I Am the One You Warned Me Of

Posted on 27th September 2011

To the right you'll see the identity page of my current UK passport. This is an official UK government issued photo identity, despite what any website may think. As you can see quite clearly, the name 'Barbie' does indeed appear as my name on my passport. Other names and numbers have been redacted, but these are considered private and not required to prove my identity except when required to do so by law.

Rules of a website are not law, but complying with their requests, I have submitted this to both Facebook and Google+. As I mentioned last week, Facebook have decided that they no longer consider this to be my legal name, and rejected my passport. As to why is a little confusing as they either don't consider the UK government to be a recognised world power, or don't recognise the passports issued by them. Despite several attempts to get a response, I am now being stone-walled and all attempts to contact them are being ignored.

This week, Google+ decided that they would follow suit and issued a suspension notice. Their link to lodge an appeal fails with an error message, and although the additional information form appeared to submit my passport and additional supporting links, I received no communication (either through my gmail account or my personal email) as to whether it was received. With such poor communication methods to appeal, I am not hopeful that my evidence even got through.

I still question why any social network requires anyone to expose personal information in order to use their site. It isn't required to provide functionality, as I have been using both sites for sometime now (Facebook for over 4 years, and Google+ for about 3-4 months). It isn't a legal requirement, as there is no such restriction for those registering profiles with fake names.

Google+ state that "The Names Policy requires that you use the name that you are commonly referred to in real life in your profile", which I do. Barbie is the name I am commonly known by. Of the several hundred people who follow me or know me offline, few have ever known my full name. In many cases now, if asked many will get my full name wrong. However, they all know me well as Barbie. CEOs, MDs, colleagues, friends and family have known me as Barbie for nearly 30 years. That's at least 15 years before I had a presence online.

Having an unusual name worked in my favour as people remembered me. As a roadie and lighting engineer for bands, I got asked to work gigs because people remembered me. Had I had a "normal" name I doubt I would have been so memorable.

Since Google+ opened up to the general public, it is noticeable how many spammers and scammers have suddenly joined with legitimate looking names and have started hassling users. Some have even got so sick of the spammers they are considering leaving Google+ anyway. It really is a sad state of affairs when Google choose to eject and alienate legitimate users, who can make Google+ the kind of place they want it to be, but welcome spammers and scammers with open arms, who are only likely to give those 750 million Facebook users a reason not to join.

In the case of Google+, what makes this even more gaulling is that Google have previously dealt with me personally as Barbie on several occasions. Firstly to handle sponsorship of YAPC::Europe 2006 in Birmingham, where I was met and thanked personally by the Google representatives for allowing them to be represented at the conference. At several times over the last 5 years or more I have been approached by Google recruiters, asking me consider working for the company. I'll be intrigued to see if they ever contact me again. In addition they use my work. I have heard from a few people that Google use my CPAN code in various projects, and that they use CPAN Testers too.

For a company who seem to have a hard time acknowledging me as a real person, they seem to know me well enough when it suits them!

I'm extremely disappointed with the lack of communication from both Google+ and Facebook too. When it is quite obvious you are dealing with a real person, it should be common courtesy to keep them informed of the processes and the state of their appeal. Instead I get a wall of silence. I'm not hopeful that I will get reinstate with either Social Network site, which will be a shame as I've established quite a presence on Facebook and was starting to on Google+.

I do find it scary that the vast majority of online users are giving away more and more personal details that really should be private. It will get to the point where some are going to find their privacy so exposed that their future is severely restricted and affected by it. A casual remark or photo that is suddenly public may hamper your chances of employment, even if it doesn't truly represent you. Employers use the internet to find out about you before deciding to employing you.

And what about protecting your privacy from those that you don't know but infiltrate your life with unwanted attention? I know of at least one person on Facebook who has to conceal their identity due to a stalker.

If these Real Name Policies were actually used against every user, with no expections, such that every user had to provide evidence of who they were, it would be a bit extreme, but at least it would be seen as fair. When these policies are only applied to users who have "funny" names, then its discrimination. Sadly with the bulk of users not caring how the minority are affected and the free element to subscriptions, those who are ejected have little or no power to change anything.

Adrian Short posted an interesting article in The Guardian recently, which features an interesting perspective; "If you're not paying for your presence on the web, then you're just a product being used by an organisation bigger than you."

File Under: facebook / google / life / privacy
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Call Up The Groups

Posted on 20th September 2011

So last week I asked a series of music trivia questions. I wonder how well you did?

1) Which band has the longest consistent line-up still featuring all the original members?

This was the original question that started my research, and I was quite pleased with myself to discover my answer was correct. I did find it interesting that several people thought that ZZ Top was the answer. It seems several history books forget that ZZ Top have actually had 4 different line-ups before settling on the current line-up. Admittedly those first few line-ups lasted barely months, however, the original line-up did find time to record a single, Salt Lick, in early 1970.

Six years later a group of lads got together in Dublin, and formed a very embryonic version of what was to come. There were several names and line-ups before settling on The Hype. The band consisted of Larry, Dave, Paul, Adam and Dave's brother Richard (aka Dik). Dik decided to leave in March 1978 and the band continued as a 4 piece, renaming themselves U2. Since March 1978 U2 have had the same line-up for an anmazing 33 years. Points to Fiona for getting that one, even though she never said which question she was answering :)

2) Which band has the longest consistent line-up of the current members?

Hinted at in the answer to the previous question, ZZ Top have the longest running current line-up. In 1970 the line-up came together with Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard and Dusty Hill, and they've been together ever since, now clocking up 41 years. If they are still going strong in two years time, they will be the answer to the question, 'what band has the longest running single line-up?'

3) Which band has the longest consistent line-up of the original members, before a change in line-up?

In 1953 four high school students from Detroit performed together at a birthday party and decided it went so well they'd form a vocal group. In 1956 they signed to Chess Records and changed their name from The Four Aims to the now legendary Four Tops. Amazingly the band remained together until 1997, when sadly Lawrence Payton died. The band still continue to perform, but stopped being a recording band in 1995. Depending on your view point, the Four Tops were together with their original line-up for either 44 years or 41 years. Either way U2 have got another decade to go yet :)

4) Regardless of line-up changes which is the longest running band?

This is a tricky question. When I did the original research the answer was Golden Earring, who formed in 1960, with The Rolling Stones coming in a close second having formed in 1961.

When I asked these questions on Facebook recently, my friend Neil gave me the answer The Barron Knights. After further research, I nearly considered his answer to be correct. The Barron Knights officially formed in 1960, with their previous incarnation (formed in 1959) called 'The Knights of the Round Table'. However they haven't been a consistently recording and touring since the late 80s. Their last major recording was in 1986, with most of their releases since being best of compilations, while the rest have been self-finaced. To fair they still tour and have summer residencies, but they have never had the world wide recognition that I was originally looking for in an answer. As it happens my further research uncovered a longer running group any way.

Despite not being a recording band since 1995 as it currently stands, the Four Tops are now recording a new album with a planned release date in 2012. They still tour regularly and while they have now had a few line-up changes, original member Abdul "Duke" Fakir is still performing with them. As such, with 54 years as The Four Tops it is going to be a while before any other band manages to take the title.

I hope you enjoyed doing some of your own researching to find the answers. And well done to anyone who got all the answer right!

File Under: music / quiz
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State Of The Nation

Posted on 19th September 2011

Sadly it seems history does repeat. Four years ago I was blocked from Facebook for having a fake name. However, since then I have changed my name by deed poll. My passport, bank accounts, etc all now have Barbie on official documents. I'm hoping that providing my passport provides the proof needed that Barbie is indeed my real name.

As with my previous post I still have to ask why social networks have to insist on full real names, when these are not used in real life. Certainly in the UK you are not under any obligation to use your full or even first name, even for official documents.

I don't use my surname as that is a family name, and not something that I publicly use. In fact many still don't know my surname. Some may know my old surname, while not knowing my new surname. It shouldn't be for social networks to decide how you are to be publicly exposed. It comes close to a witch-hunt.

There has been a campaign recently called My Name Is Me, which started thanks to an incident with Skud and Google+. It really is a shame that people have to start things like this just to protect their identity.

In Facebook's own Privacy Policy, it states quite clearly "Your privacy is very important to us." Except that's contradicted by them insisting that you use your full name when using their site. If your full name is not publicly known, isn't that a breach of privacy? Now I understand that these are their rules, but I still don't understand why they are needed. I've not seen any reason why publicly outing someone's full name is socially acceptable just to use a service.

Four years ago a developer at Facebook put forward my case to those who make these decisions within Facebook, and after being reinstated I became the only person (as far as I know) to have a single name on Facebook. I hope they agree to reinstating my account again, but sadly I don't feel so hopeful this time around. We shall see.

Seeing as Facebook has become the place to keep in touch with pretty much everyone, and pretty much everyone who has me as a friend only knows me as Barbie, it would be a shame to be forceably excluded from interacting with friends I don't get to talk to regularly around the world.

File Under: facebook / life
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The Long Run

Posted on 10th September 2011

An after gig conversation recently brought up an interesting musical feat (question 1). Although I was fairly certain of the answer, I did a bit of research, which aside from confirming my answer, also raised some further related questions. I posted three of these to my Facebook wall initially, but felt they deserved a wider post here.

See if you can work out the answers:

  1. Which band has the longest consistent line-up still featuring all the original members?
  2. Which band has the longest consistent line-up of the current members?
  3. Which band has the longest consistent line-up of the original members, before a change in line-up?
  4. Regardless of line-up changes which is the longest running band?

In all cases the bands are still major touring and recording artists today, and none have broken up and then later reformed.

I'll give answers to these in a follow-up post next week.

File Under: music / quiz
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What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

Posted on 8th September 2011

YAPC::NA 2011 Survey Results

During June this year, in Asheville, North Carolina, YAPC::NA assembled 251 people together to learn and discuss Perl, Perl projects and meet Perl people. The YAPC conferences are a perfect opportunity to tell the Perl community of your latest project, or to talk to other Perl developers face to face. YAPCs have now been running for 12 years, and each gets more focused and exposure than the last. In part in this thanks to all the previous organisers who have gone before, offering help and advice where they can. However, the YAPC Conference Surveys also help to provide value feedback to future organisers.

For YAPC::NA 2011, the survey results are now online.

While only 34% of all attendees responded, the feedback has still proved very helpful and provided me with some additional questions for the future. I was recently asked how I thought the YAPCs had changed, and one of the changes I noted, as is hinted at in the feedback, is that many of the talks now focus more on Perl frameworks and applications, rather than specific modules or techniques. In a way it highlights how Perl has grown up. Perl is still a language and tool to get jobs done, but now there are more stable and constructive ways of getting those jobs done.

Many thanks to all those who took the time to respond, both to the Conference Survey and all the Talk Evaluations. Apologies for the delay in getting the results online, but events with CPAN Testers have taken most of my free time over the last 2 weeks :(

File Under: conference / opensource / perl / survey / yapc
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