Our Fractured Online Identities

Anil Dash has been blogging since 1999. He's a member of the Movable Type team from the earliest days. As you'd expect from a man who has lived in the trenches for so long, his blog is excellent. It's well worth a visit if you haven't been there already. I was recently reading through his 2002 blog recommendations and marvelling at the hardy few who survived through five long years of the internet. The way I figure, that's equivalent to thirty-five people years.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/12/our-fractured-online-identities.html

One of the first 30 weblogs? Right… because until 1998, nobody kept a regularly updated personal web site or anything. Nope… Nobody.

This is the same problems bands have - there’s

…I could name a dozen more.

It would be great to have a client-side html editor that loads into each one of these sites.

I really like it that my online-identity is fractured into hundred small bits.
Can you imagine the privacy-implications of one central marketing company owning every profile about you?

We’ve already got some websites on the net like Gravitar working to solve the uploading avatars on blogs problem, so why can’t this be made slightly for these sorts of community websites?

Welcome to the postmodern condition!

Insightful post.

To some extent, it is a real pain to have several different messengers and different social networks. To another extent, if I post on some forums somewhere, I might not want everyone to know about my personal information.
And blogs that deal in some area, should stay in that area and not post about irrelevant things.

I think in some ways it reflects our decision to only show parts of ourselves to some people and the Internet’s company’s decision to make money with their different products.

I actually have 2 major online identities.
The first, Tom Clarke, is used on Facebook, and other places where people need to know me as me.
The second “deworde”, is used for forums, online games and anything else where my name is irrelevant.

Someone wise once wrote “that’s not writing - that’s typing”. I think, when it comes to blogs, you could add “that’s not living - that’s typing”. Most of the blogs I’ve come across remind me of Geocities - people talking about their pet rabbit, their dumpy girlfriend, and why they prefer this to that brand of shampoo. Coding Horror is, to me, more than just a blog because in some of the articles there is information I can learn from, and I’ll flick through the 3 or 4 other bookmarked IT-related blgos on a roughly weekly basis to see if there’s anything informative there too, but really I think if people spend that much time talking about stuff in 20 or 30 different places they’ve got some sort of problem that needs professional help. It’s a little like vanity publishing, isn’t it?

I’d like to recommend here comes another bubble - an amusing YouTube video - but it keeps getting taken down. Worth searching for though.

I used to have a personal webpage, but I wanted to make one giant website that gave videogame news. However, without knowledge of PHP, updating it was a pain in the neck and none of my friends could contribute. On the way, I learned code that no one used, like how to create gradient background and gloss fonts using CSS.

From Ghost Hunter to Coder ?

Can not help who I am . . .

Its the public that just wants to see one simple personality. I do not hide who I am or what I do, but Ghost Hunters do not want to know about my coding and the coders do not want to know about my Ghost Hunting…

What is my reality identity?
The guy at the job?
The one playing games with friends?
The father of a little family?
The one sitting in the living room in the middle of night reading?

It isn’t that much of a difference.

See http://plaxo.com/

You been reading Scoble? :slight_smile:

As someone who has half a dozen or so online “identities” (really just public accounts at different places), I feel like you’re missing the point.

You ignore that those different online identities are mostly for different purposes. They’re not all for blogging. Most are probably for keeping up with other people who are only on those services (especially the IM accounts, but also social sites like MySpace and LiveJournal). Some (Pandora, Last.fm) are for automatically tracking musical taste and then taking advantage of that information. Some are for pictures and videos. There isn’t one site that does all this, or if there is, there wasn’t when these people set up the various accounts.

Which brings me to my next thought. I doubt that either of these people go to all those different sites on a regular basis these days. First, RSS and other technologies have made is easier to gather updates from various sources at a glance. Second, technologies like OpenID (not to mention plain old corporate mergers, like Yahoo’s purchase of Flickr and del.icio.us) now make it possible to use one site with an account from another site. Someone starting out now might not need to create as many accounts to use all those sites.

Finally, people who’ve been involved in blogging software for so long tend to be both involved personally in various places and employed in ways that make it necessary to have accounts in various places (and participate in them) just for work. If Anil Dash has been part of the Movable Type team, he’s probably employed by Six Apart, which owns many blogging services.

I actually think that the ability to give oneself online identities is in itself more of a boon than a curse.

It allows you to reveal different aspects of your charachteristics to different people in different situations.For that matter, you may even choose to portray yourself as a completely different person than what you really are.

The headache of maintaining all these identities is a small price to pay as compared to how usefull all the identities can be.

It’s just me, myself and I …my ego, my super-ego, my id… my personal life, my professional life, my private thoughts, my happy moments, my sad moments, my social life, my private life, my family life.

We’re not one thing to all people at all times.

There are many facets to any personality. You never display them all at the same time or to the same people. So why not have different parts of the web for the different aspects of your life and personality. It reflects human nature to do so.


More identities are are better than one or few. Having been where I had just a couple - and getting banned at one forum for my sometimes brash and smart-assed opinions bruised my ego far more than I was willing to admit for the longest time. Now I’m only marginally and superficially involved with a small handful. And a lot happier.

I’m seeing a shift from visiting as much sites as possible to using a few high quality websites in my own online life. Personally, I’m really trying to avoid those overhyped online “communities”. Currently, the only forum I’m using is the biggest IT forum in the Netherlands, http://got.tweakers.net/. I’ve a profile there that is strongly linked to my own site. Recently I got a weblog (http://atlex.tweakblogs.net/blog) as a present from the company behind GoT, Tweakers.net, but I customized it so it is more an extension to my own site rather than a separate online PoP.

Many of my friends, colleagues and classmates are using a very overhyped, poor quality piece of junk called Hyves (hyves.nl) to stay in touch with their friends. But if I see a profile there, loaded with pictures of drunk people, poor written messages with spelling errors, and a list of 300 ‘friends’ I’m glad I’m not using it. I think a PoP must reflect who you are, not who you want to be or what you are pretending to be.

Back to the 30+ online communities: If you feel the need to maintain so many online identities, consider this: a) Do I really need to have so many online identities, b), am I really going to use al this sites, and c), do I want to get associated with this site. I think it will be 3x “no” for most of the people.

Ahhh… I smell existential angst. All of your personae are you. Just different aspects of you. No one, (well, no one should be anyhow) a single compartmentalized being. It’s funny really. We as human beings are so great at putting things into little boxes of yes/no, good/evil red/blue/green/yellow/purple, especially in this digital age where everything can be reduced down to ones and zeros. People simply aren’t one sided like that. I also don’t believe that your wife is the only one who sees more to you than just one side, however i also believe there’s more to you than even she witnesses. Things may lurk around hidden inside of you that you do not even perceive yourself.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s the internet’s anonymity and body-less-ness nature that allows the mind to split into these different personae so easily. It’s just too damned simple to create a personality and simply consider it only text. In fact, the internet in general kind of reminds me too much of the Milgram Experiment for comfort.


The further removed the subject is from the consequences of his actions, the less those consequences are perceived, and the less they are deemed real.

I’d worry more if this were the case and you couldn’t tell which of of these kinds of identities were real.

the internet as your article obliquely points out, is very very new, yet is evolving at an alarming and unprecedented rate. I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten years there’s a whole chapter in the DSM-V.