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Why (and how) am I changing my online identity?

Posted on October 20th, 2008 by Neil Crosby. Filed under Blog Posts.

Over the last month or so I’ve been slowly but surely beginning my migration of usernames from things like “thevoicewithin” and “workingwithme” to plain and simple “NeilCrosby”. The question quite a few people have been asking me is “Why?”. Some have called it an identity crisis, others have said that it’s a personal branding exercise, but really it’s neither and both.

So why am I changing my online persona? Both “thevoicewithin” and “workingwithme” are personae that I’ve had and loved but ultimately, like so many other usernames I’ve had before, they’re having to go. I’ve been using “thevoicewithin” since about 2001, when I started university, and moved on to “workingwithme” in 2004 when I was getting ready to leave and find my way into the big wide world of work. Both usernames have held an important place in my heart, but ultimately they don’t say anything about who I am.

“NeilCrosby”, I think, does. After all, it’s my name. It’s the one thing about me that I am unlikely to change during my life, and I’m now at a point in my life that the things that I do online I’m perfectly happy to have associated with me by name. It’s also obviously a lot easier to tell people “I’m NeilCrosby on such and such a site”, rather than having to try and remember which one of the three names I was using when I joined which particular site.

So, I’m changing my usernames across the internet.

Changing your Usernames

Obviously, the most important thing in this post is how I’m going about changing my usernames on the various sites I use, and how to mitigate the fail that goes along with that.

The easy sites that allow you to simply change your username

  • Twitter allows you to change your username willynilly whenever you want. Just go to the “Settings” section and type in a new username. As long as it’s not already been taken then you’re good to go.

    One thing to bear in mind when changing your username on twitter is that any tweets that people have ever @linked to your old username will end up pointing into nothingness. Twitter doesn’t perform any sort of redirecting from those old links to your new username.

  • X-box Live lets you change your gamertag if you pay 800 Microsoft points. You have to do this on your X-Box itself.

    Apparently if ten people say your gamertag offends them though, you are “allowed” to change your tag without paying, so if you want to change without paying, that might be an option.

  • Upcoming lets you change your screen name, nice and easily, and because all Upcoming URLs are numerically based, you won’t lose any linkage like you do with Twitter.

    Just log into your account, and go to the “My Account” section. Edit your personal profile, and then choose the “Screen Name (change)” link. Change your name, and you’re all done.

  • Brightkite is easy. Just go to account settings, and then change your username.

The slightly more annoying sites

  • Delicious doesn’t allow you to change your username directly. Instead, you can export your links from one account (don’t forget to include your tags). You can then create a new account and re-import those links.

    I’ve noticed two things that go missing when you do this. Firstly, if you’ve set up a network of friends then you’ll lose these. I had about 30 people in my network, and it took about 10 minutes to re-add them all. The real upset here comes with trying to get them to re-add you with your new username.

    The other thing that ends up MIA when you re-import your tags are any tag bundles that you’d previously set up. I haven’t yet got round to re-setting up my bundles, so obviously they weren’t that important to me.

The sites I want to change my profile on but can’t yet

  • Flickr. I have over 2000 photos on flickr, and god only knows how many comments. I don’t want to have to lose all this with an export and re-import. Neither do I want to start again. But, there’s no option to change my URL. indeed, back when I set it up three years ago, Flickr warned that was the case so I can’t complain too much.

  • Technorati. Again, no option to change my username. I don’t have any contacts on the Technorati system, so it’s entirely possible that I could nuke from orbit and restart. But how happy is Technorati with changing a claim on a blog from one person to another?

  • TheTen Word Review is completely under my control, but short of me making a database change there’s no way for anyone to change their username. I’m going to have to add this feature at some point soon.

So, there you have it. Consolidating your online identity might not be massively easy all the time, but it is doable. The sites mentioned above are only the ones I’ve looked at as yet. If you’ve had any interesting experiences doing this yourself, let me know.

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4 Responses to “Why (and how) am I changing my online identity?”

  1. I’ve recently gone through a very similar ‘realignment’ of my online identity (from lloydyweb to paulrobertlloyd) – and faced many of the same problems you have.

    The Flickr case is especially annoying. Although I can understand the reasoning behind their decision (i.e. Don’t Break The Web), Flickr could have easily ensured that users numeric IDs (ending with @N00) were used for link backs and in code snippets they provide etc.

    Unlike you, and given my extreme anal retentiveness, I am considering setting up a new Flickr account and re-uploading all my photos! The cost (monetarily and in the time it will take to do so) however is meaning this task is forever languishing at the bottom of my to-do list!

  2. Re-uploading the photos is the easy part of moving a flickr account though. It’s the comments that I would be loathe to lose.

  3. @Neil – It also depends on how many photos you have, and how many you manually geotagged..!

  4. @Andy – good point re the geotagging – I’d completely forgotten about that. I’m currently at 1114 out of 2123 items geotagged – not something I’d want to have to end up reimporting, but still replacable, unlike the comments.

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