If you are called “Ernest Bumblebee” you will never suffer from the problem I have – namely that there are simply lots of me. This was highlighted just recently when Neil Thompson was appointed by the UK government to oversee cyber crime. Another prominent Neil Thompson is Microsoft’s “Senior Regional Director, Northern Europe, Entertainment & Devices Division”. So, basically, he gets to play with XBoxes all day.
I have written about the other me a couple of times before (here and here) and for Thompsons it is a real issue as there are so many of us. In 1996 it was the 14th most common name in the UK. Smith, inevitably, was number one.
A few years ago none of this would have mattered but increasingly we are being encouraged to build out our online profiles on social networking sites and to facilitate this what are called “vanity URLs” are being offered. This means that instead of http://www.linkedin.com/pub/neil-thompson/5/334/902 you get a much more friendly http://www.linkedin.com/in/neilthompson to refer to your profile.
Recently Facebook opened up their own vanity URLs allowing people to get a much more memorable way to refer to their profile. Problem was that the ability to get your vanity URL was opened from 5am on a Saturday morning in the UK. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to justify to myself let alone anyone else getting up at 5am to secure a Facebook URL but at the same time the longer I left it the more likely it would be that one of the countless other Neil Thompsons would beat me to it. In the end I had to get up at 7am anyway (honest) and so made the request then and got the URL that I wanted.
Is it worth it? Does having a vanity URL make any real difference? Who knows, I have no evidence that it has made any difference to me but part of being online these days is building a profile and vanity URLs are an essential part of this. So I now have accounts with various providers who are providing me with a way to build this profile – including Google (http://www.google.com/profiles/neildthompson). There are ways of trying to organise all this information, chi.mp for example (http://neilthompson.mp/) but none are perfect and all take too much time to work with. There is also a secondary issue which is separating and managing your personal and business profiles. You have to think that there has got to be a better way. The person that cracks this issue is going to become seriously rich I suspect.
This isn’t an issue for the Ernest Bumblebees out there but it is for the Neil Thompsons and it is only going to become worse.