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I'm not ashamed to be a part of Ubuntu, but I'm trying to keep the number of web search hits for my real name low, which is kinda impossible if you use a Launchpad account.

So, I'm wondering if there is a real name policy in the Ubuntu community, or if it's okay to use a pseudonym/nick name/fake name?

While it might be okay to use nick names on IRC and in forums, how about these topics:

  • Adding an OpenPGP key to Launchpad.
  • Signing the Ubuntu Code of Conduct.
  • Becoming an Ubuntu member.
  • Code contributions (e.g., signing the Canonical CLA).

Thanks in advance for your answers!

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NOTE: After some discussion in chat, we decided to remove the bounty so htorque could award bounties to both of the "excellent" answers. –  jrg Mar 19 '12 at 14:37
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5 Answers

this answer has now been merged into the community accepted answer

I am unaware of any 'real name' policy in Ubuntu.

  • Adding an OpenPGP key to Launchpad.
  • Signing the Ubuntu Code of Conduct.
  • Becoming an Ubuntu member.

The above items require the use of a GPG Key currently, but there is no requirement that your GPG Key be signed. If you want to have your GPG Key signed you will have to use your real name because without that there is no proper way to identify you using official government photo identification as required.

  • Code contributions (e.g., signing the Canonical CLA).

The CLA looks like a legal agreement and I would think this would require a legal name to be used. However, I am not sure how that document is delivered to Canonical.

I added this information to Oli's answer as this really just expands his answer.

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community accepted answer

Summary

You do not need to use your real name in the Ubuntu Community and when contributing to the Ubuntu project.

However, you do need to use a real legal identity to contribute to certain Canonical upstream projects (or have agreed a suitable alternative).

Ubuntu Community

I asked Elizabeth Krumbach (a member of the Ubuntu Community Council, which is an official source) about this:

[Q]: I'm wondering if there is a real name policy in the Ubuntu community, or if it's okay to use a pseudonym/nick name/fake name?

[A]: It's perfectly fine to use a pseudonym.

You may find it's less common in the Ubuntu community because many members within the community are active in "real life" events like UDS and other conferences where we collaborate face to face and it's more common to refer to each other by given names there.

[Q]: While it might be okay to use nick names on IRC and in forums, how about these topics: Adding an OpenPGP key to Launchpad. Signing the Ubuntu Code of Conduct. Becoming an Ubuntu member.

[A]: All fine. The only trouble you may run into with PGP is people may not sign your key unless you present government-issued identification to confirm your identity, which isn't possible with a pseudonym.

Code Contribution

The Ubuntu Project

What makes free software and Ubuntu work is kudos and recognition from fellow Ubuntu contributors. If people recognise your work, and want and trust in that contribution then the name doesn't matter, nor does the timezone, nor languages, nor … many other things.

It is always possible to get other developers to sign and upload a new package, if they trust your changes and are prepared to "put their name on it" (sign the upload). A PGP key is necessary if you want to upload directly to the archive—this is to stop just anyone uploading a trojan package version—but as long as you are marked as having the relevant permissions in Launchpad then you can upload a PGP key of your choosing and use that to sign uploads (which are then checked against the upload database).

The names (or optional email addresses) on the GPG key are up to you, what matters is whether or not other people are prepared to sign the identities, and if so which one(s). A classic example might be a person with identities for both "Alice" and "Bob" as names on their key. Some people might know them as "Alice" during weekdays, and at the weekend a different group of people know them as "Robert" (or Jekyll/Hyde, or Batman/Wayne). Each group would only sign the identity they recognise.

If sufficient other Ubuntu developers trust your nickname as being "you" and are prepared to share some of their own kudos by signing your key, then you are likely to be able to build up the necessary PGP trust, at the same time as building up general kudos in code/IRC/AskUbuntu/Forums/Email/UDS. But again, it's not actually necessary in order to upload as checking is against the Launchpad team and per-package uploader lists.

No contributor agreement is necessary for contributing to Ubuntu and none will be asked for.

Canonical Projects

Canonical steers and sponsors a number of upstream projects. These are setup within a legal framework to allow future relicensing as required, in what Canonical believes to be a legally-sound way. Code accepted into an upstream project needs to be covered by one of the following to be accepted:

  1. An employment contract
  2. A contractor's contract
  3. An individual Contributor Licence Agreement
  4. A company Contributor Licence Agreement

Number (3) is the one that is probably the one most relevant here. Both parties to the agreement (which both mutually sign) need to believe in the CLA and to sign it in good-faith. It's likely that the signer is going to want the assurance from Canonical that Canonical exists, and that the Canonical is going to want the assurance from the individual that the individual exists.

Each will want the other to abide by the assurances given, so it is likely that both a named individual signing for Canonical and the second party would use their real names in order to make the document worthwhile.

That said, there maybe special situations (eg. war-torn countries, legal situations, boats without a fixed address, …) where it is preferable to investigate what needs to be on the mutual agreement in those situations in more detail.

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+1 for the answer - did you ask this via IRC/email? Is there a link you can add to your answer where you obtained your quotes? –  fossfreedom Mar 18 '12 at 18:01
    
I asked via email, though I dont know any archive for the community-council's mailing list (community-council@lists.ubuntu.com) . –  Vibhav Pant Mar 19 '12 at 2:46
    
i.imgur.com/kldOa.png –  Vibhav Pant Mar 19 '12 at 4:45
    
This answer really is just a confirmation of the answer given by Oli and Sladen. I can confirm that this questions was asked to the Community Council. –  cprofitt Mar 19 '12 at 14:46
    
@cprofitt - yep - visit the general chat room for the decision that was made... this will be the master answer after htorque has edited it. –  fossfreedom Mar 19 '12 at 14:49
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this answer has now been merged into the community accepted answer

None of the wider community stuff requires you to use your real name. Launchpad and Membership both allow aliases and handles (for example, I'm Oli here, Oli on IRC, Oli on Launchpad and Oli as an Ubuntu member).

The only instance where I've seen a real name policy is a reference to the Launchpad Beta Testers team requiring real names, in a discussion on the Ubuntu Women mailing list in 2007.

In reality though, this policy seems to have changed because the current members list shows plenty of people who are either using contracted forms of their names or handles. Edit: I've found that they officially retracted this policy in 2008:

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.

Instead, we'd like to encourage you to use your real name but it's up to you.

Although most people joining the beta team have been happy to use
their real name, you'll probably have seen discussions on this list
where people have given good reasons for not wanting to use their real
names. The last thing we want to do is discourage you from helping us
beta test new features!

I'd like to explain, though, why we prefer people to use real names.
We really value the feedback you give us when you beta test a new
feature. One reason for preferring real names is that we feel a real
name shows a greater readiness to take the beta team seriously.
However, we know that this doesn't hold for everyone: for example,
many people have a strong reputation built around a pseudonym.

So, if you've held off joining the beta team because you didn't want
to use your real name, please go ahead and join!

However for legal documents (like the Canonical Contributor License Agreement) a real name is probably demanded. Contracts are usually still binding regardless of the given name (if you can link it to a person with enough proof) but it makes the whole thing a lot more floppy for both sides.

But if you're just talking about the CCLA and you're afraid that giving your real name is an issue, talk to Canonical and they'll let you know what they require and what they do with that information. As far as I know there is no public list of people who have agreed to the CCLA (and there's no clause for this in Canonical's privacy policy) so if your name is leaked online from signing the document, Canonical have done something bad.

But I'm not a lawyer so if this really matters talk to Canonical and if that doesn't help, talk to a lawyer.

--- information about GPG ---

  • Adding an OpenPGP key to Launchpad.
  • Signing the Ubuntu Code of Conduct.
  • Becoming an Ubuntu member.

The above items require the use of a GPG Key currently, but there is no requirement that your GPG Key be signed. If you want to have your GPG Key signed you will have to use your real name because without that there is no proper way to identify you using official government photo identification as required.

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I think it would be interesting to see whether the RMB's would approve membership based on a application that used a fictitious name. In Free Open Source Software peer-approval and vetting is a Common practice and if your peers do not know who you are how could they frankly +1 you? This is not really a up to Canonical thing since vetting is a Community Process and all of this is defined in good part by the Community Council which is not Canonical. –  bkerensa Mar 17 '12 at 0:37
    
You don't need official government photo ID to get your GPG key signed - I could sign your key right now, if I trusted it. Or do you mean some kind of special signature offered by a trusted third party? –  Adrian Mar 19 '12 at 13:42
    
Well if you know somebody and have known them for a long time, you wouldn't hesitate to sign their key but for PGP key signing events, you tend not to know the other people as intimately so hard-to-fake IDs are considered necessary to prove they are who they say they are. –  Oli Mar 19 '12 at 14:25
    
@bkerensa If you can show me years of significant and sustained contribution, I wouldn't care about your name and definitely +1 you. –  htorque Mar 19 '12 at 14:40
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this answer has now been merged into the community accepted answer

Summary

You do need to use a real legal identity to contribute to Canonical upstream projects (or have agreed a suitable alternative).
You do not need to use a real legal identity to contribute to the Ubuntu project.

Contributing to Ubuntu

What makes free software and Ubuntu work is kudos and recognition from fellow Ubuntu contributors. If people recognise your work, and want and trust in that contribution then the name doesn't matter, nor does the timezone, nor languages, nor … many other things.

It is always possible to get other developers to sign and upload a new package, if they trust your changes and are prepared to "put their name on it" (sign the upload). A PGP key is necessary if you want to upload directly to the archive—this is to stop just anyone uploading a trojan package version—but as long as you are marked as having the relevant permissions in Launchpad then you can upload a PGP key of your choosing and use that to sign uploads (which are then checked against the upload database).

The names (or optional email addresses) on the GPG key are up to you, what matters is whether or not other people are prepared to sign the identities, and if so which one(s). A classic example might be a person with identities for both "Alice" and "Bob" as names on their key. Some people might know them as "Alice" during weekdays, and at the weekend a different group of people know them as "Robert" (or Jekyll/Hyde, or Batman/Wayne). Each group would only sign the identity they recognise.

If sufficient other Ubuntu developers trust your nickname as being "you" and are prepared to share some of their own kudos by signing your key, then you are likely to be able to build up the necessary PGP trust, at the same time as building up general kudos in code/IRC/AskUbuntu/Forums/Email/UDS. But again, it's not actually necessary in order to upload as checking is against the Launchpad team and per-package uploader lists.

No contributor agreement is necessary for contributing to Ubuntu and none will be asked for.

Contributing to Canonical projects

Canonical steers and sponsors a number of upstream projects. These are setup within a legal framework to allow future relicensing as required, in what Canonical believes to be a legally-sound way. Code accepted into an upstream project needs to be covered by one of the following to be accepted:

  1. An employment contract
  2. A contractor's contract
  3. An individual Contributor Licence Agreement
  4. A company Contributor Licence Agreement

Number (3) is the one that is probably the one most relevant here. Both parties to the agreement (which both mutually sign) need to believe in the CLA and to sign it in good-faith. It's likely that the signer is going to want the assurance from Canonical that Canonical exists, and that the Canonical is going to want the assurance from the individual that the individual exists.

Each will want the other to abide by the assurances given, so it is likely that both a named individual signing for Canonical and the second party would use their real names in order to make the document worthwhile.

That said, there maybe special situations (eg. war-torn countries, legal situations, boats without a fixed address, …) where it is preferable to investigate what needs to be on the mutual agreement in those situations in more detail.

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+1. As an Ubuntu developer, I encourage people to contribute under real names. When I'm sponsoring uploads for new developers under a pseudonym, I encourage them to rather use a real name, and publish an e-mail address in their LP profile. Each upload needs a signed-off changelog entry, and the changelogs provide a useful historical reference. I don't mind people using pseudonyms, but I'd prefer it if I already knew them under that pseudonym (e.g. if they use that pseudonym for all their OSS work), and it wasn't an unpronounceable mix of letters and numbers. –  tumbleweed Mar 19 '12 at 14:11
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I also wanted to hide my identity in Launchpad. So, the OpenPGP key gave all that away :) It makes your email address public to everybody logged into Launchpad. I have written a question to Launchpad itself, and here was their answer:

"Unfortunately, this behavior is a function of the SKS OpenGPG keyserver, which is independent of Launchpad."

So in the end I have accepted this, and generated my OpenPGP and signed the CoC. Haven't been harassed yet :)

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What's "Ano Nymous <anonymous.user581824@gmail.com>" telling anyone? Sure, you won't get many people to sign that key, but AFAICT that's no requirement. –  htorque Mar 13 '12 at 9:55
    
you're right of course –  bioShark Mar 13 '12 at 10:54
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