>> Thursday, July 03, 2008

The other day, Random Michelle left a comment asking me to join the UCF address book, which Janeice seconded and so I sent my address on to Michelle. I don't mind the UCFers having my name and address, but I haven't popped my last name up here for various reasons. I have mixed feelings about how much of oneself should be exposed online. Some of the UCFers blog under their full names, and I respect that; some don't, and I respect that.

On the one hand, there's John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, with it's brilliant explanatory and predictive power (I suggest it ought to be called "John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Law"). And I certainly don't want to be a fuckwad. On the other hand... well, on the other hand it's John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, not Mike Krahulik's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, and there would be some obvious irony there if it weren't for the fact that Tycho and Gabe are geek celebrities and we all know who they "really" are (if you don't, it almost has to follow that you're not one of us). That nobody knows you're a dog is a two-edged thing: it creates assholes but protects privacy.

Going by my usual given name was sort of a compromise: I considered creating some clever-ish nom de plume but I didn't want to be a fuckwad; simultaneously, I kind of wanted to retain a certain amount of anonymity. Suppose I provide some information a thief could put to ill use? Suppose I say something rude about my job or profession (things I try not to write about anyway) that somehow comes to the attention of Powers That Be? Sure, it's paranoid. And stupidly so, perhaps, since my profession means my name, home address and direct telephone line to my desk at work are all openly available online to anyone who wants to look for them. (Oh, it gets better: since I'm a public servant, a diligent researcher can discover my salary with a certain amount of digging through public records; no, I'm not going to tell you how and where.) So any pretense that being "Eric-No-Last-Name-Given" affords me any privacy is tissue-thin and merely for the benefit of my own self-delusions.

Anyway, it was after I sent Michelle my address that I asked myself what would happen if any of the UCFers googled me. Which they might or might not do; I mean, everybody gets bored sometimes and I can see someone going down the list. And I periodically google myself anyway. I imagine everyone does this, but maybe it's just me: you're wondering what kind of shadow you're casting in the infosphere, so you get on Google and take a quick look around. Or maybe you're idly googlestalking people and you start wondering what you'd look like to them, so you run your name up.

So I looked. My name still turns up in the usual places. But it also turned up somewhere new. With someone new.

My name's a little unusual. Actually, as far as the last name goes, it's less unusual than it first looks, at least in the Netherlands and places the Dutch left a colonial footprint, like South Africa. And my middle name, which I go by, is common enough, too. But the combination? I'm not exactly "Bob Smith." Generally speaking, you google my name and that's me who comes right up on the first page.

But now a name twin has turned up. Mostly. I go by my middle name, and my twin goes by his first, and his middle initial is entirely absent from my name--nonetheless, I consider it a doppelgänger, an evil double. And not just any evil twin: this other Eric with my last name lives in my home state!

How does he dare? He dares! The impertinent bastard!

He only shows up in one place: he and his wife seem to have bought a house in another county. A low profile, I imagine, while he establishes a base from which he can slowly strike out and insidiously replace me. Not necessarily take over, mind you: he might well do none of the same things I do while nevertheless making me increasingly irrelevant, further marginalizing me from my life until I fade ghostily from human sight. Which, now that I write it, seems admittedly presumptuous. I mean is the implication that I'm relevant now? Really? Am I? How so? I have no idea. I'd like to I have some kind of relevance within my little sphere, but who am I kidding? If anyone? Do I even exist at all? (Perhaps this is a sign that my namesaked nemesis is succeeding in his nefarious plot.)

An obvious question is how he feels about it, this poseur, this ersatz Eric, this house-buying unperson with his wife and other county he "lives" in. Has pretend Eric, the pod-person, the changeling, has he sat down and googled "his" name only to see he's an overweight lawyer who has had the shaggy-haired back of his head appear in a small-town paper? Has parallel Eric, the counterfeit, the reproduction, looked at his computer monitor and seen his name associated with a terrible horror movie? (Has he, perhaps, even taken credit for it with some friend who stumbled across it and asked about it? "Why yes, I uh, sure. That was me, alright. Yep.")

Is he right now, at this very moment, writing a blog entry about his recent, random discovery that he's slightly less unique than he might have thought? Is his hand moving towards the mouse at this instant? Is he, even now, hitting "publish pos


Nathan Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 12:00:00 PM EDT  

When I started blogging, it was with a very conscious decision that I'd be open about who I am. One reason was that I knew it would be easy enough for anyone to figure out who I was from some of the things I'd be posting about and I didn't want to give myself the illusion of anonymity. In other words, being clearly identified forces me to be careful about what I publish. It's a form of protection when looked at that way.

Also, at some point, I knew your last name, (since forgotten for the moment) and I did google you straight to your office.


I never ran across you doppleganger.

Jim Wright Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 12:18:00 PM EDT  

Me too.

I blog and post under my full name, and I'm fairly easy to find - though it's fairly unlikely that anybody would show up on my doorstep, given where I live in the real world. Additionally, at this point I have no professional life to risk, I'm just a retired opinionated shmoe.

However, given my background, I deliberately didn't start blogging until after I had retired from the military - in as much as my opinions might be construed as disrespectful towards certain folks high up in the government (as they should be, since that's exactly how I intended them) - and because in my former life I was a highly cleared intelligence officer. Both conditions levied certain restrictions on my freedom of expression - and still do to a certain extent, as I'm under certain restrictions for the rest of my life regarding the release of classified knowledge and I'm very, very careful to never talk about that even if it would lend weight to my posts or comments. I made dammed sure to abide by military law regarding free speech while on active duty since I took my oaths freely and without reservation. Now, however, since I'm a regular citizen I'll say what I dammed well please and because I am who I am I prefer to own those comments.

In your case, Eric, I think you've chosen the best course of action, i.e. while you are indeed a public servant, you blog as a semi-anonymous private citizen as is your right under the 1st amendment (a right I did not have under military regulation and law). That semi-anonymous position distances your personal opinions to a certain degree from your professional ones. I think this is both reasonable and practical.

Janiece Murphy Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 1:42:00 PM EDT  

Um, what they said.

Like Nathan, I blog under my full name because it allows a certain level of accountability in order to avoid falling into the Fuckwad Theory.

And like Jim, I have sworn obligations about certain content in my head that must remain there.

And like Eric, I use my middle name in my daily life, so my full legal name (while easily discovered) isn't out there for a casual observer.

Am I under any impression that I have any privacy? No. No, I don't. But I chose to "be on the grid," so to speak, so I'll do so under my own name.

Jeri Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 4:44:00 PM EDT  

I don't blog under my full name, although it's no great secret. I"m not sure why I decided that way back when - some sort of privacy from the evildoers and nutjobs wandering them there internets?

I also never use my childrens' last name, which differs from my own, because protecting *their* privacy is a much higher level of priority for me.

I did use my whole name on my other, short-lived tech blog and when you google my name, that's what comes up. Embarrassing. I should update it occasionally so it doesn't look quite so thoroughly abandoned.

There are no pod-people or porn stars camping out on my name though. Yet.

::off to google people's names::

Tania Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 4:49:00 PM EDT  

I try to be very careful about what opinons I share online, under my real name. Like everyone else said - the real name makes me accountable.

I used to moderate a group with thousands of members, some of whom are nutjobs. My moderation was under a blatant pseudonym, and I worked to make sure they couldn't easily track me back to meat space. Because some of those people were/are certifiably crazy. But, as a moderator I had a responsibility to be reasonable.

Somedays I think it would be fun to make up a fake id and go out and be a butthead. But it would only be fun for a little while, and the damage that people like that cause isn't really defensible.

Tania and Clucas show up in proximity to each other (and it isn't me) rarely, so for now I'm the only one out there. Oddly enough, there is a married couple in Chicago that share the names of my parents, if my parents had stayed married. That's weird.

Random Michelle K Friday, July 4, 2008 at 7:32:00 PM EDT  

Not only do I blog under my own name, but when you search even just my last name, my website comes up. Because as far as I know, there are only a double handful of people with my last name in the entire US.

So that really gives me pause when I'm on the internet. Anything I use my full name on will come up when you google my name.

So I post under my own name, but comment under just my first name. Because sometimes I want to be potty mouthed, and if someone is looking for my father, I don't want a potty mouthed comment to be the first thing that comes up. (Because people really can't seem to tell the difference between Michelle and Michael.)

I don't really have too huge of an issue with my content, because I've always blogged under my own name, so I assume that anything I write will be permanently linked to me.

Of course, that's also why it took me so long to write about depression.

Though I have an advantage in that our address and phone number are in my husband's name, and I *never* use his full name on my website.

So Eric, although I hadn't thought about googling your name before? Now I want to,

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