1. danielha

    Pseudonyms

    Posted on January 10, 2012 by danielha

    One day, I’d like to circle the globe. I like traveling, but there’s still so much that I’ve yet to see in the world. But in the online world, I’m already an especially well-traveled man. Through the years, I’ve explored and I’ve experienced extensively. Sometimes I’ll end up at amazing destinations with fun, unique cultures. Other times, I’ll stumble into some of the darkest virtual alleyways.

    Above all else, I’ve encountered incredible characters. I’ve had conversations with personalities that were wise, generous, or hilarious. I really cared about the things that these people said. But, in most cases, I didn’t even know their real names. They were using online handles, or pseudonyms. These handles may be similar to their real names, but it’s just as likely to be completely fictitious. In these online communities, pseudonyms are nearly essential because they allow people to be expressive, and appropriately so.

    Choosing your own name is important

    Your parents gave you the name that is on your birth certificate. Online, you can choose your own. Here at Disqus, we care a lot about the concept of pseudonyms online. To us, pseudonyms imply a choice of identity — names are not only for authentication, they’re for expression. On the other side of the argument, others may say that anonymous and pseudonym users are similar, and that the web is better off with required real names for all commenters because the quality would be better. As the Nymwars rages on, we decided to dive into our own data and do some research. How do pseudonym-users measure up against anonymous when it comes to participation and quality?

    Click the image below for our results and then read on for more notes.

    Notes

    • This is only using Disqus content, of course, but the data size is fairly large with 60+ million users and nearly half a billion comments.
    • We define anonymous users as users that are completely unverified. Pseudonym users are registered users that are able to choose what they’d like to call themselves. Real name users are those who’ve chosen to identify with Facebook when posting.
    • This isn’t an exact science and our methodologies aren’t lab-quality. However, we were careful to not misrepresent (even to ourselves) what our data showed us. Above all else, we dove into our data in order to better understand identity dynamics for improving the actual product.

    What’s next? By looking at data on Disqus, we’re able to see pretty interesting things about communities. We’re hoping to identify the traits that make certain communities successful, and build that right into Disqus.

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