Claiming my identity

Today I have mostly been playing with claimID. It is a website that lets you manage your online identity in a way. It is basically a way to say, “this is me, and that isn’t”.

In a way it can be seen as a small step in the battle against Google’s domination. If you search for yourself the chances are that a whole load of people who aren’t you will come up. There might even be somebody impersonating you. Part of the idea of claimID is to put a stop to all this. So excuse me while I name this link Duncan Stephen for the Googlejuice.

But is claimID actually useful? I mean, I could just put all of the information right here on this blog. I have done similar things in the past. I link to my Flickr, and all the rest of it, and you all know that it’s mine. And as for people who aren’t me, surely common sense would tell most people that I am not any of the people that I have listed in claimID.

Still, I do find the service appealing. It goes to the heart of something that does make you think as a blogger — how your blog is wrapped up with your identity. Is it wisest for a blogger remain anonymous? My name appeared in the first paragraph. It’s the first time my name has appeared on this blog for a while.

Bloggers receive mixed messages as to whether or not they should be open about their identity. On the one hand we are told that employers don’t like bloggers because they can air dirty secrets or call their bosses sweary words or whatever. We think of Heather Armstrong, Joe Gordon, and so on.

Those cases generated debate, but I think it’s a bit silly to be talking about work like that in your public blogs. The defence is that talking about work on your blog is like talking about your work down the pub. Except it’s not. It’s more like putting a massive billboard up in the street saying, “My boss is a bastard!”

For sure, I sometimes write about day-to-day situations, but I no longer identify anybody unless I have their permission or I am certain that they won’t mind. I did write about people on my blog in the past. But that was before anybody read the thing. I was young and foolish, etc, etc. Before long Google was all over it and I got my hands burnt. I learned my lesson. I know to respect others’ privacy as I would expect my own to be preserved.

So hopefully that shouldn’t (now) be an issue for me. But I have read about employers who just disliked the fact that prospective employees even had a blog. I once read a boss launching into a massive tirade about job applicants mentioning their blogs in their CVs. The boss then proceeded to read the blogs all the way through from start to finish. He was unimpressed with all the posts about breakfast and suchlike. But if you’re going to insist on reading personal blogs like that as though they are extended job applications then you are bound to be disappointed.

These are reasons why a blogger might want to remain anonymous. I decided from the start that there wasn’t much point in trying to protect my anonymity. I want to write about myself, and part of the reason why I started my blog was to keep friends up to date (never mind how the blog evolved to become the thing it is today), so obviously I wanted my friends to know about it. Anyway, I am a terrible liar. If I kept myself anonymous this blog would probably be awful (no sarcastic comments on this please).

Plus, being open about your identity isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. I’m returning here to a point I made in a recent post about the strange advice sometimes given to bloggers. MatGB pointed out that a lot of this advice is geared towards pro bloggers.

One such piece of advice was that having a blog is essential for your career because it “sets you apart as an expert in your field”. What field would that be then? Jonny Greenwood?!

Still, it is a good point. Lots of bloggers are now putting their full names in prominent positions because they want to advertise their abilities as a writer. And that’s why many of us have a blog, right?

Still, recently I took a decision to downplay my identity. It is said that employers often search Google for information on job applicants just as a basic security check. So imagine if a potential employer was nervous about the fact that I had this blog? If I wanted to work as a writer or something like that it might not be much of a problem, but what about any other profession? I haven’t decided what path I want to go down yet, so it might be best to play safe for the time being.

But I’ve found out that there’s not much point in trying to remove all trace of my name. The game has already been given away, and anybody with their head screwed on will easily find out that I have a blog. Besides, soon enough employers won’t be able to avoid employing bloggers — it’s difficult to think of anybody who hasn’t got some form of online presence, be it a blog, a MySpace or something else.

So for the time being I will welcome claimID with open arms. With claimID I am not anonymous — there wouldn’t be much point to it if I was. But I do have a degree of control over what information people will see about me.

Usually if you search for something in Google there is little context. For instance, somebody searching for something on the internet might come across a post that I had written two or three years ago, and that will be all they see of me. It won’t be placed in context at all. They won’t be aware that it is just one post out of thousands that I have made, that I might well be sarcastic, or my views might have changed, or whatever else. Plus, there is at least one other doctorvee lurking out there, and numerous other people that appear if you search for my name in Google.

Hopefully my claimID page will become one of the top results when searching for me. If it is one of the first things somebody clicks then I will be able to point out what is mine, what isn’t, and the context that everything should be put in. A fine idea.

Duncan Stephen

Update: I just remembered one reason why I might find claimID quite important!

Incidentally, there are all sorts of mentions of me on the internet that I haven’t put in my claimID (I’m not really sure if the articles and posts are sufficiently ‘about me’ to warrant inclusion!). Notable instances can be found in the best of section.

(There is another website that I’ve played around with a bit recently and I thought I would mention: MOG. It seems mostly just like a more crummy — and intrusive — version of I’m sticking with it for the moment, but right now I don’t see much value in it…)


  1. MicroID Development » Usable MicroIDdoctorvee » Claiming my identity Ma.gnolia Blog: A Small (?) Update [Gmail for your domain] ゾーンファイル編集の権限が無い場合のDNSの設定の仕方 つれづれ – class名に「sidebar」が何

  2. ClaimID supports OpenId, and has that nice little logo. That’s nice to see. Might be worth setting one up and friending it on LJ, just for the hell of it.

    Not a bad thing overall. Fortunately, I mispell my name, so the top results in Google are pretty much all me, and I’m not bothered by anyone finding them.

    In some ways, NLE is a proof of concept, it’s really easy to get results at the top of Google if you go about it the right way.

    Interesting. One to play around with after the summer methinks…

  3. Thanks for the nice write up Duncan.

    You’ve done a great job of ‘getting it’. 🙂 We’ve seen a great number of posts and discussions questioning the value of what we’re trying to do at claimID – and they’re always so poorly thought out…

    The fact that you’ve faced this situation before (what is my public face?) and come to decide that who you are online is mostly who you are offline is a liberating revelation, no?

    I hope claimID serves you well. Keep linking to yours and we’re betting it will.

    Let us know if you’ve got any suggestions!


  4. Hmmm… Looks vaguely interesting – if only as a way to keep track of all the online gubbins I seem to have got up to over the last few years.

    As for blogs and jobs, writing-wise it’s certainly got potential to be useful. My blogging landed me an interview at a well-known magazine a few weeks back 9even if I didn’t get the job), and my current employers have taken notice of my online experience to the extent that they’ve recently asked me to start taking charge of the online presence of a number of the company’s magazines over the next few months. They’ve even given me a pay rise, bonuses, and in a few months, if I’ve proved myself, there’s been more money promised.

    Of course, what I really need to do is finally sort myself out with a proper website so I can compile all my online and professional writing in one place, the better to pimp my portfolio out to prospective employers. And that’s rather more tricky to get right – though this claimID thingie could be a useful interim solution.

  5. […] A couple of things that I have read recently [this post by doctorvee and this article on bit-tech] have left me re-pondering one of the main issues that concerned me when started this blog after a couple of years cocooned in the security of friends-only locks at Livejournal: the wisdom, or otherwise, of being open about your identity online. […]