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Identity on G+: Gender, Name, and Visibility
What's in a name? that which we call a troll
by any pseudonym would still talk as trashy.

Who does a real names policy serve? How does a real names policy make Google+ a better service? Is it even enforceable?

I'm sure Google has what they consider entirely valid reasons for requiring people to use their real names on Google+. I don't know what they are (trolls, squatting, advertising, following Facebook's lead, trying to usurp LinkedIn?) though the conversation around this issue has been very fragmented so I may well have missed them.

My issues with a real names policy:
• A real names policy is user hostile and disconnected from any other way people interact (online and in real life). http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2011/08/04/real-names.html
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/why-facebook-and-googles-concept-of-real-names-is-revolutionary/243171/
• The policy is fungible which is preventing users from being able to clearly appeal their account suspensions. http://infotrope.net/2011/08/05/round-two/
• It's unenforceable on a large scale. In their effort to police millions of users, G+ has already had to rely on automation which means even people using their real names are getting booted form the service. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_plus_bans_creator_of_firefox_for_using_his.php
• Many are making the civility argument for real names, but people aren't necessarily assholes on the internet specifically because they're anonymous, it's about accountability generally. http://dashes.com/anil/2011/07/if-your-websites-full-of-assholes-its-your-fault.html

Barring other issues I'm unaware of, it comes down to whether the advantages of pseudonymity outweigh the disadvantages, as well as how you implement it in a way that's good for the users as well as the system.

We have the technology. We have the capability:
Re-engineered Visibility: After the furor over mandating gender be a publicly visible field, Google+ engineers changed the system to allow you circle-based control over who can see your gender, defaulting to gender neutral language otherwise.
Two-Tiered Visibility: You can control not only who sees whom you have in your circles (anyone, no one, just your circles) but also the specific circles you want to show (e.g. hide coworkers and family, make friends visible).
Built-In Dynamic Display: Currently in your hover box the line under your name is customizable. If you put in your employment information it shows that, but if you omit it your location will be displayed instead (Maybe other stuff! I haven't really experimented.)
Privacy in Place: You can control whether people can +Mention you and find you in the people search by your name and nickname (independent of whether your profile is private).

Practical Pseudonymity:
Based on the above, it seems reasonable to me that Google+ can implement dynamic name input and visibility. Allow people to customize the visibility of their real name on a by-circle basis like all other parts of the profile page. Allow users to pick which field they want to be their display name, the real name field or the nickname filed. If you want to mandate that people use real names publicly, at least allow people to use their nickname among their circles or people who have them in circles. Both the real name fields and nickname fields are currently searchable so people can find you by which ever name you display.

For me, I just don't see the sense in a real names policy. Google is defending a beachhead of unknown strategic value against the unrelenting tide of the open internet.

tl;dr
Why have the real name field be the name when you can just make it a name?
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Mark Shea's profile photoSarah Pavis's profile photoSwami Iyer's profile photo
3 comments
 
#privacy #identity Great piece.
 
After all "What's in the name?" is an acceptable state of reality and I like your suggestion under the Practical Pseudonymity. I think privacy in place is also a grand suggestion thus restricting the users from making +mention when you don't want to be socially find. May be, I am naive and won't understand the reasons to why join the Social networking, if you want anonymity? The term Social means people can recognized you with the name that you go by.
 
via +Jillian C. York, "Google has added additional info related to its name policy to the Help Center. This includes more detailed instructions on appeals, as well as acknowledgment that account suspension can also result in difficulty using certain other Google services. This is a good thing, as it clarifies the rules for those who have genuinely had trouble with them, but I would note that there is no policy change."
https://www.google.com/support/+/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271