What was Google thinking!?

What was Google thinking!?

Summary: Google has been deleting some Google+ accounts. While Google have a right to do so, they certainly could have handled it better.

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When I first read Violet Blue's account of Google kicking some Google+ users out of their new social network, my first reaction was "What the he... heck Google! After due consideration, I'm no longer surprised though. In fact, I can see Google's point.

First, Google said from the start that while "Google services … support three types of use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified" when it comes to Google+, Google "requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life."

More specifically, Google 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."

It appears a good number of people have been hammered for not using their 'real' names. This isn't new. Back on July 8th, Google zapped the account of "Opensource Obscure," the Second Life nom-de-plume of an Italian user. That said, Google appears to be willing to let you back in if you can prove your identity.

In addition, Google may zap your account if you it for "couples or groups of people. Additionally, you can't create a profile for a non-person entity such as a pet or business." But then again, they might not. In the very next line, Google states, "Google may continue to allow existing profiles that don't meet these criteria, as long as the profile names are unchanged."

Of course, "Pretending to be someone else could cause your profile to be deleted." So forget about impersonating someone else on Google+. Your account can also be blown away for spam, gambling, sexually explicit material, bullying behavior and so on. Last, but far from least, you can't have multiple Google+ identities.

You know what? For the most part this all makes sense to me. While anonymity can be vital for some individuals all too often it's used to simply hide mean-spirited trolls that make so many online communities utterly distasteful.

Besides, when push comes to shove, Google Plus is Google's system. They set up their rules, some people broke them, and now they're out. That's life. If you don't like it, set up your own online community.

OK, so I can see where Google is coming from, but that's not the end of the story by a long shot. I think Google has badly mishandled this.

For starters, I don't think people should be required to use their real names. Yes, I get how poisonous anonymous users can be to a social network. There's a middle way though.

As Anil Dash writes in his essay on how social Websites can go badly wrong, anonymous users are a bad idea, but "Your site should have accountable identities. No, people don't have to use their real names, or log in with Google or Facebook or Twitter unless you want them to. But truly anonymous commenting often makes it really easy to have a pile of sxxx on your website, especially if you don't have dedicated community moderators. When do newspapers publish anonymous sources? When the journalists know the actual identity and credibility of the person, and decide it is a public good to protect their identity. You may wish to follow the same principles, or you can embrace one of my favorite methods of identity: Persistent pseudonyms. Let users pick a handle that is attached to all of their contributions in a consistent way where other people can see what they've done on the site. Don't make reputation a number or a score, make it an actual representation of the person's behavior."

For example, when Pamela "PJ" Jones set up Groklaw, the intellectual property law news and analysis site, she kept her real life identity separate from the Web site. Despite numerous attempts to invade her privacy, no one with any sense doubted that PJ was a real person and that she stood behind her analysis and opinions.

So, if someone really wants to be "Linux Guru," on Google+ fine. Let them. Just make sure they know that their Google Profile e-mail will be tied forevermore to "Linux Guru" on Google+.

Next, as ex-Google employee Kirrily "Skud" Robert, who had the "pleasure" of being knocked off the Google+ service, Google is turning off these accounts without letting people know why they're being switched off. Worse still, "Honestly, if Google's support people tell me that's what I need to do [to get my Google+ account], I will do so."

Google, as far as I can tell, hasn't issued any kind of statement on what's going on with this wave of account deletions or what steps someone should take to get their account back on. Instead, it seems to be handling in an off-hand, make-it-up as we go along way.

That's not good enough. If Google wants Google Plus to be taken seriously, they need to do more than just state policies in Web documents. They need to set up a real user management system. As Robert concluded, "It would be nice if Google would provide the same sort of understanding toward us, by erring on the side of caution when wielding the ban-hammer, as we try and figure out how the system works based on, quite frankly, very little clear information."

Amen!

Related Stories:

Google Plus Deleting Accounts En Masse: No Clear Answers

Google Plus: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control

Google Plus: The top 10 missing features

How to make good use of Google+'s Circles

Can Google+ be a Facebook Killer?

Topics: Apps, Google, Social Enterprise

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14 comments
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  • RE: What was Google thinking!?

    Fb is no different. My account was suspended for a day. No reason given. I emailed support (if you can call it that) and asked why. They said my account was available again.

    Like you said, it's there community, they can do what they want.

    Twitter let users change the way it was originally used and it exploded for them. Fb and google should take note.
    mike2k
    • Google has no 'support', that is the difference

      @mike2k: Read it in full:

      http://www.twitlonger.com/show/bt5akp

      <b><i>"There is no other corporation trading stock at the level of Google that does not offer customer support, plain and simple."</i></b>
      DDERSSS
  • RE: What was Google thinking!?

    Take Google+ seriously?

    I think it's about time we stopped taking social networking seriously. It's the interactive equivalent of the E! entertainment network.
    tonymcs@...
    • RE: What was Google thinking!?

      @tonymcs@...
      :D
      Ram U
  • I know this much

    SJVN do a search on Google + for Steve Jobs and you will find numerous identities show up yet today with various photos and some with no profiles.

    Will the real Mr Steve Jobs please stand up!
    CustomComputers
    • RE: What was Google thinking!?

      @CustomComputers There is more than one steve jobs in the world. So do you want them all to stand up? Should the rest of them have to change there name or FB name? Why are you looking for steve jobs on FB? creeper!
      imsimsj
  • I am all for accountability

    Too much pi$$ing going on with blogs, forums, and the like.

    You should behave as though you are in a public setting among people at arms length. Any bad behavior may result in a fist meets face scenario and that's the way life is in general.

    Accountability. Take responsibility for yourself.

    Everything else about Google+ is simply growing pains and it will all get worked out, including inadvertent account deletions.

    Thanks Steve
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: What was Google thinking!?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate Um, "inadvertent account deletions" is not what happened. They were intentional. This is a sign that Google is too full of itself and thinks it can do whatever it wants and people will just deal with it. The only company that can get away with that is Apple. Everyone else, not happening. Especially with a service that is competing against fb that has almost a billion people on it. Sorry, but Plus will soon join the Google Social Scrapheap along with Wave and Buzz in a year tops.
      goombawa
  • RE: What was Google thinking!?

    Yeah, what happened to Google's freedom of speech mantra (Hint: Issue with Chinese govt.)? They just ignored Android Market and let it fill with malware and policing Google+. They should start governing Android Market properly, not Google+ user names. I see double standards.
    Ram U
  • RE: What was Google thinking!?

    There is no evidence that someone using their "real name" will not troll. I wouldn't know someone called "Tom Stevens" from Texas from a bar of soap. The enforcement of "real names" is a policy that has been implemented in countries like China and South Korea, ostensibly to make the Internet a "nicer" place but in reality only serves to allow those countries to control what happens and what is expressed on the Internet. Google's main motivation for all it does is commercial. It is in this spirit that it wants to control how things are said and by whom.
    infra.red
  • RE: What was Google thinking!?

    I was invited to Google+ by a friend, through an email generated by Google.
    When I click on the Join Google+ button, I get this:

    "Oops... you need a Google profile to use this feature.
    Google Profiles is not available for your organization."

    ... so, I see the little Google+ icon all over the place now, but can't use it.

    They may have put their PR machine in action a little prematurely. Google+ sounds great, and honestly, I'd like to try it, but it has now become just another bit of online service confusion.
    workbox
    • RE: What was Google thinking!?

      @workbox

      You can't use it with your Google Apps account. You need to login with regular account.
      zoredache
  • RE: What was Google thinking!?

    this is not about security at all. it's about money and data mining everyone. google only cares about having accurate data compiled. that's where the money is, they don't give a shit about anything else. anything positive that comes from google is a by-product.

    here's a story about a girl who trusted a large corporate brand to understand the online community that their social platform business targeted. playing to the bone, they then sold everyone out in their bid to be "boss" and stripped her of her hard won online name and reputation among family, friends and those in the game industry who had come to know her, in the name of truth. is there a fairy tale ending where the prince comes and restores her to her former glory as the crowd roars? no, this the new end of times, and she fades into the dull, colorless world slightly wounded, going by a "real" name that means nothing to anyone, especially her.
    peachhhh@...
  • RE: What was Google thinking!?

    I think it is good move by Google as a part spam control. Face people (I am to face named people) create ambiguity.
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    JUmpDates