And I Didn't Even Catch Her Name...
When I was younger, and much more naive about teh interwebz and my career, I made a massive mistake.

It was my first week in a very difficult PhD program. I had moved across the country. I was surrounded by big fish who all had their Masters' degrees - and there I was, a girl with a Texan accent, the first in my family to graduate college, having come to this prestigious east coast university PhD program with nothing but a Bachelor's degree to my name.

For my first seminar, my professor was my hero. This particular professor was the reason I came to this university and he/she was known all over in my field for their work. There were stars in my eyes, I swear.

And then I spent my first week trying to understand who the fuck this Foucault dude was, and what the hell he was saying. The night before my second meeting of that particular seminar class, all alone in my tiny shoebox apartment, I drank myself into a complete stupor out of pure frustration and fear that I had made a huge mistake, and was in over my head. I was supposed to have read this entire Foucault book, and though I had tried, I had no idea what this crazy French guy was talking about. I mean c'mon. Have you READ Foucault?

The next day in class, I was very hungover and sick. It took everything in me not to burst into tears. I thought I was smart; I'd been top of my class in my little podunk program at home. But these people were brilliant, and I had no idea what they were talking about.

Back in those days, I was a big fan of Livejournal. And I went to some random Livejournal community for new graduate students, and tried to make light of my situation by venting. I joked that I had shown up drunk for my very first seminar class of my PhD program (which, as I mentioned previously, wasn't actually true). It made me laugh to think I could be that careless, and when I want to share a funny story, I always use artistic license and exagerrate a bit, if you hadn't noticed. Making a joke out of the whole thing made Foucault look a little less terrifying to me. It helped me to downplay the severity of the situation in which I found myself by making it all into a big joke. And since I knew absolutely no one, and had no friends, I turned to this internet forum.

And for some stupid reason that I will never understand, I posted with my real name.

Within two hours, a 7th year PhD student had contacted me and asked who my professor was, and the specifics on the class. She recognized my name because she knew who the new students in the program were that year. This person did not find my story funny, and of course did not realize how much I exagerrated the situation, or that I was really quite frightened and lost. This student cared about the reputation of her program, and I had just made a complete fool out of myself in a community for graduate students on the internet. For some reason I will never know (maybe a divine blessing of luck and pity from the PhD gods), I do not think she personally contacted my professor (who, by the way, was supposed to be my advisor) and tell him/her about my alleged irresponsible behavior.

I promptly went back and deleted my post, set all my internet profiles to private, and tried to erase any scrap of my name. One semester later, I withdrew from this PhD program (not just because of this incident mind you), but I learned a very valuable lesson.

One day, if all the stars align properly, maybe I will have the opportunity to publish my thesis. Maybe I will get the chance to research with some of my role models. I learned to veil the Texan accent at conferences. I learned how to read Foucault. I learned how to behave properly in an Academic environment.

Here, at my blog, I don't have to worry about that - because I don't release my name. I'm sure someone could find it if they chose to do so. However, I do not want to make it easy for others to find out who I am, and associate the name under which I hope to publish really smart stuff with a blog in which I talked ad nauseam about bubbles and Devout Mantles. Being a WoW gamer is not exactly a mark of prestige in my field. It would not be a hobby that worked in my favor, but in fact, more than likely the opposite. Yes, it might be stupid that this perception exists, but it is what it is, and I have accepted that.

The people who work at Blizzard don't have to worry about their future employers knowing how much time they spent on the WoW forums. So while it may be a nice thought that Nethaera (whom I adore) and Bashiok and Zarhym and all the others are also willing to post their Real Names, my future career is not likely going to be in the gaming industry.

I really did want to be a Priestly version of Lissanna, who is very well known on the Druid forums for her contributions to the Druid community at large. I wanted to post guides and stickies and suggestions for Priests on our forum. For awhile there, I was doing just that, and just hadn't done it for awhile.

But, I'm sorry, I cannot risk my future career on a hobby. It is, after all, supposed to be a Role Playing Game. I'm sorry that I will not be able to contribute to the official WoW community on the forums come Cataclysm. If Blizz wants to add more accountability to forum posters, then I would be perfectly happy to pick an alias under which every single forum post I made could be associated. I would be happy to have it be an alias under which people could contact me in-game. If I'm rude, you can confront me in game. But I will not let a game potentially ruin my real life.
16 Responses
  1. Deyndor Says:

    Wow, you were stupid to post your real name...

    Seriously though, I can't really comment negatively on your actions, because I've done similar things before. And yes, it was a terribly poor decision, but I suppose those come with life. In any case, I won't be using the forums come cataclysm.

  2. Sohei Says:

    And in a few paragraphs, that explains precisely why the Real ID changes are a bad thing. Whether or not I want to reveal my real name, I certainly want the option. And I know how much the net can come back to hunt you. You aren't alone with your concerns, MM :)

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Man, I don't blame you at all.

    I have the strange situation in which the name I associate with is NOT my legal name. Yet. So part of my reluctance to post, on top of potential employers googling me, is the fact that I just do not identify with the name on my account.

    On top of that, I'm going to be going for my teaching degree come January (I HOPE), and while my personal blog DOES have my own (chosen, and soon hopefully legal) name attached to it, it's very easy for me to LOCK entries (thank gods for LJ mass-security) from before my school days, make certain kinds of posts locked to friends, and not make a COMPLETE idiot of myself online. I have my WoW-gamer persona that I LIKE to be associated with my characters - I don't want my real self tangled up in all that.

    And what about the minors? Will they just not be allowed to post on the forums anymore? What about people who might actually be famous behind those avatars? There are SO MANY reasons why it's a bad thing to force you to post with your real name, and if they don't understand that after the outpouring of "WTF YOU BEEN SMOKING?" beforehand, they almost certainly will when the forums are all but ABANDONED by everyone but the trolls who don't care, and the handful of people who don't give a shit.

    (Totally off-topic, but my word verification is "noncers" and I died of giggles.)

  4. Kiryn Says:

    I'm just waiting for Blizzard's retraction post of "I don't know what we were thinking, you've all done a very good job of why this is a terrible horrible thing and we're so very sorry, here's a free pony, please forgive us!"

    If their goal was to shut down their forums, this will certainly cause it. I know if this change goes through, I will never be posting on the official forums again.

    It's not because I'm worried about potential employers finding out that I like to post bug reports on official game forums (which is considered a good thing to my potential employers, since that's pretty much what I get paid to do at the moment) but because I hate my real name and I want it to die. I don't want anyone associating any name other than Kiryn Silverwing with me or my posts or anything else about me.

    I DO NOT USE my legal name in any public way online outside of my LinkedIn profile, which is not linked to my preferred name in any way. The only places I ever use my real name is when I'm required to in order to purchase things using a credit card. Like, say, paying for my WoW account.

  5. Tam Says:

    Well, Foucault would drive anyone to drink... ;)

    But, yes, I am in exactly the same position. To be honest, I never posted much on the WoW forums either, having no pretensions to know much about being a priest, but I certainly won't know. The las thing I want when people google my name is to come up against ridiculous posts about dinosaurs or disquisitions on how a DK questline moved me. Talk about How To Sink Your Career In One Easy Step.

  6. Redbeard Says:


    Just because Blizz operates in a gaming bubble where they don't truly realize the impact with the outside world isn't an excuse. There are supposed to be consultants and lawyers and other experts who are aware that gaming is down somewhere in the basement of acceptance by the world at large. (I think being a grocery store stocker is higher on the totem pole than being a gamer.)

    Maybe Blizz thinks they're going to make a big strike for gamers everywhere by showing "Hey! Look at Joe CEO! He plays WoW!" to general public, but I don't think it'll work like that. It'll be more along the lines of "Oh, Joe CEO is a real creep and weirdo! Isn't being CEO enough for ya?"

    If Blizz wants to stop trolling, this is the sledgehammer to catch a fly trick.

  7. Codi Says:

    Oh man, Foucalt... I remember reading some of his stuff in college. LOL The fact that I don't really remember what I was reading -about- shows something about my college life. ;D

  8. Oddly Says:

    Yup. It's wrong, and if non-optional RLtransparency does come to pass, the massive degradation of the forums brought about by the absence of all of you (and less significantly, me) will surely compel the addition of an option of anonymity in fairly short order. It's absurd not to offer that protection to those who need or want it.

    Equally lamentable, to me, would be the loss of fantasy, in its purest sense, which, after all, is what it's all about, isn't it? (My god, I don't think I've ever written a sentence of fewer than 25 words with seven commas.) There's a whimsical charm to playing with Xurf and Bhavatarini and Rezella and reading about Jessabelle and Tamarind and Codi, like hearing a beautiful song in a foreign language: the words can mean anything the music conjures to mind -- the magic is in the music, what you know and feel about the character behind the character.

    And Foucault! I read a book by Umberto Eco once called Foucault's Pendulum, a wonderful conspiratorially convoluted mess, as complicated and fantastic as anything Foucault ever published. Finally, Jess darlin', please don't forsake the Texas accent completely. Like my good friend the Kinkster says, "You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't wipe your friends on your saddle." Rock on.

  9. Endyme Says:

    I am very much not a fan of this upcoming change. Yes it's 'optional', but it's going to cut off alot of folks who for a variety of reasons don't wish to publicly reveal their real names. I'm still trying to figure out though, because the announcement says the change pertains to new Cata forums, so maybe we can still post under our character names in the old forums. Or will they be shut down, I wonder?

    I just can't see the sense in this decision. Why not have one name per account (of your choosing) to use in place of a real name? WHY does it have to be our real names? To get rid of trolls? BS. If a troll posts something under the name John Smith, it means nothing to me. It would be just as effective to post under a name he chose and will get known by.

    Guess I'll continue not using the forums like I have for years.

  10. Very nice explanation of why this RealID thing is bad. It's not just jobs, though. It's being harassed by psychos. Let me recount my own adventures back in Usenet days. I was, I admit it, a flame queen. I enjoyed the mental stimulation of intelligent flaming (yes, there is intelligent flaming). I had a bit of a following, folks who admired my sharp wit and clever repartee.

    And then one day I managed to annoy one of the resident trolls so badly he looked me up. Easy to do (despite what the FBI agent who contacted me claimed) because I foolishly used an email address from my web design/hosting service. A quick whois turned up my company address and real name. A directory search turned up the only person by that name in my state.

    He then posted all of my personal information in several Usenet forum . .my home address, my home and business phone . . and then emailed me privately telling me he was going to kidnap my eldest daughter and torture he until she hated me.

    It did not help that this email arrived on the birthday of my youngest daughter who had actually been kidnapped a few years before (and who I have not seen in 19 years).

    I sorted it all out. Managed to do what the FBI wasn't able to do and protect my family. But it was a wake up call. And to this day although you can google my real name and my primary emails, you cannot find an address or home phone for me. This is just not information I share.

    Not everyone is as vigilant as I am. I can often find folks personal information using a variety of services. That was why I set up a "gaming" id a few years back. Alas, I did not use it when I set up Battlenet. In retrospect, I should have.

    Blizzard needs to consider this. Exposing women to some of the creeps who play WoW is just asking for a tragedy to happen. It's bad enough we can face in game harassment when juvenile males find out we are real women, I can't imagine how scary my life would be in if the one psychopath in NYC who has threatened me could put a real name and location to my game name. :shudder:

  11. Ophelie Says:

    While I do think RealID on the forums is just asking for trouble and I'm not for it in any way, I'm surprised how safe people feel under a handle.

    The internet isn't anonymous. I go by the principle than anything I write can be read by anyone. Lots of people have lost their jobs over blog rants without giving their real name.

    Obviously the WoW forums are a different circumstance- no one's going to think "I wonder if this employee plays WoW...I'm going to stalk them until I find their possible pseudonym" while a quick name googling will pull all forum posts.

    I just want to discourage the idea that anyone can say anything they want about their job/collegues/school/boyfriend/family if they do it under a fake name. It *will* come and bite them in the arse eventually.

    On a side note, and I've wondered this about Lissanna as well, I know you've considered applying to in the past, which has its writers post under real names. What do you think of that?

  12. @Ophelie

    You are absolutely right. Someone could find out all kinds of stuff about me just by looking up my handle. But I don't want to make it *easy*, you know?

    Personally, I'm actually more concerned about potential employers finding out about my internet shenanigans than the other way around. Unless it's for a higher level security clearance I don't think they would do a very in-depth search, so I just want to be sure that it's not splattered all over the front few pages of google when searching my name.

    In regards to the columnist position, I thought about that A LOT when I applied, i really did. I finally decided that since my needs at the moment were greater than my potential losses in the future (because I really did want some income), then it was worth the risk.

    I wasn't very disappointed when I didn't get the job though. I actually kinda gave a sigh of relief. I would have been entirely invested and open had I been hired - but since I wasn't, I can maintain some semblance of anonyminity. I let make the decision for me on whether or not I would "come out", as it were.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Lets not forget that Blizzard already know who we are. They can see that any one of my characters is a link back to my real name and that they can do a search for all my posts.

    This is not about cleaning the forums. It is about integrating Battle.Net with Facebook.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I'm sorry - I love your blog and all, but all the whining on the internet is getting me a little pissed :P
    You realise that you just have to tick a box in some preferences, and all will be OK... everything will go back to the way it was.. no RaidID.
    So enough with the hyperbole.

    Love the blog.

  15. Anontmous2 Says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Creating parental controls, and making sure the box for RealID is NOT checked, does NOT as far as most people can tell... turn off RealID.

    All it does is the following:

    Prevents the account from adding or accepting real ID friend requests.

    Removes any current or existing RealID friends.

    Does not allow you to post on the new forums even if you wanted to.

    RealID can not be "disabled". Your mods still have the potential of harvesting your real name.

    Keep in mind some people are reporting that RealID STILL works even after parental controls are turned on to disable it.

    Obviously then it's a flag, similar to permissions to a folder rather then disabling the feature entirely. Using the folder scenario, you can still browse other files, since the feature is still active, but you can't get into that folder since the security flag says you aren't allowed to.

    That's what parental controls do.

  16. Exanna Says:

    So, is this going to be retroactive? Will it go back and change our in-gmae names to Real ID names? If so, that blows.

    Oh, yeah, hey, Miss Medicina! Hope all is well.

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