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I have been at last made aware of Google+'s requirement that G+ users reveal their "real names". This wasn't to my knowledge in the ToS I read and agreed to when I registered for G+, which I admittedly scanned, but which looked like every other Google ToS I've read; I never saw the G+ specific "Terms of Content" until after I had registered (shame on you Google).

I cannot abide that requirement, therefore, I will probably shortly be deleting this account.

The requirement for use of "real names" is sexist. The practice of using pseudonyms is enormously preferred by women, for purposes of safety, privacy, and leveling the playing field by making others take their words at face value. The requirement of the use of "real names" is privileged.

The requirement for use of "real names" is also culturist. There are peoples with the US and without among whom it is culturally normative to use different names with different social spheres. Whether it is bicultural people with both English names and names in another language (e.g. "Hebrew name", "African name", "Chinese name"), or artists with pen names/stage names, or even just those of us Scadians who are called something very different by our friends and lovers than by our families and neighbors, there are many subcultures with the US -- to say nothing of the rest of the world -- in which people do not have only one name and/or may have object to being expected to divulge such privileged information as their personal name online.

The very idea that one has one, real name is a parochial White, middle-class, American assumption. The idea one should have one, real name, to make everything all neat and tidy and obvious is colonialist thinking. The idea that one should get to enforce such a rule, paving over other people's cultural practices, in the name of stamping out criminals (spammers) is really, really gross.

One of those cultures, by the way, that this requirement offends against is "Internet user". Google, I've been on the internet longer that you have, and I'll remind you that the custom of using nyms on the internet -- born originally of limited email address namespaces at individual institutions -- was originally the predominant one. I preferred the internet that way. It had that much more privacy -- privacy, not security -- baked right in. For someone to be able to find you, or to recognize that you were the author of something, they had to acquire a privileged token: your nym. Nym-identity mappings weren't secret, but they weren't flaunted; they were circulated in communities, especially face-to-face. They were drapes across the windows of the virtual world. They made that world more decorous in many ways, and that is why I keep to spaces in which that is the norm.

I had so hoped that G+ would be one such space, providing an alternative to Facebook which for all the foregoing I effectively do not and presumably will never use.

The requirement for use of "real name" also prevents the use of G+ for creative purposes such as role-play accounts. The application designers of G+ might want to talk to the folks at Dreamwidth for a discussion of some of the creative, legitimate, prosocial uses to which pseudonymous accounts are put.

It is my hope that Google will see the error of its ways and change its policy in this matter, before I delete this account. Livejournal and Dreamwidth would no doubt be happy to explain how else one might limit spammer accounts, if that is indeed Google's motive.

This post is public. Pass it on as you see fit. After all, as things stand, you won't have the opportunity to read it here much longer.
Aaron Friesen's profile photoTim Sellmer's profile photoLily Fox's profile photoLela Kaunitz's profile photo
Please send feedback to this effect if you haven't already... Google appears to be listening, but there's a cacophony.
Will do! Is there some better way to do that than the "Send feedback" button (which seems to be optimized for functional bug reporting), or is that optimal? ETA: On second thought, I'm probably going to be doing it from gmail, not from this G+ account. Recommendations on how best to do that? ETA2: Nevermind, sent feedback via feedback button.
I believe that is their preferred form of feedback, even if it does seem to be optimized for bugs. (I've certainly used the text for "please add this feature!")
Nope, as far as I can tell, Google is encouraging people to use that one Send Feedback button for everything, privacy concerns, suggestions, technical bug reports, etc... they must have an incredible triage mechanism or a heck of a lot of staffers in place to cope with the onslaught.
Just a /subscribe so I see the comments on this post. And yes, send feedback is the right mechanism. I believe you're also asked why you left if you deactivate, so I encourage you to put that information there too if you end up deciding to go.
Downside for leaving, I /think/ this post (and even shares of it) would be removed which would do a disservice in silencing your own comments. :-( I might be mistaken on that, though.
Reshares of posts by deleted users are not removed.
That's what I'm counting on. :)
+Justin Wayne, that link is not working for me. Is it public?
Oops, sorry it wasn't. Looks like the person to add on discussions like this is +Natalie Villalobos, Community Manager for G+.
Yeah, I just reshared that. :D
You're fucking kidding, right?

You are the biggest idiot on the internet.
If I didn't + mention anybody, I was obviously talking to the original poster.

She needs to get over herself. Sexist, really? Nobody is forcing you to use this website.
Mitch Samuels, that's right, nobody is forcing me to use it. However a lot of people are forcing me not to use it, and those people are men.
Sexist? Seriously? You are such an idiot. (No that wasn't sexist, im talking about YOU, not all females, just to be clear).

This is a social fucking network. The point is to be social with your friends. Why the hell would you want a fake name?
"The requirement for use of "real names" is sexist." - LOL. Good riddance. As someone who respects people of both sexes, your inappropriate abuse of feminist rhetoric is offensive. You could have spared everyone the diatribe before going ahead and deleting.

"The very idea that one has one, real name is a parochial White, middle-class, American assumption." (Yawns) Or... it's a linguistically common way of identifying a singular entity across just about every species that has achieved oral communication. Unless you're wearing a tinfoil hat, in which case, we're all out to oppress you.

PS - You say "culturally normative" like it's a bad thing...
Yes, Mitch, seriously: sexist. When an organization promulgates policies which disproportionately impact women, that's called sexism.

In answer to your other question, yes, indeed, this is a social network and the point is to be social with, among others, friends. Many reasons I would want a "fake" name are discussed in the OP, but one of them is that somewhere between 400 and a thousand people know me under a "fake" name, so that would, indeed, be one reason why I would want to use it.
+Daniel Sohl Im 16, in High school, of course my "wit" is more "subtle" than most people on this thread.

I still don't understand what the hell she is complaining about. Nobody else cares about this, and if they do, they just put a fake name. It's not like Google has a special Google Police who check the IDs of everybody. She's not going to get arrested. Unless she tells people, nobody will ever know.
I realize this is not much consolation, but you can list other names that can be pseudonyms, alternate languages/scripts under the 'alternate names' section. For instance, I am Liz Fong here, but my legal first name is Zhen, so I make myself discoverable as Zhen Fong by listing it as an alternate name. (and in fact, this reminds me to list Lizthegrey under alternate names too)
Mitch, I'm afraid I can make it very, very clear what I'm complaining about. As someone who needs to use a pseudonym, I'm not allowed to use this service.

Alas, as a 16 year old, you're not either. You're in violation of the ToS, which requires G+ users be over 18. If I or anyone else reports you, or if you otherwise come to the attention of the G+ enforcers, your account will be deleted.

Now you know exactly what I'm talking about.
She would obviously use Judy. Like most people, she wouldn't give it a second thought. That's because most people know that websites just put that because that's what they want, and that's what other users want. It's not like they actually check people, like I said earlier.

They put that they want real names because nobody likes seeing people with names like "Your mom" or "John D$WIZZLY Smith" or something even more stupid. Facebook has the same policy, but I still have friends that decide to put absolutely stupid middle names like "Doesnthaveamiddlename".

Nobody likes that, most people don't think it is funny. That's why websites put that in their policy. But again, they don't check it, unless of course you put a name like "Justin Bieber" and have a picture of the singer Justin Bieber. Then they will do something about that (impersonators).
+Daniel Sohl The difference is in the intent - there's a huge difference between choosing to take a name which you believe to be more appropriate for a given cultural context and actively trying to deceive someone about your true identity. One is convenience, the other deceitful - not to mention sort of denigrating. Personally I've always found the practice of some immigrants changing their names to something more American English to be kind of unfortunate. Their name is their name and they should be proud of it. But there's many reasons why they might want to change it - not the least of which is sometimes just 'starting a new chapter in life'. Either way - you do them a disservice by comparing them to some silly over-thinker who wants an alternate Google identity.
I don't see it as sexist, what do we call it if I don't like it and I'm a man? It's something but it isn't sexist. On the other hand how do we determine what's a real name? My name is Barack Obama, that doesn't sound real does it.... So I'm with you in principle but I don't agree it is because fat ugly white men are stupid.

If it seems disproportionate it might not be sexist, maybe that's also cultural but on women, not the (assumed) white anglo men. It just works out that way. But whatever happens I won't believe Jane Smith any more than any other name. But I agree that nyms should be allowed.
Don, as I explained at length in the OP it's not just sexist. There are lots and lots of peoples for whom this policy is a problem. Perhaps at this point you might want to re-read the OP in light of what's been explained so far, and see if it makes a different sort of sense to you now.
Darryl, when was the last time you called a grown man "silly"?
Siderea, I do know what you're talking about, but the difference here is I don't give half a shit. I know im in violation. Im also in violation on Twitter and Facebook and every other website I use (last time I checked), along with hundreds of thousands of other minors. I have never been kicked off a site because of my age, and I ( obviously ) make it publicly know that I am under 18.

What is stopping you from changing your name? Nobody is going to delete your damn account.
If hundreds of people know you under a "fake" name then that name is real for you, and you are allowed to use it. It's only a fake name if it's a name no one knows you by or you are impersonating someone else.
+Liz Fong Which is great... for some situations. But, of course, not all.

+Mitch Samuels Quite a large number of people care, actually. More don't, probably. And there are some trolls and others who simply don't understand. When being yourself means that you are living in violation of some rule, law, or custom, then you are always living with the fear that those who have the power will notice, and create a problem for you - be it arrest, harassment, or cutting you off from your social circle.

You're in high school, it's easy to ignore a lot of this. You probably have friends who use or used drugs, have a porn collection, or somehow otherwise break the rules and/or law - not at all uncommon in high school. Perhaps they're gay, or Jewish, Muslim, etc. Probably they don't have an issue with it - they don't see it as wrong; perhaps you don't either. But still in many cases, they'll keep it to themselves because someone around them does, and there are real repercussions to having it discovered. Some people don't care, some do. Those that do have that constant fear of 'can't be found out' - they often aren't doing anything wrong by their standards, but they are by whomever sets the rules.

What's the penalty for standing out in school? Ostracism of your peers, harassment in general, loss of friends, being beat up, possibly getting in trouble - with the school, parents, possibly even the law. As an adult, many of the people we encounter are more accepting of differences, but the risks are the same - worse, actually. So, you live your life and keep this to yourself, but you are aware that if anyone were to find out, it'd be a problem - even when you're doing nothing wrong.

If you think this isn't a real risk ... look at your posts. You found someone different, and instead of trying to understand, you're punishing that person for being different.

Telling someone 'I don't like your name, you can't hang out here' online isn't any better than telling someone 'I don't like the color of your skin, so you can't come here' in person.
+Daniel Sohl: She could use the name "Judy". Here is the exact policy: "To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable." (Follow the "Content Policy" link at the bottom of the page to see this.)
Mitch, no, you're not in violation of those other sites. Their age minimum is 13, because of COPPA. Your accounts aren't in jeopardy at those sites because they aren't in violation (well, not for your age -- heaven knows what else you're up to).

You're saying you don't care. How sure about that are you? You're OK with me bringing you to the attention of the G+ enforcers? Cause if/when I do delete this account, I can take yours with me: I won't have anything to lose.

In any event, the fact that you don't care doesn't mean other people shouldn't care. Just because other people don't care if their own cars get totalled doesn't mean you'd be OK with them rear-ending your wheels. Different people care about different things. Being a cool person is largely about respecting what other people care about, so you have some basis for demanding others respect what you care about.
Alon, that not what's been happening on G+, where at least one person well known by his initials had his account deleted. We're not discussing this in the hypothetical. The crackdown on what are clearly benign cases has already started.
Siderea, that's why I said 'last time I checked'. My birthday comes around and it's telling everyone I am ten years (or more) older than I actually am. That's because when I signed up, the age was 18. Oh, and do you want to know what else I am up to? I make apps, websites, and other programs. I know more shit about coding/programming/the internet right now than you probably ever will. I have helped with a few different websites, some that became major with many users, and I know how these policies work.

And no, I wouldn't care. It's a freaking website. I would make a new account and get on with my life. Cars and websites are two totally different things, don't even compare them.
If a profile gets reported as fake or impersonating some other person there is a review process. This process is not fail-safe. Accounts do not get deleted, just suspended, and there is a possibility for appeal. For people who are indeed primarily known by their initials, they can make their case and have their account reinstated. I can not go into any more details regarding this process.
The policy is what counts. If there are cases where enforcement does not match the policy, let Google know and people will address the situation.
Alon, please don't change the topic. We were not discussing whether it is possible to get an account unsuspended before deletion by conforming to the policy. We were discussing the problems with the policy. ETA: Alon, while I appreciate your trying to explain why things aren't as bad as they look, I'd really appreciate (and perhaps you're already doing this!) your sending communications back in the other directions as to how they look from the outside. I trust you know what a "chilling effect" is -- if not, google it. The fact that people with alternative nyms are allowed to make the case is not anywhere stated, and seems to be at odds with all official policy. If you are right and the written policies are wrong, something needs updating.
Siderea, Look at his profile. He works at Google. Im pretty sure he knows what he is talking about. He is saying that there is a review policy and was letting you know about it. Again saying your account will most likely not be deleted if you are ever reported.
Mitch, pop quiz: Does PHP have closures? Do you think that's a good thing or a bad thing? Also, which do you think better, tail recursion or iteration?
women should be making me a sandwich not using the internet unless its in the kitchen
Siderea, Yes, good thing, and I 'think better' iteration.
A Google employee just came and backed Mitch up. Face it, you're an idiot and everyone on this thread knows it. Just give up, change your name on your Google profile, and quit being an attention seeking idiot.
As far as I can tell (speaking for myself, not for Google), the cases described here are not in violation of the published policy. Enforcement may not match the policy, and may be a problem. There is an appeals process for names that may be flagged to prove that they are indeed real. This process is also not fail-safe.
Just to be clear, I DID NOT back Mitch up. I fully agree with your points in the original post.
+Mitch Samuels Please don't presume that a Google employee clarifying a process means they agree with you. It's true that accounts are suspended rather than deleted for violating name policies. But I think Siderea is right that it's tangential to the topic at hand. The point is whether or not the policy of disallowing such names, however it is enforced, is reasonable and/or discriminatory.
Alon, you haven't really addressed what I said to you. You, personally, stating here (as you say "speaking for myself, not for Google") that there is an appeals process is not at all the same thing as that same proposed fact being promulgated by Google. Nor is your personal communication to me assuring me that there are grounds for the use of nyms and, effectively, encouraging me to appeal if suspended, at all the same thing as Google clarifying it.

For several reasons. There's the obvious Ex Cathedra issue. But also: telling someone "It's OK if you're arrested, because you can win it on appeal" has obvious problems, yes? You're doing an analogous thing here.
Justin, i didn't say that, James did.

Mitch, other things you haven't said include your answers to my pop quiz. How about it? You said you were a programmer. While you're at it, what do you think of functional vs. OO?
+Siderea B., I'm going to point out I feel you're being slightly age-ist. One of the things I most liked about computer science when I started in the tech industry was that people didn't care how old I was, just that I knew my stuff (I started working in the tech industry at 16). Asking someone to prove that they are a programmer based on their age feels as offensive to me as asking a female programmer to prove she's really a programmer based on her gender.

Edit: I retract this (see below). Leaving for posterity though.
But Alon, just curious, have you ever heard of Google deleting an account because of age violation?

I am a registered Android dev, gmail user, and google apps user. I have never heard of anyone in violation of the age terms having their account terminated on Google or others. And I know many people under 18 with these accounts. 
I can not say anything officially about the policy or its enforcement. The post below is purely my personal opinion and not that of my employer.
Personally, I agree that the situation is not great. If we agree that in any system that should be able to protect against impersonations and obviously fake and abusive profiles, people will make mistakes and suspend legitimate users too.
The flipside would be to let fake Zuckerbergs and Obamas, or profiles with names such as "Fuck You" post with impunity until all appeals have been cleared.
An appeals process is not a perfect solution, especially if as anecdotal evidence seems to suggest, enforcement is not on par with the policy.
However, I feel the policy, as published is fine and addresses your concerns. If enforcement is not on par with the policy, that is a bug and should be fixed.
+Siderea B.: +Mitch Samuels is asserting that as he is over 13, he will not be suspended or deleted. I'm personally not sure whether the minimum age for G+ is 13 or 18 since I have not researched that issue at all.
+Liz Fong that is incorrect. +Mitch Samuels is asserting that he will not be detected as an under 18yo user. Go back and read whole thread for comfirmation. G+, unlike other google products has an 18yo minimum.
I haven't either, but i invited a friend earlier today who was 15 and it said she was too young. 
One of Mitch's earlier comments: "My birthday comes around and it's telling everyone I am ten years (or more) older than I actually am. That's because when I signed up, the age was 18."

In other words, he chose to put false information into his profile. Using a birthdate that isn't on his ID is not wrong, but using a name that isn't on Siderea's ID is?
+Liz Fong Correction: apparently all google (now?) requires US citizens to be 18yo. I just checked the general Google ToS, and they read "2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google". In the USA, that's 18 in most states, and apparently(?) 21 (!!!) in some.
+Liz Fong heavens forfend. I do not, by my challenge mean to argue Mitch is not a programmer. Merely that, contrary to his boast, he's less of a programmer than I am. Or did you miss the bit -- you seem to be missing lots of bits -- where he announced that he knew more about the internet that I ever would because he was a programmer, and therefore I should stop speaking?
Liz: I'm conflicted about the "show your skills" question myself. To some extent, Mitch opened himself up to it with his "I know more shit about coding/programming/the internet right now than you probably ever will" brag; there's an understandable temptation to give him a chance to prove it (or not).
+Siderea B. Sorry for missing bits of context :( - I'm juggling a ton of things and have been trying to keep up with this thread and a bunch of other related discussions. I apologize and retract my statement about age-ism.
+Liz Fong you are a gracious and noble person of discernment and distinction! :) Apology accepted.
The post below is purely my personal opinion and not that of my employer.
The policy as written states you should "use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you". Any name that no friend, family member, or co-worker of yours will call you by is therefore 'fake'. How is that not reasonable?
All of your examples, with the exception of role-playing and fictional profiles, comply with this policy.
The post below is purely my personal opinion and not that of my employer.
I am aware of the three levels of identity document. Using a pseudonym does not make sense on a social network. The purpose of using a pseudonym is to communicate with people without revealing yourself in a name you are known by to others.
If, however, you are already known by a name by people who know you in person there should be no problem in using that name on Google+. Basically, if you associate an image or yourself with that name offline that name should be OK for Google+. If you do not, then you shouldn't use that name on a social network.
+Alon Altman , I disagree with your assertion that “Using a pseudonym does not make sense on a social network.” It makes perfect sense if the people you wish to network socially with know you primarily under that pseudonym. One may not wish to mix people from the different sub-cultures one interacts with, so might have multiple independent identities for use in the different contexts. The Google three levels of identity document acknowledges this by stating “In the upper right hand corner of these Google pages, you will see an indicator of which account , if any, you are signed into.” [emphasis added] This implies that Google expects you to have multiple identities under multiple names.
Hey, all, do carry on; I gotta run. Back sometime.
"The quickest way to lose an argument is to overstate your case"

How dare Google think that you would be okay with sharing your real name with friends. LOL

This isn't twitter, this isn't role-playing blogging website, this is for you to share things with your friends and family.
On second thought, this post is probably just trolling... well done. Ya got me.
The post below is purely my personal opinion and not that of my employer.
Google+ is focused on users who know each other in person, or at least in appearance. What good would sharing photos do if people don't associate the name with your appearance? Same with video hangouts.
Google has multiple other products that allow users to interact pseudonymously: Orkut, blogger, GMail, to name a few.
+Alon Altman And yet, I've shared many photos here with various circles, and none of them have featured identifiable people that are in any of my circles. Nor is photo or video sharing required for a rich use of this service. Sharing text thoughts and links to various topics on the web is also a social experience.

I interact with sets of people in the real world where nyms are common. At least within the context of that set of people, I think of them by the nyms they use in that context. There are some people I know by two or three different nyms, each of which I deal with face to face. Each nym is valid for that person, in that context, and those contexts aren't necessarily collapsible or compatible, and thus, neither are the nyms.
Ailish, social networks are meant to provide a space to share stuff with people you know. Why would you want to fake that you're someone else?

Steve, I wish these idiots were just trolling.

Siderea, go ahead and do what Liz said and report me. I guranatee even if I get temporarily suspended, they will review it and I wont be kicked off.
+Alon Altman [Weird! I typed that as a normal +-reference, but when it was posted, the name was starred out. When I went to edit it, in place of the stars or the name I had typed was a reasonable-looking email address. I wonder if G+ just leaked me Alon's email address in a way it shouldn't have.]

You wrote:

> Using a pseudonym does not make sense on a social network.

(And by the way I really wish G+ supported threaded, nested replies, so I wouldn't have to mention you explicitly and quote you in order for people to understand what I'm talking about.)

As stated, that's just false, unless you define "social network" as "only that sort of network on which it doesn't make sense to use a pseudonym". I personally don't mind using my name here (or on Facebook), but I go by a pseudonym (the same pseudonym) on a bunch of social networks (e.g. LiveJournal and Dreamwidth), and a huge number of sites with similar features (e.g. Slashdot, Wikipedia, OKCupid, and a huge number of web sites with their own litle non-interoperable forums). Certainly some of those aren't social networks by your definition, but LJ certainly is, and people's LJ usernames are often so much a part of their social identity that we use them in person.

Also, I will point out that there are parts of the world where you can get imprisoned, tortured, and killed for who you happen to be friends with, and people who live in those parts of the world would like to have the benefits of Internet-mediated interpersonal communication without being hauled off by the secret police. (Obviously prohibitions on use of pseudonyms in the official terms of service of social networking websites are only a very small part of that problem.)
I note that I have had a few people add me on G+ whom I didn't recognize, but eventually figured out that I knew through a pseudonym, rather than the particular full name that G+ asks them to use.
+Jay Sekora - I agree, finding people I know from Dreamwidth has been a bit difficult because I don't know any of them by their legal names. I'd suspect the same thing would happen to people from my SCA barony, but either none of them are on G+ yet... or I can't find them!
+Jay Sekora +Carolyn Davies You guys must not have read. The TOS says that you can use a different name if it is one that people call you or know you by. Names from Dreamwidth (Whatever the hell that is) are names you know people by, I guess, so that would not be violating the terms..

Alon (If I understand correctly) is talking about using completely false names that nobody knows you by. And pretending to be a completely different person than you are.
+Mitch Samuels Yeah, and the only person I know whose name got challenged had to scan in his driver's licence and birth certificate to prove to Google that it "really" was his name.
Cyn V.
At least a thousand people know me well enough for social networking by a name which has nothing to do with my legal name; if I used that one and Google+ challenged it, how would I prove it was valid?
+Cyn V. I doubt they would ever challenge your name, but if they did, I would guess you could some how prove you have other social networks with that name (by using an email address, maybe), and many people know you by that name.
+Brynn Kessler I also thought your response, while emotionally honest, was an unproductive way to react to somebody who is moving in the direction you want him to. If we want people to change their minds, it's more effective to respond positively when they do than to respond negatively. I thought +NORH Miles' comment, while not necessarily representing an instantaneous and complete deep understanding of gender and power politics, was a story about having an opinion, encountering evidence against that opinion, and coming to a greater understanding of the perspective of people with a different experience than his own. Honestly, that's not an overwhelmingly common thing in any culture, and I'd like to encourage it rather than discourage it.
+NORH Miles I'm sorry, in my comment timestamped 13:45 I didn't intend to be condescending (although I see how it came across that way). I was trying to make a general point about effective rhetoric, somewhat abstracted from the particular circumstances here. I failed. :-)
+Brynn Kessler I am perplexed by your comments. I think maybe you skimmed +NORH Miles' initial comment? Because while it was rough around the edges, what he wrote was in fact sympathetic in its point. It sounds to me like you heard him say the opposite of what he actually said -- an easy mistake if you skipped the point where he said said, in res, "I thought that, but I have some to see I was wrong." As I understand it, you just jumped on a guy who had a conversion experience to our side of things. I think you owe him an apology.
+NORH Miles (Why isn't my browser finding you??) Please accept my apologies for +Brynn Kessler's conduct towards you. I'm hoping it was a product of sloppy reading on her part. I certainly understood what you are saying, and I appreciated it. As to your comment about the comparative punitiveness of men masquerading as women verses vice versa, I agree, it's taken as a more hostile act when a man pretends to be a woman. There are a whole bunch of interesting potential reasons for that.

I'll point out that it's important to make a distinction, however, between actively portraying oneself to be the opposite sex, and passively taking a gender-neutral identity. When I and other women shield our genders, we typically do it not by asserting maleness explicitly, but taking a very gender neutral handle -- this trick works better where handles, not names, are the norm so everyone around one is using them -- and allowing men to assume, as they most typically do, that everyone around them is a man unless otherwise indicated. For instance, its de riguer among programmers to be known by one's initials (two famous examples being rms and esr); a woman can easily simply use her initials and never say anything about being a woman, and pass, passively, for a man in technical forums. That would be different from calling one's self "Mike". This is also something that men can't quite do the same way: a man who uses his initials in a technical conversation will be assumed to be... a man. In fact, men who use gender neutral handles in most online contexts will be assumed to be male, because it's not just men who have a mental male default for other people.

But if you wanted to try it, you might attempt to take a slightly feminine handle, and then not specify further. Don't try to deceive, just allow it to happen, and correct people when they express their incorrect assumptions about your gender. Yeah, people might get bent out of shape, but if you never lie, and you never allow someone to proceed on the assumption you're female in some way which it is legitimate to matter (e.g. flirting), I think you might well be able to do it without enormously punitive sanctions. I know of two men who have done this, and they seem to be getting on OK.
To clarify what I think Alon's getting at:

One one end of the spectrum are folks who only go by one name and sign up for Google+ using that name. A-OK.
On the other end of the spectrum are folks who make up a name and only use it for Google+, nowhere else. That's contrary to the terms of service because nobody will know who you are, and the point of the service is to connect with people you know.

At various less-clear points in the spectrum are people who use multiple names. (Some of my circles are fully of folks with multiple names. Some of them have thankfully put their aliases in the Alternate Names field. Others lead me to search my email archives until I figure out what their handle and community are. But it still feels weird when John Smith leaves a comment and I have to go to my internal database and say "Oh yeah, that's Sparklepants!")
The TOS suggests that you use the name that most people know you by, so when you add them to a circle or make a comment on their post, they'll have the context to understand who you are. If that name resembles the one on your birth certificate: great! If that name is one you chose later in life, but which is more familiar to your friends, great!

For folks that don't want to reveal their identify to their contacts (whether it's tied by name to their legal records or one that's developed in a subculture), Google+ may not be the best communication vehicle. Even with a completely assumed name, the links between people on a socially-focused website may reveal more information about an individual than he or she wishes to be known. For instance, what's public about your friends might imply something about you: To this end, someone who wants a complete dissociation between their meatspace identity and their online activities (e.g., revolutionaries under a repressive regime) would be better served through a service like Blogger or Twitter where the focus is on what you say rather than who you know.

Human names are an astoundingly beautiful and complex subject. Google+ doesn't perfectly handle all of the complexity, nor does any other computer system of which I'm aware. Perhaps the field trial will lead to an understanding of ways to gracefully handle some of the complexity which is not well handled. For anyone who would like a quick glance at some of the amazingness of human names, is worth a read.

The above is my own understanding and opinion, and is not an attempt to speak for my employer.
Mitch Samuels: You've quite impressively demonstrated the archetype of the arrogant hot shot programmer. You're still young, so it's forgivable, but if you don't rethink your communication style, you may find yourself excluded from communities you'd like to be a part of in the future.

Some of the most important skills of a software engineer are listening and humility. The first because it's vital to know what your users want, and they'll only tell you what that is if you can listen without being confrontational (or at least without being a total jerk). The second because everyone introduces bugs into their own code; if you're humble in your self appraisal, you won't let yourself down when you inevitably realize the answer to "Who's the fool who wrote this function?" is "Oh, it was me." While Programming Perl famously touted the three cardinal virtues of the programmer as laziness, impatience, and hubris, many companies won't hire someone who displays too much of any of them. Smart coders with abrasive personalities don't usually provide a net benefit to the team.

There's a lot of concern about why the ratio of women to men in technology fields is rather low. One unfortunate reason is that some women feel repelled by men who display the attitude you've shown above: "X isn't a problem for me, so if it's a problem for you then you're stupid and/or unwelcome." As a 16-year-old nerd, that sort of statement may make you feel good (you come out as the smart and capable one), but as a 32-year-old nerd, you may come to regret the folks that attitude has driven away when you sit in an office that's almost entirely guys.

As I read your comments, two fallacies spring to mind: and I suggest reading those articles, figuring out why I think they apply to your comments, and then rethinking the way you engage in electronic discourse. Think of it as social debugging.

If you'd like to talk more about this issue, feel free to find my email address and continue the conversation there.
+Siderea B, there are arguments on both sides of this and for several reasons (only one being that I'm a Google employee and don't want to be construed as having anything to do with making policy), I'm not going to take part in the discussion.

I will suggest however, that if you want to make a difference it's much easier to do that from the inside as a user and taking part in the development of this service as it grows. You might not get everything you want but you may be able to make things just that much better for everyone concerned with this issue.

The G+ team really does care about the ideas and well-being of all the users of the service.
I'm late to this discussion: and not terribly impressed by some of the contributions.
Siderea: I agree with Brian in hoping you'll stay.

+Mitch Samuels if your G+ account self-destructs unexpectedly you can safely assume it's because I decided to report your profile fpr age violation / impersonation (of someone older). Enjoy waiting to see if/when it happens.
Trevor Stone, thank you for your post to Mitch Samuels. I'd been feeling rather upset about his rude/ignorant posts in response to a very articulate, well thought posting. I feel like you handled the situation splendidly and I certainly hope he takes your comments positively.
I would like to point out that many people at my real life wedding were people I call primarily by their pseudonyms, including the person who married us. There are many cultures on the Internet prior to the Facebook hegemony which are/were actually ... social networks... and which use pseudonyms as a first choice and it is odd to use true names. I find it perplexing that people equate "social network" to "Facebook." Facebook really was NOT the first social network, or even the first walled garden. It is a subtype of social networks that happens to use real names. I have been on many other social networks that used pseudonyms and can name many others that I am/was not directly on but that I know are functional by repute.

Pseudonyms were so used in my generation of Internet users that they became names that we use in real life as well as online; I answer equally to them as to my own name in real life. In fact there are a lot of people in my circles here where I have no idea who they are, because they are using their real names and not the name I actually know them on, and not all of them have revealed the pseudonyms I actually know them under. I've added them because I vaguely recognize their name, maybe, or we have so many mutual friends and their comment trail on mutual friends' posts make it obvious that I actually would know who they were if I had a real name->pseudonym map. I have also operated under my real name since early days, and have received far more harassment for the "crime" of having a female name on the Internet under my real name than under obviously female pseudonyms. Something about pseudonym cultures seems to damp down gender-incited bullying; I'm not sure why, but that's my observation.
Shame on you, +Marc Love, forcing already marginalized people further to the margins. It's not enough that LGBT people already deal with a lengthy list of oppressions and threats and limitations to their ability to participate fully and freely in civil society, you'd like to add "Can't use G+" to the list. Some "activist" you are.

And you know what? Eating at lunch counters is an "optional service", but the law doesn't allow businesses to forbid black people to do it. Renting from a given landlord is an "optional service", but the law doesn't allow landlords to forbid people with children to rent from them. Going to a show is an "optional service", but the law doesn't allow theater owners to refuse service to people with service animals. In fact, it turns out that there's all sorts of ways that are illegal for businesses to set their terms. So you can knock it off with your "Don't like the terms, don't sign up" nonsense. Discrimination is illegal and businesses don't get to deny service to whomever they want.

There are people for whom pseudonyms are necessary to their use of G+, for reasons of safety and even of health (in case you hadn't been paying attention). Your snotty, high-handed, let-them-eat-cake attitude of, "If you can't use it without a pseudonym, then we refuse you service" is no different than, "If you can't use it without a guide dog, then we refuse you service": it's discriminatory against the people for whom it is not optional, and who want the same accommodation as their fellow citizens.
No, +Marc Love, it's not "victim mentality" to stand up for basic consideration. It doesn't matter how much you say it's not discrimination, when a company forces its a subset of its clientele to chose between their personal safety and dealing with that company at all, for no justifiable reason, it is discrimination. The fact that it's a choice is not exculpatory, it's precisely the problem.

So why is it that it's so OK to you that LGBT people be denied service on the basis of how out they are? That's the point you're making, above, no? You seem to be saying you think it's fine if a company wants to have policies which disproportionately exclude LGBT people if they're not out. Do clarify if that's not so. Why is that cool with you?
+Marc Love are you being deliberately disingenuous? You keep saying the same things over and over without actually addressing any of my questions or any of the issues I raise. If you're not actually interested in actually debating this, then maybe it's time for you to go.

Things like "Just because that rule has bigger impacts on some people's lives than others does not make the policy discriminatory". Uh huh. Just the way "no dogs allowed" is perfectly fair and not discriminatory when applied to people with service animals. Which I already pointed out.

Things like "Google has not banned LGBTs". Didn't say they did, did I. No, I said it discriminated against people who need pseudonyms for their safety, which includes a substantial number of LGBTs. But you can't be troubled to address the actual issues raised, can you?
No, no you actually haven't. Again, your saying something is so doesn't actually make it so.

Formulating a rebuttal actually requires paying enough attention to what you're rebutting that you actually know what it says. Feel free to start at any time.
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