« Facebook Strategy Games Played by 80 Million -- Another Example of Gamers Moving to Web & Social | Main | Token Chic is an SL Fashion Blog With Screenshots of Such Luminous Beauty They Seem Like Paintings »

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

xah lee

i've mentioned this many times in debating with SLers, but so far i haven't seen my point of view refuted or mirrored elsewhere.

To me, it's pretty simple. If a significant number of social network users are using fantasy names (e.g. batman, queenbee) with accompanying fantasy profile photos (e.g. dragons, mechs), then, mom & pop won't likely to sign up when they see that. When normal, non-tech, people don't sign up, g+ basically failed, as did orkut.

i've wrote tons on this before, for any might be interest in my argument, the url is here
harsh (warning: ranty)
http://xahlee .org/sl/google_plus_spam_naming_debate.html

Hamlet Au

Actually, I think Orkut failed in the US because Brazilians swamped it, and inundated it with Portuguese names, while Google didn't do enough to foster its growth in North America. danah boyd mentioned this at an SXSW talk: Orkut had a kind of leaderboard showing usage by country, and Brazilians considered it a World Cup-style competition to get more people from their country on Orkut than Americans. They won. :)

xah lee

yes, i agree Hamlet. Though, i think it still leaves the question open about fantasy names.

a lot sl folks argue about pseudonym, but from many googlers, it's repeated many times that google does not need to match your name with a ID. They simply do not want fantasy names (fantasy name is a term i use, which i think best describe the situation). The g+ manager vic, mentioned exactly this, using "God" as a example of name they didn't want.

Eleri Ethaniel

if it was only "fantasy names" that were being suspended, I can see that argument- but it isn't. People with legitimate but potentially 'odd' names are getting hit, as are people with very normal names who have something unique about their profile. Google is arbitrarily deciding who is a real person or not.

Ernest Adams

The number of pseudonymous people I've run into online who genuinely needed to keep themselves secret is exceeded 100,000 times by those who use it to behave abusively without fear of discovery or reprisal.

Fred Buddemeyer

our site http://littleBiggy.org lets people talk about other people so we insisted on real names to avoid the kind of nastiness that you would imagine.

it worked until egyptians convinced us they needed protection to report corrupt cops.

now we let people use pseudonyms but on only on request to a littleBiggy editor. so far the posts are quite legit and the manual effort is worth it.

Ciaran Laval

@Xah Lee the answer lies in turning your argument on its head, which is actually the situation Google plus is in, or maybe looking to Japan.

If Mom & Dad won't signup it's not because of fantasy avatars, those avatars are unlikely to be in Mom & Dad's circle.

@Ernest Adams, you're confusing anonymous with pseudonymous, they are different beasts, Google recognise this.

Tateru Nino

Did you miss the news on what those pseudonym options are?

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

No mystery as to why they want "real" names:

"A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound
A buck or a pound
A buck or a pound
Is all that makes the world go around,
That clinking clanking sound
Can make the world go 'round."

Google has gradually realized that ads alone won't keep the lights on at the Googleplex. Hence, no fake names.


I'd tend to agree with this - the problem with privilege is that it is almost always invisible to the people who have it, and they honestly can't see how others may be impacted badly by decisions that reward the privileged.

People like Ernest: clearly he's not aware of the giant spectrum of ideas, activities and topics of discussion that exists between the factually illegal and the things that are merely bad to share with your boss or you mother? I would say 95% of the human race occasionally does things they'd be wise not to permanently attach to their legal names.

I don't really feel much optimism though... we're in the reactionary age of the Internet now. It used to be a wild and creative frontier, a Temporary Autonomous Zone where people had freedoms to say and do things they couldn't before it came along. But now the regulators, the incumbent powers are finally catching up and they *won't* stop, they won't be satisfied until everyone is once again in their nice, safe, suburban middle class boxes. And most people *like* their cages, so it's pretty much inevitable that identifying you legally in everything you do online will keep increasing.

Liberty Tesla

It's really simpler than that. Facebook is the leading brand, and they have convinced people that their real-names policy is the secret sauce that prevents spam and abuse.

(It's nonsense of course; the real protection is that there's no way to massively spam users, as there is with email. You only hear from people that you *want* to hear from.)

As long as people believe the myth that Real Names Will Keep You Safe, Google doesn't want to let Facebook use that perception as a competitive advantage; at least not in this early stage of G+'s growth.

Arcadia Codesmith

I don't think the quoted passage is overstated at all. People will automatically box you by your gender, age, skin color, orientation, income, country of origin, speech patterns, education, or any other piece of trivial bullshit they can think of to marginalize you and thereby make themselves feel superior. And most of them never even understand that they're doing it, and will get furiously defensive when you call them on it.

I love the pseudonymous Internet because who I am is defined by my words and ideas, not what school (if any) I could afford to attend, or if I am or am not American, or what shade my epidermis is, or how old/young I am, or any of that other irrelevant nonsense.

Scree Raymaker

The reason they're not currently allowing pseudonyms is to get more Facebook users to sign up. They have to make it as easy as possible for people to transfer their friends list over, and the easiest way to do that is to have people use the same names on both. It's a lot easier to find your friend if they're Bob Smith with friends Jill Jones and Sam Thatcher on both, rather than Bob on one and Graaaagh The Impossible with friends Sexy Minx and Gerbilman on the other.

Emperor Norton

As I have always said - were would be if everyone went around creating transparently absurd fictitious personas at will to cover past mistakes and embarrassments? How could society function in the face of that? California needs only one emperor and I declared myself that man a long time ago, fine thank you.

PS Those Google fellows need to relax their behinds, if you know what I mean. East Coasters are way to uptight.

M Darlingmonster Ember

@ Arcadia Codesmith: well said! Huzzah!

Ann Otoole InSL

@Liberty Tesla: No way to spam via facebook? spam king says you must be joking right? See: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-20088487-93/spam-king-wallace-indicted-for-facebook-spam/

Recka Wuyts

My view is that Google knows what they are doing and the people who are making a big deal about this are doing some good work free of charge. How do you create a stir? In Jeff Bullas article
he points out 7 Reasons Why Google+ Drives Hyperactive Engagement. In number 7, The “shiny new toy” effect. People are curious about this new Google social network so if they had to choose between the new or old toy, they want to play with the new one. (Thanks David Polykoff)

This effect can also be used in this way. You create a toy and then tell a certain segment of society they "can't" play it, which drives a narrative, creates buzz and makes people want it even more. I suggest that if you have a reasonable pseudonym like Recka Wuyts and a Google email address like [email protected] you may have a reasonable chance of getting a Google+ account. Although I have not even tried to get one because I truly don't think I need one in order to do what I do in virtual/digital environments. Actually how many of the people who have been denied a Google+ account have lost revenue because they can't use this service? My thinking is that it is more of an ego thing or as I said...Some people can have it but you can't...which makes those who have been denied the thing want it all the more. What Google may do and Linden Labs tried to do is create a separate social network for pseudonyms and virtual personalities. But I don't think that would be a solution. There will still be people who want what they can't have and will use the media to screech about it. To quote Jeff one last time, "My bet is that this is no accident, this has been designed by Google to happen from day one."


See also an article in The Atlantic on this today, from a columnist who calls himself a recent convert to the idea that Facebook and Google+ are actually radically out of line with human norms.


The gist of the Atlantic's argument seems to be to compare Facespam and Google- to how we deal with identity in RL using shouting a statement in a public place as an analogy.

You shout "down with bananas" on the street corner and people have your look down, but you're not perse identifiable in every last way, and the statement does not persist in the air there for years to come.

Repeat that in almost any other RL context and it remains mostly the same. In RL, "we expect very few statements to be public, persistent, and attached to your real identity." Statements might often be attached to one of these, but it takes a lot of effort to get attached to all three. Even a newscaster - public and real ID, but usually not persistent.

But Facespam and Google- invert the dynamic on all three factors. The Atlantic article notes this as a radical departure from the 'real life' model.

He notes that "pseudonyms allow statements to be public and persistent, but not attached to one's real identity."

And says that while Facespam and Google- might find this bad for marketing, and while the cost of a pseudonym might outweigh the benefits of their services - that is a debate we need to actually have on honest footing. Not under the deception of pretending that what they do mirrors RL.


@Xah Lee:
"a lot sl folks argue about pseudonym, but from many googlers, it's repeated many times that google does not need to match your name with a ID. They simply do not want fantasy names (fantasy name is a term i use, which i think best describe the situation)."

One of my co-workers is a big D&D player type, and named her kids after characters in Lord of the Rings... What happens to those kids when they go online someday.

I also grew up in Berkeley, and recall knowing or meeting people with real names like 'Sunshine' 'Moonbeam' 'Wolf' and so on. See also the famous author who's real life name is 'Starhawk'.

But... if you come from a tribal society, on translating your name to English, which is popular to do; you might end up being 'Walks with Clouds' or 'Sitting Bull'...

So I guess I'm gearing up for the ethnocentric lawsuit when one of those sorts of folks gets banned for actually 'complying' with the policy... ;)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Wagner James Au
Wagner James "Hamlet" Au
Dutchie Evergreen Slideshow 29112021
my site ... ... ...

PC/Mac readers recommend for SL:

Classic New World Notes stories:

Linden Limit Libertarianism: Metaverse community management illustrates the problems with laissez faire governance (2008)

The Husband That Eshi Made: Metaverse artist, grieving for her dead husband, recreates him as an avatar (2008)

Labor Union Protesters Converge On IBM's Metaverse Campus: Leaders Claim Success, 1850 Total Attendees (Including Giant Banana & Talking Triangle) (2007)

All About My Avatar: The story behind amazing strange avatars (2007)

Fighting the Front: When fascists open an HQ in Second Life, chaos and exploding pigs ensue (2007)

Copying a Controversy: Copyright concerns come to the Metaverse via... the CopyBot! (2006)

The Penguin & the Zookeeper: Just another unlikely friendship formed in The Metaverse (2006)

"—And He Rezzed a Crooked House—": Mathematician makes a tesseract in the Metaverse — watch the videos! (2006)

Guarding Darfur: Virtual super heroes rally to protect a real world activist site (2006)

The Skin You're In: How virtual world avatar options expose real world racism (2006)

Making Love: When virtual sex gets real (2005)

Watching the Detectives: How to honeytrap a cheater in the Metaverse (2005)

The Freeform Identity of Eboni Khan: First-hand account of the Black user experience in virtual worlds (2005)

Man on Man and Woman on Woman: Just another gender-bending avatar love story, with a twist (2005)

The Nine Souls of Wilde Cunningham: A collective of severely disabled people share the same avatar (2004)

Falling for Eddie: Two shy artists divided by an ocean literally create a new life for each other (2004)

War of the Jessie Wall: Battle over virtual borders -- and real war in Iraq (2003)

Home for the Homeless: Creating a virtual mansion despite the most challenging circumstances (2003)

Newstex_Author_Badge-Color 240px