My personal journey : A little more on identity profiles and plusgate

This is a watershed moment in online and offline identity and expression that Google has brought to the fore for a lot of people. It’s apparent heavy handed policy on who you express yourself else on their profile pages for Google+ highlights many of the things I have been looking at, talkgin about and experiencing for atleast the past 10 years online.
This was and is the discussion and discovery process that people in “business” and “corporate” life have been bumping into. It cuts across virtual worlds, web 2.0, forums, IRC chat and almost any form of online communication. It also though, when you look at it, amplifies what happens in the physical face to face world.
When you engage in communication with another human being you use lots of cues to judge who it is you are talking to. Generally the main feature is the face. This is the pattern that you brain has remembered as the container for the thoughts and feelings of the person you are communicating with. It is a very strong, very rich and ever changing canvas of emotions and expressions. We think we can usually tell someones mood and intent by their face, and those expressions. In general we can, but it does not stop someone playing us, putting on an act or even entertaining us by pretending to be someone else in a play or movie. When someone is not present and we don’t have that face or that meeting we have word of mouth reputation, or the result of their actions expressed as products, buildings, statues etc.
When we go online we do not have that rich canvas of expressions and motion of a face. Even with a video conference we are translating and losing many of the cues we rely upon. Luckily though we can use more direct self expression, we can leave a trail of actions and intent as digital dna across the very systems we interact upon. We are evolving to understand what actions and what parts of the trail are of use for each of us in determining the viability of another digital representation in being worth interacting with. This applies to business as much as individuals. “They don’t even have a website/twitter account/facebook page/telephone number I am not going to bother shopping with them”
Profile pages, such as the google+ ones that are being policed in a rash way by google are merely a little bit of text and a picture (they do attach to many other things like a dna marker, but for now lets stick with the entry point). They are not your face, they are not you, they are a small veneer and advert to express to people what you do. In the old world that might be called a business card.
The name or names and text description of who are are representing yourself as are not the same as your physical collection of carbon atoms, that are recognisable by your face and may have a parental assigned label on them. You need to get across (should you choose too) why someone might be in the slightest bit interested in connecting with you. Now for people who already know you you given name may be the way they spot you, for others it may be that they have heard of you in some way and need to check you out and for other sets it may just be a serendipitous connection of interest. Each of those is not served by the same pieces of data.
Take the name. I am Ian Hughes I have no middle name, thats on my birth certificate etc. Government issued documents (i.e. validated by some people on the word of some other people). Yet my nickname/handle online of epredator is also how I am known. So we meet at a conference I say my name is Ian, you read my face see I am honest and upstanding but thats it. You meet me online I am Ian/epredator and you see that I have a nickname one that may intrigue, one that you may have even heard of. It may lead you to the conclusion that I have invested some time and effort in certain areas in order that I even have a nickname to share. It provides instant insight.
The same goes for photos.
The First picture is of me, its my face, you can tell I am wearing glasses, white male, getting on a bit. Smiling. Without the movement and expression of the face though does that really help you with who I am? Sure if we are going to meet then that may help, but so will the fact I will be wearing my striped leather jacket.
The second picture is of an avatar. A digital expression of me, labelled as epredator, wearing my striped leather jacket. However you can tell from a glance I am a science fiction fan. You may also guess if you are a fan of the culture that the predator character is very strong but full of honour. At no point is there anything where I do not represent who I am. “I wear a mask but don’t hide behind it”.
This just scratches the surface of identity, of me letting you know who I am using the restricted online means we have at our disposal.
This is me as an integrated identity, it is one of thousands of use cases that do not fit the if its you use your name/picture etc.
We are all learning this stuff, I am with me and who I am exploring, the problems and the benefits, I have been for years. “taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to”. Hence like many I look at google+ and wonder what on earth they are playing at. They are missing some huge opportunities and hitting early adopters and explorers which will backfire on them. Nothing is too big to fail.

***UPDATE email from the google name police 25/1/2011

Thank you for contacting us with regard to our review of the name you are
trying to use in your Google Profile. After review of your appeal, we have
determined that the name you want to use violates our Community Standards.
You can review our name guidelines at

If you edit your name to comply with our policies in the future, please
respond to this email so that we can re-review your profile.


The Google Profiles Support Team

So I replied (and complied to get back in and see what the process is)
I have edited my name back to Ian Hughes removing the Ian/epredator Hughes.
epredator is in other names I assume that will not give you a problem in the future.

Or am I allowed to be epredator Hughes? I am known mostly as epredator. I was assuming the / was the problem but hearing what is happening to others I assume you would fail that?


Director of Feeding Edge Ltd
Taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to.

Metaverse Evangelist

UPDATE 27/7/2011
I have been allowed back in
Hi Ian,

Thank you for contacting us with regard to the name you want to use with
your Google Profile. After further review, we have determined that your
name is within our Community Standards policy. Thank you for your patience
while we reviewed your profile name. Nicknames should be put in the
“Nicknames” or “Other names” section.



So I am now Ian Hughes on google+ though epredator is more than a nickname. It is part of my actual name. It feels that Google has cut off who I am to other people. I have complied, but will see what they manage to do to address this. It is NOT fixed. I will now get mixed up with a footballer from wales, the high commisioner of Sierra Leone and a journalist and an MD in the car industry. Nice one Google.

Is that me hiding? I don’t think so! more Google Minus

I feel sorry for anyone with an unusual “given” name, one of the Beckhams, Geldoffs or other rock stars. They just wont be able to hang out on google+ because their “name” doesn’t fit the “pattern”.
So after thinking I was ok as Ian/epredator Hughes on google+ turns out I am not.
I, like William Shatner, got suspended for an apparent name violation or some bad pattern match on their processes. Is it hard to tell this is really me? I mean really? Identity is not binary and is not purely based on a string of ascii characters!

I have filled in the form with just a few URL’s proving that I am known as Ian, Mr Hughes, Mr I Hughes, epredator, epred, oi you, sir, son, daddy, boss etc but we shall see.
Its really a big fat google minus – the muppets

Identity is not binary – plusgate

I have to join in with support for those people out there who wish to use a pseudonym or handle to express themselves on the internet. This is all sparked out of the apparent short sightedness of Google and it Google+ on suggesting that if you don’t use your “real” name you can’t be on the “service”.
It is true that this is a free service, it is one, like most social networks that the owners can choose their own terms of service, however it is not an excuse to miss the point of all this connectivity.
The web is about people, social media is about people, virtual worlds are about people. People are not merely defined by a first name and second name and a physical home address. Those are merely an anchor point for physical services. People are defined by their actions, by their affiliations. They are also defined by the creative output. Social networks are not a forensic legal network of our DNA kept and logged with fingerprints, voiceprints and an absolute 100% certainty “we are who we say we are”. I am sure some people think that would be the ideal, however it is missing an important point.
Just because you know someones real name and potentially real address it does not mean that you know that real person. It no more indicates that they will tell you the truth or tell you a lie than if you ask them to roll a dice for you, 3 means truth 5 means lie the others are not sure.
People choosing to either use a different handle, a nickname or an AKA are not usually hiding. A few characters or a picture to express who they are in the context of a particular social network is more likely to offer insight into who they are rather than the surname handed down by birth and a first name given by parents.
Trust is very different from physical appearance or labelled identity. Having a human face profile picture does not make that profile “genuine”. The actions of someone or the organisation behind the profile are where trust is formed and where bonds are strengthened.
I can understand worries about accountability or security of knowing the same person is using the same account, but these are completely different from anonymity or pseudo anonymity. I am more than happy to talk and deal with the same person time and time again regardless of their “name” just as I am happy to deal with them regardless of race or creed. If the “name” they have made for themselves and their actions is an alias then so what?
Much of this has sparked form the virtual world communities, in particular Second Life choosing to help and early adopt Google+. In part to get away from the over controlling nature of Facebook and it’s names and identity policy. It seems though Google want to be a copy of that.
I am wondering where this ends though. Should we not be able to search the internet for fictional characters, are we not able to engage with people with imaginations online. Should everything be geared to a replication of the physical world?
It is lazy to treat identity as binary. I have seen corporations and companies try this with employees (and fail). We are complex messy collections of carbon atoms. We all have more than one mood and persona. Different situations require us to suspend disbelief or augment ideas. Nothing is black and white.
Does this affect me? Well not exactly. I am known as epredator on a number of systems. People call me epred when we meet. I am also Ian, Mr Hughes, Sir, Oi You, Dad, Son. I have an avatar in Second Life that wears a mask, yet I don’t hide behind that mask. I have not made a specific separation between me online and me offline in that I am shades of me and shades of characters in different situations at different times. I do however admire those who have a completely separate online nom de plume, why shouldn’t they? It is part of the magic of the human condition. Just as with a magic trick, once you know how its done it loses its appeal.
So, who ever you are, do not stifle creativity and creation, do not stifle humanity by fixing a technology based policy in place just because you think it “might be a good idea if…”. I reserve the right to have an anonymous profile that I can fill with whatever I want to explore a character and some ideas. Google “do no evil?” killing creative expression sounds rather evil to me?

Latest merger news : Work and play combine

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking at a Nokia connecting worlds event in Second Life. The subject for the panel of us invited to talk was that of human and non human avatars. In particular we represented people with avatars in SL or multiple looks in SL that were not regular real world mirrors.
Nokia SLIt was a very interesting set of perspectives that we all brought to the event I think. The discussion of identity and the prejudice and also the power of using particular ways of interacting in virtual environments is a rich subject. It is also full of personal experience and though for each of us. 

Faced with an avatar based experience everyone who enters has to choose something, even if the choice is to do nothing, to represent them. However as they engage and act the avatar starts to not just be a visual but a repesentative of attitude and action. 

The panel was formed of Blue Linden, Myself, Digistar Brouwer of Nokia, Hiro Pendragon, Selkit Diller and Flea Bussy, moderated by Hydra Shaftoe.

Also for me the conversation and answering the questions ranged from my experience at a large corporation having represented both myself and their interests as epredator, flowed into how I show the fact I am clearly a science fiction fan with my AV and also how I try and act with the same strength and honour blended with the ethos of another character.

Clearly all that in conversation blends business and play in many complicated ways. The need for personal brand, for ego and for championing a business cause yet all being described to a group of people world wide when for me it was 8pm and I was at home having just put the predlets to bed.

It was captured by the newly forming (link to follow once the archive is up) 

So clearly work and play (which can be the same thing if you enjoy the work) have already merged. Sharing personal experience that some people may use for commercial advantages, or for personal enhancement crosses the boundaries. 

As I often say all this is about people. Thats the bottom line. People connecting and getting done what they need to do,  direct to one another with reduced overheads.
Nokia SLAs is also customary at any online gathering there is a post event mingle, this shows the great leveler that virtual worlds are as the social construct of audience, stage, panelists just stops and intermingles as it does at any good conference event. 

We ended up discussing WoW, Female/Male potential prejudices and sandwiches. 

There were a few eightbars (both current and former IBMers) who came along too so it was good to see everyone again. 

Thanks all for the discussion and look out for the video when its posted to hear everyones point of view.
The video is now ready

Or a direct link is here (Thank Digistar 🙂 )