The Halavis Virus

I just googled a mis-spelling of my name. No, this isn’t something I do every day. Google seems to have done away with many of their spelling corrections. It used to be, if you Googled the word “colour,” it asked if you meant color–something I pointed out in the draft of my search engines book. Unfortunately, Google has fixed this (bastards!). I haven’t decided whether to leave the reference and note that it was historically true (probably), or if I’ll yank the whole discussion.

Anyway, in this process, I was trying to trigger the spellchecker to come in, so I used “Halavis” which, in the past, has led to a suggestion of the correct spelling: a pretty nifty thing for someone who gets his name messed up often. Unfortunately, it does not make that suggestion any more. Despite “Halavis” being the name of an Argentinian textile manufacturer, and a rare surname, most of the links in the first few pages of Google results are references to me. So, I tried another common mis-spelling–Havalais–with the same result.

Now, on the one hand, I am not one of those people who gets overly upset when people can’t say my name, or spell it. Frankly, I am just happy that most of the time they have something nice to say about me. Heck, I’m even happy when they have something not-so-nice to say, since I’m glad to have people disagree with me. When my former chair, after five years in the same department, still introduced me as “Havalais,” I may have inwardly winced slightly, but it really wasn’t a big deal, I thought.

But as I look over the list of “Halavis,” I wonder whether he is better known than I am. And more importantly, I wonder whether so many references to my mis-spelled name encourages its continued growth. If you think to yourself “I read this article by Lackaff and whats-his-name” and a Google search yields “Halavis,” not once, but multiple times. When the journal Serials Librarian spells it that way, as does a recent co-author on her vita, and any number of my students, does it mean I should be more vigilant in defending (the spelling of) my name? Should I be “that guy” who gets huffy when people mangle his name? Or better yet, should I just go the “Sting” route and start going by just “Alex” or maybe “Alex H” or “Alex the Amorphous”?

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  1. Posted 3/13/2008 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a pricey suggestion, get into OpenID, domain squat on the misspellings and setup URL redirectors. People are using Google and Facebook as LDAP substitutes. Heck I even got a Facebook fan page for myself (it’s not about ego), just to get first placing in Facebook search results. I missed the boat for shy by a week, so lesson learned there. Fortunately googling “Kevin Lim” still puts me up as the top results thanks to my blog. Don’t leave identity to fate; Take control of it!

  2. Posted 3/13/2008 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    At least you’re the only Ha(lav|val)(a)is in your line of work (I think?)… My anagram is also a colleague, which regularly leads to all kinds of confusion – though admittedly we also once co-edited a journal issue, just to really mess with people’s minds. (Then there’s the other Axel Bruns, who is a Burma scholar – probably not much risk of confusion there.) Maybe we need unique Digital Scholar Identifiers, similar to DOIs…

  3. alex
    Posted 3/13/2008 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Kevin: Many years ago I actually bought a Google ad on the mis-spellings, but they changed the way they priced ads so that it was no longer possible. It was fun, though, since I got a metric of how often various misspellings were searched.

    Axel: I always thought it was pretty cool you had an anagramous soul, and even cooler that you co-edited. Though, yes, I do recall confusion during the prep for the Brisbane thing. Actually, I think some people got the two of us confused, as well, as I got called Axel over email more than once.

  4. Posted 3/14/2008 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    …wait a minute — you and Axel aren’t the same person? Now I’m really confused! ;-)

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