Usernames: Accountability vs Privacy

Originally published in The New Stack Update.

Fifty-one percent of open source developers are required to provide personal or work information online as part of their job. Sixty-one percent say people should be able to contribute code without attribution to remain anonymous. These are findings from a recently released survey of over 5,000 GitHub users. Still looking at the survey respondents, 63 percent said they used their real name and another 26 percent said they consistently use a pseudonym linked to a real name. Interestingly, your job affects if you will be going public with your identity (double entendre?) — those without a professional obligation are significantly more likely to use fake names that hide their identity. How does this survey line up with actual activity on GitHub? We couldn’t do a quick search using GHTorrent, but in our experience, we’ve used username, email address and other metadata to identify the real names of over two-thirds of developers on selected, cloud-native-type projects. There are a lot of trade-offs between privacy and maintaining accountability. If you manage an open source project, what type of guidelines do you use?

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