I’ve been wanting to check out Google+ since it launched, but there was one small problem. You couldn’t sign up for Google+ with a Google Apps account, and last year I migrated everything over to Apps. I use Google Apps to host email for my personal domains, and I’ve hooked everything Google I use – Android, Docs, AdSense, Affiliate, etc. – to my Apps account. So I wasn’t about to sign up with a normal Gmail account and go through all the effort to setup G+ knowing I’d just have to do it again later. Especially as, historically, Google’s migration process to move things to Apps has been less than smooth.
But that changed tonight as they opened up G+ to GApps users. So I’ve gone ahead and signed up and took a first pass at fleshing out my profile. The lack of ‘vanity’ URLs reminds me of the bad old days of Facebook, which is not a good thing. I hope they come to their senses on that one.
Otherwise so far it seems OK, but I have to say I’m not blown away or anything. I don’t see a way to auto-feed Twitter into G+ for status updates, which is what I do on FB, and I don’t see myself switching to G+ clients for that. I was also surprised that YouTube has auto-sharing features for every other type of linked account they support, but not Google+. First impressions are that Google+ is less ‘open’ than FB. It seems to want to force you to do all of your updates and post content within its confines, while FB is happy to suck in activities from other sites like Twitter, YouTube, etc.
On the other hand the interface is, and I expect from Google, very clean and crisp. Not a lot of random crap splashed all over, a problem that has only been worsening on Facebook with their recent updates. The ‘Circles’ system of grouping people is pretty easy to understand and the privacy controls seen fairly straight forward. It seems to be missing some of the things I turn to FB for, like fan pages, community pages, etc. And no, Hangouts aren’t the same. The pages I spend most of my time using on FB are for companies like TiVo or communities of users. Not individuals. So I want to see that on G+. And when they’re available I’ll look to create one for Gizmo Loves, just as I did for Facebook.
The big question is, of course, if, or maybe I should say when, Google will suspend my account because of my name. They have a history of suspending accounts of monoymous users, due to their utterly idiotic ‘real names’ policy, so I fully expect them to waste my time proving I am who I claim to be too. I could rant for pages about the stupidity of their name policy, but plenty of others have already done so. I’ll try to to be brief.
I’ve been online since 1989. I’ve seen countless people using apparent ‘real names’ acting like complete jackasses. Using real names does not mean good behavior. In fact, there is already a growing problem with G+ users jumping into open Hangouts and trolling. And the accounts have names that look as ‘real’ as any others.
That highlights a key point that I’ve seen so many who support the policy miss. Google is not enforcing the use of real names. Not in the least. They are enforcing the use of real looking names. Of course, what looks real to them is a very narrow definition. Basically a European style first & last name with little to no cultural flexibility. Come from a culture where mononyms are common? Or where it is common to render your name in two character sets? Or have a name that sounds ‘funny’ to the Western ear? Or just have an unusual name? Be ready to have your account suspended and to be guilty until proven innocent.
And there have even been cases of people being told their legal name is unacceptable under the policy. Now that’s utter bullshit. Especially when any yahoo can pick a name out of the phone book. Want to be James Tucker? Or Brian Jones? Go ahead, it doesn’t matter if that’s your name or not. It looks real and there’s next to no chance you’ll get caught. And that’s what the trolls are doing now, creating disposable accounts with real looking names. A troll is a troll by any other name.
But the whole shtick about the policy being to encourage good behavior is a smokescreen anyway. It is really all about marketing. Google wants you to use a real name because they want to be able to compile a dossier and link it with other information sources to better target you with marketing and to productize you for marketers. Personally I don’t have a problem with them wanting to do that, that’s really what Google’s business is. Everything else, including search, is designed to feed that business. But the way they’re going about it is ham fisted and flawed.
There are many legitimate reasons to use a pseudonym online. It should be a choice. When you get down to it a nickname is a pseudonym. How many of you go by some variation of your legal name in daily life? If you go by Liz but were told you had to go by Elizabeth, would that bother you? Prefer your middle name over your legal first name? Too bad. No more Chip, you’re Charles now. OK, I’m going to stop before I do write pages. But check out My Name Is Me.
So, anyone want to start a betting pool on how long it’ll take Google to suspend my account? Remember, my legal name is just MegaZone.