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One Person One Vote
After reading +Paul Clarke 's post on the forced consolidation of his Google accounts, it occurs to me that the Google+ team has let the identity argument get away from them -- into a battle over pseudonymity.

Most of us think our account as the thing we sign into to use a service (email, banking, utilities). But Google has built our Google Profile as a separate entity. Go into Google+ settings and check the Data liberation options. Your Profile is distinct from your Stream data, Buzz data, and Picasa albums.

We users might think of our Profile as just the settings for our Google+ account, but it is not. It is one of many "reputation management tools" that Google is developing.

So the underlying issue isn't about allowing pseudonymity. It's about preventing multiple identities. It's about quashing sock-puppetry. With Google products, we get +1 not +1000000. Our Google Profile is our voter registration card.

Allowing people one vote (a single identity) is a good thing. It keeps people from gaming the +1 system. It builds reader's trust in a specific author's reputation.

But what's the best way to verify accounts? I don't know the answer to that. But based on takedowns of William Shatner and Alyssa Milano, it's not someone legal name. If you are a rapper, an actor, or a writer your legal name might not be connected with your reputation.

So the question is how should Google+ ensure that one person doesn't create multiple identities while at the same time allowing people to use the pen/stage name on which they've already built their reputation?
M Sinclair Stevens's profile photoRugger Ducky's profile photoHannah Grimm's profile photoRebecca Dafydd's profile photo
Norv N.
Short answer: they can't. (they can't be sure it's one person per account; unless they start asking for IDs from everyone)

You may want to note though, that creating a new Gmail account was asking for phone/SMS validation, and it didn't accept more than three (or not sure exactly how many) accounts validated by the same number... However this validation doesn't seem to be in place anymore at this time, not for Gmail, nor to join G+.
Quick response: I don't agree with the one identity / account notion at all. Especially if it is controlled by Google. Enforcing this is mostly good for Google and mostly bad for individuals.

Allowing users to create one or more pseudonyms on their "one true identity" isn't a solution, it's a problem especially when the provider of identity is trying to monetize it or is handing it over to the government.

Swap Baidu for Google and China for US in that same scenario and think about how you would respond.

I'm not entirely against centralized digital ID, just every proposed implementation I've seen so far.
+Michael Winser As a person who has multiple blogs (different topics, different audiences) and who had to abandon my online reputation to be my real name self here on Google+ -- I'm a sensitive to the idea of "one true identity". In fact, I was attracted to Google+ because I thought (unlike FB) it understood the idea that we present different faces to different groups.

The purpose of this post is not to advocate one position. It is to move the discussion past the argument over pseudonyms to what I feel is the underlying issue. This is just my hypothesis. However, if it is the real reason behind Google's position, then how can they handle the entire issue more effectively?

I want to explore these ideas: "What was the problem Google was trying to solve with Google Profiles?" and "If real name is not the solution, what is?"
In the realm of Facebook and some of the other social networking sites, it was difficult to target specific people or groups when posting. In my opinion, the 'Circles' concept with Google+ takes care of that issue. You no longer need to have different identities for different audiences.
As someone who is commonly referred to by the name I use here on Google, both in real and online life (yes, my friends do all call me Ducky, and have for 20 years), I find it abhorrent that there is even a question. I'm willing to have one account to bind them all (yes, bad nerd pun), but I'm not willing to give up my right to identify as I want. The only reason they even know I'm using a pseudonym is because it sounds different. But kudos to my friends, they helped me create a totally singular online identity that no one else has. That alone should be enough to let me keep it. Come on, I even own the g-damned domain now. ;)
There are quite a few of my friends who had their pseudonyms and were very active on Buzz who have been forced to remove them and show their "real" names. Like +Rainyday Superstar who I think is just finally tired of fighting the battle. Plenty of us with distintive pseudonyms who are being tagged, just because we aren't celebs.
Plus I get quite a bit of guff from folks like Scoble, who insist that I'm less honest because I use a name I can be identified with, rather than my "real" name which more than 20+ women already have on G+.
+Mark Coolbeth "In my opinion, the 'Circles' concept with Google+ takes care of that issue. You no longer need to have different identities for different audiences."

That's true, except that you can't configure your profile to specific circles. Only your posts. My profile says I'm a same-sex married lesbian, which is A-ok to be here in Sillycon Valley, but not remotely ok when I travel to the deep South. And most assuredly a bad thing when I travel next month to a country in Africa with the most severe punishments for simply being gay. If someone from the place I'm traveling tries to look me up under my real name, they won't find this profile. Its true, with my common name they're unlikely to find me at all, but really, is that a chance someone else is willing to take with MY life?
And before you say it, yes, I can limit who sees my profile, but this is how my real friends find me.
What Google is doing is a good thing. It was just found out yesterday, that the very convincing Richard Branson account was a fake. Richard Branson apparently has established his real account. verification like on Twitter will be slow to establish.
I think I get why +M Sinclair Stevens wants to move past the pseudonym argument.

The most important issue is the one person - one profile issue. If I was the issuer of that identity and it was 100% under my control then I would still have concerns. But I'm not the issuer of the identity. Google is.

When a 3rd party has almost complete control over that identity and can and will use it to connect and trace more and more of my online activity then to say that I have concerns is an understatement.

Every online transaction I do with Google or Amazon or Reddit or any other site is a trade. The site gives me some information and I give them some information. I accept that. In particular every Google search is a trade off of privacy over convenience.

Facebook Connect is evil because it attempts to break down the silos and connect all of your online activity. Why? Because they believe that they can sell that information at a very high price. Because psychological marketers believe they can convince people to buy stuff with increased efficiency when they know a lot about people.

Is that not obviously bad? I want to be in partial control of that information. A single identity makes that almost impossible.
+Rugger Ducky Good point. To be honest, I hadn't even thought about profiles and how that information could be used or abused.
I honestly think the reason I haven't been flagged and suspended is in part due to a very vigilant and totally awesome long-time Googler friend (who was actually the one to add the Rugger part to my name), and because I went on the offensive with this whole thing instead of just waiting to get the axe.
The selective enforcement (glad as I am to have +Rugger Ducky still around) is another huge issue. You shouldn't have to know a Googler to not get suspended when you are acting in good faith.
Exactly Gretchen, exactly. No, I don't think its fair either, but it at least gives me a very small ledge from which to scream at the expanse of Google. ;)
RE: The takedown of celebrity accounts.

My understanding of that is that it had nothing to do with the one identity issue. It was based on Google's position that Google+ is not yet open to business accounts, and that celebrity names are effectively brands that have large commercial value, making their owners businesses. (Not business people, but actual businesses.)

Google has recognized that a celebrity's relationship with his or her fans is not really identical to a businesses relationship with its customers and has backed off from the takedown of celebrity accounts and restored at least some of those accounts.

I don't mean to suggest by this that the "real identity" issue isn't a serious one. It certainly has me concerned. I'm just distinguishing a separate issue.

Signed: Mr. Fussy (And I hope I don't get terminated for using that alias.)
If you're required to use your real name, are you required to use your real picture? Do you think I might need to show not only an ID, but a photo ID?
Everyone else--
Anyone who followed the link to Google's Public Policy Blog will see that Google supports both anonymous and pseudonymous identities in some of their other products (Blogger and YouTube). However, they failed completely in selling us on what the Google Profile is -- it is your voter registration card for +1 and Buzz. If you want to vote, you have to register. (I'm not advocating in favor of this position -- I'm just explaining how it currently works.)

By integrating the Google Profile into the sign up for Google+ they really muddied the waters. Confusion leads to frustration. Frustration leads to anger. (I'm sure there's a Yoda parallel in there somewhere.)

Google is right. For a writer, our reputation is our name. They just didn't understand which name. When I read Carolyn Keene, I have a very different expectation for what I'm going to get when I read Mildred Wirt Benson. Yet, the latter was one of several authors who wrote as Carolyn Keene.
+John Moyle It was wrong for companies to try to jump in on the personal account beta rather than play in their own sandbox. And that is a different issue. However it is also very short-sighted of Google to think that only companies (or individuals trying to make a buck) have a brand. Almost everyone who uses blog-software to self-publish is aware that they need to be conscious of their brand. The gurus have been telling bloggers that for years. It's all about maintaining your reputation.

So how can we maintain the reputation we built elsewhere under our pen names or stage names and participate in Google+? Twitter supplies "Verified Accounts" for celebrities. How can Google+ indicate that an account is a verified account (not only for celebrities but for anyone) while allowing us, as +Alma Whitten says, the freedom to be who you want to be .

This is not a rhetorical question. I'm looking for a solution. Obviously the strategy the Google+ team chose isn't working. And I don't want Google+ to devolve into the kind of interactions that you see in YouTube comments. Those are two different Google strategies -- neither of which works. What would work?
Enforcing behavior. All of the successful online communities I've seen hop right onto spammers and people attempting to defraud.
I report each and every spammer I notice is following me. There is a huge difference between using a pseudonym and being a spammer or shithead.
Not to say that I report people that are just shitheads. Those I just put into my "I think you're a douchebag" circle. :)
+Gretchen S. I'm not disagreeing with you. But haven't many people been shut down, including William Shatner and Alyssa Milano, because people reported them. (I believe you've been tracking these stories.)

I'm worried about the muffling effect. If they disagree with someone, report him for a violation -- a kind of guilty until proven innocent approach. I see it as a tool for harassing anyone with a minority viewpoint.

I like a community which is self-censoring, which thinks before it speaks -- but I don't like a community where fear of being shut down means we're afraid to speak up.
Oh yes, I'm also saying to take 'your name looks funny' off the table as far as violations go. It's just hugely subjective to tell if someone's name is real or not without demanding more documentation than is required from other users. And G+ shouldn't be demanding documentation disproportionately.

So you can't report someone for having a funny-looking name (unless the name itself constitutes abuse) but still can for the usual reasons of spam, harassment, defrauding. G+ definitely should not have a system where people are shut down before being investigated; that's where the greatest abuse in the system lies and where malicious reporters can game it to the worst effect. Instead, check for the abuse, then ban if necessary.

I'd keep stats on reporters, as well, so I can look out for people who maliciously report a great many false positives. That in itself constitutes abuse of the system.

Celebrities unfortunately will want to verify, but make those verification tools open to anyone who also wants to verify, and provide several means to do it. Allow people to verify pseudonyms, as well, so people like Bug Girl, who has published papers under that name, can be verified.

If someone makes a 'William Shatner' account but portrays themselves as a dog walker and not the celebrity, then leave them alone. The fact that there is only one verified William Shatner celebrity should be enough to disambiguate the two Shatners.
He did not address multiple identities nor did he fully address what someone who needs to keep their real name entirely private from other users may legitimately do under the TOS. Nor does he address in any great detail what people with prior use of pseudonyms for publishing/blogging/social circles may do.
No, I think they've already figured it out. Google that is
The last few days there has been chatter on some of my friends circles, those with very skewed circles (either more followers or more following) about their +1s not being visible. Now these are real life humans, so I suspect that Google is checking the validity of the +1s on there.
I simply don't see there being any problem which limiting posts to "real names" (i.e., names that sound real) actually fixes. People can still create multiple accounts and do whatever they like with them--who cares if their name is John Doe or Xx_McUbersville_xX?
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