My name is just common enough that I hear about “me” doing some really interesting things, like singing with Derek TrucksÂ (well, he spells his name differently, but it sounds the same).Â Today, however, was a first.Â The mail brought me reprints sent by a scholar at a different law school, acknowledging that my work has influenced hers and is cited in it.Â Since I’ve never heard of the author (she doesn’t write or teach in IP), I looked this up.Â Â It turns out that she cited the “Mike Madison” who writes and farms outside of Sacramento, California and who is the author of a law journal piece from a fewÂ years back titled, “A Place in the Country: Rural Dwellings and the Paradox of Rurality.”Â (And not Professor Michael Madison, who I have never met.)Â It’s an understandable and innocent mistake, and good for a quick laugh.Â
Of course, I’ve heard of all these people before, as well as Michael Madison the CEO of Cleco, Inc.Â and Michael Madison the filmmaker and Michael Madison the IT guy.Â And I’ve never heard from any of them, but I imagine that they’ve heard of me.
Little of this would be possible without … Google.Â Google Alerts seem to enable a kind of differentiation and aggregation of name-based identity that is distinctive to the Internet.Â When I started teaching years ago, right away I learned about the other Professor MM; he’s in the AALS Directory.Â When he started teaching at Columbia, the university’s IT department contacted me about setting up network access.Â (Guess I’ll have to give that up now!)Â But the others only came into my outer orbit via those occasional, automated notes that let me know that someone has mentioned my name in cyberspace.
Â Don’t worry about my singing or my farming.Â Never going to happen.
Getting Google Alerts about the wrong person with your name is a common problem. There are lots of ways to reduce these false alerts. I’ve written up a complete procedure for solving this on my blog:
I hope this helps.
I don’t mind the over-coverage provided by Google Alerts. As strange and occasionally entertaining as it is to follow my own “coverage” online, it is even stranger and occasionally funnier to follow the online life of someone else with my name. Or their name.