Should we display real (first) names more prominently?

Hey everyone! :slight_smile: On this forum we have a convention among the moderators that we use our real first names as user names. There will soon be announced new additions to the moderator team and we were wondering how to deal with the convention. One option is to rename the users, but that would involve (writing a script for) changing their names throughout all forum posts. The second option, however, is to enable a setting of the forum software that has been available for some time now. This setring places real names more prominently next to the user avatar. You can see it in action on, for example.

This is how it would look like: If the user has a real name set in their preferences, the name displays where now the user name is. The latter loses its bold style and moves next to the real name.

If someone chooses not to share their real name, everything stays as it is now for them (user name in bold).

Should we enable more prominent real names?

Edit: I invite you to read the arguments below before you cast your vote.

  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

The username is used for marking and messaging users. Moving it into second position might cause confusion with some lesser experienced users. Maybe it is possible to add a @ before the usernames by default? (if the second option was implemented)


I think people who did fill out their name in the past, did not do this with this setting in mind. If they have no problem with their name being visible in their profile, but prefer to have a nickname when using the forum, they would net be able to do so any more?


If you start typing @firstname you’ll get @username suggested and the profile image is displayed too, so the confusion shouldn’t be too big.

That is true. Maybe is would be possible to erase all real names before implementing this, so then people can consciously choose to set their real name again so it will be displayed.

Actually, @Stefan my original idea was not to change the site settings, but just that the new moderators set a real name in their profiles. It would then be visible with one click - I think that’s enough.


Many people have a real name in their account because their account is linked to a social media or Github account, so the impact of this would be rather large. I, personally, always use my Github account to log in to Discourse forums as that reduces the need for creating yet another account with another (or the same) password, and Github has my real name.

E-mails from the forum are already sent using the real name in the sender field, which gives you an indication of the amount of people having a real name.


I’ve had a look at the page and think that presenting the set “real name” is rather a good thing. In my opinion it makes the posts even a bit more personal.
I’m sure the people will learn very fast that quoting using the @ symbol is only possible using the username.
I can’t see this would “reveal” more “private” information as intended by the user. So I would not erase real names before activating this option. The real name information is already now public as you can find it in the profile and emails sent by the system, independently if set manually in the profile or imported from e.g. github.
So the people really concerned would even be presented here with the information they’ve already made public.
This is all why I think it’d be a good change.


I don’t think, that it would be a good idea.

Simply because erveryone registered with this forum has made a choice for the user-name to be linked to postings and for all the other information entered into the profile.
Everyone had the choice to use the real name for a username.
If someone chose not to do so, this should be respected in my opinion and not changed. Not even if the majority of the users would agree.

Right now this forum is listing more than 20,000 users. Many of them are not or no longer active. They might not even take notice of this discussion or the change.
I don*t know, if search engines are linking postings to the real name given in the profile now, but they sure will, once the user-names are switched with the real names.
And finally I consider it quite disproportionate to make a change affecting more than 20,000 registered users, just to get a single-digit number of team-members presented by their real-names.

The way I see it, the convention of first names for moderators is a rather weak one, as not only moderators present themselves by their first names. To me the tag “Community mod” is the thing to look for and not the name.


Oh, I misunderstood you there. I don’t think it’s enough.

@danielsjohan I cannot understand why someone, who sets their real name in the profile in the first place should have a problem with having it placed more prominently. I’m sure that everyone who sets their real name does so on purpose.

@BertG As outlined in my first post, nothing would change for people who don’t set their real names in the respective preference setting.

This is not about two or three new moderators; I have the whole community in mind. Anonymity can destroy online communities and I’m glad that so far this place is led by real people and not by trolls that hide behind cryptic user names. I don’t want to force anyone to reveal their real name, but I expect the moderators to set a good example. People who want to follow this example can set their real name / choose a real name as their forum user name and people who don’t want to reveal their real name don’t have to. Nothing whatsoever would change for them.

I think there is a huge difference between having your real name somewhere in your profile, and putting it on top of every message you post. Not in the least if your posts can therefore easily be found using an external search engine.

For me, your goal (real first name is used) does not outweigh the problems this solution poses.


Couldn’t have put it better.
Plus, as I already stated, it’s a decision for thousands of users, that might not be aware of this discussion at all.

Still it is not mandatory to give a real name.
So it might be a valid line of thinking, but in my opinion it’s not really a compelling argument.
I would rather consider it a counter-argument, as the history of this forum with more than 20,000 users by now has proven, that trolling is no big problem. And a vague future threat can hardly justify such a change.

Btw.: Maybe someone could check if such a change might violate the GDPR [en] / DSGVO [de] / RGPD [fr], as it establishes a direct connection between the name and all the posts.

Just for the record: I don’t fight my own case here, as I really couldn’t care less, having the username as “real name” since day one.


Your forum posts would indeed be listed under the name you choose in the search results of internet search engines. "Jeff Atwood" yields these results, for example:

Discourse New User Tips and Tricks - blog - Discourse Meta

codinghorror ( Jeff Atwood ) 2016-12-16 12:38:53 UTC #2 If there are any other tricks and tips - non-obvious essentials that every new Discourse user should know , please provide suggestions on that here.

I for sure wouldn’t want it to be mandatory to give a real name. What I want is an amicable atmosphere where I can get to know people by their (first) name if they want to share it with me.

And I do think that real names influence the discussion culture of an online community. It’s much easier to insult each other if you are hiding behind a nickname and the other person is just a nickname themselves. Not saying that it happens often here, but I could also speculate and say it is because many people chose to use their real name as user name.

Ultimtely it boils down to the question: Do we trust people to know what they are doing or do we not?

@Monica.Ciovica Could you share your views on this topic?

Edit.: I’ve just consulted the user database and here are my findings:

  • 14693 out of 20526 users have their real name set. This is 71.6%.
  • 10350 real names contain a space (indicating that a last name is set). This is 50.4% of all users.

I also see an other question boiling up: do we want to avoid a possible future problem, by introducing this rather unexpected measure? :slight_smile:


Please explain the problems you are seeing.

I have an issue about privacy, out of principle.

Right now, everyone can give their full name in their profile. It can be found in 1 click. No problem for me, or many other people who did provide their names.
The system you propose, makes it possible to see this full name without any click, at the cost of also being able to find it using Google. I just don’t see why it would be so important to be able to see the full name without any click, in a community that clearly cares about privacy…


And one click to find out that name is too much for you?

I agree with @danielsjohan.
Also as long as nobody publicly replies to you using your real name (which is rare, if it’s not the displayed name) you can hide it with a few clicks. As soon as your real name is displayed prominently people will use it in replies and you’ll have a harder time erasing all mentions of your name on the forum.


Just a little throw-in: I mostly use the forum on my FP1 and there is no handy user card. Looking at the profile involves a new tab and in most cases reloading the old tab because the RAM ran when the new tab was loaded.


Sorry to disagree there.
It ultimately boils down to the question:
Is there a need for changing a yearlong experienced system other than creating an atmosphere that some might find more amicable?

Does that outweigh the privacy-concerns of other users, the fact that even in this discussion there is no majority for the change and the still unsolved issue, that more than 20,000 users are affected. And not every entry in the field “name” equals “real names”.
Checking the user list just now, I even found a user, that entered an e-Mail adress in this field.
In a case like that your change might expose this mail-adress much more to search engines.


Well, I do not see a reason to introduce more prominent real names and require moderators to disclose their real names:

  • Everyone had the choice of presenting their real name prominently by using it as the user name.
  • We had no severe problems with abusive and badly-behaving users over the last three years.
  • Here are many users who find that privacy is very important and won’t share their data with big companies. Requiring real names would weaken that privacy and allows big companies and intelligence agencies to link their Fairphone forum profile to other profiles on the Internet. Also, it would allow the company at which you are applying to see your posts on the Internet (and analysing them to see if you fit the company’s convictions). Such issues would prevent some privacy-conscious users from posting.
  • Real names would not necessarily cause a better discussion style. Example Facebook: Do the real names prevent bad behaviour like insulting and posting inhuman contents? Is the discussion style at Facebook better than here?
  • We, like Facebook, cannot check if the “real” name is actually real or taken from the Fake Name Generator.
  • Some users (including me) are well-known here by their user name, it stands at every post of them. “Renaming” them would lead to confusion as they didn’t use it previously.
  • The first name is, in most cases, less unique than a “cryptical username”. What if another Stefan comes around?
  • Would you actually know me better if I would have registered with my real name (without googling me)? Would you have more trust in me if I would have disclosed my real name to everyone? (I would actually have the same trust in you if you call yourself “stebra” or “Viennese” instead of “Stefan”.)
  • In other communities (for example other forums or Wikipedia), telling the real name is rather uncommon, and so there are users with elevated permissions (moderators/administrators) who don’t tell their real name.
  • You have surely chosen the “new” moderators amongst well-known users with high-quality posts. They have, regardless if they disclosed their real name, proven that they haven’t been abusive yet so you can expect that they won’t be abusive in the future. If a moderator unfortunately becomes abusive, the moderator rights can be revoked.

Good thing you didn’t forget the comma. :wink:


Another point to consider:

As it is now, the profile (and therefore the real name) is only visible to people who are logged in.

Showing the real name next to the user avatar would make it visible to the public.

I think this shouldn’t be done without asking all users for their consent.