Social usability: Why my name is on my blog

After reading Tom’s great post about blogging anonymously versus blogging with your real name (which I commented on with many of the links in this post), I thought I would explain why I am blogging with my real name for 23 things.

Not too long ago I went to a seminar presented by (among others) social technology researcher danah boyd, and she talked about managing your online identity by putting material up that you want to be found (she has also blogged about it). Now, as a techie I’m pretty aware of my online presence, and I do a vanity search “just to see what is out there” every few months. I even did a vanity search on my first name and my soon-to-be husband’s surname in an attempt to sway my decision about whether to change my name or not (I still haven’t decided). But with this blog, I decided I would (instead of the passive, reactive approach I have been taking until now) be pro-active about my online identity, and write material that, if found by (for example) a prospective employer would demonstrate my skills in and my passion for usability.

Now, I am pretty lucky, my name is relatively common, and there are at least two people (an opera singer and a microbiologist) with my name who have a large web presence. Nonetheless, I thought pretty carefully about whether I would really put my name on this blog, because once it is sucked up by Google, this web presence can be around for a long time even if I decide to delete my blog (especially if people link to it with my name). Having my name on this blog means I won’t post about anything controversial that is outside the usability sphere, and that my language and demeanour will remain professional (though I try to strike a balance and actually have a personality too). If I had wanted to post anything personal (like music reviews) or controversial (like political opinions) I would have created an anonymous (or more correctly pseudonymous) blog (and actually, because I like to write, I do have a blog for stuff like that, and it is pseudonymous). It was helpful to read a recent discussion of anonymity in the library world, Annoyed Librarian, Meredith Farkas and Morgan Wilson really cemented my decision for me with their comments on anonymity.

So how is this usability related or making anyone’s life simpler? Well, by having a professional blog with my real name, I am working towards establishing an online presence so I don’t have to do the vanity searches quite so often. However, were I to stir up too much trouble on this blog, and make myself unpopular, Google’s cache could make my life very un-simple indeed. Using your real name in anything online is worth considering carefully, and if you have any doubt, it is probably best to use a name that is either made up, or not your whole name.


5 Responses to “Social usability: Why my name is on my blog”

  1. 1 kim Wednesday, September 26, 2007 at 5:40 am

    I think we should be up-front too! It’s important for librarians (and those who work in the field) to have a articulate, thoughtful online presence for professional blogs. How else are we going to get people to take notice of what we have to offer society?

  2. 2 Rebecca Wednesday, September 26, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    A thoughtful post. Now, a frivolous comment: a vanity search on my (extremely common) name retrieves a theologian, photos of a dramatic artist Rebecca ‘with and without her makeup’, and an Amazon profile that, despite the correct middle initial and very similar date of birth, is not actually mine.

    Sometimes the up side of having a common name is that I get lost in the masses.

  3. 3 Tony Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    I decided to put my name on too (although is small print underneath)

  4. 4 Sara Jervis Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 6:50 pm


    I follow your blog and Tom’s and Rebecca’s blogs because you are my room mates and because you are all experienced in a world that is (now was) so strange to me.
    I was going to comment on the Annoyed Librarian blog, but held off as I am not quite ready to go out there yet. The opportunity to be involved in library life, is just very good. I feel very familiar with the threads running everywhere and I am back to interacting with colleagues in this world, just like I did when I was a young professional in the field of research (in a library)
    My comment for the Googlesue blog in A L was about the first principle of research technique – refine one’s headings (see the comment from Shane about google search for Patriot Act) I was going to let Shane know it took me 17 seconds for google to give me the Act.
    This blog business takes me back to the essence. which of course is always there, in the present and in the future. An inexperienced technology person has learnt through technology – nothing changes.

  1. 1 Socail usability, acquaintances, and spam « Dana’s user experience blog Trackback on Monday, August 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm

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