What\’s in a Name? (Or a Nmae?)

Ego surfing: Every net user does it, either occasionally or obsessively. For me, it’s a routine daily task that I handle automatically through a collection of search feeds (that’s an OPML file) which clue me in to new online postings or conversations where my name or my projects have popped up.

My ego-surfing search feeds recently delivered a couple of gems which display some intriguing intricacies of name-based ego surfing…

First of all, ego surfing is easier if you have an unusal name.

In my case, my last name (Gahran) is fairly unusual. (Here’s how to pronounce it.) Pretty much anyone who has that last name is related to me somehow – and none of my relatives, on my father’s side at least, appear to be nearly the online maniac I am. So searching any search engine (like Google) or feed aggregation service (like Technorati) for “Gahran” will mostly yield references to me.

However, people often misspell my last name – usually substituting the more common “Graham” (especially when I’m making restaurant reservations), but also sometimes mispelling it as “Garhan.” Blogger Garhan Attebury took note of this in a Feb. 9 posting, “Boredom Implies Dino-Jesus.”

It occurred to me, when I read Garhan’s posting, that perhaps this particular misspelling might be common enough that I should set up a search feed for it. That has proved interesting.

Here are some people who posted items relevant to me that I would have missed had I not been watching for this misspelling:

Now, I’m not trying to poke fun at any of these bloggers – in fact, I appreciate that they mentioned me. I’m just saying that if I hadn’t kept an eye out for this common misspelling, I’d have missed what they said.

So if your name is frequently misspelled in a particular and somewhat unique way, it might be worth watching for that.


I was amused to discover today that Kai Turner included me in his list of “Powerbloggers”. Here’s how he defines that distinction:

“The criteria for being a Powerblogger is to be the active author of a weblog ranked the highest by Google when searching for that author’s given name. And their given name must be one of the 10 most common names for a man or woman. I’ve used an American list of names, because (at the time) I could not find any other list of names based on current census rather than baby names. …”Falling short on Female Powerbloggers, I grabbed some of the top British women’s names for 3 more name searches…”

My first name, “Amy,” landed me on his list. (I had no idea that was a common British name!) I decided to check out his results. Honestly, I’d figured that “Amy” was so commonplace that it wasn’t worth Googling to see where I landed.

So just for the heck of it, I Googled “Amy.” Guess’s what I found (on the US version of Google, at the moment I happened to look): Contentious was #2 on Google! No kidding, here’s the screen grab. Wow, that surprised me!

I was outranked only by Amy Brown’s Fairy Art. That put me ahead of the Kevin Smith film Chasing Amy, singer Amy Grant, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, and Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

…At least temporarily. I’ve tried that search a couple of times since and the order of the results is slightly different each time, although I remained in the top 10 each time I searched.

Which goes to show, you can’t necessarily use a one-time search engine result to make a definitive statement about any site’s popularity or relevance. It varies moment by moment. So as gratified as I was to be listed as a “Powerblogger,” I don’t think it really means anything. Still, it’s fun.

And for me, fun is the name of the game online. Plus, it’s easy to spell. 🙂

(READ MORE about ego surfing tips at The Right Conversation.)

5 thoughts on What\’s in a Name? (Or a Nmae?)

  1. Amazing that you outranked Amy Grant.

    You would think that an equally “online maniac” with a name like David Leonhardt would have no problem holding down the number one spot (or the entire top ten?)However, I share an uncommon name with a New York Times reporter (even my brother confused us once!) and a band leader (who has Google’s top spot for David Leonhardt” right now).

    For just “David”, I get handily beat out by David Bowie, David Copperfield, David Wilcox, David Suzuki and many others.

    This was a fun post.

  2. Amy, this tip of yours (nmaely, to cehck fro mispellings of a nmae in ego sfruing) comes at a great time for me, since I’ve just been telling our bloggers how to ego surf in style. I forgot to tell them about the misspelling thing! Also, I rushed to Google and tried a search for “easton,” but alas – no ego glory for me. Not yet, anyway.

    Sometimes people don’t misspell, but rather they give you a correctly spelled, but wrong last name – such as Graham for Gahran, as you mentioned. Stowe Boyd referred to me as “Easton Ellis” the other day – and of course, I don’t really care because at least he linked to my site properly!

    Now if only there was a way to return to old comments I’ve left and fix typos …

  3. Unbeliveble, i searched in Google for “Amy” : 142 000 000 results.
    and then i searched for “Oprah” : 19 700 000 results.

    Does it mean you’re more popular than Oprah ? Or simply because there are millions of Amy, and only one Oprah in this world.
    Anyway, thanks for the article

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