Following Facebook Down The Wrong Path

Cory Doctorow has written a fantastic post on the subject of online identities and the forced use of real names in Google+.  I've been blogging a fair bit on this topic lately. I'm annoyed that Google has adopted such a wrongheaded approach to identity in Google+ and I've been having a hard time articulating why. Fortunely there are others who are saying what I am feeling. Cory nails it with these closing paragraphs:

The first duty of social software is to improve its users' social experience. Facebook's longstanding demand that its users should only have one identity is either a toweringly arrogant willingness to harm people's social experience in service to doctrine; or it is a miniature figleaf covering a huge, throbbing passion for making it easier to sell our identities to advertisers.

Google has adopted the Facebook doctrine at the very moment in which the figleaf slipped, when people all over the world are noticing that remaking ancient patterns of social interaction to conform to advertising-driven dogma exposes you to everything from humiliation at school to torture in the cells of a Middle Eastern despot. There could be no stupider moment for Google to subscribe to the gospel of Zuckerberg, and there is no better time for Google to show us an alternative.

Our community here at AVC welcomes real names, pseudonyms, and anonyms. And we have one of the most civil and intelligent communities on the world wide web. If anyone wants to understand identity and social software, I suggest they spend some time hanging out with the AVC community. They could learn a lot.

#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. EmilSt

    I think I saw somewhere here a line on this topic that helped me shape my opinion:What only matters are the ideas and timeline.

  2. Dennis Buizert

    In all fairness, I stopped using Facebook like I used it in the past. All I use it for now is, post or repost things that matter to me. I use twitter for interaction, whatsapp for my friends and Skype. I connect or try to connect with people on topics that matter to me via AVC, HackerNews topics etc. Friends are not friends on Facebook. And I don’t like the policy of them forcing you to use your real full name. First name I can get my head around, but forcing someone to show their real full name (first+last) is somewhat out of line. A form of anonymity must stay otherwise social engineering becomes to easy 😉 

    1. fredwilson

      Have you tried kik instead of whatsapp?

      1. Dennis Buizert

        Fred, I have yes. But none of my friends circle uses it. I have it installed though 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          same with my daughter. i asked her to get all her friends to switch. 

  3. Douglas Crets

    Well said. The difference between you and Facebook, though, is that you are a social site, not a network. And you are quite openly not using our data or our names, or our moods even as a commodity to sell to advertisers. you have a network here, yes, and I think what makes your blog a wonderful user experience is that people can come and go as they are, or as they wish to be known, without judgment and without an effort on your part to dictate how we do such a thing. You are good, Fred, because you offer us an easy relationship with your knowledge and your self. Keep it up. 

    1. JamesHRH

      Doug – Fred is pretty open that he gets way more out of AVC than he puts into it. He calls it the ‘best monetized content on the web ‘ repeatedly.AVC is a marketing & research tool. Fred does an exemplary job and he is marketing an excellent offering ( Fred Wilson & USV ). But the professionalism of AVC isn’t an accident – it’s part of Fred’s [email protected] USV.Facebook is marketing the single largest collection of human eyeballs that can be delivered through one media supplier. Its a low cost, high volume offering ( which AVC isn’t, obv. ).One day, Zuck will have a CPM sale just to see if he can make 10,000 sites disappear.

  4. Dan Lewis

    I generally agree, but what if Google is trying to solve a different problem?  What if they’re trying to build the white pages?Our names are our “unique IDs” in the real world, but they aren’t very unique.  We have more unique ones assigned to us — SSN (if US), email address, and increasingly phone number. Let’s drop SSN from the conversation, as they aren’t used as communications conduits, but keep it — and its problems — in the back of your mind.With the exception of Facebook, LinkedIn, and now Google+, online communications services tend to require us to create new IDs.  And in almost all situations, those IDs aren’t our names.  AIM, Twitter, Skype, Tumblr, whatever.  As we get away from names, we gravitate toward good-for-now names (in high school, my AIM was “KingJawa” — yikes!) or toward names with meaning to the speaker but not the listener (I switched from KingJawa to my first name and then my MMDDYY birthday).Google’s already acknowledged this problem in their http://www.emailinterventio… — so there’s some reason to believe they’re seeing this problem.And the problem is a byproduct of the platform moreso than the user.  I have it particularly bad because my name is so common, and while I prefer to use my real name*, I often can’t.  Got it on Gmail but not Twitter or AIM or, well, anything else.  But when the platform traditionally uses non-real names (or non-full names), new users — anecdotally, but I’m betting I’m right here — don’t use their real names.  They instead gravitate toward expression or a long-term UID.  @CEONYC:twitter is a good example — “@BradFeld:disqus CharlieODonnell” was probably available.  Two of my coworkers just signed up for Twitter a week or so ago, and both had numerals and/or underscores in their names.  Brad Feld has both @bfeld:twitter and @BradFeld:disqus  apparently (the latter uses his URL) but uses the former.  Obviously there are a ton of examples of real-name use, but it’s not widespread.This poses a HUGE communications problem, because if I don’t know your ID, I can’t contact you.  And how am I supposed to find your ID?50 years ago, if you wanted to contact someone, you’d break open the white pages and look them up.  That causes problems in some cases — there are always going to be multiple Dan Lewis’ — but it’s a decent solution.  But now, there’s really no way.  The thing just doesn’t exist, and to create it, you (almost) need to boil the ocean.  What if Google is trying to do that?They’re probably seeing this already — via search traffic.  Type in “Fred Wilson Twitter” and the question they assume the searcher is asking is “what is fred wilson’s twitter handle?”  And the assumption that people would make the same query for other information — email addresses, phone numbers, etc. — which isn’t currently indexed, well, that seems right. (Anecdotally, I can never remember my brothers’ email addresses or my in-laws’ phone numbers.)All that, the social layer may be a strategy, not a goal.  The social layer does three things:1) It incentivizes people to create profiles.  About.me and Flavors.me are trying to get people to create profiles, but how many have they gotten?2) The social layer — plus the person’s photo — in an important element in the white pages aspect.  There are 1000s of Dan Lewises out there, and if you don’t know me well enough (or perhaps haven’t met me), you’ll never be able to identify me from the others by just my picture**.  But knowing where I’ve worked, went to school, or seeing that we have mutual friends — all of that helps.  LinkedIn and Facebook both have demonstrated this.3) It adds privacy aspects to the White Pages.  The biggest downside of the white pages is that if you wanted to hide your number from one person, you had to hide it from everyone and opt-out entirely.  G+ seems to be built in a way to handle this better.  I have people in circles already; in theory, I should be able to show my cell phone number to people in specific circles and only people in those circles.  Or I can go “friends of friends” or something like that.  It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good.I’m not saying the above is Google’s grand plan here — just that it could be, and, if it is, the “real name” rule is sensible if not correct.  Given how engrained “search” is in the corporate Google DNA, it also makes sense that this is what they’re doing.* I also am able to maintain a veneer of anonymity online _while using my real name_, as it’s very easy to say “must have been another Dan Lewis.”  ** I use the same picture everywhere to help mitigate this problem.

    1. Cam MacRae

      Google’s real name policy is broken. The policy actually states (or did, last time I looked at it) that “the Names Policy requires that you use the name that you are commonly referred to in real life in your profile.”Fine.Except their implementation falls apart if your name isn’t some approximation to an Anglo-American name, like say the journalist Stilgerhian (that’s his full “real” name), or a good percentage of Indonesians. If they are trying to build a White Pages, they’re going about it in a pretty crummy way.

    2. fredwilson

      i believe it is the sum total of all of your online indentities that is your online identityi put that forth in this posthttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…

    3. ShanaC

      I grew up on the web.  This post is making me thank god that in my early days (like preteen days) I didn’t use my real name, and I wasn’t forced to use a photo anywhere.My name is kind of unique, and between my glasses and my hair, so is the way I look – what if I don’t want to be found? What if I want to have a totally innane disscussion elsewhere, or actually discuss Communism, as per @ccrystle:disqus ‘s post. I’m stuck!

      1. andyidsinga

        on a similar note i grew up on fidonet and bbs’ and had some level of anonymity there until caller id came along 🙂 but good sysops didnt reveal other users names..

    4. aslevin

      But in the age of the white pages, people could be unlisted. And a fair number of people chose to be unlisted – famous people, social workers, people who’d been harrassed – people in the categories likely to use pseudonyms would go unlisted.And being unlisted back in the day didn’t carry a major social and business penalty. By contrast in his recent comments, Chairman Eric Schmidt said that Google’s search algorithm would favor so-called real names.  This would impose a severe penalty on the websites and content of people who chose not to use the name associated with their street address.With persistent pseudonyms, Google could provide a lot of value by letting people connect services they want to connect, and helping build reputation and advertising value across web websites.With Circles, Google+ has an innovative tool where you can choose to disclose information publicly or do the set of people you choose. Google has no valid reason to force people to expose their wallet name publicly.Game companies and ebay have a long history of allowing people to use a pseudonym publicly and only use their wallet name when it’s needed for transaction.Google can actually get the business benefits it wants without forcing people to expose the name associated with their street address, and gain extra in good will, audience size and social value.I don’t think it’s a good business call for Google, in addition to being harmful to people who chose not to always use their wallet name.

  5. leigh

    ” to conform to advertising-driven dogma “:  To the point you made in your earlier post about user focus – it’s the mantra any good UX designer would focus in on – and yet and YET – the business lens tends to trump customer lens in 90% of big brand companies.Google just seems to keep missing the mark when it comes to social.  They may need to consider more deeply how social meaning relates to their core DNA of organizing the world’s information (never mind don’t be evil) before they will ever get it right.  

    1. awaldstein

      Social like life like community is by its very nature…and key to its value….dynamic and messy.You need to make sense of the data, not create restricted social platforms.Google and social feels like Microsoft and the internet. They understand its key value, they are just trying to bend it to their will and their business model. It just doesn’t work that way.

      1. William Mougayar

        Exactly. Social is messy. Google doesn’t like the social mess, but they like mess in their search results which they make money from.

      2. fredwilson

        great insight arnold

      3. JamesHRH

        Arnold, respectfully, I think this is only half right.Larry doesn’t get the value of social. He gets that it is huge. They are trying the second mover move again – just like Bill did with Yahoo & MSN – and he will totally miss the boat, too ( just like Bill did ).Larry does not value the Sergey driven design elements that made the initial GOOG experience magical. That experience crushed portals; it was unforgettable, indiscernible from magic. GOOG hardly magical now. Magical search is now the exception: when you are looking for the arcane.GRIM baby is closer to it ( see his post on paid community ). I think community will be sponsored -like Fred’s sponsorship of AVC..FB will be where you keep all those people you meet at a conference,people you haven’t spoken to in years & people who post 6 times a day in a desperate cry for validation.Some other paid service will be where you share life with people you care about.

        1. awaldstein

          Communities of interest as a logical (and contextual) response to broad-based platforms, I agree with. Some thoughts on this at http://awe.sm/5SSRw

          1. JamesHRH

            Absolutely – this is basic brand theory. All category creators go broad; they are vulnerable to focused sub category creating innovation ( coke ,diet coke, etc,).

  6. Rob Daniel

    One of the things that bothers me about a system that doesn’t utilize real names/identity is that pseudonyms make it difficult to bring my friends/acquaintances/contacts to new services. I love logging in to AirBnB for the first time, syncing my Facebook account, and seeing authentic friends and networks displayed alongside listings.At times there are certainly reasons to allow anonymity, but for most services I use the ability to bring my friends (and our offline relationship / mutual understanding) with me is valuable. 

    1. maxmzd

      The problem you mention isn’t tied into real names vs pseudonyms; it’s caused by each system operating in a sandbox. If they all agreed to source identities from an open standard, the problem of syncing your contacts to their services will be solved. Once this happens, we can start comparing our histories across all services to decide who is real and who isn’t.

      1. fredwilson

        word

      2. Rob Daniel

        Respectfully disagree. For those myriad of pseudonyms to have any context outside of the application or forum where you struck the relationship, you generally need authentic identity. Maybe Hacker123 and I have an excellent relationship on stackoverflow, but should he also inform my music selection on Spotify? Do I want him as a connection on AirBnB? How am I to interpret his recommendations on Rotten Tomatoes? Do I really want to play a game on Google+ with him (ok, probably don’t care there).Eager to be enlightened if I’m still missing something (Fred seems to agree). I concur that sandbox environments are an added complexity, but I don’t believe they are the root of the problem.

        1. maxmzd

          Context has multiple layers. Your questions, as posed, would be answered as you expect: no, you wouldn’t trust Hacker123’s music selection on Spotify or his movie recommendations based solely on your interactions with him on StackOverflow. You need more signals. These extra signals come in the form of Hacker123’s connections on the services in question. Who does Hacker123 associate with on those services who are independently recognized as experts (or at least enthusiasts) of movies or music? Weigh that relationship (the further the distance, the less weight) and you have a relative trust index you can use.This was my point in another comment on this post: we need to start thinking DEEP where identity is concerned. Everything we do online has multiple layers of interaction with actors of varying degree of authenticity in their field (as determined by collective reputation). It’s a huge complex graph.To nail this, we’re going to need very complex algorithms that allow our online relationships – and the data they suggest – to flux over time, just like our real lives.I wrote up a bit on Context for Palmetto. I think if we can break down the common characteristics of context (and create a simple method for aggregating the data), then it’s just a matter of writing an on-topic algorithm within whatever subset you’re viewing.http://plmtto.com/overview/http://plmtto.com/overview/

    2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      MULTIPLE IDENTITIES NOT SAME AS ANONYMITY.IF YOU FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE AT WORK, AND FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE AT S&M CLUB, YOU PROBABLY NOT WANT THEM MEET EACH OTHER ON AIRBNB.BOTH SETS OF FRIENDS KNOW REAL NAME. BUT NOT KNOW SAME IDENTITY.

      1. JamesHRH

        Is this a common robot from the future issue?

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          NO. GRIMLOCK IS GRIMLOCK TO EVERYONE.BUT MOST HUMANS NOT SAME PERSON TO EVERYONE.

      2. Rob Daniel

        But if I don’t know who a person is, how do I get any value out of the connection on a site like AirBnB? If I were to login to AirBnB, and see that an apartment was available to rent from a friend of FG – that has no value to me. Who is FG? Sure, he/she posts witty comments on AVC but should I trust his friends to co-habitate with me? Lastly, if you are concerned about S&M friends mixing with biz colleagues then you shouldn’t allow AirBnB access to your friends list (which you can do). And any inability to restrict specifcially which Friends Lists of Circle can be shared on a site like AirBnB is a deficiency in the social network you are using, not in authentic identity.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          POINT IS ALMOST NO ONE HAVE JUST ONE FRIEND LIST. ATTEMPT OF G+, FACEBOOK TO HAVE SINGLE FRIEND LIST CRASHING INTO REALITY THAT NO ONE WANT THAT.

    3. aslevin

      But what if you wanted to expose your real name only to your “close friends” circle.  You’d have the burden of inviting them, but that choice is up to you if you don’t want to expose your name publicly.  Google could easily support this features with its circles design. It’s chosen not to.

      1. Rob Daniel

        Are we confusing the issue here? I’m not speaking to exposing identity within a social network, but rather pulling my identity and friends with me from a social network into a third-party service. How and who I show my identity to within the social network is on me…as in, it is up to me to only invite ‘close friends’ if that’s the experience I want to maintain.Most third-party services allow you to do either (a) Facebook/Twitter/etc. login or (b) create a new account. It’s generally the user’s choice.

        1. aslevin

          aha I was responding to the contrast in the paragraph below. Those things are true, and they are not tightly coupled to the use of a single name which is one’s wallet name.  For example someone might want to bring some gamer friends to another platform, and the crew recognize each other by pseudonyms.Or someone might want to find people that one knows from community about health issues.At times there are certainly reasons to allow anonymity, but for most services I use the ability to bring my friends (and our offline relationship / mutual understanding) with me is valuable.

  7. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    I found the AVC community in a desire to locate a source of information about the cutting edge of the technology/internet industry and I spend a lot of time reading posts, comments, and clicking on provided links and following those conversations.A month ago I would have naively claimed what is the big deal about using ones name.  After the last month I wish that I had not used my name.I am starting to grasp that one follows conversations not identities.  My use of Facebook is limited to friends and family, it reminds me that I have a birthday to acknowledge, or it is a way for my cousin to share pictures of their daughters wedding.At the same time I belong to groups on Linkedin and I get regular updates which are realistically, not worth the time of even opening the emails.Now that I have a dabbled with the concept of ‘social’ I find myself enjoying my morning coffee reading AVC and Twitter while spending less and less time on Facebook and Linkedin.Honestly, I don’t really know if “Fred Wilson” is actually a real person or not and I doubt that Google “validating” his identity will add any value whatsoever to their product because at the end of day I, as a user, determine the value of a product and I determine value by interaction not identity.Not real sure if this makes any sense, as I am just starting to get a clearer picture of the world that you all live and work in or with.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Makes total sense. 

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Carl, it’s nice to find out how you stumbled onto AVC (glad you did) and to hear the fresher perspective of someone “new to social” — not that I am that old to it myself.  Like you, I don’t need Google or any other structure to validate Fred’s identity however I do need for Fred Wilson to be a real person — to have his online persona backed up by something credible and real.  I don’t necessarily need this in order for him to be a commenter, but I do need this from the host (bartender?) of a community that I’m invested in.  Yet there are a lot of other people with his credentials that couldn’t pull off a community like this.  So, we are back to what you said about interaction — in the end this is what provides the validation — and the value.

      1. testtest

        I just saw this after my reply. Agreed.I looks for validation in my information sources; be it academic, or from the market.

    3. fredwilson

      “one follows conversations not identities”yes!and i refuse to be “verified” on any social network for the reasons you cite Carl.i’m not opposed to the notion of verified accounts, but i don’t want to be verified personally

      1. vruz

        There’s also that someone who is not willing to take the trouble and pay the cost of engaging in a meaningful conversation (from which to identify you in your true self, in reciprocity) is probably not worth your time at all.

    4. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      THIS GOOD POINT. YOU SMART!VALUE OF CONTENT IS IN CONTENT. IDENTITY OF CONTENT MAKER NOT ADD MUCH VALUE TO VIEWER.IT ADD LOTS OF VALUE TO AD COMPANY.THIS STAY PROBLEM AS LONG AS INTERNET PAID FOR BY ADS. NEED OTHER WAY TO PAY FOR INTERNET.ME SUGGEST $1/MONTH FOR TWITTER. 

      1. testtest

        The value of the content is in the content. However a characteristic of information is that it’s easy to create but hard to trust. As such there has to be a persistent identity behind it to know when to trust. I would agree with you 100% if you had said “real identity”.Twitter as we know it today should never be paid IMHO. It’s valid to use Free in the business model and then cross-subsidize. Twitter should use what they have as a layer and then build on top. They now have users, and a ton of data, if they can’t turn that in to revenue they don’t deserve to make any.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          THAT WHY ME SAY “MUCH” INSTEAD OF “ANY”.ME, GRIMLOCK, USE FEW WORDS. VERY CAREFUL WHEN PICK THEM.$1/MONTH FOR PRO TWITTER GOOD DEAL IF IT NOT MEAN TWITTER BEND TO SERVE NON-USERS.

          1. testtest

            I’d say a persistent identity has a lot of value at the start, and then once the information is used to make the decision, do I trust or not, it then doesn’t have much.Are you suggesting a freemium model, or a straight up $1 a month for all users?

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            PERSISTENT IDENTITY ONLY HAVE VALUE WHEN AGGREGATE ACROSS MULTIPLE PIECES OF CONTENT.FOR JUST ONE PIECE OF CONTENT, HAVE NO VALUE.US TALKING ABOUT ONE PIECE OF CONTENT. WORDS LIKE IDENTITY. MEANING NOT ONLY INSIDE WORD. ALSO INSIDE THINGS AROUND WORD.FOR TWITTER, SUGGEST FREEMIUM. LOTS OF PEOPLE HAPPY TO PAY FOR BETTER TWITTER.

          3. testtest

            “FOR JUST ONE PIECE OF CONTENT, HAVE NO VALUE.”In my opinion it has proportionally more value for one piece of content. The signals that an identity can give are more valuable at first. Otherwise to judge the value of the content you have to consume it.Signals from the identity help you judge whether the information is worth consuming before consuming it. And also how much validity to place on the content.With the Freemium model the price would have to be higher for the economics to work. If 5% of the 175m users (or what ever it is) paid $1/mo then twitter revenues would only be around 105m year. LinkedIn did more than that in Q2.But I do think there’s maybe scope to add value on top of the twitter layer and then charge. But in high-margin verticals. Possibly.When thinking about capturing value I’d treat Twitter more as a General Purpose Technology than a monolithic user base.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          “if they can’t turn that in to revenue they don’t deserve to make any.”Ha!  That is so true that it hurts!

      2. ShanaC

        Oh, I don’t know.  I think when “The Story of O” was first published, it definitely helped that the writer at the time was anonymous.  Created more of a marketing mystique around the book.  And that is a feature you could repeat on the internet (I’ve thought about it)

        1. MarkUry

          It certainly helped for Dan Lyons and Fake Steve Jobs.

      3. fredwilson

        that’s the wrong idea grimlockcharging the people who create the content doesn’t work

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          MAIN POINT: MONETIZATION MUST COME FROM INTENT OF USERS.IF NOT, THEN INTENT OF PLATFORM FIGHT INTENT OF USERS. INTENT OF FACEBOOK, G+, IS SHOW ADS. INTENT OF USERS IS NOT LOOK AT ADS. RESULT IS CONSTANT FRICTION.EBAY IS GOOD MODEL. INTENT OF USERS, EBAY, SAME. BUY, SELL. HARDER TO DO WHEN USER INTENT NOT COMMERCE. BEST MODEL IS SELL APPS OR SELL MEMBERSHIP.ME, GRIMLOCK, THINK EVERNOTE, DROPBOX FREEMIUM MODEL BEST BET FOR MONETIZE SHARING PLATFORM. ALL OTHER OPTIONS RESULT IN FIGHT USERS.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            (NOW TINY ROBOT BRAIN HURT. THAT TAKE ALMOST 15 MINUTES FOR TYPE. PICK RIGHT WORDS LOTS OF WORK.)

          2. fredwilson

            i think the model that twitter and tumblr are using, where the content is the monetization unit, is an interesting new approach to monetization

          3. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            NOT SURE WHAT THAT MEAN. EXPLAIN?

          4. fredwilson

            you have to be a content creator on the twitter and tumblr networks to be able to avail yourself of their monetization opportunities. and if your content isn’t any good, then you are wasting your time spending money there

          5. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            THIS SOMETHING GRIMLOCK NOT KNOW ABOUT?HOW CONTENT CREATOR MAKE MONEY DIRECTLY FROM TWITTER, TUMBLR?OR YOU MEAN INDIRECTLY, USE AS MARKETING? THEN WHERE CUT FOR TWITTER, TUMBLR COME FROM?

          6. Jon Atrides

            I get the argument you are making but I think that purely from the user’s perspective, making users pay monthly for a platform where user intent is not commercial might be a bit outdated. Over the past few years/decades users have received amazing functionality/tools for free and I would even say that for certain services (eg social) that is the expectation. Monthly fees is as blunt a monetization tool as advertising based on one’s interests and so the real challenge is for new businesses to find a way of steering non commercial use towards revenue generation. It might just be the most interesting part of the job!You are right though, the opportunity is still out there for a better model

    5. Tyler Hayes

      Re: following conversations not identities:Plenty of people talk about astrophysics but I only follow Neil Tyson. Plenty of people talk about accelerating change and the singularity but I only follow Ray Kurzweil.Plenty of people talk about VC but here you and I are following @fredwilson:disqus. By choice we’re following identities with whose words we resonate, for whatever reason (they have higher signal vs. noise than their colleagues, they have a strong opinion, what have you).I primarily follow identities. I make sure to read certain identities’ thoughts every day, e.g., Gruber, Wilson, Godin, and a handful of others. After that, time permitting, I may go to Summify, XYDO, Reddit, or Hacker News to find conversations relevant to my interests and may then follow those. But even then, a thought sits in the back of my head, “Who is writing this piece I’m now reading? And do I want to add them to my short list of identities I read every day (or perhaps follow them on Twitter so my chances of again discovering their material is increased)?”Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying?

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        Tyler,I stumbled upon AVC and read it daily for a month before I made my first comment.  I had no idea who Fred Wilson was and I could only measure his “klout” by the comments; I had no way to determine that he has tens of thousands of readers a day from the number of comments on his blog.When I started my own blog I figured I would be lucky to get 10 readers a day and before I knew it I had 10 times that many; and the reality is I am a nobody.  In fact, sometimes I think people read my blog just to see how crazy I can be.If Fred decided to blog as a dinosaur, would that make his posts less relevant to you?  You do ask a key question when you ask, “Who is writing this piece I’m now reading?” and what is wrong with answering that question with, “what difference does it make, when I, the reader, can determine the usefulness, the benefit, and then validate the argument?”  I seek out knowledge and opinions that are different than my own, not ones that reinforce what I already know.  I seek out communities that make me think and make me question my own opinions and knowledge and thus the identity of the writer is not that important.

  8. awaldstein

    “remaking ancient patterns of social interaction to conform to advertising-driven dogma”A phrase of great insight here.I’ve been straddling the fence on this argument. I still believe that the true value of community ties back to the real world and real people, but I see the reason now and how the dynamics can work in a mixed community such as this.The advertising logic is clarifying. Like stuffing old methods on new realities. When you force the new platform to conform to old values, it won’t work. The advertising model needs rethinking. If the community context is clear enough, the target audience should be distinct enough even with anonymity as part of the mix.

    1. fredwilson

      cory is a great writer

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Really appreciate this comment Arnold.  Speaks for me to a great extent.  I think we have some similar beliefs and values in this arena and you articulate them well.  I said in an earlier comment that there are different layers of community and even of identity.  Not sure this is the best way to say it.  Even this community has layers.  There are the comments and at that level pseudonyms, etc. are fine.  But there are deeper layers of community where we begin to connect beyond the comments — and a new layer of identity opens up. There are also intersecting communities found here — for instance Fred’s VC counterparts who show up from time to time and it is obvious from the exchange that there is another layer of relationship.Relative to the G+ identity debate, I don’t know that real names are needed for a social platform. Can’t think of why they would be.  But if creating a social platform is NOT the real purpose, well, then, this explains a lot.And you nail it with the idea of “forcing the new platform to conform to old values.”

    3. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      WHEN SOMETHING NEW IS BORN, IT NOT VERY GOOD IDEA TO TIE ROTTING CORPSE TO ITS BACK.BUT EVERYONE INSIST ON TIE CORPSE OF ADVERTISING TO INTERNET. 

      1. aslevin

        I don’t think advertising is quite dead. But I think that actual behavioral data is more valuable than Age Gender Zipcode.  But ad buyers know the old model and still buy the old model.Google used to be willing to pioneer new ad categories. 

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          SCIENCE SAY ADS DEAD. NOT JUST RESTING.HUMANS GROWING UP NOW HAVE EYES THAT BLOCK ADS. NOT IGNORE, AD NEVER GO INTO EYE. NONE OF AD TOUCH BRAIN.ME SAY IF DEER EVOLVE WOLFPROOF SKIN, IT NOT GOOD NEWS FOR WOLF.

          1. JamesHRH

            Supply of ads near infinite, too.100x annual increase in wolves, while deer growing wolfproof skin, that’s not helping either.

          2. Universal_Mind

            have you noticed how ads have evolved over the years ?they have to be annoying to catch your eye now.very pathetic. I think Mashable has destroyed theirsite with all the garbage that loads up now.I won’t be back.

  9. Brandon Burns

    I completely agree with this post and some of your others on identity. Conversely, you’ve also made posts about the viability of the tools that make it hard for all these types of identity to exist. When Disqus and Klout rank and reward people who use their real identity frequently, it by default puts those users on a pedestal which discourages others from wanting to take part in the action.The point I’m making is that the mere appearance of other ways to identify yourself isn’t enough. It has to be in an environment where there’s a clear benefit and purpose to having the variety. And if that environment allows real identities to build up their soap box, something in the functionality is going to have to off set that so that a “normal” user isn’t discouraged and/or annoyed. That environment doesn’t exist yet.

    1. fredwilson

      good points on ranking. we need to be careful about that.

  10. RacerRick

    It’s nice for Twitter that both Facebook and Google require real names.

    1. fredwilson

      tumblr too

  11. Dave Morgan

    I believe that Google will miss here because this service is primarily focused creating an identity service  – building a foundation for a global directory service for network devices and services – rather than enabling great social experiences for users. The former may ultimately prove very valuable for users if they are successful, but Google won’t get to second base (identity) if they don’t make first base (social) compelling and valuable on its own merits.

    1. fredwilson

      that last bit nails it dave. nicely said

    2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      WHEN BUILD THING FOR HUMANS, IT GOOD IDEA HAVE SOMEONE THAT UNDERSTAND HUMANS.GOOGLE ONLY HAVE ENGINEERS. 

      1. ShanaC

        engineers are humans.  They just have thier own norms.  And when different groups with different norms interact, what you need is a debutante or an ambassador, not an engineer…Maybe google should hire former ambassadors?

        1. aslevin

          It’s been reported that 10% of Google’s engineers signed a petition against the name policy before G+ launched.  A lot of the early opposition to the name policy has come from oldskool geeks who built their online identity with a pseudonym over decades.  I don’t think this is an engineering decision. It’s a business decision being made without good business judgement about the adoption of social services and the most effective ways to leverage the business value of a social network.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            BUSINESS DECISION BASED ON ENGINEER THINKING IS STILL ENGINEER DECISION.

          2. JamesHRH

            BINGO. BINGO. BINGO.Converse also true: a person who understands people can make good engineering decisions. Not directly, but by listening to good engineers.More read GRIMLOCK, less use grammar.

          3. ShanaC

            It is a really illogical one if that much.  Businesses can’t scale with a target of one customer.  Almost all of the information they need to resell for a targeted campaign could be found out without names attached, so why bother with the name policy?

          4. fredwilson

            oldskool geeks who built their online identities with a pseudonym over decades are a big deal. we are talking about cultural norms.

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          ENGINEER UNDERSTAND MACHINES.HUMANS NOT MACHINES.THAT MAKE ENGINEER WRONG PERSON TO PLAN MACHINE USED BY HUMAN.

          1. ShanaC

            Engineers have to have some understanding of other humans, otherwise there would be no baby engineers 🙂

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            GRIMLOCK HAVE IT ON GOOD AUTHORITY BABIES CAN HAPPEN WITHOUT HUMANS INVOLVED UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      And they are silly to think that people won’t ALSO have a real identity on Google+ – get them using the service, and have there be more benefits to not being anonymous and for using all of their services.

  12. Maris Berzins

    I believe there’s a flaw in the argument that’s been going around regarding real names.  A lot of nay sayers seem to imply there is only one true model, the one that allows uncontrolled name use.  I for one appreciate Facebook’s requirement for real names, as it allows me to reconnect with friends from many years ago, from relationships that pre-date most of our modern tech tools.  This is the main draw for me in using FB.  That ability to find those people would be so much harder in a world where they can completely mask their identity.  Of course, that makes advertising easier, as well as unfortunate nefarious uses of our personal data, but that’s a calculated risk people need to accept and manage.I think the more correct argument is whether or not FB or G+ are using the correct model for the intended use by it’s customers and partners.  I agree that for AVC, supporting all types of identities is best, given the content and the audience.  This is likely not true for FB, G+ or other similar services.

  13. Dave W Baldwin

    The winner is choice and open arena.  Social is people and people can decide whom they want or not want to be social with.I like @tao69:disqus ‘s mention of not necessarily knowing if Fred is real.  In effect, that introduces the blur of anon and virtual since all of Fred’s blogs could be written by a bored 13 year old genius… we don’t care because Fred is smart enough to encourage comments and this blog is a real triangle- Fred/Others/You.Those that want real names so you can find your friends, well if one of those old friends wants anonyminity, you just won’t find them… their choice.  Otherwise, I’ve had enough of HS friends wanting to find me.On the marketing/ad side, you can provide useful data to marketing folks per your anonymous as well as real names.  So it is a matter of being a leader and show the marketing segment what they can do and not wait for them to catch up.Patience Fred, as I’ve said before, with current structure, Fb is going to depend on the late comers and they will mature in a faster time frame than those current… so by 2015, Fb will be referred to as ‘that one social…… from back when’

    1. fredwilson

      i as real as one can be onlinesee the attached

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Whew… takes care of that conspiracy theory

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          THAT JUST PICTURE HIM FOUND ON GOOGLE. NO TELL ANYONE.

          1. ShanaC

            How are we sure that the isn’t just a Giant Prank from the artist, Fred Wilson…Seeing isn’t believing, experience is.

          2. fredwilson

            that would be great

          3. fredwilson

            i used photobooth to take it!

      2. ShanaC

        Nice glasses!

  14. Tereza

    I’m all for choice, specifically for reasons political persecution, and general coming-of-age growing pains, or some kind of fiduciary conflict.  These are natural reasons why the choice of identity is important.So while I’m for offering the choice, I stand behind when I say that some people miss a personal branding opportunity, rigor of thinking, and acceptance of comments etc. when they put their name behind what they say.  Too bad for them. But they can choose.Any community manager who’s trying to create a ‘safe space’ has experienced that if someone comes and shits on the group or an individual, it helps to know who they are so I can bounce them out.  For example the guy who logged into Honestly Now a half-dozen times in different emails under the name Dick Steele to ask about his 6″ penis size is compelling.  That stuff is problematic in a co-ed place where women feel comfortable.  Fact is, women are more freaked out by that stuff then men, and that it’s biologically wired. I don’t think it’s enough to say they should ‘get over it’.  They’re just not accommodated.Where Google+ falls down for me is it gives me no ability to manage both my personal and professional personas as part of the same dashboard, since they drive off different email addresses.  It’s actually a total pain in the ass and so I’ve not spent much time with Google+ as a result.Probably someone will float now in and say “But you can!”  To which I’d say — well I couldn’t get there in the 5 minutes that I had, so Google didn’t do a good enough job.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Believe it or not… different guy, but there is a guy in my town named Dick Steele… a character.  Always had to laugh about his having to go by Richard in the army since your names are reversed on name tag.

      1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

        THAT MAKE GRIMLOCK LOL.

      2. JamesHRH

        Carl Mistlebauer is right – content is all that matters. I don’t care if that story is true, still LOL.Not saying it isn’t Dave, just saying I don’t care.

    2. fredwilson

      yeah the gmail/gapps email login issue is a big one

  15. William Mougayar

    I can understand Facebook and Google’s positions as they want to be the “authorities” on our social networking, almost like the alpha social network, the place that issues you your official passport. But that doesn’t negate our use of pseudo identities in other places such as this blog or other ones. How different would a Google or Facebook experience be if they allowed pseudo identities? I think it would be a mess. That’s probably why they don’t want it. They’re probably thinking there are enough other social networks and blogs elsewhere where the user can hide their real identity. 

  16. Elia Freedman

    I am grappling with this problem now in a new service I am thinking of inventing that will be aimed at businesses. My problem: I see both sides of the argument. I agree that the comments and conversations are more important than the person proposing them but at the same time, for this service at least, it may be important for the organizers to know who they are getting input from. Does anyone have thoughts on when it is appropriate to use real names and when it is appropriate to make it optional? (Not that there is any real way for me to enforce this anyway except to make the input first name/last name in two boxes instead of using just one for name.)

    1. fredwilson

      this blog is a real business for me. i get advice, investment ideas, and inspiration from it every day. and many times that comes from people who use a pseudonym or an anonym. so i’m not sure i agree that you need to know who you are getting input from.i got some great tips from people on jig the other day. http://www.jig.com/need/a-s…i have no idea who some of those people are. doesn’t mean the advice wasn’t good

    2. soror Nishi

      Is it not possible for the site to know the real name but respect the individuals choice to use  a nym or handle?It is the idea of a consistent name that you are looking for, isn’t it? and the individuals privacy could still be respected.

      1. Elia Freedman

        It is possible but the idea was a closed environment that includes only people you specifically invite to be apart of it. Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it.

  17. Wells Baum

    The web is all about realness.  I suggest if you have a nickname or stage name you like to go by that you link it to your true self.Back Up Your Online Stage Name With Authenticity | Bombtune http://awe.sm/5SPtQ

  18. Esayas Gebremedhin

    Design inspires Design = The hidden Problem Behind All Problems:http://laliaflia.blogspot.c…99.99% of all innovations out there follow this pattern. Having billions on your account doesn’t protect these companies from adapting restricted ideas.Design is a synchronization of life. And yes people change and so does their name and their identity.Any innovation is determined to evolve towards the “OUT OF CONTROL” scenario. Those who understand this principle will lead the digital age. As Kevin Kelly said rightly:“The world of the made will soon be like the world of the born: autonomous, adaptable, and creative but, consequently, out of our control.”&%§”=§

    1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      UX INDUSTRY WOULD SAY THIS IS AFFORDANCE, NOT MISTAKE.

      1. testtest

        Affordance, [email protected]twitter-217027627:disqus It’s important not to be too literal. Online isn’t a synchronization of life, it’s a manifestation of life.

      2. JamesHRH

        Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, would say:’ I ran the numbers on Out Of Control. To get there, I have to pass through Filthy Rich. I am OK if Dilbert ends up Out Of Control’.

  19. maxmzd

    We need to start thinking deeper about what comprises our identity. It’s not simply our name; it’s our relationships and our possessions. In the case of online identity, it’s about the history of our interactions with others (and possessions; apps and data), whether they are real people or not. Throw in the relative relationship of our contacts’ interactions with each other, and we can build a very dynamic graph of who’s who. This will protect those who desire anonymity while allowing their real friends to easily find them.Google and Facebook exist in necessary silos dependent on their business model. Because of this, they have to require real names for marketing purposes like Fred points out via Cory’s quote. This is clearly not sustainable as people continue to realize the promise of the connected web; the law of determinism will drive us to an open standard which more accurately gauges our relationships… it’s just a matter of coming up with something simple that everyone agrees on and that is protected by being distributed.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      You make a great point that our identity is more than our name.  In the “social” world it is also our ideas and our unique way of communicating those ideas.  Somewhere in this mix is “our values” — which are reflected in those ideas and drive our relationships.

      1. maxmzd

        Yes, exactly… OUR values… not FB+GOOG values. Great phrase.

      2. JamesHRH

        You are what you do.Your choices define your priorities.Your action -or inaction – defines your commitment to your beliefs ( values ).Deeper identity not required on the web.

    2. fredwilson

      agreed. i put forth my ideas in this posthttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…

      1. maxmzd

        Yeah, love that post. It’s refreshing to see a VC with your point of view. The suggestions you made align with the vision for my attempt at an open ID+Data standard: http://GetPalmetto.com/

  20. Peter Skalla

    Fred, do you view context of the community as important to this debate? I’m working on a finance site whose content is better investment analytics tools and community dialog on what that data says about company and industry trends.  I’m leaning towards a real name requirement, believing this will improve the dialog.  But its a two edged sword since that  will force some out of the dialog. I’m really interested in your thoughts on pseudonyms in the context of not a social network, but a professional social network. 

  21. sbmiller5

    Exactly why I LOVE Disqus!

    1. fredwilson

      me too

  22. William Carleton

    Let a thousand flowers bloom. We all define and redfine our individual selves constantly. To say there is ONE you is like asking you to commit yourself to a lowest common denominator across platforms. I do have a problem with one-off anonymity. If you’re going to post, at least have the imagination to fabricate a backstory!

  23. Yusuf

    I was an orkut user way back and me and all my friends liked that social network a lot, definitely more than facebook. But one of the drawback of that was that it allowed people to change their names. The resulting was that people became really fancy with using their names and lot of time I wouldn’t know who is who till I clicked on their profile. That resulted in an overall bad user experience. I don’t think my company would ever employ facebook or google for an identity, but from an end user experience perspective, having a good enough identifiable name is definitely a plus.

  24. Accountants_in_Kent

    The more people write about how google + fails, misses the mark, won’t catch facebook etc etc……the increased liklihood it will succeed – more people will take a look, try it and think ‘hey this works I’ll give it a go…

    1. fredwilson

      maybe

    2. JamesHRH

      Sorry to be blunt, but just not true.Articles you are reading are tech mavens – people who have a personal or professional need to know about this issue.Mainstream FB users getting needs met. Using 80 /20rule, 80%of Fb users have never even heard of the +.Mainstream Fb users will only check out Goog+ if they see an article that says:1) ‘ boneheads stay w FB, Goog+ crushing it’2) ‘ more people on the + than Fb’ never happening, btw3) ‘ even more reasons to be on Goog+ & ditch FB’.

  25. Matt Cordova

    I value lamp… http://www.youtube.com/watc…

    1. fredwilson

      🙂

  26. Jim Adler

    Real names should be encouraged but not required. A big minority, 17%, use more than one name offline. My post on the subject “Nyms, Pseudonyms, or Anonyms? All of the Above” http://jimadler.me/post/929

    1. fredwilson

      exactly. i use my real name everywhere

      1. Robert Holtz

        I use my real name ALMOST everywhere.  Where I don’t use my real name, I value the privacy buffer and there are places I don’t participate because I don’t have the option to be anonymous or use an avatar.  My biggest concern is if G+ is indeed to be an identity service, how many other sites, services, and stops along the social graph will start using G+ as an identity service and start to significantly effect which communities I can and can not belong to?

    2. vruz

      right… only 17%, only one billion people in the world…

  27. Roch

    I also think Techcrunch should remove Facebook comments and switch back to disqus.

    1. fredwilson

      oh hell yes

      1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

        TECHCRUNCH CARE ABOUT ADVERTISERS, NOT READERS.ADVERTISERS WANT REAL NAMES. MAKE IT EASIER TO TREAT READERS AS PRODUCTS TO BE CONSUMED.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I think it’s more likely Facebook paid TechCrunch to switch to Facebook, in one way or another – which still relates back to your point about them caring about advertisers..

    2. Matt A. Myers

      There have been dozens of times I had long paragraphs of thoughts to write, but I have no desire to have it associated to my Facebook account.

      1. fredwilson

        one of many reasons i dislike FB comments

    3. andyidsinga

      gawd yes ! 🙂

    4. Boba

      TC is so boring now and I rarely visit it ever since they switched the commenting system.

  28. gregorylent

    they are just marketing companies, marketing 2.0 if you like, and with little real utility value beyond time-pass.  

  29. Michael Bubb

    Great post. I like Cory Doctorow but missed this article when it came out.It makes me think of how I use these services differently. I don’t FB at all. Twitter is really useful in something like last week’s storm. Google+ is good for rolling discussions. I have settled down to a steady diet of Twitter and Goog+ – and this works for me.I tend towards the ‘anonymity is good’ argument to safeguard threatened identities. However I am not so sure we are as anonymous as we think. The EFF’s Panopticlick project (go to panopticlick dot eff dot org to see what I am talking about). It is not necessary for advertizers to have your real identity to market effectively. Does a military dictatorship need any more tools to search out dissent?I think google has had some embarassment with this issue – like when they removed ladyada’s account a week before she was the cover of Wired. But, I suppose too much money is tied up in the benefit of tagging advertising to real people (not just browsers).

  30. Michael D.

    ” If anyone wants to understand identity and social software, I suggest they spend some time hanging out with the AVC community. “You have a great community, but you aren’t selling anything.  Peeps know or should know that Google & Facebook pay their bills through advertising.  The more they know about their users the more money they can charge.  Can’t really fault them for trying to maximize their profits.  Our choice is to not use their products if we don’t agree with their terms. I really think the advertising model will be Google’s down fall or at least trying to apply it to all of their products like Android and maybe G+. 

    1. leigh

      Can fault them for trying to maximize their profits over the community PARTICULARLY in social. It’s just bad (and frankly stupid) business.  Myspace did some serious wrong turns focusing on advertisers over their users and … look … how ….that …turned out.  🙂

  31. testtest

    With innovation people often use the new technology in a different way than anticipated. For example, when the phone was first invented one of the business models suggested was to play music down one end to be received at the other — a primitive form of radio. However that contrived business model clearly didn’t pan out.And we all know the story of PayPal.On another dimension, it cycles back to the user and brand issue. These companies must pick a primary customer. The user, or the brand. They can only pick one. As in evolution there’s a forfeit of resources in one area to strengthen another. Giving people too much freedom with their profile could create a mess of the networks, introducing redundant nodes (people/profiles) and edges (relationships). But networks are resilient due to their de-centered nature. Facebook and Google may have another technical reason to impose the restriction based on the characteristics of social networks. If they do I’d very much like to know what it is.

  32. Erich Wood

    To paraphrase Rushkoff, who may be paraphrasing someone else, if you want to know who the customer is and what the product is, just look at who’s paying and what they’re paying for. In the Facebook and Google+ world, the customer is the marketer and the product is us. 

    1. ShanaC

      This has been an ongoing problem for decades.  Culture is taken on by branding, and it is very hard to say “what is authentic”.  I’m just not sure if the hypercommercialization of culture because of tools like the internet is a bad thing.

      1. MarkUry

        “I’m just not sure if the hypercommercialization of culture because of tools like the internet is a bad thing.”That’s an intriguing comment. While “hyper” commercialization isn’t particularly good, there is *some* need of commercialization. Whether it’s buying coffee at Starbucks so we can sit with a friend or letting Facebook ad-target us so we can share baby pictures with our family, someone has to pay the tab for all of us who show up. (Which, in this case, are the LPs who lent AVC the money to fund Disqus while they ramp up enough premium publishers to pay for our free conversations 😉

        1. ShanaC

          Agreed – I’m just not sure if the hoopla of “corporations taking over culture and regurgitating it” is as negative as we all make out. If they didn’t our alliances would shift elsewhere, and the companies would go bankrupt, and new companies would arise…

    2. JamesHRH

      BINGO – head to the front of the line Erich!I was in a startup where 8 people ( CEO, CTO, VPEng, Sale leader, Marketing lead, CFO, Manufacturing leader, advisor ) were asked ‘who is the customer?’.Four answers!Only Sales & Marketing ( that was my seat ) got it right – whoever sends us the $$$$$$.I respect everyone who cares about this issue. Its just funny when people think Larry or Zuck care. They don’t.

  33. Greg Cox

    I for one love that Google are doing it this way. More opportunity for the rest of us.There are good arguments for real names in something like G+, but that just illustrates how constrained a giant, all encompassing social network really is. When we look back we’ll say that this concept had started its decline before Google+ even launched. Niche communities FTW.

  34. Donna Brewington White

    I think the real question is whether Google “gets” social?  If I am generous then I’d say the jury is still out on this.  I have often wondered if Facebook truly “gets” community.  I don’t think it does.  Google definitely does not.I don’t know where I stand on the whole identity question — or if I’m plugged in enough to have a valid opinion, so I will continue to listen to the debate.  I’m leaning toward the position taken by Fred– at least for the level of interaction found on most social platforms.  I do think that community comes in layers and that at some layers the identity issue becomes more relevant.  For that matter, identity also comes in layers. I get it that a social platform must monetize for sustainability (or have some motivation beyond purely being a social platform).  I wonder if part of Twitter’s — and even Facebook’s — success is that its initial motivation was socially oriented.Perhaps we are beyond those early innocent days of social media when “social” was the driver.  Now there are other drivers with “social” merely being the vehicle.  However, even if this is true and a necessary reality (which as a believer in capitalism I can appreciate), the success of anything “social” must at least have “social” at the core of it’s design.  Not future monetization objectives.

    1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      TWITTER, FACEBOOK, MOSTLY SUCCESSFUL BY ACCIDENT, NOT PLAN. NEITHER UNDERSTAND WHEN THEM DOING ON DEEP LEVEL.ONLY REASON G+ HAVE ANY SUCCESS IS SOCIAL READY FOR MASSIVE DISRUPTION BY SOMEONE THAT UNDERSTAND HOW SOCIAL WORKS.GOOGLE IS NOT THAT SOMEONE. OPPORTUNITY STILL THERE.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        “GOOGLE IS NOT THAT SOMEONE. OPPORTUNITY STILL THERE.”I agree, FG, that Google is not that someone.  But do you think that the window of opportunity is still there? We are all so much more demanding now and less forgiving than at the inception of Twitter and Facebook. None of us really knew what this was or where it was going. Now we are more “invested” but also more cynical. Or is it just me?It would be great to think that “social” (and I would add “community”) is so important that it is worth truly getting it right and that disruption is forthcoming.  We need a social think tank.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          FIRST CAR GET LOTS OF THINGS WRONG.IT NOT STOP CAR THAT GET THINGS RIGHT FROM HAPPENING.FACEBOOK, GOOGLE, ARE CARS WITH 3 WOODEN WHEELS, STEERING STICK, NO SHOCKS, TOP SPEED OF 15 MPH.LOTS LEFT TO DO.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            I hope I beat them by trying to build quality wheels first before I build the frame of the car..

          2. JamesHRH

            Simple test – if Apple did search or social, would it be ad based?

          3. JamesHRH

            Hard to tell if Apple does not get social or is just not interested ( same diff I guess ).everyone says iTunes sucks but keeps using it……. 3 pads, 4 pods, 2 phones in my house!

          4. raycote

            Does Apple get social?The jury is still out.It took them a while to get mobile phones and tablets.Apple is not so much late to the social party as it is following its basic modus operandi.It is slowly building out an organic eco-system of simple, interdependent ,mutually reenforcing, software/hardware/marketing components that primarily targets only those computing functions that are sticky enough and practical enough to be absorbed into the stream of mass culture as, transparently simple, daily behavioursBeing first to market or having barging rights to the biggest feature list is not Apple’s top priority.Symbiotic integration of form, function and ease of practical daily usage by the larger community of non-tech centred customers is Apples secret sauce for success.

        2. awaldstein

          We have that think tank Donna…right here.There are few, maybe no other communities of interest on the web today that have a broader number in the community, a deeper number of frequent commentors, an aggregate greater number of comments and engagements and a more open forum.Disqus BTW, has that data…Daniel, would love to have you share that.avc is both content wise, very specific and contextual, and personal which means the strings of discussion are as varied and wonderful as the personality footprints of the people involved.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Well said, AW.(off topic: My 16 y.o. son agrees that you have one of the coolest names on the planet.)

          2. awaldstein

            Funny…about the name that is.I can firmly assure you that I have never felt that way ;)But then again, I’ve made it my URL and the top level identity string of my life online and off.

          3. fredwilson

            that last paragraph has a lot of wisdom in it

          4. awaldstein

            Thnx Fred.I’ve been a student and builder of communities online for my entire career.avc.com has the dynamics and wisdom and breadth that infrequently comes together in one community. That’s why it feels like home to so many from such a diverse group.

      2. raycote

        To me the fundamental attribute of any real social-community is based on the enthusiasm of non-commercial human exchange.Both Google+ and Facebook are at their core commercial profit machines. They are at best a community of commercial exchange, a marketplace, where we get to sell our eyeballs and consumer profiles in exchange for a prison yard like community experience.I don’t know where the middle ground is between profit and real community but I’m sure it will not be found in massive corporate social data silos.aka – undertow

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          END GAME MUST BE COMMUNITY PAID FOR DIRECTLY BY MEMBERS OF COMMUNITY.HOW TO GET THERE IS QUESTION. NOT WORKING OUT SO HOT FOR NING.

          1. raycote

            I was avoiding saying that out loud but I think your are probably right about that!

          2. JamesHRH

            Turns out that valuable things are not free.

          3. andyidsinga

            ive been thinking for a while that a play on the public radio model might be an interesting model for member funded online communities. problem is seeding the content stream and leadership to attract initial employees and community members.

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            YES, BUT WHO WANT TO HAVE TWITTER INTERRUPTED EVERY 2 MONTHS FOR BEG FOR MONEY ALL DAY?FREEMIUM BETTER.

          5. andyidsinga

            ah come on! you know you want the free twitter mug or for the $100 donation a tshirt you can destroy on ‘#eatfridays’? 🙂

      3. MarkUry

        Well, almost everyone is successful by accident 😉

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          DIFFERENCE IS WHETHER UNDERSTAND WHAT DID, REPEAT IT.

          1. MarkUry

            If that’s the criteria, then Facebook certainly isn’t successful by accident: the real names, the feed, syndicating the graph. Zuck may be a punk, but he’s good at stealing/curating/choosing what to keep and what to drop….FG: There’s no reply option to your last comment, so I’ve put it up here.I don’t know that we need to establish who’s right or wrong, and I can certainly counter that every business makes mistakes (and often corrects them, too, as FB has). I could also mention that with almost 1b members, it’s a bit condescending of you to maintain that they don’t know what’s going on.The litmus test, for me, is how you make sense of what you have, not an unbuilt or imagined system. And in that test, Zuck has done very well by himself and the people who use FB. It’s imperfect, but it certainly resembles the social operating system he realized he was building several years back.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            FAILURE OF GROUPS, PLACES, DEALS, LAST FEW ATTEMPTS AT IN-STREAM ADS, AND CONTINUING COLLAPSE OF FACEBOOK APP ECOSYSTEM OUTSIDE OF FARMVILLE SAY YOU WRONG.FACEBOOK GOOD AT CAPITALIZE ON LUCK AND HANG ON TO IT. THAT VALUABLE SKILL, BUT DIFFERENT THAN TRULY UNDERSTAND WHAT GOING ON.

          3. JamesHRH

            Mark – GRIM baby is right here ( dude’s not wrong a lot ).MS, GOOG, FB founders all the same personality type, (see GRIM’s prior comment on understanding humans – none of these founders have that trick – they think about people only long enough to solve their need to have a major impact on the world).All are ‘you win the KentuckyDerby by having 8 horses in a 12 horse race’ type thinkers. They are high volume, high measurement, low insight, bottom up builders. They are cynical or practical, given your PoV ( Page rank origin……FB status orientation ). They are tool makers. They are not structured. All came to market second and improved on first movers.None of them care about batting percentage. To them a 80000 foot home run wins the World Series ( true in business too ).Windows / then Office( key products not developed in house ), then nothing.Page rank/ AdWords ( borrowed from Overture ), / AdSense ( developed outside company ), then nothing.750M friends, then nothing.They win early, but not often.So when GRIM says there is lots left to do, I say he’s talking the Apple Web. Insight into people, rich experiences, closed platforms and big margins. Those founders win late.The good news is, the Web is in the 6th or 7th inning. More Steve, less Larry, Zuck & Bill.

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            FIND HUGE PILE OF GOLD LAYING OUT IN OPEN NOT REQUIRE SKILL AT FIND GOLD, JUST WILLINGNESS TO LOOK.SOCIAL IS PAST WILLINGNESS TO LOOK STAGE.FB, G+ HAVE FOUNDATIONAL FLAWS. WHEN COMPANY THAT UNDERSTAND HUMANS BUILD PLATFORM WITHOUT SAME FLAWS, FB, G+ WILL CRUMBLE.

    2. MarkUry

      I think FB and Twitter’s success is *precisely* because their origins were socially oriented—and their system design mirrors that intent. That’s why, as you mention, Google is floundering. They aren’t trying to mediate social interactions—they’re trying to force us to say who we are in order to better signal their algorithms. 

      1. fredwilson

        word

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Facebook doesn’t. I thought Google might, but I’m thinking they are hitting flukes more than anything else; They don’t understand marketing either except Google+ actually isn’t too bad – but I’ve not been convinced of it being adequately social yet.

  35. Sam Jacobs

    Fascinating to think about. I had always hoped/assumed that as information became more available, social norms and expectations would evolve past the point of needing to manage separate identities.I use one identity now because I want to consolidate my energy into creating and managing one “brand”. The risk is that I turn off potential customers, team members, or partners through this convergence. But I’d rather embrace the idea that one individual can be multi-faceted then try to imply I’m a separate identity for every interest I have. Makes it hard though. With channels/filters you feel the pressure to become specialized and focused.I choose single identity/public disclosure because I ultimately think it’s more helpful and helps me build reputation more quickly. Seems like it should be a choice though.

  36. Esayas Gebremedhin

    It is as simple as that. If you meet a person on the street and he/ she doesn’t tell you his/ her real name, the person who is hiding his/ her identity is in control who needs to know who he/ she is. If a third person comes on the stage and sets some rules like FB is doing than the person who introduced himself /herself will be annoyed and feel even limited.Everyone knows that digital technologies are perfectly suited to create a fake identity. But no institution needs to control those identities as they regulate themselves on their own.Control vs. Out of ControlOut of Control is the natural state and almost impossible to escape…

  37. hangtime79

    One thing I have been thinking about over the last few weeks has been the persistence of commentary on the web now. This all arose from CmdrTaco retiring from Slashdot. Slashdot is the first place on the web I consistently started posting commentary. Looking back there is treasure trove of my thoughts and opinions from when I was much younger. What happens ten years from now when we start reading CEO and politician posting before they were famous? Will we get more or less insight into who they are. Will things that were said when you are a stupid 16 or 22 year old come back to bite you as a 40 – 45 year old? How will this persistence effect our discourse both on and offline going forward?

    1. fredwilson

      i’d like to go back and read my thoughts from when i was 20

  38. Matt A. Myers

    The gap will be filled whether Facebook or Google decide to fill it.The import part is activity and engagement.And who cares if people are being anonymous douchebags or use their real name and are douchebags anyway?They’ll get reported, blocked or simply ignored by the communities.Just look at Reddit or even AVC and ordering of comments; Sure, ideas get lost but also douchebag comments. And if something is important enough to a person they’ll create a blog post, and build a thesis and their ideas, and connect or create a community around whatever idea is missed.Big companies just don’t have enough trust for how things work or perhaps they’re worried about ‘pure’ quality; Maybe they run some kinds of analysis of how much each user is worth who’s a verified person vs. anonymous? Yes, you have to worry about competition to some degree, but mostly it comes to luck along with executing logic correctly without adjusting with worry.

  39. Pete Griffiths

    I completely agree.  The reasons for not enforcing identity in this way have been so articulately expressed by so many people that surely the only possible reasons for continuing to bone-headedly ignore the expressed objection are:a) commercial considerations are overriding consumer interest – not exactly long term greedyb) a culture so blind to the contributions of the ‘soft’ sciences – sociology, social psychology, psychology, anthropology – that it honestly doesn’t ‘get it’I am not sure which is worse.

  40. Dave Pinsen

    Somewhat related to this is John Gapper’s column in Thursday’s FT (in which he quotes you, Fred): “It’s right to curtail web anonymity”. 

    1. fredwilson

      i read that. someone tweeted it at me

      1. Dave Pinsen

        I figured as much, but thought I’d link to it here just in case. 

  41. paramendra

    I have struggled to articulate my discomfort on this as well. I think I still am struggling. 

  42. Dan Ross

    I think the “real identity” reason has one very SIMPLE explanation.You can better sell advertising against REAL people with age info, income info., interests, etc. This is about creating a social network that can be monetized via advertising like Facebook, which is proving that more precise demographic info. is desired from advertisers vs. summary AdWords terminology.  I understand the surname concept and use it a bit (@BetterBizIdeas as an example on Twitter and a few other networks) but when I look at Twitter and the RIDICULOUS amount of spam / bots on that network I understand the path Google is going down.  In addition to better monetizing the network I think they are hoping to keep the amount of annoyance to end users down.Dan Ross

  43. Eric Leebow

    Real names, are just as important as real photos and real existences if you’re a real social networker. As a social networking site operator, I believe you’re only hurting yourself if you’re not networking with your real name.  How do people expect to find you online if you use an alias?  One site you’re Fred Wilson, the next Mike Wilson, George Wilson, etc. it could be problematic if you’re not consistent.  I know in the past, from my real life experiences that the people who didn’t use their real name in real life with me, did some bad or even illegal things. Not always true though, you could be a good person who means well with a fake name.  So, you’re Fred offline, and then Mike online, then you might lose credibility.  People might not feel comfortable about connecting.  I find it bad when someone signs up for a site as a fake name.  I had an ex girlfriend who had a name as Amanda, and then online she told me she went by Sarah. A little confusing if you ask me.  She was a student in college and didn’t want her professors to find her online existence, but still it’s interesting to think about.  For online dating, another name is good sometimes, as you’re not always comfortable with real names right away.  For social networking, it’s a different story.  Do you want your friends and family to refer to you as someone else offline, and then another name online?   Someone who uses a fake name online could be on there to cause a problem as someone who causes a problem, but not always. Most people want to use real names, because it’s just easier to connect that way.

  44. Vineeth Kariappa

    The last 2 lines make perfect sense. btw, abt advertisers needing peoples info, isn’t an ip address enough?

  45. David Shnaider

    I don’t think the AVC community embodies the essence of the questions relating to real names. There has long been a direct relationship between the quality of posts in discussions (regardless of whether real names are used or not) and the quality/focus of the content and the audience. AVC has a high-quality, focused audience. The community is intelligent and knowledgeable. The posts will be the same, regardless of whether people choose to use their real names or not. So your decision, Fred, to let people choose makes sense for the type of service you provide and does not sacrifice quality of discussion.Compare this to the posts on a Yahoo news story, or most stories posted in mass-circulation websites.If owners of mass-circulation sites hope to have anything resembling an intelligent discussion, they may want to think about whether allowing pseudonynms is a good idea.One size doesn’t fit all here.

    1. aslevin

      On Facebook there are many examples of discussions that are hateful and vicious though people are real and real-sounding names.What makes for quality discussion is moderation.Another blog that has high-quality conversation in comments is Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic. He moderates with a firm hand. There are other blogs on the Atlantic where the comments sections are chaotic.  Same demographic, different moderation.In G+, each poster has tools they can use to moderate the comments on her posts. Different posters have different quality conversations.  Better to moderate behavior than try to police names.

      1. David Shnaider

        The stronger the community, the less the need for strong moderation. For many sites general-interest sites, real names might be a more effective way of controlling content than the expense of heavy moderation.

        1. aslevin

          The interesting thing is that G+ is not a forum. It is not a single huge general-interest site. It is a collection of conversations sparked by posts by different individuals. So an individual’s moderation of his/her threads makes a difference.Also, I honestly don’t believe there is a major difference in behavior between people using wallet names and stable pseudonyms. The key is reputation – if you are acting with a name people recognize, you are accountable. Throwaway handles, where individuals don’t build reputation, are more problematic.

          1. JamesHRH

            AVC totally reflects Fred – could not agree more.Excellent posts.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            YES.REPUTATION MATTERS. REAL NAME DOESN’T.

      2. fredwilson

        yes, exactly

    2. fredwilson

      mass circulation and intelligent discussion most likely don’t go hand in hand

  46. Dan Buell

    I wrote a few response Tweets.  I understand what you’re saying Fred, but I don’t agree.  Anonymity breeds really bad behavior on the web as evidenced by the civility of comments on YouTube for example.  I posted a video of my kids at a zoo once and had a bunch of nasty comments on there about how my kids were ugly, my wife was a “[email protected]#%, etc.  It was crazy.  At least YouTube allows you to post unlisted now.Trolls hurt the Internet and if people’s identity’s are disclosed, behavior and constructivism improves.I like that Disqus exists and have used it a lot over the last couple of years but it is a breeding ground for trolls; maybe Daniel & Co., can add a feature of deciding to allow anonymous or not and tying it into other centralized commenting systems so site owners can decide what kind of commenters they want on their site – I would definitely use Disqus instead of Facebook comments if I could do that…

    1. fredwilson

      trolls breed when nobody moderatesyoutube is the perfect example of that

      1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

        HUMANS DO WHAT THEM ALLOWED TO DO.TRUE IN REAL LIFE AND INTERNET.ROMANS WERE RIGHT. NEED MODERATION IN ALL THINGS.

        1. fredwilson

          my mom told me this and i’ve lived my life this way”moderation is better than abstinence”

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            GREAT.NOW EVERYONE KNOW ME YOUR MOM.YOU IN SO MUCH TROUBLE WHEN YOU GET HOME.

          2. fredwilson

            if you were my mom, that would be about the coolest thing ever

  47. hypermark

    I have three comments on this thread. One is that I am perennially conflicted with the asymmetry between the free and open ethos of the web, and the reality that pretty much every “free” service exists to extract personal information from me, and typically hides the way that it’s used. Two is that nothing is free. It’s akin to the old, bumper sticker informing hitchhikers, “Gas, grass or ass. No one rides for free.” Apple sells you stuff and has your credit card. Amazon sells you stuff and has your credit card. Facebook and Google sell YOU and don’t have your credit card. Of course they need your identity to keep pace. I wonder, if these services provided an option to have a credit card on file in exchange for anonymity, how many would bite. Probably not very many, which to me suggests that we like free, we don’t like what free “costs,” but given an alternative, we choose free.Three is that it is overly simplistic to say that Google Plus is an identity service. The truth is that Google itself is an identity service, shrouded in a search engine, map service, email service, smartphone service, etc. All of those services cost money to create and cultivate, and Google’s business is transparent and clear. If anything, they are to be faulted for: A) pretending to be “above the fray,” when they are most clearly not, and B) letting Facebook potentially outflank them by making a frontal assault on identity first.

    1. JamesHRH

      Free still requires performance baseline. For many internet users, that baseline is not being met.If this was untrue, toll roads would not exist.

      1. hypermark

        Preaching to the choir, but the baseline on free is very different than the baseline on paid. What people will freak out over an Apple product doing, because it is perceived to be a full-tilt, premium product, is different than what they’ll accept from Google or Facebook because it’s “free.”

  48. iamronen

    “The first duty of social software is to improve its users’ social experience.” is naive, appealing and wrong.If by “Social Software” you are refering to platforms such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter … these are business and their first duty is to become a capitalizable asset for their stakeholders. ANY social considerations are secondary to their money-making considerations.There is no ‘figleaf” … it’s a huge misconcpetion just hanging out there … it is overlooked due to the weet juice it continues to squirt for free!

    1. fredwilson

      users first, money second

      1. iamronen

        even if that were the case, which I doubt very much … then still the users get only what can lead to money. If it was really about users … then money (at any time) would not be a qualifier and we’d be living in a different social/web dynamic.

  49. Mark Essel

    Mark Twain and numerous other authors would surely agree.

  50. Marcin

    What about B2B?Personally I like the real name policy on many sites. Techcrunch comments are a good example, where FB comments really improved the quality of discussion. The problem Google has is that they gave no utility reason for people using real names, but rather enforce their ‘policy’ (do no evil… meh). If they made it about utility (finding friends easier could be one, but not enough in the world of FB) people would be a lot more willing to conform.My question lies elsewhere though. What about the B2B space? What about a space that is formed around your position, location etc. Where you create new relationships and transactions based on where you work and what you do? Would you be equally negative on requiring real names in an environment is purely around looking up exact people (and be looked up) and transacting with them? I’m trying to find a best approach that will work for http://linkfindr.com which essentially is only about finding new people to transact with – is it possible without names/positions/companies? Would you transact with an anonymous person in your B2B deal?

    1. fredwilson

      you kidding me?FB comments ruined the TC commentsnow they are all nice and sweet and sickeningthere is nothing there of interest any more

      1. Marcin

        The trolls ruined it, not the FB comments, Fred. There was no real discussion in TC comments long before FB comments were introduced – only remarks raging from snarky to outward nationalistic or racist. What you have now is a clean space. It might be overtly polite, but it’s just because people are not used to really ‘discussing’ stuff on TC anymore.I agree that long term the moderation would be a better option. I think non-real-name comments work really well on AVC. It was just too late for Techcrunch in my opinion.My question was different though – do you think not-real-names would work in a B2B/professional space? In relationships that are meant to be about actual business/transactions?

        1. fredwilson

          yes. they work on etsy just fine

  51. Youssef Rahoui

    Yes. G+ had a unique opportunity to beat Facebook and play the “users first”, “free internet”, etc. role. Now, I believe that UX, circles and GG integration won’t be enough to beat Facebook.

  52. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    Here is some interesting information about the use of pseudonyms during the writing of the Federalist Papers and our own Constitution:http://en.wikipedia.org/wik

  53. William Mougayar

    Google+ has become like a megaphone. If you want real, meaningful, engaging conversations, blogs like this one is where it’s happening. Signal to noise ratio:AVC: 100:1Google+: 1:100

    1. awaldstein

      The era of niche communities of interest is approaching. A response to the non-contextual nature of the broad platforms and our basic need to connect around points of interest and passion.This is a world that Disqus can empower…both as the connecting threads between these communities and to help us discover them. The need for this is real. Someone will figure this out.

      1. William Mougayar

        The era of niche communities of interest is approaching. Well put @awaldstein:twitter @Eqentia:twitter  will also lead you to them, based on strong context and relevancy. 

      2. FAKE GRIMLOCK

        DISQUS LOOK LOTS MORE LIKE REAL SOCIAL WEB THAN G+ OR FACEBOOK.THAT IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND.

        1. awaldstein

          I agree Grimlock.Today, Disqus is a platform, a dynamic backbone, for communications that at its best, on avc.com for example, shows inklings of the potential of the social web. Communities can and do develop.A next step would be to plumb the data both to connect the current community of bloggers and potentially as a social discovery tool for all users to connect with many communities of interest.I think that that’s the big promise of the social web.

  54. Dave W Baldwin

    A lot of interesting comments.  To back what @FakeGrimlock:disqus is trying to communicate, the supreme network is not out in the market today.  A lot of it has to do with architecture/platform matched with the transition of user base related to their vehicle and/or maturity level.Remember the pillars everyone talks of are not mega disruptive.  There are 6 point however many billion people in the world… and quite a few have access to a device.  If you were to place a banner ad on everybody’s phone/tab/webtv/pc offering a free car for simply clicking here, you’d probably be able to claim you had action from a few billion people.As the greater population begins to wrap their mind around what a trillion means, those busting their ass to develop the truly disruptive thing need to understand the bar has been set.  Twitter is over 200m, Weibo is over 200m, Fb is at a level I could write 2b and a third would accept it.The bigger issue related to platform is after you gain the big foot print, you have to maintain your usefulness and keep your users.  If you foundation is shaky, you’ll enter a timeframe where the pitch for ad rev will center on big claims/number of users.  Eventually the biz world and marketing world will catch up and demand something more for their dollar.

    1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      ME NOT GET NOTIFICATION YOU USE NAME. @DISQUS:disqus BROKEN AGAIN?DYING AD INDUSTRY ALSO READY FOR DISRUPTION.DISRUPT SOCIAL AND AD INDUSTRY SAME TIME? BIG WIN.

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Very true.

  55. Chris Fralic

    Fred – I don’t think it’s either of the extreme Cory Doctorow theories.  I think it’s up to the social network themselves to decide what they think works best for them and their community, and then ultimately up to the users to decide where they engage.  Related – you should ask Billy why Turntable.fm only uses Facebook OATH (and not Twitter, etc.).   

    1. fredwilson

      i have asked him thati didn’t use turntable.fm for the first month because of FB login

  56. Ciaran

    You & Cory both make some very good points, and certainly there are downsides to the Facebook approach (FWIW, I honestly think that Mark Zuckerberg believes in ‘authentic identity’, and is actually moving away from his own views with recent changes to privacy settings in order to reassure consumers and advertisers).However, when you say:”Our community here at AVC welcomes real names, pseudonyms, and anonyms. And we have one of the most civil and intelligent communities on the world wide web”you seem to suggest that the latter is a result of the former. I’d say it’s actually the case that because you have created a civil & intelligent forum, it allows the different types of identity. Because it’s not the case in a lot of other places: (apologies for personal links, but I think it’s one of those areas where personal experience matters)http://ciarannorris.co.uk/2… & http://ciarannorris.co.uk/2…

  57. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    I think I take a nuanced view of this. It’s good that there exists/could exist an identity system for the web. It’s good that we don’t have to use it all the time. 

  58. testtest

    Identity is going to be de-centralized. We’ll carry it on our phones. We’ll own it. It’ll piggyback on payment systems on our phones. IMHO.

    1. fredwilson

      yessssssss

  59. tyby82

    Well, there is a simple way to get to a common point of using real name vs(and) pseudonym :Use the real name – in your own circles – where you know and trust your friends, relativesUse a pseudonym – when you are added by strangers, talk to strangers until the moment you think you know enough to that person to add him/her to your friends list.And another thing i can use my real name but i want facebook/google to stop bugging me about friends i might know – is annoying

  60. Matthew Kroll

    Hey Fred- how about a debate on anonymity on social networks with @jeffjarvis:twitter this fall?

  61. Richard Burton

    I’m a kitesurfer, a coder, a startup enthusiast, a snowboarder, a debater. All of those are different sides to me. I speak to my kitesurfing friends in a different way to my parents. Facebook doesn’t appreciate that.

  62. ekivemark

    If Google, Facebook or any other site is going to insist on real names then their employees and those responsible for such policy decisions should not be able to hide behind a faceless support persona. They should stand up and be counted and take the repercussions of their decisions. Anything less is not living by the standards they are imposing on everyone else.

  63. John Smith

    Decided to sell my Google stock and migrate to a less hungry advertiser like the church

  64. maparu

    Fred, thanks for the piece. I can see and understand your perspective on identity. My own hopes for Google+ tend to disagree with you though. Identity is awesome and creates user trust in my opinion. As a user I value being able to see the face behind the comments, stories posts etc…this reminds me of a story I heard – just found the text on WikipediaIn a stunt organised by The Washington Post, the classical violinist Joshua Bell played as an incognito street busker at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C. on 12 January 2007. Of the 1,097 people who passed by, only one recognized him and only a couple more were drawn to his music. For his nearly 45 minute performance, Bell collected $32.17 (not counting $20 from the passerby who recognized him). He did this using a Stradivarius violin valued at around $2,000,000Because nobody knew his true identity, nobody gave his music any thought. The same goes with identity online. I follow your blog Fred, because I know who you are and what you do. If a no name person wrote word for word the same blog posts as you, I couldn’t care less.Why is this? I believe its because people want to get information and entertainment from credible sources. Identity helps that. Anonymity  deteriorates a lot of value on the web.Best regards,Matt Ruby (posting as myself!)

  65. John Davis

    Facebook – “A Skinner box that trains you to under-value your privacy” #Doctorow

  66. PG Babes

    The Big G disabled my + account a week ago. I reluctantly updated my name but have yet to be allowed back in.

  67. Tom Foremski

    South Korea has a real names law which Google has skirted by taking down comments on its Korean YouTube site yet it insists G+ users use their real names. What’s really going on?I don’t buy the advertising reason because Google doesn’t need to know your name to know where you browse, and what you click on, etc. Advertisers don’t need real names either because they market to groups with similar interests or characteristics. So what’s the real reason for Google’s policy on G+ but its refusal to collect real names in Korea?

  68. Universal_Mind

    bravo -bravo  and all hail Disqus. The best out there at the moment.

  69. philtaylor

    I completely agree that identity requirements by Google+ and Facebook are wrong, and, in most cases, including my own, unenforceable. I many countries they would indeed be dangerous. The internet should be a place of communication, not surveillance, and anonymity preserves this freedom. That’s why Twitter is so successful and stands out as a beacon of freedom.

  70. truth_power

    basecamp has it figured out commercially: you can have many identities and choose which one you are working in from the launchpadthis is purely practical.dropbox should do the same, as should gmail, g+ and facebook.

  71. laurie kalmanson

    This is clear and simple: You can have as many email addresses as you want, and you use them as you want them; why should social network personas/identities be any different?There are things I would say here that are irrelevant to the committee behind the annual parent party at my kid’s school; conversations there are not relevant to discussions here.Beyond the filters of relevancy (which lists/Facebook and circles/G+ arguably but weakly address) there are bigger notions of issues, opinions and consequences. The more freely people can speak, the more deeply they will participate. And care. And ultimately contribute more, which is the endgame for forums that are monetized in the first place anyway.Allowing people to establish many identities, to wear as they please, is of benefit to the community and to the people: more people will speak more freely in more places if their activities in one place are separate from another. In the end, that makes the market for monetizing their speech bigger, not smaller.People/identities who add value will be leaders/contributors to the community; people who don’t will not be.It matters little to a community if a contributor’s name is Lady Gaga, Madonna or Marie, Queen of Romania; what matters is the contributions.

  72. Sean Nicolson

    Wherever you go, there you are.

  73. Siobhan Q

    Late to the convo but wanted to chime in. I worked on the Gmail launch (helped create Google Accounts) back in ’03 and at the time there was a strong feeling inside Google that your Gmail account username should be your *real* identity. So I would just say that this isn’t them copying Facebook. Over the years I also Product Managed Blogger and fought to maintain Blogger’s separate profiling system (and also maintain anonymous profiles). Now of course I work for you over at foursquare ;)But anyways – for years Google pushed for Google Accounts to be your one true identity.

    1. fredwilson

      what are your thoughts on the issue?

      1. Siobhan Q

        I believe in not enforcing the strict relationship, but it ultimately depends on what type of service you want to build. (eg: LinkedIn probably wouldn’t get a ton of benefit from people not using their real names, but services centered around sharing & self expression do. And it’s always important to keep it simple)The problem is when one service (Google / Facebook / etc) try to support all types of relationships. Then it gets complex, and I think you should error on the side of allowing anonymity. Users are smart enough that they understand leveraging their real identity will come with a lot of bonuses: easier signup, built in social graph, friends will easily recognize them on the new service. But without anonymity, you cut people off. You prevent people from expressing vulnerability (on forums, self help groups, blogs, etc) and in preventing that type of sharing, you prevent meaningful relationships and connections from being made. And some might argue the connections made over shared vulnerabilities are the most powerful. One example that this brings to mind is the blog, written by a father who’s son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia (http://mindriddles.blogspot…. It’s actually a fairly popular blog though you wouldn’t know it. And I wonder if he would have had the courage to share his story if it had been linked to his real identity.  

  74. Anne Libby

    Linked In discussions for my bschool’s official alumni group have been hijacked by a small group of hostile, negative participants — people who are using their real names. Real name usage on its own doesn’t create civil space. Those who have routinely attended community board meetings, anywhere in the US at least, might have seen this offline, too. Online, moderation is a sometimes necessary leadership function.In a world where leaders don’t always act in the public interest, I’ll take “incivility” protected by anonymity any day.

  75. fredwilson

    i value Grimlock tooand Kid Mercury before him

  76. Greg Cox

    I love this. One sign of a good community is when the comment is so much more impactful than the original post. 🙂

  77. Donna Brewington White

    Love when you just go for it, Charlie!

  78. FAKE GRIMLOCK

    AAAAW. GRIMLOCK VALUE YOU TOO.REAL LIFE HUMANS HAVE DIFFERENT FACES SHOW TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE.IT TIME FOR ENGINEERS, SUITS, WAKE UP AND RECOGNIZE ONLINE IS STILL REAL LIFE.

  79. ShanaC

    I’m with you about that.  The really unfortuante thing about this kind of Neo-Mcarthyism (a spade is a spade) is that probably because of it, someone out there is ignoring great startups.

  80. Mark Essel

    One of the collars you wear well, the preacher. Preach on brother.

  81. Universal_Mind

    geeez.  try and compile your thoughts–like I just did

  82. Donna Brewington White

    Although GRIMLOCK should be in all caps.

  83. FAKE GRIMLOCK

    BEHAVIOR BALANCED BY WHAT LOST, WHAT GAINED.IF BAD BEHAVIOR HAVE NO CONSEQUENCES AND ANY GAIN, IT HAPPEN.HERE GOOD BEHAVIOR HAVE LOTS OF GAIN. BAD BEHAVIOR HAVE ALMOST NONE. SO BEHAVIOR MOSTLY GOOD.(AVC ALSO NOT INTERESTING TO HUMANS WITH MOTIVATION FOR BAD BEHAVIOR, THAT HELP)

  84. Donna Brewington White

    “why doesn’t that happen here?”We have great bouncers!And a giant robot dinosaur.

  85. ShanaC

    Honestly, I get the feeling it is like teaching kids table manners – because the “adults” practice politenes and give the stare of doom to those who don’t, it creates a norm of politeness

  86. lauraglu

    Does jig have a community manager? I don’t necessarily mean headcount, but a person responsible for guidelines and enforcing a ‘good’ norm.

  87. Anne Libby

    A good moderator can be a pretty subtle leader, and moderation isn’t all about punishing bad behavior. I agree with replies to this thread — and also feel that there’s more than one “moderator” here. I’m new here, so might have this wrong: many active community members seem to take on the adult role, as ShanaC notes, and reward good behavior with conversation and connection. The off topic and other less desirable comments seem to just fall away. I also think Disqus is a better discussion tool than Linked In (though I wish I could figure out how to login via Twitter over my iPad!)(And to your direct question, the school doesn’t understand social media yet, and has thus far been snowed by bad actors crying “censorship.” Hopefully it’s a matter of time…)

  88. FAKE GRIMLOCK

    ME CUT FRED SLACK. USUALLY.

  89. ErikSchwartz

    Are you trying to tell us your name isn’t really FAKE GRIMLOCK?Next we’re going to find out you’re not really a giant robot dinosaur…My illusions are shattered.

  90. FAKE GRIMLOCK

    NO.BUT MIGHT ADMIT HAVE OTHER NAME USED WHEN IN DISGUISE.ALSO HAVE HAT AND FAKE MUSTACHE. IT VERY EFFECTIVE.

  91. JamesHRH

    I agree – Fred has a gift for posting.It is hard to have strong opinions without stomping other PoVs ( or eating other PoV, if you’re FAKE ). I don’t think about this topic much ( our startup is not ad rev based ) but I check the comments because of the likelihood that the AVC discourse will be worth it.That’s Fred’s doing, kudos to him.

  92. Donna Brewington White

    You aren’t kidding.  Yikes.  Sorry it is such a hard fight, but glad you are willing to fight it.  Takes guts and stamina.You are a good guy, Charlie Crystle.  The Force be with you.

  93. fredwilson

    wow. that’s a hard fight you’ve got on your hands

  94. JamesHRH

    Charlie – ifI get you right, I totally agree. No difference.

  95. vruz

    It’s a spade indeed.

  96. vruz

    I can easily picture a Googleplex serf asking in a grave tone:”Mr. Fake Grimlock, is your real name Fake?”

  97. DGentry

    Sadly, my photoshop skills are insufficient to put a hat and fake mustache on the Grimlock image.

  98. fredwilson

    i do a lot of moderating here

  99. FAKE GRIMLOCK

    THIS IS WHY GRIMLOCK NOT ON G+ ANY MORE.

  100. Anne Libby

    Exactly.   And other community members follow suit.