But Real Names Solve Everything!

Some of the developers at Google apparently have a very limited experience with online life. The geniuses who designed Hangouts created no way to boot disruptive people out, perhaps thinking that since everybody’s supposed to use their real names, they’ll all behave like perfect angels.

But they don’t. People with apparent “real names” have started crashing Hangouts, acting like complete morons, making it impossible for the people who were there for discussion to have one.

Google worked a few inadequate solutions in. Hey, you can block people, and they can’t join future Hangouts! Very useful, Google, thanks. Especially since vandals like these rove in gangs, and will just send more people to disrupt.

Or, you can make your Hangout invitation-only! Which kills it for educators and others who want to make their Hangouts as inclusive as possible. Also, people already in the Hangout can invite others in. Guess what vandals will do?

Additionally, they’re “report this person” feature does not include an option for “because they’re a piece of shit with nothing better to do than fuck with random people.” They need to at least modify it so you can add an explanation as to why you’re reporting someone. And to avoid malicious reporting, they need to have a robust review in place – something I seriously doubt they’ve got now, based on their deficiencies in other areas.

So much for that vaunted “real name” policy keeping the rabble out. And if they try to give us that “but we’re now supporting ‘nyms, so of course there will be icky people!” shit, just remember: they aren’t yet. The names of the people who busted in and made fools of themselves during Ron’s Geology Office Hours had names that appeared real. They proudly displayed photos. A “real name” policy does nothing to police the populace. Giving people the tools to block noxious numbskulls in real time and report them adequately, with proper safeguards in place, is the only thing that will work.

We’ll see if Google ever figures that out. If not, Hangouts will quickly cease to be of use to anyone who’s interested in actually hanging out rather than making mayhem, and there will be one less reason to use G+.

But Real Names Solve Everything!
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9 thoughts on “But Real Names Solve Everything!

  1. 4

    Yeah, the problems that their policy has caused with people who have names that don’t sound like “normal” (e.g. Western) names, coupled with the fact that every troll can just build a profile that SOUNDS like a real person’s real (and Western) name, means the people in charge of the Google+ “real names” policy was either engaging in some post-hoc rationalization for wanting the real names for database purposes, or was engaging in magical thinking. Either way, it’s failed. That’s why they’re reversing course.


  2. 5

    I think most people knew the “real names” thing was going to be a debacle when Google first let it be known. There’s too many good reasons for using a pseudonym and too many reasons it’s a bad idea to use your real name on the internet. Unless you’re sending e-mails back and forth strictly to Real Life friends and family everyone on the internet is a stranger, and my mother raised me to be wary of strangers.

    I don’t have any music on hand that relates to the topic on hand, but I’d be shirking my duties to not include a link to something, so have some Sneaker Pimps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrvk1bmTayg&NR=1

  3. 6

    The “real names” policy was promoted as being merely an extension of what Facebook does and the many vocal “clean up our Internet!” bandwagoners pointed to Mark Z blathering about how Real Names ™ make everything better and the world a happy place.

    But all the noise over Google’s “progressive policy to save the internet” was a smoke screen – just marketing. The true context of the comparison between Google and Facebook is very different. Facebook’s real names policy was not an attempt to make everyone happy. It was to encourage college kids to sign up with the name they were registered under at their school, to speed up the process of Facebook taking off with its original audience. That’s all. It was to cut down on dumbass college wankers spamming the new TheFacebook website with trash names designed just to troll and make a joke of it.

    Mark Z later retconned this into the marketing spiel about how everyone on Earth should have a single traceable identity so that EVERYONE can stalk everyone at any time. Because that’d make everyone a nicer person. Yeah.

    Google’s Real Name policy is predicated entirely upon marketing. They wanted a slice of Facebook’s pie… the ability to tell advertising partners that you have 40 million eager eyeballs on your social network, and that you can assure them each one of those is an isomap to one, real, individual consumer. It’s social engineering. Google assumed (rightly to some degree) that the average person is naive about the net and would just sign up at a social network with their real name, photo, hell even pictures of their damn front yard to make sure ALL THE NICE PEOPLE can come find them. Why wouldn’t any fine upstanding citizen with a firm right handshake proudly, with chin up and jaw set, display who they really were? You don’t have something to hide, do you!

    But the reality is that Google has less practical experience with managing the mobs than Facebook does. Don’t get me wrong… Facebook is already a disaster of trolling and the worst human behavior imaginable from Fratboys Online ™. But Google is primed to be even worse.

  4. 7

    The Mashable article uses as its source an interview with Vic Gundotra in which he promises nothing new above what Brad Horowitz had promised in interviews weeks before and not delivered.

    Don’t believe the hype. Be properly sceptical and wait for observable behavioural evidence.

  5. 8

    Scuse me for nitpicking. You wrote:
    they’re “report this person” feature
    when you probably meant “their report this…”

    Other than that, I pretty completely agree with you as you can peruse from my G+ stream should you care to look.

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