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Nymwars, a view from the trenches within Google

In another thread I asked for information from inside Google.
Well, I got it, probably more than I bargained for, but relevant and interesting nonetheless. And since Google themselves are not particularly forthcoming with information, I think some of it will be of interest to the public at large, if only to fill in the information gaps Google is leaving behind.

The information I'm presenting was told to me anonymously, but with sufficient detail that I have no reason to believe that it's not coming from someone working at Google. I do not know the Googler's identity, nor do I wish to. I'll disclose as much of the information I deem relevant to the nymwars discussion without jeopardising this person's job. Information is rephrased in my words to avoid recognition by correlation (if one company should be able to try that, it's Google, of course).

Update, see at the bottom of this post.

Below the summarised information in my words, but from the mouth of a Googler (still) working there:

As suspected, many Googlers support the nymwars cause for pseudonyms. There are those that do not support it, but even they agree that Google is messing up royally in the way the name violations are being handled. There already are Googlers that left Google because of this policy and it is likely that more will follow.
The nymwars are a recurring topic during the company-wide Friday-meetings, at times even taking over the original agenda of a meeting.

With respect to hierarchy, even though +Bradley Horowitz is pushed forward as the face of G+, he only seems to follow instructions. It also appears that Bradley is not happy with the fact that he has been told to make public announcements regarding G+-matters only to find out that what he announced was not (entirely) true after all.

The man with the "mission from god" seems to be +Vic Gundotra [no big news here]. Vic's leadership style is "just agree with me, and I won't have to hurt you". He seems to see himself as being the visionary for the G+ policies. To him, anyone with a different view on his vision "just doesn't get it". He's dead set on "accepting the judgement of history" only.

+Larry Page is aware of the issue, but it's unclear if he is being properly informed. Publicly he is very dismissive of comments by Googlers who disagree with the names policy.

+Sergey Brin OTOH, is conspicuously absent from the debate. Sergey is the "soul" of Google in many ways, and the judge of what is Evil in their famous motto.

The rationale behind Google's G+ actions:

a. Pseudonyms will become supported, they're working on it, just hold on tight. Most likely support for pseudonyms, pen names and business names will be rolled out at the same time.
One of the reasons it has not been rolled out yet is that there is a difference in rights between rights to carry a business name, or to carry a private name. E.g. the trademark Lady Gaga may only be used by the artist holding that trademark, but if someone, by chance, has Lady Gaga in their passport, then for non-business purposes, using this name is perfectly valid. I.e. there needs to be support to distinguish between multiple personal Lady Gagas, and the one "true" Lady Gaga. This support was not ready yet, hence the (temporary) restriction to use personal names only, and no nyms.
Quite recently support for verified accounts was added, so part of the solution is visible already.

[I believe the pseudonyms he's talking about here are those where it is possible to discover the real name behind it. Also, I'm not sure what "verified accounts" feature he's talking about here; surely he can't be referring to the sms-verification? -- SRB]

b. Support for true anonymity is considered a hard problem, so instead of pretending that they facilitate it, Vic would rather stick his head in the sand and simply not take responsibility; i.e. anyone requiring true anonymity needs to "abuse" the system and slip through the cracks.

[I believe he's also talking about persistent pseudonyms here with the intent to hide any connection to your real name; i.e. given support for light-weight pseudonyms/aliases, one simply has to add a fake real name, and one should have the anonymous account with a pseudonym of choice -- SRB]

c. Google management is extremely concerned about authenticity of G+ search results and verifiable identities. I.e. on the normal web pagerank and other methods can be used to verify reputation of a website and determine the search ranking. In a social media site, searching is different. Data being searched for could only have been live some mere seconds before the search takes place. This means that there is no time to wait for people to bury trolls, link to good posts etc. I.e. the search engine needs to be able to determine autonomously and instantly if certain contributions should have a high or a low search rank. The most significant way they plan on doing this is by using the reputation of the person writing the comment/posting with regard to the subject he/she's commenting on. They say that they need to know who the writers are to be able to decide this; e.g. a recognised expert on heart disease will see his posts score higher on search for "heart attack".

[It is unclear to me why this needs a real name; one might as well figure out someone's expertise by "(machine) reading" their contributions and checking someone's follower-list, and drawing conclusions based on that, it should scale better, because it does not require human intervention -- SRB]

Popular counterarguments (both raised internally and externally), and why they won't fly with Vic or Larry:

- "Restricting names is bad for business"
Vic assumes, not unreasonably, that his sense of business is better than that of most commenters.

- "Women, LGBT, abuse victims, etc, will be disadvantaged"
Larry/Vic: "There are other places they can go to, we don't have to fight every ethical and social injustice every time in everything we do, G+ is one of the occasions when we don't seek to right the wrongs of the world, we just want to get the work done."

- "White privileged men will be denied the diversity of opinions because of the bias of Google+ toward white privileged men"
Larry/Vic: "Most of them seem to be just fine with that. Sure, most people pay lip service to diversity of opinions, but what really gets their panties in a knot is when their search results show what they consider garbage."

So far Vic has not shown that he is in doubt about any of this, so it is unlikely that simple arguments are able to convince him to change his mind.

[So, in conclusion one might say that things are not as bad as they look(ed), it's just stupid that Google doesn't speak up more; unless they enjoy the (bad) press, just to keep the attention going -- SRB]

Edit update: I've just received a comment by someone who wishes to remain anonymous (ironic that these anonymity requirements are needed to talk about nymwars) which I quote in full (for the benefit of resharers) below:

I'm sorry that I can't make this comment publicly -- I'm not a Googler, but I have very close ties to a handful of them (so I don't want my name to be attached to this response). I wanted to say that yes, the information I have from my friends is pretty much in agreement with your post. At one point before G+ launched, an internal petition in support of pseudonyms was signed by about 10% of all Google engineers, which was a huge deal for the petition organizers. It seems that the G+ team is currently overwhelmed with technical issues of the current system -- that, combined with Vic's attitude, means that nymwars is not going to be addressed anytime soon. If engineers can scrape together 20% time to implement possible solutions and manage to convince decision-makers to let them roll out changes, we might see something. I guess I'm still hopeful but not holding my breath. My Google friends who support pseudonyms are becoming very frustrated and worn-down. We've only been fighting the battle publicly for a month, but they've been pushing internally for much, much longer. Thanks for pulling this post together. I appreciate that people who don't have friends at Google can read this and get a sense of what those of us who do, but are afraid to speak so directly, have been hearing.
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91 comments
 
+CathBea Stevenson Well, not all hope is lost, I'd say, but it's not exactly what we'd hoped for initially. Anyway, as for +Robert Scoble, I think I'd have to admit that he either knows Vic very well, or has good insights and therefore is able to second guess Google's strategy of dealing with this. The information that came out now, doesn't seem to differ a whole lot from what Robert predicted.
 
The willingness to unapologetically insist on extending the privilege of the kyriarchy, ghettoizing marginalized populations with language reminiscent of the 'separate but equal' concept used in attempts to justify segregation decades ago, is highly disturbing, particularly coming from a company as large and powerful as Google. It would seem that their legal team has carefully crafted a way to enforce indirect discriminatory policy against marginalized, oppressed, and threatened populations without running afoul of the laws that prohibit such effects from being imposed directly. The idea of only caring about the opinions and comfort of 'white privileged men' is quite troubling indeed, and has no place in civilised society. While I would like to see this policy changed through civil dialogue and persuasion, this seems unlikely at this point, which all but forces the question to be put to the courts of whether this is legally actionable discriminatory policy.
 
+Stephen R. van den Berg You wrote "Quite recently support for verified accounts was added, so part of the solution is visible already."

Can you please tell us were is it visible ? Is it really going to be visible by looking at someone name ?

Sorry about the wrong place for posting, it's a bit confusing when someone re-share an article...
 
Thank you for sharing this. At least it gives us some idea. And it is encouraging to hear that there are Google employees who have not drunk Vic's koolaid.
 
+Olivier Moreau Well, I wrote that, but the Googler said it. In order to clarify, I can only reinterpret what he told me, and as far as I can determine from that, there is, or will be shortly, some kind of visual clue as to a name/account to have been verified or not. More details as to what kind of visual clue, or what kind of verification, I don't have. Maybe someone from Google can jump in that is working on or has worked on the feature, and they can explain what we need to look for (or can expect).
 
+Stephen R. van den Berg Sorry to repost a commentary which is also a direct post under my name :


Let's imagine that in G+ you can create an account with your real name or with a pseudomym and you'll be known, for instance as "+John Smith" (that's already the case). If you need to build some confidence in your name you could then provide enough credentials to Google to prove who you are and then you'll be known as "++John Smith".

This is a similar process as using certificates with email. That "escrow system" could also be a good business for Google because they can asked to be paid for the service ! For individuals, that certification is not really critical but for companies it can be so.

However, the trust in a name (certification of an account) is a rather subjective process. While some naive people might trust real names others will require a government certified name (passport please), the current address and a RSA certificate !

So, from my point of view, the problem is not really about real name versus fake names but instead with standard accounts (with real name or pseudonyms) versus certified accounts that are easy to identify as such (with, as I suggest a ++ or other indicator).
With such a system, the "++nice guys" can stay in their "++fancy restaurant" but all the "+other people" can still use G+ to communicate about their '+real life" experiences.
 
Sure I did, but I think the box "Send feedback" is more for bug reporting than suggestions.

There is also the G+ Forum (http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/forum/) but I find it very funny that such a forum (the ancestor of social networks after all) is NOT made with G+ but with Google Groups. Another funny thing, is that nicknames are OK in that forum!

So the best place might be here and there on G+... (next time I'll suggest it in a +Lady Gaga 's post ;-)
 
+Olivier Moreau The "send feedback" looks like it's meant just for bug reports, but I've had confirmation from Google staff that it is also meant as a suggestions box.
 
+Meirav Berale Thanks for the info. Actually I was just getting more in the forum and there are also good suggestions to be found there. The forum is far more open than the "send feedback" which looks like a "black box"...
 
So... They think including diversity in searches (eg, anything other than white male) gives garbage in their search results? That's pretty f'ing insulting.
 
Thank you! I very much agree with the bit at the end - it's just stupid for Google to be so closed-mouth about this process. That refusal to communicate is alienating a lot of people.
 
+Melissa Hall I put "✔ Verified" under my name in my profil to look smart ;-) However this is not showing in post on G+ neither on Google Groups or other places like Google Apps Market...
 
This pretty much backs up what I know, and most especially the inflexibility of senior Google management once they have decided that they are Right. "Close the gates of their attention like stone."
 
Great writeup, thanks very much!
 
+Avisk Exe That looks even better ! I self-proclaimed myself "✔ Verified by Google" ! lol
 
Even the reported internal excuses are self-contradictory and fucked up. This suggests there is no way out of this disaster. This does not in any way resemble hope - it looks like sincere intention to do the wrong thing, badly.

Really - how toxic do you have to make your brand that people start to seriously consider switching to Bing for search?
 
+Olivier Moreau It is pretty fabulous, haha!

I am actually looking forward to seeing Google take public steps toward a solution to this issue, and I hope they do it soon.
 
They're already accepting pen names.
 
I informed one of the Google personnel in another thread that my legal last name is not Ore and it's my writing name and is known as such to DHS, DoD, and Nicaraguan Migracion. I haven't been told to change it. Commercial pseudonyms are okay because theoretically, we draw more real names. If it's Wikipediable, it's appears to be okay. More people know me by Ore than know me by Brown (plus if I really wanted to disappear, Rebecca Brown is very convenient in most urban areas in the US, Canada, or the UK).

I find this rather amusing as I'm not that well-known as a writer, but I think there's at least a couple of other cases where Wikipedia was the authoritative source for the name being the name people were best known under.
 
+Rebecca Ore - I checked you on Wikipedia and I'll have to read your books because I love science fiction. Maybe you should write a book called "Becoming a Nym"... This G+ issue is really becoming like science fiction if the verification is made by Wikipedia !!! Anyway be cautious until the official policy is clear...
 
It's important to note that everything to do with the name review policy is proven lies and bullshit (properly speaking).
* The four-day grace period is a lie.
* Being reviewed and passing means nothing - you could be reviewed and suspended again the next day.
* Legal ID isn't enough for these bozos, per Stilgherrian's case.
There is not one word of public relations from Google - and the individual employees posting on the subject have been made liars by Google's behaviour remarkably often - that can be trusted.

So Rebecca may be OK for now and may not be later. There is no guarantee that some intern won't block any person's account tomorrow.
 
+David Gerard I agree that some of the reasoning presented is selfcontradictory, but it's what this Googler said, so without starting to guess at what he meant, I couldn't change what is being said. Keep in mind this is what happens through the eyes of one person at Google. We have no way of knowing if this persons perception is correct, skewed or flawed.
 
In terms of the LGBTQ issue, it's interesting to read +Vic Gundotra's comments from back in 2005 during the debate about Microsoft supporting anti-discrimination legislation in Washington state. http://web.archive.org/web/20051119214319/http://vicgundotra.com/RespondingToScoble.aspx A few excerpts:

What about the people in the company who DON”T believe this is a human rights issue? What about those people who believe homosexuality is a moral/social issue? ... Social change should be initiated, and decided, outside the scope of corporations.
Sai
 
/subscribe
 
Whether this is correct, screwed, or flawed isn't really an issue at the moment, because they haven't addressed it publically, and their silence speaks words, especially in light of the bit about abuse or bullying victims.

Other social networking sites which allow pseudonyms can now take an advantage; since a majority of people on G+ appear to want them, it'd be quite the incentive to allow them.
 
Stephen - What I mean is even the self-contradictory bits sort of hang together with horrible verisimilitude - I don't mean that I question the veracity of the report, it's horribly plausible.

Wow, so G+ is explicitly the White Rich Man's Network and the rest of the world can just bugger off. That's fantastic.
 
I've just received an anonymous (ironic that these anonymity requirements are needed to talk about nymwars) comment to this story, I updated the post itself for the benefit of resharers, and will quote the comment below:

I'm sorry that I can't make this comment publicly -- I'm not a Googler, but I have very close ties to a handful of them (so I don't want my name to be attached to this response). I wanted to say that yes, the information I have from my friends is pretty much in agreement with your post. At one point before G+ launched, an internal petition in support of pseudonyms was signed by about 10% of all Google engineers, which was a huge deal for the petition organizers. It seems that the G+ team is currently overwhelmed with technical issues of the current system -- that, combined with Vic's attitude, means that nymwars is not going to be addressed anytime soon. If engineers can scrape together 20% time to implement possible solutions and manage to convince decision-makers to let them roll out changes, we might see something. I guess I'm still hopeful but not holding my breath. My Google friends who support pseudonyms are becoming very frustrated and worn-down. We've only been fighting the battle publicly for a month, but they've been pushing internally for much, much longer. Thanks for pulling this post together. I appreciate that people who don't have friends at Google can read this and get a sense of what those of us who do, but are afraid to speak so directly, have been hearing.
Sai
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+G D They have explicitly said they intend to integrate G+ functionality into more or less everything.
 
I activated my Yahoo Mail in case they play silly games. And then my next phone will be an iPhone.
Sai
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+G D That I don't know. Clearly it's a potential problem, as visible in Picasa & Reader currently.
 
Wow, that scares me a lot. On the plus side, perhaps it is a (harsh) wakeup call for people who thought they could just rely on Google for everything.
 
So basically they want to become the phone company -- and then not allow you to get an unlisted number or use initials to obscure your name. Swell.
 
Second Life has a simple system that would resolve these issues. The account owner's real life name and other info is used to set up the account, but is not displayed automatically. The "account name" is some name you choose when registering, and later on you can set up an optional "display name" which is shown to others. That can be your real name if you want, or something totally different. The important part is you get to choose. By the way, Second Life has set up social features recently. You can use it for that and never use the the 3D virtual world part.
 
probably only those of us using "wallet" names and so feel safe doing so
 
+Jon Pincus Many of my friends have been booted off G+ already, others have left in protest. I'm still getting a bit of value out of G+, but it is uncertain for how much longer this will be the case, if things continue as they are.
 
Lets see what happen when the lawsuits roll in. The practice is illegal in europe and as microsoft has discovered before, companies pay and change because of this.

EDIT: This just came in:

https://plus.google.com/105796021448398557678/posts/dKXkmDKACQz

I for one do my peronal stuff on fb and twitter. Most of my friends there use pseudonyms and they are not here.

+Vic Gundotra could be very wrong about the issue and it's business implications.
 
I suspect any push by the Pro-donyms within Google is not because they hate Google; it's because they care about Google and want Google+ to succeed, like many of us pro-pseudonym folk around here on Google+. I hope those employees are treated fairly and admired for their loyalty.
 
That would be my hope as well, but from what I hear it is not really the case.
 
If u font like it just go, this part of the message was delivered many times.
 
I think it is largely a case of each side waiting to see if the other one will surrender first.
 
One thought that occurred to me - is it possible that Google+ name policy is illegal in multiple countries? It's not like the company hasn't been burnt before in assuming USA law is universal. For example, Google just got an utter bollocking from the Swiss Supreme Court: "Google’s Street View mapping service violated the privacy of its citizens".

http://biggovernment.com/capitolconfidential/2011/08/04/googles-anti-privacy-hits-keep-on-coming/

From the top of my head, there could be three sorts of laws that Google could fall foul of:

(a) Anti-discrimination. For all those mononymical folk from Java (among other places), and for all the government around the world that house people from there. If there isn't at least one country in the EU that find Google+'s law illegal, you can call me a monkey. Ditto for Australia.

(b) Fair trade. "Misleading conduct by way of trade is illegal in Australia." from Stilgherrian's comments.

(c) Google is suggesting people to verify themselves by scanning in their id. In certain countries (such as Taiwan and Japan), that's illegal. Inciting people to do that - isn't that illegal as well?

There may be others. As the old acronym say, I Am Not A Lawyer.

Google may think the Terms of Service trumps everything, and that signing up to the service gives them carte blanche to do what it likes. But I know one thing - when a corporation's Terms and Services clashes with the law of the land, the TOS can go die in a fire. Not every government is as company friendly as the US of A.
 
Peter - +Jay Blanc is going through the tedious step-by-step procedures to complain properly in the UK, after the Information Commissioner's Office indicated that he did indeed have grounds for complaint.

And I would think someone personally affected by their verified legal name, normal in their culture, being considered outside policy would have a slam-dunk case - "beta" is not, after all, an excuse for blatant discrimination, even indirectly. But they'd have to be prepared to slog. I know of no examples as yet.
 
+David Gerard no, the german law based on the eu directive is plain about that: a user has the right to use a pseudonym, whenever he/she/it chooses. Even payments for a service have to be under thiss pseudonym. So even the provider of the service does not know who the user is.
 
Christoph - the law may be clear, but getting an organisation the size of Google to actually obey it is another matter. Has anyone actually tried to use this law to get them to change their behaviour?
 
Not yet. The MSs trial took a few years ...

Now they offer a choice of browser and have payed the fine. But quite tedious and this is definitely evil. Beeing sued for violation of customer rights is I'd say the worst a company can happen, because all that cloud thing is about trust. The most valuable and most easy to destroy commodity.

Nobody trusts MS, you buy their software and expect backdoors. But see how the live services fare. No match to google or other cloud providers.

To destroy the trust in the company motto is worse than just a failed service like orkut, buzz or similar. It puts gmail and search in peril. See how fast the change from altavista to google was. Customers are just not that faithful anymore.

I for one, was so shocked about the behaviour of google, I've started to plan my migration. I'm done with it. The Moment the google crosses the creepy line again, without redrawing and excuses a fetchmail will empty my gmail, my forward from my domain to gmail will stop, the pics i have in copy, search i can do elsewhere and my fb and twitter acounts are more interessting than g+ because my friends are there. 80% with a pseudonym. As said before. I'm alone here. Nearly all my important social contacts are nyms on twitter and facebook.

I dont think google is aware of the damage they have done for themself. The it crowd, the early adopters, the movers of the net have started to stay away.

+Robert Scoble has seen the light and chaned his views. Maybe +Vic Gundotra will listen to him. +Natalie Villalobos seems to have no say. +Bradley Horowitz is silent about the matter afaik. So no PR is done, just a try to sit it out ...
 
Oh yeah. As I've noted on my stream - Google has burnt through a decade's worth of good will in a month. People are afraid to join G+ in case they lose their email or their phone stops working. How do you make your brand so toxic that people contemplate using Bing for search?
 
+David Gerard It's possible the conflict between EU law and Google+ policy is not being addressed because Google+ is still in beta.
 
I would be very surprised indeed if labeling something "beta" that 25 million people were using was a get-out.
 
C'mon, +Paul Johnson. This "beta" reason is utterly false, because the problems are entirely administrative.
 
+Peter Murphy False in the 'possible' reason why EU is not addressing Google's real name policy now? I just offered a reason why EU might not be fighting the real name policy as of now. You might have misunderstood me, but maybe I misunderstood you.
 
Thanks for the post; it's good to have multiple channels of information :)


I think it's great that this issue, which engages multiple points about data retention, privacy, transparency and a raft of other current concerns has exploded out of the nym-ghetto or net culture onto the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and other high-profile news outlets.

I consider this on par with John Perry Barlow's 1996 A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace ("https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html") as the net speaking its mind from its cultural heart. Those of us who have lived here, built here and brought people to this electronic cafe for over 25 years are getting tired of being shoved into monetizing boxes by the Biz Boyz, who do not understand what the net is all about and who think it's just another push-media one-way broadcast delivery system for product.

This is one of the first, stumbling steps to Electronic Democracy and it is very exciting to see it happening. This is what "The Information Revolution" really means.
 
+Paul Johnson: my apologies, I was being terse. Google+ is not having problems because of bugs in its software, but because of the managerial and administrative decisions being made using it. That's why I find "beta" a spurious excuse.
 
Oh. I see. As long as Google+ is using this "beta" to improve and work out the social kinks as well as the software kinks for 25 million+ users, I think it's okay to call 'working out the social kinks' "beta". I would like to believe that is what they are doing now, listening to the users to shape a community. However, only a small part of me has hope. As long as we're vocal about it and they address the privacy concerns, I think it'll become a healthy community. I really want to see Google succeed with this project, but not at the expense of alienating others. I want a fair community, not a dictatorship.
 
My problem with the euphemism "working out the kinks", +Paul Johnson, is twofold.

Firstly, it's too cute and twee for my taste; I'd prefer to call the situation an admixture of incompetence, indifference and maelevolence. One of the first people to lose their account was a 10-year old boy who made the mistake of telling the truth about his age.

http://sunpig.com/martin/archives/2011/07/03/google-made-my-son-cry.html

"Working out the kinks". I apologize, but it really rubs me up the wrong way.

Secondly, the situation seems to be when management are introducing kinks of their own, in spite of well-documented advice from staff that it is a bad idea. People know where the kinks are. They don't need to be worked out.
 
I just don't take all the early Google actions to heart as you do. That's fine. Just different perspectives. I just want to remain hopeful and appreciate all open and continuing dialogue on the subject. May we all get what we want. :)
 
+Miso Susanowa quite, I think you expressed part of the feelings a lot of the "older" netizens have (including myself). Another part of the reason a lot of people are so passionate about it, is because we'd like Google to succeed, but we can only guarantee success if we can endorse it and they do it "right". So we hope we can coach Google into finding the right path. Google happens to be the corporation that comes closest to the Open Source spirit, so we want to chip in and help.
 
Ps: anyone read daemon by suarez? The nyms are the real names! 
 
We may have to wait until +Vic Gundotra has someone he loves personally impacted by the policy. But wait, since enforcement is so inconsistent that won't make a dent. I guess he just gets to be privileged and do what he wants.
 
People are acting like Google has some kind of mandate to do what the people want. Also: You are demonstrating a functioning use of anonymity on Google+: post through a third party.
 
+Eric Normand in a sense, Google has that mandate; it's implied by the "Do no evil" motto they self-inflict(ed); and it is also implied by the fact that they employ a large share of the people that have carried the spirit of the Internet and Open Source for many years (even before Google existed). With respect to anonymity: you most likely didn't (bother to) read the available literature on the subject; what people are aiming for is pseudonymity, which is different from anonymity; pseudonyms that can be held accountable, and that have a (several years worth of) reputation. True anonymity like the kind demonstrated here is clumsy at best, it doesn't allow any kind of dialogue. Proper pseudonymity is all about dialogue with a consistent and reputable person at the other end.
 
So +Vic Gundotra thinks that LGBT people are expendable, or worse a "moral" issue? Fuck him and the horse he rode in on. If G+ doesn't shape up fast it will become BigotNet. I won't stick around if so.
 
+Stephen R. van den Berg Hmm. I agree that I haven't read all of the background. Pseudonymity is a nice feature. But (!) the "Don't be evil" motto is not a mandate by the people or any higher power. Why do people act like Google has to give them the features they want? It is a privately owned service.
 
Google wants/wanted to carry the "Do no evil" badge. The right to carry that badge is given by the people, not by themselves. If they implement shaky name checks that have an unpredictable outcome (which is the root of the problem) they lose the right to carry that badge. It's convenient if companies want to carry that badge, because it gives people some limited power to keep them (within limits) on the straight path. So in essence, it boils down to: does Google want to drop that motto or not; can they afford to drop it?
 
"Don't be evil" is plastered all over Google's current investor relations material. I don't think that their overt commitment to the principle is in doubt. Their implementation is seriously in doubt for me right now, but their PR and investor relations material has the phrase all over it. See http://investor.google.com/corporate/code-of-conduct.html for what I'm talking about.
 
In fact, I think +Vic Gundotra has seriously impinged on sections I - III in the code of conduct, but given his position, I think he gets to get away with it (unless someone higher up on the chain calls him out effectively on it - or maybe a significant stock holder).
 
+Julian Morrison: it's a shame you haven't read the background, because we've moved on from the question of wrong of Google+ to the question of illegality. In other words, in what jurisdictions is the naming policy subject to legal sanction? In Germany, it seems to be flat out not on, according to +Christoph Puppe, and since this situation arises from an EU directive, then the naming policy may fall down in the rest of the EU. So Google in one move may have broken the law more than half of the OECD. Or maybe not - I Am Not A Lawyer. But there are going to be lots of people trying to attack the policy using all the legal mechanisms they can get their hands on. Anti-discrimination laws will be another tactic.

I'm not answering your question "Why do people act like Google has to give them the features they want?", even if it isn't rhetorical. Read the bloody thread and find out for yourself.
 
Surely someone other than me has already made this comment but, as pertains to this bit: "Women, LGBT, abuse victims, etc, will be disadvantaged" >>Larry/Vic: "There are other places they can go to, we don't have to fight every ethical and social injustice every time in everything we do, G+ is one of the occasions when we don't seek to right the wrongs of the world, we just want to get the work done." - One has to ask then: What work is G+ getting done? I thought, and they claim, that it is there to enable us to connect with others. If those others are not on G+ because they're women (more than half the world population, so not exactly a minority), LGBT+ folks, abuse victims, atheists in a religious country, etc etc, then the 'work' of G+ of allowing me to connect is NOT GETTING DONE.
 
+***** Rather than repeating the arguments in my stream, I ask that you read the discussion here. I think thatv the points you have raised are addressed.
 
It sounds like they're winging it, +Norv N..
"You might be wondering how to verify your own name on Google+. For now, we’re focused on verifying public figures, celebrities, and people who have been added to a large number of Circles...but keep in mind that this is just the beginning. We’re working on expanding this to include more people in the future, so hang tight!"
 
+Judith Strauser - Amen. As long as women are harassed 25x more often simply for existing in public with a female name, there will be a need for pseudonyms and for keeping our physical privacy. Most of my friends who have told me they will never touch this service, or who have told me they will not ever post in public on this service though they would prefer to be able to and would if they could use a pseudonym, have been women. Not all women use pseudonyms by any means, but having that option is incredibly meaningful.
 
The risks for LGBT people are even more stark, and they make up 10% of the population.
 
Quote: Larry/Vic: "There are other places they can go to, we don't have to fight every ethical and social injustice every time in everything we do, G+ is one of the occasions when we don't seek to right the wrongs of the world, we just want to get the work done."

Google have the right to this sentiment, but it shows that their heart isn't really in social. Without the possibility for social direction G+ becomes a product built with the purpose of rivalling other products. Those that will benefit from this kind of data will be the businesses and governments that have the resources to make use of the data - not the social individuals.

By breaking their own rules for celebrities they're also making a big people/little people divide - Google is a company which currently just doesn't get social media.
 
The big people/little people thing is just another really red flag, as far as I'm concerned. Especially since they aren't transparent about where that line is being drawn.
 
To mention another person: Type '+' or '@' and then their username. You might need to type it in rather slowly as if you type very quickly it can lose track of what name you were typing.
 
+خريف درار شيخ I will also add that as a person who is unfamiliar with Arabic, it was a bit of a challenge to cut and paste your name so that I could mention you before (but that was part of the fun of it :-)

If you would be so kind, if you could put some sort of image up for your avatar/photo, it would make it easier to make sure that no-one trying to cut and paste your name accidentally sends a message meant for you, to someone else.
 
+خريف درار شيخ‎ I think your name is beautiful the way it is! A truly international service lets us put our names the way we want to see them. Though I need to figure out why my system won't show me names in Japanese. I can see your name just fine, but most Asian names just show up as little boxes to me. I think I'm missing some alphabet fonts on my system.
 
Pete Cashmore's analysis at http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/social.media/08/29/googleplus.real.names.cashmore/ gives some of the business background. In +Tim Carmody's article, Skud talked about how Google execs are "scared of facebook" ... Pete sees things similarly. Of course they could also have gone after Facebook with a pseudonym-friendly approach to identity, but Eric Schmidt's been creepy about stuff like this for a long time and it looks like others at Google continue to see things his way.
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