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I have yet to hear a single person articulate a real reason why Google should allow them to put fake shit in their public profile names. I've heard outrage, mockery, and distain. Hey, it's the internet. Outrage is always fun.

But why, exactly, do you think the network would be better if there were profiles named "Sexxxydude 3030" or "Hot Asian Cum Slut" on Google+?

And don't say "Freedom of Speech" because Google is not a nation (corporations don't guarantee free speech) and naming is not speech (you can say whatever you want under your name).

My personal opinion is it's up to the creators of community tools to set the rules of the space. If you don't like the rules, then take your toys and go home. You're always free to call yourself whatever you want on your own site. The moment you participate in someone else's site, you have to play by their rules.

But I'm totally willing to change my mind if I heard any real reasons for why this is important to anyone besides businesses that want free advertising and policy wonks (like me).

Seriously, why should Google+ allow members to use fake names? How would that make this a better place?
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What if:
1) I am an atheist (or other non-traditional belief system) who lives in a very religious community.
2) I am a gay who lives in a very religious community.
3) I am a woman who doesn't want to be hit on by fratboys.
4) I am a teenager who isn't supposed to give out my personal information online.
5) I am a famous or notable person who wants to talk about my love of 1950's comic books or <very niche topic>.
6) I am a parent who wants to get advice about my child with <disease>.
7) I am an adult child who wants to get advice about my parent with <disease>.
8) I am an adult who wants to talk about abuse I received as a child.
9) I am a survivor of spouse abuse and don't want my abuser to find me again.
10) I am a male survivor of spouse abuse or rape.

In every one of those cases, I am concerned about ridicule or potential assault if someone else finds out what I've been interested in. You're absolutely right it's not a free-speech issue. It's an issue around inclusiveness.
Are you looking for pointers to discussions about 1) why pseudonymity has importance within a community (I think your first point is a question about this)?

Or are you looking for

2) pointers to discussions about why it's important for Google in particular to improve their policy in this area (I think your second point about "Google gets to set the rules" is about this)

I don't actually see much of the business community arguing for nyms -- that's a very separate discussion, revolving primarily around the idea of attaching corporate or brand names to a particular account. I'd be interested to see links to that discussion though.
+Rob Kinyon I'm an atheist and I'm open about that, and I am NOT maligned by the Real Name rule at all. In fact, I am open about it in my life, too.

I find it distasteful bringing up the 'oh, woe is me who has been attacked in the past because I'm a [rape victim/atheist/gay/famous/teenager], and don't want to use my Real Name on Google+'. Google+ is not a place to get counselling - people see psychiatrists and psychologists for that.
Folks, I totally understand the importance of anonymity and pseudonymity on the internet in general.

What I'm asking is, why would this place, Google Plus, be better if they had a more lenient naming policy than "use the name most people call you."
+Scott Wakeman You also don't live in a red county where being an open atheist can get your kids beat up. Or, in a country where being an atheist is against the law.

And you are being crude and distorting when you equate what I said with counseling. This isn't about counseling. This is about people being able to find communities of like-minded people to discuss things of interest to them. They don't want counseling. They want privacy.

+Derek Powazek Google+ would be a more interesting place because the most interesting people, in my experience, are the ones who are generally on the outside of social norms. They are the ones who think enough about the fundamental assumptions of the social condition and the courage to choose different assumptions. I want to hear from them. And, if Google thought about it, they'd want to have them on their network.
+Toxic . I didn't bother with that reason, even though I agree wholeheartedly with it. The others should have been enough.
Google Plus would be better if it allowed all those conversations which pseudonymity allows because as the digital world continues to integrate with our real world lives, the group of people we hold of value multiplies and diversifies. Some of these people know us by our birth name or Real Name. Some know us by our pseudonyms. Sometimes the conversations we carry on pseudonymously are more profound, though-provoking, and paradigm-shifting than the ones we carry on under Real Names. I think from the way I have seen people using Google Plus, and the construction of the Circles metaphor of the social graph, Google also values these conversations, and wants them as part of their community. From a business standpoint, it only makes sense to allow these conversations because they give Google an even deeper understanding of each user's profile, and what types of marketing campaigns will affect each person best. That's why Google wants pseudonymity. Not for social therapy, defending free speech, or otherwise.

While philosophically, I believe in the whole "face up to the world" and Gandhian movement of never trying to win/ achieve happiness by tricking or deceiving others, it's not on me to push that belief to others. If Google Plus is trying to be a place for social activity to occur, like Facebook, and like Twitter, etc., then pseudonymity seems to be a logical option.
Straw Man, +Derek Powazek That isn't what the "common names" policy says in detail. It forbids all kinds of names that "look funny" .

If they drafted a policy that prevented 'sleazy' names, that would be one thing, but what they have is something else entirely.

What they have is Identity Theatre
+Toxic . That's a compelling reason for you, yes. And you'll always be Toxic to me. You were's first host! Memories.... Where was I? Oh, right. But!

What I'm asking is: How would Google+ be a better place if the naming policy was looser?

Now, obviously, you'd be here. And that's good for me, personally, because I like you. But I don't see how it would make Google Plus a better place, and I see some really obvious ways it would make it a worse one (spam and stupid usernames, mostly).

In a community setting, knowing who you're talking to is of paramount importance. Talking to "sexxxygirl3000" is different from talking to "Jane Doe." I can understand why G+ would want to try and modernize here.

Maybe the era of hacker pseudonyms is just kind of over. Personally, I'm okay with that. I've always just been "Derek Powazek" online.
+Rob Kinyon "You also don't live in a red county where being an open atheist can get your kids beat up. Or, in a country where being an atheist is against the law."

Absolutely irrelevant. Google+ sees no boundaries on a map. As an atheist, I am not someone special, not someone beyond being a human. Are *nym's of the opinion that they are somehow more special than me?

+Rob Kinyon "They want privacy."

On a Social Network? They want privacy ? FaceBook and Google+ is not for them, truly...
+Derek Powazek I think that actually, "the name most people call you" was already a compromise, and that many people within Google and without who are now on either side of the "nymwar" were (grudgingly) happy with that. The hope was that "the name most people call you" would allow persistent 'nyms, and that evidence would be accepted that wasn't just legal ID. Google's own constructed policy and procedures seem to have been originally engineered with this in mind.

Unfortunately, what's blown up since then has been a much clumsier enforcement of this policy that doesn't permit persistent nyms, but instead uses "name-like" criteria and legal ID as the way to establish (or delete) particular accounts. The exemplar here is Skud's well-documented case, which, as an ex-Googler, was carefully constructed in many ways to be a test of whether a long time pseudonym unconnected with a wallet name would survive the criteria. It didn't. ( for the evidence collected, for the extremely detailed analysis of the de facto process).

I know that this isn't a direct answer to your question, but I'm still trying to clarify exactly which of many combined and subtle discussions you want to enter into. Right now, you're asking for arguments against "the name most people call you", whereas most of the discussion I know about how Google is failing to implement even this compromise. There's a slightly connected debate about whether you can actually enforce real names at all, given those persistent problems.
Because people I'd like to have conversations with on Google Plus are leaving the service (or never joining) because they aren't allowed to use the pseudonyms that people DO know them by - and which allow them the anonymity they need, for reasons such as those already mentioned.

It's Google's service and Google can set the rules - but disallowing well-established pseudonyms, used by people who engage in thoughtful conversation, leaves the Google Plus space poorer than it would be if we had those people's participation.
I don't think it makes a lot of difference if the griefers have American-looking names or not.
If HurrGurls is dismissing your rape, or Scott Wakeman is, it's equally distressing.
If Plus is going to be a generally useful bit of web infrastructure the way Twitter is, it needs to support many cultural mores.

Or I suppose they could go the whole hog the way Second Life did and insist everyone picks from an approved list of surnames...
I should add:

1. If I was writing the policy, I'd have written it differently.

2. Google has done a terrible job explaining why they've set the policy they've set.

3. Google has done a terrible job dealing with violations. Killing accounts because of an errant dot is ludicrous.

However, I'm still looking for one good reason why allowing fake names would make Google Plus better. Not why you personally want it, but why from a global view, it would be better for the entire community.
And: Note that nowhere have I said that real names reduce bad behavior. I think that the name you're talking to (or under) influences how you talk, but it's only one of many influences.
A lot of my friends are cartoonists who use pesudonyms, and I actually don't even know some of their real names. All the people I know refer to them by their pseudonyms, and heck, those names have more or less become their real names. I wouldn't even know how to find some of them on G+.

A lot of this stems from the weird first name/last name convention, by the way. I'd prefer to be known as 'waa', but G+ and Facebook won't allow that. I listen to that name, friends call me that, and it is annoying that I'm not allowed to present myself as that. I wouldn't mind having my real name somewhere in my profile, but I'd also like to have a certain amount of control on how I present myself too, please. A choice of screen name would take away a lot of the annoyance.
+Scott Wakeman Being an influencer from the inside isn't vile or wrong. Google is running a public beta, just like with their many other successful products, which implies they are asking for public input, rather than presenting a crystallized end ideal like Facebook. I think rather that you're using inflammatory rhetoric. Hope that helps you understand why some of the people who disagree still use the service. Nothing to do with hypocrisy, or putting your money where your mouth is.
Most people who have been around on the internet a while, have online friends whose real names they don't know. Take Metafilter users for example. Right now there's a disconnect when talking to Metafilter people via Plus. Who is this person? Why did they add me?

I don't really care about online name privacy. But I don't think the real name policy improves or solves any issues and at the same time makes it harder for a lot of internet social group to exist on the service, plus makes Google look like assholes. I don't know what more reasoning you could possibly need to ditch it.
Derek, I think if you only read the 1st of the links I provided, you will see a description of how G+ will be worse with a real names policy. Conversely, without one, it would be better in those same ways.

In summary though: With a real names policy, G+ will be far more homogeneous, and many already-marginalized voices will be silent.

Allowing pseudonyms will lead to more speech from those self-same marginalized voices. That will make G+ better.

Now, Google could probably get away with their 'we don't have to promote diversity with everything we do' stance if they committed now to interoperating in a federated way with other G+-like implementations, which could implement their own policies. Until that happens, and as long as Google looks like it is going for a one-ring-to-rule-them-all strategy of becoming the de-facto identity API for the Internet, we will insist that yes, they do need to accommodate the entire range of legal speech on the internet within G+.
+Marijn van der Waa I think you're on to something there. Maybe this is becoming a Big Issue because there are no other usernames here at all. The only way to reference someone is with "First Last" which is cumbersome at best, and just completely wrong at worst (since I primarily know you as "waa" too).
Google+ is a private beta, +Sharat Buddhavarapu. And I most certainly disagree with you on the '*nyms are staying to fight the good fight'. There is no fight to be won. It is Google's way or No Way - and them there are the facts. You cannot argue against facts and hope to win. I most certainly am not using "inflammatory rhetoric" - unless that is the new definition for the word fact .
+Michael Bernstein Yup. I've read them. I just don't agree. They depend on a lot of worst case scenario assumptions. And, also, come on. "De-facto identity API for the Internet"? You're overblowing this something fierce. This is one feature on one site. Don't think that Google can fail? Look up Buzz. Or Wave. Or dozens of other projects. Google is not the internet.
I also think that names do not equal privacy. A smart server admin knows who you are no matter what name you use. People who feel protected by posting under a fake name maybe need to learn a little more about maintaining privacy online.
+Scott Wakeman Oops, you are right about private beta. But still the idea of beta IS to iterate, no? And in a social network, especially one with a new metaphor for defining relationships, the iteration is probably based around how users share and present their profile. That's my hope. I am probably overly optimistic.

As for the inflammatory rhetoric, I am not talking about your facts, but your opinion about the vileness of users trying to subvert the system. That's more opinion than fact, and it strikes me as inflammatory rather than value additive.

+Derek Powazek Do you think there is any merit to the point I make in my first comment in the first paragraph, as to why Google wants pseudonyms for business reasons?
+Derek I don't think people are in most cases seeking privacy from system admins. All the use cases for pseudonyms presented above rarely have any reason attached to why they don't want Google to know their real name. 
+Derek Powazek +Marijn van der Waa having a URL namespace instead of just 100817955763300677682 would be nice, yes, and would mitigate things for those who cherish their handles. Google Profiles did have this at one point. If i type @1008179 it autocompletes to Derek for me...
Derek, I'm confused. Concluding that a 'real name' policy will result in the exclusion of many already-marginalized voices depends on which worst-case assumptions, exactly?

And as for Google's ambitions WRT identity, I didn't say they would succeed. It could definitely end up being a Google/Facebook duopoly with limited interoperability, for example. How would that be an improvement?
So: Arguments in favor of a more lenient naming policy seem to boil down to: more people get to play, which makes the place better. I buy that.

The next question is, this issue is a dealbreaker for what percentage of the potential userbase? Try and take the non-personal, global view here. How many people really care about this issue? Maybe 1%? I've started and run many online communities - though none so large as this, of course - and I can count the number of times someone wouldn't sign up because of a real name field on one hand.

Should the naming policy be made more lenient, where are the new lines drawn? Would my original examples ("Sexxxydude 3030" and "Hot Asian Cum Slut" - both real usernames from other community sites) become okay? If not, why not? Where does the new line get drawn? What if everybody knew them as those names?

If those names, and names like them, became allowed, I can tell you this from real world experience: It degrades the experience of the site for everyone. Seeing those names and names like them would result in far more than 1% userbase damage.

So what we're arguing about is changing a policy for 1% of the userbase with real repercussions on the other 99%. I'm not sure I see what's in it for Google to change anything.

And sorry if this seems cold, but that's how these decisions get made.
I did go publicly by Taylor for many years. You probably call me this. I doubt that would meet their naming policy if I tried to go by it, even though that's what many people know me by in real life. I should be the one to determine my name, especially if that is what I'm actually being referred to as, not have a large corporation determine it for me.

That said, I'm mainly peeved about it because it seems to deter people from adopting it, especially in the gaming field where going by handles is acceptable, and that is my field of business. And I like G+ more than facebook so I want to see adoption. I also agree that there needs to be a better social contract online, though I don't think this fixes, it may be a step towards there.

I would prefer google put it efforts towards helping us filter the spamming voices by helping us all identify people who we don't want in our communities (by circles of rating) rather than dictate what is and what is not a name.
I think a lot of this could be fixed if Google:

1. Had usernames that were public (like they used to for Profiles).

2. Added the same privacy controls to the Real Name fields that the other fields have (visible to everyone, or some circles, or no one).

Meanwhile, they need to immediately throw cold water on the flames by saying "we're listening," ceasing the account suspensions while the policy is reviewed, and then explaining the new policy and why it's good for the community as a whole and members as individuals.

So say we all?
+Derek Powazek said ""De-facto identity API for the Internet"? You're overblowing this something fierce." Derek, are you familiar with the NSTIC (National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace)? See here, for a recent news piece about it: . Google is familiar with it, and, apparently, involved. A quick search led me to: - as just one example.

Whether anything significant comes of NSTIC is an open question, but large-scale identity APIs are not at all farfetched. And Google (and FB and others) have a definite interest in playing in that space.
+Derek Powazek as drawn, the current naming criteria exclude a lot of people. If you want a thorough critique, read this:
However, you can still exclude names like your examples by writing and enforcing community guidelines.
Orkut does this:
Blogger does this:
YouTube does this:

Historically they've had different degrees of success in enforcing this (Blogger used to be a huge spam factory), but they have mature and responsive abuse teams now.
+Kevin Marks Your ability to post links without ever having to actually say what you think is unsurpassed.

+Lynette Millett Lots of people on the internet believe crazy shit.
Derek, you're probably right that only a small fraction of potential users would refuse to use the system at all. However, for a far larger set of people (say, 10% at least?), having to use their real names would still chill their speech, which would make G+ far poorer for the other 90%.
Google's mistake here was to target "fake" names when the actual battle should be against fake identities. I'm certain what upsets so many people is that Google's current policies completely ignore that distinction.

Don't get me wrong -- if Google wants to enforce a real-ish-names-only policy, then that is their prerogative. Certainly there should be some sort of naming policy preventing aliases like "Hot Asian Cum Slut."

But they do a real disservice to those who are widely known by perfectly tame pseudonyms.

Edit: Furthermore, the fact that they have banned people for using their real names tells me that the current system is broken, regardless of where you might stand on the policies.
+Michael Bernstein And there's your chain of worst case scenario assumptions. Some people, sometimes, may think more about what they say with their real name attached. In my experience, that additional thought is usually a good thing for the other 90%.

I'm not disputing that there are times with anonymous / pseudonymous speech is a good thing. I'm just saying that it's not Google's responsibility to enable it.
Derek: "Sexxxydude 3030" and "Hot Asian Cum Slut" are your own version of a worst case scenario -- examples at one extreme that are not useful for evaluating how handles would be used by most people.

Is that really what most handles in your own Twitter input stream look like right now?

If not, then it seems a system which lets people choose their handle does not have to be as bad as you are trying to claim it is.
+Derek Powazek I wrote a long essay on my blog on the topic on late Friday night. I've already linked it. I'll paste the whole thing in here too if you like, but without the links and blockquotes it loses something.
Um. Some people will hide aspects of their identity if they can't reveal it pseudonymously. There is no may about it.

I am not talking about rudeness here (since real names don't actually help with that), I am talking about the gay teen in rural Alabama, the teacher who can't talk about their Atheism, the girl who doesn't want her racist boss to know about her black boyfriend, the man struggling with schizophrenia, the Republican lesbian, the parent of an Autistic child, and the child taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's.

Does Google have a responsibility to enable this speech rather than forcing all of their users to present a single legally verifiable face to the world? Only if they want to live up to their espoused values.
+Kevin Marks If that's the extent to which you'd like to participate in this, don't bother. A monologue is not the same thing as a dialog. You know this.

+Steve Bogart No way. "Hot Asian Cum Sluts" is nowhere near a worst case scenario. It's a bad outcome, yes, which is why I'm bringing it up, and it's extremely frequent in online communities. And since you asked, yes, my replies in Twitter are a mess. Go post a tweet with a keyword like "iPad" and you'll see what I mean. Finally, no, I'm not saying it's bad - every site I've ever had a hand in creating has had user-controlled names! - I'm just asking questions. Mostly the questions boil down to, why should Google care about this issue? And what should they do about it? (A version of a solution was posted above.)
I think the bottom line in this whole scenario is: This was a totally avoidable problem that Google brought on itself (probably with good intentions). A problem that could have been avoided with a little more of a humanistic policy and a LOT better communication and implementation. And a problem that a lot of people are vastly overblowing because it's Google.
I said the same thing more bluntly and now dealing with people I don't know telling me I don't understand the issue. What's weird about that, btw, is they've got no context to my background and I'm like, who the fuck are you in stream?
+Derek Powazek Firstly, my guess is that "have a real name" is intended as a proxy for "likely to be badly behaved under the rest of the terms of service" -- So for instance, XXX Asian Sluts are around to spam or maybe shock/troll others. The name is a giveaway and indicative of future behaviour, in a way that "Derek Powazek" or, say, "Sai ." isn't.

Here's my thought experiment for you. Let's say Google+ enforces its current system, so that everybody on here has names that sound totally like real names. Do you think the people behind XXX Asian Sluts and Sexxxydude 3030 will stop their bad behaviour, because they can't use those names? How do you think their behavior will change, in the face of a requirement to give a name that sounds real, but without any form of legal check?

Are communities that foster real names more civil because everyone is using real names, or because that is used as a civility filter?

So that's my theorising.

My real world experience, so far, is that all the hip, geeky people I know who are using pseudonyms and who aren't heavily involved in protesting it have simply switched to adopting generic Western names that will escape the censors (some of them pretty hilarious). That's what people who want to be pseudonymous and don't have a lot to lose (like neat haxx0r kids and spammers and trolls) are going to do.

I know that that sounds like it might be a stable solution, but my actual day job involves dealing with the people who use pseudonyms online more seriousy to protect their identity, and then find themselves purged from sites because their opponents recognise that this is a good way to censor or block them.

Pseudonyms are vital for them, but it's not something that consumes 99% of their thinking or day. Adopting clever pseudonyms designed to engineer their way around Google's restrictions isn't really something I can recommend to them.

Not using Google is another possibility. When we were working with Egyptian and Tunisian groups, we spent a lot of time going "You know, from a technical technical, Facebook isn't exactly where I would begin advocating a protest". But really, we're kind of wrong about that. In this particular window of opportunity, Facebook and G+ and Twitter is exactly where you want to be, even if what you do is dangerous and attracts powerful enemies, because you're already taking a lot of risks on other fronts.

So what happens is that either they follow Facebook's instructions, give their real name, and then end up beaten up and in jail (happened in Egypt for six months). Or they use a pseudonym, build up a following of 200K on Facebook, and then get their account deleted and all those followers removed because somebody reports them as being pseudonymous (happened in Egypt and we had to scrabble to persuade FB to reinstate the We Are Khaled Said groups. Happened in HK.). Or they don't use Google and Facebook, and no-one knows they exist.

It's all about compromises, and it's all about predictions. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the next 5 years of identity online. Like you, I've been online since '94 and before, and I don't know shit about what happens next. The fact that Google internally is divided over real names, and that people in Ye Olde Internete Cabal are equally split also indicates that we don't really know what the right way is.

My primary interest continues to be to take his one case at a time, and to try and point out that if something affects <1% of your userbase, if that 1% are people who get killed or threatened for their real identity, it's worth listening to that background noise.

This isn't a slippery slope or worst case argument -- as I've said many many times, one of the first people I met here was +Michael Anti, and many of those currently involved in the Syrian uprising are here on G+ too; reporters and activists are first-adopters globally, now. Facebook and Google are both acutely aware of these issues, and I would say sensitive to them. Everyone involved in a major social network knows of life-or-death decisions they've been involved with. I've spoken to Google reps on the phone to better understand the real names policy. I can't speak to an opinion yay or nay, because it seems radically unstable right now. I'll get told one thing, but then see it implemented in another way in practice.

I'm glad people are discussing it so heatedly, because it is important, and it's not just about "fake shit". Like everything else to do with community experience, it's an incredibly subtle issue that we only work out through practice.

I hope that helped give some answers you haven't heard before.
+Michael Bernstein Have you used Google Plus? You know about circles, right? And how you could make a post that's visible to only certain people?

Of course I know about examples like that. It's what I love about the internet. They just have nothing to do with names. The people who want to talk about those things in those ways will find a place to do that, and it's not necessarily Google. And even if it is, I'm pretty sure they know how to create an account with a first and last name that seems real but isn't.

Google is not forcing people to use "a single legally verifiable face". That's overstating what's happening here, again, something fierce.
Man, I'm sorry if that looked like a monologue. I'm curious as to "why are people suddenly caring", too, particularly as many of us who had been trying to highlight the problems with Facebook's real names policy weren't expecting it to suddenly explode here.

I have a few theories -- many people inside and in "Googly" circles (ie the first adopters) are people who have been online enough to have used pseudonyms. There's still a real sense that policies and features on G+ can be shifted by firm advocacy -- two fairly major privacy issues that I and others had with Google+'s early days are now fixed, for instance. And I do think that Google has profoundly mishandled this in the last few weeks, for reasons that are unclear to me.
+Danny O'Brien Very, very helpful. And I appreciate it. Very much.

Personally, I don't think this was about the idea that "real names = good behavior" but I have no insight into Google's decision-making. My personal theory is that, like everything else here, it was simply modeled on Facebook. That and usernames are dorky.

So let me ask you straight up: What should Google do? Or, if you'd prefer, what should Unnamed New Social Network Dotcom do?

Seems like the easy thing would be something like what I posted above: everybody gets a public username (like Twitter) and the option to add a "Real Name" with privacy controls (like the rest of the things on the profile). Default it to public and let the people with concerns limit access to their real name.

In truth this does nothing to make people safer or more private. But at least it would end this crazy paranoia that Google is going to break into your house and scan your passport or something.
We're only 'overblowing it because it's Google' because Google could succeed in it's ambitions (having got so many things right, they have a real shot with Plus).

The flaws we're focusing on here are deadly to certain types of public discourse, but they are not ones that would (even potentially) kill Plus.

But like it or not, Code is Law, and in many ways the systems Google builds are close to being infrastructure. Plus has that potential as well.

To date, Google has usually recognized the responsibility this entails and acted accordingly, which has generated a huge amount of goodwill that they are now squandering, and not even over a principled stance that we disagree with (as with China), but just some half-baked faux-pragmatism that they won't even articulate honestly.
+Danny O'Brien Not at all. You have so much real world experience here. I'm grateful to read what you have to say. I'm also glad you've done what I haven't: picked up the phone and asked them.

I have a few theories about why it exploded here, too. Mostly it's because, like it or not, Google Plus is not a "new" community in the same sense that Unnamed New Social Network Dotcom would be. They had a community already - people with established relationships and identities. Plus is really just a new set of features on an existing community. And it's hard to change the rules on an existing community.
+Derek Powazek when I see flamebait like "I have yet to hear a single person articulate a real reason why Google should allow them to put fake shit in their public profile names." I'd normally ignore it. As it's you, I thought you might have been busy, so I pointed you to several places where people have done this, clearly politely, and at some length.

If you're laying out a new compromise position that you hope Google will shift to, great.

In answer to What Should Google Do? I'd say:
Change the Common Names policy statement 'Guidelines' that are being treated as rules. They are crude and unhelpful. To be clear, delete the following:

Use your full first and last name in a single language.
If you use your full name, you'll be able to connect with people you know and help them find you. Names that consist primarily of initials or those that include indications of membership in professional, educational, societal or religious entities, such as "Dr.", "Rev." or “JD” are not allowed in the first or last name fields. Names that include more than one language script aren’t allowed either.

Violation examples: Doctor Stan Livingston, Bill Smithwick DDS, Rev. Jim Copley, 蔡玉娴 Archer, S. P.

let this distinction be relaxed - encourage people to list multiple names that can be found under, and the one they want to viewed as

Put nicknames or pseudonyms in the Other Names field.
If you’re referred to by more than one name, only use the one that commonly identifies you, and place the rest in the “Other names” or “Nickname” section of your profile.

Violation examples: Timothy “TK” King, Jonathan Richards (JonnyBoy), PunkRockerSF

Stop being a dick about hyphens, apostrophes and so on - the world of names is larger than they think it is.

Avoid unusual characters in your name.
When you create your profile, our system will check the name you submitted for unusual characters. For example, numbers, symbols, and obscure punctuation are not supported.

Violation Example: John246 , ★★Shelley★★, J@SON W@T$ON,‘Rachel Smith/

I think the following is a mistake, but it is more defensible. I like many of the non-humans on twitter

Your profile and name must represent one individual.
Google+ does not support profiles for couples or groups of people. Additionally, you cannot create a profile for a non-person entity such as a pet or business.

Violation examples: Jones Family, Jeremy & Mel Mason, Vegas the Dog, Brooklyn Bagels, Northern California Conservation Society

This needs a clear parody exemption. Also a "I have the same name as someone else" exemption
Don't use the name of another individual.
Impersonation is a serious issue. Pretending to be someone else could cause your profile to be deleted. If someone is pretending to be you, go to their profile and click Report this profile.

This one combined with the above is noxious - how do you iterate to an acceptable one

Name Changes
Please note that if you change your name, you won’t be able to change it again for 30 days.

Then add a clause for your Cum Slut problem.

I do think allowing a unique namespace for users would eb good - the previous iteration used the same namespace as gmail, which made some people nervous as their handle was there email address, but that si still better than not having one.
Derek, yes, I am aware of using Circles to control who sees what, but that really only gives you private correspondence equivalent to email or a private mailing list at best. It is not the same as being able to post publicly about an issue using a separate persona.

And when a griefer reports your profile and you have to prove that yes, you are actually named John Smith by sending in a copy of your ID or lose access to the profile and all other associated services (YouTube, Docs, Reader, etc.), that kind of closes off the possibility of having a second pseudonymous account.
+Derek Powazek Right (about the "existing community", I mean). And I think it's easy to conflate that "existing community" with "the whole of Internet, past and future", on both sides of this argument. The sort of 'nym usage that many point to as "the way the Net does it" doesn't get much sympathy outside of intensive Internet-using groups; at the same time "What's all the fuss about?" is classically something that people with limited experience of being persecuted for their words will often say. Google is at least sensitive to the problems of the latter, having felt the burn of rolling out Buzz to people who didn't particularly like being thrown into a circle with their abusive ex-husbands, no matter how many emails they exchanged.

And I should say that while I did pick up the phone, Google's representatives made it clear that the whole thing was off the record. Now, I'm happy to do that in my current job, because the information they give is still useful in what I do, and I end up having a fair few confidential chats with many companies. But as a journalist or an activist, I would probably not agree to those terms -- and Google would almost certainly not talk to me anyway.
+Kevin Marks - Just because something makes you angry doesn't make it "flamebait." I was responding to a trend of hysterical craziness about this policy. I realized I couldn't think of one clearly articulated reason, so I asked for one. I got some (thanks, +Danny O'Brien). Lobbing URLs into the conversation wasn't really answering the question I asked, so thanks for actually coming by to participate.

It seems to me we're not far off on the specifics. A change in policy is clearly needed. But more important is the change in enforcement. Bad policy can be forgiven in a beta site, but unfair rule enforcement will burn a community member for life.
Interesting question, Derek. Is fun a valid reason?
+Michael Bernstein See, here ("being able to post publicly about an issue using a separate persona") is where we diverge, because that is absolutely not Google's responsibility. There's a million places online to to that. Go get a Tumblr, a Wordpress blog ... is LiveJournal still around? Yeah, that. Who says that every social network has to enable you to be every identity you care to whip up? The people who need this are smart enough to find it elsewhere.
"fake shit" is flamebait. Being upset with Google blocking Picasa and Reader for users because of a unilateral rule change to Profiles that are required to use the services and a badly broken restitution process is not hysterical.

As +Michael Bernstein says, having multiple separate accounts is common practice, and good information hygiene - you can't trust a service provider to maintain chinese walls between accounts when faced with a subpoena. See +Elizabeth Churchill and +Ben Gross 's paper on multiple email account use

I have at least 3 gmail accounts, and hence 3 plus accounts - look here I am: +Kevin Marks +Kevin Marks - I don't think this is unusual.
+Derek Powazek Google's declared policy says nothing about "fake shit", it says "use the name you are commonly known by."

But their implementation does not come near to matching the stated policy. Instead, the rules implementing the policy ask people to replace names that people commonly go by, including legal names (like +Violet Blue and Stilgherrian) and unusual nicknames, like Skud and Ping Yee) with names that are common in "middle america." People with uncommon names get booted, and keep getting booted regardless of executive statements that Google would stop doing this.

People are rightfully pissed off because "use the name you common go by" is actually a decent principle, and Google's implementation has been absolutely execrable - the methods they are using are completely unenforceable for a global business. Google's idiotic heuristics rule out name conventions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Native American names and so on. Making people in Indonesia make up middle-american names to qualify to be on Google+ is beyond absurd.

People are not asking to create fake, disposible nicknames like obnoxious teens in Youtube comments, they are asking to use real unusual names, real nicknames and real stable pseudonyms. "Fake shit" is a straw man against what many people are actually asking for.

Please do take a look at the poll that +K Robert put together proposing a variety of solutions. (Updated with summary of results...) Please note that the variants of "allow pseudonyms with verification" have a majority of the votes. Also, my very strong assumption from following the discussion is that the solid number of people voting for "allow me to use any name" are not saying this because they want youtube style disposible handles, but because they no longer trust Google to rationally and kindly maintain any policy that allows pseudonyms.
Like Facebook, Google+ is not an open forum. So, the benefit of real names to community beyond individual circles is insignificant. I track people here whom I either know personally, or whose commentary I take an interest in. If one of my friends chooses to go by Sexxxxydude 3030, I might have to decide whether that person is worth keeping in my community, but the mere fact of their presence here doesn't affect the global Google+ community at all. If you don't know who you're talking to, perhaps you shouldn't be talking to them? Oh wait, that never works on the internet...

Unlike community forums which are frequently grassroots, non-profit, and serve focused, niche interests, Google+ is a for-profit, general-interest service created by a business. Its function is twofold: generate profit through data-acquisition to sell ads, and attract more users to other Google services to generate profit through data-acquisition to sell ads. Google isn't obligated to indulge its users as a matter of policy or ethics, but as a means of building a competitive service it's something they should be keenly focused on. The more Google behaves, and is perceived, as indifferent to its users' concerns/needs/desires, the weaker their competitive position. Google+ is the current end of a long succession of mostly-defunct social networking sites, most of which have been abandoned as the herd jumps from one ship to the next. Myspace lasted so excruciatingly long because they had critical mass--right up until Facebook opened their doors to the public with something more desirable. And Facebook was truly different. Google+ has much less differentiation, respectively, and these kinds of terms of service don't help to attract new users away from the incumbent.

The question is how many users actually want this, vs. how many users are generating hype. As you suggest, if only 1% of people care, it's irrelevant. Unless that 1% influences 99% of the public perception.
This Intelus crawl says 17% When there is a minority in a social network, those affected aren't just the minority individuals but their friends and acquaintances. I've met Skud and Ping Yee, for example, to people caught by the "real-sounding names" enforcement. People who chose to use wallet names, but whose friends are getting booted are also affected.
Plain and simple, if you don't like the rules that Google puts forth for THEIR network, then don't use it. Go build your own community.

If Google+ was a beer and wine bar and you were looking fir mixed cocktails, you wouldn't complain to the management that they were being unfair. You would leave and go to a bar that served alcohol, right? Same goes for social networks.

You may not have total freedom of expression on Google+, but you do have freedom of choice. GTFO
+Robert Scoble told us he was under NDA on something HUGE until I think an hour from now that addresses these issues on Yet Another Social Network we're supposed to give content to so they can monetize us. We'll see.
An aside to this is if you dissent from the conventional Nym wisdom, expect to find yourself on the receiving end of some flame from people you don't know and who don't know you. That's fascinating in itself. I have no context to you, but hate what you said, so I'm going to leave a HUGE comment on your post about something I care about.
+Derek Powazek The key difference, originally, between G+ and Facebook was that Facebook wanted your real name, G+ said it wanted the name you were known by. I wrote at the time about how that could potentially represent a big difference. +Malath Aumran and +Michael Anti could both exist here, without fear of having them and their groups deleted . I'd be able to recognise friends like +Skud and +Doctor Popular and celebrities like +Lady Gaga without needing to know their real names. +Vic Gundotra wouldn't have to be Vivek Gundotra.

Sure, occasionally Sexxy Dude 2020 would appear, but they do under the current system. Maybe they'd get flagged by others, but more likely they'd get flagged for bother bad behaviour. The hundreds of thousands of people who are called things "Jennifer Couponcutter" and "Fred The Plumber" on Facebook could come over here, into a space that's willing to take them because that's who they are, rather than because they've so far avoided the grim reaper of Facebook's tech support.

Also, maybe, large Internet companies will man up to the fact that if you want to run a community of 100s of millions of people, you really are going to have to start improving large scale human customer support, instead of believing algorithms and just ignoring problems is going to scale...
+Kevin Marks Calling something "flamebait" doesn't make it untrue. "Fake shit" like my examples are exactly what you'll get when you relax this policy. And there will be thousands of stupid fake names for every one political dissident who legitimately needs protection. And those thousands of fake names will have a small negative impact on the experience of every member.

I agree with some of you that have said that part of the problem here is the extent to which your Google Plus identity gets tied in with all your other Google services. That makes all of this more problematic. And that's why maybe the world's largest search and advertising company should not also run the world's largest social network (potentially).
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone. I started this thread because I wanted to think about this out loud and you all helped me do that. But I've got to get some actual work done today, so locky-lock goes the thread.

This was also an experiment in using Google+ for active conversations, and clearly there's a little work to be done there, too. It was hard to know who was responding to what when things got busy.

I started this thread to ask for legitimate reasons why a looser naming policy would be better for the community as a whole. Most people didn't even address this from Google's perspective. I guess that's understandable. We all see the world through our own eyes. But if you've never run a large scale community system, you simply have no idea how big an impact these small policy decisions can have on the health of the entire community.

I can no longer say I've never heard a good reason why Google should allow people to use fake names. I have. But those reasons are an extreme minority, and there are still many downsides that have to be considered.

Clearly Google's communication about the reasons for the policy has to improve. And clearly the enforcement of the policy has to get in line with what the policy actually is. Probably the policy should be made a bit more lenient for cases where someone is legitimately known as a name that's not their own. Simply doing those three things would solve the majority of the problems here. The rest is just squeaky wheel entitlement that hurts the larger argument.

If you've read this far, let me please leave you with this one thought: Google Is Not The Internet. If you want a new name, you can have one. If you want to say whatever you want, go for it. It's a very, very big web we've got here. No one's stopping you. Go make your mark. Invite your friends. Create the world you want to live in. Trust me, it can be done, and it's a lot of fun. More fun than any mainstream corporate social network could ever be.