Tuesday, January 31, 2012

we could sell it out together, seems tomorrow's overdue

Oh yes. Thank you, yes.

Again with this nonsense. Or, put another way, once more into the breach...

And we start with Yonatan's response to Sai, of which I'm only pulling point five:
5. Name-shaped pseudonyms should Just Work. Pseudonyms which don't look like a name in any culture are going to be the hard case. These do seem to be genuinely rare -- most people who use handles use them in addition to names, and most people who use pseudonyms use ones which look like names. That doesn't mean that they aren't important, just that from a prioritization perspective we wanted to help the most people first. What we need to develop is some way for people to emerge non-name-shaped pseudonyms on the service, but that's a harder problem.
Um. Several problems here.

First, yes, he's right--"name-shaped" pseudonyms should Just Work. Does that mean CaptainSparklez is going to get a pass? Is that sufficiently "name-shaped"? What about Fidel Castro? Or J Pizzle? (Though I suppose the latter qualifies under that "celebrity" ruling...)

Or this:
Meanwhile, what is the official policy on names at Google+? It's surprisingly hard to find. Here's one answer: 'Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life.' This is the 'common names' policy referenced by Bradley Horowitz in his attempt to 'clarify' the policy, which actually didn't clarify much of anything at all. Documentation elsewhere says 'your full name is the only required information that will be displayed on your profile.' Numerous public statements on the policy from Google officials have done absolutely nothing to clear up the confusion.
The above passage comes via the Tiger Beatdown blog, and the full thing is well worth the read.

(Incidentally--there's a bit in there with an embedded Facebook search section, saying if what Google really wants is people to tie their full, legal identities permanently to their internet presence, maybe they should take a look at what people who have full legal names on Facebook are posting:
Google claims that the name policy, whatever it actually is, is about safety. It says that forcing people to use 'real names' (I use quotes here because the site means 'legal names,' not real names; not everyone uses their legal name as their active, daily name) will enhance safety and reduce incidence of abuse. This argument is often brought up in attempts to crush pseudonymity, and it's very, very wrong. People are in fact quite happy to be extremely abusive in public under their legal names, as Openbook demonstrates (type in any slur you feel like and prepare to be appalled).
(I picked a generic random word--top of the brain, sadly--and tried it out. Dear gods, it's not just appalling, it's dangerous--there's at least one lass on there who's now got her cellphone numbers archived for all time.)

Kee back to Yonatan:
If I'm not sure if my account is "name shaped" and thus might require additional verification…how do I request verification prior to investing time and energy in the account?
An absolutely valid query.

Yonatan's response back:
We don't have a way to do that yet, and it bugs me a bit. I mean, there is the fallback that even if you get suspended you can change your name to a different name, and you don't lose any of your data, but that won't solve every single case.
A bit?!? It bugs him a bit?!? He's really starting to irk me beyond all reason.

Kee's response in return:
Then someone should speak to the team that actually handles the suspensions because that problem has existed since the policy took effect.
Pretty much, and that seems to be one of the points that Yonatan--and everyone else at Google--keep perpetually missing.

Sai to Yonatan:
Please give examples of the low end for what is adequately "well known". What kinds of online references count?

Also, please note that while the policy before has claimed that e.g. Facebook, one's own website, etc., were acceptable proofs of identity, in practice, this was a complete lie. Consider e.g. the treatment of Skud (among many others).

Will this de facto rejection be changed? Will it be changed retroactively, to fix the problem for people who've already been suspended?
I'd tend to say no; as much as Yonatan seems to be trying for "reasonable, decent human being" I mistrust him from the start because of how he--and Google as a whole--have completely, cack-handedly brutalized what should have been a simple procedure that would have stolen the thunder from Facebook, and maybe--even if only in the light of outrageous hyperbole--changed the world.

Instead? We're given this flawed muddle of a service which isn't social, isn't friendly, isn't easy, and in which people can be suspended for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reasons. Some of us are treating it like it's radioactive. I don't think that's a wrong behavior right now.

I have friends who use the service. I'm thinking of one in particular who uses his real name on the service, and yet most of his friends do not refer to him by that name, ever--in fact, one of his exes only started to call him by his real name after she broke up with him, because she was still angry. Up until that point? He'd been his online pseudonym, to nearly everyone he knew. I have to seriously break down and concentrate to remember he has a so-called "real name"--his handle is more "real" to me, and to most people he knows.

People at his work call him this name. People online call him this name. People on camp-outs call him this name. His ex-wife calls him this, as well as his daughter. When he introduces himself, he himself doesn't use his real name, he uses his handle.

But he raves about the service. Why? Because he got an internal heads-up and knew at that point to sign up for his "normal", two-name, given name, and not his far more well known, single-name, online handle. He has no privacy issues to speak of; no one's hunting after his head, he's fairly secure in his employment, mostly secure in his relationships, owns his own house--plus, sad to say, he's male, which traditionally is the gender less taxed with issues of online privacy, it must be said.

For some of the rest of us? These aren't options, these are threats.

Yonatan in response:
In fact, +Sai ., I'll just tell you some of our top open issues right now:

* Still no support for titles (Doctor, Reverend, etc) in names. This is really important in some communities. Fix known, we just have to do it.

* Show the nickname in a wider variety of places. The priority of this depends a lot on how people start actually using nicks.

* Mononyms. :) Right now these all trigger the "handle" check, and that isn't going to scale well in, oh, say, Indonesia. Real fix needed.

But before we do any of this, we want to get this launch right, adjust the thresholds and so on so that legitimate users aren't being kicked, and so that the overall PITA factor for those people who are affected by this goes down. Expect some trial and error, and a lot more of me going around and asking people questions in the near future.
Let me see if I properly understand this, based on the previous few posts.

1. Even given titles like Doctor, Professor, or Reverend are not supported; it'll cause the system to kick. So even if you are Professor Ethan Sprout, and you're verified as being Professor Ethan Sprout, the system will kick you.

Bad system.

2. Google is assuming that people are going to want to use the "nickname" option. They're saying they don't know how it will best be employed because they don't know how people are going to choose to use it.

My guess? For the most part, they won't. They'll continue to want the names they want. Again, bad system.

3. Single names, as suspected, are not allowed. And yes, this is very much an international issue. So again, Western privilege is showing--because why would people want single names, everyone has double names, right?

Wrong. Very wrong. Some people have one, some people have two, some people have six. And it's not Google's place to judge which versions of given names are "right". They're not Google's names.

So again? Bad system. And while I'm likely going to continue going through the side commentary, I'm pretty much resolved from here:
  • the new policy changed nothing;
  • the new provisions do not increase safety and privacy concerns;
  • and Google continues to lose major and multiple points across the board in reliability, trust, and security.
Way to go, Yonatan. Are you ever going to get Google+ right?


Icterus Dagger said...

Some good points being made all around. What DOES happen if two people have the same name (as I am sure is already the case)? How are they verifying that it is 2 different people? They're obviously tracking SOMETHING down. Sounds pretty evil to me.


Emilly Orr said...


It's something I've wondered ever since SL changed their policy to singular names. Does Google+ have a similar policy? If not, how do they differentiate between "+johnsmith" and "+johnsmith"?

Emilly Orr said...


I've deleted your comment again because again you are choosing to talk about shoes, not the topic at hand.

Do better or don't comment.

Icterus Dagger said...

(apologies, had to re do part of post, hence the deletion)

More to the point, what about 2 people who happen to both work in the same field (say, Donna Smith in technology) with the same name in the same city. One is +DonnaG and the other is +techgoddess? They might visit similar web sites and even share some contacts, but otherwise not know each other. Is someone at Google going through on-line white pages or doing FB searches to figure out if it is one person with two accounts, or two unrelated people? How are they guarding against the false positives? If the information for one Donna isn't sufficiently "named shaped", might they just lump her with the other Donna?

(hope I am making sense here)


Emilly Orr said...

No worries, and you are making sense. More to the point, would either of those show up as being sufficiently "name-shaped"? Because neither "DonnaG" nor "techgoddess" (or even your first iteration, "techgdonna") are two distinct words.

I'm currently reading through Fizz's public posts, because she's one of the more notable cases of a mononym-identifier that was (rather famously) bounced from Google. Mr. Zunger himself apparently "fixed" her access, but as she herself points out, she shouldn't have had to fight this hard or this long just to get back on a social platform.

There's no reason for it.

Sphynx Soleil said...

I believe they're pinging on the google account id - essentially, the gmail email address - as the dividing line between same-names.

Emilly Orr said...


Your comments always show up as spam. They're not. Why is Blogger kicking them? This bothers me.

But to your points, what if +joesmith traced to joseph.smith@gmail.com, and +joesmith traced to josephg.smith@gmail.com? Sure, bad example, because the actual "name" will likely translate to "Joe Smith" in either case. But would either of those names be kicked? Gmail has to have discrete addresses, or they don't know who to send email to.