A Digital Digression, Pt. 1

Before I continue on about the evolution of my portfolio, I wanted to stop a minute to address what’s often called, for lack of a better term, “digital identity”.  In my estimation, this term can encompass a number of things:

  • anything you have created that exists on the web
  • anything your name is attached to that exists on the web
  • account names at services that reflect your true identity (i.e., not done anonymously or under a pseudonym)

For years, I strove to remain anonymous on the Web.  I was much more a consumer than a contributor; my content creation activities were limited to the occasional message-board posting, so it wasn’t really much of an issue.  However, as I shifted from passive to active engagement with online content/participation, I really struggled with the issue of online identity.  On the one hand, I wanted to establish relationships with other educational professionals, but on the other hand, I wanted to maintain a sense of privacy and separation between my professional and personal lives.

As I got more and more involved in the online educational community, I decided that trying to remain anonymous was going to be a losing battle for me, especially as I became more involved in Twitter and blogging.  Although it might work for some, I was reminded of the old maxim, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead” – I didn’t think that I could manage some people knowing who I was, and others not, so I decided to go whole hog in the other direction.  Or, as I put it on Twitter last month:


Dean Shareski has blogged on these topics of privacy and digital identity before, and he and I seem to have similar thoughts about both of these topics.  If I was going to be visible on the Internet, I was going to control what people saw of me as much as I could, starting with domain names. Ironically enough, at a time when separation of the personal from the professional was an issue for me, my thought process regarding my professional identity spilled over to that of my family.

I purchased my last name in both .net and .com flavors, which allowed me not only to create firstname@lastname.net/com email addresses for my whole family, but will also allow me to set up websites with custom subdomains.  If my kids want sites or blogs of their own when they’re older, I can have them set up at dylan.bariexca.net or kiera.bariexca.com in a matter of minutes (although, as Dean pointed out on Will’s post on this subject, this will have to change if she gets married and takes her husband’s name – huzzah for URL forwarding!).  After some further thought, I later decided to also purchase my whole name as a domain.  I pay about $9 (US) per year for each domain name through Namecheap.com.

I’ll continue later this week on what one might do with a domain name once obtained, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this: have you bought your name yet?  If so, any regrets?  If not, why not?  In an increasingly Google-able world, how important is this to you?


  • The value of having your own domain name and using it to do some stuff? Mine’s all made of things indicative of my work and thought processes, and overall I can feel proud of those things. That in general is nothing to sneeze at. More valuably, in a world with zillions of Dan Callahans (me being the 4th in my family!), I’m number one.

    Also, going to EduCon and having people know me and be glad to see me, even though we’d never met in person? Totally didn’t suck.

    Dan Callahan’s last blog post..This week’s comments elsewhere (weekly)

  • Funny. I was just contemplating the very issues you pose in your post over the weekend, as I was setting up my new blog. I wanted to approach things differently this time, and, for me, that meant coming out of the shadows, and revealing my true identity. For me, authenticity comes with posting my real name. Mind you, this isn’t a judgement on those who choose to remain anonymous. I did that for over two years. So, each person has to find her own way, and discover her own voice in the process.

    As for purchasing a domain name, the current host of my blog, squarespace.com, offers me the option to do so. I’m am considering it.

  • Well worded. I’ll be using this post in my talks/workshops on identity. Thanks.

    Dean Shareski’s last blog post..In Praise of the Pop In

  • Always thought I owned my name. Now I have to buy it.

    Next thing you know, I’ll have to pay for air to pump up my car tires.

    But one legit question: how is morgan.rodoff.com a subdomain of ken.rodoff.com? Seems like a totally different site.

    ken’s last blog post..the photo album

  • (Commenting away from home; don’t remember my login info!)

    @Dan: Great point about distinguishing yourself and your accomplishments from, say, those of Dan Callahan the painter or Dan Callahan the accountant (or the Dan Callahan who had bit parts in Spider-Man 2 and 3!).

    @Marcy: Would love to hear about your journey, either here or on your blog.

    @Dean: Much obliged! Always happy to contribute something to the mix.

    @Ken: Both of your examples would be subdomains of http://www.rodoff.com. The anatomy of the address is {subdomain}.{domain name}.{top-level domain}. So in your examples, both morgan and ken would be subdomains, rodoff would be the main domain name (or hostname; I’m not entirely clear on the etymology), and com would be the TLD.

    Damian’s last blog post..A Digital Digression, Pt. 1

  • er, and just to clarify, subdomains can indeed be totally different sites. I can have joe.schmoe.com pointing to a WordPress site and mary.schmoe.com pointing to a wiki and http://www.schmoe.com just a plain HTML landing page.

  • I’ve done the same thing, for many of the same reasons that all the others have, and recently have had the great fun of using my boora.ca domain to share images of my daughter (yes, I’ve also thought about when she gets married and if I have no sons, boora.ca will be likely inherited by my nephew). But I’ve also added my alias recently as I’ve felt the need to not only protect my real name, but my “handle/alias” as well. To that end, I’ve added idarknight.ca and idarknight.com to my stable of domains as well.

    Raj’s last blog post..Hashing out a song among tweets

  • […] get more comfortable with the idea of being online outside the familiar confines of Facebook.  I’ve said before that I feel transparency is the best way to go, but everyone’s got a different take on the […]

  • […] written about some of these ideas before.  For more on domain names and digital identity, see here and here.  For a slightly-outdated-but-still-reflective writeup on how I developed the first […]

  • […] know it might seem narcissistic, but to me it’s more about hashing out my understanding of digital identity and the digital footprint to which I contribute almost daily.  My two biggest concerns at this […]

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