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Full Disclosure
My name is Aubrey. I am Black. The picture to your left? That's really me. Aubrey is a name of French origin. AFAIK, I'm not of Gallic ancestry. The closest I've been to France are french fries.

Additionally, that dark object perched on my head? That's not my real hair. Srsly. It's what's commonly known as a ski cap. I have never been skiing however and this picture was taken indoors. Ok, that's not entirely correct. It's actually a ski mask (You don't want to know, trust me). I hope you feel safer with my real name and real face, rather than my alter +Benevolent Dick Tater

Except, you're not. This whole name/nym debacle, and yes it is a debacle at this point, has proven very illuminating for me.

Safer With Real Names, Huh?
I thought paranoia, groupthink and elitism were the exclusive reserve of certain political parties here in the States. Apparently it's alive and well in the "tech" community.

There are pedophiles on G+. Like, right now. Using their real names and possibly looking at your children's photos. There are serial bankrupts and frauds on G+ also, ostensibly seeking to do business with you. There are wife cheaters and beaters here as well. Using their real names. What they are not doing, is telling you who they really are.

Bernard Lawrence Madoff didn't steal billions using the handle "L33t 1nve570r 4L1ph3".

Authenticity and the Character of Content
Anonymity vs Pseudonymity vs Full Transparency is a false narrative and paradigm. It simply boils down to Authenticity.

Forget about the Chinese dissidents or Iranian revolutionaries or even the domestic violence and rape victims. Let's bring it back down to Earth.

Many of you pro-TOS/"Transparency" folks give your hard earned money to people using "fake names" every day. You don't care that her "real" name is Myrtle Widebottom. You judge writers, entertainers, comedians and other artists based on their behavior and content. It's really just that simple.

It's stunning with identity theft as rampant as it is, anyone would demand that people use their "real names" in a public forum where a person (or several thousand) can circle you in an instant. Have you people never heard of public records? What about teachers, cops, fire-fighters and public servants (or private ;^) sorry couldn't resist) who wish to speak freely or just vent without having to look over their shoulders?

Some of you never ask to see the DL and SS of a potential date and sleep with them with nary a raised eyebrow, but you are apoplectic at a pseudonym and demand to know "the truth"? You should have exercised that level of due diligence with your last 4 ex's.
L.M. Staton's profile photoAubrey Harper's profile photoDavid Schlesinger's profile photo1LM 5HN's profile photo
Bitch, I gotta share this.

If you're okay with the disclosure, that is.
Hi, Aubrey. You look more "cherrywood" or "mahogany" to me, personally.

I would like to post this in our blog, Will publish it as guest post giving you credit, if thats fine with you.Let me know.
BTW, more food for thought from this tweet:

@SFriedScientist/ Andrew Thaler
In US Common Law, pseudonym used "consistently, openly and non-fraudulently, without interfering with other people's rights" is a legal name
Only six comments? I'm linking! Thank you so much for writing this, Aubrey. I LOVE plain and simple in this matter.

Benevolent Dick Tater is hilarious. : )
+Stone Gold Good Morning to you...I was actually Benevolent Dick on Facebook for a while, inspired by a friend +Glossy Foolishness formerly Awesum Jenkins (where are you?!?!?). Zuckerberg got wise and put an end to those shenanigans. Believe it or not someone is sitting on the domain name. It will be mine. This, I command...

+Bhupendra Khanal (if that is your real name...can never be too careful 'round these parts) feel free to email me at <lowercase profile name no spaces> at gmail.
Norv N.
Sorry to hear you couldn't keep your handle... At some point I understood (under the confusing policy as it currently is) that Facebook and other sites may be used as "proof" of one's usage of a name... More or less. Hopefully we'll hear an actual update from Google...

Thank you for the post. Re-sharing.
I really think they will have to reverse themselves...unless they are trying to carve out a piece of LinkedIn's market share, which is a terrible idea.

Some are here to market their wares, build their "geek cred" and Klout scores, some of us (the majority) are just here to have a good time.
I totally agree with this. It is the reputation of the name that you present to the world that is important. A person who is constantly name changing will never have any reputation of measure - but the person who treats their name as gold, who does their best never to stain the name, they will have reputation of oceanic proportions!

I'm here just to hang with friends, and find new friends I haven't met yet.. But my name is important to me, and part of me.
Honestly, I don't understand the whole "real name" requirement. How would they know anyway if I sign up with my other Gmail account? As far as I can remember, they weren't asking for my (long-form) birth certificate when I was creating that.

If it's accountability they're after, I'd argue that having 100 people re-share your dumb post to the intertubes is accountability enough.

P.S. Full disclosure: That's not my real picture in my profile.
Oh, indeed! Beautifully put. Couldn't agree more. I want to PLUS TEN it.
I'm sure it's a real comfort that Anders Behring Breivik used his real name on Facebook, and that we could have expected the same here -- because violent and hateful rhetoric is so much more acceptable when it's presented "politely" and "authentically", especially when the mouthpiece looks so, well, Nordic.
Very cool Aubrey! The only possible use of pseudonyms in my opinion is for some self descriptive tag. For example I call myself La Rana Siciliano in a couple of places on the Internet. This translated means Sicilian Frog. The Sicilian part is my heritage and since I was born in France and my mother is French the Frog comes in. But I have not a bit of problem in using my real name on FB or here. I have to wonder about those who do...
Well, I have a problem using my real name because of my experience being a big name on the Internet in the '80s and early '90s. It was great, having random people who were online when that was rare recognizing me. On my first visit to New Orleans I got called out by the bouncer at Ye Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. Good times.

Problem is, I have a pretty distinctive name, and our customers knew it. After I got called on the carpet by my CEO for saying something negative about a product we used, I started using a pseudonym when I was posting in public. Good thing too... my current employment contract really constrains what I can say as an employee.

So, I don't think I'm unreasonable asking that pseudonym not be trivially associated with my real name in a Google-able fashion.
I for one will not be using your desired handle as an example of a valid psuedonym case.
Names as approved by the Actor's Guild (both to give the actors easy names and make sure they are unique) are probably more akin to brands than names - though I guess once people stop calling them by their given names, it becomes their “real” name (lawful name)
+Sam Vilain, 2 questions - What, in your mind, does constitute a "valid" pseudonym case and what makes you think any person has the power to determine how others should self-identify? Try not to trot out the company line "private platform, TOS", ad nauseum...

Goog doesn't require "real names" to be used as Gmail handles, how many folks do you think would drop the service if they did? I'll give you a hint, it starts with an "M" (besides being wholly impracticable).

The issue I didn't touch on was the one of basic discrimination in favor of "celebrity". Allow celebrities, actors and certain media personalities (and Google employees) to keep their nyms while denying the unwashed masses? This will not hold sir. Reversal is imminent.
"Allow celebrities, actors and certain media personalities (and Google employees) to keep their nyms while denying the unwashed masses?"

But that's not what they're doing, Aubrey: they've said—several times—that what they're after is a name by which you're "commonly known" in the real world. If you're "commonly known" by a name other than your "legal name", and can demonstrate that to Google's satisfaction, that's fine with them.
+David Schlesinger
Since you clearly know much that I don't perhaps you can help me here.

How do we demonstrate something "to Google's satisfaction" if it's something that they can only discover by meeting our friends and family in person?

Or is "the name you are commonly known by" really only "the name you are known by on your government ID and Facebook"? And if you don't have a lengthy English language web presence to point to, you're stuck with your passport name? unless it happens to have some funny characters in which case, well, maybe if you manage to get hold of an actual Google employee after a week of suspension, he'll make a judgment call in your favour but otherwise you're probably just out of luck?

I'm serious. I really want to know how we're supposed to handle the situation when it arises.
How do we define "commonly known"? Someone such as yourself with decades of reputational equity with several multinationals, consortia on several continents, no problem.

What about the girl/guy who wants to use the nym they've had on Second Life for 6 months and IRL for 16 years and they don't blog or speak publicly? Goog "commonly knows" me as Benevolent Dick because they granted me a Gmail with the same handle! I have one set of friends IRL who know me as Hump (Digital Underground not Wodin's Day) and online friends who imperil their life should they call me that does that get verified?

As an aside, I've been following that "problem" and fully support your position no matter how this shakes out. I am also vetting any new circle-ees (? :^( ) for potential sockpuppetry.
"How do we demonstrate something "to Google's satisfaction" if it's something that they can only discover by meeting our friends and family in person?"

You'd have to discuss the specifics of what they'd require with Google. I know that +Fox Magrathea Circe was able to demonstrate his use of that name to their satisfaction. (I don't work for Google, and I can't interpret their policies on their behalf for you.)
"What about the girl/guy who wants to use the nym they've had on Second Life for 6 months and IRL for 16 years and they don't blog or speak publicly? "

Hard cases make bad law, Aubrey. For reasons that should be fairly obvious, I can't possibly get behind a "call yourself anything you please" policy, personally.
"... fully support your position no matter how this shakes out."

I'm not surprised to hear this, but thanks. =)
+David Schlesinger Oh, I thought when you said "and that's fine with them" that you were interpreting their policies. Sorry.

I just find it hard to justify the defense of policies that no one (not even Google, it seems) can explain or even describe in detail beyond a pale repetition from the policy handbook that seems to bear little relation to what's actually being practiced. <shrug>
I believe +Bradley Horowitz has provided a pretty good explanation, actually, of where things currently stand. People spreading blatant misinformation—George Orwell would have to call himself "Eric Blair", people are losing access to all Google services over profile suspensions—as well as people taking over-the-top positions and making over-the-top claims, aren't helping produce a rational discussion of the issues.
+David Schlesinger Well, Orwell was famous. I think we established that famous people would get a pass.

The +Bradley Horowitz post told me nothing new, really, except that Google has decided to give people a bit of extra time before their accounts are suspended.

And "innovate in ways that will hopefully surprise and delight" is so transparently corporate salespeak, that I can feel my throat closing. It was hard to read any further than that.

Over the top claims have come from both sides, yes.

I expect that we're not getting rational discussion on this because it's a matter of ideology, and for the most part people are not, it seems, very skilled at ideological discussions.
"I think we established that famous people would get a pass."

I don't think you could consider +Fox Magrathea Circe "famous". He "got a pass".

"I expect that we're not getting rational discussion on this because it's a matter of ideology, and for the most part people are not, it seems, very skilled at ideological discussions."

For my part, I'd have to guess that there are a number— some number — of people who want to call themselves something other than their "actual name" (whatever that means) for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from the well-considered and reasonable to the childish and silly. As has proven to be the case in the past, those with the least to say quite often turn out to be the ones saying it most frequently and loudest.
+David Schlesinger It looks like Fox sent Google a link to Facebook. That's not so helpful for people who don't use Facebook.

The policy as written seems like such a reasonable policy. Use the name you're commonly known as. What's the problem? The problem comes when 1. people are asked to prove something which is very hard for many of them to prove, especially if they are not native English speakers with a long web history to point to, or 2. even when they'd like to use their passport name, it violates some aspect of the restrictive naming convention, at which point they're asked to prove something that isn't true, which is that they're commonly known by a name in a form that their name never takes.

Regardless of intent, the result makes Google look racist. And that's upsetting for a lot of people.

So when you're suspended, with no clear idea why, and someone says, "Lighten up. What's the big deal? Just shut-up and use some white dude's name!" you either go away never to return or you get loud, because you are steaming mad at this point.

Meanwhile, the people who have not been suspended, who have not lost their contacts, who have not suffered the indignity of being accused of being fake -- meanwhile those people are getting on their high horse and telling you to chill. Of course they can say that easily. They don't care: they have no stake in you or your problem.

It's very hard to discuss anything with people who have no stake in the particular problem that plagues you.
"Regardless of intent, the result makes Google look racist. And that's upsetting for a lot of people."

Hm. Honi soit qui mal y pense. If one goes looking for offense, one inevitably finds it. After attempting to make some reasonable—yes, they were—points about why I'm not in favor of free-form pseudonymity, I was summarily dismissed as indulging in "rich white guy wank", by someone who doesn't even know me.

I found this quite interesting, since if the shoe were on the other foot, I'm sure the same person would be complaining loudly about the "derailment" of the discussion. That's a two-edged sword.

"It's very hard to discuss anything with people who have no stake in the particular problem that plagues you."

It's hard to discuss anything with people who automatically assume that you have no stake in the particular problem that plagues them, or that you might have equally real, but orthogonal, problems that plague you. That's a two-edged sword, too.

And that's been pretty much the history of this discussion, which is why I'm mostly keeping out of it.
+David Schlesinger
It's the pro-real-name crowd that's complaining about offensive behavior, though, isn't it? I thought that was the whole reason behind requiring them: to make discourse less offensive. No shirtless chests and all that, eh?

You can keep out of the discussion because your interests are served by the status quo. If they weren't, you wouldn't give up so easily. That's what I mean about having no stake. You can do nothing and you still get what you want.

Not to worry. I'm sure you'll continue to get your way, and those who disagree with you will leave or subvert whatever system is put into place. Hopefully those who feel it necessary will commit to being at least politely subversive. Hopefully.

"It's the pro-real-name crowd that's complaining about offensive behavior, though, isn't it? I thought that was the whole reason behind requiring them: to make discourse less offensive."

No, that's not the "whole reason", and it's minimization of a multi-faceted, complex issue of precisely this kind that makes meaningful discussion pretty close to impossible.

"You can keep out of the discussion because your interests are served by the status quo."

Except, they're not. They're somewhat better served by the status quo, in my opinion, but—not to put to fine a point on it—I don't think you actually have any idea what "my interests" in this are, and it's pretty presumptuous of you to take this tack with me.

"I'm sure you'll continue to get your way, and those who disagree with you will leave or subvert whatever system is put into place."

This kind of dismissive, passive-aggressive response is exactly why I'm staying out of it, Ianna. Thanks for showing me that I was doing the right thing all along.
Damn Aubs... look what you've done.
Look how you done goofed me up. Next they'll be backtracing me
It's just the "New Black Guy" smell. It'll wear off quick
Google certainly recognizes the value of pseudonymity, and they've also clearly said that—in their view, anyway—Google+ is not the place for it, that it's their intention that Google+ be an "identified" service, like Google Checkout.

If Google will require a back-end verification of identity of all users, then people can call themselves whatever they want—that's consistently been my position. But just making the service pseudonymous and calling it a day is taking a big step back from accountability.
"There is no accountability with real names either. It's a placebo; a soother to put in the mouths of those who want that false sense of security. If Google only did a quick Google search of an identity name specified in an appeal to see if the appeal showed any signs of being credible, or used any other practical metric, perhaps then none of this would matter."

And what leads you to believe they're not working on that at the moment? I'm assuming that—having clearly stated that their intention was for the service to be as "identified" as Google Checkout—they had some way in mind of enforcing this policy.

"But Google is disabling their access, and doing so inconsistently, and with every appearance of the process being subjective and arbitrary."

Golly. Sounds almost like debugging a complex algorithm, huh?
You must not have had many disappointments in your life. Lucky fellow.
And conversation is summarily shut down by those who can't distinguish "disagreement" from "trolling". It's not unusual in these twitchy, ill-informed, low-self-esteem times.
Right. It's all my fault. If I just hadn't expressed my viewpoint, you surely would've gotten your way.

(But they did hear. They just don't agree. You folks seem to have this funny idea that if someone doesn't go over to your perspective, it's either because they haven't "heard" you, or you haven't explained it a sufficient number of times.)
"You and Katie have both called me a troll for having an opinion."

If I've called you a "troll", it's because of the way you've argued (or, more likely, failed to argue) your "opinion".

"There is no need for this gulf between opinions. It's needless because there are good compromises that meet the needs of both sides."

You don't have to convince me, and you probably won't. These aren't views I came to on a whim. I've used a pseudonym, I've had it outed (in spite of being careful), and I've got some underlying reasons, having to do with the nature of things like "identity" and "reputation", for taking the viewpoint I have.

You evidently haven't managed to convince Google. I note that Skud's poll of those who were suspended ( got a spectacular 119 respondents, and Identity Woman's call for a "million persona march" has received, in addition to her actual call, a single response (

This supports my view that there's a lot more volume than actual numbers affected behind this.

Anyone who thinks a pseudonym is going to protect political speech in an age where the "Patriot Act" is in full force is absolutely kidding themselves.

Anyone who believes that a pseudonym is going to protect them from someone determined to out them is operating out of a completely false sense of illusory "security".

Those who claim to speak for the "disempowered", where there have so far proven to be no actual disempowered-using-pseudonyms to speak for themselves — and I've looked — sound just a little bit paternalistic.

In the course of these discussions, I've been treated not only to outright and repeated invasions of my privacy, but to diversions, derailments and tone arguments which would make those in favor of pseudonyms scream with outrage if the tables were turned.

People have been demanding immediate change, and threatening dire consequences if it's not given to them. Maybe it's actually time to show Google just how "dire" those consequences are.

"It's not a "love it or leave it" as some have suggested."

At some juncture, it's got to be. If you're going to stand around saying "THIS IS INTOLERABLE!", then you've got to show you mean it by no longer tolerating it. If you don't, then that suggests that you're simply making a pretense of outrage, like throwing a sort of verbal tantrum and threatening to hold your breath until you die if you don't get your way.

At some point, you've got to put a little skin in the game.
"You call me ill-informed but I'm willing to bet you haven't even seen the video response from Google. "

By the way, you lose that bet. Can I call you "ill-informed" another time, now?
"In terms of not seeing so many votes and comments in support, perhaps you weren't aware that as users remove their Google+ profiles, all of their +1's, and all of their comments, are just removed from Google+ entirely. "

Or, perhaps I was, and realized that this is actually pretty completely immaterial when you're talking about numbers on sites external to Google+, as I was. Here's the tally so far:

119 respondents to Skud's survey
1 response to Identity Woman's call for a "Million Persona March"
37 responses on "My Name Is Me"

None of this translates into anything like even significant numbers. I'm certain Google's doing their own projections and calculations, but there's — so far, anyway — not really any evidence to support the contention that large numbers of people are actually worked up over this.

"I just wanted you to be aware that when you no longer see my posts in this discussion, it is because I have downgraded my account and Google has purged my opinions from their services (like any Orwellian state should)."

Needs more organ music.
Too bad, rather than engage in the discussion, you felt it necessary to be a douche to anyone.
God hates a coward, Richard. That goes double for one who sails in with a comment that pointless into a thread six days old.
No, Richard: you've managed to imagine that you've "infuriated" me too often. Not at all the same thing, I'm afraid. (See previous comment.)
Whatever you say, Richard. You'd still seem to be all a-twitter there.
Well said, Aubrey.

People feel more comfortable in using pseudonym rather than their reals, while posting controversial thoughts anywhere on the internet. Internet, as we know is a open-place. The probability of becoming a prey to the apex predators online is more when compared to the offline-lives. Ofcourse, there are people who post defamatory contents with their pseudonym.

People posting good with pseudonym gains more friends/followers/or whatever, than people posting bad. Who cares about your real name online (except the advertisers).

Some say, real-name in online create openness. But, there are some spots where you should say hidden/private.

[I wonder whether G+ applies the 'realname' etiquette to email-registration too. If done, we've to forget names like heartbreakkid, ladiesman, coolcarter, bangboom, spicy69 (pun intended :)]