I am amazed how frequently I see developers using a fake alias or handle on developer forums, especially on FoxPro forums where we pride ourselves as a friendly community. I am not talking about the chat rooms where you are trying to meet someone and do not want people to know who you are until you get to know them better. I am referring to technical forums where we share ideas, help each other out, collaborate, and as a byproduct of our interaction - develop friendships. I continue to meet most of my friends in the Fox Community online long before I see them at a conference, user group meeting, or work together on projects for clients.
I visit several developer forums including FoxForum, Tek-Tips, Foxite, and occasionally CompuServe, the Virtual FoxPro User Group, OpenTech, and the UniversalThread. Each of the forums has their pluses and minuses, and I know I will find solid answers to my questions on any one of them. Most of the forums encourage using your real name and others require it. I can tell you though I struggle with postings from MickeyMouse and Qwerty Qwerty.
Tek-Tips for instance has some genius contributors and a high volume of traffic with little noise (a restrictive, but effective forum policy). Unfortunately many of the members have handles and this drives me nuts. Same with Microsoft's Channel 9. It is hard to develop a friendship with FoxDudette, CrazyDeveloper, DespiseCSharpMan, or ZMan999. More importantly, as a Microsoft MVP, part of my duty is to help Microsoft recognize contributions to the Fox Community and nominate others to be recognized as a MVP. It is pretty hard to tell Microsoft to consider FoxGeek879 as an MVP, even though this individual might have MVP caliber contributions.
It is not just on forums, the same is true with Amazon.com book reviews, especially negative reviews. I eliminate these reviews from the list I consider helpful because the person doing the review is hiding behind the alias.
So why does a developer feel compelled to hide behind a handle? My guess is they are afraid of people telling them they ask stupid questions. This is another thing we all should have learned in Kindergarten, there is no such thing as a stupid question. I know some forums are famous for their flaming posts and people do not want to be a part of negative dialog. I understand this, so go find a developer friendly forum where everyone knows your name. Some developers probably do not want to admit they are new to the development language or tool. Sorry, this is unacceptable as well. We all started somewhere, and quite frankly, none of us know everything there is to know about our jobs or the tools we use to craft software. We all have things to learn and need to start somewhere. Asking a question is the perfect way to start learning.
So if you are using a handle stop hiding. Use your real name and identify yourself. Jump out in the forums and ask questions. When you see a question and you know the answer, jump in and help by posting a solution.
(Disclaimer: all aliases and handles used in this blog post are fictional, and are not used here to call out anyone specific. No aliases or handles were harmed in the writing of this blog entry, some settling may occur during posting, your mileage and download speed might vary, use of the keyboard while reading this blog might cause stress injuries to your neck, arms, and wrists.)