Google+: Getting there, but not there yet

2012-01-26 14:45

Much-lauded announcements that Google+ allows pseudonyms turn out to mean that you can maybe get one through a procedure which doesn’t exist by filling out a nonexistent application.

Here’s the thing. Lots of people, especially celebrities, do everything under a name that isn’t on their driver’s license or passport. Google+ in theory now permits this. Google’s people say this is a vanishingly rare requirement, but of course, they’re subject to huge sampling bias; they’re sampling only people who have signed up to their service.

Fundamentally, not everyone in the world even has a “first name, last name” pair. Some people are consistently known by a full name which includes a middle name. You may not have heard of Stephen Gould, but you’ve almost certainly heard of Stephen Jay Gould. In some countries, single names are common.

Me? I go by seebs. That’s what my spouse calls me. That’s what my lawyer calls me. And Google+ won’t let me create a profile in that name, because it wants a “full name” which is precisely a first name and a last name, no more, no less. Period. Heck, it won’t even let me enter my actual legal name. (My first name is a single letter. It does not stand for anything.)

The option of being known as Firstname “Nick” Lastname is not support for pseudonyms.

Google+ is, in many ways, a much better approach to social networking than the sites it’s competing with. The company is probably less evil. But until they’re willing to let me enter the name I primarily use and display that name and only that name, they are not good enough for me to keep an account created on it for more than five or ten minutes at a time. (I go in occasionally to see whether they’ve fixed it yet.)

The reality is, “seebs” is more my real name than the words on the driver’s license. It’s what should be shown if someone comes looking for me. I’m fine with listing one or more of the legal names as “other names” or “nicknames”, but I am “seebs”.

Peter Seebach

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