Many years ago, I worked with a chap known only as D.C. That’s how he introduced himself, that’s how people referred to him, that was his name.
Eventually, I asked him what his real name was – and why he preferred “D.C.”
He replied “David Copeland“.
I don’t think that anyone seriously thought that he was the same person who committed those atrocities and, for all I know, he changed his name long before the bombings happened. But it can’t be nice to have a name which reminds people of evil; not many babies are named Adolph these days.
All of which brings us to yet another misstep by Google+ and their “Real Names” policy. If you’re on Google+, you can now have a personalised URL! How innovative.
It’s almost a cliché to link to the seminal Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names – and yet here Google are engaging in so many basic misconceptions.
Let’s go through some of the more obvious ones.
- What if I get married? I assume 50% of Google+’s users are women who, statistically, are more likely to change their name after marriage. Is Maria Skłodowska never to be Marie Curie?
- Supposing one of the other Terence Edens in the world goes and commits a horrible murder? Can I ever escape his shadow?
- Perhaps I alter my name while going through gender transition?
- I move country and want a name which fits in with their cultural norms – or their character set. Is that an impossible desire?
- How about if I just want to change my name? 58,000 people in the UK did in 2011.
Finally, what if my name isn’t how I choose to be identified? On nearly every social network I’ve been able to choose how I am identified and, as a rule, it’s “edent”. Google, in their arrogance, have decided that they know what name is best for me, what name people will understand and recognise, and that the name is unchanging.
And people wonder why I despise Google+.
As some people have been kind enough to point out, if you’re accessing Google+ on a desktop/laptop computer – you are able to set your custom URL. So much for building a mobile first culture at Google!
I requested https://plus.google.com/+edent – which is not available. Despite the fact that it 404s at the moment.
So, you can set your name – if Google approves it. Once Google has decided that’s your name, you’re stuck with it. Hope you didn’t make any typos in the request!