Google Outs Pajama Pundit Blogger

So, the blogger known as The Pajama Pundit is some dude named Bert McBrayer. Blame Google.

Google+ was telling me to change my name — divulge my “true identity” — or to delete my Google+ profile. Thinking that I might be able to ‘game the system’, I figured that I would cancel my G+ profile and simply use the Blogger account that I’ve had for nearly six years.

Nope.

They are all interwoven. All of the Google products have been absorbed into each other. Google is not unlike the Borg — it has all been assimilated! I deleted my G+ profile, and in doing so deleted the Blogger account. Oh goodie!

After working hard to retrieve what I could, I pieced together my online life — Picasa, Blogger, Gmail, YouTube, et al. — and have hopefully salvaged most of it.

That said, I am unable to maintain my anonymous moniker. Note the “posted by” byline at the top of each and every post — yup. That’s me.

Now, as I’ve discussed before, my inclination is that the Internet would be a more swell place if everyone posted under their real name. Anonymity tends to bring out the worst in people. At the same time, though, I understand that not everyone has the luxury of posting out in the open without serious economic and social repercussion even if they’re thoughtful and polite.

Still, I sympathize with Google’s “real name” policy for Google+, even if I’ve mostly quit actually using Google+. If that’s how they want to build a social network, I’m all for it. But forcing people to use their real names on all Google platforms? Including those people have invested years of their information into? That seems like a violation of Google’s famous “Don’t be evil” policy.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Quick Takes, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    Still, I sympathize with Google’s “real name” policy for Google+, even if I’ve mostly quit actually using Google+. If that’s how they want to build a social network, I’m all for it. But forcing people to use their real names on all Google platforms? Including those people have invested years of their information into? That seems like a violation of Google’s famous “Don’t be evil” policy.

    It’s not true. First of all, you don’t have to use your real name. You just have to use something Google+ will recognize as a person’s name, as opposed to a business or some other naming convention (for instance, Rod Smart would not be able to be “He Hate Me” on Google+, but he could be Roderick Smartypants if he wanted).

    However! You do not need to use your personal Google+ account to post things at all if you don’t want to. You can create a Google+ page (much like a Facebook page) for your website, company, or whatever, and you can call that page whatever you want. Pajama Pundit could have started an account under his own name or a pseudonym and used that account to start a Google+ page called “Pajama Pundit.” It wouldn’t be revealed that he, under his own name or a pseudonym, is the administrator of the Pajama Pundit account.

    For instance, here’s Pepsi’s Google+ page. Can you find the name of the admin? That’s because it’s not there.

    And Bert did not need to delete his Google+ account. You can adjust the privacy settings and make it invisible. It’s not hard.

    While I don’t like some of the things Google does, most of the complaints about them being evil have less to do with their policies and more to do with users being stupid and/or not bothering to understand the applications they are using.

  2. mantis says:

    Oh, and by the way. Google didn’t “out” anyone. Bert started an account under his real name and made it visible to all. He outed himself.

  3. Now, as I’ve discussed before, my inclination is that the Internet would be a more swell place if everyone posted under their real name. Anonymity tends to bring out the worst in people.

    There’s a disctinction between pseudonymity and anonymity. While I’m obviously not using my real name, it’s hard to argue that my past decade of commenting here (as well as other places) under the name “Stormy Dragon” hasn’t gathered a “known identity” to it. How would knowing my real name allow you to make me any more “swell” than you can now?

    There only additional leverage my real name would give someone is to begin harassing me either at my home or place of work. Which would really be merely replacing one form of internet obnoxiousness with another.

  4. Anonymity tends to bring out the worst in people.

    Your proposition relies on there being one kind of person in the world, and that one kind of person responding to stimulus in exactly the same way.

  5. (Or to put another way, it is probably not that high on Kohlberg’s scale of moral development, to simply demand that everyone have the same values we do.)

  6. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: Fair points.

    @Stormy Dragon: I agree that there’s a distinction between pseudonymity and anonymity, although it’s easier to be a jerk under a pseudonym than under the name your friends, family, and co-workers know you by. We’ve got several pseudonymous commentators who make solid contributions to the discussion. Not everyone falls prey to the temptations. I’m just saying they’re stronger than under one’s “real name.”

  7. @James Joyner:

    it’s easier to be a jerk under a pseudonym than under the name your friends, family, and co-workers know you by

    There’s no end of people just as willing to be a jerk under their own name as well. Go to the comments section of any major media site that uses Facebook discussion tools, and you find hordes of people saying the most vile things under their real names. And anyone who’s ever had to listen to a bigot knows that 1) they generally don’t care if you think they’re being jerks, and 2) they tend to have friends and family that agree with them. The only thing that really makes being a jerk hard is the possibility of retaliation. Which, when you get down to it, is all this “real names make the internet more polite” really has to offer: the mob will be able to retaliate against people who they don’t agree with.

    Which as I say, is just replacing one form of obnoxious behavior with another. And frankly, I’d rather have the kind of obnoxiousness that leads to people saying too much than the kind that leads to people being afraid to say anything.

  8. I understand all the arguments against anonymity/psuedonumity and, yea people who aren’t using their real names do feel more free to act like jerks. Of course, I’ve noted in some forums that people who use their real names are fine with acting like jerks too. On the Internet, it’s more a feature than bug.

    Still there is a value in being anonymous some times, and Publius managed to do pretty well in that regard back in 1787

  9. @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m fine with someone named “Jim” showing up and posting one comment, once, and moving along. We won’t ever know if “Jim” was just casual, or pseudonymous, or anonymous. It doesn’t really matter though, because in a form like this each comment should stand alone. It should fly on its own internal logic, or by drawing attention to appropriate external facts (links).

    The only reason we’d need a true name to ascertain truth would be if we were honoring appeals to authority (which we seldom do, here). I mean, if someone were to say “I am a doctor and I can tell you” … it would take a lot more than a name to authenticate the claim.

    On the other side, I can certainly understand people in certain public fields “building a brand” under their own name. They have many reasons to do so. But I’m not sure that everyone on the planet, all 7 billions of us, should all be in the brand building business.

    The problem with “the Internet would be a more swell place if everyone posted under their real name” is that everyone would be brand-building, and sometimes therefore less honest, not more.

  10. @Doug Mataconis:

    Ben Franklin has always been my exemplar for anonymous and pseudonymous speech.

    I mean, the guy might have invented sock-puppets, as he padded his papers with creative “letters to the editor.”

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon and @john personna: In my own case, at least, posting as “James Joyner” makes me less knee jerk than if I were posting as “SecurityPundit.” Maybe not radically so, in that I’d still be conscious of the reputation of the site. But it’s different all the same, and not because of a fear of people mobbing me at home.

  12. @James Joyner:

    To be fair, it’s easy to say that when you have a job which offers near immunity to pressure on your employer.

  13. @James Joyner:

    If I had only one “brand” in my working years, it would have been important to be current on certain segments of software technology and the software business. It would have been important not to show too strong an interest in politics.

    As a retired guy now, I guess my “brand” would be in outdoor recreation and food. Again, no point in being too political.

    So “Personna” is an opinion slice that I think to be honest, even free thinking, but not useful to the brand.

  14. WR says:

    @john personna: “). I mean, if someone were to say “I am a doctor and I can tell you” … it would take a lot more than a name to authenticate the claim.”

    Yes, but if they say “I’ve been a doctor for 17 years,” then you know they’re telling the truth!

  15. @WR:

    It’s funny. When someone new to me says “I am X” I try to assign about 60% probability … but I probably do more than that. I basically believe it.

  16. merl says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I sometimes insult people using my real name. I’ve always used my real name.

  17. merl says:

    and that pajama pundit dude is an idiot if he couldn’t figure out how to make up a name for google. not to mention he’s a stupid jerk. i’ve read some of his droppings.

  18. Thanks for the link — and your thoughts James.

    I’ve been posting with a pseudonym for years, and not to flame or attack people anonymously (just hit my archives — I pride the site on it’s civil discourse).

    The primary reason for my pseudonym is because, well, it has always been that way. I built something of a (VERY) small brand around it — and never thought that using my real name would be necessary.

    That said, @mantis: does indeed raise some fair points — and if I really wanted to stay anonymous, I could have made up an entirely fake name/persona and used it in the Google. Since I was pleased with my pseudonym as it stood, I didn’t want to go through the trouble of “inventing a name”. And, again Mantis is correct when he says,

    And Bert did not need to delete his Google+ account. You can adjust the privacy settings and make it invisible. It’s not hard. While I don’t like some of the things Google does, most of the complaints about them being evil have less to do with their policies and more to do with users being stupid and/or not bothering to understand the applications they are using.

    I’ll admit it; guilty as charged.

    I haven’t used the Google+ thingy enough to fully understand all of the different privacy settings (I’m much more comfortable with Facebook and Twitter). The irony is that I was attempting to understand Google+ better when all of this went down… a lot of good that did.

    Believe me, I’m not saying that Google is “evil”. Far from it. I think that the many and varied Google products that I use everyday are excellent — or I wouldn’t use them.

    Lastly, @merl clearly doesn’t like me:

    and that pajama pundit dude is an idiot if he couldn’t figure out how to make up a name for google. not to mention he’s a stupid jerk. i’ve read some of his droppings.

    To which my reply is, if you think that I’m an idiotic, stupid jerk and you don’t like my “droppings”, I would challenge you to occasionally leave a comment to challenge my “droppings“. You know, instead of seemingly baseless ad hominem attacks.

  19. I would be more fine with the whole “everyone should use their real names” idea if companies weren’t willing to look back on everything I’ve said since the 90s to determine if they should hire me, give me credit, etc.

    Sometimes, anonymity is the only way to say anything truly provacative. Freedom of speech has been obliterated by private interests, and the government didn’t have to do anything.