Take Your Base

or, “Fake War II”

My favorite story by Crap Mariner is a lot longer than 100 words… It takes up most of this post in his blog, from almost exactly a year ago: “How to take a punch”.

The latest schoolyard bully turns out to be Google… or people claiming to be working for and speaking for them, with regard to the “permitted identity” doublethink at GooglePlus. This guy may only be a lone nutjob, or he may be another tip of the same iceberg that occasionally sinks avatar accounts on Facebook.

Andrew Bunner – Yesterday 9:59 AM – Public
If you see a person with an obviously fake name, go to their profile and find the “Report Profile” link in the bottom of the left column. Report it as a “Fake Profile”. We want Google+ to be place for real people to connect with other real people.

Outside of Google — and allegedly in Second Life — there’s this guy. I’m not even going to bother quoting him. Whatever…

Turns out my post of last week was pretty much right. Whether or not we were misled by Google back in February, we expected too much from the company who, if they didn’t actually invent datamining and targeted advertising, certainly turned it into The Way Thing Are.

And the purges have begun.

I have been a consistent user of Google products since before the first post in this blog, when I installed their Picasa photo editor on my hard drive and began using the associated website to share photos of virtuality. Blogger and Picasa are interlinked, making it extremely easy to insert photos here. That “public policy” blog of theirs from February states, in part:

Pseudonymous. Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely—they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don’t want people to know about. People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that is not linked to their offline self. You can use pseudonyms to upload videos in YouTube or post to Blogger.

[emphasis added]

What did they mean, then — that pseudonymous use is permitted only on those services? Was Picasa omitted intentionally? Does the February statement still mean today what it seemed to? Or, will the announced integration of Blogger and Picasa with Google+ remove the permission to use them pseudonymously?

I’m not waiting to find out the hard way, by being locked out of my own blog and photo collection because my Google profile is avatarian. And I will not succumb to attaching my wallet identity to my avatar’s. That’s nobody’s goddamn business, unless I say so — least of all the data scavengers who will try to make it, literally, their business.

All my base are belong to me, motherfucker… and I’m going to take my base… elsewhere.

This blog will (if it hasn’t already) have its 15,000th visit some time today. It may have a different address before the weekend’s done. Once this is posted, I’m going to export the whole thing (153 posts, plus ancillary pages) to an XML file on my hard drive. I’m looking at the option of actually paying (gasp!) for blog hosting service: Squarespace looks pretty nice, and costs less for a year of basic service than two months’ tier in InWorldz. I’m going to join Flickr, too… just in case.

I’m not fond of how Mitch Wagner expressed his opinion in this G+ thread, but I do have to agree with his central point, one I’ve made a few times as well: “If you don’t like the rules, don’t go there.”



19 responses to “Take Your Base

  1. Lalo,

    I too have opted to take my base while it “are belong to” me. I decided I would not be pressured into lying by Google's overly invasive and “exposive” (just made that word up I think) identity policy.

    I find it troubling that the first commenter you quoted suggests that it would be perfectly ok to lie if we used more convincing fake names. That is both a conceptual and ethical FAIL.

    Now that the initial giddy infatuation with Google+ features is over, those of us who still value our privacy will be looking for equivalent features in other more user-oriented options.

  2. @Chestnut: It's pretty simple, sort-of… there's a help page (I'll put the URL at the end of this reply), but it's geared to the old Dashboard design. The “Export” option is now found at Settings > Other > Blog tools.

    My results: 2.64 Mb, and depending on which app I use to read the XML, it looks like all of the formatting and links are there, in all 153 posts… plus the template CSS itself.

    @Ceorl : Yeah, funny thing about those flexi-ethics…

  3. “if you don't like the rules don't go there” is a sad statement which shows lack of critic thinking and sounds very condescendent toward an opinable policy.

    Worst, it doesn't apply to the Google+ issue as the Google policy about pseudonyms on Google+ is ambiguous and many people -me included- are surprised that you cannot use a pseudonym when that pseudonym is the only way your friends know you.

    On the other hand it is not surprising that someone who already choose not to use pseudonyms tries to justify such a policy.

  4. It's 1976. The film “Network” is released causing the first angry consumers to be vocal. Even thought the film was fiction, people still yelled out their windows “I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!” I know, I remember hearing it late at night outside my bedroom window as a child.

    Piss off enough people and a revolution starts.

  5. @Opensource: I couldn't agree with you more about the ambiguity of Google's policy statements, which I think were intentionally so.

    I don't like the wedge that's being driven between the real-name advocates and the pseudonymous ones… it's another front of what now is a global “culture war” against personal freedom.

    Even so, the freedoms we still enjoy (so far) include the freedom to walk away from people and organizations we can't trust. That's what I mean by “if you don't like the rules, don't go there.”

    @Robert: I still shiver to think how prophetic Chayefsky was, 35 years ago.

  6. Well, I'm sure you know how I agree. I lived all my life up until 3 years ago without “social” media and I'm sure I'll manage the rest of my life quite happily without it.
    I have followed your advice and exported my blog to another location should things get really stupid but it is still available in it's usual location for the present.

    It may well be that the future sees a division between the mega corps controlling the majority of the web and a more 'underground' movement of people using domain names and servers based in a country with a national policy of web neutrality. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

  7. When I see companies trying desperately to capitalize on the information they have collected it reminds me of something.

    “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

    Eventually all these companies offering free services have to justify their stock prices somehow. The servers they're running aren't free. The internet bandwidth isn't free. I would imagine these types of data mining schemes have been in the works since the beginning.

    As more and more people become numb to internet ads, be prepared to see more and more schemes hatched for companies to collect on.

  8. Taking your business elsewhere is a fine thing to do. Look how I've brought down Walmart by shopping at local businesses! Oops, bad example. Anyway, we are not Google's customers, we are their product. Google/Facebook have decided pseudonymous accounts are not a good product since they cannot be marketed as effectively and efficiently. Taking your business elsewhere does not really apply in this situation. I believe there is a good case to be made in court if anyone has the gumption, time, energy, money, and connections.

  9. Thank you for this post, Lalo.

    Lately I have been repeating thoughts and wisdoms I learned on the net very early; before there was a WWW. The people who taught me were netizens; they understood what a revolution was about; what issues it would bring and the necessity to think of such things.

    I have been mocked, shushed and “there, there'd” for my stance that the internet is as crucial a development as the printing press and my focus on the politics of information. Perhaps I read and research more than my current peers; perhaps one must think about the ramifications of things according to the principles that “beginnings are delicate times” and “picture the end.” Neither of those principles are blue-sky tinfoil hatting; they are basic to network maintenance and expansion.

    The Free Lunch offered is nothing more than a chunk of cheese in a trap. Having outsourced, cut back, slowed down and limited themselves in their offering of actual product that people might desire to purchase, the Corps have decided to farm us for profit. The Matrix was not a science fiction story; it was a fable of the way things are now.

    I notice now that on almost all the blogs and articles I read, there is no option to comment without being linked through various services. This bothers me. There's still ways to cut down comment-spam without the necessity of tracking my identifiers everywhere I go.

    This is the struggle that was predicted by the men who built the internet way back as early as 1984 or so. They understood this is a communications platform and that Corp. would attempt to suborn, limit and subsume the network in their own limited vision of a one-way broadcast channel for selling goods.

    The net can no longer indulge itself in being above politics; the network is being used right now as a political tool (google “army sock puppets” “autoblogging” “astroturfing”).

    The time is coming when people will either understand the power of the net and fight for the open expression of the freedom to communicate or they will allow the first real sea change in public communication to suffer the fate of radio, television and the first attempts to disseminate the knowledge of the printing press and we lose this precious free press.

  10. @Missy: That being the case, what I'm doing is not so much “taking my business elsewhere” as removing myself, and the content I've created, from their shelves: refusing to remain their product.

    And if you don't mind a little semantic play, I'd say that G+/FB's real customers have decided pseudonymous accounts can't be marketed to as effectively; thus, we dilute the value of the product.

  11. @Miso: I know exactly what you're talking about – but I take, if not comfort, then some modicum of hope in this:

    Print and TV were conceived and built as one-way media. Radio (the tech) has always led a double life, as an interactive comm channel and a one-way broadcast. Maybe the Net's closest 'cousin' is the telephone, and not merely because of its interactive nature but its ubiquity.

    The printing press (when it was new), and the television studio (for the first 50-ish years of its life) were rare, expensive, and in the hands of the wealthy few: easily controlled, easily suborned. Now, in a very real way in terms of content, “The means of production are owned by the people”.

    Too many of us have the tools, and the knowledge to use them, for the old guard to stop us all. There are lessons to be learned from the Arab Spring by both sides… and I'm not being facetious by quoting from Serenity:

    You can't stop the signal.

  12. I posted this jokingly at Miso's blog, but seriously: there was a lot to be said for the pre-WWW BBS network. It now seems like the 18th century frontier, for good and bad.

  13. @Lalo: actually, television was first touted as a community tool just like the net is. It was also a lot more creative (ernie kovacks) until the Soap Salesmen got to it.

    And yes, I liken this current climate and attitude towards this communications platform as being very similar to the one where the Church went around burning books, smashing presses, hounding printers, casting suspicion on those who could read and trying to put the genie back in the box with their mystical powers. It didn't work, but it was an ugly period…

    @Iggy: it was more polite, informative and fun, I agree *sigh* but I am wary of this meme of “the Wild West” because actually, except for some incidents here and there, I have not been exposed to that over 20+ years, and you know I hang in some pretty dark alleys on the net gathering information.

    Most of the fear-mongering is a setup.

  14. I think you made a good decision, Lalo. Google has pulled the plug on Labs, the coolest thing about the Google philosophy.Sad, really. But utopians are often disappointed. I sure am right now, with Google. Just as I've been with Apple.Miso makes a good point…y'all go read Tim Wu's book The Master Switch to see how the utopia of the Internet may be nothing but an illusion. Lalo, in the last point here, recapitulates Wu's central claim that the Internet was born different.Wu's "master switch," btw, is Google. And though you cannot stop the signal, you can control the "tubes" on which we receive it.As Wu points out, every earlier telecom technology went through an open source era of wild innovation, before settling into a tightly controlled arena for one or two companies in collusion with government. Will this medium be different?

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