So, so; Google+ is now making noises and hopping on the "no pseudo names" train.
What I have been doing for the last few hours is downloading all my mail from Gmail to make sure I have all my friends' addresses. You know you can do this right? And that you can set up your email program (you DO use one yes?) through POP3 or IMAP to fetch your mail at intervals and remove it from Google's servers? I hope you do; it's a very valuable ability. It's also easy with any number of email programs like Thunderbird or a dozen others.
I never liked the idea of my mail hanging out on someone else's servers, subject to disk crashes, catastrophes or availability of other persons. I have always downloaded my email off a provider's servers... because I was schooled this way for many good reasons. Some of those reasons are becoming more apparent every day...
I've also made sure that anything Google-connected is downloaded, like my You Tube videos, and am researching other hosting providers. I've also downloaded and archived this blog. If Google decides that I am not a valuable person, then I will take my value elsewhere. They, like FaceBook, would like you to believe they are the only ones you can use for these services. I think... if they make a few more moves like these, they will quickly find out how arrogant and myopic that view is.
I just wish to explore one simple question: why, exactly, is my "real name" important?
Miso Susanowa has a growing profile on the net. That name is used to browse Google (which carries ads); to look at web sites with information I am interested in (which serve ads); to comment and post on various blogs (which carry ads); to view news (which carries ads); to view You Tube (which carries ads)... you get the idea.
So, here's a profile attached to "Miso Susanowa." It knows where I go; it knows what I look at and what I click. It knows what my interests are.
Isn't that the purpose of the stated rationalizations for this kind of prying? So I can be served targeted ads by marketeers? So my profile can be sold to other marketeers so they can target me with their ads and sell more stuff? So... what's the problem here? They're reaching me. They're targeting me. They have my eyes and interest. They have a bead on me. I will buy just as much of their stuff as Miso Susanowa as I will as Ms. X.
What is my Real Name anyway?
Let's be open and stop pussyfooting; to the government and to the IRS and various other institutions, I am not Ms. X at all. I am a number. A number associated with a name put on a birth certificate. A name I can legally change (and plan to do so). A name that is not a permanent etching, unlike, say, a Social Security Number, which I cannot change, even if I change my "real name." I can change my "real name" with less effort than I can change my bank account or credit card numbers.
These numbers that follow us around are what Vernor Vinge refered to in his seminal cyberpunk novella "True Names". Don't kid yourself; to Facebook or Google, you aren't a name! You are a number in a database that is attached to a name. You have no "real name"; you have a System Name. To a programmer, "Miso Susanowa" is a meaningless assemblage. It is tagged with a coded number which is your True Name to that system. You aren't anybody at all. You have various flags attached to your number, one of which may be your "real name." But your "real name" is not magic, nor holy... nor really of any significance to a machine.
Snooping on Google's "real names"
Here's a little example: try pinging [directions for Windows here] www.google.com in a window. Here's what I get:
Reply from 126.96.36.199
That is the 'real name' of 'www.google.com'. In fact, that's only the IP address of the name 'www.google.com', the front-facing public nameserver; just one 'true name'. Do you know "Google" has about 2000 or so 'real names'? Like its' Public DNS, which actually has two 'true names': 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 [and this is nice to know if you have filtered DNS from Comcast or Verizon or ATT or anyone- yoiu can use Google's public DNS to skip all the inter-service tossing/ad spam]. So... what's 'Google' then? It's a pseudonymous name for a whole bunch of virtual things.
So, to me, the stated rationalizations and reasons for this creeping movement to "real name up" everyone have a hollow ring. If all they want is my eyeballs to sell me stuff, they have them. I don't change names, especially ones I have invested a great deal of time and effort on over several years, in establishing a basis of trust and accountability to my community. I stand by my name; it is a good name and I have put a lot of effort into promoting it... just like 'Google' did.
An Open Statement to FB, Google+ and anyone else concerned:
I have, over the course of 25+ years online, promoted you; I have brought you eyeballs and purchases through my exploration and recommendation of technical products and issues. I am trusted on the basis of my knowledge, my willingness to discuss technical issues and the incredible amounts of time I put in on field-testing and disseminating your offerings.
I recommended people switch from AltaVista to Google when A-V became mired in the same pathetic crap you seek to push (but with more teeth now). I can honestly say that every single client machine I have ever worked on for the last 10 years I have provided with both a desktop icon to quickly reach Google, reset their "home page" to Google and made sure Internet Explorer or someone else can't hijack it. You don't think that kind of exposure, recommendation or PR is valuable just because I use a different name?
I have switched people from Microsoft products to Linux and OpenOffice (and now that that got polluted, LibreOffice); I have switched them off Photoshop; I have vehemently switched them off Norton products as being shoddy, havok-wreaking products. I have shown them why dumping Adobe's Reader software for much better PDF readers is a lot better for them. I have switched their purchases from Well-Known-Brand-Name laptops (which were crap) to reliable and well-built laptops; I have recommended nVidia over ATI (until nVidia succumbed to some bright-boy MBA's cost-cutting measures).
I have brought you thousands of dollars in trade on my recommendations. I have denied thousands of dollars to companies who's products, service or aims are questionable to the consumer. Under various names.
If you wish to toss all that real purchasing power away on some wet-behind-the-ears baby MBA or bean counter's smoke-and-mirrors idea of how to farm all of my talent, goodwill and reputation just to make a bump in a quarterly... you go right ahead. I'll watch you sink into the tar pits that took all the other tiny-brained dinosaurs while I cheerfully recommend much better alternatives. You have been warned.
[By the way, Google; how's your competition going with duckduckgo or Blekko? Remind you of anything? Reminds me of when everyone started dumping A-V for Google when their search engine became bloated with self-important crap, spammed links, ad-choked boggy pages...]
Names Have Power
I have three names I can "conjure" by on the net. One you see before you. The other two had their time and place. But if you took all the posts created by those three names over 25 years, you'd find a consistent person behind those names. My views and positions have not changed that much in all of that time. You'd know you were reading the same person.
I do not sit down to "craft a false identity;" I speak through an idea; a presentation of myself. That self is consistent. I do not do this for nefarious, illegal or criminal reasons. I do not do it to deceive.
You have my words, my thoughts, my opinions, my dreams, my critiques and my indulgences. You can assemble a pretty good portrait of a human being from those posts. You can see the continuity and the existence of the me I choose to make public.
I can see no reason that makes sense to me on why all that needs to be linked, cross-indexed and tabulated with a governmentally-approved name and number unless it is the desire of some people to know every single thought, action, (bowel) movement or interest of mine at all times.
This is called totalitarianism and I will not conscience it, nor would the men who suffered and died not only for this country's freedoms but for the freedom of men and women everywhere in many times and places. I don't care what you label it; isn't that what this is all about, labels?
This is the Information Revolution: we move outside the established channels because they no longer serve us; we seek our own communities and establish our presence and our reputations by our words and actions; we speak amongst ourselves and we use the tools of a free press to do it, uncontrollable by gatekeepers and sluice-gate operators who seek to stem the flow of community under the guise of commerce. This is the true meaning of "information just wants to be free"; not free as in 'free beer' but free as in 'free to move between people.'
And that scares the Gatekeepers shitless. And now you know why what's happening is happening.