Real names vs. pseudonyms

Posted on January 7, 2012

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There’s been a debate recently about services specifying you sign up in your real name vs. pseudonyms (or even anonyms) in social services, highlighted here by one of my favourite bloggers.

Facebook leads the pack of real name services, insisting individuals can only have a single profile, while Twitter epitomises pseudonyms, you can be whoever you want, and have as many accounts as you like.

While some argue for a particular approach, in reality the choice reflects the inherent functionality of each service. Facebook is built around real people, and even if you could have a pseudonym it would be pretty meaningless once you’d been tagged on a few photos, status updates or check-ins. Twitter is a public stream of updates, links or data. You can be a real person, or machine, so real names would be pretty meaningless in this context.

And this debate got me to thinking about the right approach for our business.

When giving shopping advice should we follow Facebook, and insist on real names, or Twitter and allow people to do what they want. My gut instinct is go Twitter, and fortunately this is backed up by how people behave in real life, and how I and others behave.

When making a presentation or pitch to an audience I use my full name Philip Woodward. At the office it’s just Phil. To different groups of friends it could be Woody, Woods or Philsy. To my mum it’s Pip (cf Great Expectations) and at home for my daughter it’s daddy :). So a single online ‘real name’ doesn’t really map to how things work in the real world.

So HipSnip users can choose to use their real name, or not.

The most important thing is that our users enjoy HipSnip, find what we’re building useful, and they get and give great shopping advice.

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Posted in: HipSnip, Reputation