Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 12, 2011
I am Tobold

People who are the victims of identity theft are understandably upset. Today I am even more upset, because Google wants not just to steal my identity, they want to completely erase it. I have this blog with nearly 5 million visitors, a Google+ page which 228 people added to their circles, 341 friends on my Facebook page, and 26 professional connection on my Linkedin profile. And Google+ just send notice that they think that I don't exist, and that unless I change my name in my Google profile, they will block my access to Google+, Buzz, Picasa, and even the Google newsreader. They didn't say anything about Blogger, but that would probably come next when they closer integrate blogs into Google+.

I am Tobold. This is not a "nickname", it is a complete identity. It is the name people know me under. It is the search term most frequently used to find my blog. After adding the family name to it, the name completely complies with the Google+ naming policy: "If you’re referred to by more than one name, only use the one that commonly identifies you". Tobold is the name that commonly identifies me. It is the name game companies contact me under when they want to show me their latest product or give me an interview.

The name that is printed on my photo ID does not commonly identify me on the internet. If you Google it, you'll find the website of somebody else who happens to have the same name as me. And if you find the traces of me with my real name, it will be of a very different aspect of me: You would find my patents, my scientific publications. Stuff I definitely do not want to get mixed up with my writing about games. I neither want the people who search my science stuff to find my games blog, nor do I want the people who search for my games stuff to find my work-related activities. I don't even know if it couldn't get me into all sorts of trouble at work if I mixed these two identities.

If Google kills the Tobold identity, I will let that identity die. It is an important part of my life, but not important enough to risk my livelihood for it. Lots of other creative people have pseudonyms, and if Google tells every writer and artist that they can't use the name they are known under, their social network will only be the poorer for it.

"Dear Sting! It has come to our attention that your real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner. Please change your page with the 3 million fans to your real name, or we will kick you from our social network!".
Go Tobold!

It's the new battle cry of avatars everywhere: We're here, we're real, get used to it!

On a side note, do they allow corporate entities to register? If so, you could register a foundation or something. Tobold Stichting, sounds good. :)
Ok, so I guess I'll get the same treatment, since I'm registered as Helistar Druid.....

Whatever, if they want me off their social network, I'll most definitely find another one willing to take me.
I think this post goes a bit far in regards to Google+...
I agree.
The problem is not Google+, the problem is everything already connected to it, and everything that probably will be connected to it in the future.

My biggest worry is obviously Blogger. If Google decided to closer integrate that into Google+ (which they should), this blog would be dead.

But Google+ also just announce games for Google+. Games which I might want to play and blog about. Social games which I might want to invite my blog readers to play with me. If Google kicks me off Google+, that won't be possible.
This is 100% of the reason I have refused to do Google+ despite having an invite (assuming you still need one). It is Blizzard's RealID on crack: you don't get the choice to say you want Google+ with your real name and a Gmail account without it; they forcefully integrate all your various profiles when you sign up.

Your profile is the way you present yourself on Google products and across the web. With your profile, you can manage the information that people see--such as your bio, contact details, and links to other sites about you or created by you.

If you choose to create a profile, at a minimum, your first name, last name, gender and profile photo will be public on the Internet. You can then provide a variety of additional information about yourself in your profile. You can also enable people to contact you without displaying your contact information.

Important points about profiles

--Changing your name in your profile changes your name in your Google Account as well. This change will be reflected in other Google products you sign in to with your account, like Gmail and Docs.

--Deleting your profile won't delete your Google Account.

--People who have your email address might see a link to the profile that's associated with that email address.

It is not a privacy issue per se to me, it is a control issue. If you Google my name, I am all of the matches on the first page. While that has its benefits, I blog and game under pseudonyms because I understand gaming/blogging culture enough to know how much damage one jackass with a grudge can do. And while people can look me up IRL, generally speaking I don't express my opinions IRL to jackasses.

I would be careful with Google+. If they block access to that "fake name" account, there is no telling what they would also do to all of the Google products that associated with it.
Just register as Tobold Tobold.
Bizarre and pretty stupid on Google's part.

I remember this story blowing up a few weeks ago when a few other internet celebrities were tagged as "false names" but I thought that Google has backed down with muttered apologies.

Is there even a mechanism to appeal - "Email this link if you really are Tobold" sort of thing?
How is this different from facebook?

With their terms you're also forced to use your real name.
How is this different from facebook?

Looking at the names of my Facebook friends, I'm pretty certain that Facebook doesn't enforce that policy. Google does.

Is there even a mechanism to appeal - "Email this link if you really are Tobold" sort of thing?

Yes, there is. Including the option to send them a photo ID, or links to "reputable" sites. I wonder if this link would persuade them, or whether they don't consider themselves reputable enough.
I ran into this in another situation when I was organising a press pass for Eurogamer Expo this year. They wanted me to bring proof of who I was when I go pick up the ticket. Clearly that's going to be awkward.
I'm in the same boat, although I haven't received my "you're a naughty boy" email (yet). I just don't care enough about Blogger or Google+ to give up my privacy to use them.

What annoys be so much about this is the "bait & switch" way it's been introduced. The reason why I chose Google+ and refuse to use Facebook is because Google+ allowed me to retain my anonymity. No anonymity, no Google+.

Oh well, iCloud will be up soon and then I can leave Google's clutches altogether. Not that I have any reason to believe Apple will be much better, but because you've got to quit or they don't listen.

Complaints with no change in customer numbers registers as a big fat "so what?" in most companies' minds.
I don't know. I like the idea the people I am on Google+ with are not hiding behind any avatar or nickname. Mind you my Google+ is used as a separate entity from things like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
You're very lucky, Iread about some people who just had their entire google accounts removed: Plus, blogs, gmail, etc. That was when I cancelled Google+ I was using my real name on it, but I'm not taking the chance.
I like the idea the people I am on Google+ with are not hiding behind any avatar or nickname.

But that is exactly why I need to stay Tobold! As Tobold I am backed up by 8 years of well-documented internet history, with 3,680 blog posts revealing all my thoughts and opinions about games. Under the name that is printed in my passport, I would be completely anonymous, with no history whatsoever.

I don't want to hide behind my unknown real name, I want to be out in the open under the name everybody knows me under.
Google+ using real names also means people are more conscious of what they are saying. You don't have an internet avatar you can hide behind or dump if need be. Since you keep Tobold separate from your real identity you can say things that you might not say if it was tied to your real name. You have some leeway. Looking back over your 3600+ posts on here would you have said the exact same things had you used your real name?
If had been forced to use my real name, I would not have written those 3,680 posts at all. Would you want that?
"If had been forced to use my real name, I would not have written those 3,680 posts at all. Would you want that?"

Nope, I like reading your posts. But at the same time that is what appeals to me about Google+. I know when I read Dick Debartolo or Ed Bott, or Owen JJ Stone's posts they are posting the real deal. They are not hiding behind avatars saying stuff they might not normally say. G+ removes the anonymity and makes you fully responsible for what you post. No hiding or deleting the avatar if things go south. It is out there and as such people are more careful what they write. There are enough places on the internet where you can be anonymous, we don't need anymore.
EFF has a few recent posts regarding pseudonyms.

The negative consequences of real identification far outweigh the wishful thinking of civility, even in non-oppressive environments.
I especially liked the post I read somewhere where the author remarked that if he were to shout "Down with the government!" on a street, he would be quite likely to get away with it, because that statement was only temporarily heard by a few people. If he said the same under a verified real name on the internet, it would most certainly come back to haunt him, because that statement would be archived for eternity and searchable.

No hiding or deleting the avatar if things go south.

I think my blog guarantees that I don't just delete my Tobold identity. In fact on the internet my Tobold identity has far more weight and thus guarantee than my real name identity.
"In fact on the internet my Tobold identity has far more weight and thus guarantee than my real name identity."

Maybe I spend too much time on forums where asshats can run rampant due to their anonymity allowing them to act in ways they would not act if their real name and identity were know. I have not see any of them on Google+ and would have to think that is in part due to their real name being tied to anything they say.
Welcome to the "Kicked by Google+" club Tobold. I think you are in pretty good company at this point.

A lot of defenders of Google's policy bring up the so-called "Godwin's Law" as a point in favor of blocking any sort of anonymity. Google is protecting us!

The problem is, from my own observations, that it seems that most people with a pseudonym on the internet somehow fail to become raging, foul-mouthed, a-holes.

I move that we rename it "Godwin's Syndrome" since it seems to only afflict a subset of individuals.

In the mean time, we'll have to wait for Google to figure out all the things that Facebook has over the years.

As I said on one Google+ thread, before I was removed, you would think that Google would have learn all of this from running Orkut, their other social networking site, for nearly 7 years now.

But no.
The easiest way out of the conflict without risking your account, blog, email and related content would be to go to and select the option to Delete profile and remove associated social features.
After having studied this internet/anonymity thing for about 25 years now I have come to the conclusion that people aren't being assholes on the internet because they are anonymous, they are being assholes on the internet because they are assholes.

Yes, I know it's heresy to question canon, but really. Tobold and many, many other people have shown beyond doubt that it's perfectly feasible to be completely civil without putting your "real" face out there on the 'net for all to see.
Facebook does actually enforce their policy - there was a big to-do on one of my local radio stations because one of the radio djs was delivered a FB takedown notice because he wasn't using a 'real' name - but his radio handle.

But I find it really annoying and frustrating, this attempt to erase pseudonymity from the Internet by both Facebook and Google - and I'm particularly disappointed in it in Google, since blogs are linked to it and pseudo-anon blogging has been a staple and powerful force of the Internet.
Writing and publishing under pseudonyms in order to express an opinion, without retaliation or to keep your real identity from interfering with the acceptance of your writing, has a long and prestigious precedent. If Ben Franklin were alive today I guess he couldn't publish his Silence Dogood letters nor could Mark Twain use Samuel Clemens as his pen name if they wanted to use Google+.

And civility in a public discourse should never be an acceptable reason to start eroding the ability to express ourselves freely. You never know when your innocuous opinion might be construed as rude or offensive.
I've not received a Google+ invite and wouldn't use it if I did. I do have a Google account, however, which among other things I use for the blog I finally started to use about a week ago.

I certainly didn't use my real name when setting up my Google account. If Google decide to require that I do so I will stop using their services and move to one of their competitors.

I would comment, however, that I think those of us who feel this is an issue probably need to recognize that ours is an extreme minority view. I don't believe there will be any backlash of any significance against the trend towards requiring real names and identities online and I think that in a fairly short time it will be both the norm and possibly a legal obligation in many jurisdictions.

At that point I will probably cease to use the internet for communication entirely.
Tobold, I understand where you're coming from. Frankly it's getting annoying that the megacorps like Google are starting to act this way. It's an imposition from senior management at the company that clearly show they don't understand their users - there are some googlers that have quit their jobs over this.

Even though my nickname and realname are closely linked, I'm still a control freak about the content I create. It's why I've ended up hosting my blog myself - I don't trust anyone else to do it unless I'm paying them money and have a contract in place.

If you would like me to look into it, I can probably give you a slice of the server I'm on to host your blog. Alternatively if you want to set one up yourself I'll help you with that instead.

In terms of social networks, I'm increasingly considering setting up a gamer-friendly Diaspora node that'll handle pseudonyms etc, as it just feels that Facebook, Google etc seem to be determined to continually annoy us.
Another aspect that tends to be overlooked is that more and more companies are using internet searches for finding out more about prospective hires. Do you really want someone using that rant you wrote against you the next time you apply for a job? Especially when it has nothing to do with your attitudes or demeanor on the job, and probably isn't even a related subject?
I don't think Google+ requiring real names should affect Tobold and his blog. He should be able to carry on as he has as well should everyone on the web who use an avatar. There should be no requirement to link real and avatar. I certainly expect to continue to use Spidubic as my online presence. But for Google+ my real name is used and in that particular case I am okay with it as I feel in enhances the product. I do feel that if Google wants you to use a real name in order to use Google+ then you either do that or don't use the service.
I went through this myself— I was among the first suspended for "name violations"— so I'm here to tell you that it is possible to get back on. So do try! Submit URLs to your own things and places others refer to you.

That said, it will also take some luck. Their enforcement is capricious and arbitrary, and there's no consistency to who's ok, and who isn't.
Oh, incidentally, the contents of this page is what I provided them:

On the other hand, I was disabled (and restored) before they were using that form with the ID or Facebook options. =p
It kind of makes me sad that somehow the corporations have assumed, for some strange reason, that the internet was anonymous for the longest time because we had no way to share our names with every single person. They can't imagine a world where we still might want to not have the same identity once they have provided us that opportunity.
Not sure if you follow Slashdot but if you haven't seen it you might find this post relevant:

Not particularly re-assuring but relevant.
"Tobold" isn't anonymous. He has a reputation, one he cares about. There is a distinct difference between that and someone who types in some random name to hide behind while trolling, or who simply doesn't have much of a reputation.

Google+ can do what the want. However, if they're going to insist on a hard link between online and RL, they're going to hurt their potential user base. Maybe they're doing it to try to not compete directly with Facebook, but that'll happen anyway.

Either way, Tobold, is there any way you can backup/transfer your blog here to another service? Probably a hefty job though... =(
Add a last name

Tobold Swiftquills
I already did a long time ago:

Tobold Stoutfoot
Late to the party, but I completely agree. Welcome to the company of the banned.

G+ got me a couple of days ago. Debatable though it may be, I think the negatives far outweigh any benefit from so-called transparency for all the obvious reasons already expressed.

Of course, the "debate" rapidly devolves into a traditional internet black v. white discussion while side stepping what I consider to be the most obvious and important consideration of all:

There is no way to verify identity on the internet.

"Real" id is a myth in reality and a fool's errand to pursue.

There is simply no method to make the leap out of the monitor and across the keyboard to conclusively identify anyone on the web.

All verification schemes are proxies designed to reduce the risk that someone is not who they claim to be with the extent of such measures commensurate with the risk of the transaction at hand.

Banks and merchants try, but ask any IT security person and they will tell you that if you jack up security too much, you lose your customers to frustration.

Its a question of balance. Forum account? Who cares. 401(k) account, might want to make more than a few attempts to ensure the right real person is the one granted access. Ironically, the more authentication done by these organizations, the more obscured they want to keep your public identity in order to protect them and you!

Google+ doesn't even try. All that is required is a real looking name.

And when challenged, what does Google offer as methods of verification? Confirmation of a Facebook account using the same name or the scan of an id card.

Genius. Air tight. Go to google images and search "driver license" and see what you get. My Facebook account is "Potshot Theblogger" just like my G+ was (spare me the "but that violates the TOS" argument, I know, that was the point).

So even assuming that a real id would have infinite and unbounded positive social consequences, its utterly unattainable, so what's the point?

Honestly, I don't even get the point of disallowing pseudonyms on Google+.

There's a difference between a public forum and social networks. Public forums I guess I could understand the usefulness of real IDs, since there's less likelihood of trolling. But a social network necessitates that you know the person beforehand, especially when it comes to Google+'s circle system.

You're not going to put some random dude who is a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend in your inner circle of close friends, and who cares if your close friends go by the name of "ZZxSaberxZZ" instead of "Tim"? You still know who Tim is, and that's really all that matters.

I would sort of get it if it was a naming policy to encourage people to use their real names (and thus cultivate a reasonable social network without devolving into something like a Myspace teenage haven), but outright banning psuedonyms is just detrimental as a whole.
Is there an email address so we can send google our opinion about the matter?
I'd love to see an update to this if you get one, Tobold.
I know that angst at this is warranted but... you are debating an algorithm.

Simply adjust your information to fit into it's decision matrix and move on...

Protecting ones identity is paramount these days and all people who wish to keep separate computer/real lives will need to develop the cyber Camouflage skills to keep their privacy.

Entertainment types for decades have had stage names to keep their personal and professional lives separate. Since you are the Lady GaGa of the MMO blog scene you simply need to adjust... smart entertainers started to use 3 names: Stage name, Real name and "name you give out to people who will think it's the real name".

Welcome to celebrity!
A similar story about 'Violet Blue':
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