The Blizzard Forums are growing up...

Blizzard has just announced that the new forums rolling out with an expansion to World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and Starcraft II will require users to post with their own name.

About time.

The internet as a popular device (which I date to September 1993, when AOL launched) is soon to turn 18. If you want to date it to the launch of the world wide web, then the internet is a little older. In any case, it's high time that the internet, writ large, outgrows its childhood of false names.

My personal observations have been that the internet featured "screen names," like Blobux, Controllerver, Redstate93, Kos, and Atrius. These names represented real people, but they came to be avatars - fake representations of a person. Thus a Wikipedia administrator and his encyclopedia were embarrassed when it came out that the advanced education belonging to the avatar was a lie invented by the real person. These fake names are everywhere, and they draw a line between "internet life" and "real life."

In many ways, I value those names. They offer a way for me to share stories, print ideas, and generally put content out there without my words dragging me behind. But those benefits and that culture of anonymity should be specialized.

The norm on the Internet should be our real names. The more we are ourselves - our whole selves, the more this new medium will grow up. That's why "poblano" became Nate Silver - not because the internet required it, but because the real world wasn't going to deal with a chili pepper.

I'll keep my anonymous accounts, and I will enjoy them, but if there's a widespread cultural change afoot, I will applaud it wholeheartedly.

EDIT: Some good points made about stereotypes/name confusion/harassment of women have convinced me that more thought is needed, and that Blizzard is probably not doing the right thing here for its customers, who need the forums post post suggestions or discussion game mechanics.

What happened to studying?

From the Boston Globe:

They come with polished resumes and perfect SAT scores. Their grades are often impeccable. Some elite universities will deny thousands of high school seniors with 4.0 grade point averages in search of an elusive quality that one provost called “intellectual vitality.” The perception is that today’s over-achieving, college-driven kids have it — whatever it is. They’re not just groomed; they’re ready. There’s just one problem.

Once on campus, the students aren’t studying.

It is a fundamental part of college education: the idea that young people don’t just learn from lectures, but on their own, holed up in the library with books and, perhaps, a trusty yellow highlighter. But new research, conducted by two California economics professors, shows that over the past five decades, the number of hours that the average college student studies each week has been steadily dropping. According to time-use surveys analyzed by professors Philip Babcock, at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks, at the University of California Riverside, the average student at a four-year college in 1961 studied about 24 hours a week. Today’s average student hits the books for just 14 hours....

The article goes on to state that the specific numbers (which I would like to see) show a decline across fields, college types, and various other demographics.

I'd say, though, that in my case, the issue is the accessibility of distractions or other ways to spend my time. I know, cognitively, that I should spend 3 hours reading a book passage, but those 3 hours get filled with a phone call, an e-mail, and other distractions such that my time (and more importantly, comprehension) is more limited. For the most part, I still learn what I need to learn, and oftentimes, more of the "aha" moments occur outside of the classroom. Yet I don't study as much as I should - I feel a lesser need to memorize who said what when it is so easily Googleable.

I don't have a solution, but I have been working for the past few months on building a personal set of memorized information, like the various philosophers whose ideas supported the American government construction of rights, and placing that where no power outage can threaten it.