A Different Kind of Identity Theft

by keif on October 6, 2008

You know – I’m so vain. It’s like looking into a mirror online, and sucking in all the beauty that is the information super highway – to you young’ns that’s what we called the Intertubes back in the day – through a wonderful tool called Google Alerts.

I’ve got an addiction, and it feels so good.

It starts out with subjects – I follow ATG, Arts Technology Group, Mootools and jQuery.

I get flooded with the latest news and blog postings around those topics because they interest me, and, I suppose, naturally, after hearing a lot of people talk of googling themselves, I set up a google alert on my name: Keith Baker to see what’ll come up.

In the ideals of personal branding I tend to most of my online diction and commenting under keif because there are quite a few Keith Baker’s that me beat in terms of popularity (like the Yale Physics Professor working with CERN, a Dungeons and Dragons Author, a drummer (who also a a Japanese fan site?), a photographer, a children’s book illustrator) – so I set up an alert on that, as well – this way I know most often if my real name creeps up in an alert it deserves a lot more attention.

So what’s the point? A quick shill for Google Alerts? No, I bring this up, because an interesting alert fell into my inbox today – Silliman’s blog post about Issue 1, a 3,785 page e-book of poetry. Wow. With 3,164 authors, you’re sure to find something you like, right?

Well, as it turns out, a lot of people published in this book are finding out they’re in this book for the first time (plagiarism!) – except, perhaps captured most eloquently by Silliman:

Ed Baker put it so elegantly in the comments stream to For Godot,

I DIDN’T FUCKING WRITE THIS GARBAGE!

As I certainly did not write the text associated with my name on page 1849. And I doubt seriously that my nephew Dan wrote the one-line poem associated with his name in here either

Now, as is pointed out in the comments, it’s possible that the “author” of said shit poem may merely be – by chance – someone who happens to also write poetry and has your name.

Someone later points out the possibility of an automated script being the source – the author may be crediting the original authors as more of a “tribute” or perhaps suffers from a misplaced decimal in the code (hey, it happens – ‘feet instead of meters’).

So what can you do to control this? Cease and desist? Threaten litigation that your shiny reputation as a poet could be tarnished being associated with some crap tagged with your name? I know I’m not a poet, but I figure on ecould make a few assumptions…

If no one asks – does it matter?

People in this world exist with the same name. Someone else can write poetry with your name and get it published – you may think they suck, but they’re published and you’re not (or may not be). If you have one iota of fame, I have a feeling that you have an established style or diction – people who are your fans will no doubt read something attributed to you incorrectly and either think you’ve quit smoking pot and switched to heroin, or that this isn’t you.

The point is – let it go! Life’s too short to be worked up over an automated program/persons/whatever incorrectly attributing crap poetry to ‘your name’ and NOT YOU DIRECTLY. If you advertise when you publish (“I’m in this journal/blog/magazine”), I doubt someone will find a random person’s work (not you, with your name) and assume you just don’t want people to know you wrote it.

Would you be upset if someone, with your name, with your “passion,” started getting attention in your field?You know – I’m so vain. It’s like looking into a mirror online, and sucking in all the beauty that is the information super highway – to you young’ns that’s what we called the Intertubes back in the day – through a wonderful tool called Google Alerts.

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