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What's in a name? Don't worry, Google+ will tell you.


The Internet: Wow! Google launched a new social media service! Yay!

Google+: Yes, we're just in time to save you from Facebook's privacy violations and Twitter's treacherous shortness. Look, you can assign different people to different "circles" and then, when you post stuff, you can control which of your social circles gets to see what! Isn't that cool and way more non-evil than Facebook?

The Internet: It really is! Thank you, Google! Um, what's this Profile thing?

Google+: To use Google Plus, you have to create a Google Profile so we can connect all your Google stuff together in a not-at-all creepy way. No big, you can choose how much of your private information other people can see.

The Internet: Thank you, Google! …Wait a minute. We have to provide our real names?

Google+: Yes! This is a social network and we want the name that you commonly go by in daily life, so it's easier for people to find you.

The Internet: What if our real names aren't the ones we commonly go by?

Google+: No problem! There are little fields for nicknames and others names, just use those.

The Internet: And those will be displayed instead of our real names?

Google+: Of course not. Your real name will show up anyway.

The Internet: But I want my non-real name to be the one displayed!

Google+: So use it! But keep in mind that it's a violation of our TOS, and if it gets flagged your account will be immediately suspended without warning, and oh by the way that might also affect your access to other Google products so it's a good thing you don't use any of those.

The Internet: How would it get flagged?

Google+: By someone flagging it. Anyone, really. Or if you make a change to your name in your profile and it doesn't look right.

The Internet: What kind of name wouldn't look right?

Google+: Any name that doesn't fit in a one-first-name/one-last-name style or just sounds, you know, weird.

The Internet: Huh. Who decides if a name sounds weird?

Google+: An ill-trained and overworked Google employee with a book of English baby names. His name is Nick, you'd like him. But it's not a big deal, really. We want everyone to feel comfortable joining us!

People who fear stalkers, sexual predators, abusive exes, criminals they've arrested, violent bigots, or others who might do them physical harm: Can we use fake names?

Google+: No.

People who fear reprisals from family, friends, and/or employers over controversial religious, political, or sexual opinions: Can we use fake names?

Google+: No.

People who fear harassment, arrest, or death from oppressive regimes for political dissidence: Can we use fake names?

Google+: No.

People who have already built up a substantial following and reputation with a pseudonym, pen name, stage name, avatar or entertainment personna: Can we use fake names?

Google+: No.

Women who have a more pleasant online experience when they're not being hit on all the time: Can we use fake names?

Google+: No.

Teenagers whose parents don't want them using real names online to avoid being targeted by pedophiles: Can we use fake names?

Google+: No.

People in and outside the U.S. with names that do not fit in the first name, last name format: Can we use our actual names?

Google+: No.

People with real, legal names that just sound weird: Can we use our real names?

Google+: Almost probably!

+Lady Gaga, +Snoop Dogg, +Soulja Boy, +50 Cent: Can we use fake names?

Google+: Of course! We want everyone to feel comfortable joining us!

The Internet: How do we prove our name is actually our name?

Google+: Nothing could be simpler! Just provide a government-issued ID and we might very well believe you!

People without ID depicting the name they want, people in countries where electronically transmitting an ID is illegal, and people who simply don't want to share ID with an online service without guarantee if how and how long it will be stored: Any other ways?

Google+: Yeah, whatever, give us a link to your Facebook page or something.

The Internet: But couldn't people just make up whatever fake name they wanted as long as it sounded like a normal North American white Anglo-Saxon name and you wouldn't care?

Google+: Probably. The point is, the system works.

The Internet: Couldn't you just require our real names to sign up, but let us choose what names are displayed? You could even let us choose which identities would be displayed to individual circles, which would make Google+ an even more amazing and useful social network.

Google+: Sorry, what? We were busy telling our advertisers about the incredibly targeted information we can provide. But hey, thanks for commenting. Google wants to hear your feedback. As long as we like your name.
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26 comments
 
Nice one.

G+: No. Also, we've just switched off your email/deleted your Picasa photos.
 
The more I see of this "Common Names" stuff, the more it reminds me of rules for "passing" - how to seem normal. The kind of thing you have to do when working in an Overseas Call Centre to reassure the middle management that you won't freak out their stereotypical Middle American customer.
Come to that, I bet the "Common Names" rules are being enforced by a BPO somewhere, with a rulebook and no nuance either, judging by the results I'm seeing.
 
Good one! Thanks. :)
Finn
 
This is great, thank you. I'd love to be able to link to it somewhere not account-restricted; do you mind if I make my reshare public, or copy it off G+ with attribution, or something else?
Finn
 
Oh, excellent. Thanks +Shmuel Ross. Also ... that domain is awesome.
 
So, +Chris Bridges as you no doubt know, this has been spread around on google+ with a kind of happy ferocity, was very much appreciated, and caused all sorts of discussions. Good on ya.
 
Woo! I didn't get banned overnight for this! Google is benevolent after all! Tell your adequately-named friends!
 
+Helena LY That's actually a problem for me, and why I write under C.A. Bridges. There are, literally, thousands of Chris Bridgeses out there. But hey, thanks Google for making us all the same!
 
+James Marks a) if you post under your real name, it's much easier to infer your postal address or place of employment (unless you are really, really, really careful, and so are all your friends) b) if you already have an established circle of friends, yes, but discoverability and public discourse is hurt c) social network where you can't socialize for fear isn't good social, is it? d) elitist recently, eh? so now matters not what you have to say, only how much money you paid? e) so you tell them to just shut up publically, what can be wrong with this f) see above

read https://plus.google.com/117903011098040166012/posts/asuDWWmaFcq for more arguments
 
+James Marks Most of that can be summed up as "It doesn't bother me, you shouldn't let it bother you, deal with it" and as such has no real response. And if that's how it shakes out, fine. I happen to think Google+ will be the worst for it, it will not successfully compete with Facebook, and I'd like to see that change because FB really annoys me sometimes.

Yes, Facebook does require real names, but it doesn't aggressively pursue offenders, especially not with the ham-handed and PR-disastrous methods Google has used.

Pseudonyms aside, this policy also completely ignores the very real problem that for a large percentage, possibly the major percentage, of people in the world, "First name / last name, both in the same language" doesn't work.
 
It's an issue because that google profile that requires a real-sounding name be attached to it just happens to be attached to (and affect) most (if not all) of the rest of your google apps, as well. Gmail, for example. Maybe people don't want their real name to suddenly be attached to outgoing e-mails, etc. Maybe they just hoped, for a bright, shining moment, that google would be one of those rare organizations that has a single, clear standard for all of its customers. Maybe they noticed that google has made other changes to their services in response to user feedback, and want to help google+ to be as user-friendly as it can be from the outset. Sometimes a feature request is just a feature request.
 
Thanks, +Chris Bridges that part below was wonderful :
"The Internet: Couldn't you just require our real names to sign up, but let us choose what names are displayed? You could even let us choose which identities would be displayed to individual circles, which would make Google+ an even more amazing and useful social network."
I try to imagine a website where I could login and use all services in the same time, each one for its purpose, in the manner explained above... However, today maybe a browser can do such thing ( in separate tabs, of course) !

+James Marks Sorry, James, but this part below is a lie :

"<Women who have a more pleasant online experience when they're not being hit on all the time>

You have 100% control over who you interact with on G+. If your own friends are hitting on you all the time, get new friends. PS: They'll still know you're a girl even if you use a boy's name because, well, they're your friends. Right? "

It's a lie because just anyone can add anyone (or mention anyone in his posts, as just I did, right now) and thus a woman answering in a public post can find that her posts are answered by bad people (even if they are there with real names, right) so that she feels stalked. Now, that does NOT means that "she interacts with them", as you say. Actually, THEY do instead, not her!

This is the reason to disagree with you. Actually, s-o-m-e level of anonymity would be helpful for these girls. Can you give us a wise solution instead of just too passionately saying "no-no" to everything ?
 
Turn it around though and Google is telling you what sort of social media they want. A bland, office-type society where the conversation rarely goes beyond that at a political fundraiser. Much like the way they socialize on the google campus I'm thinking.

Just need a similar approach to the apologetics ... "what have you got to hide" crowd.
 
They do not want it to be like life!
When did we start believing corporate marketing speak?

They want it to be like a corporate website. Anybody with a corporate account will recognize this instantly. As soon as you realize that they are not trying to create a society the policies and attitude makes sense.

When you start a social media site you find yourself in the role of a government of sorts - but these are corporations... they don't know how to do this.
Norv N.
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+James Marks Re: "<Women who have a more pleasant online experience when they're not being hit on all the time>

You have 100% control over who you interact with on G+. If your own friends are hitting on you all the time, get new friends. PS: They'll still know you're a girl even if you use a boy's name because, well, they're your friends. Right? "
If you're interacting with total strangers and having a bad time...

a) get in line and buy a helmet, we all have a bad time interacting with total strangers on the internet
Please, see:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060731153456.htm
 
+James Marks : spoken like someone who hasn't tried it.
Asde: this name highlights one of the issues with using real names - there just aren't that many different real names in use! You just try + tagging him by name: lots of him arn't there?

Hopefully this will get better, I have had times when the person I want to tag is too far down the list to select.
 
Service with more than 25mil users in not a beta you can toy around with. +Google: stop alienating your faithful users.
 
haahahahaahahah!!! hahaahaha! I am reading it the way Filipino/Cebuano Catholic devotee read those long repeated prayer. So sorry but its really funny! hahaha!
 
Great writing and very important, thank you. I'd hoped that Google+ would do a better job with privacy issues than FB. Very disappointing. I untethered my personal blog from Google+ today, as the only way I can write it is with my pen name. I'd hoped I could link my Google+ page to my blog and attract more readers, but not worth the risk. I will be very cautious with Google+, and drop it like a hot coal if there is an issue. I have had a stalker in my past, and have dealt with harassment. I really wanted to keep my privacy, yet want to participate in social media. There has to be a middle way. You might note that I changed my photo to my German Sheperd to make a point :-). Over the weekend, several women in my circles discussed being the victims of cyberstalking.
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