The death of my favorite social network

New achievement unlocked: "Acquire @googlereader badges"

Four months ago, I was mistakenly banned from using many of my Google services. I fought tooth and nail for many weeks to get my Google Profile restored, not so I could use Google+ (because seriously, fuck Google+), but simply so I could regain access to my favorite social networking site; Google Reader.

I had been a longtime Reader fan, possibly visiting the site more often than I checked my Gmail account. I loved how the conversations my friends and I had, would often up end providing additional context to a shared link. Reader wasn’t just a great way to discover new blogs, often times my friends would act as curators to good blogs that could sometimes get a little noisy. I didn’t need to subscribe to FFFFFound’s tumblr because Slim or Colin would often share the 1 or 2 photos a week worth seeing from tttttttthere.

When I got banned by Google, I could no longer share or comment on items, but at least I could still see what my friends curated links and conversations, but the Reader team officially killed Reader’s social sharing options today, in attempt to force more of their users to Google+. Seriously, and I can’t emphasize this enough, fuck Google+!

In the final day’s of Reader, my friends started sharing sentimental goodbyes. If I had the chance, this is what I would have shared:

Dear Google Reader team,

I didn’t get a chance to meet many of you, and I know that most of Reader was built by 20 percenters, but I just wanted to thank you for keeping the service going and trying to add to it whenever you could. I know many of you were frustrated when Google tried creating new social platforms like Buzz and Google+, but you guys kept Reader going anyways because you knew deep down what a great service it was.

Reader really was my favorite social network. Thanks to everyone who helped create and maintain it throughout the years.

-Doc

 

“Hey Google! Stop Being A Jerk” by Jonathan Mann

966 days into his Song-A-Day project and Jonathan Mann is still writing catchy little gems! “Hey Google! Stop Being A Jerk” is Mann’s take on Google’s mass suspensions of accounts based on how real the users name sounds. This “real sounding” name policy, or #nymwars, has been a steady source of controversy for the past month. Violet Blue, who broke the original story on zDnet 4 weeks ago, even had her account flagged for suspension just a few days ago.

Sadly, Google seems to have dug their heels in on this particular issue, but maybe things will change once the Google Support team gets this catchy little earworm stuck in their heads.
… 

 

Is G+ actively blocking suspended users from viewing public sites?

This whole Google+ saga keeps getting weirder and weirder. 3 weeks ago, somebody at Google made a mistake and suspended my account because they thought the name I was using was different than the name I go by on a day to day basis. Despite helping them out and showing proof of my identity, my “appeal” was denied and I lost access to several of my favorite Google services.

That was pretty lame, but now it appears that Google is actively blocking suspended users like myself from being able to view the site at all… even totally public photo albums, profiles, or posts! So if in the past I wanted to go to this public post by John Hardy, I would have seen this:

What you see when you look at a public Google+ profile

I now see this:

What I see when I look at a public Google+ profile

When my friend Xeni shares a public post, this is what I see:

What I see when I visit a public G+ page

Or if Natalie Villalobos shared an update on a new Google+ name policy, it shows up like this:

What I see when I visit a public G+ page

Note, this problem only persists as long as I’m signed into Google services (like Gmail), so I have to log out of my still functioning Google services in order to access any information shared on G+. It’s possible they forgot to add the “close” button on these pop ups, or maybe there is a bug, but I’ve learned that fixing mistakes like this is not something Google is good at.

When this whole identity thing started 3 weeks ago I thought “No big deal, they just made a error. I’m sure they’ll fix it.”, but after weeks of seeking help from Google Support via email or their web forums, I still haven’t gotten any help. As Google Profiles, the center piece of this whole Google blunder, gets integrated more and more into Google’s model, I’m worried about what other services I’ll be blocked from in the future.

 

Google’s Antisocial Behavior

Dear Google,

It’s our two week ban-niversary and I bet you are wondering what to get me. Cake would be nice. Or some socks. Perhaps you could drop a short email to let me know you miss me.

It’s been 14 days since you suspended my access to Google Reader, Data Liberation, Google Profile, and various other services because the name I signed up to Google+ with didn’t sound right to you. How the time flies! You’ve always been slow to respond, it took 56 hours to respond to my appeal, but now you seem to have stopped replying all together.

When I first filed my appeal you told me that my name violated Google+’s Terms Of Services, which simply stated that I needed to “use the name that I commonly go by in daily life”, so I responded with newspaper articles (Village Voice, Wall Street Journal, etc) and statements from past employers that verified my daily name (or common law name) has been “Doctor Popular” for more than 12 years. Despite all this evidence, your support staff told me the only way to regain access to my accounts was to send in a copy of my government issued ID.

Vic Gundatro (Google’s Senior VP Social) isn’t using his “real” name and Natalie Villalobos (Google+ Community Manager) stated on this thread that “providing a government ID is an optional part of the Common Names process and our reviewer is incorrect when he says that he needs a government issued ID to confirm the name.” You guys could all get together and work this out over lunch sometime.

Two days after you told me I lost my appeal, I was notified via Twitter that my account was reactivated. I was so pleased to finally have access to Reader again, I couldn’t wait to see if “planking” was still a thing or not. Just as I was enjoying your company again, my account got re-suspended!

I quickly submitted another appeal, because I love Google Reader that much, but have yet to receive any response! At this point, I’d even take the old “It’s not you it’s me” line. Just give me a response.

Currently I’m still locked out of various Google Services because of a TOS that I didn’t actually break. I’ve sought help through email, on the Google Support forum, and even tried writing your community managers directly (through Twitter and email). The support on Google+ seems pretty awesome though… if only I could post on G+ that I can’t access my G+ account.

I’ve sought out help of other jilted lovers. I’ve held a couple of “Banned by Google” meetings in SF and have heard stories of people getting suspended, submitting their ID, and being told the name on their ID was not acceptable and their appeal was denied. Newly banned users are still being required to provide ID. Your support forum is filled with hundreds of folks using their birth names and unable to get their accounts reactivated. At this point, the first thing folks probably hear about Google+ is that if you sign up for it, you may permanently lose access to other Google Services.

By discriminating against users based on their names, Google has accidentally stumbled into the middle of a hot debate over the rights of users to their own identities on the internet. You’ve left a trail of broken hearts in your wake, but that’s not really what I’m writing about.

I’m writing as a long time user who has been suspended from various Google Services without breaking any Terms of Services. The Google “Support” team clearly have not been made aware of Google’s policies and have decided that not replying is the best way to handle users that have lost access to their Google Services.

And so today, after two weeks of being locked out of Google Reader, I’ve decided to give you some publicity: If you sign up for Google+ you risk losing access to your other Google Services.

Happy ban-niversary!

Love,

Doc