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What kind of activism would help encourage Google+ to change their naming policy?

+Eva Galperin recently echoed a point that I've talked about with +Shava Nerad, +Adina Levin, +Gretchen S. and several others: activism in support of pseudonymity on Google+ could have a big impact right now. Shava's taken the lead, scheduling weekly dancing in front of Google's Cambridge offices starting today.* How to build on this?

Please use this as a brainstorming thread, and not to debate the merits of pseudonymity!

Come dance, 7/29 and every Friday! CAMBRIDGE MA meetup: 4pm onward, 7/29/2011, at Google Cambridge, 5 Cambridge Center, just toward Central Square up Main Street from the Kendall Square T station. My ...
Adina Levin's profile photoIanna Singer's profile photoJon Pincus's profile photoSiderea B.'s profile photo
The meta questions, what would persuade google, who makes the decisions, what would persuade others to support
If every person who supports the use of pseudonyms on G+ were to turn off email notifications and resist logging in for 48 hours, would it be noticed? Or do we all have to change our names to some variation of Vic/Victor/Victoria?
People are influenced by those they know, then who they sympathize with, scoble who is 'anti-anonymity' started was influenced by those he knows and stories
Lobbying has a bad rep but with public decisions its easier to figure out who
Go Shava!

Great questions Adina. My guess is be that decisions are made by +Vic Gundotra and +Bradley Horowitz, and the buck stops with Larry as CEO. Key influencers within the team might include the engineers, community managers like +Frances Haugen and +Natalie Villalobos, potentially whoever's making the argument that real names are more valuable; elsewhere at Google, their privacy organization and LGBTQ employees are potential allies. Curious what others think ...
Major media - a networked speakers bureau- whos pro who has media experience & can coordinate
Arguing with users who don't like nyms is not productive though. They either have no influence, in which case you are teaching a pig to sing - or they have influence in which case you are giving them extra incentive to make their case to Google's corner office. Develop a reasoned and compassionate case, review it among folks whose opinions you trust, then try to send it out where influencers (press, Google staff/execs, people with reach to same) will see, appreciate, and share. Remember to post in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. also!
+Ianna Singer i like the basic idea of getting everybody who wants the policy change to do something noticeable, specific details TBD. it has to be something that everybody can see is happening -- lots of people not using G+ for a day (and many of them saying why), or changing their profile pics, or something like that ... certainly worth thinking about. the goal here would be (a) to show the breadth of opposition and (b) to get media coverage increasing the pressure on google. the risk of course is that Google will try to see this as fizzling at which point the narrative turns to "oh it's only a few extremists really care"
Offer to speak on the topic at meetups, networking meetings, etc. Even outside of G+ this is an amazing teachable moment! For those of us with gray (or no) hair, bridge generations, because this issue has the potential for a bridge/abyss moment
This is a great opportunity for us to work together - for us to flex 'muscles' we are just learning how to use together here. Maybe we make a single issue website ( ) with a concise community created blurb and have a big +1 and get people to +1 it. Small design - short burst of energy.
+Sai ., great framing of internal and external, in terms of what will change executives minds, something that highlights the costs of the path they're on -- or the opportunity if they change -- could help drive home the business case. And is there a way to get executives and employees to understand why so many people see this as conflicting with "Don't be evil"?
Totally agreed with Shava that it's a teachable moment in general, and with Mark about opportunities for collaboration and flexing muscles.
I like using the idea of +1 :-)For a website, who's a good sysadmin? this might get trolls.
We were thinking of doing a petition over on Care2, but as +Sai . mentioned the policy still seems to be influx and Google (at least in my opinion) does seem to be looking at all sides of the issue. I'm personally taking a bit of a wait and see attitude about it until an official policy comes out. If advocacy is needed at that point, happy to help brainstorm ideas.
I think public awareness (which we're doing pretty well on so far!) is really important.
Wait, you're DANCING FOR PSEUDONYMS?! This is the most wonderful thing ever. Video pls.
+Sai . agreed that Google is engaging on this issue, and in +Bradley Horowitz's latest post he certainly left the door open to policy changes. That's why I talked about "encouraging" them :-) With a debate going on internally; one of the goals of any potential activism is to reinforce the pro-pseudonymity side in that debate.

+Sue Anne Reed, there's a petition at

In terms of timing, I think the big question is what their policy will be when they launch (currently rumored to be July 31 or August 1, but who knows). If they get it right, huzzahs all around! If not, then it seems to me that it'll be time to up the pressure.
Sorry, no video this week - there were only four of us, and we were restricted to the sidewalk, so not much room to dance, alas, esp during rush hour. Next week we will see if we can coordinate, perhaps with GAMBIT?, to get permission to be on grounds. hmmm... I did post a few images, and one Googler at least took pictures. Next week, we'll call media, maybe, and then a couple of us were talking about pooling rolodexes - HRC, HRW, EFF, UUA, FSC,... not to contact yet, but just to say, gosh, if we have to keep doing this, we're going to start a fund under fiscal sponsorship and asking for letters of support from orgs.

And that is a good way to put a fire under things too. But really, I ain't getting paid for this, and that is a FT job if it comes to that.
Given that Google is definitely aware and engaging on the issue, I think it's vital to keep drumming up public awareness, and particularly of the huge variety of people affected by the policy.
Agreed -- and doing so in positive ways.

To highlight the breadth of people affected by this policy, how about a blogswarm (or the G+ equivalent thereof) where people each post how it affects them -- and how it affects any of their friends who aren't here (and thus can't speak for themselves)?
I really wonder if we shouldn't do something that looks more organized than blogging. As a blogger, I hate to say this, but blogging doesn't really impress corporate types, unless it ends up kicked up to the NYTimes. If we end up with a stunt that gets in the MSM, we'll get their attention.

If we raised enough money, MoveOn style, to buy a full page ad in the Times, that would seriously get their attention, for example, and would get us in every major media outlet in the world. We could do that through EFF or some similar organization, if we thought we could do it.

We could go to kindred organizations including organizations like HRC and organizations that work with victims of abuse, perhaps groups that deal with dissidents, Reporters without Borders (, HRW, groups that work with childrens safety issues online who want parents to understand how the parents' online hygiene can impact children and sets a good example -- it's such an amazing teachable moment, we might be able to get a huge coalition of allies to share in from all over the world.

This is a move that has a high risk/benefit, and we need to consider the risk/benefit also to Google. I think a lot of us actually feel a certain fondness for Google. I don't want to hurt the company. I want them to do the right thing. I want them to do it in a way that alienates the least part of their market that doesn't have their head up their butts -- and to my mind that's the digital natives and the more sober and thoughtful folks here who think like me. ;)

So, one thing we might want to consider is, gasp, forming a committee or some coalition or some sort of representative body to address Google and say, listen, we feel strongly. We have been the strongest voices of this community, maybe people like some of us here (and Kee maybe, he's in Thailand, the bastard...:) and we want to sit down with you at a table (virtual or otherwise) and if you like under NDA talk about this.

Because we will take action, but we don't want to burn you or our friends who work for Google, or our friends for that matter who own bits of your company. And some of us cringe at some of the other companies out there a bit more than we do at this. We want you to do the right thing. How can we be your loyal opposition?

And you know, you always keep the option of being something of a bastard in reserve, right? But it's always better to cooperate so much as you can.

At MIT's Educational Studies Program, I teach a class for high school kids called "How to Save the World in Your Spare Time," which is about nonviolent social action organizing. Basically people have forgotten what nonviolent social change is about since the 60s.

Nonviolence is not about "not hitting" -- nonviolence is a form of asymmetrical strategic warfare that favors the weaker party, and is aimed to the reconciliation of the whole community into a healthy society as soon as possible upon the resolution of the conflict.

The principles of nonviolent social change, paraphrased from the King Center are:

1) Research your topic thoroughly. Know all the facts
2) Educate yourself and others; be open to modifying your own position
3) Keep your resolve, support one another; do not fragment
4) Negotiate in good faith; compromise with integrity
5) Be prepared to take nonviolent direct action
6) Reconcile all parties into a cooperative single community

What I tell my kids is, these steps represent a sort of dynamic system, each one a little feedback loop that links to the others. That step #5 needs to be planned and well organized, but sometimes doesn't even have to be triggered, as in the case of a threatened strike, say. It must always be a credible, prepared, nearly manifest thing. But often it's the thing that happens if negotiations don't succeed; if you can't show that you are serious; if you can't talk sense or show that the cost of compromise is lower than the cost of dealing with direct action.

The cost of dealing with blogs may seem minimal, even if we can see that it could mean a loss of market. It may well be easy for them to discount "just bloggers." So we have to think: If they misestimate our power, are we willing to kill this project because they don't understand our reach?

Or should we organize in a way that a more traditional corporate structure can meet halfway and understand, and perhaps save them from themselves? :)

My estimate of the situation is this: Either they really don't understand the pile of crap they are in, and so blogging won't get their attention any more than the last two week have; or there's something truly warped and baroque going on within Google (I hope not) and we are on the side of the angels (I hope so) and folks inside may need our help.

Billions of dollars a year at stake. That's not an amount of power that would lead to crossed agendas or power politics? Nah. I mean, you know, Google's what, a company about the size of Chile, by revenue? Yeah, no politics. Just a few confused executives that don't understand geek culture. Yup. We couldn't possibly be missing any information. Like PTSD and infighting left over from Orkut or something. Who knows?

Either way, IMO we should be organizing more than words at this point.
My email is listed on my profile to my circles, and you have it anyway. Happy to take this off [Public] - but also, I thought it was important to talk about the process of why that might be timely.
Not suggesting the brainstorm shouldn't continue, I just have something relevant to share that I'd rather not post publicly right now :)
Yes of course Jillian, I'll send you my email address.
I agree with +Shava Nerad that the goal isn't to hurt Google. The way I see it, we want to encourage them to do the right thing here -- and to educate people in general (Googlers, users, Google competitors, everybody else) about the value and importance of pseudonymity.

Agreed that bloggers don't have the reach of traditional media and outside of the tech blogs I'm not sure how much Google tracks their opinion. That said attention in the blogosphere often reinforces mainstream media interest. But yeah, a blogswarm does sound somewhat 2006.

+Robert Braggs III makes a great point here about getting people to tell their stories --
I'll tell you this: I was first contacted by Facebook policy staffers after I'd written several blog posts complaining about their policies. So while they (or Google) may not read every blog post, they'll certainly spot the squeaky wheels.

(and this was over a year ago, so I don't think I was particularly well-known at the time)
we could try to convince people to 'boycott' google ads (using adblock, etc) in protest? hitting them in the pocketbook should get some attention.
+kage . agreed that a threat to the pocketbook will get attention; with employee bonuses are tied to their success in "social", that's one reason i keep highlighting that their current policy will really harm G+ adoption. in general a boycott is a pretty big hammer and takes a lot of organizing to even be a credible threat. not sure how much of an impact they'd see from an increase in people installing adblock or how directly they could tie it to the naming policy. certainly worth thinking about though.

+Jillian C. York agreed that they read blogs. the firestorm about Google Buzz was first fuelled by blog posts; so was the Facebook TOS protest. also blog posts can be shared, reshared, and +1'ed here on G+ and on other social networks. And we could certainly combine blogging with some other protest like the classic "turn the web black" and blue ribbon campaigns.

On Quora +Allyson K, echoed +Sue Anne Reed's suggestion of a petition via Care2/petitionsite. How many signers do we think we'd need for it to have an impact?
+Jon Pincus +Jillian C. York would it help to be systematic - to identify the top-tier venues that ought to be covering the issue, and the 2nd-3rd tier voices that get amplified into the top-tier; and then deliberately network (is this being done already?)
I think this is being done to a degree but we could be better (and more inclusive) about it. e.g., perhaps this ought not be centered in Google+
Excellent point +Jillian C. York - and perhaps this should not be pointed at Google+ either. Maybe this is a culture issue.
a google doc with a list, or also a web page? Fred Wilson just came out pro-nym on Twitter but hasn't blogged yet. Kevin Marks hasn't blogged yet.
The cool thing about a list is that it could become a speaker's bureau (with contact info for MSTM and MSM)
+Mark Dilley I actually firmly believe that, while we've got the chance to influence Google+ right now, this is a much broader issue. If Google+ keeps their policy (or even if they don't), we may begin to see a trend.

That said, it's important to work on Google+ right now for the very reason that it's still in limited trial and the policies are changing.
Someone (I forgot who, but I'll go dig up the link) has kept a really great page of links, and I have one too. Why don't we open a Google doc (or etherpad, or whatever) to list people who have blogged, and people who we think ought to. Happy to dump my lists there to start.
public edit or request-to-edit?
Right now anyone can edit this - it can be locked for moderation and front-ended with a form. For the next level of fanciness the form can be embedded in a web page.
I have no preference as to openness level. Thanks for starting this Adina!
And totally agreed with the observation that while the battle at hand is over Google+'s policy, the issue is much broader. My initial reaction is that we should focus our energy on Google until this is resolved, and then build on whatever progress and connections we've made. Also while looking more broadly, a good thing to keep in mind is opportunities to highlight the pseudonymity- and privacy-friendly social networks out there, including open source projects like Diaspora and DreamWidth as well as companies like Hibe and Pidder.
In my wildest dreams, Google becomes our partner with us, on the downslope of this, and decides to become the nym-friendly center of the net because we convince them that the marketing use case is also positive. But hey, I'm a wild-eyed idealist when I'm not being a paranoid negotiation/risk assessment type. ;)
+Jon Pincus +Jillian C. York +Shava Nerad TL;DR. Google wants a solution that works as much as we do. They are paying attention and will play if they believe that we could collectively get something done together.

Chasing down all the threads that radiate out from from Jon's original question, weaving them back together, I found myself left with +thomas monopoly's case, the references to the Patriot Act in the materials linked to from Liz and Trey, and my initial almost instinctual sense that Google was caught in the middle of a task we have collectively avoided for far too long.

We have a patchwork set of laws addressing privacy that do nothing to protect any one individual's privacy in any meaningful way across their lives. This situation with G+ is yet another example of the cost to individuals and businesses alike. Other countries have sane legal structures concerning the right to privacy - far from hampering commerce such clarity facilitates it.

Google should never have had an automated system checking thomas monopoly's files for TOS violations because he was using cloud storage. I am a PhD in statistical pattern recognition and I can tell you, hands down, that if we have to deal with automated checking of everything we do, we will never do anything else. If you stop and consider your life for a moment, you will likely discover that it is largely proscribed by facilitating such automated checking already.

You may feel I have gone way off topic; I promise you I have not. +Shava Nerad talks about Google partnering with us in her wildest dreams. In reality it is rather the opposite. Public corporations exist under incredible pressure and it is our responsibility to essentially make it possible to run a corporation in an ethical manner and keep one's job. Note the Gates foundation and its emphasis on digital inclusion as one of the more high profile efforts in that direction.

So this is wayyyy too long, I realize that. But we have wonderful, creative, energetic young folks like +Shava Nerad. Feeding the media machine, well, how long has it been since Miller's The Invasion of Privacy? Time to do more with such a precious gift.
+Hilary Holz ...energetic young folks like +Shava Nerad. People keep sliding me birthday presents all weekend. I might not be older than you are. Thank you! :)

The link to the organizing blog is actually. I see this problem very much as being within that spectrum. People who are excluded on the basis of identity are often on interesting margins.

That's why I got involved with Tor originally -- I'm not a cypherpunk, my roots are as a digital divide (now, more PCly, digital inclusion) activist. Really, basically, I'm a third generation civil rights/liberties activist.

I happened to get sucked into computing, later campus networking, and thence computer security (kicking and screaming on that last, originally).

My grandfather goes back to Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, and Bertrand Russell when he was still in London. I'd have bet on him in a cage match with John McCain for maverickiness any day of the week, especially if you armed them with pens.

Back in the middle 90s I was general manager of Oregon Public Networking/Eugene Free Net ( doing accessibility egov work/training in Lane County OR, [works in any browser] training for nonprofits, getting pats from Benton, all that -- we might have crossed paths.

As to Miller, you're not talking about the Georgia "false names" case? Something altogether different? Because that's certainly something that this makes me feel a sense of deja vu. Or PTSD. Or indigestion or something.

That's 1997. So yeah. A few years. It was sort of lost in the CDA, but it was there.
One of the interesting things is how many angles you can come into this from. I'm kind of a strict utilitarian: "Does it help people?" Yes. "Does it hurt more people?" No. "Does it ease administrative overhead to make fewer subjective decisions?" Yes. So it's helpful and cheaper? Now it makes sense to management, too.
+Gretchen S. which sounds like talking points for a media kit (for folk who haven't yet had a chance to think it through)
I agree with +Adina Levin -- coming up with a concise set of talking points would be great. Another potential Google Doc?

Also kudos to +Jon Pincus for starting this conversation and to +Shava Nerad for all of her contributions (IRL and otherwise).
Concise is not actually my strong point, heh. But I have in fact used 'more expensive to administer' to advocate against schemes that degrade user privacy or free speech with no actual benefit to the service. From a customer service department point of view, you want to be making decisions that are as objective as possible; it's the subjective ones that take more human time, which is the expensive time. Abuse administration by necessity requires subjective evaluation so you want to define abuse as narrowly as possible while still catching the abuse. This is also why policy needs to be clear and consistently applied; it saves time and is therefore cheaper as well as less frustrating for users. (Anything that is not communicated well to users also costs administrative time later.)
I am seriously thinking about changing my account name to "Spartacus ." and seeing what happens.
I really don't understand why Google is not hitting this issue harder. I mean, really - do they want people spending time trying to figure out how to mess with them? I am yet again baffled by the company...
That is so ironic that they smacked Kaliya. She is Identity Woman, she's been doing identity policy politics as a pretty major thing for at least what, five or so years which is long enough in this crowd. And she's probably done facilitation of unconferences for 3/4 of every upper level management foofah type in Google. Lord.
of all places ... the Cato Institute is in favor of less draconian naming policy. The article makes a good point relating to Google's strategy with G+ - Circles help G+ map more closely to the social subtleties of the real world, but their names policy does the opposite. I'm not going to agree with Cato on much, but that's an interesting ally.
Agreed, Jim Harper of Cato (who wrote the post on TechLiberationFront) is great on issues like this. Julian Sanchez is another Cato-ite who really gets it.

+Todd Vierling has a great spreadsheet of people who have covered the issue at

we'll hopefully be talking about this topic at the Twitter privacy chat tomorrow (noon Eastern, 9 a.m. Pacific). ... if so I'll cross-post here
A couple more activism ideas:

+Ianna Singer asks what would happen if we all changed our profile pics to the Guy Fawkes mask -- maybe do it in conjunction with the Million Persona March?

+Alex Ross suggests a "Google + watchdog page for the purpose of holding Google accountable, centralizing complaints with the service, and hopefully facilitating more dialogue with Google representatives" once business pages become available,
Yeah, it'd be great to touch base with Kaliya. "Today, we are all nyms."

Topic #2 today at #privchat is about "Internet Identity, Anonymity, and Pseudonymity: The Social Media Impact" with my post linked as background. It'll probably start sometime between 9:15 and 9:25, hard to predict. More at
I'd recommend not the Guy Fawkes mask, as that's used to represent anonymity rather than pseudonymity; I don't really feel we should co-opt some other movement's symbol especially as we don't necessarily share its means or mode. Guy Fawkes himself used bombs.

Our metaphor for masks is more of a domino, which allows expression to be seen and is designed to blur identification without masking humanity.
I don't know how many participants there'll be, do you think it'll be noticeable if we all not log into G+ for a day?
No, seriously. What would happen if we all changed our names to "Spartacus ."?
You mean, Sparta Cus. ;)
I don't understand why we would separate the issues - my understanding is that we are talking about them in the same ways.
+Gretchen S. +Jon Pincus Oh, yeah. My question was more rhetorical (I wonder what would happen if...) than an actual suggestion. But I think it might be a good idea. Agree with Gretchen: I don't think we'd want to appropriate a symbol that is loaded in quite such a way. But it couldn't be that hard to come up with something else. There's tons of talent on the team.
Another suspended profile: +Robert Le Blah
There was a great discussion of the Joseph Smarr interview via +Jillian C. York at

Sorry I haven't had a chance yet to do an update on the #privchat discussion. One thing that Kaliya clarified was she's thinking of in-person for the million persona march. I love the idea of doing something in-person, and think we should also be thinking about doing things online. It was a good discussion in general, I'll try to summarize in Storyist over the next day or two.
+Karsten Self good! The use case of an activist in Egypt whose life is threatened by tech-savvy security forces is important for the world, but not the only important use case. There are people with handles (skud), unusual names (Ping), and people whose stalkers are persistent but not tech-savvy (not going to hail advocates who self-describe in this category). There are different benefits and different threat models.
Yes, indeed, +Adina Levin. Just because we cannot ensure the safety of an activist who is working with thousands of others to overthrow a modern and technologically aware government, does not mean that we must force every domestic abuse victim/law enforcement agent/judge to expose their identities to Joe Doe grudge-holder with dialup, an account at Intellius, and a handgun.
Well said +Ianna Singer. Coincidentally enough, Intellius' Chief Privacy Officer Jim Adler was on the privacy chat today (as he often is). He and I saw the nym situation differently.

Jim's a good guy, by the way, and we've had some excellent discussions about pseudonymity over the years ... but we just come from very different places.

Here's a partial transcript from the privacy chat -- you'll need to hit "more" to get to Q2 where we discussed nyms.
Interesting reading, +Jon Pincus Thanks.
FWIW, I won't deny the usefulness of services like Intellius. After my father's death, I used them to find several members of my father's family with whom he had lost contact. The alarmist notification of a $35M lien on his property was completely inaccurate, though. That I was asked to pay extra for additional information felt a little bit shady to me. I let my attorney investigate that claim instead.
I just got word that the G+ Spartacus showing starts at 2pm.
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