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Online identity

In the past I've always regarding the use of pseudonyms as immarture - people pretending to be hackers by adopting silly pirate names.

Now I see that I was wrong.  I've read about employers who google applicants, and now microsoft have fired somebody for lack of discretion on the part of a temporary employee.
If I google on my own name, I find comments I have made several years ago.  The internet has a frighteningly long memory!

Perhaps its time to adopt a nom de plume.

Does this worry anybody else?

Ged Byrne
Thursday, October 30, 2003


Thursday, October 30, 2003

Just claim it was somebody else with the same name. Easier for some than others

Stephen Jones
Thursday, October 30, 2003

Lesson learned long time ago.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, October 30, 2003

Yep - mine isn't so much a pseudonym, my real name is Richard, but Rich/Richard is generally already taken as a logon so I use r1ch instead.  I'm pretty careful about giving out my full name/identity online though - you never really know who you are talking to.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Having been "on-line" for many many years, I have always used a wide variety of pseudonyms.  Now that companies are googling job applicants to see what they've been up to in the past, I'm glad that I did.

TV's Mr. Spock
Thursday, October 30, 2003

Of course, if you always use your nom de plume, when a prospective employer Googles you, they'll miss all your witty repartee.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Oh yeah.  Back when I thought I was a hot-shot C++ programmer I used to lay the smack down on people in the newsgroups. 

Now I realize I was just being an ass.  Although I'm not that way anymore, I'm sure I say things today that won't look so bright 5 years from now.

Jeff Smith is my name
Thursday, October 30, 2003

I've been "online" since around 84? First on 'Telecom Gold' then Prestel, then a variety of MUDs (VAX MUD, Essex MUD, Mirrorworld, Avalon..) and BBSs etc. To start with I used a handle but that was more of a MUD thing than anything else. The most important thing I learnt during that time was 'try not to post too often when drunk', 'don't say things you're not prepared to stand behind' and 'always be willing to publically acknowledge when you're wrong'.

It's true that google has a long memory, I don't see it as a problem if you stick to the rules above...

Recently I seem to have managed to flood google with, IMHO, good links. Sure a potential client can do a search for "Len Holgate" or JetByte and get a whole load of info but, in general, it's good info. It's stuff I'd want people to find.

If I asked a stupid question on a newsgroup in 99 and someone decides not to employ me because of it then I probably wouldn't have wanted to work for them :)

Len Holgate (
Thursday, October 30, 2003

I use various names online, oddly enough I never use the same name at different sites.  I've posted here under more than one name as well -- though I have yet to have an argument between my personas. I do also belong to several mailing lists under my real name and make a point of answering some questions each month.  Googling for my real name will bring up a bunch of reference to programming activities.

Why do I do this anonymously?  Could be because I don't want my employer to know where I go on my time.  I work for an MCSP, posting about Linux on slashdot won't get me brownie points. 

Am I a control freak?  Perhaps.  I doubt that my current employer would even bother with googling me...

Billy Boy
Thursday, October 30, 2003

I agree with Len, post carefully, remember that the internet has a looooong memory and you aren't likely to have problems. I post under my own name, at least in JOS and other technical forums.

Of course my name is common enough that it's almost impossible to sort me out of the hits you get unless you know me. I'm not for example, the game player nor am I the guy who got busted in Colorado for running pyramid schemes.

Making hiring decisions based on a Google search is pretty lame and IMHO legally suspect. I wouldn't be shocked if somebody gets sued (successfully) for it in the not too distant future.

Ken McKinney
Thursday, October 30, 2003

We need to be our own publicists now in that
you need to think about the identity you
are projecting.  For most of us our public
face is probably the one we want employeers to

That means for anything you would do or
say that you wouldn't say or do a work,
you need a different identity.

son of parnas
Thursday, October 30, 2003

You don't need to tell me that.

Clark Kent
Thursday, October 30, 2003

It's like having all of your conversations tape-recorded. Who needs that?

The Real PC
Thursday, October 30, 2003

"don't say things you're not prepared to stand behind' and 'always be willing to publically acknowledge when you're wrong'."

Easy to say when you're older and wiser.  Unfortunately, we all start out young and not so careful about what we say.

TV's Mr. Spock
Thursday, October 30, 2003

As if Alyosha` is my real name (honest!  the backtick is on my birth certificate!).  I like it, anyways.  It's a handle that doesn't scream "I iz an 3117 h4XX0R!".  Who knows, my boss may be reading these forums too.

Pseudonyms and pen names have a long and industrious history behind them.  I'm sure not many people called Mark Twain a pretensious loser for always using a pen name.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

"Easy to say when you're older and wiser.  Unfortunately, we all start out young and not so careful about what we say. "

Then make sure your older and wiser postings out number your younger and rasher postings ;)

Len Holgate (
Thursday, October 30, 2003

I have been this name online since I was a hacker in high school and thought it was funny to type in

10 Print "Trash 80s suck"
20 Goto 10

On the Radio Shack machines at the local mall.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

... and who says GOTO is evil? :)

Elegant, compact, unambiguous, and even a non programmer can probably figure out what the program does and how it works.

And just keep things on topic, I'll use the pseudonym that I've used since before I ever bought my first computer in 1979.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The problem is that you can't trust folks online anymore.

First it was the crackpot you flamed on the usenet or a BBS who starts calling you at home, etc.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, heard that one of them is up for a long stretch in jail at this point.  Not only does new technology create new rules of etiquite, it creates new ways of being certifiable.

Then there's spamers, such that I am no longer comfortable to supply email addresses willy nilly.  I used to keep my resume on my website, I can't do that anymore because folks spider the web and assume that resume on website = you are looking for a job, therefore you will be interested in sending spam.

They even get it wrong.  I get spam intended for my mother from "permission-based" marketers.

Then there's prospective and current employers looking at your site.  I have a medical condition that is not to be mentioned on places directly attributable to me simply because I don't want that reflecting poorly on my professional reputation.  I have taken whole sections of my website down because of an interview where I was asked pointed questions about my psychological status because I linked to pages where people had documented blowing stuff up.

Legal issues here, too.  I worry that something I say could be construed badly by my employer or somebody researching my employer.  Thus, it's easier to make it psuedo-anonymous and still watch my toungue simply because even though my employer seems to be rational about such things, I wouldn't want to be known for putting them in a comprimising position either way.

Even things done with clean hands can turn out badly.  If somebody you know was abused long ago, yet they chose not to discuss it publically, but you googled them and found out, what does that do to your relationship with that person?  One thing I've noticed is that treating someobdy with kid gloves is often times worse than plowing through the issue.  What if you are interviewing somebody and part of the reason why they got the job was because you felt sorry for them because of some piece of history that they may or may not have worked through?  What about questioning if said person should be hired on the simple question of if they have worked through it or if it's going to effect their performance?  What if they were a screwup but you unfairly cut them slack because you figured it was because of past abuse when you should have just fired them.

This is closing up interesting opportunities for internet tools.  It would be nice to have a public-facing directory service where you could download somebody's prefered personal icon, their PGP keys, the correct spelling and pronunciation of their name, information generally used in a finger file, etc.  But nobody in their right minds is going to do that now because it's far too easy for that to be abused.

I don't even have one online identity anymore, because my main online handle (which is mostly good because I happen to have a hard-to-spell name) can be easily linked back to myself.  It used to be the trollers and flamers who would do that (well, I am mostly here to flame ;) ) but now everybody does it out of paranoia and self-preservation.  I do not post anywhere else with anything remotely similar to this name.

Ugh, there's more here that I'll spare everybody.  I think the other fun one is that while users are demanding progressively more anonymity, on the other side of the fence, other interests are demanding progressively less anonymity.  This is just going to get more ugly.  Technology changes society, that's for sure.

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, October 30, 2003

I have things I posted when I was in grade school and the only kid I knew with internet access still archived in places.  That's a double whammy about identity.  It's almost a guarantee that things people did under the age of 14 are going to prove to be embarassing.  That's why people's criminal records are cleared when they turn 18 and that's a longstanding method parents have used to control/get revenge at a later date from their kids.

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, October 30, 2003

I know many of us will say, well, heck, I'll be dead in a handful of decades, what's wrong with asserting my freedom of speech? The problem is that there's nothing wrong with freedom of speech, it's pretty stuff, the problem is you are caught by the misuse of that freedom. People taking advantage of what you have said. I think you have to choose to give your real name a personality and believe in the requirement of alternate personalities. As Li-fan Chen I decided I wanted to use my real name to say whatever I want about the technical world, even if I make a total fool of myself most of the time--but I have been fairly conservative about using my real name in the political world (not that I have a real political voice). I guess it really depends on your comfort zone. Are you proud of what you say? Do you feel like what you say rings true and you aren't just repeating what too many others have said? Are you using your voice to help or just talk shit?

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, October 30, 2003

It's not a matter of what rings true or what someone is proud to say, I think it's mostly a matter of taking something out of context 4 years down the road, people developing incorrect opinions of you, stalking you because you took the bait and flamed them back, etc.

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, October 30, 2003


Those are some interesting posts.  Is your name taken from bitter experience?

Ged Byrne
Thursday, October 30, 2003

it's a real issue.

what really hit home was two reports this year, one from ireland and one from the US, where people were either denied or granted access across immigration points based off of stuff said on the internet. one was a woman who had reviewed books on amazon (?!) and the other was a man who documented being turned away, and when he arrived a second time the person found his story online and decided that it was real.

and it's true, politics are the scary thing. i own a domain name which is being used by a group fighting a national policial issue right now; I'm not otherwise involved, and they are supposed to transfer the domain to themselves someday, but it has my real name, a real address (worse yet of a family member, not myself) and phone number. I wonder what watch lists I'm on now, both governmental and corporate (given the issue at hand).

it's even a financial issue--most car web sites obscure license plates, because it's a nice shopping list (license plate of highly modified car = invitiation to steal).

Thursday, October 30, 2003

mb -

It'll put at least a few steps between your name and the domain you own. Sure the government can tell Domains By Proxy to cough up your information, but the general populace won't know who owns the domain.
Thursday, October 30, 2003

Personally I use a nickname I am called in real life.

Mr Jack
Friday, October 31, 2003

Ged, not all of those stories were mine.  I tried to denote which stories happened to me (crackpot calling me at home, spam, fear of having things on my webpage that could reflect badly upon me, getting job-related emails because I still have an old resume online).  I have a friend who's half scared of visiting me because a crackpot he attracted on the 'net lives in the same city I do.

I'd say my main bitter experience that makes me sound like a cynic was seeing how much we've gained, but, at the same time, how much we've lost.  So the part that sucks the most is an empathic bitter experience by proxy, yet, knowing that we can't turn back the clock on progress and make it all go away.  Which is really what this thread is about.

I'm actually, in real life, a generally happy and positive person.  I've had my hard knocks, rough times, and periods of depression, but who hasn't.  I just tend to be a cross between a cynic and an optimist, if such a thing exists.  I probably just think too much.

My nom de plume is actually quite unrelated to my bitter experiences.  I've mentioned this occasionally, but it's mostly out of self-parody than anything else.  Comes back to old Internet history, where a user on the first internet-attached machine in Russia, having learned of the infamous kremvax hoax, blandly assured people that he was just a hoax, even though he was actually posting from Moscow.  Thus I claim to be an obnoxious flamer even though I'm only obnoxious some of the time.

Flamebait Sr.
Friday, October 31, 2003

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