Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Personal Branding Part I: Wonsungi

A few of the monkeys I started drawing and collecting to go with my username.
I initiated my quest for a personal online ID over sixteen years ago. While teaching myself computer programming, I discovered the demoscene. Mesmerizing pieces of audio-visual digital art, demos were often signed by their authors with "handles", or pseudonyms. As an aspiring programmer, I desired a cool handle like "Abyss" or "Psi".

My real name, "John", was too common. In fact, once there were four John’s in my grade school class of twenty-four students. Even "John Murphy" was fairly common. There were at least six other students named John Murphy enrolled at my university. Later, while employed at both Lockheed Martin and Microsoft, I got numerous e-mails and some phone calls that were intended for some other John Murphy. Also at airport security I was inevitably always delayed due to some naughty John Murphy from Ireland.

I sought a unique handle, but finding a good one proved difficult. Of course, uniqueness alone is easy to satisfy: a UUID like “4eb1e001-3ef2-4172-9d17-2dd1e8c9dc8b” would have suited. In addition to being unique, I preferred my handle to be short, memorable, and have a personal connection to me. I dearly wished to avoid tacking on a suffix to a username that was already taken. The memorability and personal connection requirements were the toughest to fulfill. For one of my first demo projects, I used the handle "DbZ". It was short for "Division by Zero", a computer error that plagued the development of that demo. Not keen on naming myself after inept programming, I constantly kept my eyes and ears open for a decent handle. I toyed with names from mythology like "Daedalus" and "Icarus"; however, too many others already had the same idea… While on a trip to Disney World I considered using "Figment". I came up with hundreds of ideas, but none of them were satisfactory.

Around 1999, I settled on a username I would use for the next eight years. My friends called me a "monkey" because I tended to climb on top of things instead of walking around them like most people. "Monkey" was far too common a username, but I looked it up in my Korean-English dictionary: "Wonsungi". The Romanization of the Korean word for monkey was almost perfect: short, descriptive, and largely unused by others.

As I used the "Wonsungi" handle I realized there were some problems. Although "Wonsungi" was largely available as a username on most sites, it was already taken on major sites like Yahoo.com. The two registrations I coveted most were the wonsungi.com domain name and Twitter username. Secondly, spelling out my unique email address ([email protected]) to people got old. The last straw was dropped when my swing dance club refused to let me use "Wonsungi" as a nickname. Apparently it has a derogatory meaning in Korean. Due to these problems with the handle "Wonsungi" I finally retired it.

The story behind my new, current handle will be the topic of the next post, but the astute reader probably already knows what the handle is…

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