Wired reaches back in their history to examine the first online social networks, including a Q&A with Stuart Brand, co-founder of the WELL.  I was never a WELL user, but certainly knew of it in my own sysop/BBS days.

One interesting point Brand raises in the interview:

[O]ne thing that we insisted on was no anonymity. And lots of the systems out there now like anonymity or encourage it, or individuals absolutely hold out for it. Personally, I would have preferred to see it go the other way. Not so much on the ... I mean, The Well's compromise is pretty good, I think, which is that people can have whatever amusing handle they wanted, but it was linked and it was linked publicly to a real person. That gave the accountability I wanted, which is, I knew that flame wars would go over unless somebody's nose was identifiable so that if necessary, you could go punch their nose. And they would know that, and you would know that, and that would slightly ameliorate the otherwise extreparous (sp?) behavior. What it did probably, in reality, was connect cyberspace with real space a little better because you always had the sense there were real people and real places behind whatever they were doing online.
This is another attribute of being a part of the Lotus community that makes me really happy.  Most of us who blog, and the forums on IBM's own website, strongly encourage or require use of a real name for posting.  It means that when I see a comment from Bruce Elgort, I know a lot more about the comment than just the words written there.  

In over five years of running this site, it has been very rare to have any pseudonyms, and trolls/flamebaiters/astroturfers have been sent to the bit-bucket quickly.  I believe this is a huge plus for us as a community, for our confidence, trust, and friendships.  When I venture onto sites like slashdot or ZDNet forums, I know that I'm going to have to cut through a pretty low signal to noise ratio.  I agree with Brand that it would be best if we see things go the other way.

Link: Wired: Q&A With Stewart Brand, Co-founder of The Well >

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