Now, whether it's a good decision to make it difficult/impossible to anonymously comment on youtube videos is an entirely separate discussion that I'm not taking a side on (yet), but I'd be interested in seeing a discussion about that here.
The problem is that annoying the user doesn't really make them want to use it more. I thought G+ might've had potential at first, but seeing all the desperate crap that Google's pulled over the past few months has not only pushed me away from G+, but Google as a whole.
Besides, did anybody really care about the quality of youtube comments? Nobody ever read them with the expectation of gaining any sort of insight or knowledge. Even if this change does affect youtube comment quality, it won't change anybody's expectations of the comments. The only shift will be from "this video is totes retarded" to "this video is stupid."
“Many revolutions start with one small spark, President Obama has set this one off with his presser with the children and his use of the executive orders. The question is, is this the revolution that he had in mind? Time will tell.”
These are examples of comments the authors count as uncivil. They advocate for using real names so that people will not (dare?) post such things. I am of the contrary opinion. I think it is important that such opinions are posted and debated.
The criteria they used:
"A three item index was developed to determine whether or not online comments violated standards of democratic discourse as defined above. If a comment 1) verbalized a threat to democracy (e.g. proposed to overthrow a democratic government by force), 2) assigned stereotypes (e.g. associate person with a group using labels), or 3) threatened other individuals’ rights (e.g. personal freedom, freedom to speak), it was coded as uncivil and the type of incivility was noted."
They also, separately studied impoliteness, which I assume we can all be in favour of.
Interestingly, they found civility increased, while impoliteness did not "However, unlike incivility, both [anonymous] Website and Facebook comments contained a
similar amount of impoliteness."
Thus I would argue that the conclusion would be that using real names lowers the quality of debate.
It's when they parade out the idea that "real names = better quality" as the reason for a change - without citing it. Especially since it's such a cross-product change that effects literally every single one of their products.
I think the entire point might have been to make user generated content as valuable as possible to advertisers by making sure every action on every Google related site can be directly linked to a real name and locale. I refuse to believe it has to do with anything beyond monetizing their user base.
Note that I'm specifically excluding sites like Facebook and LinkedIn that required real names from the start. I suspect it's a matter of whether users think of the site as being relevant to their personal identity. I'd even be willing to hypothesize that a random sample of Hacker News users considers HN more "real life" than a random sample of YouTube commenters who had g+ accounts crammed down their throats.