Google Engineers Suggest They Get the Importance of Pseudonyms & Just Need Time to Do Them Right
Last night I got into an interesting conversation about Google+ with a Google developer at a bar, and of course we talked about the controversy over banning pseudonymous accounts and demanding real names, and the company's general inconsistency and incoherence on the matter. While acknowledging the company has gone a bad job explaining their policies, he (or she) insisted to me that Google does understand the importance and value of pseudonymous accounts, and just needs time to implement them correctly. That's the reason they're sticking with a "real names only" policy at the moment -- those accounts can easily be integrated into the system now, and give them time to introduce pseudonymous options later on, after they've worked out all the implications.
Now, this might have only been idle bar gossip, but I just read this post on Read Write Web, which cites Google engineer Joseph Smarr basically saying the same thing:
"It's not just enough to offer the ability to post under a pseudonymous identifier. If you're going to make the commitment that we're not going to out your real identity, that actually takes a lot of work, right? Especially if you're using your real account to log in, and then posting under a pseudonym. And so we feel a real responsibility that if we're gonna make the claim to people, "it's safe, you're not gonna get outed", that we really think through the architecture end to end and make sure that there aren't any loopholes or gotchas where all of a sudden you get outed. And that's actually a hard thing to do in software... we don't want to do it wrong so we'd rather wait until we get it right."
That raises some good points. A lot of people would prefer to use a pseudonym in various contexts, for instance, but their real name is already attached to their Gmail account. So at this point, I'm willing to take these Google guys at their word, at least until they introduce their promised pseudonym solutions.
That said, it's still the case that Google is doing a poor job communicating their plans. After all, the Smarr quote (from a video interview) was only brought to the attention of Read Write Web's Marshall Kirkpatrick by Google after he saw a new Google policy announcement and he (fairly) interpreted it as, "Google Plus Tells Pseudonym Lovers to Shove It". It's a bit weird that Google's official statements seem so unreasonable, while we get the more reasonable version from supplemental sources -- or for that matter, over beer.