Myth #1 - This will significantly limit Trolling:
The forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before.Lets face it. There is so much trash on the official forums that it is difficult to find the the good posts. I do appreciate the effort to clean up the forums, but I have no clue as to why Blizzard thinks it will work.
Ask yourself a quick question. What is the difference between posting under your avatar or under your real name? Are you really giving up any anything by giving up the anonymity of posting under your avatar?
I don't think you are. Anonymity isn't the reason why people can post almost anything they want on the internet. What gives us the freedom to post what ever we want is the lack of consequences. From that perspective, for most people it won't matter if they post under the name TyphoonTurkey or Tim Johnson, because it is highly unlikely that anything extra would happen to Tim Johnson that wouldn't happen to TyphoonTurkey if he got in to a flame war. His mom is still unlikely to find the post and ground him. His wife is still unlikely to get mad it him. It's not like he is more likely to get fired from his job as a result of posting. Heck, they are still unlikely to get in trouble with their guilds because you don't have to attach your toon name to your RealID.
The fact of the matter is that this will have little impact on trolling, because real consequences still will not exist for the trolls.
Myth #2 - The WoW forums are bad because of Trolls:
The official forums aren't cluttered because of trolls. There cluttered because of the shear quantity of the people who post and because some people can't do a little research before posting a stupid question like "What's the Moonkin Hit Cap?"
Think about it. RealID is not going to make anyone read a sticky. RealID is not going to give anyone spec or gear tips. RealID is not going to prevent people from starting a new topic when there are already 3 active.
There are so many people who play this game and want to express their opinion that the forums are bound to have a high quantity posts even if you eliminated all of the trolls. In which case it will still be very difficult to identify the quality posts without the post rating system. However, you don't need RealID for a post rating system to function.
The Real Impact:
None of this to say that this change will have no impact. It will have an impact. Just not the intended one.
It's important to remember that we live in an age where information is fairly easy to obtain if you have a little to start with. Knowing two pieces of a puzzle will help you find the third. Having the third will help you find the fourth and fifth pieces, and so on.
Now think about what you know about your guildies. These are people who we play with and talk to for potentially hours every week. In this type of environment we are going to let small bits of information about ourselves out. What city or state do we live in. What type of job we have. What our general age is. Do we have a family.
These are all very general bits of information, and by themselves are fairly harmless, but what if you know someone's name? Then they become ways to filter the abundance of information available on the internet. All of a sudden, observant guildies or other acquaintances are able to locate us if we want to participate in the forums.
This isn't to say there is going to be an outbreak of Stalkers when this goes live. I have heard several stories of resourceful players using the available information to locate other players, and showing up on their door steps uninvited, but I am sure these are the extreme exceptions rather then the norm. I also believe that most of the people who go to this extreme are fairly harmless Zaboos, and you can't blame Blizzard for the actions of it's players. However, it would be irresponsible to ignore the possibility of tragic results (1,2). The risk must be evaluated against the reward, and as I said above I highly doubt Blizzard will achieve the results they desire. Therefore the reward is not worth the risk in my opinion.
I know that Blizzard is not stupid. I'm sure that they have thought of most of these issues ahead of time, and that is why I am not surprised by their canned response.
The forums have always been an optional extra -- something you can choose to participate in if you wish to. (src)Second Class Citizens: Of course, participating in the forums is optional, but should that mean our opinions are less important if we choose not to compromise our privacy? That is one of the (likely) unintended meanings of their statement above.
I think most of us would agree that the WoW forum is probably the best place to express an opinion if you want it to be read, and it is the only place to discuss the game if you want to have any chance at a discussion with a Blizzard employee. Yes, there are other ways to provide feedback to Blizzard. I'm lucky in that I have a well read blog that I know at the very least has been on Blizzard's radar in the past. I am also sure that Blizzard does fall other sites like the Elitist Jerks and MMO Champion. However, I think it is also safe to assume that they do not follow these other sources of information as well as they follow their own site. It's also safe to assume that they don't post or comment on any of these sites as Blizzard employees. Therefore, the players who choose to maintain their privacy will be locked out of part of the discussion and are less likely to have their voices heard.
Technical Issues: What about technical issues? I had a problem about 2 years ago where my computer kept locking up every 15minutes to an hour while I was playing WoW. I looked for answers in several different places on the internet, but the WoW forums was easily the most helpful and where I ultimately found the answer. This change means I can't do that kind of research if I want to protect my privacy. Sure I can call Blizzard for technical support, but that isn't really a good use of resources and it's not like I can post error reports over the phone.
The Strange Part: That isn't the strange part about this response though. If you go back to the original block quote I posted above you will see that the main reason for the change is so that Blizzard can "promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before." They are basically saying "we want to create a community, but if you don't like how we are doing it then don't be a part of it." To me this seems very contradictory. I can understand wanting to exclude the trolls, flamers, and the generally unhelpful, but with this they will also be excluding very helpful posters as well.
I completely agree that the WoW forums are cluttered with junk. It is very difficult to fine the good posts while sorting through all of the useless junk. Therefore I applaud the intent to clean up the forums. However, what they've proposed will do little to change the current situation of the forums.
Most people think the anonymity of the internet is what allows people to act like idiots, when in reality it is the lack of consequences. Forcing us to post under our real names isn't going to add consequences all of a sudden, especially when we are not forced to tie our real names to a specific toon. Therefore our real names aren't all that different from the level one alts that currently exist. You still don't know what guild I'm in, and you still can't do anything to me unless you want to find out where I live and come stab me.
I also disagree with the premise that Trolls are what is making the WoW forum suck. The fact of the matter is that this game has over 11 million players. Even if only 10% of those people post that is a lot of posts. A majority of the people who post are not trolls, but uninformed people who do not read the stickies or other threads and clutter the forums with new threads and useless posts. When you have 11million people playing the game that is inevitable.
Ultimately Blizzard needs to evaluate the risk of posting our real names versus the reward of doing so. While stalkings and violence as a result of this change will probably be extremely rare, there is plenty of evidence to show that it is a very real risk. Since I don't see how the change will result the intended reward of better forums, it is clear to me that the risk in this case is clearly not worth the reward since the reward does not exist.