Is your online doppleganger a plus or a minus?

Many of us find others with our same name when we Google ourselves. Here are two instances of when the name confusion might not be such a bad thing.

Lately I've been writing a lot about online reputations and how they can affect your career. I've suggested that people Google themselves to see what prospective employers might see. Many people who did this reported finding others with their same name. This can be problematic if the person with your name happens to be, oh I don't know, in the porn industry or is on a Jersey-based reality show.

I kind of got lucky in that respect. My online doppelganger, who actually shows up before me in a Google search, is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania with a list of scholarly writings that is longer than my leg. One is called The Achievement of Scholarly Authority for Women: Trends in the Interpretation of Eighteenth-Century Fiction. (Compare that to one of my writings, Five signs that your layoff-spared job sucks, and I think you can see how I wouldn't object if anyone mixed us up.)

In preparation for this blog, I contacted the other Toni Bowers via email. You have to be careful with that kind of thing-I didn't want her to think I was some kind of stalking weirdo. But she was very gracious, as we Tonis tend to be, and responded to my email. We discussed the hardship of having a name that, particularly in the U.S., is associated mostly as a shortened version of Anthony (despite the "i" ending) and that we've both had to deal with being addressed as "Mister" because of this.

One of TechRepublic's long-time bloggers, Scott Lowe, had an experience with a same-name person that was a little more complicated. The other Scott Lowe was also a technical writer. Our Scott said he was a little concerned at first: "I try to 'manage' my online reputation pretty carefully, so having an unknown out there worried me a bit. I'm very lucky in that he's actually a brilliant, likeable guy so if a potential employer confuses us, I don't have anything to worry about."

He actually met his doppelganger in person at Gestalt IT's Tech Field Day in Boston last May, where the other Scott was one of the EMC presenters.

"All the way there on the bus, everyone was wondering if there would be a world-ending paradox. The first ten minutes of our presentation time were spent getting pictures taken and talking to people about the whole situation. It's pretty neat actually. Like I said, he's a heck of a nice guy, brilliant—and I mean that—and a good resource. So, it could be worse!"


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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