For obvious reasons, I’m mirroring here a rather long post from http://j.mp/GPinbo (what used to be my Google Plus home)

#nymwarsSince there’s no way to escape Google bullying, I am seriously thinking about moving to Tumblr. In all honesty, I really like Google Plus and its interface, but I dislike Google’s customer hating corporate culture. What do I mean by that? Just read a former Googler’s book - a book I was just quoting before my first ban in July, quotes I just cannot find right now: they used to ban entire countries for “abuses” from individuals.
My history with Google is not that long. I embraced their products early on and even considered myself a “fanboy” of sorts. I blogged on Blogger back when it was way behind Wordpress.com, convinced that Google will eventually catch up. I defended Google against naysayers, thinking that they will improve. I ran AdSense not because I needed the money (they never paid me one penny, actually), but as a thank you for their services. Until they one day banned me with no explanation, most likely because the crisis had hit and they were short on cash (http://www.consumedconsumer.org/2010/02/google-wuoves-me-not.html). They did silently reinstate my account, but it was not the same.Other minor abuses took place, but I did not think much of it, until I got banned from Google Plus in July even though I was in full compliance with their policy (see my About page). I’ve decided to come back - there simply wasn’t an equivalent service, I thought. But I started looking.Then they threatened to ban me again from AdSense because they thought that an article I wrote on Kegel exercises was pornographic:  http://www.alsosprachzamolxis.com/2011/10/google-dmv-online.html I sought to replace Google with Chitika (a Yahoo property), until I discovered that Chitika were themselves running Google AdSense on their main website. I asked them why but they could not provide a valid explanation, commending me for my astute eye :)I suspect this is a relic from the days when the Yahoo then-CEO was dreaming of being swallowed by Google but the market thought that’s stupid.
Anyhow, there’s no point in fighting Google on privacy / anonymity. First, they are clearly vague on purpose and dishonest. Their game is about accumulating vast amounts of info on individuals with or without consent. The constant and repeated attempts to trample on people’s attempts at keeping their identity private are based not so much on nefarious commercial / profit-hunting motives, but rather on an infantile view of the world, uncovered in research done on Sesame Street in the 70s and 80s. Children have serious difficulties understanding that someone named “blue bird” can actually be green - they just don’t get it. I suspect this is the main, subconscious reason why some people carry with them an instinctive and somewhat subconscious distrust of pseudonyms, which they perceive as bent against themselves. The fact that one has no interest in “going viral” or “becoming famous on the Interwebs” or an “AdSense multibillionaire” is again anathema to them. It doesn’t matter that pseudonyms have existed for centuries - no, the “Googlers in charge” want to behave according to their own biases and limitations, otherwise you have no right to live in their online empire.
Sadly, all these abuses have proven to me that anarcho-capitalism (or right-libertarianism, a current I used to think I belong to) can be just as bad as Stalinism. The difference in abuse is not all that great or relevant. Large virtual monopolies such as Google can be just as oppressive, arbitrary, illogical and demented as paranoid dictators. It’s not the quality of the people that form them that determines the degree of idiocy, but rather the amount and depth of power they are able to conjure. For power corrupts absolutely and it is absurd to assume that a corporation that achieved preeminence through an initially well-designed algorithm and a stroke of luck will somehow outperform a dictator who raised to power through a long knife and shrewd machinations.
I’ve been thinking of a replacement for Google Plus and I think the best is Tumblr. I couldn’t go back to Twitter - way too short, and a regular blogging platform is too much, but Tumblr is just perfect. It may not have GP’s neat social tricks, but it compensates in that your data is safer and you’re not exposed to Google abuses & shenanigans.I’ll be publishing this on Tumblr as well. Just in case..Asta la vista, motorfingers!

This is very alarming. I’ve looked into the issue a little further and I don’t like what I found. Google is adopting a “we are the law, no-one can cross us” attitude and it can lead to something even more serious than a simple nickname vs. full name question.

Some other links worth looking into:

-what are nymwars:


- pointing out questionable and unclear parts of verification process:


- an account that is going to be closed, because the owner has an unusual name:


- inside situation at Google:


- a very inspiring article for those, whose accounts may be closed (the discussion in comments is worth reading. They raised some very good questions).


- and a site for people who do not agree and don’t want to be forced to use their real name in their virtual life. There are also pointed out people who may suffer with policies like this.


I can only hope that the “witch-hunt”, or should I say “nym-hunt”, is going to be stopped and people will be allowed to decide with who they are going to share their virtual life with.

“The ‪#‎MyNameIs‬ Campaign is a coalition of drag and other performers, transgender people, immigrants, domestic violence survivors, and our allies who advocate for the reformation of Facebook’s name and identification policies.”


Say No To Facebook’s Real Name Policy: https://www.facebook.com/MyNamels

Get Our Names Back: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1682616741965373

Is Identity in need of a Solution?

A solution in need of a problem or a problem in need of a solution?

Google and Facebook make the argument that anonymity needs to disappear from the web, that it is better to be able to identify who you are speaking with than the alternative.

Now, confessing that there are some amount of issues with anonymity and pseudonymity on the internet does not necessarily lead to the direct assumption that both of these items must have an absolute solution.

As the colloquial saying goes, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

There are abuses of the troll variety and the spammer variety.  There are cyber stalkers and social harassment schemes.  These are the issues and problems that the everyday bloke and dame are concerned and even afraid of having to deal with.

And there is no blame upon them.  They’re reasonable things to have concerns about, and they are reasonable things to hold issue at.

However, these items alone do not identify and indemnify those of the Mask, the Nyms and the Noms of the Net.  They are bad actors, they are the vandals and the vagrants of the virtual world…

They do not represent the whole of Nymhood.  They are a subsection, and indeed, a subsection of both personed society as well as disembodied ones.

Real names have no more eliminated crime than smoothly washed stones have kept me safe from bengal tigers (I am afforded that protection from my latitude).  Criminality and misbehavior is, and always has been, an element of our society that persists and utilizes their means to cause mischief, mayhem and heartache.

Trolls and Internet Flame Wars

There is no greater irony than the above sentance, at least for me, who grew up on Gygax and Fantasy literature.  Trolls, of course, not liking fire in the least.

Yet on the internet, we have a situation whereby Trolls are the propogators and instigators of fire in the form of disreputable and chaotic conversation for the sake of the upset.

Trolls troll for the sake of attention and to get on people’s nerves, get a rise out of people, to validate their lives through projection of self importance bolstered by the throngs of their hapless subjects, who with but a verbal nudge can cause catastrophic vitriol of verbal venting.

Yet Trolls, by far, are likely the easiest of issues to absolve ones self of.  Through proper moderation technique and providing the user with utensils and tools to alleviate the irksome individual of their interaction, a person can participate with profundity and appeal, never worrying for a second moment about the now invisible Troll.

It is through tools and self discipline that internet trolls are dealt with; rob them of their delight in causing grief and you rob them of their reason for hanging around.

Now I, myself, don’t utilize tools to ignore people.  On the off chance that a Troll might have something productive to say at some point, I tend to grit my teeth and bear it.  I’ll gloss through the ascerbicness, not letting it roll too hard against my nonchalant outward demeanor…

This largely because I feel that it’s somewhat wrong to just turn a person off, even if that person wears the ass-hat of the year, a large coiffure declaring them the resident village idiot. 

Spam Spam Spammity Spam

The spammer is a more nefarious and harmful sort.  They’re efforts are fiduciary in concern and their financial interests produce rather fecal results wherever they are found.

They’re the cause of botnets and viruses most virulent and vile, spreaders of wasted space and time, preying upon the peasantry with purile and prurient pap.

There is, however, a solution for these such rabble as well.  Quite the variegated kind, in fact.  Voluble in their variety.

We have the subsection of ad blockers, taking care of your pop ups, pop downs, pop in’s and pop outs.  AdBlock Plus is the poster child of this sort… and oh, how glorious it is to never have to visit Deviant Art and ever hear an obscene video piped through your audio at 3:41am in the morning on account of the cycling ads.

Then you have the email spam, consisting of pills for the phallus and oh look, an Adult Friend wants to chat with you naked who knew you in high school and if you’d ONLY sign up for this service…

Again, solutions abound.  Most web services offering email provide robust filters that take these offentious emails and put your valued intercourse through a sieve.  Low and behold, just like a slab of spam, it doesn’t blend.  It gets caught in the web and quietly bustled away to a folder affectionately named after our meat-like canned gnosh.

Yet in the unlikely event that you somehow come by way of an email that you don’t recognize from someone you don’t remember ever having met about a subject you couldn’t possibly have asked about, there’s an easy and erudite solution.

Don’t click on it.

Really, that is it.  Spammers bane is the wise user.  Don’t open attachments, don’t open emails, don’t click on links and don’t succumb to offers of Nigerian Princes.

Really, only the stupid fall for spam.  Education and observation are the best solutions.

Stalkers and Harassment

The solutions to these issues are a bit more complicated than the prior two unsavory kinds, as they are a degree above and beyond the harm that either spammers and trolls can bring.

The best solutions to dealing with the psychotic is twofold; robust utilization of good service tools provided by the webhost of whatever service you are patronizing and careful and methodical control over information and its spread.

The latter of course can be facilitated by good service tools, naturally.  Yet also by the pro-active individual.  Using a name unfamiliar is a baseline solution for these issues, but ultimately does not avail the user too much unless they have also built a bit of an information buffer.  I live in Jötunheim, for example… and no, not Greenland.

The false pretense of a fake identity facilitates more casual and open communication by removing the fear of reprisal in real life.  Yet this, perhaps, is the crux whereby Google and Facebook have their beef with the internet.

You see, the argument against Nyms and Noms are naturally in favor of reprisal and reciprocity.  The argument is for a person to be subject to reprisal and subject to harm based upon their identity.

For the Nym wearer, they tend to become attached to their Nyms and it becomes just as hard to move on from their Nymhood as it would be for them to give up their legal name… however, the unique distinction is that your legal name has the force of Law behind it and, as such, is exponentially more difficult to abandon than a person doffing the now useless dross of an exposed identity online.

Nyms facilitate civility through error, allowing an individual to learn through mistake and to become a better person for it.  It allows the same ability to move on as moving to a new city would in real life.

In closing, consider the following;

Is Identity a problem in Need of a Solution, or a Solution in need of a Problem?

There are solutions to the issues and angsts of the internet age… and none of them are painful or fraught with peril.  Perhaps they are just a skoche more inconvenient than abdicating ones self determination, but I have seen no argument supporting the favor of such an approach.

I’ve seen fear, doubt, uncertainty, mistrust and disdain for Nyms and Noms from those who see no other reason to use a name other than their own…

But there are solutions to the things they don’t like.

None of it has to involve destroying what the internet is in order to facilitate what some few companies and governments want the internet



This has been your Heresy of the Day.

Google Plus Strike: Week in Review

By Brent W. Hopkins

It’s been a busy week and I although I haven’t posted any updates for a few days, my mission to unplug from Google in protest of its Google Plus “real name” user name policy (see: Nymwars) continues. My efforts have focused on finding alternatives to Google Apps, both on the desktop and my Android device (HTC Droid Incredible). I’m now running vanilla CyanogenMod-7.0.2-Inc with no Google apps. I removed the Quick Search app because it defaults to Google Search, and I removed the default Browser because it only allows the choice of Google, Bing and Yahoo search providers. Instead I’m using Firefox Beta which can be downloaded directly from Mozilla FTP servers without using Google’s Market. I changed the default search engine to DuckDuckGo, a privacy-oriented search engine which works very well. I’ve also installed the LastPass password manager add-on and enabled Firefox Sync so my bookmarks and passwords are synced between my desktop and mobile browsers.

When Firefox for Android first came out it was barely usable, but I’m happy to say that the Beta (currently at version 7) works very well. If you want the bleeding-edge Firefox you can also try Aurora (version 8 alpha) or even nightly builds. Mozilla has made impressive progress with Firefox, and if you can live without Flash (HTML 5 is quickly replacing Flash anyway) then I highly recommend Firefox on Android.I have found some alternatives to Google’s Android Market. I’m testing OsmAnd as an open source alternative to Google Maps. OsmAnd uses OpenStreetMap and other open map providers, can download detailed maps for offline use, and features voice navigation. OsmAnd is also available from open source Android app repository FDroid.

I’m moving from a hosted Google Apps account to Zoho, which offers custom-domain hosted IMAP email and an impressive suite of office apps. My biggest concern with the transition was contacts and calendar sync with my Android device. Google Apps sync seamlessly with Android, and I would hate to give up that functionality. The good news is that you can easily import Google contacts into Zoho, then configure Zoho as an Exchange sync account on Android for Contacts and Calendar. Done. Next step will be to migrate all my email and redirect my domain to Zoho instead of Google Apps.Very soon, my only interactions with Google will be when clients want to share Google Documents in a project. In situations like that, I will of course use whatever tools the client wishes to use. However, going forward I will be recommending Zoho over Google to anyone who asks. Zoho is really very good, and it even accepts Google, Yahoo and Facebook as login providers. I don’t personally recommend the practice of third-party logins (they can lead to problems if for example your Facebook account gets suspended), but many people like the convenience.

I will continue to post updates on the progress of my #GooglePlusStrike as time permits. Please feel free to comment with suggestions for Google alternatives, preferably with a focus on greater privacy than Google offers.


“Be careful making about making political statements on facebook,” McBreen was told in an email, “facebook is about building relationships not a platform for your political viewpoint. Don’t antagonize your base. Be careful and congnizat (sic) of what you are preaching.”

Facebook sent the message in relation to a comments posted about “Is living off the Grid now a crime?,” an article about “nuisance abatement teams” intimidating people who have decided to disconnect from the power grid in California.

The message provides further evidence that Facebook is not only monitoring discussions, but also feels compelled to warn users about the supposed inappropriateness of their political viewpoints, especially if they deviate from prepackaged left-vs-right political viewpoints propagated by the establishment.

The misspelling contained in the comment indicates it is probably not a boiler-plated message but was written specifically in response to the discussion.

The Facebook is message received by McBreen is intimidation, pure and simple. Thousands of Facebook users utilize the site to push political agendas.

For instance, Obama has a Facebook page and his photo is emblazoned with “2012,” indicating that he will seek to be reelected to political office. Nancy Pelosi’s page identifies her as a “Government Official” and the top post on her page is about Obama’s politicalized “jobs” program.

Facebook obviously is a political platform. It is only an issue when Infowars.com and other politically incorrect individuals and groups post political content.

But Facebook is not merely a political platform in addition to a social one. It is also a spook platform designed for intelligence gathering.

Facebook’s funding can be traced back to the CIA through the venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. Anita Jones is also associated with the company. She sat on the In-Q-Tel’s board and was director of Defense Research and Engineering for the Pentagon and served as an adviser to the Secretary of Defense and was involved in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Before it was closed down after it was made public and drew an outraged response from civil libertarians, DARPA ran the Information Awareness Office, a sprawling data-mining scheme.

In-Q-Tel has invested in Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring the internet. “Visible Technologies examines more than half a million websites a day, looking through more than a million posts and interactions happening on blogs, in online forums and on popular social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Amazon,” The Telegraph reported in 2009.

Although not widely reported by the corporate media, Facebook has now implemented facial recognition software, the latest high-tech gizmo in service to the spook-state.

“The new facial recognition technology, which was announced in December but only introduced to a small test group, is basically Facebook’s way of creating a huge, photo-searchable database of its users. And yes, it’s terrifying,” writes PCWorld. “Facial recognition technology will ultimately culminate in the ability to search for people using just a picture. And that will be the end of privacy as we know it – imagine, a world in which someone can simply take a photo of you on the street, in a crowd, or with a telephoto lens, and discover everything about you on the internet.”

CBS has capitalized on the in-your-face surveillance state in a promotion of a fall drama called “Person of Interest” by exploiting interactive billboards and installing them in New York City and Los Angeles. The billboards take photo of people and “the person’s face is incorporated into the display. The photo is accompanied by a phone number and identification number to text-message. If the person sends the text, they receive a link to their ‘classified file’ and can post the photo on Facebook or Twitter,” explains The Wall Street Journal.

Darrin McBreen’s experience reveals that Facebook not only is in the business of data-mining and surveillance, but also in select instances of informing the targets of that surveillance that they are being watched, a tactic often used by the Stasi and secret police in other totalitarian states.

Thus a seemingly friendly act of instruction on how not to antagonize fellow users of the service becomes an act of political intimidation by an organization with documented links to the CIA and the Pentagon.

GooglePlusStrike Update: Can't Delete Some Google Apps Accounts

Breaking-up Is Hard to Do…

By Brent W. HopkinsIt’s Day 19 of my #GooglePlusStrike against Google’s arrogant attack on privacy, and I have begun deleting my Google accounts. I successfully deleted six of my @gmail.com accounts, including the one I formerly used with Google Plus, with no difficulty. If you want to export your data first, use Google Takeout to download it in a zip file. Then, you can delete your Google account. Does this mean that you will have a copy of all the data about you that Google stores? Nope! Google has a ton of data about you that it uses in its AdSense network. I’m not sure if it’s possible to get AdSense tracking data or have it deleted. Please comment below if you know.

I was able to delete one of my Google Apps (for domains) accounts with no difficulty, following the instructions for canceling your Google Apps account. However, these instructions did NOT work for canceling two of my other Google Apps accounts. I have made inquiries to Google Support, and await a response.Furthermore, I have a user account on a Google Apps for Education domain (I’m not an administrator on that one) that I was also unable to delete.

I also have two more Google Apps accounts and two more @gmail.com accounts that I’m not quite ready to delete yet. I should be ready in a couple days, though.Here’s an interesting detail about Blogger: after I deleted the associated Google account, my Blogger profile is gone but my blog is still there. Blogger was one of my very first blog hosts, but over time I tired of its perennially semi-broken functionality and I moved over to my current host, Posterous. Since Posterous allows auto-posting into Blogger, I left the old blog in place on Blogspot.com. I am not sure yet if Posterous will still be able to update Blogger at this point, but all the archive content is currently still there. If you know how to completely erase a Blogger blog after the associated Google account has been deleted, let me know in the comments below. I advise anyone who wants to pull out of Blogger to first go into Blogger Dashboard and manually delete all posts before deleting the associated Google account.

I guess it’s worth mentioning that I also went through a bunch of third-party Web services and made sure to update my email address and login info before canceling my Google accounts. This is particularly important if you used Google as an authenticating account when you first created the third-party account. Personally, I stopped using third-party logins awhile ago after Facebook suspended my account for making too many friend requests… leaving me locked out until Facebook reinstated me. Third-party authentication is only worthwhile for making comments on blogs, where you don’t care about having a separate login for every blog that you comment on, and where you don’t mind being tracked or possibly censored by a third-party.LastPass the cross-platform password manager, note-keeper and form-filler, proved to be extremely useful for this effort. There are other similar software/services out there, but I prefer LastPass for its ease of use and also because all data is encrypted before it leaves your computer. That means theoretically that LastPass doesn’t have access to your data and cannot reveal it even under subpoena. (At least as far as I know… after all, another service that I have used, Dropbox, was recently outed for misrepresenting its security policy, so who really knows for sure.)

That’s all for now. I will continue to update as my #GooglePlusStrike progresses. I will make a summary table for quick reference purposes when I complete the process. Meanwhile, if you want to unplug from Google, you should check out the Google Alternatives Wiki and the nyms - Google Alternatives wiki.

La Gringa needs your help now!

I want to give a big thank you to all of you who have signed the petition (over 400) and helped to spread the word about my Facebook pseudonym name issue, and especially to those of you who have written such wonderful comments on the petition. I have literally been overwhelmed reading those comments. I wish I could thank everyone personally, but I don’t have email addresses for the majority of my Facebook friends.

I could still use your help. If you can sign or help to spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your blog, or elsewhere, I would be very grateful.

Please sign the online petition here. Your name can be hidden from public view if you desire that.

Banning backfires
Like a banned book, trying to silence ideas often backfires. The Blogicito has reached readership levels not attained since the 2009 political crisis from those curious to see what the fuss is all about. Welcome to my new subscribers during the past week, too.

Even though I can’t post links to my articles on Facebook, you can. Just click the Facebook “Like” button at the end of this or any article to share it on your FB page. You can also click the Twitter button to tweet an article or the “mail” button to email it to a friend. If you are reading this article from the daily email, click the title of the article to go to the blog.

What did I do?
Here is my confession: I signed up for Facebook in July 2007, only on a whim to see what it was all about (I blogged about it). I DID NOT read Facebook’s guidelines (which may or may not have changed since then) — just like 95% of the people who sign up for our Honduras discussion group do not read the guidelines and just like most people do not when they sign up for any website to make a comment or read a forum. Guilty as charged!

But that didn’t get me kicked off Facebook during more than four years of active use. What else did I do? I wrote about crime and corruption in Honduras, which many people for various reasons don’t want you to know about.

Who is La Gringa?
I am the same ‘La Gringa’ here on the Blogicito, in online discussion groups, in emails, in comments on news and blogs, and Twitter — as well as formerly on Facebook and Google+. Websites like Honduras Weekly and PJ Media have pubished my articles using my pen name.

'La Gringa’ is the name that everyone knows me by and the proof of that is that the vast majority of my 1,200 Facebook friends found me through that name. 'La Gringa’ (me!) has a wide internet presence and doesn’t use a pseudonym to deceive, troll, abuse, start flamewars, spam, or any other nefarious purpose — that is easily proven. Long time readers may not know my name but they probably know more about me and my life than they do some of their real life neighbors.

During September, 49% of readers came to my blog through searches, and by far the most common search terms were “La Gringa”, “La Gringa blog”, or some variation of those terms. It’s my name, it’s my pseudonym, it’s my nickname, it’s me!

Certainly Google, above all, has a long history of my web activity since they have been hosting my Blogicito and email for more than five years. I’m inextricably tied to Google through those services, Google Reader, Picasa, Feedburner, and a myriad of other Google products, all under the same ID.

I was successfully able to “authenticate” my Google+ ID, which instructions say must be the “common name” that your friends and family know you by. By going through the several complicated steps to tie it to my online presence I was able to prove that I was truly that 'La Gringa’. But a month or so later Google+ also unceremoniously dumped 'La Gringa’ without a question or a warning. Yet Google Search continues to list my Blogicito at or among the top websites for Honduran-related searches.

How to get credibility?
One friend insists that I would have more credibility if I used a name, even if it was a false one. The concept that lying could give me more credibility is astounding to me. I don’t think credibility depends upon a name. Who of us knows with certainty whether our online acquaintances or favorite bloggers are using their real names? Does it matter? I think credibility has to be earned over time. But even if it would benefit me or the Blogicito, I would feel like I was deceiving people, many of whom I consider friends. I think that I’ve earned my 1,460 readers’ trust over the years. If I haven’t, I doubt that a name would have changed anyone’s opinion.

One credible writer using his own name, Federico Álvarez, a naturalized Honduran citizen, was successfully silenced by Honduran government action. His citizenship was revoked with the threat that if he continued writing opinion pieces for La Tribuna [in Spanish] as a legal resident, it could result in him being expelled from the country in which he has lived for almost 35 years!

Zelaya supporters who opposed Álvarez’s opinions very vocally cheered this government action, while still hypocritically crying to the world about the repression of their own free speech. Through a lengthy court battle which has gone to the Supreme Court, Álvarez may get his citizenship back, but whether or not he will ever resume published writing, I don’t know.

When a former Ambassador from Costa Rica who has received prestigious awards from two Honduran presidents and is a well-known businessman with 3 ½ decades of powerful business and political ties can be silenced, I have no delusions that I couldn’t be as well.

Not going to do it
But the main point for me is that I have been seriously threatened and relentlessly harassed over the years by those who don’t like some of the topics that I write about or my strong opinions. Some of those people sounded rabidly psycopathic to me. I live in a country where the police can’t protect even the lives of its people or its journalists, where people are afraid to say too much about corruption or crime because often the police are involved, and where the murder rate is the highest in the world. The police don’t have the resources or technology to investigate murders much less online crime, and I sincerely doubt that they have the interest.

Honduran friends warn me all the time to “be careful” and many say that they pray for me. I made the decision for myself to continue writing and suffer the unpleasantries, but I won’t make that decision for my family members in Honduras, who could also be similarly threatened, harassed, or worse.

Bit by bit, I’ve given more and more personal information to these mega giants. First it was a birthday, then a location, then answers to secret questions. Then they wanted an additional email address — in case of problems. Then it was a phone number — in case of problems! No mas!

I will draw the line at providing a copy of my ID to any online service. There is no guaranty that it will be safe or private, especially with Facebook, which has a long history of changing security and 'visibility’ settings without prior notification to its users. So if that is going to remain their policy, I will respect their decision but I won’t be using their services.

I will keep blogging because I love Honduras. But I despise the crime and corruption and the poverty and ignorance in which the politicians have been able to keep the majority of its people. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have one, something that seems hard for some people to accept.

Because of my personal situation, I’ve learned a lot about the “nymwars” (name wars) controversy going on all over the internet right now and I’ll share some of that with you in the next article.

Please sign the online petition here. Your name can be hidden from pubic view if you desire that.

GooglePlusStrike Week Two: Unplug from Google Apps

Checking-out of Google Checkout

By Brent W. HopkinsI’m well into week two of my #GooglePlusStrike, and it’s time for a brief update on my withdrawal from Google services. First off, it’s a complicated process. With nearly a dozen Google accounts including several Apps for Domains accounts, I had thoroughly enmeshed my online presence with Google services. My entrenchment in Google has been happening gradually over the last several years, so backing out isn’t just a matter of clicking a button or two. It’s a major overhaul.

One thing I can say is that, despite some admittedly-not-exhaustive research, it is unclear to me just how much data Google ultimately retains, and for how long. The skeptic in me says: possibly all of it, indefinitely. Much like Facebook.Since money talks with the loudest voice, I deleted all my financial information from Google Checkout. Sort of. It turns out that Google retains your financial data for recurring charges such as software subscriptions or Web domain registrations. In the case of domains purchased through Google Apps, that may get a little complicated. I had to go to the Google Apps Gmail, click Manage this domain > Domain settings > Domain names and un-check “Automatically renew my domain registration every year.” Similarly, if you purchased software subscriptions through Google Checkout then you need to go into each individual transaction and figure out how to disable automatic payments. It can be a bit time-consuming to go through your transaction history in this way, especially if you test a lot of stuff like I do. It would be an improvement if you could just filter recurring charges, but I am not aware of a way to do so. I think I got through all of it, but I’m not totally sure. I guess time will tell if I missed any recurring charges, but going forward I will not be using Google Checkout for new purchases until Google changes its arrogant stance on privacy.

I have been turning off services one by one. YouTube, Calendar, Documents. I have migrated my main email account to Zoho, and am evaluating the situation in preparation for the big move: shutting down Gmail for good. Should I bother to delete the messages stored in Gmail? Do they really get deleted? This is an exercise in principle, but I’m not sure exactly how to best conduct it. Google does provide an account dashboard which can give you a general idea of the data that Google stores in your account. I applaud this feature, but find that it still leaves much to be desired in terms of easily deleting data.In fact, I have not yet figured out how to completely delete my Google Apps accounts. When I tried to follow the instructions for canceling your Google Apps account, the link described in the article was not present. Next step will be to contact Google Support. My experience with Google Support in the past has been a mixed bag. Sometimes they have answered my questions very promptly and helpfully. Other times, weeks later or no response at all. I will update this blog to report on my findings.

It is possible that I may leave one or more Google accounts as empty placeholders. I’m not really sure it is necessary or worth the effort to completely eradicate them. As long as I don’t continue to actively use them, they won’t provide Google with a significant data stream (Right???). I have left derelict accounts in other services on the Web, without bothering to go back and erase them. What do you think, dear reader? Are abandoned accounts - particularly Google accounts - a privacy risk? Is it unwise not to completely delete an account if you stop using it? It’s an interesting question. How many abandoned accounts does the average person leave on the Web, and what kind of information could be gleaned from them, if any?I’m not done yet, but I’m making progress. Replace Google as default search engine. Check. Android phone de-Googled. Check. Main email, migrated. Check. Google Checkout, checked-out. A significant change in my Web habits is unfolding and on track to completion. Google is replaceable, and the alternatives to Google are actually quite good. Perhaps you should join my #GooglePlusStrike and free yourself from dependence on Google.

A Call to Arms from a Voice in the Dark

I promised that I would make a more cogent and lucid effort and elaborating upon my thoughts as it concerns the matter of Nyms.

I will invariably not do justice to the tempest in a teapot that is my brain, ideas and thoughts disjointed and fleeting in their ephemerality.

Perhaps before we have a discussion of Nyms we need to talk about human rights, and how they differ in this cyberplace visiting all of our homes.

And to understand human rights, we must invariably refer to the Magna Carta, the basis and the core of any and all constitutions written thereafter; it established the notion that the king himself was not infallible, that he had to adhere to and answer for his treatment of the people.

And most essential to the Magna Carta was the idea that no free man could be punished except be it through the law of the land.

The idea was revolutionary.  It meant that the king could not arbitrarily punish at whim for no other reason than the infallibility granted unto him by the Godhead itself.

The United States Constitution set out more specific rights and freedoms dictated to us as a populace as to how to keep those powers which govern us accountable to the people, and whether one or another agrees on the validity and interpretation of individual amendments and certifications, it is indeed inarguable that the Founders of the U.S.A. intended for their country to be a Republic by and for the People, governed and ordered for both the common man and the individualist themselves.

We were given a Republic, if we could keep it.  I know that, perhaps, some of you readers and followers aren’t of the States, but the States served as a proving ground for most Constitutions written afterward, and many human rights conceived therein have been included from Germany to Australia.

And some may argue that the Founders of the States did not and could not foresee the corruption and invariable siphoning of wealth, power and influence into the upper eschelon’s of our society through corporatist culture, something which people from all walks of life can readily recognize.

Yet the East Indies Trading Company was an example of classism and the power for wealthy and affluent mercantile classes to affect the poor and common individual through their practices and positioning with the Royal courts of various countries.

These issues were again dealt with in the era of the Robber Barons and the Railroad Tycoons, seizing upon an opportunity that they noted would improve the common man.  More importantly, though, an opportunity that they could profit from, and through that profit make their services a necessity that would cripple the common man unless they willingly paid the price of utilization of those services.

Just as the Robber Barons utilized the needed route of the Rhine river to extort funds from merchants shipping along the Rhine, the Tycoons of the 1850’s-1890’s United States utilized their positioning to extort funds from companies and businesses that had no other option but to buy, otherwise their competitors would have wider distributions because they were willing to pay the price.

This resulted in the Sherman Anti-Trust act, which is what even common people are unknowingly referring to when they refer to the idea of Monopoly.

And for a rather brief span of time, there was some amount of alleviation from disreputable practices from major companies who had few to no competitors.  Though society soon learned that Monopolies were not expressly the domain of goods and shipping transactions.

The most notable and recent implementation of monopoly law was the 1984 break up of the American Bell Telephone System, or Ma Bell.  Again, it was through ubiquity and general inability for people to implement other options that led to an abuse of the public by a corporate power.

While some may argue that Microsoft was the most recent implementation of Monopoly Law, Microsoft was effectively issued a warning and given guidelines as to how they were to proceed.  American Bell was dismantled into separate companies.

At this point I would like to address one of the common arguments that are brought up by people who are chiming in on the Nymwars concerning Google+.  For those who feel that Google’s + service is an option and that there are many others, if you might kindly consider the following;

When a trusted service becomes the method of use amongst a given populace and is name-brand recognizable as the entity to implement in a given situation, does this perspective influence the behavior of the majority of a populace into utilizing the service that is most recognizable? Also, does this impart a certain level of trust, even whereby there may be no further reason to trust?

Price-fixing is merely one of the easiest ways to implement a monopoly, agreeing with your competitors to set a particular price on a good or service and never to sell it for any less to anyone wishing to compete or utilize your service (See current Telephony, Internet Service Providers and the subject of Net Neutrality)

The United States does not even rank in the top 10 of wired countries, worldwide.  This may or may not be a result of current collusion practices amongst the only handful of Internet Service Providers throughout the country, for that I will leave you to decide.

Monopolism does not require Price-fixing, though.  In fact, you can get away with charging nothing and still have a Monopoly.

Which brings me to Google and its Plus Service.

A person is not required to use Google, by any means.  You don’t have to use Google Plus, Gmail, Google Notebook, Google Bookmarks, Google Scholar, Google Checkout, Google Maps, Google Reader, Picasa, Youtube, Google Calendar, iGoogle, Blogger, Orkut, Google Earth or any of the other number of Google Services.

You don’t have to use Google.  You can go elsewhere.

Let us examine for a minute; Youtube and Google Maps.  Google Streetview.

We invent technology to make our lives easier, and by God, Google makes our lives easier.  Having one place to find everything you could ever want is the vision, having one service with one account and one way of logging in.  One site to Rule them All.

So yes.  We can go elsewhere.  And the internet would go on without us, as I am sure it invariably will.  We are, after all, just another brick in the wall.

So now we come to it.  This isn’t about Google.  It isn’t about Google or its policy of utilizing real names and real people data to implement a more useful service.  It is about not having a choice in the matter.

Now wait, you might say.  You do have a choice.  There is Diaspora, and Facebook, and MySpace and a number of other services you can go to be and do whatever your whimsy might fancy.

You can say that, and you can be both blithely correct and ridiculously false in the same breadth of space.

We are given but two options; Join or be Irrelevant.  

“Resistance is Futile, your Cultural and Technological distinctiveness will be assimilated.”

And yet despite my hyperbolic paraphrasing of a popular cultural meme, I know inherantly I have not convinced you of this.  Those of you who haven’t a consideration for Nyms cannot see how this might effect you, or how you could possibly miss us when we are gone.

And yet most of the memorable people in your lives, people whom your culture identifies and depicts in the movies and Television of the time, they are all Nyms.  With fair and few exception do you find a person in the entertainment fields that do not utilize a nom de guerre or nom de plume.

Yet does this lack of identity reduce their influence or importance on your life? If they were gone, would you argue that your life was richer and better off from the absence?

But this is not about Nyms.

This is about Self Autonomy.

This is about you common people and your rights as human beings.

It isn’t about we faceless shells of opinion and thought, it is not about the unlabelled and unprocessed or our irreconcilable natures.

We are but mere conveniences in an ongoing struggle that has persisted throughout history, but implementations of example to serve for you, our common public.

As tools of the trade we serve a vital function to the functionaries and facilitators in federal and financial demesnes.

We are but paving on the road to a more acceptable future for the Controllers of the world, and who amongst you notices the cobblestones and wonder what their stories were or would have been had they voices?

This, our internet, is our last best hope for truly free humanity… and yet those amongst you who cannot see beyond wanting to know what Bob is up to this evening or if Mary’s kids have graduated yet cannot or will not see what you stand to lose if this place of ours is lost.

It does not belong only to us, the Nyms and Nons of the Net.  It is YOURS too, and we fight to protect it for YOU as well, whether you recognize it as for you or not.

And to defend it for the best of you, we must defend it for the least of you.

“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”

- H.L. Mencken

Mencken was a journalist and a thinker, and like Samuel Clemens who was his contemporary, he had a sharp wit and tongue.

We have reached a time in this age of the Internet where those old standards need be hefted again upon their pole and whereby some of us, even if not all of us, take it upon ourselves to fight for the least of you, so that the best of us may retain those liberties and rights that better men have died and bled for.

Corporatism is the new form of Divine Right, and Google is merely at the forefront of a bigger and more threatening attack against the common man; that the common man should choose to join or choose to die away from the web.  Should choose to accept the price or choose to do without.

And Google is not alone.  For safety sake, and for the comfort of our own menialities, we should swallow poison just for the sacred privilege of utilizing the services of great Multi-conglomerates and Super-nationals?

Yes, we may “CHOOSE” to go elsewhere… but rather than the broken down corner stand and the empty street where an abandoned newspaper and plastic bag rolls by without comment, is it really an option? Go and be elsewhere is what you would have of us, because we ask for BETTER?

For YOU?

This has been your Heresy of the Day.  For those who follow me on Diaspora or Twitter, Feel free to share these thoughts where you might.

Going forward, Google is compiling its user data across all of its products, resulting in an omniscient, informed, one-true profile of you, all in the name of serving you more relevant information – and, of course, ads.

Use Google? Time to Get Real About Protecting Your Digital Self - Sara Marie Watson - Technology - The Atlantic

Aside from sharing a common log-in, it hasn’t been clear how complete Google’s consolidated view of any given user might be across its suite of products – until yesterday.

In which I plug Diaspora* again

There’s an open-source project to create a social network.  It’s called Diaspora*.  And unlike Facebook and Google+, they don’t care about pseudonymity there.

It’s been around for over a year, even though it shares a lot of the new features Google+ has.  What G+ came to call “circles,” D* calls “aspects.”

Diaspora’s still in alpha testing, but the main thing it lacks is YOU. Not that I have anything against chatter about Ruby on Rails (it’s a programming method,) but we need more crazy talk over there.

So try this: https://diasp.org/

I’m just_john@joindiaspora.com  (That’s NOT an email address … yet … it’s just an identifier.)

G+ and the Nymwars

I hadn’t really meant to delete it, only leave it dormant but yesterday I ended up downgrading my Google account, effectively deleting my G+. I’m gradually extracting myself from Google - it’ll take a while but everything that requires a real name will end up going to a domain I’ll set up in the next few months, & everything that doesn’t will go to a Nym domain.

Why am I divorcing Google? They’ve given so many free apps to the public, one might think I’m biting the hand that feeds me. To some extent that may be true, but nothing is ever free. While we’ve been using Google for search, email, calendar & contact management, Google have been extracting data about our interests, what sites we visit, and who our friends are. With Latitude & GMaps it’s possible for them to know & plot your whereabouts too. That’s fine while it’s linked to a pseudonym, abstracted away from the individual. Google can sell targeted advertising on that basis, & the privacy invasion is minimal - at best they know that X pseudonym is a friend of Y & Z pseudonyms etc.

With Google Plus (G+) though, although it wasn’t apparent when we joined up, Google had an unstated policy regarding real names. They wanted the name in your wallet, the name you pay with for stuff, that’s on your credit card, your mortgage or your rent book. Now they can pin together networks of real people, their whereabouts, their interests, whatever dates they see as important enough to put in GCal etc. With the circles concept they know more than your friends about what you think of your friends. That information holds a lot more power to harm you as an individual than general rules of thumb extracted from averaged out stats.

They (wrongly) equated good behaviour with real names & bad behaviour with nyms, and without checking or waiting for any evidence of bad (or good) behaviour, they banned a bunch of nym users. They assumed that they were undesirables, when a lot of them were responsible for the sort of content that sparks a lot of lively intelligent comment & debate - exactly what a social network needs. They wrongly punished the innocent, & punished people whose names although real seemed unlikely. They failed to punish real name users who acted like assholes, too. Their social network, which could have been a really good place, full of excellent tech nerds & people with all kinds of views & takes on life, became something of a tin-pot dictatorship. Worse, none of these policies were on the documents linked to within the system purporting to be the policies!

I changed my G+ name to John Doe in protest at all of this, and a few days later when I tried to change it back I was told that the names policy restricted how many times I could change it! I was stuck with a nym I didn’t really want, & Google had effectively made me out myself as my old nym. Again, the document that they linked to that was supposed to explain all this had no mention of this restriction, nor how long I’d have to wait to be able to edit my name. Because they’d made me link up my Gmail which was a nym with my real name, that nym is now tainted. I used it *everywhere* but now it’s a better way to find me than by searching my real name, and it’s linked to all sorts of private info I’d have preferred to keep for myself, family & friends.

So, understandably I hope, I’m furious. Now I have to create new identities for myself that segregate different aspects of my life, where before I had an identity that had a good, positive reputation. I’m willing to pay for the solution to this, but I am damned if Google are getting *anything* more from me if it’s avoidable at all. I could have stayed I guess, & be a boiled frog with zero privacy, but fuck it all - if we don’t act in our own defence to reclaim our privacy we’re looking at a future where we’re monitored 24/7.

Email Migration from Google Apps to Zoho: IMAP, labels, filters, contacts

I have successfully completed my migration from Gmail to Zoho Mail - the cornerstone of my GooglePlusStrike -  and I have some observations to share. First up, a note about contacts. While Zoho has a built-in contact import from Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, the import didn’t work with my Google Apps account. I tried several times without success. I don’t know what the problem is, but I solved it by manually exporting my contacts from Google as a CSV file and then uploading the file to Zoho. Unfortunately, all of my contact photos are gone now, as are all my Groups. Losing the photos is a minor annoyance, but losing Groups is a much bigger annoyance. It makes me realize yet again how under-developed contact management apps are in general, and how much we need a better way to exchange contact information. Feel free to chime in on the topic of contact management in the comments below. I’m most interested in open source solutions.The Filter function is one of my favorite things about Gmail - it really helped me organize my messages. While Gmail allows you to export your Filters, it does so in a XML file format. Zoho can only import filters in .dat format. So, I must start all over again with Filters in Zoho mail. On the one hand, it’s an inconvenience. On the other hand, it presents an opportunity to rethink my overall email usage strategy.

Gmail rather famously encourages you to archive mail rather than deleting it. Since Gmail gives you a lot of storage, it’s a persuasive argument. But is it really necessary or useful to keep every message you ever send or receive? It’s probably more useful to Google than it is to you. Since Google scans all Gmail for keywords, a larger data set presents an opportunity to build a more detailed AdWords profile of the Gmail user.One of the cool things about Gmail is the way it uses Labels instead of Folders. You can attach multiple Labels to a single message. Contrast that with the alternative of placing copies of a single message in multiple folders. Labels are just more elegant.

IMAP sees Gmail Labels as Folders. Here’s where things begin to get complicated. IMAP basically reverses the elegance of the Label concept, by putting a copy of the message into each Folder it creates for a Label.Zoho can import email from external accounts, using IMAP or POP. I chose IMAP, mostly because I prefer IMAP “push” on my Android device. In retrospect, POP might have been a better choice for migration, and here’s why.

Zoho uses a mixed approach of Folders and Labels. But my messages, imported by IMAP from Gmail, did not get tagged with Labels in Zoho. Instead, they went into Folders that are named with the names of the Gmail Labels that were attached to the email messages. Consequently, every Gmail message which had more than one Label attached to it, was copied into multiple folders. So if a message had three Labels, now separate copies of it are sitting in three different Folders.This is not elegant. It is not an efficient allocation of storage. It’s also not an effective way to organize conversations.

So, I have been going through each Folder, and doing some housekeeping. Creating new Filters, creating new Labels, deleting duplicate messages. I’m a fast reader, but this is a lot of work. I think that if I had chosen POP instead of IMAP, I would at least have avoided the duplication problem.However, there is a positive side to this situation. As I review all my email messages, I am realizing just how much unnecessary junk was in there. I’m also realizing just how much of my email is near-spam quality. Newsletters, Facebook Groups, email lists. Why does it make more sense to have Gmail “smart labels” filter out this junk, than to just delete it or unsubscribe? Does it perhaps serve Google’s interests to retain this stuff for keyword analysis? I certainly don’t need it.

Since I’m on the topic of near-spam, sometimes called “tofu,” let me digress for a moment to <RANT> talk about the unholy devil-spawned “new” Facebook Groups. Between Gmail “smart labels” and my own filters, I had set up a system in Gmail where most of the unconscionable spam-drivel of Facebook Groups was intercepted before it got to my Inbox. But enough of it still got through, to inspire me to write a post entitled Group Spam Is Facebook’s MySpace Moment. Well, migrating to Zoho pulled back the curtain on this can of worms. There were THOUSANDS, yes THOUSANDS of Facebook Group messages squirreled away in my smart label folders! I could say more, but will summarize it with two words: ₣U€₭ THAT!!!!! I have permanently deleted my Facebook Profile. Failbook can suck it. </RANT> (Note: currently my Facebook Page is still up, because it hasn’t been spamming me.)So, going forward, what have I learned about email? It doesn’t take much - if any - more time to click Unsubscribe than it does to create a filter for crap messages. Delete is not a bad thing, as long as you use it wisely to get rid of junk. Archive should be used for messages that actually have some value; not as a substitute for Delete. Failbook sucks even more than I had realized when I was using Gmail.

When was the last time you audited your email? Maybe you should, and if you use Gmail you might want to ask yourself if it really makes sense - for you - to “remember everything” that ever passed through your email account.http://www.thegeniusfiles.com/email-migration-from-google-apps-to-zoho-imap