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I find the furor over "+" mentions amusing and sad at the same time. Here we have a technology whose affordances seem to preclude gossiping about someone behind their back, yet people are all wrought up about it. All one might have to do to gossip in the old way would be to resist the urge to say +That Person and ta-dah, privacy works.

Are we tin-tinabulating so much to the Pavlovian bell of link embedment that we can't have a simple conversation anymore?

I, for one, welcome our new anti-lashon-hara overlords. If you're gonna talk smack about somebody, at least have the courtesy not to include a hotlink to their profile. Sheesh. End of problem.

What if someone includes a + link in the comments? Hey, at least you know the cat is out of the bag now, whereas before you didn't know who was cut-n-pasting your indiscretions to their target. If it's in print on the intarwebz, it's not private. Welcome to your Learning Experience, my darlings.
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Strata, firstly: there are lots of cases where something is "on print on the intarwebz" (what does that even mean?) is private. I read my email on a web client. Isn't that private? I know that point was largely rhetorical, but. But.

Secondly, this technical determinism about privacy is odd. Your phone conversations go through intermediaries too. Would it be okay for them to create an affordance to hand that over to the people you talk about? And even without bringing intermediaries into it: we even restrict what the other person at the end of the line can do: there are many laws against recording conversations. We argue about that a lot, and jurisdictions differ, but I don't think it's uncontroversial that conversations on the phone should not be taped.

Thirdly, why do you think this is just about gossip? I think the discussion is because Google+ has a large number of features (a "Limited" distribution, "Disabling resharing", and so forth) which seem to lean more toward privacy than public, and people are surprised. There are plenty of discussions that take place in such private space that would suffer from being made public. A planned birthday party, etc. You're absolutely right that in such situations, avoiding the "+" would fix the problem. But if you type the plus, as I tend to do automatically, you've immediately undone the whole point, it seems, of limited and unshareable items. And nothing is unshareable, of course, but Google needs to make up their mind about what their system defaults to.

Fourthly, I'm interested in this topic because in the area that I work such accidental revelations aren't just about gossip, or organizing a secret birthday party. They might be about corruption in Russia. It might be a discussion of a criminal conspiracy at a major company or among local police by a vulnerable source. I'm really not exaggerating here when I say that an affordance which allows single character to change the privacy of a conversation might get people imprisoned or killed. I've already seen that with some of the affordances of email web clients (not the basic security of email, mind, but how specific web email clients work), and if I can minimize it here, I will try hard to do so.

I'm glad that you live in a place where revealed confidences have the minor consequences of increasing a mild social sanction that you approve of, and I guess one option for me is to hope that major Internet infrastructure only gets used in situations where the people who use it are fully cogniscent of its consequences, suffer such minor privations until the learn the dangers of idle gossip, and don't use silly social networking software with overgenerous defaults to gather and publish news to hundreds of thousands of people in dangerous conditions. I would sure have preferred it if the people I work with used GnuPG, Tor, and some uninvented secure communication system instead of Facebook and Twitter. But hey, here we are, and that's what they use. We didn't build them anything better when we had the chance, and that's where we live now.

And I know you're going to say that well those people should just take more care, or take it as a Learning Experience, darlings, but you can see why I am more than just amused and saddened by such a statement.

And why I end up writing posts that go on far too long and up to "And seventy-firstly", before I can stop and go to bed.
 
I wish I could add additional pluses to Danny's answer. He gets it.
 
As I understand it, in Google+, +someone doesn't mean "mention someone", it means "add someone to this conversation." It is quite specifically a sharing directive. Why would anyone get into the habit of always typing "+" before someone's name automatically?
 
Amanda: my concern is that unlike other ways of adding people to the audience the + tag doesn't have any warning and feels "effortless" (compared to cut & paste, resharing, et al). That, to me, violates the principle of least surprise and is not helpful to a person who might have just been using + to avoid typing someone's long and difficult "real name". (Which is another active discussion topic, of course.)
 
Well, /@Amanda, part of the issue is that the "@" sign has become a way in various SN services to, well, mention someone. It's often in the context of a conversation thread where they already are (ie, you're making a point directly to them), but I've also seen people use it to refer to a specific "Adam" (or whoever), that all of them know. So at least the "@" sign (which currently works just like "+", has prior usage that's somewhat different.

Additionally, just the fact that several of us have different ideas (as we individually understand it) over what a +mention is supposed to do/mean indicates to me that it hasn't been explained well. Just glancing over the info about notificiations, it mentions "sharing a post" with a person generating a post numerous times. I think what we've discovered is that there's no difference in putting a person into the "Share with these people or circles" box and just +mentioning them directly in a post. To me, that still seems counter-intuitive.
 
Danny O'Brien wrote:
>Strata, firstly: there are lots of cases where something is "on print on the intarwebz" (what does that even mean?) is private. I read my email on a web client. Isn't that private? I know that point was largely rhetorical, but. But.

Mmm, not quite rhetorical, and I know you're more clued in on net.slang than that. I'll take it as a reflexive debate technique, the "misquote + FUD". I wanted to remind people that as soon as you put something in writing, the very affordances that make writing a great tool of civilization also predispose that writing to being shared.

>Secondly, this technical determinism about privacy is odd. Your phone conversations go through intermediaries too. Would it be okay for them to create an affordance to hand that over to the people you talk about? And even without bringing intermediaries into it: ... I don't think it's uncontroversial that conversations on the phone should not be taped.

Two points in response-- people might expect that if they entered someone else's unique identifier (eg, their phone number) into the telephone interface, that person would be included in the call. Just as they are in G+. Secondly, as you are well aware, the phone intermediaries DO tap and record conversations, in the name of national security. One arguably has greater potential privacy on the web if one proceeds very carefully.

>Thirdly, why do you think this is just about gossip? ... But if you type the plus, as I tend to do automatically, you've immediately undone the whole point, it seems, of limited and unshareable items. And nothing is unshareable, of course, but Google needs to make up their mind about what their system defaults to.

They did make up their mind, I think they just didn't realize that their thoughtspace ("add a unique prefix") was already so thoroughly colonized by Twitter. Tho even in Twitter, adding the @ to a name is something folks can see-- the difference is whether it changes the state of private posts, as Ken so succinctly put it above.

BTW, your statement "type the plus, as I tend to do automatically" is exactly what I was speaking of in the original post. Is it too much to ask people to restrain their autopilot when holding sensitive conversations vs having an entire service that has gone through a year of testing change its basic model? The answer might still be "yes" but the question deserves to be raised explicitly. We go through so much of life on autopilot that I'm all for things that make folks think. Until they annoy me, of course. :-)

> Fourthly, I'm interested in this topic because ... an affordance which allows single character to change the privacy of a conversation might get people imprisoned or killed.

Now that is truly something I had not considered. I do live a comparatively sheltered life, and do so gratefully. Thanks for bringing up that extremely valid point.

> ... one option for me is to hope that major Internet infrastructure only gets used in situations where the people who use it are fully cogniscent of its consequences, ... I would sure have preferred it if the people I work with used GnuPG, Tor, and some uninvented secure communication system instead of Facebook and Twitter. But hey, here we are, and that's what they use. We didn't build them anything better when we had the chance, and that's where we live now.

Another option for you is to do what you are doing now, and try to expose the dangers and possibly get them mitigated through propagating your viewpoint. Kudos!

> And I know you're going to say that well those people should just take more care, or take it as a Learning Experience, darlings, but you can see why I am more than just amused and saddened by such a statement.

Few people have successfully built an automata of me, and you are not one of them, alas. Requiring journalists, whistleblowers, and revolutionaries to learn more hands-on tech would be nice, but it's not going to happen most of the time-- too much overhead for their already overloaded lives. What I will say is that trying to band-aid the problems in social media is only one of a number of options for you to help those folks-- others range from writing code to helpful journalism to volunteer work. Glad to hear you are putting in your efforts on their behalf. That is not snark, btw, but I just woke up and might still be a bit wooden.

cheers,
Strata
 
Great comments, Strata. It seems to me that one of the main points here is the fact that a +mention within a comment or post appears to act exactly as if it had been explicitly added to the "sharing slot" (whatever that's called). To me, that's counter-intuitive...I would think that if you're going to give me an obvious and explicit place to add people/circles to the conversation, that should be the main/only place. It appears (to me) as if a +mention within a comment has been "overloaded" to act as if it's in the share slot.

Alternatively, one can think of any use of the +mention to mean "summon this person". But in considering your phone call analogy, Strata, I note that we DO have to use a specific interface (the dialer) to add someone to a call. If you simply recite the digits of their phone number within a conversation, it doesn't find and call them.
 
Honestly, I think this whole thing can be fixed with a) having comments have the same interface as original posts (you do a + summon, it explicitly appears at the bottom with a list of people you're sharing with), and b) it doesn't do that, or comes with a big honking warning, if you do it on a post with "reshares disabled". Right now, it silently adds, so even if people have the wrong idea (as I did), they never learn what actually happens until things go wrong.

And thank you for seeing through my grumpy reply, Strata, and parsing it for the new information.
 
I read through this thread and excuse me for being ignorant but could someone summarize the problem that's being discussed? Is it the security issue of adding a person by +ing them?
 
I had reservations when I first discovered the + issue, until I realized that Google gave us the best of both worlds. You can include someone in the conversation if you want, or you can not include them (leave off the +!). (eep, I typed that and now keeps trying to suggest uses to expand it to). The one thing I do believe, because using + can unexpectedly cause something which could be harmful, that the first time you use it (perhaps per comment, perhaps per discussion, perhaps ever) it should warn you what's about to happen. Nobody is going to go read the docs.
 
From the degree that + developers have displayed concern over this issue I expect there will be some change made to the current behavior, though it may be as simple as checking "disable reshare" also disables +mention adding of parties not already included in the conversation, or that +mentioning in a limited conversation brings up a disclaimer box similar to the one that now pops up when resharing a limited conversation.

In any case, I don't think a "that'll larn 'em!" attitude is the correct one when approaching a logical flaw in security protocols in a system touted as featuring improved security over the competition, and I'm glad that isn't the approach the development team has chosen to take to this issue.
 
+Danny O'Brien Might I suggest that what Google should do to have the best of both worlds in this situation?:
Not only have options to disable resharing and limit the audience, but also have a "Secret" option.
Enabling that option on a post would not allow the text of the post or the comments to contain the "+" mention of peoples' names!
This would be useful for planning a Birthday, etc...
What do you guys think?
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