Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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One Way Google Profiles' Naming Policy Makes No Sense: My Avatar Gets More Hits Than Me -- On Google Itself!

Wagner James Au vs Hamlet Au on Google
Published author less popular on Google than his SL avatar

Google says Google Profiles are restricted to real names only, as I blogged yesterday, but there's a quick way to see how incoherent this policy is: Use Google. As you can see above, searching for my name, "Wagner James Au", turns up considerably less hits on Google than my SL avatar, "Hamlet Au". I doubt I'm an isolated case: There are surely tens of millions of people whose account names on, say, Flickr, Yelp, Deviant Art, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Slashdot, Gawker, etc., turn up more on Google searches than their real names. Then there's all the tens of millions who regularly use avatar names associated with, say, World of Warcraft, Habbo Hotel, Gaia Online, the Steam network, Second Life, etc. etc. Not to mention all the many popular account names on YouTube, which is owned by Google itself.

Despite all this, Google Profiles' stated policy is that a Profile name be a real one, while also being "the name that you commonly go by in daily life". Why?  Because real names help "in finding and creating a connection with the the right person online." As if all the daily activity online with all these online account names isn't significant. And even though Google's own search engine suggests otherwise.

And once again, this strongly suggests Google the corporation doesn't quite get social. Facebook succeeded to the extent it has by getting a very important part of social right: The desire of people who generally know each other in real life to easily connect online. But right now, Google is squandering a vast opportunity that Facebook has ignored: The desire of people whose daily activity centers around online community to easily connect in that context as well.


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Dirk Talamasca


Interesting post regarding verification of accounts using pseudonyms.

nexus burbclave

I'm guessing that it isn't uncommon for people to call you Hamlet when they meet you in person? I have certainly been to events where avatar names, gamer tags, or other screen names were used more frequently than "real" names.

A lot of people are easier to find online via nicknames than legal names. On my own blog post I made this point by setting up Googlefights between legal name and nickname for Markus "Notch" Persson and Sean "Day9" Plott. The nicknames were clear winners.

Hamlet Au

Oh totally, I'm "Hamlet" to Lindens and other SLers generally speaking. One time when I was still a Linden, after calling me Hamlet for years, Philip called me "James" out of the blue, and I thought he was mad at me or something.

Notch is a very good example, I can't even spell his real name right without double-checking it.

Catten Carter

My RL name: 64 hits
My SL name: 4550 hits

I was gonna kill facebook and get me google+ before I realized their policy. Now I'll just stay on facebook, enough to be unwanted one place.

Simeon Beresford

Google has no trouble finding links to my real name, but very few of those links are to me.

Ciaran Laval

I wouldn't say Google don't get social, but they are missing a trick by not recognising the importance of different forms of identity.



Only one.

Petr Vanbeeck

HAH - i googled my real name and got 1 reference to exactly me. When I googled Petr Vanbeeck and Second Life i got 19,400 assorted hits relating to blogs, flickr, sl, marketplace, etc.


Hey, its you all who chose a slave/corporate name to value... which of course if legal push came to shove, you wouldnt control or own...LL corp would.

Ricco Saenz

You know what's interesting too? Wasn't Katie Watson who answered you in your last post about this subject? Well, I searched Google Profiles and found around 21,100 results for "katie watson" there. "That" Katie Watson is probably the 1st profile listed, but how about the other Katie Watsons? They're lost in the crowd... A nickname could probably help them to be "unique" or at least to try not to compete with 21,099 Katie Watsons.

Adeon Writer

My Real-Life given First-Last Name: About 1,570 results
My Internet Alais ("Adeon Writer"): About 6,850 results

Ann Otoole InSL

My RL name: About 700,000 results (0.21 seconds)
My SL name: About 8,520,000 results (0.30 seconds)


Pussycat Catnap

RL friend told me today that use of Google+ means anything you post on it becomes their IP to do anything they desire to with. Rumors of this are spreading and have even hit Washington Post.

BUT... some have also pointed out that the ToS doesn't "exactly" say that...

I'd suggest searching for "Google+ may carry dangers for photographers" and considering if any of that has meaning for other communities as well. Like writers, bloggers, and maybe even machinima makers... and also whether or not this is a real concern or a hyped rumor. I'm not in a position to judge that myself, but curious to see a take on the issue from someone with more experience in the realm of IP rights / privacy concerns in virtual worlds.

Insert name here

My RL name: About 20,500 results (0.21 seconds)
of which around 125 actually refer to me RL (and not people with the same name RL) and it took me ages to click through all these results to find that out.

My SL name: About 2,480 results (0.21 seconds)
of which every single hit refers to my SL me...
the merit of fantasy names

My SL brand: About 128,200 results (0.04 seconds)
of which every single hit refers to my SL brand


One thing is absolutely not clear to me: how would Google know what my RL name really is?
How do they know that "Wagner James Au" is an existing RL name? Will they check a scanned ID card or what?
If my google profile is by the name of Hera Poliatevska, how do they decide if it's my RL name or avatar name? (It's SL name, of course.)

Jura Shepherd

lol, gotta use quotes Ann.

Anyway, maybe Google actually does "get it" but wants to use their massive influence to usher in a more accountable web. That seems to be the trend from governments to web heavy-hitters. It wasn't that long ago that Zuckerberg was going on about how not having a single identity made you a bad person.

Ann Otoole InSL

@Jura Why use quotes for my own results? I ask "So?" because google results for name searches are not exactly relevant or accurate. In addition Google tailors your search results based on your "Neoprint" as FB labels your patterns. If you want a better idea then try your searches on multiple search sites and then go do the same on someone else's computer you have never touched before.

I must say I am delighted a google search for my rl name would keep a prospective employer busy for days to find the actual non stalking service spammer results relative to me after having to wade through all the other results for people with my same name who have lots of internet coverage. It is good to have a clean slate.

As for the results of searching for Ann Otoole? Must be one heck of a lot of them out there. Again I enjoy relative obscurity. (hey that might be a pun lol)

Jura Shepherd

@Ann Otoole
Did you see how Hamlet searched "Hamlet Au" instead of Hamlet Au?

Ann Otoole InSL

@Jura You do know there are a very large number of real life "Ann Otoole"s on planet Earth right? (which raises an ethical question that is bothering me that requires retiring from SL to rectify) More than my rl name but others with my RL name are known all over the world and have tons of media coverage on the internet. So it still shoves me into obscurity where I belong and like to be.

Now back to google and it's irrelevancy: The SL related Ann Otoole hits come up first for me. Because google knows my web pattern or "Neoprint". Other Ann Otooles will see the hits most relative to them first. I can go in the next room and run google searches and get different results because that computer is not used for anything SL related whatsoever.

People really need to take google search results with a grain of salt and use multiple search engines. And I am not making this up or speculating. I watched a presentation by google that went into this area of whatever they called results tailor to the users historical profiles.


Flipper Peregrine

Just do what Chad Johnson did when he legally changed his name to Chad Ochocinqo so he could put it on his football jersey! I kid, of course, Google is being silly.


Reasons not to use your real name in an online social account:

- Child safety if you are a minor
- Protection from identity theft - too many personal details in one place makes that easy
- Protection from stalkers
- If you post to your social account you are away for the weekend, and your account gives your real name and home town, you just invited burglars home.
- In half the world, posting the wrong thing under your real name can get you killed. In the other half, it could lose you your job or get you socially ostracized.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm actually surprised that it makes such a little difference in your case, Hamlet :)

Flipper's comment is very relevant. When I do my own searches, I use a browser with a clean cache, and not logged in to Google with my account, or the results will be all skewed towards more SL-related results. To make it even more precise, I should use an anonymizer, so Google cannot track me down via cookies :)

Doing it like that, "Gwyneth Llewelyn" gets some 33.000 hits or so, all of them related to me. Well. You know how it is, after clicking "next" for a while, it gets tiresome. But certainly the first pages are all correct. My own real name, which is rather a common one, gets some 2.000 hits, very very few of which have anything to do with me. I didn't actually count the ones that were perfect matches. Perhaps it's even funnier to search under the Images tab. Google has just found one picture of my real self, scattered among a few friends and family. But it correctly extracted most — if not all! — pictures of my avatar from Flickr... and SL Marketplace :)

Hamlet Au

I doubt my results have anything to do with my browser cache. I just launched Internet Explorer -- which of course, I never use, ever, ever, ever -- and did the same two Google searches. Same results.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Well, congratulations then :) You might actually be an exception ;) I have written somewhere that for some uncanny reason Google tends to rank SL-related things way higher than other things. My own belief is that avatar names in SL are generally speaking quite unique, and that makes searching for them easy. On the other hand, "Wagner James Au" is pretty unique by itself, so I guess that will rank higher; my own real name is almost (not quite) at the same level of vulgarity and commonness as "Mary Smith", so I guess I have no luck with Google there...


i wonder...didnt hitler identifie 6 millions jews..apparently that didnt go so well for them...or mccarthy's communist witch hunt...comon google...time for 1940's ethics is like 80 years old...get with the times eh

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