Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

Is it quaint to be yourself?

Sun 13 Jun 2004, 08:29 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
One of the signs of growing older is that people start to view your customs and ways as "quaint".  My wife and I go for long walks and actually hold hands, or we ride bikes with our kids and we all wear helmets, or we sit around and read instead of motocross or extreme ironing or drinking myself silly or making rude comments to my guests (side-note to PB&J: some topics never belong in polite company, especially not at a meal).  If I didn't know these customs were quaint by people's quizzical looks, I'd know because my two teenagers would let me know (they are good at that).

I think I may lately have discovered a new "quaintness", I actually use my real name in public forums.  There are those who hide their identity, for good or bad reasons, with pseudonyms such as "File Save" or "LoNo Developer", and others who do not hide their identity, but foster a persona, such as "GreyHawke" or "Duffbert", and others who act as if they have a real name but are actually someone else (I'd best leave these be in case they don't want this known), and even others who act as if the person is a company, such as "LotusRnext Net".

What is so wrong about using your own name?  Standing up for what you stand for?  The problem is ten times worse in political forums than in technical forums, where nobody seems to want to be known by their real names, instead inventing monikers such as "serial catowner" and "moog" and "Economaniac" and "The Donkey".  Why?  Are people afraid of reprisals?  If so, they should remember, as Ed Brill likes to point out, that the internet is not as private as it seems.  If not, what is the problem with being yourself.

Anyway, quaint or not, I am Ben Langhinrichs and proud of it.  I use my own name, except a few times such as on and Turtle's Gonzo Lotusphere site, where I have tried being "MidasGuy" because I thought it would look cooler.  Not for me, folks.  I'm just quaint, I guess.

Copyright © 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

173.1. Duffbert (and proud of it!)
(06/14/2004 07:45 AM)

Using your own name.... How... QUAINT! :-)

I'm sure there are deep psychological reasons that one could find to explain why I've gone to using Duffbert instead of Tom Duff. The results would probably be disturbing. Part of it is having "nicknames" growing up that were not all that flattering. Duffbert is one I've actually liked, so I thought it would be fun to use it.

The darker side of me is fascinated with the hacker subculture, where handles are the norm. Maybe that's it. Although it may sound egotistical, I think there's a small element of "marketing" that comes into play... Create an "identity" and then play to it.

Maybe I'm tired of being Googled for people who are looking for Tom Duff, the C guy who worked for Bell Labs and who now does work for Pixar, I think. Thomas Duff seems a bit too pretentious for my blogging activities.

Ah, let's face it.... I'm a nerdy geek who needs an alter-ego. Duffbert's it! :-)

173.2. Ben Langhinrichs
(06/14/2004 07:51 AM)

Hmm, I hadn't really considered the fact that when people google for Ben Langhinrichs, they are not likely to find anyone else, but other people may not be so fortunate. Actually, I like Duffbert as a moniker. Personally, I wish I could have gone on being just "Ben" in the forums, but Ben Poole came along and muddied the waters. Maybe I should invent a moniker for him and see if I can get him to use it.

173.3. Rob McDonagh
(06/14/2004 12:15 PM)

One other issue, related to Tom's comments about being googled by mistake: most of us are stuck with names that aren't as Langhinrichs. Since everybody I meet misspells my last name, I am always profoundly disappointed when I try to use it as a login name or alias and find that someone else has already done so. How many Rob McDonahs ARE there in the world, anyway?!? Apparently, more than one, more's the pity...

But that being said, I have to confess - when I create Captain Oblivious I was reacting to the cultural phenomenon of blogging under an alias. You can tell I don't take it very seriously, though, because my real name is on the front page.

When I think about the use of aliases while blogging I find myself thinking of Orson Scott Card's Ender series, where the Wiggin children influenced the sociopolitical development of their entire civilization by posting articles and commentaries under aliases like Locke. They were using aliases because nobody would have given them any respect if they had been known to be children. Thus, the anonymity of the internet allowing a person's ideas to be considered independently of the person (and any baggage associated with the person, like age, race, sex, sexual orientation, creed).

So from that perspective I enjoy the idea of blogging under an alias. I find it annoying on sites like LDD, though, and I'm not sure why. On the exceedingly rare occasions when I post on LDD (and I haven't bothered for years), I use my real name. But I can't really put my finger on why I wouldn't post as Captain Oblivious - I just wouldn't. Maybe its a community thing.

173.4. Ben Langhinrichs
(06/14/2004 12:23 PM)

Rob, you definitely fall into the group with "personas", since you make no effort to hide your real identity. The use of Locke and Demosthenes in Ender's Game falls more into the category of real pseudonyms, since the goal of hiding the identity of the Wiggin children was critical to their success. (Actually, I think Card handled well the whole idea that they would have to be found out eventually, but that if they could reach a certain status, they couldn't be exposed.

I am sometimes tempted to create an alter ego for the internet, but I guess I'm just too... quaint.

173.5. Ben Poole
(06/14/2004 02:08 PM)

[i]Ben Poole came along and muddied the waters[/i]

Gah, yeah, I tend to do things like that ;o) I also got confused the first time I read e-Pro: "Ask Ben"? Ask me what? Eh? Where am I...?


173.6. Rock
(06/14/2004 02:14 PM)

Well, I go by "Rock", which is just a shortened version of my name (and what people who know me call me in informal conversation). Lotus Geek is my site, but I don't usually post as that (although I am sure someone can find a posting that way somewhere). I have screen names for various IM and IRC areas - NotesDawg (AIM), DaddyDawg (for Atlanta Falcons stuff), ScubaDawg (old IRC handle). I used these mainly because "Rock" was almost always taken. DaddyDawg became my alias years ago on the [a] [href][/href]Falcons Roost[/a] site, and it has stuck so much in that crowd that I actually have a jersey with that on the back. But in business, I go by my name or Rock for short (insert favorite "short" pun here) ;-)


173.7. Rock
(06/14/2004 02:17 PM)

Oh, and a followup - Lotus Geek was a domain I had registered about 3 years before blogging hit mainstream. I thought it was kewl, and I registered it because I thought I might find a use for it someday. Lo-and-behold blogging hits, I was looking for a blog domain, and I had lying around so I used it.

So far it has worked out really well :)


173.8. Richard Schwartz
(06/14/2004 04:25 PM)

I started posting on Usenet under my own name back in the '80s because, well, I had never had a nickname ever in my life. Not one that stuck, anyhow. That changed a few years later, when I adopted a nickname for use by my girlfriend's daughter -- because she already had an Uncle Rich so we needed a clear differentiator, but by then I was so much in the habit of posting under my own name that it never even occurred to me to change my habits. On the subject of Googling, my name is not that uncommon, and there is one Richard Schwartz who has written several books, and another who is a columnist for a major daily newspaper, but my blog has managed to elevate me to the number one spot. Isn't that quaint?


173.9. Duffbert
(06/14/2004 05:03 PM)

So *that's* why I post as Duffbert... no one would take me seriously otherwise! :-)

173.10. Christopher Byrne
(06/14/2004 09:46 PM)

I will come clean if and when I can change all my LDD Posts to my real name and when the time is right...are you trying to guilt me Ben?:-)

173.11. Stan Rogers
(06/15/2004 01:23 PM)

Well, thanks to a certain folk singer, even googling Stan Rogers +Notes +Domino is more likely to get you someone's reminiscences of playing dominoes while discussing one of the songs of Stanley Allison Rogers than anything I've ever done on-line. So popular is the man and his songs that I would have to have several blogs going before anything changes. Up here, people just assume that mine is a nom-de-guerre....

173.12. Joe Litton
(06/15/2004 05:49 PM)

Unlike Duffbert, who cowers behind his nom-de-blog, I bravely post as joelitton. OK, it's really just because there aren't that many folks with my name, and it makes it easy. Of course, there IS one gent in my old home state of Washington, who has my name and registered a few WEEKS before I decided to register my domain -- but now I'm happy, 'cause I think .net fits better anyway.

As far as other quaintness, my wife and I (24 year anniversary in a few months :-) ...still hold hands and we each give our 19-yr-old son a hug before bed (if he happens to be staying at our place). Heck, speaking of quaint, he'll give his mom a kiss in front of his friends. I rather of like quaint.

173.13. Duffbert
(06/16/2004 11:34 AM)

I'm not "cowering" behind anything!

I'm just too short to see over it.

173.14. jonvon
(06/16/2004 11:48 AM)

well the only nickname i ever had is one i won't repeat here (or anywhere). just too embarrassing. but as it happens, my real name, John Vaughan, when pronounced correctly, rhymes. and for some reason most of my friends call me "jonvon" instead of John.

if i spell it out people want to call me John Vog-Han. Or, sometimes they will spontaneously go with Jon Von Jovi, or something silly like that.

so jonvon works pretty well, and is enough like my real name... it's a sort of compromise that i don't mind. i kinda like it now.

i'd just like to say that i like the nickname Duffbert, and also Rock / Rocky. for some reason "Rock" just makes me smile. i changed the name on my blogroll to "The Rock" cuz that is even smilier. i can just see Rocky in the ring...


i'd also like to say that if stan rogers had a blog, i'd read it. no matter what google said or didn't say about it...

173.15. Duffbert
(06/16/2004 01:06 PM)

You're right, jonvon...

You could *just* see Rocky in the ring... If you were in the first two rows... or had binoculars.

(talk about the pot calling the kettle black... :-))

173.16. Christopher Byrne
(06/17/2004 06:44 AM)

What, did you not see the pic I posted of Rock? He was quite tall in Bermuda (maybe it was the shorts):