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This is just a general esthetic question.

In a random question, I recommended somebody to come up with a better name than user57892 or whatever generic automatically generated name that was, and they basically told me to piss off as they contribute the content without the need to come up even with an approximate name like StatGuruJoe. I mulled over this for a little while, and while I recognize there may be no SE policy on this, there are at least two issues that bother me:

  1. I went into enough trouble to come up with my user name and fill the tiny bio; if this guy hasn't, why should I go into the trouble answering his question?
  2. If you believe in the infinite monkey theorem, then this guy looks like the 57892th monkey typing randomly on the keyboard. I guess the statistical application would be that a monkey typing at random will at some point provide SAS/R/Stata code for a rigorous analysis of any existing data set, and type up all of the answers to the CV questions. So, again, why should I bother?

Following up on RioRaider's question about relation between the question length and the likelihood of a good answer, there's apparently a relation between a user's reputation and how human-readable their names are. It only takes a mouseover + right click to Google more about Michael Chernick, Peter Flom or Jeromy Anglim; whuber or StasK may require a little bit more digging, and frankly I've been somewhat frustrated at being unable to match the name and face regarding Macro and cardinal.

May be I am growing older. When I was in college, I was fine referring to my friends using their FIDO aliases (if anybody still remembers this offline message exchange network), where mine was something like 2:5020/486.41, as in, "Have you met 2:5020/317.1? He really is a fine guy."

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    $\begingroup$ Well, I admit I am trying to guess identity of cardinal from his answers, and I would not like to know the answer because of some policy. That would spoil the fun :) Yes userxxx names are a bit annoying, but the purpose of this site is to make internet a better place. So good questions and answers are much more important than people who give them. $\endgroup$ – mpiktas Sep 20 '12 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ If the pattern continues, then you will need to change the title of the question to something like "Who is cardinal?" $\endgroup$ – user10525 Sep 20 '12 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ Oh dear. I fear the answer to that question is exceedingly boring and, apparently, very likely to be highly disappointing. (I take the apparent interest as one of the more flattering compliments I have, or could have, received; though, it is rather bemusing, to be honest.) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Sep 20 '12 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro (+1) Good one. Welcome back!, someone is going to be happy to see you did not officially quit. $\endgroup$ – user10525 Sep 20 '12 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry my anonymous user name has caused you frustration, @StasK! If you're dying to match a face with an ID, the picture in my profile is a picture of me. With regard to this site, I don't long for any kind of personal recognition, so I don't have any compelling reason to use my real name. Those who know me will most likely recognize me from my alias (Macro is essentially my all-purpose internet name) and, similar to cardinal's remarks, those who don't know me will not find my real name particularly interesting :-) $\endgroup$ – Macro Sep 20 '12 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ btw, @Procrastinator, you're one to chime in here about using an alias! Unless, of course, you're Bill Procrastinator of the Ann Arbor Procrastinators ;-) [reposted these because apparently I don't know how to spell alias!!] $\endgroup$ – Macro Sep 20 '12 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for everybody who responded. It looks like I put more weight on this than the rest of the community does, but the reasons I put more weight are being shared by other people. I don't think I will accept any of the answers though, as I really wanted to hear the different opinions, and that's exactly what the community delivered. $\endgroup$ – StasK Sep 24 '12 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ A pseudonym such as Procrastinator or cardinal is not a real name but it has a soul, whereas userxxx has no soul. As long as we're not overrun by zombies it doesn't bother me. $\endgroup$ – Stéphane Laurent Oct 2 '12 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ That's exactly what I meant. I guess I will start replying to them, "Dear Zombie687132, ..." $\endgroup$ – StasK Oct 2 '12 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ This is a fun question and I am sure it is partly tongue in cheek but I like knowing something about the colleagues I am talking with. I thought my opinion might have changed since I gave the answer here over four years ago but as I read it I find that my opinion has not changed much. i really prefer it when members can be more open and tell about their accomplishments and experiences. $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Jan 2 '17 at 1:21
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Yes, but only for a very short moment. I agree that it may indicate sloppiness, but in general I agree with the fictional Prof. Smith

enter image description here

(source: PHD Comics)

The only harm the user[0-9]{1,n} causes is, that I will not remember him because I am not able to recognize him in different threads. To me, all these names are the same. But that's it.

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  • $\begingroup$ (+1) Another slightly related comic. $\endgroup$ – user10525 Sep 20 '12 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Procrastinator awww come on. Trying to be professional in real life is enough ;) $\endgroup$ – steffen Sep 20 '12 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ +1 because I too never recognize any of the user##### people, even if I'm spoken to them several times before. This can be a little annoying but I've also found that the user##### people usually aren't particularly active participants anyhow, so this isn't really a huge issue. $\endgroup$ – Macro Sep 20 '12 at 16:20
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This is a matter of cultural norms, and as identifiers other than real names are definitely allowed here all that people can do is express personal views and preferences that are not binding on anyone else.

As it happens, the original poster @StasK (Stas Kolenikov) and I share a history of contributing to Statalist over several years where the culture is that posters are expected to use full real names and other identifiers are deprecated. That's no doubt an unusual culture by other standards but it's worked pretty well over 19 years or so. Of course, nothing stops people using names that look real, but are not, from some free account not associated with people's workplaces.

That said, it is often true that first names alone are not revealing and full names can often not be traced back to unique individuals.

In some forums anonymity is used to hide senders of offensive or insulting posts, but that is not tolerated here, so not an issue.

A good defence for anonymity is that posters, especially learners in statistics, are allowed to ask elementary questions or to ask help given confusion or misunderstanding without loss of face. Equally I suspect that the fraction of lazy questions or fishing expeditions would go down slightly if people had to use real names, but that's idle speculation.

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StasK I prefer real names to pseudonyms. Now the clever pseudonyms are amusing but still have the drawback of lack of identifiability. I don't know why community members choose to be anonymous and put no bio or a very uninformative one. But that is how SE does it and most users behave. But the name userxxxx doesn't really bother me anymore than any other pseudonym and I answer questions based on my ability to answer and interest and quality and length of the question. The users name never enters into it for me.

An exception might be if the user becomes a regular and I want to get to know two members with name userxxxx for some numbers xxxx. then it would be hard to remember them without possibly confusing them. Names like StasK, Macro and Cardinal are names that I now associate with high rep users.

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To provide a slightly different perspective: As a matter of fact, I have seen users with automatically generated names provide valuable content, answering questions and (as far as I can tell, not being a statistician myself) demonstrating real expertise.

So that's a direct answer to your question: Even if you are concerned about reciprocity and effort (and not merely about creating quality content) and unconvinced by appeals to general notions of the role of identity in scholarly discourse (yes, that's a fancy description of the PhD comic in @steffen answer!) the fact remains that anonymous users are productive members of this community. As a group, userXXX are perhaps a little more likely to ask an ill-conceived question and run (they are not the only ones to do that…) and nobody with such a name has reached stardom but they are not only “leechers” or randomly typing monkeys.

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Excuse me if I'm stating the obvious but doesn't it imply that the user is either lazy or is paranoid about revealing his identity for some reason ?

But to answer your question: no it doesn't bother me, but then again, I am just extremely grateful that this site exists and that someone takes their time to answer my questions. In the future if I am in a position to answer other people's questions maybe I would think differently.....hmmmmmm :)

Oh, another thing sprung to mind: perhaps the people who reveal their identity are show-offs - nothing wrong with that of course - if you've got it, flaunt it (I wish I had it !)

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) doesn't it imply that the user is either lazy or is paranoid about revealing his identity $+$ perhaps the people who reveal their identity are show-offs $=$ "wrong if you do it, wrong if you don't" $\endgroup$ – user10525 Sep 20 '12 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Procrastinator I didn't say it was wrong - in fact I said "nothing wrong with that of course". If I had a PhD and/or years of experience I would definitely want to show it off :) $\endgroup$ – Joe King Sep 20 '12 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ Dear Joe, I have absolutely no doubt that if you continue on the path you appear to be on and have any desire at all to obtain a PhD, then you will obtain one. I also suspect that you will then later find it is rather more comfortable and fun to not worry oneself with "showing it off". :-) $\endgroup$ – cardinal Sep 20 '12 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ @cardinal my dad has a PhD, my eldest brother has a DPhil (even better according to him, so that gives you an idea of his showy-offy-ness). My elder brother is in his last year of undegrad and hopes to start one next year, funding permitting, and my younger brother is 6 and doing complex number arithmetic !!! So I'll probably end up doing one..... $\endgroup$ – Joe King Sep 20 '12 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe, thanks for chiming in. If you look at my profile and the ratio of the # of questions I asked / # of questions I answered, you will have little doubts whether I am a show-off or not :) $\endgroup$ – StasK Sep 21 '12 at 3:50

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