Hi! My name is Shava Nerad, and I live in Somerville MA, which is near Boston, and also near the Google offices in Cambridge MA. I have LOVED Google since it took over the little room in my heart labeled "favorite search engine" from a company called "Northern Lights" that most of you probably don't even remember. When my son was about ten, he used to call me "the human Google," and he used to have a game with his friends of giving me a term and seeing how long it took me to riff on it before I ran out of material. I am an information junkie. My friends call me The Information Ferret, in French "La Furette d'Informations" or "La Furette des Informations" which actually means two different things. (Look it up!) <-- characteristic.
I have made most of my living at the intersection of people, words and ideas -- and technology. By 1982, at age 23, I was Chief Software Engineer/Consultant at DEC, working on the first commercial color graphic (sound/video) multimedia authoring system, called IVIS, as the project head for prototype applications. It was a lot of fun. I went on to do things like support computers and networks at big campuses like MIT and UNC/Chapel Hill, where I also got to play with early telemedicine and virtual reality research. I worked on digital divide projects domestically in rural areas and inner cities, and also with international programs. I did my obligatory stint as a dotcom exec, and got accolades as part of an inc500 company, and I was founding executive director of the Tor Project which is the anonymity software that the Arab Spring activists have been using to shield their location from the state-owned telecoms, to avoid awkward knocks on the door at midnight, recently. And, I've done a lot of social media, marketing, ghost writing, all kinds of work.
It was my work with Tor, back some years ago, though that really refined my ideas around online identity, and made me believe that it was worth my time -- and yours -- to put some gentle persuasion into Google changing their "real name" policy. I'll blog more about why online identity needs to be more fluid, just as a normal part of modern life. But you probably already know that if you are reading this (if not, read more of the main blog! or email me). We are suffering from an artificial distinction that online culture is "separate" from culture today. This is a bit like saying telephone culture is separate from non-telephone culture. The medium may be the message -- it does shape things -- but the message is just part of the greater culture, and it's all culture.
When Google sets out to be the dominant player in our social networking space, they set out to be the dominant force in shaping culture. Not online culture. Culture. And that's too important to leave to a board of 50+ year executives who don't get it. And I'm sorry, I am of that cohort, but I spend less time in closed rooms than they do, and I spend more time with young people in peer relationships. At the same time, I want to believe that, like me, they are good people who can be persuaded by a combination of good arguments, public will, and enlightened self-interest (read: profit motives).
The web has delivered good arguments. By going to dance, and by gathering press, we show public will (and a lot of teachable moments for those who don't understand yet why identity should be articulated by the individual, and that's not nasty!). And, we can also show that we are enough numbers that the numbers excluded are a hit to profits, that their friends who might leave are a hit to profits -- and we can deliver further arguments that pseudonyms are not only good for marketing, but that they've been used by marketers for a century or more, and are a longstanding institution in business.
But hey, besides that, who wouldn't want an excuse for a Friday afternoon dance?
By the way -- I'm looking for work. Check out Shava Nerad on LinkedIn, or just find me anywhere. I'm easily findable in Google. ;)