Google’s poorly defined and managed “Real Name” policies for their Google+ service helped me to the decision to dump Google+.
There’s been a lot of discussion (and no few arguments) about the (conflicting) policies that Google lays out, how they’re being enforced (WARNING: Contains swearing), and how even having such a policy can hurt people. As you may guess, the links I’ve provided don’t even come close to being comprehensive, but should give some idea of what’s going on.
I first joined Google+ because it seemed a potentially interesting alternative to Facebook, and seemed to merge the best parts of Facebook and Twitter, while adding some new features to that mixture. Even when they fail, I often enjoy poking at Google’s new toys as they’re often fascinating. Wave comes to mind here.
I already had a Google account, under a pseudonym that I’ve been using for a long time (and which friends know me as), and so that carried over into Google+. It wasn’t until I started hearing stories of people not only losing Google+ access, but also their entire Google account that I began to consider my choice of name.
Let’s be clear here: I use two or three pseudonyms online – and variations of each if they’re not available on a particular site. I don’t try to keep them separate and it’s probably easy (if you care) to link them. Those important to me know these pseudonyms and can probably find me by them more easily than by my Real Name – that is, the one on my various forms of identity such as Driver’s Licence, Credit cards and the like.
I first began using a pseudonym in the early days of the consumer Internet as it was quite normal to have a “nick” or “handle” then, and allowed me to choose something that represented me far better than my real name. Later, as the Internet became more like “Real Life”, my pseudonyms became a way of protecting myself.
I’m part of several “minority groups”, and having dealt with one “crazy” that slipped from the Internet to Real Life, I decided to keep that extra layer of obfuscation between my online identity and my real life identity. This doesn’t mean I’m trying to be anonymous, however, as I try to have a continuous, consistent online presence. I use real email addresses when posting on forums where I don’t have an account, and I try, as much as possible, to use the same name where I can.
The only split I’ve had recently in online identities came when I started this blog. I made an early decision to keep it separate from my other online activities simply because I wanted to keep it focussed. However, as time’s gone on I’ve cared less about this.
The upshot of all of this is that I use pseudonyms online because it’s what I’ve always done, and as a method of protection. Apart from Facebook I don’t use my real name online. In fact, if I want people to find me on Facebook I have to give them extra information so they can do so!
I think Google are being quite silly here as, from their history, they keep trying to break into the “social network” market, and with Google+ I think they finally have a chance to do just that. At the same time as they seem on the brink of success, they’re happily loading shotguns and pointing them at their own feet by misunderstanding many of the subtleties of “social” and alienating many whom would otherwise join and push the Google+ world.
I’m a good example of that. While I’ve only just mentioned Google+ here, I’ve been annoying friends and acquaintances for a while about checking out Google+.
Now, though, my Google+ account is closed (along with an explanation of why), and I’m just not bothering to tell anyone about it. This entry is, for want of a more clichéd phrase, my Google+ swan song.
Check Google+ out if you think you might be interested, but if you don’t have a standard western style name (whatever that means), or rely on a pseudonym, then just be aware that you might not be checking out Google+ for very long.