19th Jun 2012
My Name is Jabberwocky
The name you entered doesn’t seem to meet our Names Policy.
This was the message given to me by Google+ when I tried to setup my account today. Apparently it doesn’t like single character first names, like mine, “J”.
You see, this all started when a friend sent a lunch invitation via Google+, which, unbeknownst to her, was sent to the G+ profile linked to my old Gmail address. That Gmail address doesn’t have a calendar associated with it, so I wanted to use my @jcornelius.com account (powered by Google Apps) to accept the invitation.
Google informed me that the account I was using didn’t have access to that calendar, and that I would need to “complete my profile” (i.e. create a Google+ account) for my Google Apps hosted email address. Fine, I’d like to use that account for everything, anyway.
Here I am, in Google limbo. The account I want to use needs to be “completed”, but I can’t do that because it won’t accept my name. Never mind the fact that I already have a Google+ account under my Gmail address that uses my name “J Cornelius”. Or that the first result in Google for “J Cornelius” is my Website, and the next four are links to me on other social networks.
Back to the Error
So I consult the Names Policy and find this gem.
“Your common name is the name your friends, family or coworkers usually call you.”
Guess what. That’s exactly what I’m using! Just Google it!
Obviously they are trying to mitigate fake names with some roundabout policy that requires names be a certain length. It will take a two character name, but not a single character one. They have an appeal process, but come on. Now I’ve been forced to use Jabberwocky Cornelius, a name that is clearly fake just to bypass their over-zealous policy and create the account.
Note: Facebook also has this stupid policy, so I’m now “Jabberwocky” there, too.
Oddly enough, I could choose ‘Other’ for my gender (if I wanted to), and that’s great for people who identify with their gender that way. But what about equality for those of us with single letter names? As Jared quipped on Twitter, maybe someday.
Here’s a Solution.
Just let me create the account. If your army of doctorate level linguists and mathematicians check things later and think my name is bogus, take action then drop a note in my account, not as a barrier to creating it in the first place. All you’ve managed to do is create frustration at — some would argue — the most critical point in the process, on-boarding a new user. Luke Wroblewski has penned several great articles about using gradual engagement and usability on sign up forms. This one, or this one would be good reads for the Google engineers (or you, if you’re into that kind of thing). My hopes for Google fixing this are low, but hey, you never know.
Don’t make it hard for people to use your service. Because they won’t.
UPDATE: Google have fixed the issue, so now I’m able to use my real name. Thank to the anonymous Googler who was paying attention.