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There are some effects of using one's full name on Cross Validated versus a first name, a pen name or a pseudonym. For example, ChatGPT output some rather complimentary statements concerning "Carl" on Cross Validated, but when I used my real name it didn't know me from Adam, even though my mug is splattered across the internet in a sickeningly large number of posts.

So, for discussion, I ask those who wish to weigh in on it: what are your thoughts as to the effect of using or not using your real name on this site? Here are a few complicating factors. For someone who is a paid statistical consultant, it might be considered a badge of courage and a professional necessity to be traceable to professional opinions. As a dilettante like me, who uses this site occasionally because I have some real problem that needs clarifying, and/or I occasionally answer questions to figure out the answer for myself, i.e., of the "Gee, I should know something about that. Let me try to answer that question." or whatever other reason, it does not matter too much if anyone knows my real name because I am in the business of using my (limited of course) knowledge of statistics in order to not make insane methodological mistakes (I still make occasional mistakes).

But this question is not about me: rather it is about the junk mail, propositions, communications from professionals and so forth that one is or is not getting as a result of using one's real name or not. Naturally, if you have only ever used your real name, or have never used your real name you won't have had the experience of doing one then the other for a cross-over comparison. However, you may still have an impression of what the effects of either handle are. And that is what I would like to know, what's that?

Answers can be varied: for example, I use/don't use my real name because and my experience is... Or, whatever; there are no wrong answers.

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    $\begingroup$ @NickCox Thanks for the edit. I would also appreciate knowing what your experience has been, you know enough to have had a lot of it. Any words of wisdom? $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented Apr 29 at 9:13
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    $\begingroup$ Usernames are not unique on stack exchange, so it's perhaps another Carl, or an amalgamation of Carls that ChatGPT has good things to say about. $\endgroup$
    – dipetkov
    Commented Apr 29 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ @dipetkov Yes, there is one other Carl on CV who currently has a reputation of 121, so our combined reputation rounds to 13.3 k. I will resist the urge to speak of significance, and leave that to the reader. $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented Apr 29 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ Sometimes I hope that when I give a statistical recommendation in Real Life(TM) and someone googles my name ("who is this guy to give us advice?"), seeing a number of useful posts to my name here might improve my chances of being taken seriously. That's just a fond hope, though, no hard data, not even anecdotes. Pessimists are right more often in life, but optimists have more fun. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 29 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @StephanKolassa Real Life($^\text{TM}$) anecdote about novel use for statistical consultation. My coauthors didn't believe me, so a statistician was called in. She then explained what I was saying. During statistical review, she didn't want to answer the statistical reviewer's question, so I did, and the reviewer returned high praise for the response. Go figure. $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented Apr 29 at 23:41

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The main reason I don't use my real name is that unfortunately I've been victim of online stalking and libeling on another part of the Internet, and I don't want to repeat the experience.

Another reason I don't use my name is if, hypothetically, I have a question that requires sharing data from a study on human beings, involving sensitive data. Giving my name would provide a piece of information that might jeopardize the anonymity of participants to the study, in particular if the data come from a sample of people taken from a small population. To protect people's anonymity and personal information, I can omit some information or straight up lie about the context and the precise nature of the variables, while focusing on the statistical issue at hand. However, providing my name would make it easier to make a connection between published papers and the data shared in the question, which could possibly make lies ineffective. I didn't face the situation for the moment, and maybe never will, but I prefer to be overcautious than not cautious enough. Not only there could be an ethical issue here, but also a legal one.

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    $\begingroup$ I sympathize with your concerns, I have some of them myself. However, there are times when one just has to speak the truth even if that is problematic. (+1) $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented Apr 29 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ Your commentary about human subjects is something I never considered before. I may have to consider that carefully in the future when posting. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @ShawnHemelstrand If you're interested in going down this rabbit hole, you can look for things like "differential privacy" or "k-anonymity" (and probably other terms I don't remember). If you have a specific question on how to protect the anonymity of people who shared some possibly sensitive data with you, asking it on security.stackexchange.com might be useful (but note that we have a differential-privacy tag on CV, so that's the kind of question that might be on topic on CV too). $\endgroup$
    – J-J-J
    Commented May 2 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ @ShawnHemelstrand: Synthetic data too - there's a handy Python package called sdv $\endgroup$ Commented May 3 at 8:10
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I started out pseudonymous years ago because I was concerned about writing something that turned out to be stupid/ignorant, or a bit rude about practices within my field (which are often poor), and having this seen within my professional network.

Both concerns have decreased through time, the first because my knowledge is on somewhat firmer ground now (in large part due to the other writers here!), and the second because I am now openly a bit rude about standard practice within my field in talks and papers (about experimental design and statistical analysis). I will probably switch to using my real name at some point in the future because I'm looking for jobs outside academia and this provides some limited evidence of my statistical knowledge.

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    $\begingroup$ I've seen "looking for jobs ... and this provides some limited evidence of my statistical knowledge" on this site before. Seems like a valid reason to switch. (+1) $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented Apr 29 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ I have to second "because of other writers here." Whether it is simply reading through answers here from others, disagreements about answers, or simply clarifications made, this place remains my favorite place to learn about statistics because the process is fueled by a wonderful community of wise minds. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ From the other side - I remember getting a candidate's curriculum vitae and being positively impressed by their Cross-Validated profile (we ended up hiring them, though their CV activity was far from the only reason). $\endgroup$ Commented May 5 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ In principle you do have the option of using Cross Validated pseudonymously, but submitting a curriculum vitae for a job application which identifies your ownership of the account. This does not breach your anonymity to the world, only to a smaller and deliberately selected subset of people, who you have chosen to make other personal data available to in any case. I'd be interested whether @MartinModrák would view this as a sign of lower professionalism. $\endgroup$
    – Silverfish
    Commented May 12 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ A name can also convey, or at least hint at, potentially sensitive personal information such as gender, ethnic background, even age (some countries have quite sharp trends in naming over time). Since some companies use a degree of blinding, including blinding to names, in recruitment to avoid discriminating on these criteria, it's conceivable there are job applications where you could disclose a pseudonymous Stack Exchange account but not one under your real name! $\endgroup$
    – Silverfish
    Commented May 12 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Silverfish I wouldn't treat this as a sign of lower professionalism, but it makes it harder to verify that the account actually belongs to the applicant - so potentially a bit less trust. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinModrák I assumed it's similar to people who list their GitHub account on their CV, where many of the same issues apply. It's not so difficult to verify ownership of an account if required but it is one extra step! $\endgroup$
    – Silverfish
    Commented May 13 at 19:19
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I can't say that I am a regular or useful enough contributor to weigh in much on this topic, but I figured I'd chime in...

I started off using my personal name because I knew that using my real name would force me to act accordingly. If I said something stupid, then I would have to own up to it (instead of hiding behind a blank name). In fact, it is not uncommon for somebody to correct me here, and knowing that I need to educate myself more and not misguide others, I happily walk back a previously confident statement about statistics or methods. On the other hand, saying enough correct things about the right topics with a handle that is easily recognizable (save for my annoyingly long name), can to a limited degree award some sense of credibility. I say that cautiously because internet point aren't true barometers and I know I'm not as savvy as others here with statistics, so take that with a massive grain of salt.

Something that stands out to me on the other side looking in is that users with less detailed usernames tend to bleed together for me. There are a handful I can think of right now that have contributed multiple times with good content, but I can't recall exactly what they have said or what they typically respond to. Yet I can easily think of Ben Bolker as the mixed modeling expert, Frank Harrell as the regression modelling savant, and Gavin Simpson as the GAM guy because I have seen their names attached to these things multiple times rather than something more anonymous which isn't as easy to remember.

Finally, there are selfish reasons as well. If I want to get hired for a job that requires stats, it doesn't hurt to have a link to point them to with my comments on these things. I have been emailed directly from CV on some occasions and even offered work at times because of what I have contributed. So that in some way has been a nice benefit of using my name directly.

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    $\begingroup$ If I said something stupid, then I would have to own up to it - that's a good way of self-restraint and balancing. And yes, I could argue that you are a regular and useful user! (+1) $\endgroup$ Commented May 2 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ (+1) I was fearful that it was (quite incorrectly) thought that the early answers said most of what could be said. Extra answers are interesting and helpful. You didn't say this about yourself but I will add this about myself: using your own name does damp down any tendency to be too brutal in the face of idiocy, ignorance or laziness. (I said "damp down", not "remove".) At the same time, the site does need perpetual vigilance. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented May 2 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ Couldn't agree more @NickCox. It's much easier to be rude/harsh without the penalty of your namesake being on the internet. I appreciate the frank discussions here, and wish I had more like them in my current location. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ +1 Almost exactly opposite to my own reasoning, but I agree with this as well. $\endgroup$
    – mkt
    Commented May 3 at 10:12
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Interesting question. A meta-question arising is what experimental evidence could there be to answer it? Perhaps a group of people might co-ordinate their work and randomly post similar answers under different names. I think you would need a lot of work and a long run of data to get anything useful out of that. As I understand it, individuals running parallel accounts is not allowed here, or at least discouraged.

Personal short summary:

  1. Choose the handle you want, for whatever mix of professional or personal reasons, all the way up to pure caprice.

  2. In my experience the side-effects of name choice are slight but occasionally noticeable.

What follows mixes concrete evidence, broad impressions, and pure conjecture.

My name here is my real name and I should be easily identifiable as having a distinct workplace and various email addresses. As a long-term Stata user active on the Stata forum Statalist I saw that there were some Stata questions on Stack Overflow that weren't getting good answers, so I joined in 2012. Then I joined Cross Validated shortly after. I used my real name as a continuation of my practice on Statalist. I usually want to be recognised. I want to be able to post references to my programs and my papers. I want to build a modest reputation as someone competent and capable of clear and cogent arguments. As an academic, it's a duty and a pleasure to put one's work in public, even if it is just a simple answer to a simple question.

The side-effects of using an identifiable name I have noticed include

  1. Occasional direct emails asking to continue a discussion, be an informal consultant, or do someone's homework for them.

  2. Ditto, but essentially flak prolonging heated if not angry discussions here, or one-off abuse.

  3. If you have a name and a reputation, people may gossip about you elsewhere. My spectrum runs from unduly complimentary to the opposite.

More diffusely, a real or real-sounding name is more likely to be remembered. I don't know who @Carl is, but I have interacted on CV with him [let's suppose] several times and I have expectations about his concerns and his style. We've often disagreed but (my summary) the exchanges have been civil and respectful.

I'd say something similar about perhaps a few hundred people here. I recognise their handles, have seen their posts before, and have almost universally positive opinions about them.

Other way round, I blank out on handles beginning user followed by numeric digits. Some people with such handles are excellent long-term contributors, but I could not distinguish them. Friends, if that is what you prefer, it works.

I post occasionally in other places. In one place I use a cryptic handle and that was a deliberate experiment to see whether being less recognisable had an effect. The style of that other place is so different from Statalist or SE that's it's hard to tell the exact difference. But if people don't recognise you as an expert, they seem to pay less attention to what you post.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Other way round, I blank out on handles beginning user followed by numeric digits.... - sips a drink and starts pondering... $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 29 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ Nice answer (+1). For what it's worth I am Carl A Wesolowski, MD etc. etc. You can look me up on Google Scholar: scholar.google.ca/citations?user=UxN8TroAAAAJ&hl=en if you want to. I often self-cite so that is one reason not to reveal my identity that could cause problems, which thought just occurred to me. I self-cite because I am expert enough in what I do that there is often no one else that has printed any opinion at all about what I am citing. It is also dangerous to hold unpopular opinions and doxing is all too common. (No further details, that rings a loud bell). $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented Apr 29 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @User1865345 (may I call you 186?) You are certainly one of a group identified as utterly unidentifiable but excellent long-term contributors. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented Apr 29 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ BTW, we have had some exchanges of ideas, I wouldn't say 'arguments' except in a Socratic questioning fashion, that is, one has to present ideas to develop concepts whether that happens inside the 'cave' of the mind, or in fresh air. All in all, I consider it a pleasure to exchange ideas with you, I always seem to learn something, so, I would go with a knighthood for you, rather than a bashing. $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented Apr 29 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @User1865345 I have to agree with Nick Cox there ;) $\endgroup$ Commented May 2 at 15:19
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I use my real name because I’m very opinionated about statistical modeling and what constitutes good statistical practice, and I want to be held accountable for my opinions. I feel that if someone states an opinion or claims to add knowledge to a discussion, they should be held accountable, and their credentials should be findable. Likewise, they should get credit for community service.

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) I know this is deeply serious and sincere and will be much respected. But I will add a small joke: Even if you didn't give your name, your posts would be rumbled as coming from Frank Harrell pretty quickly. But the question is: What are the effects ...? so do you want to comment on that? $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Commented May 5 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ :-). I’m not sure. I just want claimed answers to a given post to be accountable … $\endgroup$ Commented May 5 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ P.S. I don’t trust answers from anonymous persons as much as I do answers from people who use their real names. In the datamethods.org discussion forum we don’t allow anonymous registrations. $\endgroup$ Commented May 5 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ I think there's an important distinction to make between an anonymous poster and a pseudonymous one. A pseudonymous poster has a track record you can assess. You may not know my real name, but the same pseudonym is associated with all my answers and you can judge for yourself how useful they are. Truly anonymous posts would not give us any way to link different contributions from the same person. As for credentials - why should they matter when you can judge the answers on their merits? $\endgroup$
    – mkt
    Commented Jun 5 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ You must be better than I on judging an isolated answer on its merits. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 5 at 11:50
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Serious effects/reasons

It is around 2019/2020 that I changed from my real name to a pseudonym. That was when the StackExchange management had bad socially responsible behaviour. So for me the important effect of using a pseudonym is that I distance myself a bit more from the organisation StackExchange/StackOverflow. It is not to be anonymous, as I am not anonymous.

Now I care less about whoever and whatever runs the website and how they profit from it. But my ego still likes to keep a distance (and actually I should start a website for myself, like a blog, instead of placing posts on the website here; and the same is true for my use of other social media).

Also, I have once compared StackExchange with a lot of monkeys and see myself as one of the biggest amongst them. Possibly I want to distance myself subconsciously from this by not having my name here.

monkeys


Fun effects/reasons

Aside from the above side effect, I find it also fun to have a nickname. Already much of my friends used to give me all sorts of nicknames. It makes the conversation less serious. It is an informal question and answer forum here, which is reflected in the use of nicknames or first names by several people. It is also fun because this name 'Sextus Empiricus', an old philosopher from almost two millennia ago, ends up being used in citations of more serious scientific articles.

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Funny as it may seem, I'm just beginning to understand why I asked the question. As an MD, if I use my real name I cannot be honest about some of my opinions.

For example, if I say something that is not a conformal opinion about SARS-CoV-2 "vaccines," there could be a negative impact on me personally.

Here's a self-evident example using climate change, "Q: How can I change the climate? A: Move to Florida." Q: How should Biden change the climate? A: He should move to the North Pole."

In general, the idea is that the freedom to speak the truth using one's actual identity is no longer available without personal untoward negative consequences. In order to rectify that situation, and investigate what the truth is, there are times when anonymity is required so that the conversation can proceed unfettered. That is, I have no personal need to be famous or to develop a reputation, but I do have a need to explore wherein lies the truth.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 OMG, Carl years ago I misread your description as 'nuclear physicist', and I have had this image of you in my head using bra-ket notation in the day to day, bashing particles together to discover properties of interactions, etc.. Thank you for the reminder and correction that you are an MD (nuclear physician). :) $\endgroup$
    – Alexis
    Commented May 6 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexis Gee. No harm done, I identified my profession merely to satisfy the curious. $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented May 6 at 23:40
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I interpret my engagement with Q&A on CV as a kind of scholarship and also as a kind of community service, and note it as part of my scholarly agenda in my tenure and promotion-related materials. To this end using my given name and linking my user profile to my personal website (which is eponymous to my full name, and wherein resides my CV) helps authenticate my contributions here for this purpose.

Not too much deep there, but another bit of perspective to add to the excellent ones shared in other answers and comments.

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