Tag Archives: Twitter!!

What’s In A Name? – Naming Policies On Social Media

When Google Plus launched in 2011, I jumped in enthusiastically to try it out. I was already on Facebook, running two pages as well, an avid Twitter user but I was interested in a new offering in the space. Shortly after, Google refused to let me continue using the service unless I let them know my ‘real name’.

Let me explain. ‘IdeaSmith’ is a name I gave myself in 2004, when I first set up a blog. After all, the Internet was still a new if not entirely unfamiliar place. As one of the early Indians on the internet, I had played with handles without knowing the term in the 90s, on chat and later on EGroups-YahooGroups and an email address from which I used to send out articles to friends and family (my first self-publishing & broadcasting experiment). By 2004, the notion that you could be whoever you wanted to be on the internet had already gotten commonplace. I chose IdeaSmith as a step up over ‘Wordsmith’ because I saw (and still see) myself as a person of thoughts and ideas, not limited to just words but multiple media & formats. Also, I liked the gender neutrality of it.

For reasons of privacy, I decided to keep the identities of IdeaSmith and Ramya Pandyan, distinct. This allowed me to explore my writing and my ideas, unfettered by all the restrictions imposed on me as a woman, as an Indian, as a member of my family and all other communities I had been a part of. In time, I realized that this construct had outlived its purpose. I was now a more confident writer and person. A lot of people have tried to embarrass me for those years of anonymity, treating it as something silly or shameful that I had to ‘hide away’. I don’t see it that way. To me, it’s like conducting your experiments in the contained environment of a laboratory before making your work visible. What’s shameful about that?

Since 2007, a lot of people who interact with the IdeaSmith identity have known my ‘real name’ and other details about me. In 2009, I officially came out revealing my name. Now my real-w0rld name appears in most places online too. However, IdeaSmith is now a brand that is associated with a specific kind of writing, type of views and a set of content. As a writer/content creator it both symbolizes and carries in it, my work of the past 8 years. Given that this is the online space, people who are looking for my work are more likely to look for Ideasmith than Ramya Pandyan.

Thus far this has been a consideration but not a problem. My LinkedIn profile states that I have been employed by certain companies (nothing to do with my work as IdeaSmith) whose records carry the name ‘Ramya Pandyan’ and hence that is the name I go by there. In all other places, the records are associated with IdeaSmith or Idea Smith (where a first and last name requirement exist).

This week I received an email stating that a Quora admin had blocked my account. Here is what my account looks like right now:


The account is headlined by the message,

“Your account has been blocked from editing because the name associated with your account does not conform to Quora’s naming policy.”

If you look at my profile, you will notice it starts with the sentence,

“IdeaSmith is the online avatar of Ramya Pandyan.”

The profile also links to my presence on other social platforms, including LinkedIn.

I’ve been asking people what they think about this in the last week. Aside from the scoffing that comes from people who always thought having a handle was a stupid idea, there is one coherent thought that did come my way – security. As the social/digital space continues to grow in its presence in our lives, I can see why platforms and networks are feeling the need to know their users better.

Quora however, does allow people to post anonymously. I could have done that, were my purpose one of mischief or something else equally dubious. What’s more, ‘Smith’ is a perfectly acceptable last name. ‘Idea’ as a first name may be unconventional but it does not strike me as an entirely unacceptable notion. And finally, isn’t it rather presumptuous to decide what kind of name is or is not acceptable? Also, what kind of security is offered to the service by knowing a name? I could come up with a seemingly plausible but false name like say Margaret Reed. How would that protect their service in any way, were my intentions to turn malicious?

I’ve been very interested in Quora thus far but with this, they fail to fulfill one of my key requirements. I am on Quora because I am interested in social content and digital communities. It benefits me to explore this area and work the tools under the name of IdeaSmith, otherwise these are just meaningless time-draining actions. As long as a social media service does not let me do this, they’re closed and unavailable to me. Isn’t that exactly what defines a need-gap?

Here are some other people I’ve seen experimenting with online identities as distinct from their offline ones:

Each of these people have had different journeys and presumably, different objectives for their online avatars. Doesn’t that indicate that there are any number of reasons that a person would want to have a name different from their offline one? It seems to me that an online service would be unwise to force its users to conform to their offline names only, thus depriving them of one of the greatest benefits that the internet has to offer – the opportunity to go beyond the offline.

SMism: Male Ego

His ego couldn’t take the fact that she had more followers so they broke up.

Social Media Nuisances


Vodafone’s Customer Care On Twitter

A funny thing happened to me after I got back from my Goa trip last week. Vodafone attempted to resolve a complaint that I had tweeted about while there, about poor data services. It was an interesting thing for a service provider to try but their actual delivery fell rather short of expectations, causing an opposite effect. I’ve chronicled this episode on Social Samosa and also detailed the process chain and where the gap lay. Here’s an excerpt:

Vodafone has a definite need to upgrade their complaint handling mechanisms to keep up with new services and evolving usage. Tacking on a Twitter account to their existing call center caused the goof-ups in my case. Vodafone’s call operators definitely need to understand the nuances of data services if they are to handle queries & complaints on them. It’s a serious faux pas if the face (or the voice) of a brand of The Blackberry Boys doesn’t know how the internet works.

Read the full article on Social Samosa: Vodafone’s Customer Care on Twitter.

* Image via David Castillo Dominici on FreeDigitalPhotos

Is Pinterest Pricking The Copyright Balloon?

I’ve been spending nearly an hour of my online time every day on Pinterest. In addition to Pinterest’s own features, this exercise of joining and building a usage profile on a new social network/service is interesting too.

For the unpinned, Pinterest is an image curation service. And unlike older image services like Flickr & Photobucket, Pinterest allows for easier integration with other social networks, sharing of content and connecting to other users.

What I’m finding really interesting is that Pinterest symbolizes an evolutionary step in social media user behaviour. We are moving from content creation to content curation. However, Pinterest has been born into a space and a time where these questions are dividing the space into several factions. What’s the world going to look like when content belongs not just to the creator, but to everybody?

Read my article on Pinterest grappling with the copyright paradigm on Social Samosa: ‘Is Pinterest Pricking The Copyright Balloon?

*Image via Carlos Porto on FreeDigitalPhotos.

Workshop On ‘Social Content For Branding’ For Avignyata Inc.

Last week, Payal & I concluded a two-day workshop for Avignyata Inc., a social media agency. The Avignyata team included client servicing executives, designers and content creators for different social channels. The objective of our workshop was to understand the anatomy of a brand, give it a distinct voice, devise a content strategy and create engaging content across relevant channels.

The conversations that came out of it, took me back to my days as a business analyst. I spent most of my last year as a corporate employee, with a young, vibrant group of people with excellent ideas. My role there, was to focus those thoughts, tie them into coherent structures, develop them into actionables and devise tangible metrics to assess them.

So much of good marketing is about fresh, innovative ideas, no matter which aspect of the function you look at. I find young people are possessed in abundance with these. What some of them find missing is the tools to organize them and take them to fruitful conclusions. This of course, is something that I have and continue to develop with experience and a natural maturing in thought. When it comes to social media, the early adopters of the channels are easily the youngest, brightest sparks. But the ability to convert the knowledge of these channels into business strategy doesn’t always follow automatically.It requires an understanding of basic business realities, domain understanding, content creation skills and a working knowledge of the social media.

Since our combined repository of experience and skills covers these, Payal & I are conducting a series of workshops, lectures and other training services. A big thank you to Moksh Juneja, for getting us to work with the Avignyata team over the last week!

Pictures of the Avignyata workshop are posted to our Facebook Page.

The BarCamp Mumbai 8 Round-Up

I spent yesterday at Barcamp Mumbai 8. This has been my first unconference in nearly 2 years. My last Barcamp was over 4years ago, overrun by techie discussions and only drew me because it had a teensy segment for bloggers. BlogCamp evolved as an offshoot of that.

Yesterday was a pleasant return. For one, the event that usually struggles on time, breezed through the multiple sessions, speakers and classrooms easily. There were 4 classrooms in the ultra-posh Mukesh Patel ….. The wiki was flowing with colourful post-its even at 10:15 a.m., which is when I got there. And most delightfully, the subjects spanned a diverse range of intellectual tools, hobbies & interests & scientific applications in fun real life ways. One had to be truly ruthless to pick sessions to attend since there were so many good ones, several happening simultaneously.

Off the top of my head, these are the ones I attended:

Interesting titbits from the day:

I entered Rehab’s session late, having misread the wiki schedule. It was interesting and fun, though occasionally highjacked by someone who claimed that genocide made him happy. Quick tip – if you’re demonstrating or talking without a powerpoint, avoid the big conference room. The larger crowd is harder to maintain & engage. Rehab did a great job though and showed off a mind technique that will help anyone from an artist to an executive stuck in a business dilemma.

Harrish is always entertaining and touching in equal parts. His first talk was about the film AMEN being denied a certificate by the censor board and he did a superb job of bringing out the inconsistencies in their policies. His second talk though, was the one that really had people talking. He was speaking of how gay people are treated in India, when partway through, he was interrupted by a very fervent member of the audience who insisted that,

“According to Hinduism, you can only have sex with your wife, inside a closed room. Only after marriage and only for procreation, not for fun.”

The uproar that followed had to be taken out into the corridor to make way for the next speaker. The episode illustrated one of the reasons that unconferences are a great way to seed ideas, bring out thoughts and get people talking, sometimes about controversial and difficult topics.

My session on ‘Social Content’ happened on the fly. It’s been years since I spoke completely extempore, as I did yesterday and it was a great experience. I was actually hoping to create interest for my upcoming series of blogging workshops, beginning with ‘Unboggle The Blog‘. But instead, I found myself naturally touching on several related but disjointed thoughts about this space. My 20 minute, stream-of-consciousness ramble imitated the way we consume and add to social content, on our Facebook Walls, our Twitter timelines and all out other channels of social media. I touched on the artificiality of traditional media, social media as an extension of normal, human behaviour, how trolls are mirror daily social miscreants experimenting in their own ways and that we’re all creators & consumers of social content. Here’s the talk:

I missed the #TWSS talk by Aditya Sengupta since the room was so packed that even the door couldn’t be opened. From what I hear, it was a tongue-in-geek demonstration of an algorithm used to generate and viral #TWSS (That’s what she said). But the geek in me found a corner in Anubha Bhat’s talk on diagnosing bipolar disorders using algorithms.

I’m not going to dwell on how great it was to catch up with old friends again, since that’s a given in any gathering. Yesterday was more than just friends catching up and people networking. It really was a meeting of minds, a true sharing of ideas. A big thank you to the Barcamp team for pulling off such a great day!

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