no one else has already commented on this, as Wikipedia has so many photos of people with illegal drugs in their hands and/or mouths. Nirmos (talk) 15:23, 15 April 2010 (UTC)


*Splendid Idea -- and indeed lots of people will head for the hills. Some of them frightened, some of them ornery, some of them shy, some of them -- but very few, I suspect -- with genuinely good reasons. But many of the reasons given above are, I think, worries without cause. No one guarantees anonymity in this world, not when, for example, the police can stop your car if you're doing 95 mph down Route 527 one night roaring drunk. Hence my home state issues drivers' licenses with your photograph and name. And you can't get into most foreign countries without a passport. Around here, we can't even buy an Amtrak ticket without a state-issued photo ID. Life is like that...
What would happen to Wikipedia? In the long run, probably very little. People would still snipe at each other and be uncivil, just like they are in high school -- where everybody knows who you are.
So, basically, this is an idea for establishing two classes of editor. One, the more senior and respected, use their real names, sign their contributions, and have real credentials for writing the kinds of stuff they write. The other group, less senior and less well respected, will still use invented names, like Kwodbog6, and try to hide. But after a while, Kwoddie's Klones will vanish. In their place will be "real" people (or liars pretending to be real) who will be just as helpful or nasty as they ever are.
Timothy Perper (talk) 17:38, 17 February 2011 (UTC) (my real name).