Friday, January 24, 2014

The silent-partner gambit

It's your move
On its face, Google+ breaks privacy with its requirement that your G+ account bear your actual name.

But you can preserve your blog's anonymity if you like, Google+ notwithstanding.

Not everyone blogs anonymously. But can we agree that there's nothing wrong in using anonymity to manage your online identity?

Consider the case of Uther Pendragon (not his real name. Or blog). It's not that he's ashamed of his extensive cupcake blog. Far from it: he revels in the attention it gets from the cupcaking world.

It's just that Uther works in a field where he'd rather not be pigeonholed as "the cupcake guy."

Having his blog publicly associated with his distinctive name would be an issue for him.

So far this has been easy. Uther blogs anonymously as "Cupcake Guy," using a Google account of that name.

But Uther wants to bring his blog to Google+. If he upgrades Cupcake Guy to G+, he'll suddenly be blogging with his real name, retroactive to his first post. Unless he is ready to come out of the pantry, this is not a good option for him.

Instead, Uther has a second Google account, upgraded to plus and featuring his name and photo. It's his public online persona. He has a Google+ circle of 'cakers with whom he shares cupcake news and gossip, including his own blog posts. No one else sees that connection.

There's no sign of his G+ self at the blog at all, which is how he likes it.

Uther is interested in integrating his blog even more tightly with Google+, as long as he can continue to blog anonymously.

Which he can. He's going to turn his blog into a team blog in which the "team" is him, by adding his G+ account as a blog administrator.

Profile widget
First, however he'll replace his Profile widget with a custom profile widget. If he didn't the standard Profile widget would change to show links to each author's profile when he added +Uther.

The custom widget will look just like his current one, complete with a link to Cupcake Guy's profile page.

This custom widget will hide that Uther Pendragon of Google+ has any connection to Cupcake Guy. Instead, +Uther will be a sort of silent partner, invisible to blog readers but still able to perform G+ functions behind the scenes.

Here are two things that Uther must never do if he wants to preserve that separation:
  • He must never post to the blog, or reply to comments there, from his +Uther Pendragon account.
  • He must never publicly share blog posts on G+, only to his circles. (He can probably get away with this once in a while.)
Once this is set up, Uther can
  • link his blog to Google+ 
  • share any posts on the blog to his circles from within the Posts section of his Dashboard.
Uther is a little disappointed to realize that this doesn't add very much. The "link to Google+" is hidden and the post-from-dashboard feature is very like sharing the link from within his G+ page; Uther was already doing that.

But linking to G+ unlocks two very significant, if controversial, Google+ superpowers for the blog. When linked, Uther can
More follows, but for now let's leave Uther to ponder his options.

Thanks to the two women of Foodfetish for making their cupcake photo available through a Ceative Commons license(I have modified the original image by cropping it.) Check out their delightful blog, too. The Go image is by Luis de Bethencourt via Wikimedia Commons.