People who use pseudonyms when they participate in online communities make higher quality comments than those who use real names or are anonymous, according to researchers.
That’s the finding of a study of some half a billion comments made by more than 60 million users of the Disqus comment platform.
Disqus based its findings on user ratings of comments made at websites that use its platform. Its analysis found that comments by people using pseudonyms were “liked” or replied to by 61 percent of the people who read them. That compares to 51 percent for commenters using their real names and 34 percent who were anonymous.
Pseudonym users also have higher participation rates than others, 6.5 times that of anonymous commenters and 4.7 times that of those who use their real names.
Disqus admits that its exercise in comment quality isn’t an exact science nor can its methodologies be considered “lab-quality.”
Moreover, the service does have an interest in website owners allowing their visitors to use pseudonyms, since it competes with Facebook, which some websites use as a comment platform. Since Facebook requires use of real names, it benefits Disqus if website owners believe they’re diminishing the quality of their communities by screening out users who want to use pseudonyms as a condition for participating in those forums.
Use of pseudonyms has been a controversial subject among online communities. When Google’s social network, Google+, instituted its real names policy last year, it was greeted with protest.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is supporting expanding its power to prosecute people who violate a website’s terms of service agreement. Such agreements sometimes have requirements that people use their real names when opening accounts on a website.