Sunday, July 24, 2011

More important than SL or the SCA

Most of my friends who have experienced the G+ banhammer have been in Second Life, the Society for Creative Anachronism, or have been artists of one sort or another.

These are people who understand pseudonyms, "avatar names," "society names," "stage names," however you wrap them.  It seems to me that the people in the executive offices at Google are not thinking of how many of us there are.  They are thinking of the baaaaaaad people.  They are thinking of the Internet Geezer's Nightmare -- The End of Civility.  My guess (as something of an Internet Geezer myself) is that Google is afraid that if they let anyone call themselves anything, anytime, or any amount of time, G+ will be the social network that will look like the ass end of the underbelly of Myspace.

You know, like that part of Twitter most people never see because, who ever links to those people?

Yes, that's right.  These people do. Not. Get. It.

I suspect if I were a young engineer at Google, I'd be nervous this year.  There's a generation gap, and culturally they are on the rigth side of it, with us.  But if we don't help them out, they're on the wrong side of it by power, for a lot of reasons, only one of which might have to do with their retirement accounts.

This is a culture war, and it's more important than people think it is.

This is setting a precedent for the small town lawyer who wants to be able to keep their ability to blog about local politics, even though it might alienate their clients in their law practice.

It's about teachers who want to be able to go shred on the weekend, even if they teach middle school a couple towns over.

It's about a middle aged guy who wants to blog about surviving sexual family abuse as a kid, even though his abusers are still very much alive, living in the same town.

It's about the DA in Texas who wants to use his pseudonym to discuss his anime collection and research gay resorts in the Bahamas.

It's about the woman who wants to blog about how her husband and several of her cousins are activists in the Arab Spring movements in Syria, and how she and her mother and sister are getting by at home while they are away.

It's about the guy who is trying to attend NA meetings online because he's too well known in his community on sight to be seen walking into a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, and wants an identity to be able to meet with his sponsor and friends in recovery online.

It's about the woman in the company town in upstate NY who is trying to organize a union without her kids getting hurt on the playground.

These are people who do not want to socialize under their government ID verified names for very good reasons. Aside from the SL artist, or the SCA poppinjay or the hacker handle. Or Lady Gaga.

OK, we're more vocal and visible. But ultimately IMO we aren't as important. We're just the ones who feel safest to speak out. So, I think we have to, and we have to get loud.

And, not only that, but in many cases, Google should be happy to see these separate identities. Because that gay DA is never going to spend a penny on gay travel unless it's under his pseudonym. His pseudonym is a laser focused marketing target -- just in the same way that a person might have one identity as an office supply buyer for their department when they are at work and as an individual buyer shopping from an LLBean catalog at home. This is NOTHING NEW to marketing. So why should Google have a problem with one person having separate identities to market to?


  1. Listening to the other side defending its views ("But this is just how social networking IS, blah, blah"), I feel as though I'm discussing matters with fundamentalist religious zealots.

    I'm not sure how you fight them. I hope we don't have to watch too many people get burned at the stake before we figure it out.

  2. Remember, it's not them that's burning people at the stake, but Google who is banning people. As far as I can tell, every young engineer at Google groks this issue and it's some old fart in a corner office (Vic?) who doesn't get it. We need to support the folks in Google who get it, change the minds of the execs who are worried rightly that they are making a mistake, and if necessary put pressure that ONE PERSON -- not the whole company -- should be changed out.

    You can't change the situation by arguing with the nym haters. It's like trying to argue with people who think driving while black is a crime. You have to go to the people in charge of justice -- in this case Google -- and say, "this is not just, and this is not how the not-evil world you want to operate in should work."

    When we show them the cost in trust and in the future for digital natives to this policy, they will change it. And if they don't then it's their cost, sadly. Google could continue to be a great company, but they may have become to big to be agile.