Of Handles and Real Names

Let me just start by saying that I am an incredible hypocrite when it comes to handles vs. real names. I hate handles. Now that you are probably questioning my sanity, let me explain.

Again, I hate handles. I despise them. I desire nothing more than to tear away the shroud of anonymity that has been cast amongst the internet by these so-called digital names. Yet, I realize that some desire that anonymity. In fact, some may require that anonymity.

I do not require the anonymity of my handle (), but I feel as if I cannot survive without it. I began my career as MacManX. MacManX made a name for himself as a support forum volunteer and a contributing editor for MacMerc.com. In fact, I doubt that Chris would have recognized me from our days on the Mac Browser Board if it weren’t for my handle. But, what about “James Huff”?


According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, James has been the 15th most popular male baby name over the past 20 years. What can I do to separate myself from the the rest of the bloggers who are know as “James”? I need my handle, and I wish that I had a unique name, like Khaled and Angsuman.

Then again, Chris and Michael both have names which are more popular than “James”.

Again, I hate handles. If you are on my blogroll, then you probably don’t have a handle. As some of you may know, I prefer to link to other bloggers by first name only (first and last if I need to distinguish between two similar first names). I want to know those on my blogroll by their first name, and I want everyone to know me by my first name, but I can’t leave my handle.

Am I an Inksmith? Probably not, and that’s the challenge that I find myself facing these days. I needed my handle to get me as far as I am today, but I will need to leave it behind if I want to go any further. I just can’t bring myself to let go of it right now.

Am I an Inksmith? I may never be an Inksmith, though I do dream of being one. Being an Inksmith is not about belonging to a club or network. It’s about being a special human being. It’s about putting a name behind the blog, and a face behind that name. MacManX will never be an Inksmith, but some day, James may be.

~ James Huff (aka MacManX)

P.S. If I have offended any of you, please accept my most humble apologies.

14 thoughts on “Of Handles and Real Names

  1. I’ll agree with the handle situation… its something that people remeber… its basic branding of yourself. No point in doing a search for Ken McGuire on the internet, you’ll get a million entries about FBI agents, photographers, tuba players….

    But when you carve your identity and your name, the anonymity isn’t a factor. People will eventually learn that MacManX is James Huff, though you won’t be remembered for James Huff altogether. You travel in enough circles, talk to enough people and its bound to get personal at some stage.

    Of course the other side of the coin is, what if you had started out as ‘James Huff’ without the need to create an alter internet ego in MacManX? If it had been James Huff who started out making 7 million posts as a support forum volunteer, would people associate the same view with ‘James Huff’.

    You could have some guy walk up to another JH going, “yeah, i saw all the help you put in at this cool forum online”, guy goes “hell, it wasn’t me..”, first guy replies “must be the cool james huff so…”

    I guess what I want to say is that everyone is unique, and can make a name for themselves, handles can be a proverbial pain given their variation and I’ll try steer clear of them – but when you make your name with the handle, theres no turning back.

    Still envision using MacManX on a blog in your 60s?

  2. Ken, thank you for the kind words. You do raise another valuable question, “Still envision using MacManX on a blog in your 60s?”

    I remember reading a comic in a newspaper where two old and wrinkled individuals were sitting across from each other. Both were covered in badly disfigured tattoos and body jewelry. The only dialogue is the line spoken by the old man on the right. He says, “I see that you were hip in the 90s too.”

    I don’t want to be like that. I certainly won’t be covered in tattoos and body jewelry, but I don’t want to be a 60 year-old man who is known only as “MacManX”.

  3. No worries. Does make for an interesting point though, could be something to bring up for debate amongst other internet folk! Most people only ever remember the usernames or screennames/handles. Working for an internet company in the past I can still refer to customers I would have spoken to and remembering their cases only by their handle, even though I would address them by their first name once each of us knew who we were talking to.

    But in post-meeting conversation with anyone else working there you would always end up saying, “yeah, was talking to CyberDog32 today….”

    Funny what sticks…

  4. I never considered Ballpoint to be a handle as much as a column name — I’ve always had my real name up on the website — I thought you did, too, but I can’t find anything but “James” right now.

    Back when I was trying to get picked up by our newspaper, I wasn’t trying to be anonymous as much as I was trying to be clever. Sometimes I wish I didn’t put my real name out there, because it limits what I can write about, or how i can write about it.

    Didn’t you used to have an “About” page with your name on it? I kind of remember one — or was that was another MacManX?!

  5. Ken, I have to agree with you there. “MacManX” is easier to remember for most than “James”, so I may never be able to truly escape it.

    Bonnie, I never thought of “Ballpoint” as a handle for you. Maybe it’s because of the exposure that your real name gets from both your blog and domain, but I have used “Bonnie” for your name since day one. Perhaps my real name needs more exposure on MacManX.com. The only mentions of “James” on this blog are a few scattered posts and “MacManX.com is Copyright © 2004-2005 by James Huff” in the footer. I haven’t had an “About” page, but that is a good idea. The “About” page has been created! Thanks!

  6. “About” pages = good.

    What about inksmith? Why do you dream of being one? Is it like B5? 9Rules? Must you be non-anonymous?

    Just remembered: I do use a handle in the WordPress forum, but only because the forum is Google searchable and I didn’t want the world to equate me with my pleas for help.

    Just had to confess, there. It’s good for the soul.

  7. I only mentioned Inksmith because it ties in directly to the problem that I have with my handle, and because it inspired me to write this post. I would rather be known by my real name, and that is exactly what Inkscape appears to be. Inkscape appears to be a brilliantly assembled network of bloggers who are not afraid to use their names and personalities to give their blogs a more human/social feel. And, the first step to that is not relying on a handle. Have you ever noticed that some blogs feel cold and robotic, while others feel warm and human? Inkscape seeks to capture bloggers who have mastered that warm and human feeling. I don’t necessarily want to be a part of Inkscape. It would be nice, but I at least want to be a master of that warm and human feeling too.

  8. Hmmm. It looks more like a technical group to me. Nary a technical goober in the bunch. I want to try out for it, anyway.

    And if I don’t get into Inksmith, then I shall form a blogger association called “Warm and Human!”

    It shall be known fondly by its acronym: “WAH!”

  9. It’s funny you discuss this, as I’ve been mulling it over for awhile. Granted, I’m a Michael, and those come a dime a dozen, thus the miklb, mikl for michael, b for the bishop, but until this post, I’ve avoided the full last name. Thanks for helping me clear that hurdle. Not that I’ll be dropping the miklb, but I won’t be so afraid of using the last name either.

    Cheers.

  10. James,

    That actually clears one question I wanted to ask you for quite sometime…
    Whenever I referred to you I always wanted to use your actual name. I am never comfortable using any alias nor am I comfortable mentioning someone by their alias. But I thought it may have some emotional significance to you so I abided. From now I will happily refer to you always by your real name 🙂

    This brings to the question of names versus aliases.
    As you surmised 100 years from now you want to be known as The James Huff and not MacManx.
    IMHO: I too think you should start using your real name everywhere. I am sure you will stand up easily and be disambiguated.

    Today we have a new standard for identifcation – by Google search. If I search for “James Huff” in Google your site comes up third. I am sure with more use of your name on your site it will soon be the top site for your name. Anyone searching by your name will easily recognize you.

    BTW: Angsuman is not as unique as you may think (though much more unique than many). There are other Angsuman’s on the internet, some even sharing my last name. However Google haven’t been so kind to them so far as to me.

  11. Thanks, Angsuman! I will do what I can to bring my name out on this blog. I will start by working on an “About” page, as Bonnie suggested, but it will take some time before I am satisfied with the content. The “About” page has been created!

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