I have about a dozen (so it seems) posts rolling around concerning the RealID implementation on the official forums. While I'd love to string them together into one long post, I don't think it would make for good reading. Just in my handwritten notes I have about eight pages of thoughts, and they're a little jumbled. So let me just start with this one.
Meeting a goal - reducing the Trolls
One of Blizzard's stated goals is to reduce the level of anonymity and trollish behavior that is currently seen on the official forums. From hiding on a level one alt, to someone posting repeatedly under different account names, the signal to noise ratio on the official forums can get out of control fairly quickly. There is currently nothing in place to prevent this type of behavior, and the only way that they get caught is if a GM looks into the posting (or if they leave their signature on).
Assigning someone's Real Name (RN) to these posts will help cut down on the number of posts like this, as you'll see the same name trying to post in a single thread. Unfortunately it will have severe negative repercussions as well. I'm fairly certain that in attempting to meet the goal of Troll reduction, they will fail to meet the goal of an improved social community.
Establishing the you
Some posters (Ciderhelm is the first that comes to mind) have worked long and hard over the years to establish a reputation on the forums as serious and legitimate contributors. Some of my first tanking instruction came from a sticky by Ciderhelm back when I was first learning Molten Core. I'm fairly certain Tseric was the blue who stickied it (and later melted down), and I've kept an eye on anything Ciderhelm has to say since.
The same goes for bloggers. Big Bear Butt, Larisa, Gevlon - the list is almost endless. Each of these people have worked long and hard to carve out a place for themselves in the internet WoW, and we don't need to know who they are IRL. It is my fear that by forcing Larisa to post her real name, we will lose her voice. She's not as open about her life as BBB or Matticus are.
So how can we meet both goals?
Let's take a lesson from Smokey.
I'd have made one for forum Trolls, but I don't have that level of talent. My point here is that the systems are already in place for the WoW forum community to be a self policing agency. Unfortunately, posts are rarely reported simply for being out of line. I imagine that if the WoW forums were administered as closely as the EJ forums, most of this wouldn't be happening. Of course, there's a few drawbacks to that system as well - mostly along the lines of who determines what a valid post is.
Another drawback, at least from the EJ standpoint, is that there does need to be a section for questions like "What is the hitcap for moonkins" without a backlash of "Search first NOOB!". New players need a safe haven where they are encouraged to ask questions. These areas can still be policed by the community though.
Using an alternate ID
Alternately, or perhaps in addition to, forum users policing themselves much more vigorously, Blizzard could instead allow everyone to adopt an alternate ID that would then be permanently tied to that account. While this would lead to a dearth of xxxStabsYouDeadxxx type names, there are 10 million+ subscribers that would need to create a forum name. You could perhaps just require a forum name to be created if you wanted to post (like EJ), thus knocking that number down to say, 500,000.
This idea not only links a single name to an account - so you'd remove the multiple posts from a single poster type issue - it would also allow players like Ciderhelm to keep their established online identities without giving away a real name.
Link the alts
Another option would be to make everyone's alts visible through the game/Armory. I'm not a huge fan of this idea, but it would meet the established goals I think. Personally I like being able to just run around without everyone knowing where all my alts are - though I'm sure there's more than one GM/Raid Leader who would love to know where their raiders are hiding on progression night.
Let me be very clear - I don't think linking real names in the forums is a good idea. I'm not a fan of it, and I probably won't ever post on the official forums if this goes live. I do think there are other ways that Blizzard could go about solving this problem however, and I think most of it starts with the community policing itself. I'm also not going to be canceling my account over this. I'm sure I'll stop playing WoW some day, but today is not that day.