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Google+ and the loss of online anonymity
Updated: As Google rolls out its Google+ social network, it is struggling with the same ... Are we losing that as a result of Google and Facebook's real-name obsession? ... Google senior vice-president Vic Gundotra, the man who is in charge of Google's social efforts, ...
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123 comments
 
Not strict enough, only because + is more public than Facebook, and doesn't have equally good "blocking" (yet).
 
I agree with ability to post polls and allow for interaction! But my answer is just-right. 
 
Need anonymity at least from "public".
 
John, you can make a poll by creating a post, making some comments (1 per answer), disabling comments, and asking people to +1 their vote.
 
Honestly, this is the Internet. If I want to call myself Retardus Maximus, I should be able to. Not only should total anonymity be a choice, using stupid names is a warning for serious people not to bother with the trolls...
 
If applied uniformly I think close to okay... otherwise it's too strict
 
Please no polls!!!!! Next thing you know our streams will be filled with nothing but polls.

Name policy is just right!
 
It is obviously too strict otherwise the press wouldn't be all over it like ants on a lollipop.
 
I think the biggest con is spammers or spam-bots. All these comments are being indexed right?
 
+Vaggelis Kapartzianis have you seen all the stupid polls on Facebook? Don't want Google+ to turn into another FB.

The suggestion above by +Shawn Drape is a great solution.

"you can make a poll by creating a post, making some comments (1 per answer), disabling comments, and asking people to +1 their vote."
 
@john I think a lot of people are still pretty confused about what the current policy is. Bradley Horowitz just made it clear that Google will no longer be pre-emptively disabling the accounts of people with names that are suspected of violating policy. That's a big improvement. Given that, there are still questions about the policy. Do I understand it right below?


1) Google's policy is to encourage real names but allow stable pseudonyms
2) Google will no longer remove access from people with stable pseudonyms, but ask for evidence (including links to websites)
3) The profile team is making it easier for people with stable names different from their legal name to expose their preferred name to everyone and not display their legal name
 
Definitely too strict. Excluding anonymity/pseudonymity is a bad thing and such a stance is inconsistent with respecting privacy and not being evil. There are people who need it. Anonymity/pseudonymity is a tool which can be abused, but so can any tool. It's a necessary evil. None of the complaints come close to outweighing the need for it and benefit to basic freedoms, like freedom of speech.

I think the best solution is to include fields for names (with that + to add new fields for more names) and have privacy controls to control who can see which, including the ability to restrict your name to only viewable by yourself.
 
Even if the above is the case, the policy for flagging things that may not be common names is definitely too strict - it is catching native american names, people who go by initials (common in India), people with mixed Chinese/English names (common in Hong Kong) and many other reasonable variants. As a worldwide service, G+ shouldn't impose Anglo-American norms on people's names.
 
In my opinion the real name policy was completely ok and maybe I never will understand all the trouble about it. To ignore the possibility of fake names...it could help to know the person in contact a little better and can stop a whole bunch of trolls. Anonymity at the internet is a lie...accept that everything and every person could be found somehow. Just not necessary to hide yourself from reality...in my opinion...
 
Why can't you start a google doc pole and then put it here?
 
Policy confusion and lack of communication of changes and reasons for suspension was the major problem.

Too strict, would be my answer from the options given. Too arbitrary and out of the blue, otherwise. 
 
I like the current policy. I've never liked having the option for total anonymity on a social site. It just encourages people to be trolls, and leave offensive comments everywhere they go.
 
I think common name is a good policy. I know many Chinese dissidents are worried about using their real name. But many of these are known by another name anyways, and I would hope that would fall under then "common name" policy.
 
Too strict. However, could be solved also be allowing people to go by the nickname field in their profiles and hide their real names to all but their circles. G+ should be the place that protects privacy, not one that throws those who demand it off the bus.

Also re polls on G+...
You can create a poll by inserting your question options as comments, then lock the comments. Ask people to +1 the option they like then count the +1s.


 
If you are going to have a common name policy then your appeals proccess needs to be able to support it. At the moment if you are suspended for violation of the policy you are forced to use your wallet name to prove that you have a right to use that account. This runs against the policy as stated that says common names are permitted.
 
I like chosen screen names - not birth certificate names.
If they want to make people pick on and stay with it, fine. But let the online social people, programmers, and gamers go by the name they are known by online.
 
I like common name. would settle for pseudonyms as long as they mimic 'real life' names. don't want to see ieatbabies57 on here.
 
God damnit Facebook has no policy because they don't delete profiles like Google+ does. On Facebook I have a pseudonym and nothing happens and here everybody with a pseudonym has been deleted. People like you are the reason for groups fighting for Internet freedom because you try to take it from us. 
 
Forcing names is not at all analogous to requiring shirts in restaurants. Maybe in intent, but this is way more important. At least with restaurants you can do things like order out, or send someone else to pick up food, etc. Excluding anonymity & pseudonymity infringes on freedoms and even puts people in danger. Excluding it is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes. Sure, it benefits Google to know users' real names, but you can provide incentives. Requiring them is wrong. If you protected the privacy of users better they'd be more willing to provide such information (see previous comment about fine-grained privacy controls).
 
+Paul Brocklebank Who cares if you don't want to see such usernames? If you don't want to interact with such people, then don't. Block them or whatever. Enforcing your arbitrary preferences on others is wrong.
 
+Mike smith Google+ is not the whole of the Internet. Twitter has a less strict dress code if you don't feel like get dressed up.

As for the usernames, what else? who cares if I don't want to each profile to have a difference ugly customised background, or a different music clip play on each page. No thanks. I'll take my clean and professional social network please. I'm not enforcing my preferences on anyone. I'm expressing what I would like. You're quite at liberty to disagree, but please don't suggest I'm wrong to have a preference.
 
I'd say it is just right.

And about polls, a suggestion;
You can simply write 3 comments right below your post that looks like this
1) Too strict?
2) Not strict enough?
3) Just right.
and ask people to +1 their answer.
You could have seen some stats based on the +1 number on each comment. (and get a better view)
 
For some it might as well be. Google and its services are not just some random site on the web. And throwing people off the bus who demand basic rights is Not A Good Thing.

I certainly agree, we don't want another Myspace.

Obviously you aren't enforcing your preferences, but it certainly seems like that's what you're suggesting...
 
This is already turning into yet another post where people who are for "freedom of expression" and pseudonyms on +, attack anyone with a different opinion.
 
its a proposed set of rules. Rules are pretty much necessary on a site like this, so its going to be 'enforcing someone's preference' regardless. There'll also be rules about acceptable content as well. that'll also be enforcing someone's preference. the trick is to find what is acceptable to most people. I doubt there will be a solution that everyone will be happy with, and I'm sure not everyone will want to go on Google+.

and again with the "basic rights" thing. (seen elsewhere in discussions). Food and water is are basic rights. Freedom to practice religion is a basic right. Access to Google+, under a name of your choosing, is not a basic right. Having a name policy isn't oppressing anyone, or putting people at risk. Its setting the limits of the service.
 
+Vaggelis Kapartzianis I haven't seen any personal attacks. I've seen attacks on peoples arguments but that is how discussions work. I present my point of view, you yours, we test the strength of each others views by bringing up counterpoints and what survives are the best ideas.
 
two things.

Stop comparing G+ and Facebook all the time, if G+ wants to become a big social network, you will need stupid games and a lot of poll, otherwise G+ will remain a geeky thing.

On privacy, i think that there should be non standard profile for people who are well known with their alias, except for this happy few, i think that you are doing good with profile.
 
This is poll. You are supposed to give an opinion. And be done with it. And yet even here you people are "commenting" on other people's opinions. And you are proving what you intend to do with your pseudonyms on + .
 
+Paul Brocklehurst Society has already learned that certain rules are a Bad Idea, though. No one's proposing anarchy. Good rules are not just a matter of preference, and excluding names like somethingoffensive57 is just that.

I'm not arguing that Google isn't a private company with the legal right to set and enforce stupid/ignorant rules if they want, but it's in everyone's best interest if they don't.
 
I don't think pseudonyms are needed, we just need to be able to change the display name, like this Google always know who you are, but your friends will see what you want them to see.
 
why would they be stupid rules Mike? The principle works ok on Linkedin, and on most of Facebook...

and please, you're not the only one, but poor old Brocklebank is going to wonder why you're all directing your comments at him... :)
 
+John Costigan There are subtleties, Google should broaden the issue and make it about how you can accommodate both types of relationships. Why does it have to be either or? Search on my comments elswehere you'll see I have contributed to possibilities beyond the simple this or that scenarios being argued. So have other people.
 
Too strict, doesn't take into account the fact that we may be known as a different name to different sets of people. Just give users the tools to filter out what they don't want to see (e.g. posts from people not using their real names) instead of just kicking them out.

(I would've just said, "don't discriminate, let us do it ourselves on our own" but that probably sounds a lot worse than how I meant)
 
I think the common name policy is only slightly too strict. My name complies with the policy, but I know people who need to use real pseudonyms to hide from stalkers and such. If "Common Names" can be extended to also mean online identities, and pen names to protect people, then I'm in favor of it. Still, much better than other social networks. And I trust Matt Cutts to be quite capable of finding spammers.
 
Lady Gaga, Madonna, Mark Twain, Woody Allen, Adam Ant, Fred Astaire, Anne Bancroft, Michael Bolton, Bono, David Bowie, Chevy Chase, Gina Davis, Ted Danson, Nina Simone. Today's pseudonyms do include odd numbers, characters and symbols. Others have well known names on the internet that can't be pronounced, and Google has grown right along with them, with "Google" itself being a malapropism. I don't want to see G+ become a 4chan or twitter, but I understand the need for unique identity/alter ego as well. I suppose I fall on the "too strict" side.
 
I'd quite happily pay for my Apps account, if all the services were available for it.
 
+Paul Brocklehurst Woops, LOL. Must have mis-clicked. Small laptop screen and things kept moving.

History has demonstrated the need for anonymity & pseudonymity. When I see comments to the effect of "if you haven't done anything wrong, you've nothing to hide" (mainly on other posts), it gets my back up. When Google has such a good reputation and a motto of "don't be evil" I wanna hold them to it. Particularly since myself and others have invested so much here. I'd be screwed if I lost my Google account. Unfortunately it seems others already have been.
 
+John Costigan I have created voting by posting the "options" under the original post and asking people to vote by +1;s
 
has history demonstrated a need for anonymity and pseudonymity everywhere? It seems like people are scared that Google+ is not so much replacing Twitter or Facebook, but the internet as a whole. It's one website. I absolutely recognise that there should be somewhere for people to discuss their politics, or sexuality or anything else anonymously without fear of reprisal; I'm not convinced that it is a requirement for Google+ to include that in its remit.
 
Further clarification of the current policy is still needed: The stated policies when I activated G+ seemed to mean that both Identified and Pseudonymous use of Profiles was acceptable, although Identified was preferred, and the stated policies still can be interpreted that way but recent account suspensions are not in line with that understanding of the policies.

Whatever the current policy is, I ask that Google please clarify the documentation so we all know what's really expected (i.e. is Profiles really exclusively an Identified service?). The term "common name" is causing continued misunderstandings, and what kinds of "proof" are now required to prevent suspension of an account under a name used daily online and offline (but not appearing on a passport)... well, that's still confusing.

Regarding future policies and growth of G+: At least half of my own social graph depends, in daily life online and offline, upon the use of a stable, persistent name of their own choosing (some call this a pseudonym, others simply call it a real name!), which is a necessary and powerful thing for these folks, many of whom would not otherwise have a voice participating in a social network. The other portion of my social graph has and takes the opportunity to participate in social networks using a name or a nickname closely derived from their legal name.

I very much hope that Google+ will support people who choose, or need, to interact here in both ways. I believe that people using names of their own choosing and people using derivatives of their legal name are important and valuable within a strong and vibrant social network. I believe that the overall community here at G+ will be strengthened by diversity, strengthened not by devaluing one way of naming ourselves and overvaluing the other way, but instead proactively welcoming both ways of naming ourselves, with open arms... and with clear policies, and clearly-understood and documented procedures related to enforcing those policies.

The passion of discussions here of these issues lately speaks volumes for the potential of G+, and of the engagement of G+ users. The connections I have made here within the past few weeks, with individuals using names of their own choosing and with individuals using derivatives of their legal names, it has all been amazing and wonderful. Please don't turn half of us away.

Thank you for listening!
 
Paul, I'm sure Google would like to be the primary platform for things like your online identity. Given that Google is so big and so important, it's all the more important for them to do things right. I already said I'm not arguing that they don't have the legal right to enforce arbitrary rules, but it's in everyone's best interest for them to have the best rules they can muster. And in this case it's really not hard to do much better than they have so far. Allow for multiple names on profile with fine-grained privacy controls and they're pretty much done.
 
Paul, in what sense would such a thing be a requirement? It's not a legal requirement anywhere that I'm aware of, but it's rather necessary for a healthy society. Yet in theory, legally, every site online could try to exclude anonymity. But if any site online ought to allow for it, it ought to be Google. Many have great need of their Google accounts, and also have great need of anonymity.
 
Never forget that being anonymous on the web is just an illusion. You can try to be more anonymous (ToR for example) but perfect anonymity is just a dream right now.
 
@Mike I'm meaning in the sense that some people expect the anonymity to be part of Google+. I don't think that's justified; sure we can ask for it, but it seems silly to me to get angry, and some people are getting angry, about a feature that's missing from a new product. G+ is picking things up from the other networks, and so far, appears to be moving away from twitter when it comes to naming policy. For some of us, that's an attractive quality to have in a social network.

Google+ policies don't stop someone having an anonymous gmail account, or youtube account or anything else.
 
Yes, and ideally we'd all be able to use our real name or whatever online, but that's not the world we live in. People are getting angry mainly because there was no warning for losing their account for reasons that arguably aren't justified (in some cases anyway).
 
So finding spammers is not very useful via 'real name'- one uses this magical thing called an 'IP address' to do that. But I'm sure folks @ Google's spam team actually know that. ;)
I think the real problem you guys are facing with this 'real name' nonsense, over there, is that gmail didn't expect it. Youtube doesn't expect it. So I create my account and use Throatwarbler Mangrove as my name. Why? Because it amuses me to. You don't care that I have... but when I sign up for Google +, suddenly, Google DOES care that the name 'Throatwarbler Mangrove' is kind of silly. There's a dichotomy of policy here- and one that nobody @ Google + seems to be thinking about. If a pseudonym is OK for an email account- which can be used to commit felonies, say- I think it's probably OK for a Google + account, neh?
 
Too strict. Better support for stable pseudonyms is needed, and expected name formation should not be Eurocentric. A legal name is personal data and should never be expected to be revealed to a public network, just as no one expects us to wear name tags when walking down the street.

a) It does not provide enough privacy for a huge variety of cases. Many kinds of people are disproportionately targeted for harassment and outright crime, and they need to be able to never display their legal name, in part or whole, to other users if that is what they choose. They should be able to set their full name field to fully private. It is insufficient to make them use some sort of Nickname/Initial combination of their names in public, because that is not enough to withstand search by someone who already knows them, if they are for example trying to avoid a stalker, or if they are in one of the many professions with an ethical requirement to write about their profession only anonymously. Stable pseudonyms grant sufficient privacy to help these cases.

b) It forces people to give up long-established pseudonyms, many of which are on private chat servers or other places without a way to link into them and no easy way to prove that they have been in use. Not all pseudonyms are used on the web or have been published in paper. Some are even used in groups that meet in person. This case needs to be covered or people will come here only to be unknown to their friends, especially if their friends only know them by their pseudonym. Google should be trying to import social groups from all over the world, not turn them away because they aren't using the web or are private. Take their word for it, just as you take John Smith's word.

c) Users like Sai should not have to go through an additional burden of proof that their name is their name, when a user named John Smith may just as easily be lying yet remain scrutiny-free. If Sai has to send in ID, then so should everyone else. Instead, enforce behavior, not how "funny looking" someone's name is. If it is a burden for some users to be on the same service with people who have names that they are not used to, then implement an opt-in verification process and allow users to automatically screen out all unverified names if they so choose.
 
re-reading the OP, it's interesting that Google feel the current policy is less restrictive than Facebook's. Less restrictive, but better policed perhaps?
 
Too Strict. There are many reasons for pseudonyms and Google+ needs to be able to accommodate those people as well.
 
Far too strict, and incredibly ham-handedly enforced. When someone like GrrlScientist, who blogs for the Guardian under that name, has her account suspended here; when people are told they can use the name they go by in everyday life but are then suspended and proof that they've used that name for years is disregarded; when people are suspended because their real names don't fall into the narrow spectrum of what Westerners expect a name to be; when people are effectively shut out of the site because their of privacy needs and their established names - there's a huge problem. Google+ is treating its early users very, very badly, and the longer they take to resolve this, the worse they'll look.

Suspension should be based on behavior, not on how odd someone's name looks to other people. Targeting the behavior behind the name rather than the name itself is ultimately the only way to prevent the trolling and nastiness that so many real name advocates seem to fear.
 
nobody can judge or define what a common name is expect the one that carries the name.
therefore your rule is, in all politeness, doomed.

there are people with single-letter names, one word names, many word names, all lot of word names, mixed language and mixed script names.

i would not be surprised to find someone who’s official name under whatever jurisdiction is a name without any letters involved, a smell or sound name. whatever.

you simply cannot judge realness of people by their name. live with it.
 
In a perfect world the common name rule would be the best choice. But it seems that in a real world the strict enforcement of common names leads to much more trouble than it helps to generate a good user experience. I would suggest to block only the use of very obvious fantasy names like 12345 or ajfh<jksfhk and so on. And to enforce the blocking in a more user friendly personal way.
 
The problem is not the policy. The problem is that we expected more from you.

The problem is a) the enforcing without providing proper preparation of the public (I mean brands and company here specifically) b) the cracking down even as far as cutting off access to google services (be it true or not, the stigma stays and gmail is my home and everything - being locked out of facebook is an annoyance but that is about it) and the fact that a company like google in this size, at this point in time screws it up so bad.

That is the start and that is the majority on the bruhaha. then the part about that you are clueless about what real names are. the ones who get kicked out with valid names. Dr. for example in Germany is a valid adition to the name and the bearer has the rigth for it to be part of the name. People have funny names. etc etc. That is the part where there is technical dificulties in finding out.

Now on the bars (btw I would have made a google form and linked that here and made the results public): too stricts.

Again, this is google with how many smart people working there, the search engine giant who does deal with spam every single day and you are telling me, all these people where not able to come up with new and innovative ways to get rid of the real problem? Incentivise me to be with a real name, make it easy for me to deal with people I do not want to deal with (btw not solved by real name), help me to help you make detection of those trolls you are looking for easier and and and.

you dont need a real name for being valuable to advertisers and make money out of it. And I stand by my point: If I want to be a troll, if I want to be a bad person, I can do that with Joe Smith and other names. And I will be faster with you. That would be something the guys from your tech deparment should have been able to tell you about black hat and white hat.

The guardian article on trolls and anonymity is very good about describing the down sides, I wholehartly agree on that. but the solution is not to go against real names, take away peopls identities but come up with a smart solution. This is why we are all so upset. You did not come up with a smart solution, you came up with a stupid one. [Where are my filters, where are my watchlists, where are my score filters I had back in '95 in slrn btw?]

Just for the record: I myself have been online under my name since forever and have no reason nor intention (currently) to go for a pseudonym, too much work. I have had a strong stance for real names ever since Usenet. BUT: I also had a strong stance on technology being able to help me out with filtering - gnome1710 might be awesome whereas Markus Angermeier may be an idiot (I know markus and he is absolutly not).

Is the topic easy? Absolutly not. We know that. But instead of forcing real name 'yes no get kicked out', pretty please do come up with solutions which are worthy of your intelligence and man power in the buildings.
 
Rather than deleting people left and right, I would suggest implementing some kind of a voluntary "identity verified" badge that gets attached to your profile after you verify your identity with Google in some way (credit card data, bank account, etc). Staying anonymous should be a right, and the best Google can do is protect it.
 
Terrible policy, terrible enforcement, and, amazingly, even worse transparency. It's misguided, and won't catch anyone who's using a realistic false name anyway. Anonymous trolls can be dealt with by other means.

It's thoroughly disingenuous to cite Facebook's name policy, as it's quite evident that they don't enforce it.
 
The policy is good, and I like it. I believe it should most definitely not be relaxed.

The execution, the process is lacking. It is done inconsistently, no proper explanation of the cause is given with suggested remedial action, the act of banning is in fact properly overly harsh and not a proportionate initial response to the problem, and initially the bans affected not G+, but all Google activity.

That needs urgent fixing, and in fact just stopping the bans until you have fixed the process and are confident you can execute it properly and uniformly is probably the best action right now.
Andy T
 
seems fine to me. I'm not going to argue that it should have the ability to be cryptic, like twitter name or IM names, that leave it wide open to abuse. Cryptic IM names are for cryptic IM users, not a social network.
 
The G+'s name policy is not strict enough!!! It's a SOCIAL network after all! And I'd like to meet on Google+ John Smith or Ivan Ivanov and not ':!' or 'fg ou' O_____O
P.S. I wish we all (not just celebrities) could have our approved profiles here...
 
Easy: do not enforce things you cannot enforce. It will haunt you. Unless you are prepared to ask all your customers for provable ids, unless you are prepared to get really bad press if you err on the wrong side this is a really bad idea. You are not the law and you will come into situations where someone when in doubt decides against the defendant. Not good.
Rather, wait until there is a problem .. then you have much more reason to do it and you might even be able to base your request for the real name on legal grounds.

But even more important: whatever you decide to do, once you do it, tell your customers what you do and tell them why you reached a specific decision. There is nothing that pisses people more off than getting an account suspended and talking against walls, with no feedback whatsoever what seems to be the problem. In the long run, the money spent for taking care of custumers in those situations is probably better spent than for another programmer to roll out features a few days earlier.
(BTW: I have a ton a feature requests, where is the thread I can dump them off? :) )
 
Too strict restrictions will keep quite a lot people from using g+, which would be a pity. Give users maximum freedom regarding their names and make sure there are enough filter-tools to keep unwanted people out of the stream.
 
ANONYMOUS must be!
I don't like if everybody know my real name and can break in my house if i post my holly-day pictures from far_far_away anywhere... and sure without anonymous accounts g+ will lost a lot of users... here in Germany about 30% ;-() !
And it is 101% senseless to say we are strict, but account opening works by unregistered prepaid mobile SMS ... LOL!
... i think, google need more unconventional thinker in his team ;-)
 
This is definitely a hot topic. I think that they are just right on how strict they are, but I don't think they should suspend accounts for name violations at first. They should contact the person after the investigation if they aren't sure, and give a deadline for them to change it or prove it. The only time I think they should instantly suspend, is in the case of obviously fake names, such as the 50th Jessica Alba, after they have already verified one of them.
 
Yes, I've considered it. I think there has to be some policing unless you want accounts that are obviously fake like Almighty God, Optimus Prime, etc. I think that the argument for protecting people's free speech in third world countries is a bad argument. They can already make a normal fake name for anonymity. There are also plenty of places to be anonymous on the web. Was there something specifically that you think is a good reason Kip?

BTW, I'm not advocating your real legal name, and neither is Google. Something like a nickname is perfectly reasonable, but it should be a name that your actual friends call you, not a gamer tag like PWNSauce, etc. Just my opinion, and obviously people disagree with me.
 
how do you judge that optimus prime is not a real name. german hacker is a real name, he is a mayor in a german city, caius julius caesar is alive and a former member of the german parlament. etc. etc.
the whole idea of deciding upon common names is broken heavily by design.
 
It all depends. Is Google+ going to welcome bloggers from non-free countries? What about whistle-blowers? What about people who have important things to say, but fear retribution in real life?
Also +Eric Jones, how do you know the 50th Jessica Alba is not really called Jessica Alba? The problem with obviously fake names is that many of them aren't fake.
See also: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/
I think the G+ policy makers should read that link too.
 
As I've said elsewhere: This policy, however well-intentioned it may have been, is unenforceable and impractical and utterly fails to accomplish its stated goals of "helping people to connect" or whatever else is the latest lame justification (my circles are full of people I've known for years by a pseudonym, and when I see their "common names" in my stream I constantly have to ask myself, "who was that again...?"). It does, however, generate lots of false positives and alienate large portions of the users -- especially the tech-savvy and the people who dislike Facebook, who should be some of Google+'s biggest supporters -- and for what? All so that a few privileged users who wouldn't have had any interactions with the disenfranchised users in the first place can feel smug about the way they're keeping the riff-raff out. I've yet to see a convincing argument for this policy or even any answers to the questions that keep popping up about it every time it's brought up, but I've seen many compelling arguments against it, dozens of people suspended for using the name they're most commonly known by, and even more quitting or refusing to join in protest or in fear.

I personally have no desire to use a pseudonym, but many of my friends do. With each one that leaves, this service becomes less useful to me and to each of their friends. I've been giving it the benefit of the doubt because it's early on, but this isn't encouraging. From a technical standpoint, Google+ is head and shoulders above the alternatives, so I would like to be able to use it, but if this policy doesn't see drastic changes immediately, it will become virtually useless very quickly. A social network lives or dies by the diversity of its user base.
 
Too strict.
I am privileged enough to not need pseudonymity, but I am happy to give up that privilege for those who do need it.

What I'm finding puzzling is why people want a strict name policy. The loudest argument I've heard is "it gets rid of the trolls", but moderation is completely independent of identification. Moderation (both online and offline) is done at the local level: I don't add Annoying Person to my circles (be it G+ circles or real life social circles), and maybe I even block them (in real life, use closed body language or actually shun them). C.f. slashdot's attempt to rate commenters: it's a difficult problem to have consensus on what the social rules should be. But this has nothing to do with identification, other than "the person who keeps coming up with this handle keeps being the same person". I don't think anyone is arguing for throwaway G+ accounts. As I cannot find any valid arguments for strong identification, and many, many reasons against, I think the naming policy is not only too strict, but it is (I don't mean this pejoratively) absurd: there is no way to verify that a new G+ account is who they claim to be.

Suggestion: throw out the name policy at the same time you give us strong moderation tools.

Thanks for asking for feedback and for considering this. :)
 
Too strict. As it stands, the policy presupposes that 1) the only reason someone might use an "non-real" name is to behave disruptively, and 2) it's easy to tell "real" and "non-real" names apart. I have reasons for using the nym I do; I don't believe those reasons are anybody else's business, and I shouldn't be lumped together with spambots and (mental) adolescents who want to call themselves "Capt Pen15" unless I've actually done something obnoxious to warrant it--and there are separate policies that cover those behaviors better and more specifically. G+ can't realistically enforce a policy like this unless it wants to set itself up to judge who is worthy of using an autonym and who isn't, and I can't imagine that's a path you want to go down.

Yes, some people on G+ won't take me seriously, but quite frankly, based on their comments in this discussion so far, they're not people I'd want to interact with much anyway. My bigger concern is that my friends are being pushed off G+, or abandoning Gmail accounts and other Google services, because they're afraid of getting suspended for the name they use. If you want G+ to be a gated community (and there certainly seems to be an audience for that) that's one thing, but if you want it to be the most inclusive platform it can be, this policy needs to be changed.
 
Too strict!

I've used a working name to undermine authoritarian states so that my known associates didn't have to fear reprisal. The threat for them was very real.

I have two different working names because one writes books and one makes sculptures. I am not interested in people judging my sculpture in light of their perception of the politics of my writing.

People who work in banking or finance or government have to write with working names or they'll never get a job again. Would you rather have known about the impending subprime mortgage crisis from Calculated Risk, or had Bill McBride remain silent?

I think you (Google) are being entirely blithe about this, and you look like dataminers making a big superficial show of how it's to protect public manners or something, when really what you want is everyone's name.

You're gonna kill your baby unless you show some sense. This is not a user revolt you can "put down". We have to like and enjoy this service, we're not your captives.
 
Too strict.

I have more than one use-name: many people (roughly half my acquaintances, I would suppose, and many of them offline) know me primarily by my handle. There are many people I know by handles or nicknames, and seeing their ‘real names’ in my feed is confusing, as I generally don't even know their legal names.

Also causes issues with some of my trans friends, who have changed their name as part of a switch to a new gender identity, in personal usage if not yet legal. Placing restrictions on names is (as well as being technically and politically irritating) repressing their freedom of identity.
 
As so many have put it,one of the largest issues is of pseudononymity, NOT anonymity. Like many people, I have a second name I use offline that requires an online component. I'm doing nothing illegal and, lucky for me, my online name looks pretty normal and has some basis in my other name.

I went into a lot of detail about the other issues here https://plus.google.com/103708629946648098196/posts/HKHvysEiyFr , in particular questions of definitions and the evidence of correlation between so-called "real names" and positive community interactions.

When the Internet began, lo those many years ago, people were encouraged NEVER to use their "real names". Pseudonyms were the rule, not the exception. It remains common in many places and, because I started 20+ years ago, I always debate before using my "real name" somewhere and tend to shield my privacy carefully. I've had negative experiences which encourage this caution and I've seen others suffer. Many people began their online lives under those pseudonymous conditions and have built up entire, durable, and recognizable identities with those self-chosen names (as opposed to the names they were given by others like parents or government agencies). They aren't trolls, they aren't agents of evil, and they are usually people with connections and knowledge appropriate to Google's environment. As most people who have spent time roaming the Internet away from such places as Facebook know, the relative commonality of a name is no predictor of the behavior that will take place under it.

Google has created a marvelous playground and then clumsily began ejecting users from it with the equivalent of "You don't look right" as a reason.
 
a troll-filter would make it just right, otherwise its not strict enough, and plz no polls!
T. Von
 
the first name i used for my google+ profile was my 'handle' name that i used when i was a member of match.com deboeuf. then, when i saw that google+ was a family circle, i changed to my real none. besides that, i read that google+ protects privacy, unlike facebook & twitter.
 
There are good reasons for both. I think most of the complaints/reasons people are giving for needing pseudonyms are overstated, though, and I don't think the case for not allowing them is made strong enough.

What is missed in this entire conversation is that the format of the network, the way the stream works, the way that comments are front and center matter a lot when deciding what is best. You can't talk about these things in isolation.

If I follow you, and you make public posts -- I am going to have some interaction with the broader community, with people I am not following. Their comments will show in my stream. Google needs to think long and hard about how to accommodate this in a way that doesn't annoy users. I'm not going to block every NobamaisASocialist (insert thousands of your own annoying/spammy/scuzzy/offensive/tasteless username here) that is commenting on other peoples public posts. But it ultimately feels ghetto and spammy. Youtube comments, Yahoo News comments, etc etc.

This is the biggest challenge for G+, this current debate about names is a side issue and is not the real challenge G+ will have. Real names don't fix the problem but they do eliminate at least one facet, one vector for annoyance and stupidity, "clever" names. But the larger problem remains, curation and the setting of community standards, and how best to handle the entire comment issue without A.) derailing conversation B) annoying users by giving them too much community. Comments are not handled terribly well right now, I don't bother to expand large comment streams because they are so big and can't be closed. I want to interact and have discussion, its just not pleasant once it gets too large, currently. There must be some better way to display and interact with large comment streams, but I'm not sure what it is. Someone may have said the exact same thing on this post but I don't know, or refuted my thoughts in a very interesting way that I would have liked to see -- but I didn't expand comments. I'd like to see the highly ranked comments, or to be able to expand them piecemeal 5 or 10 at a time, collapsing them as I go.

I think some form of community karma uprank/downrank tied to visibility in some form or another, a la Hacker News will ultimately be needed/beneficial. It is not clear to me that the public space of G+ will thrive without it. The bad always attempt to ruin it for everyone else.
 
It's too strict, especially considering that you are overlaying Google+ on top of the existing Google profiles product. I had a Google profile (on my other account, which i am not using to post this comment for fear of having my name reported*) long before G+ and even long before Buzz. I use the URL of that Google profile for everything (OpenID, "about me" links, posting to blogs). Your current name policy upends my usage of my Google profile.

* It's sad that I would be afraid of posting something here for fear of bringing attention to myself because of the possibility account suspension, when I'm not doing anything abusive. So much for Vic Gundotra's "positive tone"...
 
Too strict. Here is who can't join G+ if they have to use real names:
1. My female friends who have had real world stalkers who only engage online with pseudonyms.
2. My activist Twitter acquaintances who created and fomented all the activities as related to #Jan21 under pseudonyms. Note Wael Ghonim used his real name in Twitter but only because he was under the protection (to a certain extent) of Google as employer.
3. Most of the 1.3 billion people in China who use Weibo now, approximately 2/3rds of them using online psuedonyms to protect their real world identity.
Those are the people I want to interact with; if G+ requires them be transparent about their identity, then it will never be a very interesting social network and certainly won't be global.
Isn't the point of social networking to help bring down barriers between people, especially reaching out and interacting with people living under repressive regimes?
 
Too strict. You don't want to have to listen to trolls? It's very easy to control that yourself.

This may not be an internet forum but the reasons why you are encouraged (often forced) to use a pseudonym for internet forums apply here as well. There are good reasons why people on internet forums everywhere do not use their real names, and it is nothing to do with wanting to troll.
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Too confusing. Or limited. "A name you commonly go by in daily life" means for a number of people their online handles, their online identity. Name it pseudonym, it is no less real. There shouldn't be such a disconnect between "how your birth certificate or brother calls you" and how your peers in an online community (or more) call you.
 
Too strict. Especially with the considerations that Vic doesn't even use his real name and that anyone in a position of priviledge is allowed to use whatever name they please. 50 Cent for example. You either make it so that everyone follows the same rules or allow psuedonyms. It's not fair to only allow pseudonyms to those with internal google connections or are somehow famous. It also excludes those that want to build a pseudonymous name for themself. Transgendered teens for example. They have no prior claim, but, have every right to be on the service as well.

Google basically just shoots itself in the foot by allowing people of priviledge to use whatever name they please but punishing those that don't have that priviledge even though they need it the most.
 
Too strict. Others have posted the reasons multiple times in this thread and all over the internet already. Fake profiles may be offensive to some people, but fake politeness that only exists because it is enforced through a policy of fear is truly sinister. I've been on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and it was a great moment in history when it was dismantled. I'd rather not witness its resurrection in this social network.
 
Too strict and worse than that it's badly defined. The policy says "use the name that people know you by" and when people like Skud do that, they get knocked back.

It's also unreasonable to effectively change the rules on people who were already using Google Profiles on Buzz and Google Reader before the Plus roll-out.
 
There was a huge fuss about this on Usenet in the late 80s when cup.portal.com had a system where people could change their name at will; they did and it resulted in a large number of "hit and run" postings. Enough people were seriously annoyed that Allen Gwinn in Texas got about 3 or 40 high profile posters to post the same message everywhere to draw attention the the problem. [1] It worked and Portal clamped down on the frequency of how often people can shape-shift.

I have no opinion on the pseudonym issue, there are indeed pros and cons but I don't really care, I see these as edge cases; 20M people have the honey badger attitude: honey badger don't care, honey badger doesn't give a shit. [2]

I'm sure sensible policy will emerge, and there are precedents: the finger wars on msggroup in the 70s, the Usenet issue outlined above in the 80s and the whois privacy policy within (spit) ICANN. in the past decade.

I'd just like to point out that changing names very often, whatever the policy becomes, is something to be careful about.

[1] http://is.gd/xmSSNi
[2] The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (original narration by Randall)
 
I think it is Too Strict. Requiring me to use, or risk exposing my real name could put my life on the line, or put my employment at risk, etc. I'm not saying I'm a bad person, but something I say in Google+ could make them want to do more than just type out a snappy comment as a rebuttal. If I were to provide my name, they could look me up, and find me. Stalk me without me having ever met them offline. Being social shouldn't have to come with such a heavy price to pay.

If I behave badly online, then give me a warning, if I do it again, ban me. But to keep me from socializing based on the perception that the name I use and go by online is not good enough is like saying my skin is too dark, or I need blue eyes and blonde hair to participate.
 
Dear Google:

My Gmail account isn’t my legal name. Unless it’s a law enforcement officer with a warrant, you won’t disclose my personal name to third parties. What the hell is the effing big deal with doing the same with Google Plus?
Sincerely,

Jesus H Common Sense, Esq.
 
@Vaggelis- that's precisely why we should have pseudonyms - to keep us hidden from the spammers and harassers.
 
I approach it from an all-or-nothing point of view. If you can't prevent people from using fake names (e.g. "John Smith"), it's pointless to prevent the use of online pseudonyms. It feels like Google is wanting to become the P.C. police of the Internet. My opinions about this are strong only because I want to see Google+ succeed. However, if they're scaring off folks who enjoy their anonymity, they'll never get anywhere with it. Facebook will eventually make their "lists" user friendly and the appeal of Google+ will be lost. The age restriction doesn't help either. Young people are most adaptable to change and Google+ doesn't even let them in. It appears Google+ was designed by a bunch of idealistic 20-something techies for idealistic 20-something techies.
 
Google's "common name" policy doesn't allow for the fact that the name I am most commonly referred to by is my online nic, not my gov't. issued ID. I have interactions with far more people online than I do IRL (no, i'm not a hermit). I've spent years building up the reputation of that nic and making sure that when people hear/see it it's associated with me and not someone else.

In this world of electrons and remote communications I am known by my nic and it pisses me off that I have had to change my account to my "real" name out of fear that google will disable it if I don't.

People in positions of power should never force others to act out of fear of that power. That is very close to the definition of an "evil" person.

I'm fine with Google handing over my legal name to authorities with a warrant. I'm fine with being legally accountable for my actions. But i see no reason I should be forced to spread that legal name around online.
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Too Strict.

Last month, when I started using G+, I had used a devanagari script (स्वक्ष:) but recently, when I tried to add an English transliteration, it would not allow me to save my profile, kept flagging "स्वक्ष:" for violating G+ policy and I was forced to remove the Devanagari script from my profile. Its ironical that G+ claims to want to support multiple languages used around the world but will not let people use their local script in their profile.

Secondly, G+ should not be linked to other products like gmail-- I use a 7-year old gmail account for all my Floss volunteer work <http://svaksha.com/pages/svaksha>, and suspending it would effectively destroy 7-years of my volunteer work in an instance. I have been volunteering with this 'nym' in various FLOSS communities for many years, and I'd prefer to leave G+ than have to prove my pseudonym to anyone.

Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering @Google, had earlier this year, written a blog post supporting Pseudonyms and Anonymity: <http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2011/02/freedom-to-be-who-you-want-to-be.html> but that directly contradicts with the current action--- G+ accounts are being suspended for name violations and this sends a confusing message.

Furthermore, there is more confusion over "private" profiles policy: One page supports and encourages and helps people change the settings to private: <http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=guide.cs&guide=1355574&answer=1151728&rd=1> but another page contradicts it and warns that all private profiles will be deleted after July: <http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1192471&p=public_profile>

In toto, I'm highly disappointed in the way Google has handled the issue of privacy and I'd rather leave G+ instead of losing Gmail access which would be a bigger disaster as its tied to 7-years of my work in various FLOSS projects. "Dont be evil" ...ist that the Google motto? Or has that changed?
 
Short answer: To strict
Longer answer: The problem isn't just that its too strict, its that Plus and Circles were rolled out talking about the privacy advantages - with this one bizarre exception. And the exception is for reasons that don't really address the fundamental problems. If circles let us control who sees what we say, and profiles have a similar (tho not identical) equivalent - why doesn't it have the same feature for our name?
Much longer answer: http://www.iaflw.com/2011/07/rose.html

Thanks for continuing the discussion!
 
Ambiguous and unevenly applied. I use a pseudonym, but I was allowed to return after a short suspension. There are a lot of users who have still received no word. Is it that my pseudonym is more "real"-looking than theirs? Is this about "common" names or "real"-looking ones? The lack of understanding about what is acceptable and isn't is what makes me uncomfortable. If this is really about spam and trolling, I think they could do a lot better asking the users to pitch in around the platform to help moderate. This way, we don't compromise the experience of people who provide real value to the conversation, and focus on the users we know are disrupting the conversation.
 
Too strict. Initially, G+ seemed it would potentially be the social network that could combine my Facebook friends (family, work, school, meatspace hobbies) and my online friends (including folks from fandom and other pseud-heavy places). So I had a lot of hope for it. If the pseudonym crackdown continues, a huge swath of functionality for me will be lost, with the loss of so huge a chunk of my network. Those are people I likely would never connect with on Facebook, and their presence could be a real tipping point in favor of G+ over FB and even Twitter as the socnet getting my primary daily attention. At the moment, I'm not even bothering investing much in this space, because if my friends go, why should I stay?
 
Maybe the policy isn't as strict as facebook's but I haven't seen facebook enforce theirs. I have friends on FB who do not use their real name. In fact I have a FB account I created with an obviously not real name so that I could play FB games for the month or so I did that. None of those have been banned or forced to change. I like the G+ interface better than facebook, but right now G+ only has a subset of the friends I have on FB, and some of those friends will not join because of the G+ real name policy (and the fact yall are actually enforcing it)
 
WAY too strict. I comes across as misogynist (stalker issues), xenophobic (Non-standard characters, non-Anglo naming schemes), non LGBTQ friendly (back to the stalking and problems with bigotry of employers & family) and limits the way G+ can be used (excludes that gaming community, community theatre, promotion of books/characters by giving them profiles).
 
I am not sure... yet. I have had problems with my name, legal name, in the past. I think a name check is fine but the procedure for disputing a name check should be easy to find, open and timely.
 
TOO STRICT

This is not my real name (it is, however, a well known online pseudonym).

You, however, have no way of knowing if this is my real name or not. I could be Laura Bush for all you know. Therefore, trying to enforce "real names" without enforcing verification is pointless - you'll catch people whose pseudonyms look like odd names but not people pretending to be other people. Chocolate teapot, is how useful that is.

Basic verification is as easy to scam as IP spoofing, so the advantage of verified names for security purposes is pointless. If I am abusing the system and I am clever enough to spoof my IP I will also be clever enough to create a spoofed ID on here. If I am not clever enough to spoof my IP there is no security advantage to verifying ID.

The more complicated verification gets, the fewer people will join. Therefore on a social network like this, where most people will join so they can share links with their friends, minimal is key. This means easily spoofed. This means it should be treated as insecure by its users, i.e. you don't trust someone unless you verify it yourself and you don't assume someone is real unless you know they are real. With circles, this is actually much easier to do than on Twitter or Facebook.

So, in summary, I don't know what problem this name policy is supposed to solve, from an end-user point of view. "Maintaining the tone of the place" doesn't cut it with me, I am afraid. You can be a massive dong-end to someone even if your account is called "Bernard Smith" -- as the mighty book of face has shown. And you can be the height of politeness if your online handle is Yurtswallower2007.

So I think the rule system is too strict mainly because it is unenforceable and wouldn't achieve anything even if it weren't.

If anyone at google has an argument that they can actually feasibly make this work and that it also solves some kind of problem - not that they claim it solves a problem, but that it actually solves it - then I will be more open to the opinion that this entire episode is not a monumental waste of everyone's freaking time.
Cera S
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Much too strict. As someone who did counselling work (more or less -- see, I have to be vague, because I don't want people whom I had as clients finding me here) I pretty much have the option of a) lying about my real name b) honestly using a pseudonym c) never being on any sort of social network because part of my job is to keep my clients from having social contacts with me. And I'm hardly the only person in this position.
 
In my opinion, it's just right. I don't want my people searches to be polluted with random strings that are obviously fake. I will never search for them, and they are just making my work (finding people with real names) harder. In addition to that, fake people following me or commenting on my posts would turn me off and make this place a lot less attractive.

I admit though that a lot of people here, at least the vocal ones, disagree. I'm not sure though that they fully understand the implications of what they are proposing for the community and its growth as a whole. Things that are good for some or even most individuals are not always good for society.
 
Anonymity has a place on the web but I don't believe in anonymity for anything you write. If you're ashamed to attach your name to what you say, it isn't worth saying and for others it isn't worth reading. I always use my name and an avatar that's a real photo of me. It's about credibility and personal responsibility.
 
I strongly believe that google+ should allow for greater anonymity than it currently does. Anonymous public postings have played a strong role in the early US colonies, and they still do, both here and abroad. 
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