When your name has an unusual spelling -- I'm Jon, not John -- you get used to seeing the wrong variant in print. It's been happening my whole life, and since the dawn of the web it's been happening online, but until recently it was only an occasional thing. Lately, though, it seems like we've reached some kind of tipping point. All of a sudden everyone seems to be spelling my name wrong.
I had a theory about this. If you search Google for "john udell" you'll find that every single result on the first page points to articles I've written. It's the same on Yahoo, Ask, AllTheWeb, and MSN. There's one interesting exception: MSN's second hit is a real John Udell.
Years ago I wondered if search engines would have the unintended consequence of amplifying misspellings. You'd be wondering about "embarass," you'd search for it, you'd find it, your wrong notion would be reinforced, and your publication of a new document containing the misspelling would amplify the effect.
Nowadays it's less of an issue because search engines offer spelling suggestions. "Did you mean 'embarrass'?" Oh, yeah, I did.
My theory was that proper names aren't subject to spelling suggestions, hence the proliferation of John Udells. But apparently that's wrong. If you search Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and AllTheWeb for "Jon Kennedy" they'll all propose "John Kennedy" instead.
So I'm stumped. All I can do is ask the world to spell my name h-lessly. I realize, of course, that publishing this item chock full of Jons and Johns may only further confuse the indexes. Heisenberg would have loved the internet!
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/02/19.html#a1390