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What are the pros and cons of associating your actual identity with your Stack Overflow account? I am more interested in understanding the cons.

I am aware of all the pros, especially with SO careers and the fame that some of the most active members have achieved, but I am wondering if there are any risks.

Heres some of the cons that I thought of, but I was wondering if I am missing anything or am I being paranoid.

  • getting flak/fired for using it while on the clock

  • not getting an interview because you asked a a trivial question

  • not getting an interview because your rushed to get the first right answer and your code was sloppy/ not production worthy

  • not getting an interview because your question to answer ratio is too poor (I see a lot of accounts that only answer questions or only ask questions so i assume this is for the "ratio"?

Are there any more serious issues or risks to worry about?

  • Can it have any serious risk? - Are you mad?!!! "-). Definitely. But that's life :-) || Two points that are probably somewhat peripheral to most answers. (1) Part of the interactions bring you into potential conflict with other people. How you handle this tends to be set in the record for all to see and essentially forever. Handle it well. Less than commendable dealings with others may remain to haunt you long after the circumstances has faded into unimportance. (2) By exposing your real identity you risk malicious action by persons unknown to tarnish your reputation for whatever reason. ... – Russell McMahon Mar 31 '15 at 12:21
  • ... It would be nice if such things were flights of paranoia. Alas, it really does happen. Frequency of occurrence is presumably small - but that's no consolation if you draw short straw. – Russell McMahon Mar 31 '15 at 12:23
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I can't say with any specific certainty how deeply any potential employer would look into your contributions. I can be fairly certain that most would be content if:

  • You had a profile to see
  • You have some decent stuff near the top of your greatest hits
  • It's easy to determine that you communicate well with other programmers, to the extent that you can actually teach and learn.

Tying into Careers is an excellent way to find new opportunities because Careers is (to my knowledge) the only platform of its kind that caters to passive job seekers. Your profile on Stack Overflow just becomes a sort of living resume that you work on simply by enjoying your participation here. We're currently looking into ways to make the integration even more seamless (without being annoying).

The potential downfalls are the same that you'd find on anything else connected to the Internet, well, perhaps a bit less in our case. People can be weird, any disclosure you make is a calculated risk.

The benefits of having an enormous amount of great stuff showing up when someone cares enough to look, in my opinion, far outweigh the risks. You get a living history associated with your journey as a programmer, anyone can expect that you once didn't know as much as you do today.

Just make sure you remember, employers don't just want to see how you write code, they want to see how you interact with others. If you're expecting them to be checking in on you, I'd go the extra mile to make sure your recent comments & interactions have been (at least) polite :)

  • 1
    I really like your point about having a living history of your journey as a programmer. That's an interesting way of putting it. I'm sure a lot of employers, if they had this much time to actually dig through profiles, would love to see how someone has developed and learned over their career. Particularly since "how do you think?" tends to be the (generally unspoken) goal of programming interviews. – Matthew Haugen Mar 31 '15 at 5:38
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I am, for the purposes of this answer, disregarding the cases of those who may face religious or political persecution for their participation on sites which fundamentally disagree with the sanctions put forth by governments or other bodies of power.

I'm also disregarding interests in internet privacy--there are lots of reasons someone might want to keep their identity secret in such a global space, but they relate to the internet as a whole and not just Stack Exchange.


You bring up some interesting points here, but I'm not sure the "problem" of sorts is identified correctly. As such, I'm not sure the risks you're listing are really relevant.

  • getting flak/fired for using it while on the clock

I feel like the solution here is pretty straight-forward. Don't use Stack Exchange at inappropriate times. Sure, it could cause trouble if you did use it during work and you weren't using it for work. But that's best to avoid regardless.

  • not getting an interview because you asked a trivial question

I live in a sheltered and idealistic world. That said, I like to think it's more or less reasonable to think that people I'll give my time to respect that I don't know everything about everything.

To that point, I don't think asking a so-called "trivial" question is a bad thing, if you ask it well. I'm a .NET developer, but I've wanted to use Python a couple times in my life. At least for the first of those, I probably had to look up how to create a list in Python. That's pretty trivial, but you have to start somewhere.

If I was a manager looking to hire you, and if I was the type of person to look up your Stack Exchange profile in that process, and I saw that you asked a trivial question, that wouldn't scare me. Maybe if you asked it yesterday and were claiming to be an expert today, but that's still aside my point.

What would scare me is if you had very poorly phrased questions. If you ask a lot of "here's code why no work?" questions, that's a red-flag. But, as we know, we shouldn't be posting those anyway.

  • not getting an interview because your rushed to get the first right answer and your code was sloppy/ not production worthy

This is the same point as before. Don't post sloppy code. If you create an account without your name associated and continue on to post sloppy code, that's just a bad use of Stack Exchange, and you have bigger problems going on.

Yeah, we all make mistakes, I've certainly posted sloppy code before on here, but the key is to make sure you fix or delete those mistakes as soon as you can, and if you do that in a calm and collected way, again, I like to think anyone who matters will understand.

  • not getting an interview because your question to answer ratio is too poor (I see a lot of accounts that only answer questions or only ask questions so i assume this is for the "ratio"?

This one made me think a bit, I'll admit. I don't think anyone will get upset at you for having too many answers and not enough questions, but I can imagine the other way around being an issue.

I, personally, as a business owner and development lead, would, again, look to the quality of the posts rather than their type, but I can imagine others who might not be so understanding.


Ultimately, I think the "risk" of sharing your real name is manufactured.

I'm proud of the posts, most of them at least, I've made across the Stack Exchange network, programming-related and otherwise, and I'd be happy to have a hiring manager review them.

If your posts are such that a potential employer would be scared away, the problem there is most likely the result of a completely different, and indeed more severe, issue.

Beyond that, again, I live with a pretty sheltered view of the world, and it's possible that employers aren't so understanding. But that's really outside the scope of this question, since I couldn't begin to assess for you what other employers or hiring managers are thinking.

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    "Beyond that, again, I live with a pretty sheltered view of the world, and it's possible that employers aren't so understanding." - if there's one thing we've learned from The Workplace, it's that there are a lot of 'misunderstanding' employers out there... – AakashM Mar 31 '15 at 9:46

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