What’s In A Name?

HancockWith the advent of Google+, there also spawned a great topic of argument. I am referring of course to Google+’s name policy. This has spawned more debate and anger than I’ve seen on the Internet in a while, ranging from people who agree completely with Google, to people with legitimate reasons to be against them… to people who just like to argue. But what does it really boil down to? Is Google enforcing a “real name” policy, or just trying to enforce honesty?Lately I’ve noticed a lot of news sites, like Mashable, are reporting on the name bans, citing the Google TOS (Terms Of Service) as saying that “the policy, designed to fight spam and prevent the creation of fake profiles, suspended several high-profile users for using their commonly-known pseudonyms instead of their real names.” Even the top link on Google when you type in “Google+ Pseudonym Ban” comes up with faulty information. Where the sad fact of the matter is… this blatantly isn’t true.

As more discerning members of Google+ are beginning to notice and point out, Google’s TOS does not specifically ban users from using a pseudonym. Rather, it bans them from using an alias which they are not commonly known by. This would, for example, be like me only going by “ravnos” on there. I am known as ravnos to some people, but not commonly. Ian “ravnos” Muller would be more appropriate. The TOS also bans people from going by only one name (mononym). “Ian” or “Muller” would not be appropriate (more on this later). So what is the actual deal?

The TOS states…

“To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable.”

This does NOT mean you have to use your legal name. That is simply the example that they give. It does mean you have to use your common name, what the majority of people know you by and call you. To use a celebrity example – Lady Gaga. Or 50 Cent. They simply want a first and last name, and what you are commonly known as. Makes perfect sense to me. But is this still an issue?

Artist Formerly Known As Prince

I'm not even sure how to enter that into the name box...

Well, what about Banksy? Or users with a legal mononym? Or hell… PRINCE (the artist formerly known as…)? How are these people affected? Currently? Negatively. One user, who’s legal name (recent change) is simply “Sai” has had quite a few problems getting Google to recognize this, according to a lengthy post he made on Google+. At this point, however, it seems Google is almost too embarrassed to continue trying to solve the issue – their silence is very telling. Which is understandable, they are being attacked by a very small but vocal community, who has the backing of a lot of angry users.

So, is there a simple way to solve this problem and make everyone happy? Probably not, but the best approach right now would be to make an official announcement stating… basically what I just did. Additionally, it might help Google to access their stance on mononyms… obviously they have hit a roadblock there. My personal suggestion would be to have people list their name, as well as a nickname. Then allow people to control which name is visible to the public vs. Circles. This way I can be displayed as “ravnos” to someone who isn’t already in my Circles, but “Ian Muller” to those who are. I would also be searchable by either name. It makes sense to me…

I think the anger towards Google is misplaced at this point, but I do agree they need to clarify things more. Otherwise people are going to continue to be confused, and other media isn’t helping much.


About Ian E. Muller

12 responses to “What’s In A Name?

  • J.R. LeMar

    Clarity is the key. Whatever their policy is going to be, they need to figure it out soon, make it clear to everyone, and then stick with it. The uncertainty is worse.

    I still prefer real names or, as I said before real-sounding names. “Matt Ravnos” @ least sounds like a real name, so that should be allowed, IMO. I mean, technically, I use an alias. My legal name is John Richard LeMar but I prefer to use “J.R. LeMar”

    And they really need to come up with a verification system, like Twitter has, but it should just be for celebrities, let everyone have the option of getting verified, however that works, & then if someone is a verified account they can use whatever name they want.

    Also, we really need vanity url’s. I don’t know what the hold-up is what that.

    • ravnos

      Vanity URL’s is just that – a vanity. I’m not so much worried about it.

      Everything else though, yes, I agree. And that’s my point “Mat Ravnos” would be allowed. It’s a legitimate name, and if it was my “common” name, would be perfectly acceptable.
      I understand both sides of the argument, and tend to agree with both sides also, it’s difficult to balance.

  • J.R. LeMar

    *should have been, verifications should NOT just be for celebrities+

    Anyway, I just want the vanity url because then it will be easier to link to my profile on other sites, when necessary. I know some folks have been using a 3rd party service that lets you create your own link somehow, but I’ve been waiting for the real thing, since it seems like such a basic function that I assumed G+ would be inacting it soon.

    Of course, I also assumed they’d have opened G+ to the general public by now.

  • J.R. LeMar

    Games are necessary to attract the masses, which is what G+ will need to compete with FB (which I know is a goal, whether they admit it or not).

    • ravnos

      Actually I disagree with you there. I think a large part of the online population avoids FB because of the games. Google+ was attracting all of those people initially. However, so far it seems they have done a great job on fixing FB’s problem with the games, so I approve. I think Google could have avoided games entirely if they came up with another draw. I think I’m just a little disappointed they went the “easy” route.

      • J.R. LeMar

        And I disagree with your disagreement. I don’t know anyone who does, or would, avoid FB because it has games on it. All you have to do is what do: block them all. No one is forced to play anything. But lots of folks love that stuff, and that’s what keeps them coming back to Facebook. They log in specifically to play Farmville or Mafia Wars, or whatever that stuff is. I’ve got a couple of coworkers that if you happen to walk by their cubicles during breaktime and peak @ their computers, you’ll usually find on FB playing one of those games.

        • ravnos

          We’re all entitled to our opinions.
          I’ve explained my displeasure for the games on FB before, but I’ll summarize.
          Games are fine. Requiring more friends, and people clicking on things in your feed, are not. I enjoy playing some of the facebook games from time to time, but I don’t want to see their updates in my feed, blocking out messages I actually think are important from other people. And I can’t block the game if I am also playing it.

          I think FB needs to take a lesson from Google and move the games to an entirely different tab. I do NOT want to see game updates in my live feed. Ever.
          That’s my issue. Summarized, and leaving out lots of important details, lol.
          It’s fine and dandy that most of the people you know enjoy the FB games. A lot of the people I know don’t have FB accounts because of the games. And those people feel like they shouldn’t have to put forth effort (blocking them all) in order to not be annoyed. Both sides are the argument are right. Neither will win.

          • J.R. LeMar

            With games, FB has gotten to 750 million members, I’d suggest that speaks for itself. Not saying the games are the primary reason just that it doesn’t appear to have kept significant numbers away. Even if, say, a million people are refusing to sign up just because of games, the number of folks who either enjoy them or don’t care clearly more than makes up for it. A lot of people don’t like various things about FB and are still on it. While other folks has stayed away from it for whatever reason. I don’t think that one particular reason is significant enough to say it’s hurt FB in any serious way, or will hurt G+

            • ravnos

              I think you misunderstood me.

              I wasn’t trying to imply that it would hurt either social networking site. Just that in my opinion it detracts from the original purpose of such sites, or at least has the potential too.

              Also, I don’t believe that the size of the group that is alienated matters, but more the fact that a group of people are alienated. Honestly you could compare that to a lot of racist arguments (I’m not implying you are racist, heh). Just because the majority don’t care or like it doesn’t mean other people should have to change their opinions. I simply feel like they could handle the game portion better, to accommodate everyone.

  • bananafish711

    I also disagree that games are a necessary part of creating a successful social networking site. Purely personal opinion, but I get irritated having to block every single invitation for Mafia Wars, Farmville, Cityville, Whathaveyouville…

    I’m sure some of them are really fun to play, but when that becomes the dominant type of post in the news feed, the important messages start to get lost. That, I think, really detracts from the actual use as a social network.

    I always saw FB as a way to keep in touch with friends and family that live in different places. (Ravnos, you’re actually the person who singlehandedly convinced me to sign up for an account back in like…2004.) I’m not a phone talker, so it’s a great platform for sharing pictures, stories, and what’s going on in life in general.

    With regard to the “names” discussion, I never thought twice about using Neen as my first name on G+. As Google points out in their TOS, it makes sense to do that because it’s my common name. People searching for me online aren’t going to look for my legal name because I don’t use it on a regular basis.

    • ravnos

      Okay… This is bad. Even I don’t know your legal name apparently. I really thought it was Neen! I actually almost feel bad about that…

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