As technology advances (relentlessly, some would say), there are always new and better ways to support human interaction and communication. Computer conferencing has been around for over 20 years, initially as an all-text medium, with dialup connections at 300 baud, printed onto thermal paper at 1 page every two minutes.

Today, however, we have web based tools to support human conversation at the speed of thought. What follows is an example of an on-line conversation among people in an open community of interest called The Meta Network. It demonstrates how despite differences of time and place, conversation -- even dialogue -- can occur as people log in, read what's been said, and then add their own ideas and comments in the exact same sequential patterns that occur in face to face conversation.

(Thanks to my friends at The Meta Network for allowing us to eavesdrop on their "conversation.")


    Should Aliases Be Allowed Here?
Ann McGinn (amcginn)

This comes from another conference. As it has in the past, the question is again being raised on whether or not aliases should be allowed in the conferences. Opinions?

22:1) 23-JAN-2000 13:58 Ann McGinn (amcginn)

My opinion is a strong no. I think part of the unique culture of Meta conferences since the beginning has been that we all use our real names, rather than an alias that hides identity. There are good reasons why some people prefer aliases, but those people probably would be more comfortable in places other than Meta. I hope the policy is not changed.

22:2) 23-JAN-2000 14:53 Kathy Madden (madden)

Thanks for starting this, Ann. Since I missed out on the earlier discussions about anonymity, I hope you'll review the salient points.

22:3) 23-JAN-2000 14:54 Carol H. Tucker (beladona)

query -- if everyone knows your online moniker, is it still an alias?

Beladona = Carol Tucker
Carol Tucker = beladona

only becuase when I first came online four years ago, the service provider said I had to have a user name and recommended that it not be my own.....

22:4) 23-JAN-2000 15:21 bj shannon (bjshan)

well. carol, your headline when you post here shows both. so here, theres no ambiguity.

i think the only reason an alias might be allowed would be for the safety of the person, yet i cant currently imagine a situation like that on meta.

i support this place as one where people are known as themselves, and neither have to hide behind false names or false personas to go with them.

dirk is an interesting sidelight, as he's been published under the name he uses here. perhaps he will let us know if he has an objection to being known under his "real" name, or if he uses dirk to maintain his authorly presence or??

22:5) 23-JAN-2000 15:27 Hope O'Keeffe (hok)

I'm comfortable with the way this software now sets it up --real name, with online moniker in parentheses.

Before Dirk's arrival, I was firmly in the no alias category. I'm still there, but I feel less strongly about it. We're real, or not, in this space, regardless of the name we choose.

I generally oppose aliases here because I'd like an ethos of openness and honesty to prevail, and presenting one's "real" name is a symbolic step towards that. On the other hand, Dirk is considerably more open and honest than many here.

Besides: there ought to be some flexibility for chosen names. After all, the FBI, as presented in my mother's file, thinks my real name is Lois Horowitz (my real first name and my ex-husband's last name), a "legal" name I've never gone by.... To me, Hope O'Keeffe is real.

22:6) 23-JAN-2000 15:48 Ann McGinn (amcginn)

My legal name depends on whether you're asking about my passport and drivers' license, which still carry my ex-husband's name (bureacratic problems) or my checks, employment or have been known as for years name.

I was on hiatus here when Dirk came on. Authors sometimes have several pseudonyms -- I will have one whenever I get around to finishing and submitting a mystery for publcation. An author may write under several names if he or she is prolific and wants to attract different types of readers or write in different genres. In any case, the real name of an author is almost always easily discoverable.

I would be interested in Dirk's reason for not using his real name here when everyone else does, if he would like to tell us.

22:7) 23-JAN-2000 16:34 Steve Teicher (steve_teicher)

I'd vote for the name that we use in person when we meet people as being the name to use in these conferences. I agree that one of the Meta differences has been that comments are from the real, not the virtual person.

22:8) 24-JAN-2000 00:02 Frank Burns (frank)

Well put, Steve.

This really is a sticky wicketty issue. I'm strongly in favor of real names. But I also can find a respectful regard for pen names. But only if consistently used. Dirk has always been Dirk here, and (well, as far as we know,...) has never been Dick or Duck.

For me, I like that we are a community of people who know each other and trust each other. I mean that's the main thing, that we develop the new metanet culture in ways that promote simple values like candor and curiosity. Right?

22:9) 24-JAN-2000 03:12 Dirk Flinthart (dflint)


Personally, I don't mind aliases at all. Usually one can hear the person behind them in fairly short order, if one listens.

"Dirk Flinthart" is a pen name. I have always made it clear that anyone who wants my real name is free to contact me. And as for "fear of safety", I can indeed offer an example of how that might occur.

Suppose somebody wrote a backpacker's guide to the East Coast of Australia. Now, suppose that, in the interests of humour, and of passing real information to the readers instead of prepackaged fluff, the writer suggested that the small, parochial, prejudiced city of Townsville was a particular waste of time and money for travellers.

Bear in mind that the author's mother and sister might still be living in that city -- a city which is noted for aggressive public defense of its "good name". Naturally, you might expect the author to use a pen name.

Now, supposing the author got invited into all kinds of internet forums and public performances under that pen name. Do you suppose it would make sense to widely and publically broadcast the author's real identity? Especially if the author happened to have quite an unusual "real name" which would instantly be linked to his mother and sister by roughly forty percent of the population of Townsville, if ever it got out?

It's not as hypothetical as you might think... Anyhow, once I wound up online as DF, it simply didn't make a lot of sense to try and establish my real name as an identity as well. So I'm DF online. (Shrugs.) So what?

22:10) 24-JAN-2000 09:13 Steve Teicher (steve_teicher)

Dirk, I understand completely. We would not want you to challenge any native Aussies who might throw you and your family to the crocs.

22:11) 24-JAN-2000 13:38 Frank Burns (frank)

Me too. In fact I once wrote under a pen name but never could remember what it was.

22:12) 24-JAN-2000 19:16 Ann McGinn (amcginn)

Perhaps the author need not have mentioned Townsville in his book at all. Since travelers who use a guidebook are less likely to go to places not mentioned in it, they may well have escaped the terrible tortuous terrors of the thoroughly tacky, timeworn, troublesome, tasteless, truculent, tedious tourist trap of Townsville.

22:13) 24-JAN-2000 20:11 Frank Burns (frank)


-22:14) 24-JAN-2000 22:08 Kathy Madden (madden)


22:15) 24-JAN-2000 22:21 Dana K. Lewis (dana)

No aliases, that's my vote, and a strong one at that. I agree that the culture here is centered on accountability & knowing who is speaking. Or, we could have chat names like blazer55, warrior99,bettyboop2...I don't think so. Nope, not on meta, not for this guy...

22:16) 24-JAN-2000 22:25 Ann McGinn (amcginn)