Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

On Names, Disambiguation, and Microformats

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I’ve always used Google Alerts to let me know when Archaeogeek is mentioned online. It’s very useful for checking that your posts are not used/copied without attribution or permission, for one (this happens on a depressingly regular basis, and it’s just rude).

Recently, however, via Google Alerts I’ve also found out that there are a surprising number of new Archaeogeeks (or close variants) online. Here’s the newest example. It’s not me, though I am interested in tinkering with Arduino! I find this all a little weird. When you build an online persona of some kind, whether deliberately or by accident, you have no control over who else uses your name. Site like Usernamecheck have developed for exactly this reason. As long as the other users are well-behaved it’s not too much of a problem, but what do you do if they start saying things that you don’t agree with? Not only that, but the internet is full of dire warnings about the need to control your personal “brand”, particularly for job-hunting (which I’m not, I hasten to add). How do you tell prospective employers which references are yours and which are not?

This leads me, somewhat circuitously, to a discussion I had the other day about what happens when women get married and have to change their name. In academia, where your publishing record, and hence your job prospects, are closely tied to your name via references, this can be a real problem. I’m not the only person to make the decision to keep my maiden name for work-related business and my married name for social purposes (hopefully Mr Archaeogeek doesn’t mind too much).

I’m reminded of a post I saw a while back about microformats and consolidating your online identity. I think there’s definitely a case here for wider use of this kind of technology to relate the various aspects of your persona together, be that name changes from marriage, or for different types of social networking. It could end up like a paper trail showing the development of both your real life and your online life, with various formats to describe current and past associations. Of course for it to work, it has to be widely used and accepted, but it’s worth thinking about…

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