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What are the advantages and disadvantages to using your real name online?

I've just created an anonymous StackExchange account. My motivation is driven by the reluctance to spark up conversation for fear of offending or even be sacked over some of the views I hold.

Does anyone else feel that under their real name they can't speak openly about issues (like endemic poor management in development projects or the horrific mediocrity permeating large corporates) in case people you work with, or worked with, stumble across the thread - especially as controversy often attracts a wide audience?

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I'm curious about what you could post here that would be so very controversial... –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 26 '11 at 17:52
    
Should this be migrated to meta? –  maple_shaft Sep 26 '11 at 18:00
    
How strong are your opinions if you wouldn't be willing to defend them? –  Andrew Finnell Sep 26 '11 at 19:33
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marked as duplicate by Mark Trapp Sep 26 '11 at 18:30

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3 Answers

Sounds like you take a very negative view to your employer. Although I use my alias, it would be pretty easy to trace me back to my employer - the thing is, I don't give them anything that would be offensive, against and NDA, or in poor taste.

If I have an issue with management that I'm seeking feedback from the community on, I just frame it in a way that isn't offensive. You can have issues with teams or projects without putting everyone on blast and your career on the line.

If you don't like the idea of toning it down, use your anonymous alias and start a blog. You can say whatever you want.

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My current contract is actually okay but there are managerial problems. I don't want to use an anonymous account to be rude, I haven't been so far, but even just saying what I've said would be seriously negative if my boss read it. –  Anonymous One Sep 26 '11 at 17:56
    
I'd say play it safe, but if it is that important, you should really be talking to them about it (that's my thought, anyway) –  Nic Sep 26 '11 at 17:57
    
@AnonymousOne, Stop worrying about what your boss thinks of your online activities. If my employer cared enough to search the internet to see if I was bad mouthing him then that isn't the kind of person I would want to work for anyway. –  maple_shaft Sep 26 '11 at 19:12
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No. I always stand by what I state in any form (written or verbal). That's why I try to create accounts on various services under my real name. I am an optimist and I always think that people follow Voltaire's saying when debating/arguing with me: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

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You may believe in that saying (as do I), but sadly history has repeatedly shown that some people will not only not defend to death your right to say something, but will actively seek to bring about your death for saying it. –  OrbWeaver Sep 26 '11 at 18:36
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Nice question, since I've seen many stackExchange threads where some people speak openly and somewhat aggressively about deficits in their corporation/teams and seem to post under their real names. Two things I would do differently:

  • although it's concise when they talk about problems so directly, I'd rather try to relativize and talk about cons and pros as neutral and objective as possible. I try to give constructive feedback directly to the persons involved and speak about those persons in the same way (or better) when they are not around.
  • I don't post under my real name. I prefer data privacy and hence make it a point to use my nickname instead of my real name everywhere (I'm not a Ball...). My friends do know the mapping, but I don't want google/facebook/future employees to know it.
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I agree with the first point wholeheartedly - there's an issue when it turns into a wholly negative venting session. –  Nic Sep 26 '11 at 17:58
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