Thursday, July 08, 2010

Nerd Word of the Week: Pseudonymity

Internet Troll velu ill artlibre jnlImage via Wikipedia
Pseudonymity (n.) - The practice of using a consistent pseudonym to develop an online persona that is not openly connected to your real name or offline identity. A portmanteau of pseudonym and anonymity. Pseudonymity is different from anonymity in that postings made anonymously online can never be tracked to any single person. Pseudonymous postings made with a consistent, recurring pseudonym held by a single poster can over time accrue their own following, reputation, and online social capital.

I bring it up because: Blizzard just launched RealID over at Battlenet, which ends pseudonymity for anyone participating in the ragingly popular World of Warcraft forums there. This has sparked a privacy debate, as RealID exposes your real name on all your Battlenet postings, and some folks don't want the world knowing how much time they spend in WoW forums, much less what gets said there. Everyone from CTRL+ALT+DEL and Penny Arcade to the Geek Feminism Blog and The Washington Post have weighed in. Many are claiming this is a loss of anonymity, but in truth Blizzard is eliminating pseudonymity, as your posts we're always tied to a consistent username. The move was made to ostensibly cut down on trolling -- in line with Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory -- but Seriously Not Okay refutes that logic thusly:
It is a common misconception that trolling is caused by anonymity. It is not. It is caused by people being assholes.
Some people simply enjoy being griefers, and don't care if they do it under a real name or a fake one. Eliminating pseudonymity or anonymity doesn't eliminate the asshole factor. That's worth remembering as more sites make sweeping changes like as Blizzard just did.