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Another Reason People Might Be Naming Their Kids Apple Or Bacon
Kevin J. Delaney writes in The Wall Street Journal that it's a Google thing:

Before Abigail Garvey got married in 2000, anyone could easily Google her. Then she swapped her maiden name for her husband's last name, Wilson, and dropped out of sight.

In Web-search results for her new name, links to Ms. Wilson's epidemiology research papers became lost among all manner of other Abigail Wilsons, ranging from 1980s newspaper wedding announcements for various Abigail Wilsons to genealogy records listing Abigail Wilsons born in the 1600s and 1700s. When Ms. Wilson applied for a new job, interviewers questioned the publications she listed on her résumé because they weren't finding the publications in online searches, Ms. Wilson says. (See Google results for Abigail Garvey and Abigail Wilson.)

So when Ms. Wilson, now 32, was pregnant with her first child, she ran every baby name she and her husband, Justin, considered through Google to make sure her baby wouldn't be born unsearchable. Her top choice: Kohler, an old family name that had the key, rare distinction of being uncommon on the Web when paired with Wilson. "Justin and I wanted our son's name to be as special as he is," she explains.

In the age of Google, being special increasingly requires standing out from the crowd online. Many people aspire for themselves -- or their offspring -- to command prominent placement in the top few links on search engines or social networking sites' member lookup functions. But, as more people flood the Web, that's becoming an especially tall order for those with common names. Type "John Smith" into Google's search engine and it estimates it has 158 million results. (See search results.)

For people prone to vanity searching -- punching their own names into search engines -- absence from the first pages of search results can bring disappointment. On top of that, some of the "un-Googleables" say being crowded out of search results actually carries a professional and financial price.

If you really want an advantage, change your name altogether to start and end with A. You usually get listed first in a list of names -- or get called first you're up for an award with a group of people. It can be a bad thing if you're up for the firing squad, but let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Posted by aalkon at May 17, 2007 11:49 AM

Comments

Yeah, "Paul Hrissikopoulos" is almost a UUID since the "Hr" is the result of an Ellis Island mistransliteration, so when I first got on the web back in the mid-90's I was shocked and disturbed to discover that there's actually another Paul Hrissikopoulos out there. And worse, my doppelganger is both richer and handsome-r, the bastard. Fabio with an M.D. On the other hand, at least I can always blame that insipid "Fix my 688" petition signature on him.

At the other end of the spectrum, my old film school buddy has been lost to me since '94 since his name happens to be "Phil Smith", alas.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at May 17, 2007 8:19 AM

Let me get this straight: I'm supposed to change my name to Mopdleiskifakoy because Human Resources is too goddamn lazy to pick up a phone? When confirming the credentials of potential employees is their ENTIRE JOB?

HR is getting to be as useless and incompetent as airport security. It's bad enough that hiring decisions are overly dependent on credit reports and background checks (God forbid you get a mistake in one of those). They're not even calling references anymore. But now they can't be bothered to check anything that isn't in the first page of Google hits? And people are supposed to enable this sloth by making life-altering decisions about their very identity?

By the way, I had no difficulty finding Abigail Wilson's epidemiology research papers on Google.

Posted by: Gary S. at May 17, 2007 8:51 AM

I found only 2 matches for my name-one for my original name, and one for my post-marriage name. The first one is a famous German artist (nice looking mature lady), and the second is a Finnish trucker (kinda hot in a Scandinavian tough way).

Posted by: Chrissy at May 17, 2007 8:59 AM

I’ve been considering changing my first and middle moniker to Rat Damn. The monogram stays the same, it’s unique, and would look good on the headstone someday. I hadn’t even thought about a web search.

Posted by: Roger at May 17, 2007 9:51 AM

Usually, you just need to know how to search.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 17, 2007 10:15 AM

I would have liked a more original and less cutesy first name. Something that didn't end it "ee." Amy! Stacey! Poopsy! Sigh.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 17, 2007 10:43 AM

Course, all these original-name types get tortured as children and usually hate their names for a while. Hey Kohler, you're a faucet! Faucet-head Kohler! Do you leak, Kohler? etc. etc. I got the normal name in my family, my brothers the weird ones. They like 'em a lot now, though. I think when you're a kid, the last you want to do is stand out, but when you're older, you appreciate being different.

And to Gary S., certainly you must realize by now that the primary job of H.R. is to make more work for other people without making a meaningful contribution to the primary mission of the business, right? A friend works for a small company run by a woman who's married to a retired H.R. director - he's stepping in to "help" the business by organizing long and pointless meetings which prevent people from actually getting things done, and by creating a detailed employee handbook - for a company that employs fewer than 10 people!

Posted by: justin case at May 17, 2007 11:10 AM

Re: the "A" surname advantage thing...I have no idea if Woody Allen did it on all his films, but I do remember one ending with an oddly prominent reference to "Cast Listed In Alphabetical Order" - as if it was some careful contractual compromise - followed by a lot of black screen - then, obviously - Woody ALLEN.

(The audience obligingly fell about.)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 17, 2007 11:35 AM

And to Gary S., certainly you must realize by now that the primary job of H.R. is to make more work for other people without making a meaningful contribution to the primary mission of the business, right?

Lately, I've come to believe that HR's goal is to make sure that absolutely no applicant gets through the screening process. This ensures that the company will always have jobs to fill, which in turn ensures that the entire HR department will have job security. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Posted by: Gary S. at May 17, 2007 12:35 PM

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