Google Nymwars, redux

I'm told that my Two Point Plan for pseudonymity was discussed at the Google all-hands meeting on Friday.

Every week, Google employees internally vote up the questions that they want the executives to answer at the meeting, and this one made the list, so CEO Larry Page read this aloud to the whole company:

jwz says, the way you "support" pseudonyms is as follows:

  1. Stop deleting peoples' accounts when you suspect that the name they are using is not their legal name.
  2. There is no step 2.

Can we do this?

To nobody's great surprise, his answer was a very long-winded "no".

Tags: , , , , , ,
Current Music: Anon -- Come Clean ♬

37 Responses:

  1. Cow says:

    Shocking, truly. I'm so sad I deleted my G+ profile.

  2. And now, the sad-trombone coda to the punchline. Today, they activated G+ for Google Apps customers. You know, the people who pay google cash money to host their email/web/wiki/etc content. How do you think that went? Yeah, about how you'd expect:

    So that's gonna be awesome.

    • Silent says:

      I wonder what google will do to the exception, invoices, etc mailboxes that people will inevitably accidentally enable - will they be banned from google + and possibly deleted...

  3. pavel_lishin says:

    Is there a transcript of his explanation up anywhere?

    • Unlikely. Google's TGIFs are explicitly employees-only. Publishing a transcript outside the company would probably be a firing offense.

      • gryazi says:

        I take it 'TGIF' stands for 'You can't enjoy your weekend because...'

        (We implement a similar practice at my workplace, in the form of a panic tantrum about what didn't get done all week.)

        • Nah, google is way too big to do that on a company-wide basis. Individual teams may ruin people's weekends however they like, but the whole-company friday meeting is for awards, demos, dog+pony shows and Q&A time with the bastardsexecutives.

    • Jim Strathmeyer says:

      Because then they would be unable to sell your personal information?

    • jwz says:

      Not that I've seen. I don't know exactly what he said, just the above summary.

  4. Ian Young says:

    I bet it went something like this:

    "But how else will we be able to merge your otherwise-anonymous google advertising profile and browsing habits with our real, paying customers' databases? That what they want, and they're the customers. Not people with Google+ profiles"

  5. Michael Liebnitz says:

    I suppose the next question is, why does google want women and children to be in danger from rapists, pedophiles, or the most danger menace to society, Jazz Musicians?

    Hey, it works for every other major policy enacted.

    Don't require real names, for the sake of our children, and our children's children.

    • Borring says:

      To my knowledge, there's an age requirement on G+ so there "shouldn't" be any prowling around for kids. Also, they only require one to use their "common name" which does not have to gender specific. There's also the option to hide the gender in the profile.

  6. Greg says:

    What does NYM stand for?
    National Youth Ministries, New York Methodists, New York Mets, New York Magazine?

  7. gryazi says:

    I look forward to the logical collapse of this debate when enforcement@google.com deletes its own account.

    • metahacker says:

      Thing laterally. The account will be required to be staffed by someone whose legal name has been changed to Eric Nforcement.

  8. Kla says:

    Thankz goodness they kept at it, good to see you go guys.

    - Don't require real names, for the sake of our children, and our children's children.

    Tell your childrenĀ“s children not to use Social Network, case closed, or better yet, Diaspora? good luck.

  9. Kylie Mole says:

    What about the necessity of those involved in risky political environments and the use of Google+ as a reach out medium? How's google+ going to handle those real needs of the rest of us that are living in unsecure places (like Mexico)?
    also* http://ihatecory.blogspot.com

    • JB says:

      They Just Don't Care(tm).

    • Terris Linenbach says:

      Create a fake name for yourself and hope you can't be tracked by hackers that work for the cartels. Good luck.

      Or stop voting for politicians who take paybacks from big pharma.

      • Kylie Mole says:

        You're missing the point. Google says we can't use fake names. Obviously it won't stop anyone really...they really can't check to see if every name is real can they (can they? :1) They are other services that can be used eg blogspot *http://ihatecory.blogspot.com

        • Terris Linenbach says:

          Obviously, Google can't. I think Google is being wise to turn away people who don't want to be found. As you say, there are other places to try to hide. Yes, it's a side issue that if you choose to become a vigilante in any fashion, you will probably be found. I'd like to see people stop using that as a reason to use Nyms, because it's very bad advice.

  10. S Kennedy says:

    Look, there is only one way to protest this properly, only ONE way that will make any difference at all (IMO).

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/111248850500211341148/posts/4dAXxjjkAe6

    Change your name to James Johnson on Google+. Everyone, male or female. Become the most common name (more or less) on the 1990 Census, and convince all your friends to do the same (feel free to share my post on the matter).

    If, statistically speaking, Google is flooded with valid American common names that they can't separate from real members, they will see that they have an actual problem on their hands, and no way to enforce your Real Name.

    • Gary Walker says:

      I don't wish to pour water on your enthusiasm, but we veterans of the nymwars _have_ tried this...at length. It won't actually do anything.

      • Anon4fun says:

        What? I've been following the nywars pretty closely since the beginning and never heard of this being implemented. Can you cite some news coverage?

        • Gary Walker says:

          I've been involved in three such efforts to no avail. The best known one was when a group of us changed or names to "Rainyday" to object to the suspension of Rainyday Superstar. The first was when I changed my name to "Vic Gundotra." There have been others. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea, but you'll never get enough people onboard to make them give a damn.

    • john says:

      Actually, there is another way to protest this - It will make *all* the difference: Don't use Google+. If you have an account, close it. If you don't have an account, don't open one. When they see the light and change the policy - go back.

      • Anon4fun says:

        While merely opting out is better than nothing, actively reaching out and changing the minds of others is vastly better.

        • The minds that actually matter in this case belong to (being generous here) two people, and they've already decided that they know better than you what the correct policy is. Only the bracing icewater shower of market failure is going to produce change here.

          Don't use G+, don't use Picasa, loudly complain to your friends who continue to.

          • (Being generous both in the numbering, since arguably Larry's is the only opinion that matters, and also of course being generous about "minds".)

    • Anon4fun says:

      Yes, this would through sand in their gears alright, and, like you say, make a real name policy unenforceable. It would also make the protest visible to everyone within the company too. New accounts as well, not just renamed existing accounts.

  11. Art Delano says:

    And now come the rumors that Google staff are being fired for arguing against the policy.

  12. Botgirl Questi scooped a Kee Hinckley post on this topic and one of the comments resonated so loudly I scooped it with a screen capture.

    Sylvia Forester - +Kee Hinckley You're so right. Murky rules and seemingly arbitrary punishment is the hallmark of psychological abuse. Google is our alcoholic parent and we have to tiptoe around just hoping we won't get the belt. :S

    Yes, this. We have been trying to deal with these people as if it were possible to speak rationally with them. But it's like trying to reason with an alcoholic parent. First, you have to realize that the behavior seems nonsensical because it actually IS irrational. Then you have to realize that you have no power to change their behavior, except in one way - you have to stop enabling it.

    You said:

    I'm told that my Two Point Plan for pseudonymity was discussed at the Google all-hands meeting on Friday.

    Every week, Google employees internally vote up the questions that they want the executives to answer at the meeting, and this one made the list, so CEO Larry Page read this aloud to the whole company:

    jwz says, the way you "support" pseudonyms is as follows:

    Stop deleting peoples' accounts when you suspect that the name they are using is not their legal name.
    There is no step 2.

    Can we do this?

    To nobody's great surprise, his answer was a very long-winded "no".

    And while no-one is surprised and we are not likely to know what the "reasoning" was, perhpas someone who was there might tell us if it made sense in any terms, even crassly economic ones, given the huge problems in terms of adoption this policy has given Google. I would bet money that it did not, and that if you ran a recording of that "explanation" by a third-party psychologist, there would be notations made in red pen about disordered thinking.

    Of course, I don't expect a great wave of defections from Google regarding G+. But it IS important to realize that this doesn't merely undermine the confidence of users and investers in google and google plus, it actually damages the relationship between Google's management and it's critical staff. Coders and engineers are really not wired to react well to the realization that they are being bullshitted by someone who actually believes his own bullshit - and ghu knows, they must already be sick and tired of writing tools to deal with problems arising from this policy, and even more sick of not having a clear mandate than the users are.

    I would certainly be keeping my resume' up to date, and if any of my side-projects relied heavily on google - I'd be quietly gaining familiarity with other solutions, anticipating the need to have that expertise in the coming months.