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Mat Bowles
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280 followers
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Completely anonymised this Google Street View, absolutely no way of working out which junior Home Office Minister is outside the Paddington Hilton, there are no distinguishing features visible whatsoever, honest...

K, I've confirmed the stupidest bug/trick ever in Zombie Lane, figured it out with +Jennie Rigg when I revived some of her crops after some Zombies broke into her field.

If a crop that's just been planted gets stomped by zombies and then another player turns up and revives them, they're fully grown and harvestable.

Consequently, I have some cabbages in the zombie area, if you turn up and revive them, I'll get to approve you doing it when I next log in, and harvest them just after you revive them.

Very silly, but, y'know, about to save up to buy a car, it's wroth a go, right?

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OK, who are OK Go and should I have heard of them? This is brilliant-I keep thinking of ways to do the Muppet theme as part of a show at school, but I think that might be too silly...
I live for this stuff. Thanks, Sean!

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Right, when games were launched for G+ my reaction was a bit meh. I used to play a few games on Facebook, and at one point let a few of them take up far too much of my time, but I wasn't impressed with the basic concept.

A few years later,quick & easy social games seem to have really come on. Jennie discovered Zombie Lane and got me to play it as well, log in for a bit of time a few times a day, kill zombies, plant and harvest food, clear and upgrade your home into a fortress.

The more friends you've got playing the more gifts you can send and receive, and you can go help them out killing their zombies (and eating their food) as well. I'm actually quite impressed, and it's good fun. You can pay for extras, but you really don't need to.

So, two things

1) If you want to give it a go, clicking the below link should both sign you up and give me a bonus, which, y'know, is nice. If you give it a go and don't like it, or don't want to spend much time on it, even having a dormant account helps friends that are active.

2) I'm going to both post a bit about the game(s) I play on here, and use the automated 'tell friends you need help' function a bit-if you want to opt in to that circle let me know, as I don't want to spam people that aren't interested.

One thing that's definitely better than Facebook-Games have their own stream on the Games page, so game updates don't show up here at all. Disadvantage, of course, is no casual interest, but advantage is no annoying spammy messages showing up all the time.

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Oh yes. Checking out Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer vs. "Fetch Me My Fighting Trousers" - a hip hop smackdown between two traditional English gentlemen. Thank you, interwebs!

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Where's Wall-E? So many robots, droids and similr-180 different critters, name them all and get a signed print. Anyone want to combine efforts?

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I'm not even talking about Nyms just now, lets leave that debate aside for the moment, although the bad coding might be partly responsible for the Nyms thing as well, I'm purely talking about real names and database entry now.

The one thing I thought about Google above all others is that could at least write decent code. But it appears that they can't do that at all.

Now they've suspended someone for not entering their real name in Google's two word name entry, despite the fact that the single name they entered is in fact their entire legal name in their country, in this case Australia.

The data entry has been so badly coded that it doesn't even have a provision for a single name being your entire name and forces you to fill in the second field.

That's not anything to do with policy, that's just badly coded field entry.

This is the blog of the legally single name Australian in question. Warning This blog contains words in the English language that may not be safe for work if your work doesn't like swearing http://stilgherrian.com/only-one-name/right-google-you-stupid-cunts-this-is-simply-not-on/ .

Google coders need to go and read this http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/ .

Coding data entry fields that force you to fill them both in with something even if the second field is not required and then suspending people because their user name contains a "." or a " " or whatever other character someone had to fill in because they had no choice but to fill it in with something, is both bad coding and bad policy at the same time.

Bad coding with added Kafka is really not acceptable from a company like Google, fix it.

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This is basically why I'm glad many of my friends are on LJ/DW, and why G+ isn't going to attract enough real people to make it anything other than a promotional tool with some chatting to those not needing to hide. I like knowing substantial issues friends have, but many of my best friends aren't even thinking of signign up here. Some aren't allowed-their real actual bona fide name breaks the name policy.
I'm just another middle-aged, reasonably well-off, American white guy.

So why do I believe so strongly in the importance of letting people control who sees their real name, when you don't?

I was thinking about that this morning, because I know that if you'd asked me this question three years ago, I would have been strongly pro-privacy, but I would not have been as passionate about it as I am now. What's changed?

The difference is that in the past three years, I've spent a lot of time socializing with people who are private about their birth names. I've met them on Twitter, and I've met them in person. I've even driven across the country to meet up with friends whose birth name I didn't know until I was camped out on their couch. As a result, I've heard things that you just don't hear when people have to use their birth names in public.

When you create a social networking site that requires real names, you create an artificial bubble. What you see is just the nice things in people's lives, you don't see what's really happening. But when people have control over who knows their name, they still talk about cute cats and the latest iPhone and what kind of wine they drank last night, but they also talk about other things. They talk about dealing with their parent's Alzheimer's. They talk about how their daughter was missing for three days and got drugged and raped and the police refused to follow up. They talk about how they just lost their job and they're worried that they'll end up on the street. They talk about how their boss will fire them if he finds out they're gay. They talk about how they were sexually abused as a kid. They talk about what it's like to live in a country where bloggers get thrown in prison. People don't dare talk about those things with their birth names; not when Google is indexing everything they say.

When you avoid or ban people who protect their birth names, you create an artificial world, one that doesn't reflect what's going on in the real world. When you surround yourself only with people who are using their birth names, you get the impression that everything is fine out there. That this is America, and people don't discriminate, people aren't ending up on the street through no fault of their own, people aren't getting stalked to their doorsteps because someone learned their name, and people aren't being judged by their sexual orientation. You're surrounded by people who seem to be just like you, because the conversation has been reduced to what's acceptable at the work watercooler.

The sad thing is, if you're dealing with something difficult in your life, that bubble also makes you think you're alone. You think you're the only one, because nobody else is talking about how they're going to pay for their parents nursing care, or how hard it is to juggle work and family.

Of course, maybe you don't want to hear about other people's problems on Google+. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't particularly want to hear what kind of wine Robert Scoble had last night, so I don't circle him. If you don't want to hear about how Jane S is dealing with her son smoking pot, then you don't have to circle her. But that doesn't mean that Jane S shouldn't have a right to join Google+ and comment on your post about the latest merger, or give her opinion on the riots in London, or talk to friends who do want to talk about raising kids. Just because she protects her privacy more than you, doesn't mean her opinion isn't valuable. Furthermore, having people with different backgrounds in a discussion makes for a far more educational and interesting conversation.

Google's name policy is intended to create the illusion that we are all at a fancy restaurant; they've explicitly used that metaphor. Unfortunately, in doing so they have denied access to a lot of interesting people; to teachers, lawyers, doctors, activists and government employees; people who aren't allowed to use their real name to express their real opinions. And they've driven away a lot of people with a very legitimate need for privacy; the abused, the victims, the stalked, the discriminated against. That wasn't Google's intent, but they believe that losing ten or more percent of the population is a legitimate cost in their goal to create the illusion of normalcy.

I think people who say "I'm more comfortable talking to people who use their real names" or "they should find another social network" don't realize just what a broad swath of the population is being eliminated by this policy. They don't realize, because they've never had an honest and open conversation with anyone affected by it. They don't know that their co-worker is gay, or that their favorite barista got raped last month, or that their son's teacher is an atheist. They also don't realize how important online social networks are to people who don't have the freedom to talk to their peers in any other environment. Social networks aren't a "game", they aren't something you do outside of your "real" life. Social networks are a real place where real people meet, make friends, share ideas, create business relationships, and even end up getting married. And all of those things happen even if they initially meet without sharing their birth names. "Jane S" is just as real a person as "Jane Smith", and perhaps even more so.

Google certainly has a right to create a fancy restaurant with an illusion that everyone is telling the truth about who they are. But it's just that, an illusion. Many of us looked at Google as the one internet company that understood the importance of privacy. They stood up to China and left the market when forced to censor. They've fought the hackers who have attempted to keep Google from providing secure email to dissidents around the world. We thought that if Google was going to create a social network, they would create one that mirrored the real world. One where people had control over who saw their birth names and who didn't. A social network that upheld the basic freedoms we expect in a democratic society. Instead, they just created a more authoritarian version of Facebook.

It doesn't have to be this way. You can hit that "Send Feedback" button and tell Google that you don't want them to discriminate. You can tell them that you're happy to hear the opinions of people who don't have the freedom and security to use their birth names. You can tell Google that you want to hear from people who come from different backgrounds than you. You can tell Google that you don't really mind if that guy with the fabulous photos is called "John" or "JujuBoy". You can tell Google that you want a social network where people are free to talk about all of their lives, not just the parts they don't want in the paper tomorrow or in twenty years. Or you can decide that what you really want is a an artificial bubble where everyone talks about technology and cat pictures.

Personally, I prefer reality.


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For more details on who is hurt by Google's policy, read "Who is harmed by a real names policy" (http://j.mp/pojGSo) or my long post here: http://j.mp/pJC2PO (skip to "Who Needs a Pseudonym?"). If you have any other thoughts on why it's bad to let people control who sees their birth name, please read that post first, I probably discuss them.

For my thoughts on privilege, a word I always used to find personally insulting, read my post here: http://j.mp/o2ApQ3. What I refer to as "being in a bubble" has a lot to do with the concept.

For some excellent personal statements on the importance of name privacy, see http://my.nameis.me/

If you're wondering where I came up with "ten or more percent of the population", that's what I believe is a conservative estimate, based on the number of people on Facebook who don't use their real names. Those people are disproportionately minorities and women. Read researcher Danah Boyd's article _"“Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power" at http://j.mp/ojrQ3g. I can't find the original reference to the percentage (can anyone give me a link?), but it was confirmed by my own check of a few Facebook groups I belong to.

Drawing by my daughter, Shadi Fotouhi. (Still too young to join Google+ :).
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