Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Cave is a four letter word, marking my return.

It is interesting to research the etymology of words sometimes (not the entomology - one doesn't think of words having bugs).  I had always assumed that the verb "to cave" came from the concept of a "cave in" which seems related to the noun "cave" (roughly - a hole in the ground).  But there is evidence that this isn't the case.  The noun dates from around the 13th century where it comes from Old French and Latin.  The verb, however, is much more modern - it entered the English language around the 18th century coming from a dialectal calve, meaning to collapse or fall in, probably from Low German or Flemish.

More recently, the term "to cave" has taken on non-physical connotations.  One can "cave in" when you give up all opposition or yield.

Such has been the case with my battle on Google+.  Two weeks ago I was informed that the name I use among my friends was unacceptable to them.  A slow and ponderous debate with an anonymous email address at Google ensued, during which they rejected at least six different forms of my name without explaining why a name used by my family, friends, and co-workers did not meet their own "common name" definition.

In my last letter to them, I simply stated
Although this is not my common name, please review my latest attempt.
to which they, slightly absurdly, replied
Thank you for contacting us with regard to the name you want to use with your Google Profile.
I guess they don't get it.  I didn't want to use this name.  I like the name, yes, but it doesn't completely describe me, and it wasn't what I wanted.  It is what they are forcing me to use.  I use it under duress.

During my time in exile, I created another account with a fairly obvious pseudonym, Jean Valjean, as I alluded to in my last post on this subject.  I considered making that my primary account and shifting all my friends to there... But who am I?  I'm not Jean Valjean.  It is not my name.  People will not recognize it.  I barely recognize it as me when I look at the name.  I have a funny feeling I will feel much the same as I begin posting under my new, Google Approved, name.

I am not completely caving.  I continue to speak out against this absurd policy, which has only gotten more and more ridiculous in the two weeks I've been on the undesirable list.  There are now documented cases of perfectly legitimate, and legal, names that Google has rejected.  There remain people who are forbidden from using the names that their friends, family, and co-workers (including their co-workers at Google) know them by.  Google continues to insist that they'll find a good solution... eventually... while not being terribly reassuring that they actually understand the issues nor that their official goal of "mak[ing] connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world" is actually met by the implementation of their policy.

Words may not have bugs.  But written policies certainly do.