Nymwars strategy.

A lot of people have asked me what the best strategy is wrt the #nymwars, i.e. what will be effective in making Google change their policy?

First let me tell you what won't work:

1) Carefully explaining to Google people how their policy is broken and how many people are unfairly affected by it. They already know this, have done for months, and don't care.

1a) Leaving comments on Vic's, Bradley's, Natalie's, or any other G+ team member's posts. They have turned notifications off and aren't paying any attention.

2) Boycotting G+ and/or Google services in general. Unless you have a hundred million friends who'll do it along with you, that won't make a difference. They'll just be glad they've got rid of the whining Internet weirdos and left the place nice and clean for the type of people they want.

3) Polls, memes, change-your-avatar-for-a-day, and other "slacktivism" techniques where you try and get people to do some simple act online to show their support for the cause.

None of the above will make any difference. Trust me on this -- I have enough insight into Google and G+ and the management thereof to know they don't give a flying f--- about any of that.

So what will work?

First let's talk strategy. Google Plus is Google's attempted answer to Facebook. They are shit-scared of Facebook's increasing dominance of the Internet and people's pageviews and attention and information, and want to claw back as much of that as they can.

In order for G+ to threaten Facebook, it needs to get widespread mainstream acceptance. Not just among the Internet nerds who were excited by GMail and Wave and stuff like that, but by the sort of people who type "facebook.com" into the Google search bar because they don't know how their browser works.

Vic and his team believe that those people (shorthand: "the mainstream") are scared off by Internet culture, pseudonyms, and the wild and wonderful diversity most of us love. When they talk about "dress codes" what they mean is "we don't want to scare off the mainstream people".

Now, I think they vastly misunderstand who the "mainstream" really are, but just for now, let's assume that there is a big white homogenous middle-class mainstream that all has two-part names and no privacy concerns, and that those people will use G+ if it seems safe and friendly enough.

So here's what we need to do:

1) Reach the mainstream
2) Convince them that G+'s names policy makes it unsafe for them to use G+

Or at least credibly threaten to do so. Ideally we force a policy change before actually scaring everyone off. I'd rather see G+ survive with good policies, than fail with bad ones.

And so, here is my advice regarding how to fight the #nymwars:

1) Get coverage in the mainstream press. Not just the online/tech press (TechCrunch, ZDNet, etc) but the stuff non-techies read/watch/listen to. We need to be in the New York Times, the Guardian, on NPR, the BBC, and so on. (Internationally, of course, but especially in the US, English-speaking countries, and Western European countries, since those most closely resemble the imaginary "mainstream" the G+ management are aiming at.) Email your favourite newspaper, call your community radio station, ask your local news channel if they'll cover it, do everything you can to get the press to pay attention to this.

2) Work the angle of how this affects ordinary "mainstream" people, and how widespread the effects are (your phone might break! your website's search ranking might go down! your kids are at risk!). The My Name Is Me campaign (http://my.nameis.me/) shows how a range of mainstream people (including parents, teachers, religious people, etc) are affected.

3) Spread awareness of the press coverage in the "mainstream", eg. by sharing those news articles etc with our non-technical families, friends, and acquaintances. "Like" them on facebook, share them via email, etc. Don't let this just be a bunch of nerds violently agreeing with each other. When talking to your "mainstream" contacts about the issue, focus on how people with normal names, or with very understandable reasons for privacy, are affected. Point them at http://my.nameis.me/ to help them understand it's not just an internet nerd thing.

So, in short, that's my advice. Get the word out to the press. Make the mainstream aware of the issue. Make it a big enough deal in mainstream culture that Google are worried about people running scared from G+.

If anyone's interested in working on this more intensively, please get in touch with me. I'm putting together some press-related resources and a team of people who can talk to the press, and I'm looking for anyone with experience/interest in dealing with the press, and/or people who've been affected who would be willing to talk to the press, to join us.
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