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Name, Rank and Serial Number. Managing Online Identity – and Just who is Joshua Ross anyway?

Submitted by on June 17, 2009 – 9:21 pm5 Comments

People don’t call telephone numbers – people call people. (ripped and reapplied from the NRA slogan)  Despite that truism, numbers have historically  been the most convenient way to designate the people we want to reach.  I may know you as Jim – but if I want to call “Jim” I better get way more specific… Numbers do the job quite nicely.  In the beginning  telephone numbers were short (2 or three digits)- because  there weren’t a whole lot of people who had a phone.   As the number of telephone owners exploded – the digits increased in order to accommodate the unique endpoints.

Just like the telephone  there has been an explosion in the number of people online (1.7 billion and adding about 100 million every month) many of whom are establishing their identity on the social web with blogs, social networks, Twitter etc…  Unlike the telephone system, we are far from working out how to create unique identifiers for these identities.  It’s a mess.

I have four active email addresses, accounts on three social networks (that I remember), two telephone numbers, a Google Voice number (to bind the former two) a Twitter account and at least three username/password combinations to log in to the myriad  services that I subscribe to (from banking to Netflix and well beyond).   More broadly, I have an abbreviated name (Joshua Ross) that was quite unique when I was growing up but  today a search on “Joshua Ross”  brings up an Australian Olympic Athlete, a Rabbi and a recent felon convicted of marijuana possession in the U.S. South (it wasn’t me, I swear…)  There is even a Joshua Ross on MySpace who is a musician (my band is on MySpace and I once had a semi-professional career as a musician) – That is pretty close to home.   There are a lot of Joshua Ross imposters up to all kinds of no good.   I am nowhere in the top 10.

Somewhere along the line I got wise.   My full name is Joshua-Michéle Ross.  Now the combinatorics begin to work in my favor.  I can’t find a single contender for that Jewish-Italian hybrid.  While this helps me establish my identity online – it makes me unfindable to old high school friends looking me up since the “michéle” is a new development.   But just like the phone number I needed to add digits to get a unique designation.   When it came to Twitter however, where each character counts, my name became a liability so I am @jmichele….  Solving one problem begets another…



  • Duke says:

    As an old high school fiend, I will attest to the veracity of your blog.

    It is funny, though, that I thought I had located you when I saw that story about the recent felon!

  • Duke says:


    although “fiend” may have been a Freudian slip!

  • There is a converse problem, though: when you have a COMPLETELY unique name, like I do, you can’t ever hide. A Google search on my name will turn up crap from when I was in college back in 1997 — some of which I would pay to make go away. (None of it truly harmful to my brand/life now, but just embarrassing enough to remind me to be careful.)

    However, thanks for the explanation. I kept meaning to ask you why you started using Michele in recent years. I just assumed it was that recent felon convicted of marijuana possession in the U.S. South…

  • Joshua-Michéle says:

    “Duke” – I think fiend is much more fitting… interesting too that you found me on a search when you recognized the “michele” piece. Glad to be back in touch with you.

    Alora – a totally unique name is now a blessing and a curse.

  • […] wrote about it in more detail in a previous post – but the bottom line is that with the rise of the Social Web, there are just too many Joshua […]

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