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At various times the project management website Launchpad has encouraged all and required some users to use their legal name on the site. Interacting with Launchpad is essential for Ubuntu developers, bug reporters, translators and so on. This causes problems for users with reason to use a pseudonym, a desire that is especially common among women for reasons including fear of violence and fear of online harassment.

One woman in the discussions below does report online harrassment due to her use of her recognisably female name on Launchpad.


The issue of encouraging or requiring real names on Launchpad has been controversial and there have been several threads on the launchpad-users mailing list.

The issue of encouragement to use real names throughout the site was discussed in the thread Launchpad etiquette document/code of conduct (May 2007), with some responses pertaining to women using pseudonyms including:

  • "Why should I have to declare I'm a woman (or say a muslim) to contribute effectively to Ubuntu?... The work done on women in FLOSS suggests that women generally use gender neutral nicknames, initials etc to not stand out. In my time on malone I've had large photos of random men sent to me and other unrequested rubbish..." post by Caroline Ford
  • "I'd argue that making it a guideline still makes it hard not to stick to the guideline. Certainly any active contributor would be expected to stick to them... Peer pressure makes people use real names to seem credible. I'd be a lot happier if nicknames were the default." post by Caroline Ford
  • "... by using a real name, and therefore admitting that you're a woman, you're acknowledging that you may get harassed, hit on, etc, as a result... Now, I don't think that launchpad has any right to make that kind of decision for its users. I don't think that anyone has the right to make that kind of decision except the user themselves." post by Sarah Hobbs
  • "The Launchpad code of conduct should say 'I won't misrepresent myself through my name or nickname.'... Calling yourself 'Bill Gates' is not on, unless that is actually your name... Although we require real names only in some very specific situations, I think that revealing names and identities leads to a better community overall. I've read through a number of accounts of harassment online, including some of those on the ubuntu-women mailing list. I noticed that the worst harassment is done by people who do not reveal their names." post by Steve Alexander
  • "This stuff doesn't matter if you are Christian male with an English name. Anything else and using your real name starts communicating other personal information about yourself... Why are you so keen for minorities to expose themselves?" post by Caroline Ford

The issue of needing to use real names in order to beta-test Launchpad itself was discussed in the thread Requiring full name to join ~launchpad-beta-testers (February 2008) after a user was removed from it:

  • "... certain people, the high-ups included, prefer to deal with people who are using real names, as they seem more real to them. They appear not to care about the fact that some people like their privacy, and do not wish to use real names online for various reasons, including harassment. This is the first case i've seen of actually policing the policy, though." post by Sarah Hobbs

The policy of needing beta testers to use a real name was dropped in April 2008:

  • The beta team and real names: "For a while now, we've required that Launchpad beta team members use their real names. As of today, you can join the beta team whether or not you use your real name as your Launchpad display name."