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Dan Sokol
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Last night, +Robert Scoble shared some information based on his conversation with +Vic Gundotra. That post ( went a long way toward clearing the air, and we want to thank many of you for your feedback and support. I wanted to also more directly address some of what we’re learning and how we’re reacting to the feedback. Note that this isn’t a comprehensive “last word” on the topic that touches on every issue. On the contrary, it’s just some transparency and insight into a dialog that I expect will continue for a long time.

(It’s worth noting that in general we’ve only been discussing upcoming changes to Google+ as they are being released. In this case, we felt it would be helpful to signal to concerned parties “what’s coming.” This immediately raises the question of “When?!” And the answer is as soon as possible. We’ve already improved our process, and the changes below should arrive in a matter of weeks.)

We’ve noticed that many violations of the Google+ common name policy were in fact well-intentioned and inadvertent and for these users our process can be frustrating and disappointing. So we’re currently making a number of improvements to this process - specifically regarding how we notify these users that they’re not in compliance with Google+ policies and how we communicate the remedies available to them.

These include:

- Giving these users a warning and a chance to correct their name in advance of any suspension. (Of course whenever we review a profile, if we determine that the account is violating other policies like spam or abuse we’ll suspend the account immediately.)
- At time of this notice, a clear indication of how the user can edit their name to conform to our community standards (
- Better expectation setting as to next steps and timeframes for users that are engaged in this process.

Second, we’re looking at ways to improve the signup process to reduce the likelihood that users get themselves into a state that will later result in review.

Third, we’ve noticed that some people are using their profile name to show-off nicknames, maiden names and personal descriptions. While the profile name doesn’t accommodate this, we want to support your friends finding you by these alternate names and give you a prominent way of displaying this info in Google+. Here are two features in particular that facilitate this kind of self-expression:

- If you add nicknames, maiden names, etc. to the "Other names" portion of your G+ profile, those with permission to view those fields can search for you using that term. For example: some of my colleagues call me "elatable," a pseudonym I’ve used on many services, so I've added it to my list of other names.

- The "Employment," “Occupation” and “Education” fields in your profile can appear in your hovercard all across Google+ -- to those with permission to view them. This also helps other users find and identify you.

These and many more changes are coming. We’re flattered and appreciative of your support and interest. I assure you, teams of passionate individuals are pouring their talents and care into making this a great experience for you. Thank you again.

Finally, I wanted to debunk a few myths I’ve seen circulating.

MYTH: Google doesn’t care about ____. (businesses, teenagers, organizations, pseudonymous usage, disadvantaged populations, etc.)

We aspire to having great solutions for these (and many more) use cases. While this may appear as easy as the stroke of a policy pen (“Just let the businesses in!”), we think we can do better. We’re designing features for different use cases that we think will make a better product experience both for them and for everyone else. Please don’t misconstrue the product as it exists today (< 4 weeks since entering Field Trial) as the “end state.” We’re flattered that there’s so much passion and interest... and will continue to improve the product and innovate in ways that will hopefully surprise and delight.

MYTH: Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of one’s entire Google account.

When an account is suspended for violating the Google+ common name standards, access to Gmail or other products that don’t require a Google+ profile are not removed. Please help get the word out: if your Google+ Profile is suspended for not using a common name, you won't be able to use Google services that require a Google+ Profile, but you'll still be able to use Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, and so on. (Of course there are other Google-wide policies (e.g. egregious spamming, illegal activity, etc) that do apply to all Google products, and violations of these policies could in fact lead to a Google-wide suspension.)

We'll keep working to get better, and we appreciate the feedback-- and the passion --that Google+ has generated.

(Edited at 9:07pm PST on 7/25 to remove a reference to a screenshot I never had time to take, fix capitalization, and change "begs the question" to "raises the question" per comment below - bjh)

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Please pass this on to everyone in your circles.

My G+ account, along with so many others, was suspended last week. No reason was given, although I'm pretty sure it was because my name was posted upside down (uɐp loʞos).

(Watching google respond to this evolving issue is like watching 6 year olds play a game - the rules change every few minutes.)
There have been many stories on the web about the suspended accounts. I am not interested in repeating them. I'm not interested in debating the pros and cons of internet aliases.

What I would like you (the reader) to do is edit your profile and invert your name.

Go to this website -->

Enter your name in the top box, it will be inverted in the box below. Copy and paste it into your profile.

If enough people do this we may get the attention of Sergey Brin ... or maybe John Markoff at the NYT.

Why am I asking you to do this?

Simple. Only one person on this planet has the right to tell you what your name is. That person is your mother and she wrote it on your birth certificate.

When I was old enough to understand the power of names I picked my own aliases and nicknames (except for a few years in grade school, but that's not relevant here ;) .

MY name is mine to choose, not google, not anyone else. It is the penultimate private decision (your vote being just a bit more important).

Help me teach google what social networking really means.

Dan Sokol (my real name)

uɐp loʞos (my chosen geeky handle)

Thanks to you all.

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In the last couple days, Google has taken to quite actively enforcing its "real name" rule, banning or suspending accounts (with many reports of users getting locked out of all of Google, as opposed to just +) with names that "look funny" (such as including symbols, "including period"), as well as actively suspending accounts of users who use non-real names.

For more information, I highly recommend readers read through some of the comments on a recent post by +Robert Scoble, where +Gowtham S, an "infrastructure engineer" at Google (and someone I simply am unable to mention correctly at this point in this post due to what seems like a stupid bug in Google+ involving people with non-unique names) responds with some details on what is being banned.

Personally, I think this is ludicrous... Google's attempts to enforce what a name is don't even stand up to the test of multiple cultures, much less the test of an online pseudonymous world. +Gowtham S, even, was forced into the position of specifying a last name, something he does not actually have, and therefore falling back to an initial of his father's first name.

Meanwhile, one of my real-life friends, due to a very complex situation involving her parents' names and legal status in various countries, has a compound last name involving a hyphen, a slash, and a set of parentheses: a name that certainly contains more than enough symbols to drive Google+'s new rules past that brink of "fails when confronted with real world data".

However, when you live on the Internet, a lot of things get even hazier: almost everyone I deal with has both a "real name" and at least one handle of some form. I don't just mean hackers here: I mean people I met in college who are writers, and interact with entire communities online via a pen name.

These people do not consider it appropriate to put their real name up for anyone on the Internet to view, and certainly find it scary (in the "am I going to attract stalkers to find where I live and make my life horrible" sense) to attach their name to an actual picture of themselves, as websites like Google+ encourage.

Coming from the perspective of Google+, and their whole mantra of sharing only what you want to share with the people you want to share it with, this is even sadder... at least the other profile fields I've complained about the granularity of in the past can be entirely marked "private": the Name field on Google+ must be visible to "Anyone on the web", with the concept of fully private profiles that can only be seen by people you trust (a feature that Facebook has had for as long as I can remember) entirely absent.

One could instead imagine a true unification of "circles" with identity, allowing my college friends to go by their real name (maybe "True-dy McRealName") to people in their "family" and "close friend" circles, by a pen-name ("Tryla Marina") to other circles, and being able to fully hide their account to people they don't know at all.

However, even this solution assumes that these users are willing to divulge the link between their identities to at least some people (given that the accounts will be the same, it would be difficult to not notice): depending on what you are writing about (or how you feel about your writing ;P) you might choose to keep your pseudonym private, even if it is your closest friends who are actually dealing with "both of you".

One specific person I know in this situation is not a writer, but is instead a hacker (of course in the good sense of "making things possible"): MuscleNerd, a very famous member of the iPhone Dev Team (with almost 230,000 followers on Twitter). MuscleNerd is an example of someone who is almost entirely known by his handle, a situation quite unlike the oft cited Lady Gaga: despite most people not recognizing her real name, we at least know that it is "Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta".

In this case, however, despite the fact that millions of people worldwide know who he is and hundreds of thousands of people care enough about what he says to follow him on Twitter, MuscleNerd's real name is something that most people, by a vast majority, not only would not recognize, but have never heard... despite having worked with him for years on various projects, I haven't even heard it.

Today, +MuscleNerd's Google+ account was suspended, as it was listed as "MuscleNerd ." (with a period as the last name: a common convention that probably led to the aforementioned outright banning of periods in names). Given how much attention +MuscleNerd was already getting on Google+, I think it will be very interesting to see how the reaction to his account having just disappeared today plays out.

As for myself? I actually have a normal first name, a normal last name, and neither are something that I have ever kept secret from anyone online; and yet, even I am quite unhappy with not being able to list my name the way I always do whenever asked for "full name": "Jay Freeman (saurik)", so as to include the moniker by which people actually know me.

In all of these cases, no malice is involved: no one is trying to do something bad to Google+, or to their followers, and using "weird" or "hidden" identities to do so. Instead, we have people from different cultures, with messy histories, who were taught to value their privacy, or even might be concerned about how they will be seen by others; all who are not just being told to leave Google+, but sometimes (if we trust the numerous reports of this occurring) being cast from Google entirely, losing access to their e-mail, documents, and maybe even phone numbers, because they decided to try out Google+.

Of course, not all accounts with such "sketchy" information have disappeared... my personal favorite name to date, +Sugarballs Mintfart, is still "going strong". (In case mentions get damaged, which I believe they do, when a user is suspended: that account is currently named "Sugarballs Mintfart".)

Wow, just: wow. :(

These clowns at Google think they can turn my life upside-down. Well I showed them. Tupping liberty.
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