Jul. 29th, 2011

liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
I have thinky thoughts about Google+, but I don't want to post them there because I'm starting to get paranoid about Google deleting accounts where there is criticism of their service. And I don't want to post them here, because anyone who cares about the nitty-gritty of Google+ would be in their "field trial" by now. (If there's anyone left hunting for an invitation I have a few I can send; I need an email address, though, and preferably the one you actually intend to use for your profile. PM me if you don't feel comfortable putting your email address in a public post.)

But I do want to talk more generally about the Real Names issue. Google+ is insisting on what they define as real names, a policy they are enforcing in an entirely cack-handed way. Although they've corrected some of their earlier mistakes, I suspect this issue is going to kill Google+ in the way that assuming your email address book equals your social circle killed Buzz. But suppose they had a sensible definition of real names, such as allowing names that don't follow the standard US pattern, or professional pseudonyms, or use-names that don't happen to match what's written on a person's birth certificate (all of which are perfectly "real" according to both US and European law). And suppose they had a sensible appeals process if someone got deleted by mistake. In that case, would a "real-name social network" policy make sense?

in short, no )

What Google+ won't be is a replacement for DW. Yes, it has "circles", and yes, the UI for sorting your social network into trust categories is quite a bit better than what we have here. But there's no way I'm going to start posting personal stuff there, precisely because there's no way I want any opinions or any views about work or any details of my movements linked to my birth certificate name. Which, by the way, is pretty unusual, unique in the UK and shared by only half a dozen or so people worldwide. Honestly I'm not in very great danger; there's nobody out there who has any interest in tracking me down with harmful intent, and I work in academia so I can expect to have understanding employers who won't Dooce me for having opinions that disagree with the party line. Even so, it's totally not worth it.

The fact I have a pretty cushy life in this respect is what allows me to take part in real-name social networks at all. And when I go there I meet other people who can afford to be pretty transparent in their online activities. At the same time, between my job as a lecturer and my voluntary commitment to Jewish community leadership, there's plenty of stuff I would rather not connect to my real name. It's not because I have anything to hide, but because my students and congregants don't need to know about my love life, my politics, who my other friends are that I know through other situations than the ones where I interact with them, etc etc. For me, it's worth having a presence on Facebook, and now on Google+, because it gives me somewhat better control over what information is out there about me. If I don't participate, people could deduce quite a lot about me from the shape of the holes, and I can't do anything about data-careless friends revealing lots of info that I don't want out there. By having a profile, I can control what floats to the top when someone searches for me, and sometimes ask for damaging info to be removed if necessary. Most importantly I know what an investigator might find out about me by poking around on the net! But I don't socialize there. I lurk, I make bland posts that show I'm a real person and I'm at least semi-active, I make occasional updates about major life events that are effectively my public biography anyway.

The other thing is that the bizarre mixture of extreme permanence and ephemerality makes me completely freeze up when I try to say anything. I might have a stray thought that would fit there, but then I second-guess myself and think, but what if that doesn't perfectly represent what I believe forever and ever? Maybe it's better not to post after all! I'm finding myself reluctant even to "+1" other content or post links, because I keep thinking, is this really the thing, out of all the internet, that I want to associate with my real name and declare my allegiance to anytime someone looks me up online? At the same time I'm not going to post any carefully thought out stuff, because it all slides off the front page in a few hours anyway, and there's no sensible way to archive it or go back to refer to it, as you can with old blog posts.

So I'm going to carry on socializing in a pseudonym environment, most probably DW for the forseeable future. And I'm going to maintain a bland presence on FB, and on Google+ for the time being, but I'm rather expecting it to implode or just tail off into oblivion once the initial excitement dies out. You can call it image management, I suppose.

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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