RealID on Forums = Major Fail.

My name is pretty well known. I have spent more than ten years as a free software and gnu/linux contributing developer and as such my name is stuck in GPL copyright notices on several thousand downloadable files on the internet, along with e-mail addresses over that time.
I also happen to share a name with a celebrity (at least a local South African one) – and if you google my name – him and me make up the entirety of the first three pages. My name is at the top of this blog. It is also not hard to link my name to my WoW characters, I tweet their achievements and write roleplay stories about them on this blog on a regular basis.

My name being well known has simply never bothered me. But I do understand that it bothers people. The odds of any given person being stalked may be incredibly low but it’s non-zero and I most fervently believe that people should get to choose who they share their name with online. Blizzard’s decision to not only link posts to a RealID but to put real names with each post on the forums in future removes this choice.

As a way to combat trolls it’s among the stupidest things I’ve ever heard off. If they can’t moderate the forums, then start building a decent system for users to be able to. No need to even invent one, Slashdot has perfected one over the past decade and hell, their source code is available for free download. User-moderated, to the point where trolls nowadays just drop below the radar before you ever even have to see them.

The fact is, it doesn’t matter how real or perceived risks are here – much more crucially than that. This is a case where people’s right to choose who they want to share what information with is being removed by a company. Isn’t the customer supposed to always be right ? This probably closes on violating the privacy laws of some countries. Even where it doesn’t, it’s a matter of principle that people should get to choose these things.

Me, as well known as my name is in my particular fields of endeavor, as much as I have never made an effort to hide it (I’m a writer and an artist and a creator of software, on the contrary – it’s to my ADVANTAGE to get my name as widely known as possible. For a large part of my career, exposure was a very valuable TOOL for my own use) – I won’t be using the official forums with this live. Because I don’t like not getting to choose, and out of solidarity with everybody who really doesn’t WANT their names known. As much as I never considered my name (or even phone number) particularly private – I CHOOSE which communities it is known in and when I prefer to talk under a pseudonym.

For blizzard to turn the forums into some kind of WoW social network is for me to permanently stop using them. So it is for a LOT of other people – privacy is a right and only we have the right to choose when and where to claim it. The backlash from this has been tremendous and blizzard is fighting hard to save face now – but frankly, there is none to be saved. Undo this blizzard.

Having a single-sign on via your account is fine, mapping that to SHOWING your real name is not. Not everybody has a common name, not everybody shares one with a well-known mainstream media figure. I choose who and where I put my name down, you don’t get to decide for me. If you don’t give me the option to post anonymously when I so choose, then I choose not to post at all.

UPDATE: Since this post appeared Blizzard rescinded it’s decision thus the post no longer applies.