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Why I'm not on Google Plus

(Actually, there are several reasons I'm not on Google Plus, nor on LinkedIn or Twitter or a bunch of other social networks, starting with "attractive nuisance" and moving on through "waste of time" and "I dislike the amount of spam you're sending me" and ending in "thank you but I don't want you to monetize my personal information": but this is the stuff specific to Google Plus ...)

The designers of Google Plus seem to get that we have multiple overlapping circles of acquaintances — family, friends, schoolmates, drinking buddies, chess club members whatever — and that we want to keep them distinct. This is good, and a big plus relative to Facebook. They also have a hair in their ass about trolling and sociopathic online behaviour, and want to stamp on it before it gets started. This is also good.

But unfortunately they have misapprehended the cause of bad online behaviour. They think that pseudonymity is an enabler and that by banishing pseudonyms they can make people behave themselves.

So Google Plus has a "true names" policy. This is broken by design.

Let me explain the many reasons why Google Plus's names policy doesn't work.

To start with, as Patrick McKenzie pointed out in his blog last year (before all this blew up), programmers almost always get name handling wrong because there is no universal format for a human name. He goes on to list a bunch of things that western programmers [wrongly] believe about names, and I'm going to reprint the whole laundry list here because I think it's important:

  1. People have exactly one canonical full name.

  2. People have exactly one full name which they go by.

  3. People have, at this point in time, exactly one canonical full name.

  4. People have, at this point in time, one full name which they go by.

  5. People have exactly N names, for any value of N.

  6. People's names fit within a certain defined amount of space.

  7. People's names do not change.

  8. People's names change, but only at a certain enumerated set of events.

  9. People's names are written in ASCII.

  10. People's names are written in any single character set.

  11. People's names are all mapped in Unicode code points.

  12. People's names are case sensitive.

  13. People's names are case insensitive.

  14. People's names sometimes have prefixes or suffixes, but you can safely ignore those.

  15. People's names do not contain numbers.

  16. People's names are not written in ALL CAPS.

  17. People's names are not written in all lower case letters.

  18. People's names have an order to them. Picking any ordering scheme will automatically result in consistent ordering among all systems, as long as both use the same ordering scheme for the same name.

  19. People's first names and last names are, by necessity, different.

  20. People have last names, family names, or anything else which is shared by folks recognized as their relatives.

  21. People's names are globally unique.

  22. People's names are almost globally unique.

  23. Alright alright but surely people's names are diverse enough such that no million people share the same name.

  24. My system will never have to deal with names from China.

  25. Or Japan.

  26. Or Korea.

  27. Or Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, France, or the Klingon Empire, all of which have "weird" naming schemes in common use.

  28. That Klingon Empire thing was a joke, right?

  29. Confound your cultural relativism! People in my society, at least, agree on one commonly accepted standard for names.

  30. There exists an algorithm which transforms names and can be reversed losslessly. (Yes, yes, you can do it if your algorithm returns the input. You get a gold star.)

  31. I can safely assume that this dictionary of bad words contains no people's names in it.

  32. People's names are assigned at birth.

  33. OK, maybe not at birth, but at least pretty close to birth.

  34. Alright, alright, within a year or so of birth.

  35. Five years?

  36. You're kidding me, right?

  37. Two different systems containing data about the same person will use the same name for that person.

  38. Two different data entry operators, given a person's name, will by necessity enter bitwise equivalent strings on any single system, if the system is well-designed.

  39. People whose names break my system are weird outliers. They should have had solid, acceptable names, like 田中太郎.

  40. People have names.

Meditate upon that laundry list: it's a thing of beauty, isn't it? We'll revisit some of the points on it presently, once I've kicked the sacred cow's other kneecaps.

Next, there is the assumption that people want to trust Google with their true name. "Why ever not?" Ask Google's senior systems architects. Well, I can only assume that none of them are planning on a second career as a corporate whistleblower. Or have abusive partners who aren't paying attention to the restraining orders. Or other species of stalkers and vermin. Or are political activists or dissidents in authoritarian countries. Or have a nickname by which they are exclusively known because they hate the name they were born with, to such an extent that even their own family have to think twice to recall their birth name. Or got married but did/didn't change their family name, or told this financial institution that they'd changed it, but changed their mind afterwards and didn't tell that one. Or have been members of some other social network, which encouraged pseudonymity, for so long that a lot of their friends know them by the pseudonym, not the real name.

There are any number of valid, reasonable, and in most cases legal reasons for not wanting to use your real name on Google Plus, or for wanting to use a number of different names simultaneously for overlapping circles of contacts. And there are many reasons why these names may not be known to any official ID-document issuing organizations.

Indeed, having a name that you're willing to be known by to authority and to Google Plus users smacks of unexamined social privilege: you have two names, a personal name and a family name. No accented characters, no hyphens, no intercapping. Nobody is after you with malice in mind, and indeed, you fear nothing because you have nothing to fear. This is probably a reasonable picture of your average nerdish Google senior architect: privileged, naive, boringly conventionally whitebread, and unafraid.

Ken MacLeod is out of luck.

So is Tim Berners-Lee.

So is Conan O'Brian.

Because they're worried about trolls faking up Google Plus identities, the folks behind Google Plus have set up a mechanism to report suspect accounts, have them frozen, and demand verification of identity in order to unlock them. Gary Walker went to work and tested this, with predictably hilarious results (well, hilarious if you haven't just had your GMail account deleted for the temerity of having a name beginning with Mac- or O'-):

Late last week, everyone was surprised to learn that Blake Ross, co-founder of Firefox and a product director at Facebook had his Google+ account suspended. Now Blake Ross' name is obviously not in violation of any of the Google+ name standards, but the general assumption appeared to be that his account had been suspended by an automated process (despite the fact that there are quite a few other users with the same name who haven't been). I am, by nature a suspicious sort, so I decided to find out how hard it is to get an account with a legitimate name suspended.
I'm not going to give you a TL;DR summary of Gary's findings; let's just say they're extremely alarming. Send a poison pen email and you can get an account suspended until the owner verifies their identity by sending a scan of some ID. Use Photoshop to bolt together a fake driving license with a fucking spree killer's face on it and you can get an account re-enabled. I'm willing to bet that the process for hijacking someone else's account is not much more complicated.

Seriously, if you have a Google Plus account, Read This Now. Then start working out what you'll do when — not if — some bot farmer decides to harvest your account and use it to slurp out your contacts and GMail.

Finally, after saying all that ... Google are wrong about the root cause of online trolling and other forms of sociopathic behaviour. It's nothing to do with anonymity. Rather, it's to do with the evanescence of online identity. People who have long term online identities (regardless of whether they're pseudonymous or not) tend to protect their reputations. Trolls, in contrast, use throw-away identities because it's not a real identity to them: it's a sock puppet they wave in the face of their victim to torment them. Forcing people to use their real name online won't magically induce civility: the trolls don't care. Identity, to them, is something that exists in the room with the big blue ceiling, away from the keyboard. Stuff in the glowing screen is imaginary and of no consequence.

If Google want to do it right, they're going to have to ditch their naming policy completely and redo from scratch.

To get it right, they need to acknowledge that not everyone has a name of the form John Smith or Jane Doe; that not everyone uses the same character set or same number of names. They might be able to get away with insisting on a name that appears on a piece of government-issued ID; but then they need to acknowledge that people have legitimate reasons for using one or more pseudonyms, allow users to register pseudonyms associated with that name, attach pseudonyms to different (or even overlapping) circles of friends, and give the user a "keep my real name secret" check-button. Then and only then they'll begin to develop a system that has some hope of working.

As for me?

I'm not using Google Plus because (a) my wife violates their name policy, and (b) I violate it too. Because (hint) neither my driving license nor my passport features the name "Charlie" ...



I wrote about this over the weekend - it's Identity Theatre. All it guarantees is that the trolls and griefers will be using plausibly American-looking names.


Yeah, I remember that HNN thread (threadfest, actually - there was a similar one pertaining to addresses, at least as peril-fraught a domain) and loved Patrick's list then, too.

As a middle-namer myself (my father's name is my first name, and even his middle initial, which confuses credit bureaus and everybody else, too) I hate the thoughtless policy of G+ - and of the Indiana birth certificate authority. Neither of my children has my actual name on their birth certificates - but rather, my father's - because some moron of a mainframe programmer decided you can't have a first-initial-middle-name *or* a space in your "first name" (which some of my banks can handle, some can't.)


Thank you for taking this position. I've been avoiding Google + (which probably wouldn't pass it's own name validation) for the same reasons, but you have a much bigger stick.


Personally, I'm a little surprised that all the John Smiths haven't joined a class action lawsuit against Google to force them to drop this policy.

Personally, I figure that if Mark Twain couldn't get an account, I don't want one.


Ok, I have to ask: #40?

Why should "people without names" be an issue? How many "people without names" are in the Google+ market?


I forgot to add that, as usual, XKCD has a solution.


I somewhat carelessly jumped into the g+ thing with my main, real name google account. My real name happens to sound kind of fake, so I would not be amused if this social network nonsense inconvenienced me. I have lots of emails and ended up using my gmail main as a clearing house/storage for them all due to it's spam filtering.

For the last 15 years or so I've kept to a pseudonym mostly presence on the net, I let facebook drag me unwillingly to the light because I mostly use it to interact with family members, but it's becoming plain to see it was a good policy to begin with.


Senor Stross, your work entertains and thrills me. Now to the subject at hand...

"They might be able to get away with insisting on a name that appears on a piece of government-issued ID"
"and give the user a "keep my real name secret" check-button."

I feel this is wholly unrealistic. I firmly believe any business entity today is incapable of securing personal data. Google has experienced two types of exploitation of their data..
A) It has been well documented that hackers have repeatedly exploited holes in Googles security and accessed their databases. There has been so much media on this subject I do not feel the need to present an example, they're disturbingly easy to find. And new exploits are regularly discovered.

B) Abuse of authority and access within Google itself. I have a go-to example of this that should be frightening enough. A Google employee used his privileged access to spy on and taunt children. Yes, really. I have no doubts there have been improprieties the public has not been made aware of. Speculation? Yes. Common sense? Yes.

So, though I enjoy using Google's services, I do not trust them to connect my pseudonymous self with my legal name and then store it in a database they have proven incapable of keeping secure due to technological exploits, or human foibles.


Well said. Of course, they don't have a Real Names policy. They have a "real sounding (according to our definition) names" policy. There's absolutely nothing stopping me from registering as, say, Robert Stross. Never mind that I simply made that up. It SOUNDS real, so it's fine.

I had some hopes that they'd learned from the Buzz fiasco that identity was complex and varied. Apparently not. I'm considering deactivating + since I don't use it that much and since I DO use Gmail quite a bit and cannot afford to lose that in the unlikely event that someone maliciously reports me. Sigh...


Ooooh! Names.........

DB programmer here who's worked for the NHS on applications where it's really, really important to get the right patient.

On systems where people put in names phonetically.

Where the arse progammer that came before me forgot that O'Reilly is a real name and could cause hives in embedded strings.

Where a significant proporation of the population, it turns out, are named after their home village, or animals, or whatever they felt like when they filled in the form. (So there are a LOT of people with the same name - including me, which did mean I once attended someone else's dental appointment)

So you decide to match on date of birth.

And find that some countries don't record dates of birth, so people put down the 1st January of the approximate year they were born - and by a happy co-incidence that's the same group of people who have the same names due to being from the same village, etc etc, etc. (and they all are the same sort of age so are hitting the hospitals with age-related conditions at the same time).

(And yes, that person who's dental appointment I attended does share my birthday and lives within 3 miles of me.)

Eventually you end up trying to match on illnesses.

The lady who held the final record had 20 different medical records.......

Guy I know changed his name to a single word. How we laughed at his attempts to open a bank account. (Actually I think that was partly why he did it).

And you know employers these days do name searches (through google no less) to check out prospective employees? That turns up a fair few ex-cons with embezzlement convictions, and any number of "private" conversations about medical conditions, ex-partners, private thoughts, political convictions, etc, etc - All of which will go towards the decision on whether to employ you or not.

So in a very real sense any thoughts on the state of the nation, what you think of Fulham's chances, and what you think of Beyonce's bum that you commit to the interwebs anywhere under your own name will form part of your CV.

Good call Google.


If I say something I say who I am. But I am not on any kind of book.


I went through this fake name nonsense when I joined Facebook. It brought up all manner of uncomfortable childhood taunting memories. Which was a blast. My wife has similar issues because no one in the US, at the state or federal level, knows what to do with non-hyphenated double last names. After we got married and she added my last name to hers sans hyphen, the state of Georgia refused to accommodate this decision on her driver's license. Flat out refused. The bureaucrat was so befuddled she could not comprehend what my wife's last name was. Meanwhile the person at the Social Security office was completely blase about the whole process and would have let my wife change her name to Donald Duck if she wanted.


No-one in the US except for Puerto Rico, you mean.

Where, by the way, you will have a tendency to break systems if you don't have two non-hyphenated last names.


Technically I'm in violation of the name policy, which requires a first and last name in the same language. "Avram" is Hebrew; "Grumer" is, well, we're not certain, but probably Germanic in origin. Not exactly a rare combination.

I don't expect trouble over it, but it demonstrates how little thought went into the name policy.


This is all very well, and I agree with the general thrust of the point you are making.


For some reason, I feel the need to point out that my last name begins with O' and Google Plus doesn't seem to have any problem with it.

Which is actually much more than I can say about a great many other sites. Not enough programmers anticipate single quote characters in names I guess :)


If one goes by the comments of Google officers such as Vic Gundotra (who is, by the way, using a pseudonym for his first name!), their policy is blatantly based on cultural privilege. They use the analogy of a "fine restaurant" where people are expected to "dress up". And using what are considered North American White Guy Common Names (TM) is considered "dressing up".

(That's why Vic himself uses "Vic" - his "real name" isn't American enough to suit the cause.)

A number of Google employees have allegedly been leaking accounts of internal strife over these issues. The general gist is that Gundotra and the top brass were perfectly aware of these looming concerns and simply don't care. Their goal is to make Plus attractive to other stuffed shirt Enterprise guys from the privileged sect of North American society, and they assume from there the rest will fall into place.

What that place is, or why anyone else would want to go there, is a more... murky, subject to consider.


Firstly, I'm with you. Google+ identity policy is horribly thought-out and carries with it the stench of Suits. Never thought I'd see that come out of the Googleplex.

Secondly, I wonder if my 'nym would pass muster... believe it or not, it has fooled folks before.

Thirdly, I use this 'nym mainly because it's far more distinct than my "real" name... which I could use to impersonate, for example, the son of a best-selling authour or an officer of a major world bank. A side benefit is that I can talk about work without invoking work or ever being mistaken to be representing the company that employs me when making online statements.

Finally, I agree that it's *persistant* identity, not True Name, that deters trolling and sockpuppetry. Heck, I've used this 'nym for seven and a half years now and I'm damned hesitant to do anything that would jeopardise it or its good name now.

-- Steve


Among the ways Google is making themselves look stupid here: They suspended Ping Yee, one of their own employees, from Google+ because some drone in their Identity Enforcement division insists that he use his Government ID name, "Ka-Ping". In an attempt to get reinstated, he's been reduced to fishing for testimonials on LJ that he is, in fact, "Ping" to friends and family. (He got one from his dad.)

Another whole class of people who is getting in trouble are ethnic Chinese Hong Kong residents who can't get Google to understand that they realio truelio do go by English nicknames.

They're not covering themselves in glory here.


I would prefer to always use my middle initial, but many places online don't have a field for it. When someplace wants an ID, I use my first and middle initials and then my last name (which is also my domain).

I only use Google for searching because I don't trust them.

The most difficult part is that there's someone with the same first and last name that lives close to me and I keep having to get her delinquent bank accounts off my credit records. She has a separate middle initial and is associated with her husband, but apparently the credit records can't figure that out.


Or Hawaiian.
Or first nations.
Or born in the American southwest.
Or got into the fad for Swahili names.
I don't think I even need to go on with this do I?


The real name policy is poorly thought out, in my opinion, but you are wrong on one minor point. They use the term "real name" or "common name", not "legal name".

If we assume the policy is implemented without error, (I know, but work with me here) "Charlie Stross" would be acceptable. You are, after all, known by that name, and this fact is not difficult to establish. ("C. Stross" or "Charlie S." would also be acceptable, I understand, but "Charlie Singularitarian" or "Code Monkey" would not.)

Disclosure: I work for Google, but not in Google Plus.


A few things that break this article:

1) Google doesn't want your "true name". What they've said, and what they seem to enforce (though there's scattered rumors to the contrary) is that you should use a "first name" and a "last name" that would be familiar to those who interact with you on a regular basis. Extras, funky one-word appellations or other such can go in the "nickname" section.

((this gets into the "what if you don't have a last name" problem, but unless you're being pedantic to make a point, every culture that lacks a last name has established a convention for dealing with cultures that do... usually just writing down a parent's name and celebrities who lack a last name often list NLN for No Last Name or the like; keep in mind this problem pre-dates computers by a few centuries, so as a culture we have solutions for it))

2) There's a nickname section.

3) "you can get an account suspended until the owner verifies their identity by sending a scan of some ID" -- nope, you just need some indication that you go by that name. A link to other online services counts. Google isn't trying to verify your name, just that the identity you've given them pre-exists.

4) Google's made it pretty clear that they want pseudonym support in Google+, but they have also said they're not going to rush it out half-baked because of the controversy.

5) "Google are wrong about the root cause of online trolling and other forms of sociopathic behaviour. It's nothing to do with anonymity." -- yes and no. I agree with you that it will still occur, but remember that this is a social service. The goal isn't to shame people into being nice by exposing who they really are. The goal is to create a stable identity which becomes associated with your online actions and then to allow others to decide how to interact with that identity, just as they do in the real world.

Overall I do agree with most of your points. There are a lot of things about identity and naming that we as a global culture, are still coming to grips with. I don't think Google got it as wrong as you seem to think they have, but that doesn't make these unreasonable concerns in the general case.


As a gmail user, I was interested to see that Google were getting into the "Facebook" style of social networking, after Buzz didn't get off the ground. One of the offspring (who are far more literate in this sort thing than I am) sent me a Google+ invite, and am currently trying to make it work for me. The signup was interesting - it objected strenuously to 'davidateeyore' without any much explanation why.

I have not seen many friends or relations on Google+ as yet, I gather they are still fairly committed to Facebook (a disclaimer; I have no other social networking setup other than this trial of Google+) and in one case are waiting on a method of bulk importing their existing Facebook data & friends. This would be a valuable selling proposition for Google to gain a lot of new users with social network experience to help them (Google+) tune the new system.

For a company that employs so many smart people, Google seems to have tripped up badly's the sort of thing that Microsoft would have been excoriated for in the past.


Oh, I should probably also say that this article conflates "account" and "profile" quite a lot. Account suspensions have been a part of Google for years now. They have some pretty well defined policies that surround what constitutes an account suspension which can include signs that the account has been compromised; violation of law; spamming; harassment, etc.

Profile suspension, on the other hand, is something that's not quite new with Goolge+, but that's when the public became aware of it, and this is what they do if your profile data does not meet the terms of use (this may not just include the name, but the name is a common reason for suspension).

I've seen a LOT of reporting mix these two up. One article, I think it was on ZDnet, lead with shocking paragraphs about how someone's account was deleted because of Google+ profile naming. Then they got around to admitting that it was actually because Google identified some of his photos on Picasa as child pornography.

The user, of course, claims that it was art of a historical nature and that he was using it in such a context. I think that's a fair conversation for Google and that guy to have, and it's certainly not something that has any bearing on Google+ (other than this: think carefully about the laws all of your social media providers have to work with... you might be surprised by what they're going to HAVE to shut you off for).


Still, Jon, that's just lucky him, to have chosen a name that happens to conform to Google's policy of "real (looking) names" just enough to pass.

Me, I'm known (in certain Internet backwaters) as Conan776, have been for over a decade. So I'm pretty SOL -- numbers aren't even allowed. But I tried to compromise and I was banned as Conan Seven-Seven-Six was deemed unacceptable first by the bots and then as judged by a Google+ employee (who, like Vic, doesn't use her real first name either).

Charlie has the right idea. It's a wrong headed approach that hurts a lot of professions. Good on him for standing with us.


Bill Kent wrote about this problem many years ago: Data and Reality. (Amazon says published in 2000, but I'm sure I read it in the early 1980s.) And he wasn't the first...

We* used to have a saying, spoofing the old TV transmitter notices: "there is a fault in reality. Do not adjust your data model." It sounds like the authors of Google Plus interpreted this advice, and the world, far too narrowly.

* Programmers, although we'd probably be called "Chief Data Architects" or some such these days.


typo: early 1990s.


Keep in mind that we're not Google's (or Facebook's, or whoever's) *customers*. We're their *product*. They make their money by renting our eyeballs to their real customers -- advertisers.

We peasants who just use their stuff are not their first priority -- but they do have to worry about keeping us happy enough not to leave. A friend of mine is currently moving all of her rather extensive online presence off of Google -- she doesn't want even the threat of being "disappeared". And no, her "real" name doesn't meet Google's standards of "real".


Thank you, Charlie. This posting has done more to convince me that the weeks of postings I've previously read about the subject (most of them, ironically, on Google+).
I hope they replace their current policy with a reputation/whuffie system that rewards helpful pseudonymous posters and restricts spammy or flamy True-Name-(ah, but how could we really tell?)-users.


One consistent explanation for the "real names" policy isthat Google is trying to create a social network to capture a desireable demographic. Let's call them "literalists" - people who see "real names" by Google's rather warped definitions as safe and trustworthy people, and "nyms" as the online equivalent of "driving while black" in their gated community.

Why is this demographic at all desireable? You may not know it, but Zynga made more off Facebook last year than Facebook did. And Zynga's most profitable games make the most dollars per account from these "literalist" types, linguistic fundies. Neuromarketing is possibly within the bounds of "don't be evil" I suppose... If one of these literalist types gets a notice that says, "Oh, no! Cousin Anne's strawberries have withered! won't you buy some crop restorer and save her farm?" the wallet comes out, game currency is bought, and this person feels a neurochemical reward as though a real world huge favor had been done for Cousin Anne.

Stupid thing is, Facebook has those tribes, and I can't see them moving. The folks who want to move off FB are living a lot higher up on Maslow's pyramid, and are nyms or have a lot - 10-40% - of nyms in their social graph.


Basically, Google's position on the whole "real name" thing is daft. As part of a comment thread on Hoyden About Town the other day I pointed out that we'd have a lot of trouble spotting any number of popular music personalities under their "real names" - starting with the eternal question of which of the hundreds of David Joneses out there is the one who wrote "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars", and moving on from there. Most of the music industry's biggest names would be SOL if they were getting Google+ accounts for recognition, because most of them don't use their "real names" as their stage names. Not even folks like Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger (actually, you'd be having trouble finding most of the Stones, because they pretty much all use stage names which are abbreviations of their "real" names).

I've taken to using my 'nym a little more often lately. It's much more identifiably "me" online than even the more common "use-name" version of my "real name" I've been using previously. I figure I may as well stick with something I'm known by.

But really, I don't have much of a dog in this fight, mainly because I'm not interested in most of these social networking sites in the first place. I used to have a facebook page, and the only people it reliably put me in touch with were the people I was least interested in hearing about from approximately four workplaces ago.


I'd've figured Google, of all online organizations, might've come up with solution involving searching for name/nickname's online legacy eg duration and validity of use. Hmmph.


(You're not "Charlie"?! Have to consider this ..)


I don't use my legal name on google+ and I haven't had any problems with my account. I do use my "real" name though, the name that my friends and family know me by.

I use google+ to connect with my real friends and family, people who know me in person, people who I care about in real life, and I'm glad that everyone's using their common names. I'm glad that my grandmother doesn't have to spend time figuring out who "fuzzybunny11" is, or why it says "archon" next to her son's picture. I like the real name policy, and everyone I've spoken to about this matter like it. There are plenty of online forums and communities where pseudonymity is the norm, and I'm glad that google+ is not one of them, and I sure hope that they keep it this way.


Fishing for highly salable pageviews is one explanation for Google's behavior, but I don't buy it. If you think this problem needs a technical solution at all, the easiest by far is to let people opt into the policy with a "this is my real name" bit (perhaps using that as the admission ticket to Farmville, as an inducement), and then provide a "no personas" flag for people who want to interact with other "real named" people only. (Bonus: it would set them up to provide a feature I'd like to have: a "no prigs" bit which takes the people that set "no personas", and hides them from me.)

This would let them sell "real person" pageviews at the premium, with better assurance that they are "real person" pageviews, and lets them still capture revenue from the personas at lower rates (most likely still quite profitable). And it's obvious enough that it must have occurred to them.

Which brings us back to Vic Gundotra's "high-toned restaurant" remarks. (Do a web search for "Scoble Gundotra real names restaurant", without the quotes, if you'd like to see him on the record about this.)

Now, for Vic to assume the rest of the world shares his taste, after all the furor, is kinda dumb --- and when people see someone in a position of power acting dumb, there seems to be some kind of deep-seated human instinct to try to find a brilliant, devious plan behind it all. If the G.W. Bush administration did anything at all for humanity, it was working to cure us of that.


Kinda ditto. My surname has been in England since at least 1598, but no-one would call it 'English'. It is, however, a common Turkish forename (as well as an Italian wine co-op). This caused me hassle at the Turkish-Cypriot border.


I'm not sure I could be on G+ nor any of their services. I've got a university email of the formula: and google has managed to lock that account. Some online courses require using google documents and nothing I've been able to do (including the "we'll call you by telephone") has been able to undisable that account. Consequently, some professors permit alternative accounts while others score me at a big fat zero.

Google has the worst customer service of any company I've encountered (and I've worked for some of the worst).


It bears repeating that the biggest group of pseudonymous internet users is probably women, and they are using pseudonyms to avoid real life harassment.

Google's profile naming policy is sexist.

Aaron, you ass, or perhaps you troll, you are repeating Google's claims, some of which are already known to be false.

Google is alienating a very important group of people here: a major faction of their employees, and their prospective employees.

US spooks most likely have substantial input to this policy either directly or through the data mining firms, with whom they are known to do business. The whole policy has a La Migra/Homeland Security/TSA feeling to it.

I am dubious that this is the work of Gundotra alone: the boss always gets the blame for the unpopular policy. At the same time, I am reminded of the behaviors of some of Salman Rushdie's characters: an identification with the conqueror.



Sorry, but I fear you've got the problem backwards. IMO there is exactly one reason why Google wants a real name - to optimize the value of the personal data everyone seems to be so keen to throw on them. All that babble 'bout trolling and stuff is complete rubbish.

Or do you really think that a company of Google's size would completely screw up the difference betwenn anonymity (which is inerently problematic) and pseudonymity (which works perfectly angainst trolls and stuff)? If anyone of the readers does, please check out my offers regarding real estate at the North Sea border, inspectable during low tide only ;-).

Guys, Google (and FB etc.) is an advertisement company! Nothing more, nothing less. It's really astonishing, how easily everything fits into the picture as soon as one looks at the whole problem in that way.



In the US at least, you don't even have to have a legal document for your name to be legal.

You can change your name through common-law means, no court, no judge.

You just start using your new chosen name consistently. Period. As long as you aren't doing this with intent to mislead or defraud in some way, you are now legally entitled to use that name. Period.

Google might get their butts sued over this. I dunno if the corporatese "we have the right to establish our own standards" BS would protect them. It shouldn't, but courts are so pro-corporate and anti-people these days who knows.

I am on G+ under a name I have chosen and used for over a decade. I am simply waiting for the hammer to fall. I was kicked off of Facebook for the same reason.

I was upset for a moment until I realized they'd done me a favor.


IMO there is exactly one reason why Google wants a real name - to optimize the value of the personal data everyone seems to be so keen to throw on them.

This. No other explanation needed.
They want to sell you. You're not worth $$$ if they can't combine your surfing habits with your credit rating, mortgage info, etc.


I was tempted to join G+ when friends started posting notices of available invites, but decided against it. Turns out I probably would've been unable to get a functioning account, because I'm damned well not going to scan my passport or driver's license and send it to a corporate archive. Two middle names and Scandinavian vowels FTW. ;) Also, my brother and cousin share the first middle name with me.

But at least I actually use my first name, unlike my mom who goes by her first middle name because she and her two sisters all have the same first name.


"I had some hopes that they'd learned from the Buzz fiasco ..."

What, are they forcing him to go by "Edwin"? :)


Hi Charlie, Thanks for the post. I started on G+ under this 'nym, as this is the name the internet knows me by. I was golden for the first week, then the banhammer came down on me.
I went through 3 rounds of review, before I got a very nice form letter from "Ricky" at google, telling me that I should conform to their naming policy or else. I refused. At the same time my account was unsuspended and haven't heard a thing back from them.
Silly policy is silly.


I met someone who was blissfully unaware that the name he had used all his life was not the name on his birth certificate.


I'm not sure why you're campaigning so avidly on behalf of Google, but a lot of your claims come down to just repeating Google's claims, even where they demonstrably conflict with the policy that's actually being implemented.

To start with, your very first claim 1) is wrong even when it comes to ex-Google employees (Skud) and current Google employees (Ping Yee). See upthread and read some of those links you skipped.


forcing ppl using real names will maybe make the trolls very happy. for any kind of nasty stalking and trolling having the real identity of your victim is perfect. isn't it? only thinking -stop


"I ... my ... I ... my ... I ... my ... my ... me.

I ... my ... me ... I ... I'm ... I'm ... my ... I ... I've ... I'm ... I ..."

Don't know if it has occurred to you, but things may well be different for other folk.


Google employees here need to not just repeat Google's claims, but - if they're going to try to excuse G+ - account for Google's behaviour. The claims and behaviour are wildly divergent.


Large parts of the Interweb (not just you guys) know me primarily by this pseudoneum, and aside from one case where Charlie reacted badly to a somewhat mis-firing metajoke based on a Monty Python sketch, the only times I've ever been accused of trolling or offensive behaviours (rather than trolling by obscure technical jokes like covering cars in golf-ball covers to make them go faster), the accuser was a known troll on the site in question.

Accordingly, I'm going to call bull$h!t on Google's argument; people who consistently use a specific pseudoneum care about the rep that name has every bit as much as they do about the rep of their "real name".

And speaking of "real names", which is my real name anyway?
1) The full $first_name $mid_name $surname set on my birth certificate, passport and driver's licence?
2) The $first_name $mid_initial $surname set on my bank accounts, and which I use as a full surname?
3) The $first_initial $mid_initial $surname set on my credit accounts that don't use (2)?
4) The $preferred_contaction $surname that my "real physical world" friends and business contacts mostly know me by?
5) Paws4thot, which would be used about as many people as (4)?
6) Something else?


Oh, and this is important: DO NOT sign up for G+ with your Gmail account, or with anything hooked to your Android phone. Doing so will put your services at risk.

(Yeah, fear is a great way to make your social network attractive.)

As Violet Blue has noted - they have the teething problems of a startup, but with the consequences of a public utility failure. And tech journalists are already feeling chilled at the risk of losing Google services if they criticise G+, as Blue did.


My extended family is foster to adopt. I'm also a volunteer guardian ad litem ( with family court.

Both activates that tend to involve people that can be/are a bit over the edge. (We've had times when there has been police security 24/7 based on credible treats to both my family and our foster kids)

For this and other reasons we keep our on line IDs close. Fortunately, up to now, those who would do harm are not that technically astute.

With this new protocol by Google and the other open IDs advocated by others that will no longer present much of problem to find me and mine.

Clearly we are not up to no good and we are legitimately concerned that others would visit harm on us.


Anton P Nym @ 17
Firstly, I'm with you. Google+ identity policy is horribly thought-out and carries with it the stench of Suits. Never thought I'd see that come out of the Googleplex.
"Thought"? What is this "thought" of which you speak?
It would appear that no brains were used or harmed in the construction of this policy.

Aaron @ 22 (AND 24) - you work for G+ ??
They're paying you ??

tangurena @ 36
But BigG seem VERY BAD at accepting true information(TM?) from the outside/real world.
Google Maps, especially in London, is a classic case-in-point.
Like the struggle to get them to realise that OUTSIDE THE USA, there are erm, PASSENGER RAILWAYS that are NOT Metro-Systems. They've finally got that one, now, but still get it worng.
(As in nuffin can porsibly goe worng ... go worng ... )

Finally, going to a well-known fictional (unfortunately) character in detective writing:
Peter Death Bredon Wimsey ....
Or my own four names, the last two of which might, or might not be hyphenated, or use of the middle pair, as I do when being a flim "extra".

Yes, it's an attempt to maximise income on BigG's part, but they seem to have screwed themselves royally, since pissing people off will only be counterproductive.
Any bets on how long it will take them to realise this?
Going by the GoogleMaps data-title screw-ups referred to above, quite a long time.


Oh dear, someone mentioned XKCD ...
There's also, since we are talking about computer-system security:
This one .... ARRRGGGH!


"Alright alright but surely people's names are diverse enough such that no million people share the same name."

I work for a company with around 4000 employees.

ID naming policy is that you get your first name. Then letters of your last name are added until it's unique. Then you get a sequence number.

I do quite well out of this. There are a few Katies in the corp directory, but we all have unique surname first letters.

Guy who sits opposite me is "FirstnameLastname03".

So that's the network logins, email addresses and so on sorted.

Kind of fair enough, except (and this is the WTF), the HR systems can't cope with more than one person with the name FirstnameLastname pairing -- it doesn't do the numbers part.

FirstnameLastname03 got letters about his departure when Mr 02 left and is constantly getting pension paperwork for the wrong people.

Ms FirstnameLastname down the other end of the office turns out to have been accidentally fired once as well when her name twin in California left the company.

One of the guys in QA has now been P45'd twice in the last year and he doesn't have a particularly common name.


Firstly, that an expensive HR system can't cope with name collisions. Secondly, that after the first time they accidentally P45 someone, they didn't implement better procedures. Thirdly, the amount of HR time that must be taken up with repairing the damage when they get it wrong can't be cheap.

And fourthly, that when it happens, HR don't immediately run over, apologise, fix things -- knowing what things need to be fixed -- and make sure it doesn't happen to that person again. They shrug and say "Oh well. Call the guys in payroll and ask them to get you reinstated..."


Nestor, there are reports -- I'm not sure how much weight to attach to them -- of people who fail to validate their G+ name being locked out of their GMail and Google Calendar accounts. In effect, turning their Android phones into very expensive bricks.


A couple of interesting datapoints:

On the Charlie == Charles naming equivalence, I have relatives in Northern Ireland who have, within 3 generations of the same family, Bob, Bobby, Robert, Roberta, Rob, and Bobby sr. All distinct people.
Four of them live in the same household, two share the same birthday, so don't try loose matching names either.

I know families similiarly afflicted with "William / Billy" variants.

Personally I find the permitted variations of names in society a good indicator of its conservatism, comparing the Californian and N. Irish wings of the family for example.

Secondly, on googling for bad previous records: when I was in college during the last recession in Ireland, with few jobs to be found in Ireland (and the IRA active), there was the phenomenon of the "Milk round", where big accountancy firms, etc in London would do recruiting. You knew that you were competing with classmates, flying to London for interviews on a given date. People were known to "anonymously inform" British Special Branch that their classmate was secretly smuggling guns for the IRA ... and unsurprisingly didn't make the interview in time. Personally I find it no coincidence that my first 'real job' was one where the head of HR knew staff in the Irish colleges personally, and was able to phone up my college professor for a reference. Online histories get poisoned.


Here's a hint: ask yourself what name appears on the cover of my books? And what name do I answer to in a crowded bar?


Programmers have been making those assumptions since the birth of programming. Anyone remember trying to sign up for a site based in the US around 2000-2003 and not being able to because they didn't have a US postcode?

Though we in the UK aren't immune either - a few years ago I bought a new computer online. I hadn't bought from that company before, so they required the delivery address to be the same as my billing address. However, I apparently typed the same address in a slightly different format to the one the bank had in their records (the store can set different levels of pedanticness, according to the value goods they're shipping, and this store had it cranked up to the max).

The upshot of it was that something like not including the county or town when the address on file included it (or vice versa) was enough to cause it to be rejected even though it was actually the same address.


On the other hand, what name is your Wikipedia article under? Of course, that's got much more to do with Wikipedians than your name.


Any chance of the link here Frances? or shall we just assume the content with suitable eye rolling

(not real name, but appropriate social and cultural contraction of same)


"(2)...use as a full surname" should read "(2)...use as a full signature".


Interesting if true. Our Gracious Host's names are French, Hebrew, English and German. The name the government calls me by is Swedish, French and Old English. I suspect a lot of people in the UK have a similar diversity in their names.


Treat this as an observation - All I know about your full name (and not asking, no need to tell on the rest) is the one word that you are addressed by, use as a web posting and con badge name etc. I'd have guessed, possibly incorrectly, at an Irish or Scots Gaelic origin.


I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in Australia with my surname. I'm using my last initial as a surname on G+ now... so far so good. But if they kick me off for that? Sayonara...


Feorag @ 64
So mine are:
Russian, Greek, Gascon-Franch and Viking-Huguenot.
Hmmm ...


I hope Charlie won't mind me sticking this on here, but when I post on your blog it'll be as "kconeil", because that's what easiest for me with Disqus.


Why are they even bothering with all this? Google already know my real name, address, job, sexual preferences, inside leg measurement...



I'm guessing it's which, read correctly, is a wonderful introduction to databases. IANADBE so it's new stuff to me.

...and yes, the link with no target really *was* very very funny indeed.


As an added wrinkle, I just remembered that not only is my real name slightly pseudonymous sounding, but I also share it with someone who is a former executive in a security firm and currently in political office (Local, small town office, but still...)

I think my best bet is to pretend g+ doesn't exist and work to lessen my dependence on google products in general.


Looking through my circles, I see two people with full Irish fadas in their names (so two-word unhyphenated Ó Names), a handful of McNames, a couple of O'Names, a Name-OtherName and a da Name, all of which are supposedly invalid according to the reported rules.

(Oh, there is a Ken MacLeod on G+, it just isn't our Ken.)

'Use your full first and last name in a single language.' is stated as a guideline rather than as a rule, as is 'Avoid unusual characters in your name.'. I guess the latter is to avoid l33tspeak naming to avoid scaring off the older demographic, but I'm damned if I understand the first.


Good post Charlie. Gary Walker's test does seem to indicate that real trollers will have no problem getting in if they want. This makes the name requirement rational pretty unuseful.


The "in one language" was a retcon after they blocked a pile of Hong Kong users who have an English first name and a Pinyin surname. Several of whom still have their GMail locked.


Similarly, including one lady who's full name is firstname secondname maidensurname-husbandsurname, and (Katie will like this I hope) whom our corporate IT have managed to turn into firstname maidensurname maidensurname-husbandsurname.


Hi Charlie, thanks for this post. I am on Google Plus, a decision I'm somewhat regretting at this point. But anyway I'm currently using it to talk about Google's broken names policy, and several participants have linked to this post of yours. I'm confused about one thing, though: would you mind explaining what the connection is between Gary Walker's shockingly bad experience, and your warning about what you'll do when — not if — some bot farmer decides to harvest your account and use it to slurp out your contacts and GMail? I definitely agree it's really awful that any idiot can flag any profile for name violations, but I don't understand how that implies bot farmers may be able to get into my Gmail?

(I don't think my Gmail account is some magical secure fortress, obviously. I just don't see how the Google Plus fiasco makes it worse than it already was.)


I'm gonna go hide in a nuclear blast bunker before someone throws Gary Walker's article at /b/ as a test to see how ridiculous you could get with the photo ID - Ainsley Harriet could almost certainly work, but what if you had a picture of pedobear in the photo section of the superbad ID? or even a trollface?


Google+ seems to be quietly allowing people with Wikipediable pen names to have their accounts under that name. Or else nobody has reported me. I think the idea would be that folks who have a following under their pen names would bring in more of the real names and would also serve as advertising data points (fans of X are likely to be also interested in Y and Z products).



People who are using the names that are familiar to the people they interact with (like Skud... who I had trouble recognizing by her "real name") are getting kicked out. People who use fake "real looking" names like "Elizabeth Bimmler" aren't having a problem. If Google was really interested in "the name people know you by" this would be annoying... I could take my 20+ year old 'nym, link to a blog post or two, and be done with it.

Oh yes, about that persistent identity thing. My 'nym is older than the web. It's got more persistence than Google.


Well, damn, Google Plus keeps asking me to put you in my circles, too. :)


Oh yes, Aaron, people are getting a lot more than just their profiles suspended. They're losing access to Gmail, to Picasa, to services on their multi-hundred-dollar Android phones. If this was just a couple of people I could put that down to slip-ups. If they FIXED it, I could forgive it. But even after they claimed to fix Rainyday's accounts, they're still messed up. People are conflating them because GOOGLE is conflating them.


I've been waiting for this fight for 22 years, since I got a Compuserve forum admin to live with my chosen handle. I've had USPS mail delivered to this handle, cashed checks TO this handle ...

Anyway this Google+ thing would be moot, if more people used Diaspora*. ( ) It's in alpha, but its main problem is right now, most of the people there just post pics and talk about Ruby on Rails.

Not that I have anything against Ruby on Rails.

* no footnote. It's part of their name, like that plus sign.


I definitely agree it's really awful that any idiot can flag any profile for name violations, but I don't understand how that implies bot farmers may be able to get into my Gmail?

Google seem willing to accept false ID as proof of identity.

So. Bot farmer sets up a script that:

a) Identifies a target with a G+ account.

b) Creates a Google account with the same name.

c) Denounces the target as being a fake, presents a falsified scan of a driving license (generated via GIMP script or something), and demands the account be handed over.

Sooner or later it's going to happen.


I guess BILL GATES and STEVE JOBS would have trouble getting suitable accounts too as would MAGGIE THATCHER et al.

Google are idiots on so much to do with the world is not their patch of North Americana. Just a few cases: Google assumes that
(1) all users UI language MUST equal the language of the country where their IP address is hosted, rather than say the language of my browser UI, phone UI or language settings specified by my Google account settings
(2) when I want to try to rescue self from situation #1, that I will want to search through a list of language names localised into another language, rather than find the native name of my language. What does "English" look like in Cyrillic, Arabic or Japanese script?
(3) metric paper sizes like A4 are really best expressed in inches irrespective of computer regional settings (thank you Picasa).


Don't worry, Google+ explains it all (warning: may contain sarcasm).


OK, that makes more sense, thanks. I saw that obviously fake ID was good enough to get an "impersonating" account shut down, I didn't think that it might give the scammer access to the real account. I've also seen the lovely suggestion of a phishing scam where identity thieves get hold of your driving licence or passport by sending out spam saying "Your Google Plus account has been suspended for violation of our community standards. If you believe this suspension is in error, please click here to upload a copy of your ID so that we can verify that your name is genuine". Thanks for spelling out exactly what we should be afraid of here; your warning gives me even more impetus to move my email away from Gmail as soon as I can manage it.


It's some twenty years since I came across this in England, but the law was the same then. There's a certain amount of added hassle over things such as bank accounts now, but even then the bank wanted some sort of documentation. That's the point of a "Deed Poll": it's a general-purpose legal statement, something that might be akin to a notarised statement.


There are really two issues here. One is whether or not trying to enforce real names is a good idea (it isn't). The other is whether or not it's even possible to do effectively (it isn't).

It gives me hope that most googlers are against this. It's just really the Steve Jobs of G+ that's pushing the real name enforcement thing,m and some people are going along with it.

Now, there's one other thing. Your name is unlikely to set off any alarm bells, Charlie, precisely because the entire system is heuristic. Nicknames aren't factored out, so long as they look like the kind of nicknames that white upper-middle-class americans might have. It's been speculated that this is because of a misunderstanding -- the policy is not supposed to be a "real name policy" but a "common name policy", specifically so that names like "Charlie" and "Steve" are OK, but the people doing the heuristics appear to have interpreted 'common' in a more literal sense (rather than enforcing that the name you use is the name by which you are commonly referred, it enforces that the name you use is not considered uncommon by the standards of other users whose names have not been considered uncommon by the same algorithm, etc.) The result may be that 'Charlie' is fine and so is 'Chuck' but 'Chaz' is red-flagged for the meatsacks to look at. 'Blake Ross' may have gotten by the humans because for people who haven't heard of him, primed by a machine saying that he looks like a faker, the use of a surname that is more common as a given name seems suspicious.


My grandfather was baptised "Charlie", and that is the name on his Army medal card; the London Gazette entry for his Military Medal is just his initial, but has his regimental number

(Page 1218, Supplement to the London Gazette, 24th January 1919)

The record card for his Military Medal has "Chas" amended to "Charlie". The amendment is tagged as from "Records". The other card, for his campaign medals, only had "Charlie".


I have a common first name and an uncommon (though short) surname (practically everyone in the US with the same surname is a relative). I can almost always get a userid of the form "j oddname" (without the space) without either truncation or additional numbers.

On the other hand, I have a tenant whose legal first name is Lidia (but who calls herself "Basia") and whose Polish surname is (including hyphen) 19 characters long. Her name is truncated on her driver's licence.

Dunno how Google+ would treat her.


Wait a minute. Tim O'Reilly is doing a Google+ webcast today with a Googler. How can he be doing that if his name won't work on G+, Google must know he is using a false account name.

Tim must have real privileges... ;)

[I think Google may be a little desperate. O'Reilly loved Buzz, but it died almost immediately. Now he is talking up G+.]


On a tangential topic, there has been some effort to create name identity for scientists so that published papers and related work can be tie together with a name search. I don't know how far it got, but now I think that even if it is done, there will be the security issues to worry about too.


5 and a bit years ago, I needed a bank loan (for under 6 months average salary so not a huge amount; just not a sum I'd have in an instant access vehicle). I went to the bank I had held a savings account with for 38 years, and a chequeing account with for 30. They still requested photo id, under money laundering laws!


How is it working?

Yeah, maybe Google+ doesn't actually a problem with such names as Berners-Lee, MacLeod or O'Reilly.

(There is a heck of a lot of seemingly unfounded FUD going around which is distracting from the real problems.)


Whenever I see a person/group/business with a motto like "Don't be evil" I think there are some latent tendencies--like they need to remind themselves.
I understand the reasoning behind it, but still...

have a nickname by which they are exclusively known because they hate the name they were born with

My mother had her name legally changed for just that reason.


My first wife's first husband, J_ W_ G_, had the same first name, middle name and surname as the firstborn son in each of the previous three generations of his family. Thus his great-grandfather was called James, his grandfather was called Jim, his father was called Jimmy, and (for the first twenty or so years of his life) he himself was called Junior.

Things 21/22/23 in the original post apply.


A thought.

If I tried to sign up for G+ as "Wael Ghonem", would I get:

1) Hi Wael, here's your G+ account.
2) Wael the Googler and Egyptian revolutionary is already on G+ and you are not he. There can only be one.
3) Some other Wael Ghonem is already on G+, and you are not he. The Wael you're thinking of is out of luck, too.
4) Hi, I'm an Egyptian secret policeman looking for that Wael Ghonem.


The "in one language" was a retcon after they blocked a pile of Hong Kong users who have an English first name and a Pinyin surname.

Interesting. Half a dozen of my nieces have English first names and Chinese last names. (They have Chinese first names too, but more as a tradition — their legal first names, and the ones everyone knows them by, are English.) This can't be that uncommon a situation.


you dont want to give these people your TRUENAME!
i smell sorcery!


Let me add my 2cents.

A friend recently got a few g+ invites and sent one to me. Now I maintain two gmail account, one with my official name (fullfirstname.lastname) that I use for official purposes (job applications, ordering stuff online, etc) and an unofficial one that I use for other online stuff, like signing into this forum for example. All I wanted the invite for was to stake out a presence on the service, I wasn't planning on doing a lot of social stuff with it.

Anyways, my friend sent the invite to my unofficial account. The result, a g+ profile filled in with a lot of information that I never gave it. Google somehow dug a name out of the account (I've had it so long that I don't remember if I filled in my name in the profile or not) that is not my real name, but a shortened version that I (and my mother) use. The worrying thing is that I was not asked to confirm this information when the profile was created, it was just assigned.
Also, my gmail account has been merged with the g+ account, so I can't go back into the gmail profile and check to see where it all came from. It could have come from a profile I did fill out a long time ago, but it also could have come from scraping the account contents. Add to this the fact that google maps knows my home location (again I never officially gave it). This could have come from my entry of an address into the 'plan route' field, but due to the offset (middle of a local highway) it looks like it came from my wireless router's mac address while the google car was driving around.

Anyways (sorry for the rant) this cavalier attitude towards privacy that google has adopted is worrying. Its not that any of that information is particularly hard to find, its just that Google has automated the collection and publishing of it without asking that has me pissed. I will save my rant about attaching phone numbers to specific identities for another post.


Indeed not, it's quite common. Four metres behind me is Jessie: I don't remember what her 'actual' first name is, she's Jessie. The person sitting in that seat before her was Changqing (these days working from home, having moved to Kyoto), whose 'English' name is Rebecca, but you had to know her quite well to find that out.

So we've had two Chinese-heritage women here, and even on that small sample, though they both have both name forms, you've got both strategies for name usage.


Charlie, according to Google's own help page on this topic, you should be able to have "Charlie Stross" as your Real Name if that's what you want.

The page is here:

Note the example of "Chuck Jones".


Note also the example of "Ping Yee", already cited above --- a Google employee whose birth certificate reads "Ka-Ping Yee", but who has gone by "Ping" with everyone including family for his entire life. And who got his profile suspended for trying to use it on Google+.

Now, there are people who are using nicknames of various kinds on Google+ --- but even if you've seen people who haven't (yet?) gotten trouble for it, others have. And the arbitrary and capricious enforcement of the "real name" rule has lost them the support of some (like Robert Scoble) who were at first inclined to support it...


Google and facebook both have the power to destroy social media if they mismanage it. I have facebook but i am absent from a login to it for two years. Since im in facebook for ever i see no point in 'deleting' it as i can't - its a very boring profile.

I have a very distinctive name and i am very careful with it, and while i use google for private email im not reliant on them, and compartmentalise the bits of me when necessary.

One day people i hope will wake up to ripa, the slightly evil personal history bot firms, and medical bots that exist.


@71, @99:

If we're entering an unofficial sweepstakes, my $FirstName $LastName combination is shared with an Olympic athlete.

I also have two GMail accounts: an 'official' GMail account, and another GMail account linked to my blogonym.

Amusingly, I have had people mis-type my Official GMail address, and accidentally send stuff to the Olympic athlete.

This business of no-Fake-Internet-Names is weird, though. Does FaceBook even attempt to handle it? Maybe I should get my blogonym a FB account, to test the possibilities...


Strictly as a data point, the one and only honest-to-Ghu stalker I have encountered to date was using the name that appeared on his passport (and that everyone knew him by). This made him MORE threatening than if he'd attempted to conceal his identity, because his target knew who he was and what he was capable of. (The target was a close friend, not me, but I had to deal with some of the fallout.)


Unfortunately, Google isn't making these choices for purposes of input validation (let's face it, if they were requiring on the good will of individuals for that, they should not be in the business they are in--that is not the case, therefore they are well capable of handling whatever crap someone puts in the name field). They're doing it for "aesthetics." In this case, Vic Gundotra's aesthetics.

That worries me a great deal more than anything else associated with this farce.

I didn't care when Facebook sucked. I do care if Google+ does. It already does an awful lot of things right and I'd like it to do more right.


Sorry, but the inferences y'all are making about gmail are classic FUD. I'm not saying it'll be forever impossible to steal a gmail account with a hilariously fake ID. But it didn't happen to anybody just yet, so the blogodrome is beating itself into a furious frenzy over an imaginary disaster.


Don't forget:-"Prevention is better that a cure"


If Google's deleted his e-mail, I don't think he has any reason to talk to Google. *I* certainly have as my main take-away that I should never trust them to hold anything I don't mind losing.

You say they thought they had reason (for the deletion), but you know, I don't really care. They deleted it without his permission, and without permitting him a reasonable opportunity to back things up. That suffices for me not to trust them. In any normal circumstance it would also open them to criminal prosecution, but large corporations are rather immune to that.


Were I to consider joining Google +, I have been warned not to use a name that can be linked to my other data. So I'd need to get a throw-away e-mail, etc. Not a big problem, and invent a name like, say, "Justin Case" or "Etaoin Shrdlu", or possibly "John Smith" or "Davy Jones" ("David Jones"?). Or perhaps someone I didn't like, if I were feeling trollish.

OTOH, joining is probably managed by invitation. So this wouldn't likely be an option. So I wouldn't even consider joining.


The Raven: "Aaron, you ass, or perhaps you troll, you are repeating Google's claims, some of which are already known to be false." -- yeah, not so much. I'd respond in more of a detailed way to your post, but you did kind of start off with, "you ass," so I suppose there's no point.

Clifton: "I'm not sure why you're campaigning so avidly on behalf of Google,"

I don't think two posts here about the details as I've seen them is "campaigning".

"but a lot of your claims come down to just repeating Google's claims, even where they demonstrably conflict with the policy that's actually being implemented."

No, I've been following quite a lot of the news surrounding this (and there's more of that than I really think there should be). Skud is often referenced, here, but Skud's situation is pretty emblematic of the whole problem. Skud repeatedly brings up obvious solutions to the problem, but those solutions aren't what he's looking for. Several accounts have been reinstated after pointing out that the names (some combination of a first and last name without titles or quotes) were in wide use. Interestingly, those people aren't busy writing blogs about Google+ anymore.

The core argument seems to be that Google+ should be Twitter, and no company should be allowed to run the social experiment of creating a venue in which names sound like the sorts of family names we're used to in the real world. Instead, everything must center on the sort of self-invented persona that Hollywood and, later, the Internet have come to champion. I'm sorry, but I don't see why that's necessary in every case. If Twitter is more comfortable for you, use it. I use Google+.

Google+ is tremendously useful to me as a social outlet (in fact, it's how I found this posting, though it would have eventually floated to the top in Google Reader), and I'm not convinced it's going to get any better because people who don't want to go by a first and last name start using it.

What bothers me is that *this* is what we choose to be upset about. We're not nearly this upset about Facebook's horrendous abuses of privacy. We're not this upset about Yahoo! building Web filtering infrastructure for China. We're not this upset about all ISPs providing ongoing access to Internet data to their respective government authorities. We're not even this upset about the fact that Google is the only major social services provider that gives you access to all of your data for extraction and re-use.

What we're upset about is that Google+ is trampling our great social justice with a first and last name requirement. Worse, we're then trying to scare the layman by telling them that their Gmail account will get locked out.

I agree that Google has some customer support problems, here. They've created a system that's too easily gamed to cause harm, and their responsiveness to inquiries is atrocious. These are things we should focus on, and things that I think are worth prompting Google to fix. But they're also not Earth-shaking problems that require the torrent of outcry that this issue has seen.

Greg. Tingey: "Aaron @ 22 (AND 24) - you work for G+ ?? They're paying you ??"

Greg, while you've obviously seen that I posted, I'm not convinced that you actually read any of what I wrote. I'll point out that Google+ doesn't require me to disclose who I work for, but apparently you do. Interesting. Would you say that there should be a universal requirement for disclosure of employment on blogs? Is that something you think Google+ should require?

In answer to your question: No one works for G+. Google plus is a product, not a company. No one works for Droid either. However, I can say with certainty that my employment status (which you can actually find out if you care to go digging) had no bearing on what I posted, here.


Hmm... while I'm thinking about it. No one responded to the point that at the VP-level, Google has indicated that they have plans in the works to support pseudonyms more broadly, but that they won't rush those out. Sure, vapor is vapor (I've worked in tech long enough to understand that), but when we talk about what *is*, it seems as if we kind of have to talk about how that might fold into it in the future.

I find this interesting, mostly because Google plus is a very immature product, and the profile naming support isn't the only thing that needs a lot of work. I'd like to see a lot of additional features like the ability to create public circles like school alumni and other associations that you can add by reference, rather than having to add every individual.


Some name issues.

Don't you like online systems that require you enter your credit card name EXACTLY as it appears on the card. 1/2 of my cards have F M L and most systems only ask for F and L. Since the transactions go through they must not follow their stated rules. And I'm never sure how many times I have to guess at what to put when I use a card with only a company name on it.

My last name is fairly common. I suspect it was picked up when my ancestors where shipped from Scotland as indentured servants prior to 1800 and given the name of their home county. Ross. Then my mom gave me one of the most common first names at the time when I was born. In a high school class of 11 people 5 of us had the same first name. One other fellow in my school had the same F and L name and I'd never heard of him until high school.

My father was not given a middle name. When drafted into the army in WWII he was given so much extra duty and exercise by sergeants who thought he was lying when he said he didn't have a middle name he got an extra name added by a court on his first leave. But he added the new name as his first name for some odd reason I don't think he ever explained. Maybe just to tee off said sergeants. Anyway the tradition continues. My brother goes by his middle name.


CharlesH: "Were I to consider joining Google +, I have been warned not to use a name that can be linked to my other data."

There's no reason to isolate the two unless you intend to use Google+ (or any other Google service) for illegal purposes or to spam.

Violations of the profile policy result in a locked profile and 1) you can get it unlocked, as long as you are willing to address the problem 2) it only affects products that are tied to a profile (for most people this means Picasa).

"OTOH, joining is probably managed by invitation."

Nope, just sign in to your normal Google account (not an Apps account... grrr, I really wish I could use my Apps account)

"So I wouldn't even consider joining."

To others: this, right here, is my core concern. It's not that people who want a Twitter-like name won't use the product, but rather that people who don't actually know the details are being mislead by the torrent of misinformation, and are avoiding the service on that basis.

The core argument seems to be that Google+ should be Twitter, and no company should be allowed to run the social experiment of creating a venue in which names sound like the sorts of family names we're used to in the real world.

[my emphasis]

Who is this "we"? What subset of the peoples, cultures, subcultures and individuals of this planet are you comfortable coexisting with?

You've demonstrated that your real world isn't mine, and I'm white, male, middle class in upbringing, and in the UK; your world may be a lot smaller and more exclusive than you imagine.


Maybe that's their goal? If so, it might be reasonable. Perhaps the current social media need to be destroyed. (OTOH, I really doubt that that would improve things...still, the adequate is the enemy of the better.)

But I don't really believe that's what's going on. And even if it were, I wouldn't want to participate.


If I write my name exactly as on the credit card, it gets rejected. The card says Øvrebø as is right and proper, but webforms won't accept anything but Ovrebo. (Unless they've become smarter recently. I doubt it.)

My passport has Oevreboe in the machine-readable line, and that's what gets in airline bookings too. So there's three different "official" spellings of my last name.

My first name is easy. It's Roy Gunnar. Or Roy G. Or Roy. So what is my "real name" then?

Google needs a "don't be bloody stupid" policy.


Re: Google's future plans for nyms
Unfortunately, this appears like it's still going to depend on your being willing to keep your "true name" secret. Somehow I don't think that they can be trusted to do this. They have *already* given many indications of lacking not only the capability of doing so, but even the desire.


I have recently moved from a street with an ü in it, which had me in fits of rage every couple months. Because don't you know it, the Credit Card sports that address, and it won't check out if I don't write an ü, but the bloody (usually) American software writers have only considered their useless ASCIIs, and I have to write it with an u or ue, which are both incorrect.

There are also millions of coders who assume that addresses and names are of a comparatively short length, like 20 characters or so. And then happens.


You said "Willing to address the problem", but the ways that have been listed for addressing the problem are not things that I would be willing to share with Google. If they want a photocopy of my drivers license, the let them buy it from the state, or hack the state computers. *I* don't feel that they have any right to such a document, and, in fact, should be prosecuted if they extort it.

You have *not* reassured me. You've merely responded to legitimate concerns with what appears to be bafflegab. "Willing to address the problem" means whatever they want it to mean at any particular time, and if they are holding my data, I have no recourse except to submit. Which is why I used the term extort.

I'd rather just avoid the problem, thank you.



It is possible for people to be concerned and upset about more than one thing at once, and to give voice to a concern that isn't (perhaps) the single most-concerning event at any given time. To put it in other words, we shouldn't ignore Google's naming policy because "X is worse," even when that X is Google, whose disregard for privacy and complicity in China are arguably more serious problems than their name policy.

If you do actually work at Google, you're emblematic of what I see as the company's major weakness in its outlook, best summed up as "it's not us, it's them." Pointing at something bad does not make you good.


Re: Google plus is a product, not a company.

It's also sort of a market. And what are the products being offered in the market? Us.

The whole "real names" thing is to make sure we stay in our shrink wrap.


Great read

Not that I think anyone actually believes what Aaron is saying....I just wanted to say that the information he is basically parroting from Google, is more than just misleading. It is in fact, complete bullshit.

I personally (and so have many others) had most of my data, including contacts, Gdocs, Picasa photos,+1's, YouTube videos and more, deleted by Google

I showed them a history with this same name dating back to 1997. I am a "Google Trusted Tester" I only joined G+ at the request of Google. I am not a troll, I am not a spammer. They reinstated my profile only to suspend it a second time...and yes, it effected my Android phone as well.

They again reinstated my profile, this time I sent no links to web history. I sent an email saying I had changed my name to Rainy O'Leary. I made it very clear that this was not my name. That I had simply made it up. They didn't mind. They don't want your real name. They just want you to fit into what they would call "normal" and normal to them is to be like be Mary Johnson or John Smith.

I still can't understand why it is so important to them that this be the display name.

I don't even want to be on G+
I just want people to know that this could happen to them.

If you say something another user doesn't like, all that user has to do is flag may get your profile back, you may not. There has been no consistency in how they deal with their policy other than suspending and/or deleting without warning and often without reason
This is fact. Tested over and over. Flag the profile as impersonating someone and usually by the end of the next day they are suspended, sometimes sooner. And never a warning.
My name is Rainyday Superstar


W3C have a useful article on Personal Names Around The World. For someone looking to design a system, it's a bit more helpful than Patrick McKenzie's blog entry.

I first heard of the Google+ fiasco from Kim Cameron's Identity Blog. Kim shows good sense in learning from the Google+ experience, especially taking heed of Skud's blog entry.


I love the responses to the problems mentioned here: "But it's so convenient for male WASPS such as myself. If those other people have a problem with it, they should just use proper names the way my kind do."

And Patrick McKenzie's article is dead on. As a clerk* there have been many times I've wanted to track the database programmers and do something horrible to them involving a live ferret and a sewing kit. I particularly love how the current database assumes everyone is Male, and Female or Unknown are both secondary options.

(* There are fancier titles for it, but clerk is the one people understand. The currently popular title "Database Assistant" just confuses people.)


Thirty years ago a friend and I both started university and both started running into problems with software and names. She has no middle name, so software -- generally American "firstname, middlename, lastname" software -- refused to allow records of her until she or the university admin invented a middle name, or at least a middle initial. I've got two middle names but no way was that allowed. Both of us are plain, boring ordinary anglo-saxon names, just she has two and I've got four.

Now if software companies couldn't get that right then, and they still cannot get it right now -- yesterday I ran into yet another form that wanted my ONE middle name -- what chance has a real-name policy like this of ever being workable?


Hi Charlie. I don't agree the real names policy is to discourage trolling. I think it's to increase growth of the network by making it easy to search for people and be found.

Also, I don't care much that people's names are on their government IDs, but I do care that they stay the same when I meet them at the pub and somewhere else. Adjusting name to context, like when you know an artist personally, should be the exception rather than the rule. So I too would start by discouraging a name X to context Y approach.


I'm using a, IMO, fake looking pseudonym (Keen Staël (reference: on G+ and waiting to see when I get a stern letter from Google.

Maybe I'm not "popular" enough yet to get noticed? Maybe because my regional/locale settings are in French (practicing my second language, I'm Canadian) the name is setting off fewer alarms?


We run into problems with our HR database because it was originally designed with the Given/Middle/Surname structure in mind. It has trouble with long Arabic names, or with Indonesian single names. And even with Mexican names with both the mother and father's surnames.

Though generally we just end up abusing the name until it fits and that's what the employee gets.


I did join google+ .... with my original gmail email handle - the aforesaid handle being the name of a favorite D&D character and one I've used since the 80's.

Google hasn't given flack about 'melchar' yet, but of my 4 google email accounts, only 1 has my legal name on it, but I wouldn't trust google+ with it. ...There's also the consideration that more of my local and fandom chums recognise 'melchar' as much -or more- than my legal name.

Good arguements you have there, yes. ^_^


I've been with Kaiser Permanente (Medicare Plus version) for 34 years. Not all employees remember me from back then, but there are plenty who know me now and I still have to show them my driver's license.


"Google and facebook both have the power to destroy social media if they mismanage it"

So not all bad then? ;)

I suspect that this topic is just the tip of an on-coming iceberg. I also think it's something that Charlie missed in his essay / speech on what the future holds.

At some point, if this crap isn't crushed right now, instead of people speaking of ways to force monolithic corporate software to match reality, we will have that damned corporate software coming to define our identities, and it will only be *starting* with prescribing your name.


I don't know if you are trying to be ironic by writing what you just wrote under the "fake name" id.

What you don't get is that by publishing all those relationships you, and your close relationships, are leaving themselves open to abuse.

Now anybody can follow your G+ stream, figure out your relationships, and trying to exploit them to their advantage, all from the commodity of their armchair in Lagos,

Or the gay bashing boss may have discovered that the employee in front of him is gay.

Or the bureaucrat in front of you got a dislike of mixed race marriages and discovered that your partner is from a different race, and has decided to give you hell.

I could go on, the naivity of people willing to bare it all online is simply astounding.


Go on then, post with your real name.


I don't give my real name in Facebook, all my friends can find me all right (we talk to each other off line you know?)


I don't know you, I may never meet you, why should you be entrusted to have my real name?

Nevertheless I may want to talk to you, or follow your posts, why should you or I care about our respective names?

I never ever give my real name online, nevertheless I have met literally hundreds of people IRL as a consequence of my online activities, I have to say they seem to cope fine (and viceversa if I may say so as well) with the contextualization of names and pseudonyms.

Technically I'm in violation of the name policy, which requires a first and last name in the same language.
On re-reading, I realized that would, technically, prevent me from signing up under my real name too. But wow – that's an actual policy? For what purpose? (Those people in HK with foreign names, again?)

(Yeah, I realize nothing is going to happen if I do, nor to most Americans with German last names or anyone else that us normal people care about.)


My middle name on G+ is 'Going back to Facebook'

If they delete my account, they prove my statement.

For some reason, I feel the need to point out that my last name begins with O' and Google Plus doesn't seem to have any problem with it.

Which is actually much more than I can say about a great many other sites. Not enough programmers anticipate single quote characters in names I guess :)

So, how many of the systems that reject O'Keefe are OK with OʹKeefe instead? That is, with the version of the apostrophe that's officially classified as "Letter, modifier" in Unicode?

That's assuming that you're OK making this substitution, apologies if it's culturally inappropriate. It's probably the preferred character at least for the Klingons, though.


If Google Plus wants one of my real names, they should offer me something in return. Paypal needs one of my financial names because they move money around for me. Amazon needs a name that works for finance and for shipping since they cross check my shipping address with my credit card company. The state tax web site needs my business name and my taxpayer identification number so they recognize that I've paid my taxes. My impression is that Google is just fishing. I wish them luck. The pinks have been running thick around here.

As Violet Blue has noted - they have the teething problems of a startup, but with the consequences of a public utility failure.

So, are they, in fact, a common carrier?


There's no reason to isolate the two unless you intend to use Google+ (or any other Google service) for illegal purposes or to spam.

Or, of course, you are female, a child, a teacher, discussing clients, planning a revolution, whistle-blowing, ethnic or religious minority... the list goes on and on.


While it's not one of the many legitimate objections mentioned so far, point #15 was "People's names do not contain numbers." Right?

For arguably dumb reasons, many Canadians still have names along the lines of "Annie E7-121." (While most programs can handle that, the same woman is named ᐋᓐ ᒦᖀᑦᔩᒃ ᐦᐋᓐᓱᓐ in Inuktitut.)

And G+ seems to assume globally unique names for some reason. Even had I never googled my own not-uncommon name, I'd know better after running Registration for a small convention. With fewer than 50 people attending, we had two David Andersons.


Google is burning good will,and it is going fast.
Bruce Schneier has weighed in on the matter and so has Bradley Horowitz Links included.

Bruce Schneier on Nyms

+Bradley Horowitz on nyms

"I am a pseudonymous user in many, many [online] services. I appreciate the ability to go incognito and anonymous at times," - Bradly Horowitz, Google+ VP.


UK money laundering rules are ridiculous. Only a couple of weeks ago I needed to provide proof of identity to a solicitor, including Photo ID. Luckily I had a 20-year old expired passport mouldering away in a drawer. I told the solicitor that if she wanted anything more current, I'd have to buy forged ID off the Net. She accepted the passport.


My brother is a statistician. There's a guy at an American university uses the exact same name, but he's in something to do with forestry. My brother chose the form of his name he publishes under so as not to be confused with another statistician.


To others: this, right here, is my core concern. It's not that people who want a Twitter-like name won't use the product, but rather that people who don't actually know the details are being mislead by the torrent of misinformation, and are avoiding the service on that basis.

It appears that there have already been major changes to the system. According to one report I saw, Google were shutting down their appeals procedure.

If this is at a beta test stage, you might expect changes, but it is folly to block off so many services if there is a name problem with the Google+ profile.

On the basis of what I've seen, I doubt anyone really knows what is happening. It looks like a confused and tangled mess. And so I wouldn't risk my personal data, and I wouldn't advise anyone else to. Here in the UK, we have the Data Protection Act, implementing an EU Directive, and Schedule 1 to that Act lays out a set of principles for handling personal data.

Those principles are recognisable as sound general principles for database design.

The way that Google are carrying-on with Google+, they appear significantly lacking in professional competence. I do not feel I could trust the security and accuracy of the data they might hold, as a consequence of the use of Google+.

And the basic problem is one which has been around since the days of the bang-path, it is one which has been comfortably solved on the internets before Goofle was even invented. This all smacks of a design objective set by a be-suited drone whose computer experience is limited to the decorative placing of a large monitor on an executive desk, contrasting the semi-matte beigeness of technology with the ancient craft of the cabinet-maker and the french-polisher. His status depends more on the death of thousands of beetles than on any competence.


@ 111 & 112
I already pointed out how BiG could not be trusted with even impersonal data - as in Google Maps.
Enough people seem really concerned that this is a monumental scre-up, by a company that is normally quite sure-footed, so something has gorn sewiously worng ....

See also @ 117
"Google needs a "don't be bloody stupid" policy."
Too right, cobber!

@ 119
ü => Alt+0252

@ 135-138 et al
"Your name is Yevaud!"
"Yes" said a great husky, hissing voice. "My truename is Yevaud, and my true shape is this shape."
- from: "The Rule of Names".


I recall reading a book, set in the pre-1941 American military, in which a character would get formal written orders with his name as [firstname] NMI [lastname]. No computers, of course, no constraints on character-count, and "NMI" was explained as "No Middle Initial".

I don't know whether to believe that: I picked up on some significant howlers in one of the author's other novels.

The trouble is that once computers get involved, you count characters, and putting that three-character string in a one-character space doesn't work. I suppose you could use some non-alphanumeric and translate input and display, but that has problems.

Technically I'm in violation of the name policy, which requires a first and last name in the same language. "Avram" is Hebrew; "Grumer" is, well, we're not certain, but probably Germanic in origin. Not exactly a rare combination.

Nice pick... that would be discrimination based on ethnic origin, yes? There are laws against that in my country (and many others). For now, I'm posting on the Help Forum to see what they say :-)


I have a Diaspora account, but am having trouble finding anyone else I know who does. I'd like to use it more, especially as Google+ is turning out to be a pain.


+1 on Diaspora too :-)

I also have a diaspora account (same name as the email address). Set up a Diaspora "pod" on a machine at home, which is slow but suitable for exploring with.

It'll be fun when the chat service (currently in the github, but not deployed until licensing is checked, I think) is installed. Think Facebook on a Darknet!


Dave Bell - I think the NMI thing is authentic. I recall it mentioned in Paul Fussell's Wartime, a cultural history of World War 2. Fussell served in the US army of that era, so I think he can be relied on as far as 'no middle initial' goes.


I've seen NFN NMI [LASTNAME] in a currently active large database.


Frankly for me it's a pretty good reason not to get an Android phone, never mind a G+ profile.

(And, except for slashdot, I've never been pseudonymous anywhere.)


All righty, I think I've added you, over at D*.

Either you or some other squirrel holding a gun.


Added you, too. I'll post something with a #strossblog taq, and we can all meet up ...

Tough thing about testing and organizing on a network: I don't always feel like I have anything worthwhile to say.


Now that you've jogged it, I remember NMI on forms from the 60s, maybe the 70s.


Yes, NMI is real in names in the US military.


That's what gets to me. Some people have *VERY* good reasons for wanting to interact under a label that isn't trivially traceable to their own physical self.

I've got Iranian friends who are atheists, for example. There is (in principle) capital punishment in Iran for leaving islam. How's that for a reason ?

And yes, offcourse they can (and many do) choose to keep their mouths shut instead, and say nothing under -any- name. But is that really the reaction we want to encourage ? Or do we *cherish* the fact that the Internet can lend voice to the voiceless ?



This version of the Google+ name policy:
is clearly ambiguous (= badly written), but it appears to suggest that they don't want you mixing scripts within your name ("Names that include more than one language script aren’t allowed either."); the relevant example of a "bad name" is one which mixes Chinese and Roman characters. So you'd be OK as long as you didn't try to, e.g., write "Avram" with Hebrew characters and "Grumer" with Roman (or Cyrillic or ...) characters.

Obviously, trying to distinguish names "from different languages" is impossible, for all sorts of reasons. (My rather WASPy name is clearly English. Or it could be German. Or Danish. Or Dutch, or .... And my family name is probably Scottish, but happens to be identical to German and Dutch personal names.)

But even the "different language scripts" requirement is (in addition to being discriminatory, etc.) ambiguous -- is Vietnamese (written with Roman characters + lots of diacritics and digraphs) sufficiently different from ASCII to count as a different script? What about the various North Indian scripts compared with each other? How do they actually identify different scripts -- font encoding? (whose?) etc., etc.


Something else occurs to me; I arguably could not join G+ with my name. Both my first name and surname are Anglicised transliterations, bit from 2 different languages, neither of which use the English language! They are also already on record in this blog, so if you care that much, you can find them.


Interesting, didn't have any problems when I signed up with Google+ (mostly so I had a public profile on there since I restrict facebook to friends rather than fans) but I used my writing name rather than my double-barreled real name. So if I ever need to prove I'm Tom Lloyd, I ah... can't. Huh.

Guess I won't put too much effort into it then...


Google are becoming more than a little tiresome with their attitude towards people's RL identity and location. Or the care they take with said data. No funnily enough, my real name isn't really the same as a fictional extra terrestrial habitat. I don't use my real name on Facebook either. My friends and family know who I am. Handles or pseudonims have been used for message boards. I've met peple from IRL and we exchange real names. It's not terribly complicated. Real birth name is for meat space therefore and official documents. Law enforcement have RIPA to take care of anything else. (Er not that there is anything else in my case.)

So no Google + thank you. And I'm wary what I use GMail for.


Hi, I'm Paul Krugman, and I just realized I shoulda read Atlas Shrugged instead of Foundation. Everything I ever said is wrong. Sorry. You know it's me because I'm on Google Plus where they check these things.


Krugman's blog posting on the fake Krugman Google+ identity.

Clearly Google+ needs some serious adult handling. I may even consider dropping from it myself.



My nym is from "Blacque Jacques Shellacque," the French-Canadian lumberjack who occasionally went up against (and lost to) Bugs Bunny. It was 1990 and I was new to the BBSes, and I never thought of a better one. 21 years later, and "bjacques" is older than a few of my friends.

I can live with Facebook's cavalier attitude to my privacy, because I've never 1) explicitly admitted to illegal drug use or 2) talked about the place where I work, and never will. Other than that, I say what I like.

Google+ is good for filtering posts so relatives can't read them, but not enough reason to up stakes from FB. And Vic Gondutra's demand that Google+ be more suit-friendly is just too much.

This is the internet. One's reputation depends on one's behavior online, not how "serious" one's online name sounds. Very Serious Persons, stalwarts of Old Media like David Brooks or Fareed Zakaria will probably be all over Google+, where Gondutra hopes members will be duly impressed by famous names and show them deference. Back in the real internet, the arguments that both of the VSPs above have often pimped can easily be shredded by any melvin_potrzebie23 who can string two thought together.

(Very Serious Persons do not include Paul Krugman, let alone the DFHs--Dirty Fucking Hippies--who, over the years,cried foul on such VSP-friendly activities as the Iraq invasion and the no-strings-attached banker bailouts. Such people are "shrill.")

I actually do use my real name on FB, since I thought early on they were stricter about real names than they really are. Whatever. Just about every else, I'm bjacques or some variation thereof.

A raid by LulzSec or similar on the user base of Google+ is a disaster waiting to happen. In every "cloud" company like Google+, company secrets are locked securely, user personal data much less so. At least make them work a little to mine the latter.


(Skipping over the obvious "Keep your NMI's closer" joke ...)

The military is also the source of "norel pref," which remains the nym of one of my G+ buddies. Like me, he's released music under the nym, which may qualify us for the "50 Cent" exemption. (To be renamed the "Lady Gaga" exemption, if they ever snare her.)


Uhhuh. I think the last time I saw you was at Minicon.


Charlie wrote:

they need to acknowledge that people have legitimate reasons for using one or more pseudonyms, allow users to register pseudonyms associated with that name, attach pseudonyms to different (or even overlapping) circles of friends, and give the user a "keep my real name secret" check-button.

Actually it would be great for Google if they did this -- they'd then be told which pseudonyms are who, be able to link all that information together, classify it with your posts and interests under those pseudonyms, and use it all to target you for ads.

What I don't know is why we should want to tell them all this. Even the "circles" feature, while very useful, helps them classify your interests.

I am on GooglePlus, under my real name that is also the name (and most of the id) of my gmail account. I haven't used it for anything yet. My name is sort of medium frequency, so I'm not usually too bothered about using it (or part of it, as I do here). Also, since I'm a CS academic, I know not to post things that I don't want my students to potentially dig up (though I didn't necessarily think of that back when I was a student posting on usenet). I do feel a lack of privacy for this reason, though as such reasons go it's pretty minor. I don't post my face anywhere (except professionally).

I saw all of that as my choice (since my name was on the account anyway), and I don't like it not being a choice. I also hate the idea that by using my real name I could be part of pressure against those that, for whatever reason, prefer not to.


Here's a recent development:

Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt admits Google+ is Essentially a Trojan Horse (Identity Platform)

Schmidt: "G+ was built primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally, it depends on people using their real names if they're going to build future products that leverage that information."


Hungarian, Japanese, and Vietnamese all reverse given/surname order.

Don't even get me started on Arabic names. ;)


This is information posted today about the Google+ issue
There is now a clear understanding that it is not Google+ but Google profiles. Bad form
The problems are going to go into everything from Google checkout to Search to Reader to Blogger to Books Picasa and more


When I seen that name popup, I simply deleted the google+ account within a minute. Wish more people would of done the same.


Hmm, I wonder if it would be possible to build a fake identity starting on Google+?
I've thought before that having an alternative ID would be quite useful in a database state.


Re names: there's a monstrously useful file on this in the PRO at Kew. Shorter: in the late 1950s the Home Office, being good technocrats, started to look around for things that they could computerise. They noticed the Aliens Register (first populated by ripping the 'totally confidential' 1911 Census, but that's another story) and the Traffic Index, which was generated from all those landing cards you have to fill in. Quite quickly they realised that this was a difficult task. Being good technocrats they set up an experiment in Jan 1959 to find out how difficult, picking up 100 landing cards at random, and getting 10 clerks to transcribe and re-transcribe them.

Lo, they proved that yup, it's hard even to get passport numbers right. Once you get on to dates, it gets screwier, and as for names . . . forget it, for the reasons listed above. Did you know that the Spanish practice is to put the mother's surname after the father's, but the Portuguese do the reverse? Me neither.


Wow, Facebook's evil PR firm totally crushed Google this time.

Congrats Zuck!


bjacques, I don't think you understand life at one of the top 10 websites.

They are ALWAYS under attack. lulz, anon, NSA, joe-sixpack, millions of zombies, a billion hackers in china and india, etc. There are people who can't afford their own computers who get paid to create accounts and click on ads.

These sites are always under attack. Any "raid" would be a little blip on the daily radar. Working for these companies is either a security sysadmin's worst nightmare or a masochistic security engineer's wet dream.

P.S. This "real name" or whateever BS it's now called is not for "suits", it's for "grandmas" and "facebookers". For some reason those privileged whitebread engineers feel like they need to make a product suitable for people other than geeks.


I'm a little surprised to see this thread still active, but since it is I'll drop in a link to the Superman vs. Google+ cartoon. What kind of name is Kal-El, anyway?


There's a sort of delicious irony in reading a defence of the G+ "real names" policy from an anonymous poster.


I find myself in the almost deliciously ironic position of fighting to use my real name on Google+.
Which I have no qualms about giving them, as I've been on the 'tubes since the DARPAnet days, and long since gave up on the pretense of having "privacy" on the net. My spore can be tracked back on Usenet to about 1983, so not much point in closing the stable door now. And if Google want to exchange limitless cloud storage, email, calendaring, etc for my demographic data, they are welcome to it. If that helps someone convince me to spend my $3.62 a month of disposable income on their tat, more power to them.

of course, that's not to say I'm not passionately opposed to their policy, and support anyone else's right to be as pseudo-nonymous as they want. I strongly suspect I got flagged because someone reported my profile out of spite, after I got very passionate arguing against the policy in a #nymwars debate on a thread started by a Prominent Personality.

Anyway. After almost two months of daily use on G+, my real name (Hugh Messenger) was deemed "unreal". I had the choice of adopting a pseudonym, or leaving. So I became Hugh Mercury, sent them a copy of my drivers license. And waited. And waited. After a week I started posting Dear Google+ missives, tagging more and more Google folk. Much to my surprise, a few days ago I got a response from the Senior Architect hisself, Yonatan Zunger, assuring me they had given the system a "swift kick", and I could have my name back. Only ... I can't. It still won't let me change my name back.

So I remain Hugh Mercury, going under a nym in order to comply with the Real Names policy, kicking and screaming for them to let me use my real name.

Through the looking glass ...


I'm quite happy using my real name, as it amuses me that people may think that the head of Nike is a half-witted fan of SF and British indie music with too much time on his hands.

I'm not even the most famous musician with my name (I can think of four who are more notable).



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 22, 2011 10:44 PM.

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