Figuring out who we are and how to understand, describe, and present that to other people is a tough challenge. People are complex and dynamic, and rarely fit nicely into some category. Do the things we call ourselves influence who we are?
all usually given an identifier at birth, called a name. They aren’t necessarily unique, but often close enough. I am “Andrew Henry Van Wagoner”. This name is supposed to represent all of me.
My name isn’t necessarily static, though. My family & friends have been calling my “Andy” for longer than I can remember, and most of my documents use “VanWagoner” (no space) to prevent software from tokenizing my last name incorrectly. My wife, like many people, legally changed her name when we got married. Though my name has an assigned meaning to it (manly), I doubt most people give it any thought beyond inferring my gender.
When we introduce ourselves, we rarely lead with our full names. “I’m Andy.” Sometimes we include our job function, department, or employer. “I’m Andy from Instructure.” This is where it starts to become more descriptive rather than identifying.
Once connected to the internet, we are given the opportunity to make up our own handle for ourselves. On the internet, nobody knows you are a dog. Am I “thewol” (meaning the warrior of light), or “imnd” (see what I did there?), or “boyz_ii_men_iv_ever”?
In 2005 I dropped my old “firstname.lastname@example.org“ email address for the beta Gmail service as “email@example.com“. I figured I was going to make a career out of writing fiction, so it would be a fun way of introducing myself on subsequent online services. “I’m thetalecrafter.” I don’t remember feeling much attached to my prior “thewol”, so shedding that identity was painless.
It didn’t take long though for my anticipation of a writing fiction career to turn into an actual writing software career. And for more than a decade, I have presented myself with the handle “thetalecrafter”, giving people the impression, you know, that I craft tales.
Justifying this situation to myself wasn’t too hard though, as I did have a book I worked on periodically. And the label I had given myself pushed on me more than anything else to keep this book draft around. Over the years, work on my tales went from occasional (once every few weeks) to practically never (once every few years), and the handle continued to insist that this is who am.
As I used more and more services online, my handle “thetalecrafter” only became more entrenched. Twitter, GitHub, keybase, etc.
During this same time my once exciting email provider, the “do no evil” Google, went from being the shining example of making cool things that make the web better, to the stalker who follows you around, and strong arms the competition into adopting their “standards”.
As I switched from Googling to searching on Duck Duck Go, and I looked to leave behind “thetalecrafter” which beyond being inaccurate, gave me guilt about being the right me, I opted to go back to the name I inherited from ancestors. No matter what else changes in my life, my actual name was always going to be a solid identifier. I registered the domain
vanwagoner.family and setup a matching email address.
Alas, several services I rely on do not think
.family is a valid way to end an email address. So for two years now, I have drug along “firstname.lastname@example.org“ as a backup address. I don’t craft tales, and I don’t like Google.
Finally a straw broke the camel’s back, and I decided it was time to really ditch thetalecrafter. The handle, the email address, and the website (this one). On a whim I was looking at domain names, and found that
vanwago.net was available. That would be a solid alias for
vanwagoner.family, using a TLD that even AOL recognizes. Once I had the domain, I figured it didn’t make a terrible handle either.
Hi, I’m “vanwagonet”. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but I am on GitHub and LinkedIn, and every now and then I write things down on this site. I may spin some tales in the future, but even if I don’t, I’ll still be Andy VanWagoner.