Online Personas

http://www.fascinationplace.org/2021/10/24/online-personas/

http://www.fascinationplace.org/?p=9303

Recently I had a little conundrum about what persona I wanted to present in some online communities I’m in.

When I first got online – around 1989 – this wasn’t really a concern. I mean, it was for some people, I’m sure, but for most people the need and the tools weren’t really there. I didn’t participate in any dial-up BBSes, and on USENET and on mailing lists it was usually the case that your e-mail address and real name were right there in anything you posted. By today’s standards those communities were very small, and safety and privacy was not much of a concern for most people. There were a few communities which developed anonymizing posting systems, but they were in my experience very much the exception.

I had a brief fling with changing my display name on USENET in college to “Night Watchman”, because I was often online late at night posting stuff. It seemed cute at the time, but kind of dumb now.

(I have one friend who to this day refers to me as ‘rawdon@rex’, since ‘rex’ was the name of the machine I posted from in college. Machines in Tulane‘s computer science department were named after Mardi Gras parades.)

I’ve never been shy about posting under my own name, on USENET, on mailing lists, on social media, and on the web, including my journal. The one thing I’ve generally avoided doing is posting my address and phone number. Not that these things are particularly private – I have a listed phone number1 – but I figure that a lot of shenanigans and mayhem are largely because of opportunity and convenience, and I can save myself most of those potential headaches by not making it trivial for people to find me. (Of course I have no idea whether these precautions have had any effect at all.)

People who want to remain anonymous or appear under an alias is much more common today – and often for good reason – but it’s still not really a concern of mine. What triggered the recent conundrum is the growth of services where you only appear under a “handle”, which by convention tends to be short and memorable. The two sites I was interested in were Magic: The Gathering Arena and Twitch, which only show users under their chosen handle. I think this grew out of online video games of the 1990s and 2000s, and a lot of people who were active in those communities have consistent and often (?) memorable handles. I wasn’t active, and so I don’t – and I kind of envy them.

I could have simply used my name ‘MichaelRawdon’, as my handle – and on Twitch I did for a while. The advantage on Twitch is that when I interact with a streamer they could call me by my name. The disadvantage is that almost no one else uses their name as their handle, and so it felt out of place and a little lame. I also wanted both of those to have the same handle, so in the event I interacted with the same people on those platforms they would possibly recognize me.

My first attempt at a distinctive handle was ‘mRawd’, but that didn’t feel right. After several months I hit on the following: My account on Twitter is mrawdon, and I realized I could capitalize it like “MrAwdon”, in theory pronounced like “Mister Awdon”. That felt a little clever and a little more sensical, so that’s what I went with.

It’s worked out… okay. A couple of Twitch streamers end up calling me “Mister”, which is a little odd but at least a name they’re not stumbling over. So I think I’ll stick with it for a while.

(Why didn’t I go with ‘rawdon’? Mainly because it’s already taken on Twitch and on Twitter, and maybe even on Arena. It’s an uncommon name, but common enough that it’s already taken in many online sites.)

I wish Twitch did what Discord does, which is allow you to choose a default handle, but then to customize your display name for each channel. I’d definitely make use of that by having a recognizable handle for Twitch channels who know me from other area (e.g., who I interact with on Twitter, or support on Patreon), but having something else for most streams where they have no reason to know me.

Anyway, maybe too many words about too small a subject. I bet hardly anyone else ever worries about this sort of thing.

1 Kids, ask your parents what a ‘listed phone number’ is.

Lurching Into Autumn

http://www.fascinationplace.org/2021/10/17/lurching-into-autumn/

https://www.fascinationplace.org/?p=9486

It’s been a little while since I last wrote here. Well, of course I have two or three mostly-written entries which maybe I’ll put up sometime, or maybe I’ll decide they’re kind of dumb since I don’t have the forward progress which made me write them in the first place. We’ll see.

The first half of October has been the Bay Area slowly lurching into Autumn. Some cool weather, then the last two days temps in the 80s, and today it cooled off into the 60s, and tonight we got out first light rain of the season (with a couple more days forecast over the next week). It wasn’t much, but with California in the midst of another terrible drought, anything helps.

We put up our Halloween lights a couple of weeks ago. I picked up a little smiling grim reaper to add to our (honestly rather small) display- I enjoy Target’s assortment of Halloween decor. Other homes in the neighborhood have been putting up lights too, but there are fewer than there were last year. I think we’ll be able to do a closer-to-normal Halloween night for trick-or-treaters this year, though we’ll likely still take some precautions.

Speaking of normal, we’ve been acting a little more normally lately. For most of the pandemic I was doing the grocery shopping, usually going to the store at 2 pm on a Tuesday to avoid the crowds. Now we’re back to going on Sundays after going to the farmer’s market. We’ve also gone out to eat a bit more, though always eating outside, and trying to avoid the craziest times for the crowds. Last night we had an early dinner at Cascal, which was great.

We lost another local restaurant, although this was a branch of a chain, Opa!, which was a place I enjoyed ordering lunch. They’d had a Help Wanted sign up for a while before they closed, so I wonder if they closed because they couldn’t get staff. And today our nearby Starbucks closed at noon due to staffing problems. Hopefully we’ll see businesses raising wages more soon to attract workers. They’ll have to, because I think there’s a worker shortage because of people who have to stay home due to COVID.

We’ve gotten together with friends a couple more times – including a last-minute visit to some friends who brought out their copious selection of gin for us to try. We also bought new patio furniture which we were able to enjoy for a few weeks, but we’ll likely cover it up soon with more rain coming up.

And my nemesis, the sycamore tree that shadows our front yard, is starting to drop its leaves. Which means I’m going to be raking through New Year’s. I do like that tree, though.

So that’s the news here, such as it is. I hope the couple of dozen people who stop by here when I post are doing well.