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Autumn Tyr-Salvia
Alive in Wonderland
Alive in Wonderland

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Yes, this.
#Nymwars is really frustrating for me.

+Yonatan Zunger and +Liz Fong-Jones, two of the main people implementing the policy, are actually personal friends of mine. They're really nice and very professional people, and they sincerely mean well. They're strong supporters of accessibility, user-friendliness, nondiscrimination, etc.

But the policy they've been given to execute — and I really can't credit this as being anything other than a "my way or the highway" mandate from +Vic Gundotra — is constantly one step forward, two steps back.

Take the latest change: the now-explicit (formerly just hypocritical) rule is basically "no weirdos (unless you're famous)".

What's too weird? "We won't answer that."
What's famous enough? "We won't answer that."
Want to know what you need to change? "We won't answer that."
Want a human? "Just submit another appeal. We don't reply to email any more."

All this ill will, for what? To protect privileged people from seeing names they might not like — names like Muf, Admiral Taptap, Fizz, Skud, aestetix, TheBlack Box, Dunes.

Suppose those names were instead Latoya Brown, Chalabi, Pachachi, Yonatan Goldstein, Numidia Azergui, Nakusa, Lone Bear. The exact same arguments could be made: people will be made uncomfortable. They're weird-looking. They're Other.

The only difference is that for us, the otherness is not a matter of ethnicity, but of autonomy.

The policy is plain bigotry, and the fact of the matter is that I personally would be rejected by it, a mere couple years ago. I'm too weird for Google+. It's only because some judge who had met me for all of two minutes signed some paperwork that I'm here now, under this name.

Oh, we're told that we can be here just fine, if we would only assimilate. Have a normal name. Or get famous first — celebrities are cool, too. Vic would totally want to go to a concert, after all.

In rejecting someone's name, you uniquely reject their identity. Indeed, this has historically[0] been the purpose of such policies: to have a "black tie policy" that keeps out the wrong sort of people.

And in judging the acceptability of someone's name, you dehumanize yourself.

Googlers, friends: I really like you guys personally. I like the product and the new features. I've enjoyed every single interaction I've had with one of you. Except for this.

Vic's aesthetic is one of bland normality. The fact is though that you and I are not normal. Nobody we really admire is, either.

The humanity and goodwill that comes across in our personal interactions is completely missing from Google-official policy and communications with people who just aren't normal enough.

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Interested in nymwars? Google hasn't yet announced how they plan to support pseudonyms, only that they do plan to do so. There are several ways they could handle this. What would make you happy? +Jon Pincus created a poll here:
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Looks like someone is finally paying attention. I will be interested to see how this develops.
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I opted out of using this due to the discriminatory names policy perpetrated by Google+ management and Vic. That was a while ago - any chance things are any better, or is Google+ still discriminating against people whose names aren't "real" enough for them?
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Sharing, for my friend Doctor Popular. We used to get lunch regularly when he worked in San Mateo. I have never known him by any other name. Doctor Popular is the name he goes by in real life, but apparently that's not good enough. Sigh.
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#nymwars Professionally, I work in email antiabuse and deliverability for a marketing automation company. I attend antispam conferences, and spend much of my day explaining to marketers why and how not to be a spammer.

That's a big part of why the real name policy bothers me.

In the spam world, it has become considered a truism that content filtering alone does not work. Filtering out every instance of the word "anal" just causes you to block every time someone sends the word "analysis" - and the spammers will spell it 4nal or ana! or ana| anyways. Sure, it will block the dumb ones, but those weren't the ones you really had to worry about anyways.

Most antispam systems these days use multiple tactics to block email abusers. These systems use honeypot trap accounts, traffic analysis, reputation systems built around domain/IP ownership and sending patterns, user response, and some (light, and evolving) content filtering. Using content filtering alone is easy to evade, and is widely regarded to be an antiquated technique for dealing with email abuse.

When I worked at my last employer, an antispam service provider, every false positive was considered a black mark on our reputation. Pure content filtering has an extremely high rate of false positives. We used all these various systems to block abuse and - equally important - to keep our false positive rate as low as possible. Every email that someone wanted that was blocked made us look like jerks, so we tried to keep those as few as possible.

If pure content filtering is not very good at blocking abuse and has a high false positive rate when dealing with email abuse, why would Google think it is a good strategy to deal with social networking abuse?

A real name policy amounts to a pure content filtering strategy in that it a) makes a determination on what terminology is acceptable or not, and b) defines abuse through use of unacceptable terminology rather than unacceptable behavior.

In the case of a name, it's very difficult to even make a determination about what is "real" or not. For more on that, see this article:

In the course of my work, I have frequently had to deal with customers who have issues delivering email that users have signed up for because their company name contains the word Analytics ("anal"), or they talk about money in the course of discussing the financial services their customers signed up for. Content filtering alone is dumb. It makes no exceptions, takes no clues from context, does not respond to what is or is not wanted.

Filtering users by their names is an equally poor strategy. We have recently seen a huge number of cases of false positives from this strategy - see the legally mononymed +Sai . or the unfortunate Blake Ross for examples. It's also a poor way of stopping abuse. An old friend of mine has a highly motivated insane internet stalker who has already made his way here with more than one account that are not under his real name. This policy punishes innocent users and misses abusers.

Abuse in a social network should be identified with multiple strategies. Names may be one vector of abuse, but a real name policy has too many false positives to be used alone. Additionally, it implies that once the pseudonyms are gone, we're all safe and cozy - a clear falsehood, given the numerous examples of abusive behavior from individuals who use their real names.

In the interests of ending this rant, I'll stop myself from going into the other, more social reasons I dislike this policy. I could write another rant about the right to self-define or the plight of the oppressed, but I'll spare you. I wanted to post this here because I feel like this point isn't hammered home hard enough:

The "real names" policy on Google+ has an extremely high false positive rate, and is a poor means of stopping abuse. This is too high a cost for too little benefit.
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A big part of the reason I dislike this real names policy so much is the way it has been misapplied and mishandled. I have really lost a lot of respect for Google over it, so many assumptions and inconsistencies. They are treating everyone they decide might be in violation as an abuser. I'm not so fond of the policy in general, but I would feel a lot better about this whole thing if it were at least extremely clear and extremely consistent.
Skud provides an excellent summation of what profiles get suspended and why, what it takes to be reinstated, and what doesn't work.

"I’ve been talking to anyone and everyone about what’s going on with Google+’s names policy, and thought it was well past time to write up my best understanding of the situation. I was going to say “I’m no expert”, but actually, I probably know more about this than just about anyone outside of Google (and perhaps more than them), and the Googlers aren’t speaking. So, here’s what I know...."
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Really? C'mon.
Originally shared by ****
Um... um... ummmm... WTF +Vic Gundotra and +Bradley Horowitz?

Come on, turn off the automatic suspension system already. I'm having a hard time believing that humans have anything to do with this stupidity at this point — only an unsupervised algorithm could be so completely blind.

ping +Jillian C. York, et al.

And speaking of which, Rainyday's original account is suspended again? What is this, the third or fourth time now?
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Hey man, I got some okra... wanna get high?
"I was heading out to the backyard this morning, when I saw the neighbor that lives in the house behind ours in my yard...I inspected the damage. He had stripped or broken off all my okra plants."


"Just got a knock on the door. A police office stopped by to let me know that my neighbor was arrested trying to trade a baggie of chopped green leaves for a case of beer at a liquor store a few blocks away."
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Interesting reframing of "healthy" here. I have to say, reading this article definitely caused me to notice some privilege that I just hadn't thought about.
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