I use my real name. However, I started wondering if this is bad and am considering changing it.

I ask A LOT of questions on Stack Overflow, way more than I answer. Mainly because for most questions that I can answer, someone else beats me to the punch. So I just up-vote them instead.

Anyone can google my name and come across my Stack Overflow profile.

I am not ashamed of my skill level, and I certainly would not lie about it. But I am not sure looking at my profile would be a good thing, maybe it would be, though. I know there are some questions I have asked that I don't want to advertise, but hey I was learning, I still am learning. Some questions may show how novice I am, but others might show how skilled I am.

So what's your opinion on using your real name? Good? Bad?

  • 5
    Simply coming across your name on SO doesn't guarantee that you are the John Isaacks I happen to know. Similarly, if you came across my name on SO, you shouldn't immediately (and wrongly) assume that I am Sir Elton Hercules John, Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
    – ЯegDwight
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 20:35
  • 15
    Go ahead, google my name. Just try it. Might want to avoid image search, though. (Common names are a double-edged sword.)
    – mmyers
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 20:53
  • 1
    @Michael, thats hilarious, even funnier if that truly is your real name. I would say you could shorten it to Mike Myers, but that wouldn't help much either.
    – JD Isaacks
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 20:57
  • 6
    @John: I know. I've given the matter quite a bit of thought ever since I heard of those movies and that actor. I maintain that I came before the movies and before the actor was famous, so I shouldn't be the one that has to change.
    – mmyers
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 20:59
  • 8
    I see a guy who managed to ask a number of pretty good questions. Perfectly fine in my book
    – Pekka
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 21:09
  • 9
    You could change your name to Mike Bolton ... Why should I change? He's the one who sucks
    – user27414
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 21:11
  • @mmyers No Hot girls. Me not like it.
    – abel
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 13:50
  • 1
    See also programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/9099/…
    – bobobobo
    Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 14:27
  • 1
    @mmyers - The actor has said that he gets stupid jokes about the Halloween character all the time: "Mike Myers the killer? Well, don't kill me! Bwa ha ha ha herp derp duhh derrp." So at least he shares your pain. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 14:48
  • 5
    @mmyers - I also have a horse, apparently. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 15:01

7 Answers 7


Learning is fine. You can demonstrate communication skills while you're learning, and make sure that every post is one you're proud of. Everyone is ignorant in more areas than they're knowledgeable in - and being aware of where you're ignorant is a positive virtue in my opinion. You can ask questions in a thoughtful way, without losing any respect from anyone who might look you up later.

One way of thinking about it is that if you're not comfortable enough with a post (question or answer) to want your name next to it, are you really sure you want to post it in the first place? How could you improve it until you were comfortable with that?

  • 3
    Very good points!
    – JD Isaacks
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 20:42
  • 6
    So apparently you're not worried that if someone like me were to meet you I would say "Oh, I've seen you on Stack Overflow. You're a total novice and obviously have no idea what you're doing".
    – user27414
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 21:13
  • 12
    @Jon B: Have a look at a couple of my ASP.NET questions - in that area, I really am a total novice, and not afraid to let it show :)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 22:37
  • But what if you've learned since, and are now a pro, but the noob questions are still there?...
    – Anonymous
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 12:16
  • @Anonymous If the question and accepted answer have a positive score: "I helped make the Internet better by asking questions that other members of the ASP.NET community found useful." Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:53

I used my full name until I found myself on one of the wannabe websites that are based on the public data dumps or site scraping. It's not related to any skill level, and I only contribute in my own time, but still it somehow didn't feel right. Like I can change my name here whenever I want, or even ask for my profile to be deleted. But I have no control whatsoever when it comes to the data dumps or other copies.

Also, as folks might quote your full name (like in comments, especially since Tab name completion can be used), it's probably impossible to 100% change things on the SOFU websites later on. (Google still lists my profiles as the 2nd hit when I search for my full name, while those profiles have just shown my first name since a long time. Nothing to be ashamed of, but no advantage for me either.)

And to a lesser degree: the use of Gravatar.com is also a reason for me to not use my full name any more.

  • 1
    Instead of gravatar, what personally bugs me a bit is the automatic association of accounts every single time I login on any of the SE sites via OpenID (so I have to go to settings and manually unassociate every time), I would rather this happened only when creating the account on a new SE site.
    – wildpeaks
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 9:48
  • 1
    note that gravatar is no longer required: meta.stackexchange.com/a/161083/146482 Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 10:49
  • 1
    True, @Tobias, but people are still using it, hence if Gravatar were evil, it could still track a lot. Even with the current 5 minute cache for the avatar images, most pages you visit on Stack Exchange will still make a request to their servers. Same for Imgur, by the way.
    – Arjan
    Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 11:08
  • @Arjan While that's a privacy concern, I don't see the connection to using your real name. Sure they can see which gravatar was accessed by which IP, but so what? Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 6:30

Not at all, here's my personal experience with it.

  • +1 due to the same experience. Pages and pages of my name on google now :) Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 11:47

I use my full name. It actually helped me land a new job. Literally, the interviewer said, "We were impressed with your reputation on Stack Overflow." I never even considered using Stack Overflow on my résumé, it was strictly from them performing a Google search on me.

I also think you give yourself more accountability when not hiding behind a pseudo-name. Coding and programming is my career, so I want myself associated with this type of stuff. It also makes me think a lot more about how I ask or respond to questions.

I also like to think people take me more seriously using my name and picture. Now, I'm the real person behind the account. I believe it helps develop more of a professional reputation as I interact with the community.


You can always have two accounts: one with your real name and one without. Then you can choose which one to post with based on whether you want your post to be associated with your real name or not.

  • 12
    While creating multiple accounts is not strictly against the rules, you have to be scrupulous in not engaging in any cross voting etc. to boost your own rep.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 12:01

I think there is no reason to hide our real names in the world. Because we do these all things to learn. There is no reason to be ashamed of our skills. In my opinion the most suitable thing is to use our real names as our user names.

  • Always consider that any potential employer in the future could see what you have asked or what skills you have (or what he thinks you have).
  • Also consider if you have signed a nondisclosure agreement, that you don't show too much original source code (if at all). Even if you don't have, future employers could think that you are generous and talkative with internals.
  • (future) employers could ask themself if you have worked or if you have passed time in forums in your working-hours (the time of your activities is always visible)

On the other side, if you keep that all in mind there is nothing wrong with using the real name. It shows self-confidence and builds trust. Besides, maybe you've spent a long time with Stack Overflow and you gave a lot of excellent answers, why hiding that in anonymity?!

  • 3
    I'm thinking points two and three can be covered by "don't rip off your employer". I don't think they should have a lot of bearing over whether you use your real name or not. Point three is a dubious data point for future employers to consider, as there are a lot of variables to be taken into account that they couldn't necessarily make reasonable assumptions about. Plus, some workplaces encourage some time spent on help forums... Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 12:00
  • @Merlyn - Never assume that all employers are smart. Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 15:41
  • 3
    @AndreiVolgin: Have confidence in your own skill and avoid working for employers who are not smart. If you don't like how they think in the interview or hiring process, imagine what working for them would be like. Commented Mar 8, 2014 at 0:32

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