Something that’s really been narking me for some time now, is the lack of name variability on the web, and in particular on social or community sites.
When I first registered on Facebook, it really brought it home to me. My networks before then had been purely professional, so I only needed to use my current name. I emailed the support and asked how I could incorporate my maiden name (I’m divorced, and Driver was my married name). They said there was no way around this, other than to call myself Thayer Chappell Driver. Which does rather suck somewhat. I would also hazard a guess that this would mess up search results for Thayer Driver, seeing as how they clearly haven’t thought about how to incorporate previous names.
So my problem is thus: I was Thayer Chappell until I was 23, and then I got married and became Thayer Driver. During my marriage my career took off quite nicely, and so in London I am known more as Thayer Driver, than Thayer Chappell. However, everyone I went to school with, worked with or indeed knew pre-marriage and subsequently lost touch with (as you do) wouldn’t know me as Thayer Driver.
I guess I am luckier than most; you don’t meet too many Thayer’s – so if you tie some of my geeky interests and photos with the Thayer part, you could probably work out it’s me.
Another angle is I know at least two people who have been kind enough to share with me their current name is not the name they were born with. These are both males, who chose to change their first names for personal reasons in their late teens. Like me, they wouldn’t want to have their birth name, plus their chosen name on such sites – but people from school, and anyone else from before they decided to change their names wouldn’t know it was them.
Seems to me like a massive oversight from these sites, I don’t know of a single one that allows you to be found through metadata or any other clever means of past names. When you think about all the women whose names have changed through marriage and divorce, possibly multiple times, that is a *lot* of the population. Then add on all the people who choose to change their name for their own reasons, and you’re suddenly left with a startling number who the social web is actually pretty broken for.
I’d be really interested to hear if anyone is developing a service that incorporates personal metadata that can be searched on but not displayed, and also anyone else that’s either found this to be a problem. Maybe you’ve even found a way around it? I’d love to know 🙂
Is this the fallout from lack of user testing across the real social landscape? I often find in my own experience that social services aren’t being built or tested with a variety of typical social users. Perhaps this is a symptom?
Perhaps there is a service just dying to be built here, where you can register your current and past names and places of work. Then you associate that with your openId and it slots onto all the social networks. If you want to build this please feel free. I’ll be happy with just a a coffee and a credit 😉