68 votes

Online anonymity: study found ‘stable pseudonyms’ created a more civil environment than real user names

31 comments

  1. [9]
    Oslypsis
    (edited )
    Link
    This shouldn't have surprised me. I've always been one of those kinds of people who create new instances of things like starting at a new school, social media accounts, mascots/avatar characters...

    This shouldn't have surprised me. I've always been one of those kinds of people who create new instances of things like starting at a new school, social media accounts, mascots/avatar characters and who/what they represent, and even email accounts which always just ended up like the last ones - cluttered. But especially Minecraft worlds. I could enjoy the ability to start a new blank "persona," as the article calls it, where I can have any first impression I want.

    For example, with Minecraft, I'm not always happy with the builds I make, and I could never bring myself to build in a discombobulated theme around my world like some others can. So, I create new worlds over and over and revel in the "defaultness" of Minecraft's overworld. So much so, that one of my favorite worlds only had me modifying and expanding upon an in game plains village in that classic default style, with small builds and minimal detailing, and only slightly changing the village's palette to include birch wood.

    But this effect was especially true with my PlanetMinecraft account as opposed to any other website's account I had, where I was hitting PMC's popular/trending page often because people liked my resource packs. I felt like I was being recognized, like my name was important. I felt as if it was my brand, and I had built up a strong reputation, just like the article said. I'm level 62 now, with the vast majority of that growth owed to diamonds earned on my packs. Those levels, to me, are important. Maybe because it's a kind of validation? A validation that I created desired aesthetic content, which is what any graphic designer would want. I wonder if I would have been as sensitive to this if I'd had an artistic/graphic designer job at the same time.

    So, while I didn't (and still don't) really talk on the PMC forums like it's social media, I still have a sort of "business" persona when responding to comments on my submissions. I see it like I have to do one of those jobs where a company like Wendy's has a twitter account and responds to comments about their food/service. I haven't been on PMC as much lately, but I just updated one of my resource packs, and that proud, professional feeling always comes back whenever I update or submit something there.

    Yet, despite this, I was surprised to see that linking people's posts to their real names and facebook accounts made things worse than when everyone was just using pseudonyms. I'd love to know why that is, like from a psychological perspective. Is it a reflection on how they see their real self-worth? As in, if they aren't happy with who they really are, they feel their comment quality must reflect that? Whereas with a pseudonym, they can feign qualities they wish they had and "log off" this persona when the emotional labor of the facade is too much for their real, flawed self to handle. Or maybe I'm projecting a bit here. Maybe it's a real life way of expressing conflicting behaviors/traits/beliefs in our real selves as a sort of self discovery.

    36 votes
    1. [2]
      Mendanbar
      Link Parent
      As an aside, this post led me to look you up on PMC, download a few of your packs, and follow you there. Your packs are really good!

      As an aside, this post led me to look you up on PMC, download a few of your packs, and follow you there. Your packs are really good!

      4 votes
    2. [6]
      Crossroads
      Link Parent
      How do you make resource packs? Could I use Aesprite to edit the files?

      How do you make resource packs? Could I use Aesprite to edit the files?

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        adorac
        Link Parent
        Not OP, but yes, you totally can! Aseprite is a great tool, and one I also use for packs. You can absolutely find a better guide online, but I'd recommend the following to get started: Copy your...

        Not OP, but yes, you totally can! Aseprite is a great tool, and one I also use for packs. You can absolutely find a better guide online, but I'd recommend the following to get started:

        1. Copy your target Minecraft version's jar file somewhere else and rename it to (for example) 1.20.zip. Open it up and extract the assets folder, pack.mcmeta, and pack.png to a separate folder.
        2. That folder is now the vanilla resource pack! You can explore the file structure and find textures you'd like to change.
        3. When you make changes, make sure to save them to a separate folder (but with the same structure and the vanilla one). So VanillaPack/assets/minecraft/textures/item/diamond.png should be moved to YourPack/assets/minecraft/textures/item/diamond.png. Aseprite is perfect for this!
        4. Copy pack.mcmeta to the root of your folder. This will tell Minecraft that your folder is a resource pack. You can edit it to change your pack's name and description.
        5. Personally, I like to edit my resource pack directly in the resourcepacks directory. That way I can easily just hit F3+T in Minecraft to reload the textures immediately.

        I'd check out this guide on the Minecraft Wiki for a more detailed guide. Good luck!

        8 votes
        1. Crossroads
          Link Parent
          Thank you so much for the condensed information, I figure I have a lot of reading and research to do in terms of pixel art and how to get the particular look and style I'm going for. I am not a...

          Thank you so much for the condensed information, I figure I have a lot of reading and research to do in terms of pixel art and how to get the particular look and style I'm going for. I am not a traditional artist, but I tend to do well in pixel art so I think that may play to my strengths.

          Either way, I very much value your input and advice, and I'll look more into the steps you've outlined! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

          2 votes
      2. [3]
        Oslypsis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I've never heard of Aesprite, but to make a pack, you'd need any program that can draw on a 16x16 pixel image and be able to save it as a .png with the same filename as the image in the default...

        I've never heard of Aesprite, but to make a pack, you'd need any program that can draw on a 16x16 pixel image and be able to save it as a .png with the same filename as the image in the default vanilla pack.

        After you download the default vanilla pack, take a look inside and make note of the folder structure. You'll recreate this folder structure path, at least for the items you want to change. When you open the assets folder, then minecraft folder, you'll see a bunch of folders like blockstate, models, textures, etc. These three are the ones I edit most. Blockstates are the files that need to be read for the game to understand that if you have an oak sapling in your hand and click the ground, it is to place whatever block model that is defined in the Blockstate's "oak_sapling.json" file, which should point to the models folder ofc. The models folder defines the shape and sometimes other properties of the block in the world (you can make your own models with a free program called Blockbench) and the file points to which textures should go on which parts of the model. Then ofc you make sure your new image is in the textures folder (inside whichever folder it is originally found in, like "items", "blocks", etc).

        But that's a bit more advanced than just changing textures. Let's look at the blocks prismarine and oak planks.

        For the oak texture, all that's necessary is to create a new 16x16 png and save it with the same file name in the same folder structure.

        Prismarine is animated, which uses an extra mcmeta file inside the same folder you find its texture png. Note that prismarine's image is 4x taller than a regular block's image. Starting from the top in a 16x16 area in the image, you have frame 0, then 1, then 2, and finally frame 3, making a total of four frames that, inside prismarine's mcmeta file, you can set how it swaps between frames. At the top of the mcmeta file (edit with any plain text editor), "interpolation" being true means fading between the frames, and the duration to change frames is 300 iirc for prismarine. That makes a smooth, slow transition. The numbers below are the order in which the frames will swap to and will loop back to the top of the number list.

        Once you're happy with the new image (and animation if you wanted one), make sure the block png files are in a folder called "blocks" which should be inside "textures" and the textures folder is inside a folder called "minecraft" which should be inside a folder called "assets". You shouldn't have any extra files that you don't need in order to change what you want. For example, don't include the crafting_bench.png image if you didn't change it. In fact, it's copyright infringement if you upload Mojang's original artwork online. Whether you need to edit things inside the models and blockstate folders is dependent on what you want to change and in what way.

        Place the "assets" folder inside a titled folder like "My Custom Resource Pack". Inside your title folder alongside your "assets" folder, you'll need a pack.mcmeta file for it to function (you can use any plain text editor to change both .json and .mcmeta files), and preferably an icon.png for a little thumbnail to show on the in game resource pack screen when you're choosing which ones you want to use in your game. I'd copy the mcmeta file from the default vanilla pack and just paste that, and maybe change its description as it will show under your pack's name on the in game screen. Your icon.png doesn't have to be 16x16, but it does need to be square. If you end up with the game warning you that "this pack was made for an older/newer version of minecraft blah blah blah" when trying to apply it in game, you'll want to change the pack.mcmeta's version number to fit the version you're playing on. This is really annoying because every new version has a new number, and for some reason, Mojang went with something like "version 8 means you play on 1.16.2" or something. Just Google the version number matchups.

        And you probably already know this part if you've ever installed a resource pack, but I'll say it anyway. To play with your pack, go in game, open the options > resource packs screen and press the left button at the bottom to locate your game's resource packs folder. Then drag your "My Custom Resource Pack" folder in there. Then it'll show up in the menu in game, and just click its thumbnail to move it to the right side of the menu, and done.

        To upload your pack online, select the 3 files inside your title folder and compress/zip them, and rename the .zip to "My Custom Resource Pack.zip" and upload it to a website like PlanetMinecraft.com. Do not select your title folder and attempt to zip that, as it won't work correctly when someone downloads it and tries to just place the .zip version inside their resource packs folder. They'd have to unzip it if you do it that way.

        Idk how thorough my explanation was, but there are tons of tutorials online to follow along with. What I did to learn is download a pack that edits the same things that I want to edit and dissect the files to learn how they work.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          Crossroads
          Link Parent
          I'd like to revisit this comment and say how much I appreciate how in depth and comprehensive it is in regards to the question I asked. You are very kind to expand so much on a simple question I...

          I'd like to revisit this comment and say how much I appreciate how in depth and comprehensive it is in regards to the question I asked. You are very kind to expand so much on a simple question I asked, and I really do appreciate your input and wisdom.

          4 votes
          1. Oslypsis
            Link Parent
            Oh, you're very welcome! I like helping others learn how to make these things because it opens up options for future packs I might end up using ;)

            Oh, you're very welcome! I like helping others learn how to make these things because it opens up options for future packs I might end up using ;)

            1 vote
  2. [17]
    Wolf_359
    Link
    I can think of two potential reasons: The barrier to entry for stable pseudonyms was enough to dissuade people from putting in the effort toward angry shit posts. Since everyone and their...

    I can think of two potential reasons:

    1. The barrier to entry for stable pseudonyms was enough to dissuade people from putting in the effort toward angry shit posts. Since everyone and their grandmother already has a Facebook for other purposes, the barrier to entry for just using an existing Facebook account is effectively zero.

    2. People who have more intelligence and awareness are less likely to share their opinions using their real identities no matter how vanilla the opinion. I wouldn't even use my real name to say something as uncontroversial as "I think potholes should be fixed." What you're left with in this scenario is a huge group of people who are too dumb or too shameless to care. We've all seen them. Absolutely zero fear about using their real LinkedIn to debate the merits of genocide. No fucks given.

    These seem like the simplest explanations to me. What do you guys think?

    28 votes
    1. [12]
      redwall_hp
      Link Parent
      I tend to feel the same way. I've been online long enough to know what to expect. I don't know if it's just contrarianism, trolling or just it being statistically likely that someone actually...

      I wouldn't even use my real name to say something as uncontroversial as "I think potholes should be fixed."

      I tend to feel the same way. I've been online long enough to know what to expect. I don't know if it's just contrarianism, trolling or just it being statistically likely that someone actually believes it (and passionately), but someone will inevitably scream about how they can't stand the idea of potholes being fixed.

      22 votes
      1. [11]
        vord
        Link Parent
        Fuck it let the roads rot. No better way than to break car dependence! :)

        Fuck it let the roads rot. No better way than to break car dependence!

        :)

        13 votes
        1. [10]
          MimicSquid
          Link Parent
          You joke, but that is an actual thing my wife said regarding pothole repair on our block. When the pavement is good, people speed. When there's giant potholes, it's a much safer road to cross.

          You joke, but that is an actual thing my wife said regarding pothole repair on our block. When the pavement is good, people speed. When there's giant potholes, it's a much safer road to cross.

          5 votes
          1. [9]
            vord
            Link Parent
            Oh yea. I've been contemplating throwing down some unauthorized speed deterrents.

            Oh yea. I've been contemplating throwing down some unauthorized speed deterrents.

            2 votes
            1. [8]
              DefinitelyNotAFae
              Link Parent
              I know this is mostly joking and all as an FYI speed bumps and potholes and other obstacles are difficult to manage when driving a passenger in a wheelchair van and are literally painful for my...

              I know this is mostly joking and all as an FYI speed bumps and potholes and other obstacles are difficult to manage when driving a passenger in a wheelchair van and are literally painful for my partner when they're not avoidable (or avoiding them causes a similar amount of pain).

              4 votes
              1. [7]
                MimicSquid
                Link Parent
                Thank you for mentioning the needs of disabled people when it comes to road design. Do you and your partner have a preferred type of traffic calming measure?

                Thank you for mentioning the needs of disabled people when it comes to road design. Do you and your partner have a preferred type of traffic calming measure?

                2 votes
                1. [6]
                  DefinitelyNotAFae
                  Link Parent
                  Narrow streets are generally fine, as long as the road stays fairly smooth. So are lower speed limits and cameras and things. Those all reduce the odds of me making a sudden stop too. It's just...

                  Narrow streets are generally fine, as long as the road stays fairly smooth. So are lower speed limits and cameras and things. Those all reduce the odds of me making a sudden stop too. It's just anything that causes a bounce, or a suddent jerk, can be very painful to him and he doesn't have the control of the vehicle to let him know it's coming or the control of his body to manage it.

                  Even walking this can be rough. We still live on a campus so many of our sidewalks are great until we cross to the gas station across the street and the road is cracked (still drives smooth but not wheelchair), the curb cut is in bad condition or next to a pothole, and so on.

                  The issues with road conditions would be/are very similar in an accessible bus, he just has too many out of town appointments to rely on it (renting an accessible van costs more than a hundred dollars a day.... Fun fact. ).

                  Not sure what other calming measures are out there. The real gentle speed humps can be ok but it depends on how they're built.

                  3 votes
                  1. [5]
                    vord
                    (edited )
                    Link Parent
                    Here's the situation: There's a state road ~1 block away at 40mph. My road is an offshoot which is a straightaway at 25mph. The good news is that the only people that need to use this road are the...

                    Here's the situation:

                    There's a state road ~1 block away at 40mph. My road is an offshoot which is a straightaway at 25mph.

                    The good news is that the only people that need to use this road are the people who live on it and an extra side street. There's no need for anyone who doesn't live within 3 blocks to be on it.

                    However, people can shave 10 seconds off their trip by barreling down it at 50mph then turning at the light at the end instead of continuing on the state road. So they do.

                    No amount of cameras, police traps, or signage has done squat to keep people from barrelling down it at 50mph.

                    Sometimes bumps are the only way. Personally, I'd install tire spikes that pop up when anybody is detected going over 30mph to shred the tires.

                    1 vote
                    1. [4]
                      DefinitelyNotAFae
                      Link Parent
                      Sure, and if the people who live on that street need the accessibility? Sounds like making the street two dead ends would be more useful than bumps. I was just providing a piece of information I...

                      Sure, and if the people who live on that street need the accessibility? Sounds like making the street two dead ends would be more useful than bumps. I was just providing a piece of information I think is worth considering. Driving over bumps at ten mph is still painful. I think your alternative is not valid at all so if you can keep yourself to speed bumps that'd probably be for the best.

                      1. [3]
                        vord
                        Link Parent
                        I'll shred 10,000 tires if it saves one kid. Simple way to avoid it: Don't speed like an ass. Sorry I've seen enough kids get hit by cars I have 0 tolerance for speeders, especially in residential...

                        I'll shred 10,000 tires if it saves one kid.

                        Simple way to avoid it: Don't speed like an ass.

                        Sorry I've seen enough kids get hit by cars I have 0 tolerance for speeders, especially in residential areas.

                        1. [2]
                          DefinitelyNotAFae
                          Link Parent
                          Yeah I know that's how you feel. But if that's the route we take, you willing to take a beating every time my partner gets hurt from a speed bump? Cutting off that street would solve the safety...

                          Yeah I know that's how you feel.
                          But if that's the route we take, you willing to take a beating every time my partner gets hurt from a speed bump?

                          Cutting off that street would solve the safety without causing more problems than you originally had. I'm glad this is a fiction.

                          1. vord
                            (edited )
                            Link Parent
                            Maybe if it's a speedbump that I illegally deployed, it'd be fair. But then a speedbump by the exit from the state road would have the exact same effect as walling it off... for the 0.1% of the...

                            Maybe if it's a speedbump that I illegally deployed, it'd be fair. But then a speedbump by the exit from the state road would have the exact same effect as walling it off... for the 0.1% of the population that is in pain from a speedbump, they can enter from the other side. Without needing to increase logistical complexity and driving distance for tons of services like ambulances, mail delivery, school busses, and garbage trucks.

                            Tire shredding is in wide deployment elsewhere, like parking garages and one-way roads. It's a fair system that says 'if you break the rules, your tires will be wreaked.'

                            The sad reality is we can't accomodate everyone. There will always be edge cases that would cost untold billions to accomodate for a handful of people. My brother in law also can't ride in a car without excruciating pain after his car accident....so he just doesn't go in cars unless strictly mandatory.

                            Laws that go unenforced might as well not be laws. And since the prime motivator for speed limits is to avoid killing people, the more rigidly they can be enforced, the more useful they are. Passive "I might get a fine if I do this" is exponentially less effective than "there's decent chance my car gets damaged if I do this." That's why I chuck rocks at cars that enter crosswalks while I'm in it.

    2. douchebag
      Link Parent
      Had to chuckle at this. I'll throw in the anti-genocide crowd on LinkedIn as well. A topic like that should have no place on a platform like LinkedIn, yet that's what my front page is plastered...

      Absolutely zero fear about using their real LinkedIn to debate the merits of genocide. No fucks given.

      Had to chuckle at this. I'll throw in the anti-genocide crowd on LinkedIn as well. A topic like that should have no place on a platform like LinkedIn, yet that's what my front page is plastered with.

      Nothing but toxic conversations. Totally unprofessional. On a platform for "professionals". Ironic.

      11 votes
    3. Starman2112
      Link Parent
      Basically my thoughts. I like to think I leave constructive, positive, well-written comments (at least, when it's the norm for the site I'm on), but if I had to attach my real name to every one, I...

      Basically my thoughts. I like to think I leave constructive, positive, well-written comments (at least, when it's the norm for the site I'm on), but if I had to attach my real name to every one, I would never leave any ever. I think the main reason is that Starman2112 is a character that I made last June who isn't afraid of social interactions the way that the Andrew who operates it is. If Andrew was the one leaving comments, then I simply wouldn't leave any.

      I don't want to say that I'm more intelligent and aware than people who comment with their real names, I just agree with your assessment that the kind of people who do are usually shameless and don't give a fuck, which I assume (with absolutely no citations) correlates with lower quality comments. Ultimately I would bet that it isn't that people leave worse comments when they use their real names, it's that people who use their real names leave worse comments.

      8 votes
    4. aetherious
      Link Parent
      I think there's also something to be said about real names reducing the barrier between your online identity and real life identity, which makes people over-invested in the opinions they share...

      I think there's also something to be said about real names reducing the barrier between your online identity and real life identity, which makes people over-invested in the opinions they share since it's tied to their personal reputations and they can't go back on what they've said in the past even if it was misguided. Having measured discussions then is difficult when any dissenting opinions are viewed as a personal attack, so you would only get more and more entrenched in whatever initial opinion you held. Most people I know are not great at admitting when they're wrong and I can't imagine it's easier to do that if all of your opinions are documented online with your real name.

      Social media does also make it feel like you have to share your opinions and build your "personal brand" when you see so many people do it, so going from sharing professional opinions to genocide debates seems just like an evolution of that. I wouldn't even link this to intelligence, social media companies invest a lot of money into increasing engagement to tap into all sorts of different psychographics.

      5 votes
    5. Reapy
      Link Parent
      I was 100 percent thinking the same thing as you when trying to answer the why. Smarter people are going to understand the internet is forever and regulate what they post on their own name and so...

      I was 100 percent thinking the same thing as you when trying to answer the why. Smarter people are going to understand the internet is forever and regulate what they post on their own name and so will be drawn to use a handle. Due to being smarter they most likely will avoid having dumb opinions, hence the handles will be more civil to one another more often.

      2 votes
  3. fxgn
    Link
    I wonder which category "non-anonymous stable pseudonyms" are closer to. I sometimes use a random username on websites, but most of the time my username is basically the same (flexagoon, sometimes...

    I wonder which category "non-anonymous stable pseudonyms" are closer to. I sometimes use a random username on websites, but most of the time my username is basically the same (flexagoon, sometimes shortened to fxgn or even fx when possible). It is a stable pseudonym, but it's trivial to find my real name from it, and I assume you can find some other personal information online about me by looking up my name.

    So my personal information is not directly available, but it can easily be found from my username. I'm kinda curious about what the results would've been if that was another category in the study.

    8 votes
  4. Tigress
    Link
    I've been saying this for like 20 frikking years (way before Zuckerberg was giving the bullshit about real names create civility). Using your real name isn't going to make people more civil, they...

    I've been saying this for like 20 frikking years (way before Zuckerberg was giving the bullshit about real names create civility). Using your real name isn't going to make people more civil, they know these other people don't know them and it's just a random name to them. Plus it allows for easier stalking for people who need to stay anonymous cause they have a stalker (for one example of why to not force real names). But letting them create a persona using whatever name they want and keeping that persona stable means they feel an attachment to their reputation as that persona.

    Nice to see some study finally saying the same thing. I'm still really sick of the bs argument that people need to use real names on the internet for civility. It's not the name that makes some one feel they are anonymous, it's the detachment from the society they feel by being on the net. Letting people have personas that stay the same where they go creates more attachment to the online society and wanting to keep a good rep to that persona.

    6 votes
  5. boxer_dogs_dance
    Link
    Related point about pseudonyms. I have read that at certain historical periods in England and Europe, masked balls played a role in allowing communication not otherwise possible due to court...

    Related point about pseudonyms. I have read that at certain historical periods in England and Europe, masked balls played a role in allowing communication not otherwise possible due to court formality. It is an interesting theory.

    The pseudonyms today allow people to say things they could not say without threatening professional standing or employment. They also allow uncredentialed experts to be discovered and recognized and heard by a wider public.

    5 votes
  6. Minty
    Link
    I wonder what would be the results for a system where: user is uniquely identified by government/banking-issued tokens. only one account per website per user, verified by the system above; the...

    I wonder what would be the results for a system where:

    1. user is uniquely identified by government/banking-issued tokens.
    2. only one account per website per user, verified by the system above; the website is not aware of the user's identity, only its uniqueness.
    3. you can purge your account at any time, and change its display name every, say, year.
    4. there can still exist websites not using this system.

    Point 2 is similar to the article's definition of "stable", but the uniqueness is more strongly enforced with 1 than with just a Fb account that could be farmed or stolen.

    2 votes
  7. SpunkWorks_Scientist
    Link
    I'd love to see this study replicated using something than facebook for real names, that seems an exceptionally poor choice.

    I'd love to see this study replicated using something than facebook for real names, that seems an exceptionally poor choice.

    2 votes