August 17th, 2011

uhura nichelle nicolls

The aesthetics of names

This is a post by Mike Elgan on G+ titled "The trouble with Google's names policies: Real unconventional names = Bad. Fake 'normal' names = OK."

https://plus.google.com/113117251731252114390/posts/XtkGjGsBA3V

The post itself is not what I want to talk about though. It's a comment in that thread by Robert Scoble, a big Google+ booster who has recently been going back and forth about what he thinks of Google's name policy.
...some people have "non common" names and I do have empathy for those who really have weird names, like M3 (if that's really his legal name).

But that said I am totally groking the AESTHETIC that Google is going for. They are trying to look different than Twitter is and I really really like seeing names that look common here. IE, most everyone I've met in the real world has a first and last name.
I can scarcely put into words the rage I feel about the notion that people's names are an "aesthetic" issue reasonably subject to control. It's racist, sexist, classist, xenophobic, and just about every other -ist and -phobic I can think of.

If Scoble were to say "I want to use my name, and I don't want to feel pressured to come up with a handle," I would understand it. He says he doesn't like Second Life because he wanted to use his name there, and I also don't like Second Life's policy of requiring you to use a name they pick for you (you get to enter your own "first name" but you have to choose from their list of "last names"). But to think that "I really like seeing names that look common" is a good basis for a policy? Or to even think that it's worth uttering in public? I don't get it.

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