Google Plus: Too Much Unnecessary Drama

Google Plus: Too Much Unnecessary Drama

Summary: Google Plus has the user experience problems of a startup and its risks come with the penalties of service loss from a vital public utility.

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The Google Plus honeymoon is over.

On Saturday night I visited Google+ for the first time in a week to discover that I was about to be banned and have my account suspended from G+.

I was instructed to change my profile to comply with the Google+ "real name" policy - even though I am using my real name on the service.

My real name, they told me, was not my real name.

I couldn't even imagine that a company where I have given two Tech Talks at their headquarters (one with 1.5 million YouTube views and counting) could be getting this so very wrong. Not to mention that if they looked, my name could be verified in Google Checkout data from my recent Google I/O attendee purchase. Among many other things.

I'm just saying, my identity footprint with this company is huge.

The G+ notice told me I had just over a day before being locked out. There was no option on the notice to explain that I was, in fact, already complying with the policy.

I was guilty until proven innocent.

When you get your account suspended on Google Plus, you lose Google Reader, your Google Profile (it is deleted from Google search) and any Picasa photos and photo albums.

Or more. A significant number of people still report experiencing a G+ account suspension bug that also locks them out of Gmail or causes problems with Gchat (though they state it will not happen). Gmail lockout was also reported in the first wave of Google+ account deletions.

Upset? You could say that. After writing three very visible, critical articles about Google Plus, it was a struggle to maintain an unbiased reaction.

Worse, I only found out because I visited Google Plus. I received no other notification.

If I had been off Google+ all weekend, I would have woken up Monday morning to my services being shut off and no idea what had happened or how to get them back.

Too much risk for a social network

So now I faced losing business services I not only used, but depend on as cornerstones for my livelihood.

Social networks are supposed to be fun, dammit.

I actually hadn't been spending much time on Google Plus. Trolls have figured out how to game it, half of my friends and people I love to share with are gone over the real names issue, and its conservative Terms pose a significant hinderance to what I can share.

Additionally, a few trolls had joked a few weeks back about trying to find a reason to report my profile, and I figured it was just a matter of time until they made good on their threats. Being a veteran - nee expert - on getting griefed on social network sites, I could see that G+ was ripe for exploitation.

I thought that if I quietly mothballed my account, no one would bother me. I wouldn't risk ending up with vital Google services in jeopardy because some power-tripping jerk hates girls that talk about sex, or LGBT issues, or just women, or me, or whatever. In fact, I was only copying friends that have done the same to stay safe.

The very same Saturday afternoon - before I got my G+ notice - the subject of publicly writing critically about Google+ had come up in a circle of tech friends I chat with. We were worried - and to a person, all of us depend on Google's services, in one way or another.

Page 2: [I had no idea how to save my account...]  »

Google is not Facebook: it is a utility

Losing my Gmail, Google Groups and Docs access would be devastating.

Having conversations with other tech personalities raised my awareness about how much these services are now part of the fabric of our lives.

What this means is that if you tell me to "like it or lump it" when it comes to Google Plus' "real names" policies, and its continually mismanaged enforcement and penalties that come with Google+ infractions, you can stick it in your yapping G-hole.

You see, I'm sick of that argument because it is simply invalid.

Google+ is not like Facebook or any other social site, not at all.

If you don't like Facebook's "real names" policy, you can leave and cultivate your social media presence elsewhere - yes, you'll be shut out of a significant area of commerce and social interaction, but you're not completely screwed.

If you don't like Google Plus' terms, or like me you run afoul of policy simply by existing, you stand to lose more than just a social network. You stand to lose access to aspects of a public utility.

Google is not just a company. It maintains infrastructure for what have become vital services. And this is something you'll only start to see if Google suspends you from Google Plus.

I had no idea how to save my account. The only thing I could think of to do was make a post on Google+ stating what had happened, and that I am using my real name. Many friends chimed in to raise awareness, not just about my situation but about the larger problem: Google Plus' continuing community mismanagement over profile terms.

Then panic set in. I've used Google's services because out of all the fly-by-night startups, companies and social networks, Google was one whose infrastructure I felt I could really rely on (even if I don't always agree with their politics or policy).

Meanwhile, people messaged me on Twitter to say that after their third Google+ account suspension and appeal, they had simply given up. Not reassuring. Others expressed regret that I was dealing with this, but thankful that my situation had alerted them to dodge this particular bullet.

Wake-up call: move away from Google services

I had set my Google profile page to be my main, accurate bio page and one that could be accessed by everyone. I moved all points linking to it over to Posterous and Flavors.me (which have been incredibly stable and don't appear poised to do a ToS bait-and-switch).

What would this mean for my Android phone? I really regretted getting myself into this situation by using so many Google products and services.

Next, I moved everything off of Reader and into NewsBlur - which turns out to be an excellent move. NewsBlur rocks, and I'm at least glad to have found this fabulous new tool.

Then I just spent the rest of the weekend stressing out wondering if I should start migrating my Google Docs and email.

Sunday night, midnight... Nothing.

I woke up Monday morning... Nothing. I checked my Google Plus profile - it was still there, but now with a "Verified Account" checkmark.

They really could have told me.

Later that afternoon, they decided to let me know. In an email around 1:10pm, I was told:

Dear Violet Blue,

The name on your Google+ profile came under review on Friday 8/19.

I am happy to report that we have reviewed your profile and confirmed that Violet Blue is your common name and you may continue using it in Google+. In addition, we will be adding the verified name badge to your profile.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience. Thank you for your continued interest in the Google+ project.

Michael The Google+ team

Apparently I had a case number - wow, that would have been handy to know about. So would knowing that my account had been deemed a problem as early as Friday.

Getting verified on Twitter wasn't easy, but it was kittens, pop-tarts and rainbows compared to this. Also, I'm more than a little insulted that they're allowing me to continue using my common name, which is my real name, thank you very much.

This was a total failure in user experience. It's nearly impossible to think that a company with Google's time and resources could not have come up with a better way.

The "real names" issue is more important than certain people seem to understand. It's at the center of all the noise because personal identity control is a core internet value. Even if Google+ figureheads are fine with breaking their own rules about identity, and okay with not having people like me on Google Plus.

Google is part of this landscape, people like me belong here, and Google has to be just as responsible of an internet citizen as we are. Even more so when they embody the aspects of traditional public utilities in commerce and communication.

This post is a little more personal than my usual Pulp Tech fare, but after contributing to My Name Is Me, and then having this happen, it's all gone about five miles past the "ironic" signpost in my world.

Dear Google Plus: no more drama, please.

I'm just not that into you.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Apps, Google

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181 comments
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  • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

    A friend wrote, "At least this drama won't repeat---in theory."
    Violet Blue
    • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

      @violetblue

      Your a tool. All talk no action....why was this POS article even written on Zdnet. Keep it on G+ so I don't have to read it.
      global.philosopher
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @global.philosopher

        I pictured you tearing up a bit.. Buck up. There's no crying in the comment section.
        TechNickle
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @global.philosopher Really? And exactly how long will the name "Global Philosopher" survive on Google+? BTW it's spelled "you're," moron.
        A1batross
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @global.philosopher
        Who the hell said you HAD to read it? I didn't have to; I chose to after reading the title. So did you.

        Also, I fail to see the problem with its presence here. This IS a tech news site, and if you don't see any relation between Google and tech, well...
        clfitz
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @global.philosopher If she is a tool YOU are the entire tool box. And if this article was such a POS then why did you not only read it but comment on it? You sir are nothing more than a cowardly honorless common troll with a napoleonic complex and a massive case of inbred idiocy.
        athynz
    • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

      @violetblue

      Google is using this to greatly increase the value of all the information they are gathering about people. They are evil and people better not forget this.

      Nothing is really free. Beware of hucksters offing things free.

      RR
      rjriley@...
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @rjriley@...

        You sound like my tech-hed (correct sp!) whose opinion on this matter I'm starting to believe more.
        bainsmac
    • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

      @violetblue Well you are not alone, Even Capt. Kirk himself (William Shatner) several months ago ran into the same issue, although his resolution was faster after he tweeted about it and the media pick it up , making Google red face.
      alenzo
  • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

    This is the biggest and most dangerous weakness of google plus and if I had teenage kids any more I would be warning them away from Google plus as I feel young people giving out names by which they can be identified in the real world is just plain wrong.

    What is wrong with people having different on-line identities as long as their underlying account details are accurate. I accept that google should should know my real identity but I do not want all the people I chat with or follow to know it!
    cymru999
    • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

      @cymru999 That's ridiculous. Social networking was supposed to be for communicating with friends, people you actually know. Google+ is the only one that makes it like real life by letting you segregate what you share, like you would in real life. You're right. Kids shouldn't share their names with people they don't know, but then they shouldn't be talking to random strangers on the Internet in the first place, so it's a non issue. Google+ is for communication with people you actually want to know. If you wouldn't talk to them in real life, don't talk to them online. You version of reality has been skewed by the Internet.

      And no wonder she had her account under suspicion: her "real name" is Violet Blue. Sounds fake to me. I doubt she was born with that name, even if she legally changed it, they would have to check those records against her birth name.
      xamountofwords
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @xamountofwords Check out wikip - She really is named that - sometimes, just because something seems strange, does not mean that it is false
        dpiglett
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @xamountofwords are you seriously suggesting that Google should take a look at her birth certificate? My god!

        You simply invent a new definition of 'social networking' and base your whole argument on it so that it appears 'valid'. "Social networking was supposed to be for communicating with friends, people you actually know". That's called a cell phone my friend. Social networks are on the internet, you know, the network connected to the whole world! It makes total sense to have the right to obscure you're real name if that many people are reading along over your shoulder. Even if you have nothing to hide. That is called basic security (ever heard of identity theft?)
        You're version of reality is stuck somewhere around the year 2000.
        belli_bettens@...
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @xamountofwords - what a load of clueless drivel. No, social media was not meant for "people you know", very, extremely, insanely far from it. Have you ever heard about this cool service called "Twitter". You can "follow" people on this "Twitter" service, and it is a great way to keep up with what is going on. This spring summer i read a lot of things on this "Twitter" thing about the goings on a different part of the world where the people were kicking out their cruel rulers. I didn't know ANYBODY of the people I read about and read information from. NONE of them.<br><br>You sir are a clueless moron and you should keep your dumb mouth shut for at least three days from the time you make up an opinion until you cluelessly share your "wisdom" with the rest of the world. Your task during those three days will be to confer with at least five adults on the topic. If one of them tell you you are wrong, then just don't post.<br><br>You do know that G+ also includes Twitter-like features, right? Retard!
        terjeb@...
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @xamountofwords

        Uh huh. And Frank Zappa's child isn't named Moon Unit, either.
        clfitz
      • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

        @xamountofwords <br><br>"Google+ is the only one that makes it like real life by letting you segregate what you share, like you would in real life." ...?<br><br>Completely wrong, I'm afraid. LiveJournal, and all its clones & derivatives, have allowed users to do that for several years before GooglePlus came along. It was the key selling point that attracted me to LJ in the first place, and the main reason I stuck with them despite LJ's own embarassing community mismanagement ****-ups such as "NippleGate" and the "interests" debacle.
        p.bristow@...
        • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

          @p.bristow@...
          ( I can't believe ZDnet just censored my use of the expression "cock-up". I've been using that phrase since I was 8 years old, and my parents never minded! It's not *rude* over here.

          (For the benefit of my poor deprived readers, the four letters being needlessly blanked out here are two "c"s, a "k" and an "o".)
          p.bristow@...
    • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

      @cymru999
      So, you would rather your kids doing things online anonymously, so nobody knows who's doing what including yourself as a parent? I am not so sure about that...
      Astranger
  • I couldn't agree more ...

    The thing that Social Network sites need to get a handle on is that my Alias and my Identity are different things. We are reminded everyday that we need to protect our Identity, but these guys want to expose their users by policy rather than choice.
    davbran
    • RE: Google Plus Too Much Unnecessary Drama

      @davbran I feel it is a drama. necessary ?http://www.ommrudraksha.com/products/121-12-mukhi-rudraksha-bead.aspx
      rudraksha1