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There is a good question specifically about StackExchange sites already but I would like to learn this about other sites as well.

In my specific case I started using one of my personal user names (which is known to my employer) on a developer forum. On that forum, I have written some posts which are work related but nothing which would clearly identify to other users the company or my real identity. However, I use the same user name on other development sites (e.g. Github, Sourceforge etc.) as well.

Part of my job is to contribute to the development of a piece of software and I found using the forum helpful for that. The software is only used inside our company so far.

Now my employer is considering to make this software open source on Github or a similar site. If we do this, we will post on that development forum about it.

In theory, I could use my personal Github account to put up the software but that seems like a bad move for several reasons (what happens if I leave the company, keeping the source code clean of my contact details like work email address, my name, the company, etc). Though it would naturally fit in with the already existing contributions I had made to the developer forum.

Therefore I am tempted to create another identity which is completely unrelated and which will I use only for this employer (and maybe only for this project)... are there other options?

To complicate things, my colleagues who also contribute to that software would also make changes to the Github project and participate in the development forum.

How do you deal with your online identities in a scenario where the personal and the professional suddenly start to overlap? Should the new user name identify me, the company, both or none? Or should we create a single company account for this project?

  • I always use specific accounts for an employer, independent of my personal accounts. That way if I change employer, I keep my own work separate. Any work I do for an employer is not mine by definition anyway. – Jane S May 18 '15 at 4:45
  • @JaneS How do you construct your "work user names"? Are they giving away the company/your name? Are you putting those user names (and potentially associated email addresses) into the source code you'd publish online? – Cheng May 18 '15 at 5:57
  • Work user names are normally the name of the company or a contraction of such. I do not include contact details for the organisation such as email addresses within the source code. – Jane S May 18 '15 at 6:03
  • @JaneS Does your user name identify you (your real name or a nickname) or do you have a single shared Github (or elsewhere) account for the whole company? – Cheng May 18 '15 at 6:13
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    I don't understand the part of the question that says "To complicate things, my colleagues who also contribute to that software would also make changes" - couldn't you and your colleagues all create separate work-specific accounts, e.g. alice@mycompany, bob@mycompany, .... If you all use the same work account, then you'll lose the whole point of version control, i.e. to track who changed what when. – Brandin May 18 '15 at 9:36
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I would create a company profile and release the source on this, because of the following reasons;

  • Depending on your contract, almost every one is the same, all work you do belongs to your company. Releasing it on your own profile would give the illusion that the code belongs to you and you could be breaching your contract.
  • (As you've already mentioned) If you leave the company you'd still be represented as the "owner" of the project, even though it belongs to the company.

You mentioned releasing it on GitHub (or a like service). You could release it under an organisation named after your company. GitHub allows you to create organisations to release code bases under - consider it a sub-account on your main account. Your employer could run this organisation and you'd be the face (main developer) of it until you move on.

Having the codebase release under an organisation and having you and other developers commit to that version (or fork it), would be much more professional in the sense that the repo owner is your company and not a developer - who may move on and stop supporting it and the company has to fork it and look like another supporter of the project and not the owner.

I see no harm in having your personal profile on the forum posts, though it could be good to have it switched to your company profile so that people can see the company - the people that own the code - actively support the project and not the illusion that someone "random" is the sole supporter.

Generally, anything I work on during my professional work hours (0830-1730) is released under my employers name (the company name), and everything I do outside those hours is released under my personal profile.

  • For new stuff, using the company persona is easy. For stuff that I worked on personally and bringing that into the company (open source project), it is a bit hard to make the switch at any given point in time. – Martin Ueding Feb 23 '17 at 11:12
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If you participate in a forum as a representative of your employer, your email and other contact info should reflect the fact that you are operating as a representative of your employer. Ditto for all your colleagues.

Since your employer is considering Open Sourcing the software, I suggest that your employer work out the logistics of releasing it including the setup of the official repo for the software. For a company to release its software as Open Source in a github repo under Aunt Millie's name is irresponsible - No disrespect intended toward Aunt Millie, of course.

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My first reaction was to ask whoever is making the decision to contribute to open source as a company, since they may have opinions about how visibly they want to to so.

In general, yes, I would start using an account clearly associated with your company. If they're donating your time, they deserve to be recognized for doing so. My activity with Apache was always under a company account when doing company-sponsored stuff; ditto W3C.

If it isn't obvious from the usernames, you can tell the community that me@home is the same person as myself@work. But that'd mostly be courtesy and to avoid confusion. Presumably you aren't maintaining exclusive ownership of the files, so the fact that a new id is now editing them shouldn't matter to Git.

If you leave the company but stay involved in this project, just go back to using your personal account.

If others from your company are involved now or in the future, they can and should sign up for their own company-associated ids, for all the same reasons.

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    Thanks for your answer. Could you give more specific guidance? Assume I am the one authorizing them? What's the correct way? – Cheng May 18 '15 at 5:54

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