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Regarding my prior post on G+ and real names - - here's a transcript of what Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in the Q&A at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International TV Festival, so you can see his direct words rather than my paraphrasing of it:

Q: Can we talk about social media for a while? Last night you admitted again that
Google was slow on social media. Why was that, why didn’t you get it as an organisation?

Well, I think the defensive answer would be to say we got a lot of other things right.
When I look back at my decade as CEO, there are many many things I’m very proud of.

In the area of social media, we knew upfront 10 years ago that the Internet lacked
essentially an accurate identity service. I’m not here by the way talking about
Facebook, the media gets confused when I talk about this. If you think about it,
the Internet would be better if we had an accurate notion that you were a real
person as opposed to a dog, or a fake person, or a spammer or what have

And the notion of strong identity was never invented in the Internet. Many people
worked on it - I worked on it as a scientist 20 years ago, and it’s a hard
problem. So if we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold
them accountable, we could check them, we could give them things, we could you
know bill them, you know we could have credit cards and so forth and so on,
there are all sorts of reasons.

And the Internet did not develop this in many ways because the Internet came out of
universities where the issue of authentication wasn’t such a big issue.
Everybody trusted everybody, you didn’t have these kinds of

But my general rule is people have a lot of free time and people on the Internet,
there are people who do really really evil and wrong things on the Internet, and
it would be useful if we had strong identity so we could weed them out. I’m not
suggesting eliminating them, what I’m suggesting is if we knew their identity
was accurate, we could rank them. Think of them like an identity

So we’ve had all those conversations at Google but the real mechanism that helped
this was the technology that was invented first by MySpace and then eventually
by Facebook, where you could disambiguate names by looking at people. So if you
have John Smith, they show you there’s five John Smiths, well here’s a John
Smith and then based on the pictures, you say this is the John Smith who’s my
friend. And that’s how identity is in fact managed in Facebook.

We were very, very slow to figure this out in my view, and I’ll take the criticism
as the leader.

So the solution of course that we’ve come up with is called Google+, which is in
essentially early beta, and it looks like it’s doing very well so far. It
essentially provides an identity service with a link structure around your
friends, similar to what I just described.

When we’ve got that, we can improve our products. So for example if you and I are
friends, and - with your permission, this is very important - we can have
slightly better search results if I know a little bit about who you

What about YouTube recommendations? We have this Leanback model where we suggest YouTube videos that you should just watch one after the other. Well if I know the ones that you like, and again with your permission, I can merge that as a
signal in, and get a better result.

So it’s central for Google to have such a service, and that’s what we’re trying to

Q: One of the early controversies around Google+ is you not allowing people to use
nicknames. Andy Carvin, who’s over from NPR actually at the festival, is asking
on Twitter: “How does Google justify its real names only policy on Google+ when
it could put some people at grave risk?”.

Well, the first comment is that Google+ is completely optional. In fact, many many
people want to get in, if you don’t want to use it, you don’t have to.

Q: But you wouldn’t use it in Iran or Syria would you?

Well Iran and Syria are - let’s come back to that because that’s a more complicated
question. But in the Western world, what we decided to do was to take the
position that we wanted people to be willing to be at least identified by some
sort of a real name. And the reason had to do with this identity point I was
making earlier.

So that’s the genesis of this real name - and I should say, by the way, that this
real names debate goes on and on and on. But we want people to stand for
something, we want people to be willing to express themselves. There are
obviously people for which using their real name is not appropriate, and it’s
completely optional, and if you’re one of those people don’t do it. Seems

In the case of countries like Iran and Syria, and in fact I’m working on a book on
this so I’ve looked at this pretty thoroughly, it’s a whole different ball of
wax. There, there’s no assumption of privacy, everyone assumes that the Internet
is bugged and that the secret police are after them. So their sensibilities are
extremely different.
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He still sounds like an idiot.
I'm going to be ripped apart for this, but here goes.

Yes, Google is setting a bad precedent here. Pseudonymity is a wonderful thing because it properly mirrors real life. If I talk to Joe about X and I talk to Sue about Y, I'm pretty sure Joe and Sue won't compare notes. And, Tom can't search my conversations with Joe or Sue 10 years later.

That said, both the iPhone and the iPad (and the iPod, for that matter) were roundly castigated for being too simplified. Yet, they're the best-selling and best-loved devices in their respective spaces. The reason is that they are simple. They are restricted. That's their draw!

Most people, in most places, will want an identity service. And, they will want that identity to have a 1-to-1 with the real world. Because, frankly, that's how commerce functions. I know who you are and you know who I am and if the contract between us is breached, then the courts can find you. This sort of certainty is an improvement in commerce.

I suspect that a 1-to-1 identity is going to happen. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when, likely in 10-15 years. I suspect the final solution is going to be tied to your cellphone number and your national ID number (SSN for the US). And, it's going to be required for most commercial transactions.

The implications for privacy are pretty severe, yes. But, I suspect that a lot of the reasons for privacy (such as embarrassment) are going to fade over time and be seen as a generational thing. I suspect the same will happen with the male-on-female harassment that has been a serious problem, but that may take longer. The issues with stalking . . . I don't have a good read on that yet. I suspect vigilanteism will have to happen for a while before the law catches up.
very hard to read mate. all those blanks in the middle. you could have put some formatting into it. like bold for questions. and actually eliminate the previous formatting. if you use chrome Ctrl-Shift-V will do it. Not doing it. grrrrr
I'd be a lot more understanding of their stance (although still vehemently opposed) if they would just come straight out and say "look, we're Google, we make our money targeting ads at you, so what's the point having all this wonderful new social data about you, if we don't know who 'you' are?", instead of acting like it's an altruistic effort to better serve our search requirements. And what does he have against dogs, anyway? My dog has a very active social life on Facebook. Friend him some time (Hoover Messenger). Nice dog, just doesn't spell too good. And somewhat aggrieved that he's not welcome on G+.
I'm not giving him lessons. I'm just saying if you are going to post something, make it readable. Thanks and muting the post. I will look at the article myself and read it from the source. A link would have been enough.
The "previous formatting" is a bunch of newlines. He'll have to manually hit backspace to merge the separate lines. For those who aren't seeing the bad formatting - some people are seeing the paragraphs come out with a line of full text, then a line with a single word, then a line of full text, then a line with a single word, alternating until the next paragraph break. This is in a full-fledged, modern browser (Chrome on Windows, in my case); I suspect it has to do with the details of your system font and zoom level, whether you see it in yours.

That said, thank you for giving us the actual content of what he said; I'm glad we can finally judge for ourselves whether the earlier "paraphrase" is a fair characterization of what Eric said.
Maybe it's because I've been online since the early-mid '80's, but I don't want an identity service. This is very frustrating because in every other respect G+ is doing for me what no other service has - connecting me to people. Facebook doesn't do what I want. It makes it easy for people who know me to find me, but hard otherwise. G+ is enabling people around the world to find me, people I can see no connection with either online or IRL.

But it's preventing a large percentage from being able to connect with be BECAUSE THEY CAN'T AFFORD TO USE IT!!!!!

It's not an option for them, it's not a choice. Using G+ endangers them.

Aargh...They talk about G+ being their next foray into social media, then when it works except for the one thing that's a deal breaker for many people, say, "Oh, it's not really social media, it's an identity service.

If this was advertising that would be called bait and switch.
+Melissa Hall Most B2X commerce is done that way, yes. However, how about the C2C commerce, such as Ebay or Craigslist. Having a guaranteed identity would be a huge boon to those services. And, don't kid yourself - Craigslist does over a billion dollars/year in commerce and that's with the identity issues. Ebay is 10x that. Imagine if you were guaranteed that the other guy wasn't going to scam you. This is why Ebay bought Paypal.
+Rob Kinyon I don't care about business, I'm not on G+ to buy or sell. I'm on G+ because I was told it was a better alternative to Facebook.
I think the solution should be simply, you must provide a real name to google, however you can provide a separate nickname which is shown to the wider world. That way google can continue with their domination for every bit of information in the world while users maintain their privacy against general users. As a Libyan,I saw the power of twitter in the early days at organising the revolution. If we put our real names out, never would it have happened in the manner in which it did.the same goes for Egypt and Tunisia. This is also the same for the UK riots, but we can prosecute those because the real names will be held in the background
+Brian Moffatt Yes, I am. I am in unconditional support of pseudonyms. I'm also calling it as I see it. I know what my neighbors want.

+Bert Knabe That's why I'm here, too.

+Melissa Hall I agree 100% with you. Nothing I said implied I thought that the direction was a good thing. (At least, I don't think it does. Please point to it if I am wrong.) I'm just saying that I think it's going to happen and that it's not the end of the world if it does.

A few months ago, Scott Adams posited a city premised on the idea of zero privacy. If you chose to live there, you would have zero privacy. Cameras everywhere and everyone could see every feed. All your transactions, movement, speech - everything would be public knowledge.

After you're done recoiling at the idea, really sit down and think through your objections. Most people want privacy because piercing that veil is seen as a one-way power grab. You have information about me, but I don't have that information about you. If, however, all information was available, would that work?

You may not want to live there. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to live there (though I can see myself doing so happily). But, would it work?
Seems like a lot of discussion for something about useless for 99.9 percent of people. 
I'd quite like to see some more details about specifics:

1. How will/Can Google protect those user's details.
2. What will happen in the event of leak? - As I'm not so sure 'we got hacked' really absolves responsibility at this kinda level.
3. How would and individual view what Google is doing with the individuals information once it 'goes into Google.' (esp if your non USA based).
4. Will removing your details REMOVE YOUR DETAILS?

Sorry if these have been answered already else where (any background reading link anyone could post would be warmly received).

I thought this may be interesting to people:
Thinking I'll have to put random page breaks and typos into the next transcript I post just to make it more annoying for some people, LOL.
+Tom Holmes I agree, that's why I slipped you the read. Ironically, saw it in my Google Reader. :)
+Brian Moffatt My neighbors want things to be simple, the same way I want my car to be simple. I don't care about fuel injectors or how many cylinders or whatever. I want it to go forward, backwards, turn, and stop - all on command. Don't confuse me with random terms or crap. Just make it work.

Let's look at the libertarian idea that we don't need food inspectors. Their take is that the market will solve the problem because the corner store will only buy milk from producers that haven't had problems. This is because (in theory) I won't buy milk from the corner store if they have problems.

There are several problems with all that, but the biggest one is that I want to have reasonable assurances that I can give that milk to my kid. I don't want to know about milk temperatures and bacteria and transportation issues and whatever. Neither does the corner store owner. I just want safe milk. The corner store owner just wants to sell stuff. No-one wants to have a degree in milk safety (other than the inspector).

Issues on the internet are similar. People just want stuff to work. Don't confuse them with complications, even if those complications (should they understand them) would make their lives better. Yes, I'm sure I would be a better person if I had a degree in milk safety, as would you. But, do you want to be forced to get one?
+Rob Kinyon There's a difference between simplifying in an effort to make things easier for the user (iOS) and simplifying in a way that makes the service unusable for entire swaths of the population (G+).

One is user-friendly and people flock to it, the other is user-hostile and people resist it.
On the awareness that G+ was primarily made to be an identity service, which I must have missed the memo on, I would never have signed up for it. Now that I've heard the horror stories of downgrading. I'm in a crux of a situation that leads me to re-share articles to help people locate information they need to be the voice against the G+ naming policy because the last thing I want is to find myself stalked, again.
+Steve Bogart iOS is user-hostile to those who wish to hack on the product - make it do things it wasn't intended to do. Pseudonyms can be viewed as a way to hack on G+.

I want to be absolutely certain everyone understands exactly what I'm saying. I am not saying I agree with the Real-Names policy. I don't. I disagree with it vehemently.

However, in order to convince someone else, you have to start from their context. Which means you have to understand their context first. And that is what I'm trying to do. And, frankly, the Real-Names context has a lot of good points to it. I don't agree with it, but I can understand it. And, in understanding it, I hopefully can help those who have agreed with it because it agrees with their personal assumptions rethink their position.

My sense is that many people who disagree with the Real-Names policy have refused to enter the context at all. This is unhelpful.
+Brian Moffatt excellent points! The process of appeal and correction would defiantly be an interesting one; especially when I read some of the comments about how they initially handled the 'name' policy with the freezing of G+ accounts; a number of people were saying how little notification or help there was from Google around the issue and this is before it's gone world wide general release! There would (I suggest) have to be a massive change in this area if Google were serious about making it work in every/any country. Waiting for Google to decide if your a real person or not seems very odd to me!
+Rob Kinyon I have tried for some time to understand their context, and it never adds up.

A statement like Schmidt's "If you think about it, the Internet would be better if we had an accurate notion that you were a real person" contains no actual reasons, just its own assumed conclusion. "If you think about it, the Internet would be better if it were polyester." ...because why?

Schmidt: "..if we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them, we could give them things, we could you know bill them, you know we could have credit cards and so forth and so on, there are all sorts of reasons" is very vague (hold accountable how?), but certainly implies that the primary thing they care about is the commerce aspect of it all.

Which is not what people who thought this would be a fine place to hold interesting conversations care about.

So it feels like we are being given new information, that this has been a bait & switch - "Hey everybody, come on over, it's a social network better than Facebook!" but better in a specific narrow way that only Google knows/wants, for reasons that are still very poorly explained.

"Join our profile authentication service so you can have 1% better search results, be ready to use your phone as your wallet someday, be able to be charged for services and, as a side effect, converse with some other Real-Sounding Profiles." is a very different pitch, but would have been much more honest.

Also: It's not the audience's job to speculate what the most plausible/praiseworthy reasons for the policy might be and then attribute them to Google.

It is Google's own communications team which ought to be framing our understanding of what this is all leading toward.

And it's been pretty quiet and/or flat-out contradictory, as between B. Horowitz and E. Schmidt.
+Rob Kinyon Have you ever read "Oath of Fealty" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle? It is about just such a city.

I think you are right about needing to understand their context (at least there need to be some who do, even if not everyone). It also just occurred to me what one of the divides might be -- the pro identity service people see only the good of such a concept, and don't believe that, even if the reality of such a concept could be misused, their work could be misused or that they are located in an area where such misuse could occur. Pro "nym" (pro privacy) people have reason to believe (personal experience, know history, etc) that not only is the concept capable of being misused, it is almost a certainty that it will be misused. Sooner or later, to a greater or lessor degree. And that if fully implemented, there will be no recourse.
+Rob Kinyon You are right that we need to understand the "real name" postion, and I think I do. It would help if they would understand ours. As I see it, the people in favor of real names are generally in at least one of two camps. They believe business would be incredibly better if they knew absolutely who they were dealing with, or they believe that most people wanting to use a pseudonym are abusive, forgers, ID thieves, or worse.

The reality is far different, as those of us who have been involved online since the days when most people used handles know. I understand the concerns of the "real name" crowd, I just have the experience to know that the concerns are based upon assumptions made using mis-weighted risk factors.
‎...wish Google/Google+ got 'community' as they take on Facebook. Facebook lets you know who also reads "Ode Magazine" or follows the "Coffee Party"... Happy to use my individual 'real name' in community (and that's NOT the same as Google+'s technical application of 'Circles')!
+Bert Knabe Can you speak further to the assumption by the pro-names that "business would be incredibly better"? Because, I cannot find a refutation of that argument.

Unlike, of course, your second point.
+Rob Kinyon I think the onus should be on them to prove how it would be better. Is business better with credit than with cash? Depends on how you look at it. With cash the purchase can be made anonymously, but with near 100% certainty the cash is good. With credit you theoretically verify the purchasers identity, but the risk of default is higher, even so. There are people I have known online for over a decade who have never used their real names. But I know them, and I trust them. There are people whose real names I've known for an equal amount of time off line, and I wouldn't trust them to tie my shoes.

With pseudonyms it could be harder to track web use and target ads. Unless you're Google. Unless I don't do anything online with my real name Google has the data to pair my real and pseudonymous identities. So maybe the real reason Google wants real names is not they make business better. It's not even so they can better track us. It's so that they do not have the responsibility of making sure no one uses their data to pair pseudonyms with real names, exposing Google to all kinds of PR and perhaps legal repercussions. If pseudonyms aren't used Google can't be held responsible for protecting them.

That last paragraph is entirely off the top of my head. Any criticism, evidence to support, or total flaming welcome. :^)
Business is absolutely and definitively better with digit cash that it is with physical cash. Consider what happens if a store only accepts digital cash (disregarding interchange fees for the moment). That store can never be held up. That store never needs to make change, never needs to go to the bank on a deposit run. That store always balances its registers. It will always have an exact record of its customers' purchase habits.

In short, the store owner is extremely happy. And, most customers are also happy because the store is able to predict their desires. Oh, you just had a baby? Let me point you at the diapers. You tend to buy beer? How about I point you at the sale on chips. Starting to buy fruits and veggies, but you used to buy pasta and chips? Let me point you to the sale on protein bars.

In short, the store is able to offer the customer what the customer didn't know existed. Most people I know (and myself included) prefer that. This is why Amazon and Netflix and Ebay have spent billions on customer suggestion algorithms. And the results are in - customers love them. They love them so much that if you are a major retailer without a suggestion algorithm, you may as well shut your doors.

Please rebut.
I keep reading Eric Schmidt's comment that there are some people who do "evil things" on the internet, and I wonder what his definition of "evil things" is that he thinks real names are going to solve. Because first of all, I'm pretty sure it's different from mine. And second of all, unless the law is changed in a pretty radical and fundamental fashion, it seems like "real" or legal names aren't going to fix much of anything. Which makes this whole thing feel pretty insulting from that aspect too.
+Leo G You said something I wanted to address/correct. You said:

"If you read Eric's words, it sounds like this is much ado about nothing...

"...what we decided to do was to take the position that we wanted people to be willing to be at least identified by some sort of a
real name.


"There are obviously people for which using their real name is not appropriate, and it’s completely optional, and if you’re one of
those people don’t do it."

He didn't say using real names is completely optional, he said using Google+ is completely optional. At this point in time he is right about that. But if G+ really takes off and becomes as big as Facebook then using it might still be technically optional, but in reality if you want the most efficient means of getting your information to the largest amount of people you will have to use G+ and Facebook. I really believe that the two will wind up being competitors in name, but most people will find that one or the other fits their lives better. And between the two of them they will control information distribution.

If Google and Facebook have and enforce real name policies they will decide who has a voice. They will decide what issues get attention, and they will decide what we know because they will have decided that a significant part of the population does not have anything to say that is worth hearing. Which might be fine if we were living in Leave It to Beaver's version of 1950's America, but does not work well with the 21st century online world.
Glad you posted this. As I'm sure everyone is aware, paraphrasing can definitely remove essential context. I think a lot of people interpreted Andy's initial paraphrasing quite a bit differently than it was intended.
+Rob Kinyon Credit isn't the same as digital cash, and digital cash really has little or nothing to do with the discussion. Pseudonyms can be used with digital cash. Pseudonyms can be tracked. If someone with the time and access to the information is so inclined, most of the time pseudonyms can be tied to a persons "real" identity. It's been shown time and again that supposedly anonymous information like searches can be tied to the individual who made them. so the whole "real names are needed to block/catch the evil doers" is a farce.

I'm surprised Google hasn't made the argument that it possible to tie the pseudonym to the person, so by requiring real names Google is making people safer by removing the false sense of security a pseudonym provides.
FB's algorithms suck, yes. This is why I didn't list it in my comment. Amazon's, Netflix's, and Ebay's are actually quite good.
The last paragraph of the above article:

Google has adopted the Facebook doctrine at the very moment in which the figleaf slipped, when people all over the world are noticing that remaking ancient patterns of social interaction to conform to advertising-driven dogma exposes you to everything from humiliation at school to torture in the cells of a Middle Eastern despot. There could be no stupider moment for Google to subscribe to the gospel of Zuckerberg, and there is no better time for Google to show us an alternative.
Google+ isn't an identity service, it's a consumer of an identity service (Google Profiles), same as Flickr is a consumer of Yahoo!'s identity service.

Identity 2.0 Keynote

As +Bert Knabe says, pseudonyms are false security. People like to talk about "security theatre", and that's an apt qualifier for pseudonyms. It's interesting how people have latched onto the concept of security theatre in other areas but don't seem to have made the connection with pseudonyms.

A pseudonym is useless against governments because governments have access to all internet activity. If you say something they don't like, it doesn't matter what name you used, they can know exactly who said it anyway. For countries like Iran, Syria, China, and others, they have complete access to the records, just as the police would in other countries if they first got a subpoena.

There has been this false perception that pseudonyms provide a high level of privacy or security. In most cases they do not. They can actually be more dangerous because they give a false sense of security, letting people say things they wouldn't otherwise say, while the actual risk to them is the same as if they used their real name.

Online privacy from governments is a much harder problem than something that can be fixed by throwing a pseudonym at it.

As to using pseudonyms to hide your identity from other people, most people who attempt that only apply the thinnest level of defence. A couple of minutes of googling can connect their pseudonym with their real identity, and their entire alter ego is exposed.
Real names are also false security. Where's the real-ids of the anon people validating the names? What strict governmental standards do they adhere to? Is it ISO-9001? It's so convenient for Google itself to hide underneath anonymity.

Google itself won't follow it in South Korea:, makes people targets for identity theft and it violates SCOTUS.

Why does Google need display it is the true question. Everybody already gets a unique numerical ID, and Google has all the personal information already. Why display it?

I'm have the impression that Mr. Greenfield's position is Nym users are social criminals in all but name.

But, let's have Kee Hinckley break it down again:

When you walk into a mixer or bar (they've already recorded your ID at the door), do you need to glue your ID to your forehead? It doesn't happen in the real world, and people still get along. Nobody can track you, and nobody needs to know your name until you want to "connect", period.
+Matt Greenfield I didn't say pseudonyms were useless, I said I'm surprised Google hasn't used that argument. In one sense pseudonyms are just another form of security through obscurity, but they do have their purpose, and if a person uses a little care a pseudonym will protect you from most people. As thousands, if not millions, of people can tell you, pseudonyms on the internet, especially when used with other measures, can protect you. The aren't perfect, but nothing is. No matter what measures you take, if a government wants to catch you it will because it has the time and resources on it's side. But it will be a lot harder if I'm using TOR and a pseudonym than if I'm using TOR and Bert Knabe. I think there's one other Bert Knabe in the world, so without a pseudonym I'm pretty much exposed with whatever I say. Pseudonyms aren't a silver bullet when it comes to protection, but they are another layer, and an important one.

PS also watching the video now.
+Joseph Lee Google need to display common names on Google+ because Google+ is a social network for connecting real people, not pseudonymous people. That's the design intent of the service. Same as Facebook.

Google want people to be able to connect and communicate with people they know in the real world, which requires common names to be visible.

There's also scientific evidence (and much anecdotal) that shows that pseudonyms lower community standards and that enforcing identity negates those problems.
As thousands, if not millions, of people can tell you, pseudonyms on the internet, especially when used with other measures, can protect you.

+Bert Knabe I would suggest that their perception and the reality are different. They have been given a false sense of security, but not had that falsehood exposed because for most people others simply don't care enough to find their real identity.

Now, I'm not saying there's no case for pseudonyms. There are cases where there is genuine benefit and need for using pseudonyms. Currently Google+ doesn't serve those cases. Google+ also doesn't currently allow brands, or people younger than 18. It's a service that isn't even three months old yet, is still in trial, and not yet completely open to the public.

Brad Horowitz has publicly stated (Inside Google+: Bradley Horowitz talks with Tim O'Reilly) that they're aware of the various groups who the service is not currently suitable for, and are working on solutions. Give it time.
+Matt Greenfield You're right, it is too early to say Google is abandoning people who need pseudonyms. But if we want to make sure they get a fair chance to enjoy Google+ we have to make sure Google knows that their presence here is important to us, the people who don't need pseudonyms. We have to not only discuss it with each other, but also give Google feedback about our concerns.

And thanks for the video link. I had seen it before, but it's well worth seeing again.
+Brian Moffatt What I described is the same model as Facebook for connecting with real world friends and acquaintances, and it's been wildly successful, to the tune of hundreds of millions of users.

Yes, Facebook's enforcement of their names policy has been spotty, as is Google's. 100% enforcement is not necessary for the policy to be a success, as Facebook have shown. So long as a majority of people are using their real world names the model works.

As to nicknames in the real world, the common names policy allows those as does the "other names" fields on your profile here. "Matt" isn't the name on my passport but it's the name everyone calls me in the real world.

As for lowering community standards? Anecdotally, I'd say the opposite is true and there are other better and easier ways to maintain "standards".

Anecdotally, from 20 years experience of building and managing online communities, I have no personal doubt that pseudonyms lower community standards. The science also supports this, as I linked above.

Low community standards have been an almost universal problem for online communities since the days of Usenet, and there have been a range of different solutions invented to deal with that problem. Enforcing identity is known to be one of the more successful methods.
Again, conflating identity with reputation. G+ is an identity service, not a social network. Therefore, real id is only important to Google and only for internal metrics. Google does not need to display the real id in order to track us. That's what the Google Profile id is for. We're already tracked and Google doesn't need a real name for that for any marketing.

The rest of us have gotten along quite well with pseudonyms for millennia. Let's look at Greenfield -- what is it? Historically, it probably means from a field of green, just like Goldsmith (gold smither) or Johnson (son of John). What is it now -- a long-term pseudonym. What does that mean to any of us? Absolutely nothing because reputation isn't inherent in the name, just like my real name means absolutely nothing to any of you.

The history of English and its Germanic roots points that new words can be made out of any old words, so every name is a pseudonym. The only way it gains credibility is through long-term use and reputation gain so it works with any stable set of words.

Therefore, real id is a meaningless distraction that doesn't add one bit of validity to normal discussion. It's actually more invasive since it doesn't reflect real world interaction.

But this is Google for you, people who aren't really good at social interaction, judging by their CS history, such as lack of real names behind CS but instead a Python help page, or unmonitored self-help forums.
+Matt Greenfield Enforcing identity is known to be one of the more successful methods. Please name some references instead of hand-waving some strawmen.

I name Slashdot which uses multiple levels of moderation (user and mods) and a reputation system that ranks trolls down plus reputation view filters. None of Slashdot's immense social success depends on real names, only stable pseudonyms.

Conversations there are quite civil considering it is the original, web-based Internet forum.
+Joseph Lee Your common name is the connecting point to your real world identity and reputation for other people. Yes, Google could have only required it for the identity service (Google Profiles), but for the social network (Google+) to work those common names need to be visible.

You talk of "real id", but Google have no such policy. The policy is common name, not legal name.
You know, it's only the last week or so that I started hearing that Google+ is primarily an identity service. I joined a social network. That's what it was sold to me as by Google and the press. I joined, and I got social. I used my real name because over the past several years I've been using my real name online. But the vast majority of people I've met on Google+ have never heard of me before. My name means nothing to them. NONE of my real life friends are on Google+. Most of my real life friends are not online except to occasionally (like once a week) check email and Facebook. The "real name" aspects of Facebook and Google+ mean squat to me. The idea that any of my real life friends couldn't find me on either service is ludicrous. If they were looking for me it would be because I invited them, and I would have given them my handle.

Maybe I'm unusual, but exactly how does Google displaying my common name help the social aspect?
+Joseph Lee Slashdot is an interesting example. Their model has been copied by many other sites. I've implemented it myself in various systems over the years, with some changes. I could (and have) written essays on the pros and cons of that model. But I'll make an attempt at a summary, that unfortunately won't do full justice to the various points:

- Slashdot style moderation is acceptably effective at suppressing and discouraging trolls and general antisocial actors
- There is a side effect of enforcing group think, resulting in an effective single group opinion and character. Communities built on this model are generally capable of only serving their chosen niche demographic
- For various reasons the model creates boundaries on community size, although there are various methods employed to mitigate this (see: Reddit's subreddits as one example)
- The lack of identity enforcement creates an environment of weak social connections. Strong interpersonal bonds rarely form or strengthen, when compared to identity enforced community models
+Bert Knabe Schmidt misspoke (or was misquoted?) when he said Google+ is an identity service. Google+ is a social network service and Google Profiles is the identity service. It could be better characterised (in terms of business goals) as Google+ being a social network service with the purpose of driving greater adoption of Google Profiles, thus strengthening Google's identity service.

Facebook's identity service has become the industry leader. Almost every website now offers the option of logging in using the Facebook identity service. Google are trying to compete with that. There are always business goals behind free services. Although that doesn't mean those goals define the service.

As to what your real name means to people who don't yet know you personally, it's subtle. I think if I go into the details of all this stuff I'll end up writing essays here, and I really don't want to do that... But without doing the topic fair justice, suffice to say that presenting with what appears to be your real name has the effect on others of personalising you. Or said from the other angle, presenting with a pseudonym would have the effect of depersonalising and dehumanising you.

Because you are presenting with a real name strangers will treat you with more respect because they are conceptualising you as more of a real person. There's aspects of implied reputation, of ownership of actions thus responsibility, of basically being a more fully fleshed out entity that people can identify with and thus treat with greater respect. The psychology of it is interesting stuff, at least to me.
Regarding the Real Name policy that Google is still embracing in the face of overwhelming public opposition, according to the transcript Schmidt says, "If you think about it, the Internet would be better if we had an accurate notion that you were a real person as opposed to a dog, or a fake person, or a spammer or what have you."

And I think that's great for people who want to use the name that their parents or orphanage gave them at birth. But the issue has been a point of contention for political dissidents, victims of domestic abuse, and transgender people among many others. I don't have much to say on this issue because it seems obvious to me that the policy is wrong and I'm not sure how one would further clarify that fact. A person's identity is created of their own volition. Any statement to the contrary would be easily categorized as oppression. If Skud's real name is Mary Jane Goodwife (which I just made up) but she wants to be called Skud, what business is it of a corporation to tell people to call her Mary Jane?

Eric Schmidt goes on to say in defense of the Real Name policy:

"If we knew that it was a real person, then we could sort of hold them accountable, we could check them...we could, you know, bill them."

This would only make sense if Google were to force all users to provide proof of identity. As it is, they are currently only banning users with obviously false names. I don’t need Google to tell me that Skud wasn’t born with the name Skud. The value of a Real Name policy could only be realized if you were to challenge each user to provide proof of their identity. Challenging obvious pseudonyms achieves nothing, it’s the John Smiths that need to provide proof that they are who they say. Is this statement to imply that Google intends to request all users to confirm their identity?


"...people have a lot of free time and people on the Internet, there are people who do really really evil and wrong things on the Internet, and it would be useful if we had strong identity so we could weed them out. I’m not suggesting eliminating them, what I’m suggesting is if we knew their identity was accurate, we could rank them."

Hmm… I’m not sure I see how the process of ranking people itself does anything to mitigate the “evil” things they are doing online.

And continuing:

"...the Internet came out of universities where the issue of authentication wasn’t such a big issue. Everybody trusted everybody, you didn’t have these kinds of things."

The first two comments are disturbing for obvious reasons of leading down an Orwellian path. This last comment though reminds me of the type of person who says they don't "trust" Wikipedia. My problem isn't with their lack of trust in a user powered encyclopaedia, my problem is that they seem to think that they are expected to trust Wikipedia, or that I and all the other people who use it place our trust in Wikipedia. The problem here is the person who doesn't understand why encyclopaedias list sources. And I would say to Eric Schmidt that the best thing about the internet and about Google is that you don't have to blindly trust anything anymore. I have never spoken so much as a word to Skud online or otherwise, but I would trust it to be true if she told me something. And I would also find out for myself whether or not it was true. The two concepts don't need to exist independently of each other. Wikipedia is great now for the same reason it has always been great. Because the sources of each statement are included. And if they're not you can find out for yourself whether or not an assertion is true and base your trust on your own research. This idea that you can't trust someone because they're not adhering to the rules used by a third party in order to define their identity is a dangerous idea. Not only does it hypothetically preclude putting your trust in someone that a corporation, in this case Google, has refused to positively identify, but it also makes people more reliant on the concept that there ever exists one single source of information that can be trusted, which has never and will never be the case in any situation.

And regarding the enforcement of Google's Real Name policy in Syria and Iran, Schmidt goes on to say:

"There, there’s no assumption of privacy, everyone assumes that the Internet is bugged and that the secret police are after them. So their sensibilities are extremely different."

Hmm... So it's ok to further erode the privacy of citizens living in a totalitarian state where "the secret police are after them" because they are already living in an oppressive country and they're used to it...?
So would it then be ok to continue to outlaw anonymity should an open society such as our own devolve into a society regulated by "secret police"?

I think Eric Schmidt is probably a brilliant man, a great CEO, and technologically innovative. And maybe he does have good intentions and only needs to choose his words more carefully, but this issue should not even be something that he's working on. There's no reason why someone working in a field as highly specialized as software development should be making decisions in the field of journalism or politics or, most importantly, identity. These are decisions which affect human beings utilizing the largest communication platform to ever exist. One which has been shown to be highly effective in political and social revolution. These are decisions which affect human beings who are living under brutal regimes all over the world. Neither a software developer nor a CEO should ever feel they are able to tackle these issues without the proper understanding of political and social complexities, an understanding which he has, I think, sufficiently demonstrated to be lacking.

I’m fairly confident that one of the main goals Google has with its social network platform is longevity. And I think that with their Real Name policy they are, in addition to consolidating your online identity, hoping to maintain an atmosphere of maturity. They’re hoping to avoid the prattle of anonymous Facebook and Myspace users. But instead of looking for ways to compete with those two dying networks while filtering out the spam, Google should be looking at Twitter. Users can call themselves whatever they want on twitter and I personally receive several spam messages a week on Twitter. And I don’t mind it in the least. Utilizing a network that is free and open far outweighs the annoyance of not knowing whether or not I can “trust” what a user says. The chaos of Twitter is the default of all open social networks. Google is making a fatal error in pandering to their laziest and most naïve users by claiming a Real Name policy protects them from “really, really evil” people.

And on another note, consider this. The Google chrome notebooks are beginning to enter the market. The notebooks only function as a cloud device. So what happens when you get locked out of the cloud? Or when your account is terminated? Do you have rights as a consumer now that you have purchased this hardware which relies entirely on proprietary cloud software to run, and your account has been turned off by Google? What rights are guaranteed to you at the time of purchase? I think that there are legal ways to address the issues, and I think there are laws which already exist in most cases that are appropriate to them. They’re just not being applied. I presented in my letter to Google what I consider to be valid criticism of deficiencies within user-powered communities that are evolving online and summarily forfeiting many rights that should be inherent in any community, virtual or otherwise. We’re acknowledging a new type of identity in the world, why not get its rights sorted out from the start. Rather than governments trying to play catch-up to the tech companies.

As Google says in their own words, to their investors:
Who are our customers?
Our customers are over one million advertisers, from small businesses targeting local customers to many of the world's largest global enterprises, who use Google AdWords to reach millions of users around the world.

And as Mathew Ingram sums up in his article:
As the saying goes: If you’re not paying for it, then you’re the product being sold.

I’m unaware of any company that feels responsible to their product. And if I’m to understand that they’re responsible to their customers, the advertisers, I don’t want “the world’s largest global enterprises” dictating my identity or choosing who in Syria is granted a voice on the world stage. This affects everyone, whether you use social networking sites or not, because it affects the people who do, and if their freedoms are allowed to be compromised it is a human being's freedom being compromised, not an avatar’s. And it is of paramount importance that a citizen living in an oppressive country feels comfortable expressing themselves to the world community freely and completely and without fear of reprisal. Even more so if “the secret police” are currently inhibiting the other existing channels of communication.
+Matt Greenfield Thank's for the clarification on Google+/Google Profiles. That makes a lot more sense. And thanks for the real name/pseudonym psychological super-mini-primer. I see what you're saying. I'm less certain it has meaning with people from Asia, who probably think my name looks fake. :^)

That kind of thing is fascinating to me, too. I'm also fascinated by language, which is why if you ever read my posts again later you may notice that I reread something and went, "Argh, wrong word!" and changed it. As soon as I figure out how to do the strikeout I'll start leaving the original words so people can tell me I'm extremely nit-picky.
+Rob Kinyon there's a gap in your argument (and in the way Google is deploying its business model). If Google offered commerce or peer to peer payments, a pseudonymous user could give Google name and payment information at that time. Even ebay allows users to show a pseudonym but pay with a wallet name. Game companies make a gazillion dollars from users who show a psuedonym and pay with a wallet name. If Google offers valuable services, people will pay for them.

It seems to me that Google is making an elementary web user experience mistake by asking for more information than people want to give up front, rather than asking for the info when its needed, for the purpose it's needed.
+Adina Levin Please don't make the mistake of thinking that I am pro-names. I am solidly and 100% pro-nym, in part for the very reasons you stated. Furthermore, an identity could be created and remain unlinked to a wallet name while another identity be linked. So on and so forth.

I was hoping, however, that someone would offer a reason why businesses would be interested in a pseudonymous environment. It's not just about payments. It's about comments and reviews and referrals and all the social aspects of e-commerce. In particular, libel and slander is a major concern for businesses, primarily smaller ones like dentists and handymen. Should a business be able to ban comments from someone without an associated wallet, just to ensure that there is someone they can sue?

I hope it's apparent that I am attempting to flesh out the pro-names arguments in order to allow us, the pro-nyms, to develop a deeper understanding of how to address them.
+Rob Kinyon yes, understood that you are pro-nym. The argument that I am making is that Google does not need wallet names up front to do a bang-up business in transactions. It is best practice to avoid requiring information you don't absolutely need until you need it. You build a larger, happier user base that way.

In addition, for the comments, reviews, referrals, etc, a stable handle is just as good as a wallet name, because it accrues content and behavior data. If someone collects art under a pseudonym, then that handle is that which accrues the reputation for expertise about art. When there is a suspected crime, the suspect can be tracked down at that time. We don't need to give our real names just in case we might be suspected of a crime someday, just as we don't give our fingerprints.
"In the case of countries like Iran and Syria, and in fact I’m working on a book on
this so I’ve looked at this pretty thoroughly, it’s a whole different ball of
wax. There, there’s no assumption of privacy, everyone assumes that the Internet
is bugged and that the secret police are after them. So their sensibilities are
extremely different."

Is Schmidt saying that people in such countries, where users might be arrested or otherwise in danger from their governments, shouldn't use Google +? Or what?

Moreover, it seems clear that Schmidt is saying + and "strong identity" is about doing commerce, and being able to have personal info in a way useable for targeted advertising/datamining, i.e., what Google does, rather than any more admirable motivations anyone is suggesting.

A lot of folks were hoping G+ would be the anti-Facebook, and it's turning out to look like, in the essential detail of the users being the product, a clone.
The more Google talks about their real-name policy, the less I trust them. I do not tell everyone my exact legal name in order to do business with them. Many times I hand them cash. Some times my account with them is via some pseudonym (and they know it's a pseudonym), but all they care is that Paypal is certain who I am when I use Paypal to send them money.
+Adina Levin Agreed, agreed, and 100% agreed. And thank you for addressing the concerns raised.
the more I understand (or think to understand) their idea of "identity service" the less comfortable I feel.
i agree with +Garance A Drosehn. there is simply information that google does not need at this point. if i want to conduct financial transactions with them they would obviously require identification. but as a user of a social network, that side of the argument shouldn't be permissible here. the only argument i see as reasonable is their attempt to establish civility. but like i said in my post, i think that's a mistake. people naturally prefer open networks to censored ones, and will continue to migrate as a network tries to cull their identity piece by piece.
Here's another data point.

I was watching one of the Court TV programs last night. Obviously the court itself needs to know the real identity of each plaintiff and defendant, but in a single episode of the show there were multiple times when the judge asked the participants what they wanted to be called. In one case the family of defendants did not want their last name public, and in another the defendant asked to be called by two letters. It wasn't even clear that the letters were initials of his real name. The judge needs to know the real identity, but the court recognizes that everyone in the audience did not need to know.

But google is saying even people who are uninvolved with some conversation must be given the exact legal identity of every person who says anything. This is a "service" to them.
So, g+ is an "identification service" and while +50 Cent and +Soulja Boy get verified accounts, real people +Violet Blue get strife. No wonder we are struggling with real name policy when g+ doesn't seem to follow its own rules.
+Andrew Dodd not to mention the 7 lady gaga accounts. maybe the best example of a fake person the 21st century has produced thus far.
One issue that has become apparent to me in watching and participating the real name vs nym discussion is the mis-understanding of the fact that there are differences between anonymous, cheap pseudonyms & persistent pseudonyms.

Cheap pseudonyms and anonymous names are linked to generally lower standards of behaviour, however persistent pseudonyms have the same benefits as real identities. Real identities do not stop bad behaviour either - the best solution to bad behaviour currently in existence is moderation & reputation systems.

Persistent pseudonym's have a host of other benefits - such as increased community size & protection for the most vulnerable. In contrast the other benefits for real identities is that government can track you down (which unless you take a host of other precautions they can regardless of which name you use) & other people can track you down (so not a benefit in my opinion).

If you think carefully about Googles current procedures then all they are achieving with this ludicrous system is making users discard persistent pseudonyms - supposedly for their real names - but really all they require is a "real sounding" name. So a cheap pseudonym.

I hope real names supporters realise they are trading "a world where people created identities" for one "where they think people are not creating identities". How is this any improvement at all?
It is now July 2013 and not too much has changed...

the debate still rages on, and governments are still snooping around gathering their data, the police are still using the social networks to track and capture criminals, with plenty of collateral damages to many different societies.

things never really change, because the more they change the closer they resemble what they are trying to avoid,
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