Friday, August 6, 2010

Evolution of an (Online) Identity

Back in college, I got tired of the various iterations of my name being foisted on me for my userid. So, I figured, "try a new handle". I've always had a reddish beard - kinda rust colored - so, it seemed to make a kind of sense to use that as the basis for my screen name. Thus ferric was born (and, along with it, I sometimes used "Rusty Waters" rather than "Thomas Jones" as the full name on my accounts). As the years went by, and more people got on the internet, I was finding that "ferric" was frequently not an available userid when I'd go to sign up for a site. Fortunately, as this happened, supported lengths for userids went from 8-or-less characters to much higher counts. Thus, I tacked on "oxide" to create my ferricoxide screen names (indeed, I first did this when I was setting up my Yahoo account so I could use their messenger service).

Ironically (and I'm not using a word starting with iron to be cute), I later got into computers as my profession. Ferricoxide is in common use in that field (or at least was, dunno if such is still the case) as the medium on which data was bound to tapes and disks (see I'm big on data, so, my screen name came to be even more "fitting".

Unfortunately, as time progresses, even ferricoxide is no longer as unique as I'd like it to be. And, unlike back in my IRC days where I could use chanserv to reserve/enforce my name ownership, no such thing is in place, today. Ironically, it's actually been easier for me to find thjones2 unused than either ferric or ferricoxide. I'd reuse my old thj2 Internic handle, but most sites refuse to allow userids that short.

Over the years, I've periodically strayed from use of my primary IDs. This has mostly been on forum-style sites. Mostly, I'd done this to get a measure of anonymity. Unfortunately, I seem to have a distinctive writing style. So, I've frequently found people PM me asking "weren't you 'X' on 'Site Y'" or "didn't you used to be 'X' on here"? So, it kind of got to be a case of, "why hide," so I went back to my old userids. Easier to remember that way. Besides, if people could tell who I was from my writing, it's not like I'm going to be able to hide from the ever-more-clever data mining alogorithms.

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