Gaming Google, 20 years before it existed

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Sometime during elementary school, more than 30 years ago, I decided to start using my middle initial, and calling myself Derek K. Miller. I'm not entirely sure why. I was probably inspired by science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke and Ursula K. LeGuin, as well as my dad, who signs his name as J. Karl Miller but goes by Karl as his familiar name to everyone. And I was starting to be asked for my signature on documents: the extra K. added some flourish.

It seems a little snobby and effete to choose to lengthen your name as a prepubescent kid—and I suppose it was when I did it. But that is the age where we start to establish our own identities apart from our parents, and manipulating the names they give us is one means to that end. (My younger daughter is seriously considering having everyone address her by her middle name, for example.)

My decision turned out to be handy a few years down the line, however. When I needed my first university email address, dmiller was already taken, but dkmiller was free, and I've used that as part of almost every email address I've created since, sometimes to my detriment.

In the early days of the Web, my site was the first one you'd find searching for Derek Miller, but that didn't last. Today there are quite a few Derek Millers out there in the Google database. And to find me, you not only have to get past them, but also two separate ones who are musicians like me—though much more famous. One is a new indie sensation, the other is even Canadian (and performed at the Olympics Closing Ceremony here last year). But look for Derek K. Miller, and you still get me.

There's no way I planned that back at the turn of the 1980s, however. Some things just work out.


Because comments are closed on that old post, and this is a story worth sharing...

Email errors have happened to me as well. I have a pseudonym from way back which has its own short punchy gmail address. I get emails for all sorts of people - like you, I see airplane reservations and car quotes and, most recently, online learning course assignments for complete strangers who don't know their own email addresses either.

However. One day I got a (not-spam, clearly sincere) email from a woman saying that she was pregnant, and that she thought it was (his), but couldn't find his phone number after they stopped hanging out but had written down this email. She, you know, thought (he) ought to know. "Call me..."


I wrote back, of course, and let her know gently that I was not the father of her unborn child.

I felt like my middle name was getting left out of the action a few years ago and signed up for a twitter account as harrietglynn. Glynn is my middle name but more people think it's my last name. It feels like a whole new identity.

A word of advice to your daughter - don't go by your middle name! My full name is actually "Mary Elizabeth," but I've always gone by "Beth" as that's what my parents called me (I didn't even know that "Beth" wasn't my real name until my parents were enrolling me in kindergarten which, of course, they had to do using my legal name. Being known by a different name than my legal name (which is on ID, which you are enrolled in school with, etc.) has caused me no end of hassles - having to explain constantly that "Yes, my name is Mary, but I go by Beth" every time I see a new doctor, go to a new school, book a flight, etc., etc. gets old really fast. I have a few friends who go by their second names (all of them because that's what their parents decided when they were born, not because they chose it later in life) and everyone agrees - it's a pain in the butt!

I always thought it was very clever that you called yourself Derek K. Miller. Inspired by Alex P. Keaton, perhaps?

for a brief time, in my junior year of high school, i spelled my name "ljsa". i felt this was different and in homage to my swedish heritage.


My favourite initial is in A. Whitney Brown's joke: "I'm A. Whitney Brown. Not THE Whitney Brown, but hey..."

Derek: Right. So when Google fails, and middle initials fail, we can be secure in the knowledge that there's always recourse to the un-privacy-protected profiles of everybody and their dogs (and their dogs' favourite bands) out there to show us the way. Oh, technology... :)

I remember watching the closing ceremonies, and double taking with the name Derek Miller, it seemed a bit off without the initial, but I waited to get a gaood look to be 100% sure if it was you :-)

I don't recall why I went with the middle initial either. Especially given that my name is already pretty unique. I suppose, as you suggest, it was a small way to establish my identity.

Interestingly, while I use the initial for the by-line on my blog, and for the name on my emails, I don't really use it anywhere else. When I write my signature, I don't include it. The only place I actually write it down is when I need to initial something. And I've always had "mastermaq" as my online brand, so my usernames never include it either.

Anyway, interesting to think about.

yes i made that up. i was in an exotic phase. besides, EVERYONE my age is named lisa. and not just lisa, but lisa MARIE. and i am one year older than elvis' daughter so they were all name after me!!

my step dad always went by L. James Wiczai (hungarian). i like the intial thing. interesting topic as i contemplate the whole name change thing after the wedding. i think i will change it to a hyphen because that seems to help out the clueless people of earth who cant fathom being married and not having the same name, but just leave it the same professionally and all that.

because i am so professional.

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