Facebook Relaxing Their Real Name Policy? R.U. Sirius?

First of all I’ll cover some old ground and take us back just under four years to November 21st 2011. Author Salman Rushdie had been embroiled in a row with Facebook because they wouldn’t allow him to use the name “Salman Rushdie”. This was due to the fact that Salman Rushdie’s first name is actually Ahmed and initially Facebook changed his account to use that first name.

Eventually, Facebook saw sense and Salman Rushdie was allowed to use the name Salman Rushdie. A name he’s widely known as. Fast forward almost four years and numerous articles about the pro’s and cons of Facebook’s real name policy, Facebook are still at it when it comes to being stubborn over names, despite claims that they are relaxing their real name policy.

Alex Hern, in the linked Guardian article writes :

The new rules still officially require the use of “authentic names” on the site, something which has previously resulted in criticism from varied groups including the drag community, Native Americans, and trans people. While Facebook does not require the use of “legal names” on the site, it does demand that users identify with the name that other people know them by.

That doesn’t sound like much of a watering down of their policy to me. However further in the article Alex Hern writes :

Firstly, the site will now allow users to “provide more information about their circumstances” in order to “give additional details or context on their unique situation”.

According to the company’s VP of Growth, Alex Schultz, this should allow Facebook to accurately assess whether the name supplied fits with the rules. Additionally, he says: “It will help us better understand the reasons why people can’t currently confirm their name, informing potential changes we make in the future.”

Initially, that sounded a bit more positive, although it still requires users to jump through hoops and be authorised to use a name they are already widely known as. To highlight why this is still very much a problem we need to turn to Hamlet Au over at New World Notes who has been covering the Facebook problems faced by R.U. Sirius, AKA Ken Goffman.

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Twitter Change Favourites And Stars To Likes And Hearts, This Won’t End Well!

Twitter, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to change Favourites, which had a star icon, to Likes, which have a heart icon.  By Akarshan Kumar, Product Manager, announced the change on the Twitter blog; Hearts on Twitter. The blog explained Twitter’s reasoning for the change :

We hope you like what you see on Twitter and Vine today: hearts!

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

The reaction on Twitter, hasn’t exactly been sharing that love. I’m more than a tad bemused as to how anybody could find a star confusing, a star is a pretty universal symbol too whilst being less irksome and patronising than a heart.

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Avatars Run Into Facebook Real Name Policy Twist

A couple of Avatars have ran foul of Facebook’s real name policy, which at first glance might not sound unusual, but in a bizarre twist on the naming policy, the couple concerned actually have a last name of Avatar.

Madison Malone Kircher published an article on Tech Insider; This guy claims Facebook has banned him from using the site until he proves his unique last name :

A couple in Arizona claims that Facebook has banned them from using the site until they verify their unique last name: Avatar.

Earlier this week, Balizar Orion Avatar claims he tried to log into Facebook and discovered that his account had been deleted, KTVK reported.

Avatar is recently married. His wife, Audry, says she has not been able to change her last name on Facebook, though her account remains active.

The reasons why Avatar is ringing alarm bells are almost certainly due to the film of the same name, but according to Tech Insider, there may be another source of concern for the name being flagged :

The Cameron movie isn’t the only reason Facebook tends to flag “Avatar” as a fake name. Digital communities like “Second Life” refer to people’s characters as avatars. For this reason, it’s one of several names that the site flags as potentially fake, a Facebook representative told KTVK.

I should say at this point that I can’t see any quotes in either of the linked articles that actually seem to quote a Facebook representative suggesting Avatar is flagged due to Second Life. Indeed if Second Life names were being flagged then “Resident” would be a more likely cause for concern.

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The Drax Files World Makers Episode 31 With Tom Boellstorff Ponders “What Is Real?”

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The Drax Files: World Makers Episode 31 (sponsored by Linden Lab) features an interview with Professor Tom Boellstorff (pronounced “bell-storf”; the first “o” is silent). Tom is an anthropologist based at the University of California, Irvine. The episode is introduced by Tom saying :

If you’re trying to learn about a culture, the challenge is time and that’s something that applied to the work I’ve done with gay and lesbian Indonesians and it applies just as much when you’re studying something like virtual worlds, you have to live inside the community that you’re studying.

Already I’m interested in what is going to transpire in this interview, time is something I’m always battling with myself and the fact that Tom appreciates that you have to be among a community to study one suggests he’s not forming an opinion based on a few screenshots and a far away view. We also learn that Tom is not new to Second Life, when he first entered Second Life there were only around 2,500 users, this guy is an oldbie.

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As an example of how much Second Life has grown since the early days, Tom explains how he decided to fly over all of Second Life in the early days, it took him about a week, at two hours a day. How long would it take these days? I have no idea but the grid is much larger than it would have been when Tom initially joined.

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Tom says that in Second Life he is a digital ethnographer. Tom explains that an ethnographer studies how people live and think and that this involves hanging out with people. To this end he used to host weekly chats with anyone who wanted to teleport in. This sounds like the old Linden Office Hours but was quite probably more civil. I wonder if Tom did go to any Linden Office Hours, I’m sure that would tell a digital ethnographer a thing or two about digital communities too, even when they got heated.

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Ellen Pao Steps Down As Reddit CEO With Dignity And Humanity

I recently blogged about the problems at Reddit : Reddit – The Front Page Of The Internet, Bottom Of The Class For Community Relations. In that post I talked of the failures of Reddit management to engage with the community.

The furore over the direction Reddit was heading had already seen a petition created that called for the head of Ellen Pao. In the wake of the communication debacle the number of signatures on that petition ballooned from around 10,000 to over 200,000.

However, it was quite clear that Ellen Pao, who only took over as Reddit CEO on a temporary basis eight months ago, was not solely to blame for Reddit’s communication issues. The anger fired in Ellen Pao’s direction was misdirected. A communication breakdown such as the one Reddit faced was not due to events in the last eight months.

Ellen’s resignation letter, posted on Reddit, contains a human touch that far too many people on social media and even in virtual worlds, seem to forget about :

I just want to remind everyone that I am just another human; I have a family, and I have feelings. Everyone attacked on reddit is just another person like you and me. When people make something up to attack me or someone else, it spreads, and we eventually will see it. And we will feel bad, not just about what was said. Also because it undercuts the authenticity of reddit and shakes our faith in humanity.

This doesn’t just apply to Reddit. I’ve seen similar sentiments made when people are attacking Linden Lab, or attacking people on Twitter, or in below the line comments sections. I’m not sure why people are so quick to spread bile when we communicate by text. I do hope that one of the side effects of a more immersive virtual reality future is that we will get more clues from facial expressions and that we will then see less venom when people communicate at distance.

Ellen also pointed out how support can be inspiring :

What has far outshone the hate has been the positive on reddit. Thank you, kind strangers, for expressing your support. You gilded me 100 times. (For those of you who apologized for generating a wave of accusations that I gilded myself, please don’t feel bad. You did a good thing.) And thank you for sending cute animal pics and encouraging me to “Stay safe!” when the site overheated with expressions of hate in various forms. There were some days when your PMs inspired me more than you can imagine.

The reason Ellen is stepping down though is not because of a petition and fortunately, it’s also not because of trolling and abuse either.

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