Can you ever have too much of a good thing?

Well, it looks like you can.

I’ve recently been tracking down a number of web 2.0 tools to ensure I register / protect my online identity. I am known as Tony Sheppard and as GrumbleDook with such equality online that it is hard to separate the two. However, since there is a rather good Jazz musician called Tony Sheppard I have opted to protect my identity as GrumbleDook.

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Most people recognise my avatar or variations of it and I am always looking for ways to tweak it a little, make it more interesting or relevant, but without losing the importance of this being my online representation.

However (and there is always a however), I am not the only GrumbleDook out there … and I was recently castigated via email for some comments which had been made by someone else. At this point I had to spend some time explaining that I am not an online poker player, I am not an urban photographer / artist, I am not American, I do not live in Brighton / Watford / Washington / Phoenix / Sydney / Hong Kong, and I have never played in a brass band.

The fact that all of the above can be found to be linked to 7 separate individuals and I am not any of them made me wonder that because I do have a goodly number of the related domain names, I have registered accounts for a large number of web 1.0/2.0 accounts under the name of GrumbleDook and I am more often than not the person who appears in searches for GrumbleDook in the search engine of your choices … it is not surprising that someone might presume that all GrumbleDooks are actually me … especially as some are pretty techie related too!

I have spoken with people before about protecting your online identity (having had a student in an earlier school once register an account with an online service as they knew my online nickname … and having to deal with the fall out) and I still believe that it is important. The idea of a person as a brand has been spoken about by people far more knowledgeable and eloquent than me … but if I ever want to operate as a business, or ensure that anything I publish to the ‘net is recognisable as mine then it is something I have to keep up with.

I have come to the conclusion that although we may put a lot of time and effort in establishing our presence online, there are limited ways you can do this and there will always be confusion. I would also recommend that, where possible, you identify where the other people are who may share some aspects of your identity and if you can come to some sort of arrangement then it makes it better.

Will the world end if I don’t manage to ensure that *I* am GrumbleDook on particular services? No … I missed out on Facebook, there are many forums out there with GrumbleDooks on, I don’t have all the domains registered … yet … and I also have to remember that I have taken the name based on a character in a popular comedy (though not many people like the first series … some the joke is lost on many) … and so I do not have an exclusive right to the use of it.

There are examples of parents trying to do similar as I have done from when their children are born … and whilst I can understand this, I also have to point out that part of establishing an online presence is also about the social aspect of life. Many people will grow and change over the years … a number of friends and colleagues have changed their online presence over the years, rebuilding their identity. For me, I would find this difficult as my personal and professional identities are closely linked. I also believe that trying to change a personal identity is difficult but can understand the need at times to do so.

Where does this leave me now? I have a number of business tools I am starting to evaluate (including Office365 and Google Apps), and for me to continue with the professional brand of GrumbleDook, then I have to ensure that I get in there first with such tools. The grey areas come when we look at Social Networking tools … as I would consider many of these as professional tools, but others might consider them as personal tools.

Over the coming weeks I am going to be updating part of my blog to incorporate other tools I am trying to I will start using my ‘About’ page to say what is me … and even create a page to say when it is not me.

I would be interested in how others have approached some of these issues (even from fellow GrumbleDooks), with both the good and the bad in life.

7 thoughts on “Can you ever have too much of a good thing?

  1. Enjay

    Would it work to register a company called GrumbleDook? Then anyone using that name is infringing on your copyright. Seems a rather brutal way of protecting your nickname though!

    Reply
  2. Tony Sheppard Post author

    Since the name originates from a BBC Comedy I can’t say someone is infringing my Copyright … and I have been a little unsure about registering the name as a company (though I am looking at it).

    To some extent it is more a case of wanting to help provide people with a way of checking if the place where they *think* they saw me was somewhere I use and it was indeed me.

    Reply
  3. David Hicks

    Consider yourself lucky – one David Hicks was executed for murder in the USA and another was, at one point, Australia’s most wanted man. There’s also a David Hicks who has a tendancy not to pay dentists or gym bills (in two different counties, no less), which has led to some misunderstandings.

    Reply
  4. John

    At least you are a bit special, you could be me, I’ve no chance of being me online and the on-going jokes about my name make life really boring, and for the record No I don’t like it! (the beer that is), but I did manage in the latest round of domains released manage to get my name in a domain at last :D

    Reply
  5. Nick M

    I tend to uphold 3 identities. Synaesthesia is my favourite – it’s not particularly common, some dictionaries don’t even recognise it and it’s such a posh looking word it nearly makes me look intelligent. Truth be told it’s the title one of my favourite songs. This is generally used for online presences which are techie related.
    Kryten however is the pseudonym I’ve been using for everything else, mostly gaming related, since the mid 90’s. The amount of speculative emails I get to the *very* early Gmail and Hotmail accounts linked to that name is just shocking, and I’ve often been sent people’s invoices and even some very personal stuff. Funnily enough, when I used to play Quake 2 I used to be in a team ran by a fella called Grumbledook :) Haven’t heard nothing from him in 12 years though so I doubt he’d even show up in your searches.
    At least it can show a proper sense of humour – the first series of that particular comedy was very different to the rest, but no doubt something fans of Peter Cook would perhaps enjoy. Hark, here comes the witchsmeller pursuivant!

    And of the course the last remaining identity is my own. It’s sometimes difficult to decide how to manage these identities, sometimes you wish them to be linked to your real persona, sometimes you wish for anonymity; for security or otherwise.
    Win some, lose some – either way, one thing we can all be grateful for is that whatever your name is, it’s whoever’s behind the avatar that’s important!

    Reply
  6. Tony Sheppard Post author

    Oh yes … Quake2. I was also in a group and it caused a few problems … it made life interesting when some people started to share some stuff with me. There was also grumbleduke, grumbleddook, and a few other variations. I ended up being GDook for a chunk of it (with some padding).

    I gave up on anonymity a while ago as most identities can be joined together with enough work and effort. On usenet I used GrumbleDook for the fun and personal stuff (alt.fan.pratchett) but used my real name for professional areas (uk.education.schools-it) … but it started to blur there. I think it turned a corner when there was cross-over between different usenet group … alt.tech-support.recovery is a perfect example … as a techie it was a safe haven, but it was also populated by many friends from Pratchett fandom. As a lurker it was safe for me to merge the identities … and as I started to be more active in other mailing lists / groups the merger was complete.

    I have had other identities … usually for something very specific that I wanted *no* crossover with at all. Even there people could, with enough effort, identify you … usually from cross-over with other groups. Considering so many people use FaceBook now, this becomes a natural crossing point. Even if you use group lists to try and separate the different areas of your life there will be bleed through. On twitter I try to use 2 main identities … one of which is protected and aimed at family / close friends, and the other is very much public. It make it difficult when people I am friends with (but not close friends) ask to follow me, and I have to draw some line.

    Needless to say the protected account is not one I use on a regular basis, and I suppose that comes down to the fact that I realised, about 9 years ago, that whatever you do on the internet is public, could be public, could be around for ages and you never know who might read it and when. As a result I always have at the forefront of my mind that things I say now could have an impact on me (and mine) in the future.

    And so we get back to why I started this post … because someone wanted to attribute some comments to me that truly were not mine! And so began the effort to let people know where the real me exists in this online world.

    Reply
  7. Tony Sheppard Post author

    I’ve now updated the “Where’s GrumbleDook” page to include even more links to me.

    I am still working through the various sites and tools out there … and have decided I will not link to my Facebook account at the moment. That still has quite a bit of personal activity on there so I will limit that.

    I do have a ‘test’ account for eSafety reasons, but might set up a ‘personal’ account just for family and friends.

    Reply

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