Wednesday December 13, 2006


I need some advice.  I've been getting annoyed with the errors in the linguistics-related entries on Wikipedia, and I've been tempted to create an account and go fix them.  The question is this: should I use my real name as my WikiName, or should I use a pseudonym?  If the latter, is there any reason not to use TheTensor?  I ask because my initial impulse was to use my real name—I'm going to be editing linguistics entries, after all, so I figured I might as well be up-front about my qualifications, such as they are—but then I read the page where people request user name changes, which includes a lot of variations on, "I hadn't realized how public I'd be making my real name."

So, if you've participated on Wikipedia, either under your own name or a pseudonym, I'd appreciate hearing about your experience with regards to identity issues.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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I just automatically signed up as Languagehat, since that's my universal online identity. If I were you, I'd go with The Tensor, figuring that anyone who wants to find out more about you can check your blog.

Posted by: language hat at Dec 13, 2006 7:10:31 AM

Go with The Tensor.

Posted by: Steve at Dec 13, 2006 11:11:13 AM

TheTensor seems cool to me, too. I use kirinqueen and my real name all over the place, and haven't had any difficulties. (Yet?) I haven't really edited many articles, either, though.

Posted by: Erin at Dec 13, 2006 12:28:41 PM

I'd go with The Tensor since your credentials are pretty evident here on your blog.

Posted by: EFL Geek at Dec 13, 2006 2:25:04 PM

TheTensor. Use of real name invites unnecessary and unwanted drama.

Posted by: Dorothea at Dec 13, 2006 3:02:25 PM

I tend to think that the Web, in general, needs less anonymity, not more.

Posted by: Carson Chittom at Dec 13, 2006 3:44:04 PM

The Tensor's not anonymous, he's pseudonymous! There's quite a large difference in practice.

Posted by: includedmiddle at Dec 13, 2006 5:29:52 PM

Yeah, I went with a mix, and am not sure if it's a good idea:

Only recently have I started dividing up my identity online into two distinct ones; or rather, to separate Jonathan North Washington the grad student in linguistics from the conlanger firespeaker: Jonathan North Washington without a professional mask on. I used to have just one face online, and it wasn't the professional one .. and there's a quotes page out there full of things I wouldn't want a potential employer to find on first google. Or something like that. So now there's My professional front.

I lost all hope long ago of ever separating my name from my pseudonym, and I really don't think I want to take down such wonderful things as my quotes page. So I'm going under the supposition that a potential employer would find both—and would see that despite some maybe less professional stuff out there, I can keep a professional face too. Or [perhaps?] better yet, would see my professional face, and then see I'm also a real person.?

That said, I'd go with TheTensor. The argument that your blog speaks for your credentials is a good one.

Posted by: Jonathan at Dec 14, 2006 10:38:47 PM

I contribute there under my real name and haven't had much trouble with it. Others have been less fortunate. If you use your real name (or what looks like a real name) you get a certain amount of immunity in some sense. Nobody tries so much to ferret out your real name, and it's possible you are taken a bit more seriously. On the other hand people (and family members) have been harassed in real life in some pretty unpleasant ways, including hate mail, threats, calls to employers, and defamation that could damage a professional reputation. On balance I would advise you use at least a pseudonym, and maybe even a new one unconnected to your identity, but arguments can be made both ways.

Posted by: Tom Harrison at Dec 21, 2006 8:18:33 AM