Great Minds Think Alike? The Paradox of Online Identity

***Updated below***

Weeks after Archer was born I decided to outline and pitch a column to some online magazines. I brainstormed clever titles and came up with "Childbearing Hipster" which I then proceeded to pitch around. It was rejected aproximately 289183 times so I closed my old blog (pointytoeshoefactory dot com: Prove your pointy) and started a new blog, naming it aptly Childbearing Hipster.

I didn't even think to google Childbearing Hipster at the time. I just went to Blogger, saw that Childbearing Hipster was available and started a blog. Voila!

Of course, it took me all of one week to find out there was another Childbearing Hipster in the blogiverse. I was mortified and felt like a fraud. A thief. Not to mention the fact that I was new to the world of mom-bloggers, which at the time was a much smaller neighborhood.

I promptly changed my name. I came up with several possibilities before choosing and googling the shit out of Girl's Gone Child to make sure I wouldn't make the same mistake. Nothing came up, thankfully and so: (This) Girl's Gone Child was born. My tagline: "welcome to the new-improved titty-flashing all-nighter."

I had an identity all my own. People would come to know me online not as Rebecca Woolf, but "GGC," and I liked it better that way. I had created for myself, a sort of second-skin.

It's pretty obvious to anyone who has been blogging long-term how drastically the blogosphere has changed in the last several years. Next month marks my sixth year blogging and, just, wow! Wow! A small town in cyberspace has become a megalopolis. Of course, as it so happens with a growing population, ideas stale. No one is original anymore. Myself included.

Enter, my paradox.

I have to assume that in the case of the new GGC girls, "great minds think alike," because honestly, if Girl(s) Gone Child was an obvious blogname for me, why wouldn't it be obvious for someone else? I would be a hypocrite if I said anything disparaging. After all, accident or not, the original Childbearing Hipster was nothing but kind to me after my invasion of her territory.

On the other hand, I would be lying if I said I wasn't annoyed to see someone else wearing my clothes and then shopping my name to communities where I am also a member, creating buzz on an already existing identity I have worked two and a half years to create.

My question, then, to you, bloggers, lurkers and lovers, is this: Does online identity matter? To what extent should one go to protect her online "brand," and where does she draw the line where ownership is concerned? If one popularizes a "name" and someone else uses said-name to popularize themselves, is that considered stealing? Squatting? Or simply, sharing?

My mind inquires...

(the orginal) GGC

UPDATED: Thank you for everyone's comments. The girls over at the other GGC site have agreed to change their blogname and URL. Their hospitality is very much appreciated. I think the lesson, here, as several of you suggested in the comments, is to buy up all of your URLs, and those that are similar (if possible). Thanks, again for your support, advice and insight. Kisses on your cheeks.

47 comments:

LD | 6:41 PM

I think you've gotta right to protect your brand, so to speak. In the age of search engine optimization and all that jazz, it seems too coincidental that these two "girls" just happened upon a name that doesn't really make sense- two girls and one "girl" in their title? Plus, they use "celebutards"- which seems a little close to Perez Hilton. Seems like they're either stealing or squatting to me-

The Mommy | 6:48 PM

It seems to me that the creators of the "other" blog did not do any due diligence in making sure they were being original.
You didn't either, at first, but then did, acknowledged it, apologized, and moved on to create an identity by which MANY know you. When entering "girl gone child" the first thing that pops up on Google is your blog. These two women MUST have Googled themselves after starting their blog and found yours first. And saw how long you've been blogging and your popularity. They did not cease and decist, they moved forward and have attempted to steal your mojo.

Thankfully, you are an original, my dear, and your hipster mojo cannot be stolen. Nor can it be diluted.

Anonymous | 7:03 PM

I agree -- it sounds shady and you should protect your unique identity!!

Corey | 7:14 PM

I agree that you need to protect your brand - especially with the book coming out and all. I clicked over and was surprised that there are 2 women writing on that blog. The name makes no sense anyway...

Chag | 7:26 PM

Yeah, you definitely need to protect your identity you've worked so hard to create. I don't really think they intended to "take" your identity, but they did so nonetheless.

You're still the OG GCC.

But I have no idea where you go from here. Have you contacted them?

motherbumper | 7:31 PM

That just doesn't seem right - how couldn't they know by virtue of Google alone? I would be highly suspicious.

Whit | 7:49 PM

It seems a bit unethical, if such a thing as ethics exists in the internets. I like to think that it does.

The thing is, it isn't like it's some new mom doing a small blog on her own that may be ignorant to the community that exists. These women are savvy enough to market the name and be written up on Jezebel (I commented over there too- the Jezebels love me, or hate me, I can't decide), so the idea that they don't know you exist seems like a stretch to me.

sweetb | 8:12 PM

um, MEEEOWWW.. copy cats!! you are the OG... but I guess you have to think, imitation is flattery?? I have a SUPER hard time finding copycats flattering, in fact, I am a flat out biznatch to copy cat moms...but figure that's the "good-mom-ish" thing to say?

Don Mills Diva | 8:21 PM

I'd be pissed off if I were you. That is all.

the end of motherhood | 8:38 PM

Write em a note and if they don't do the right thing, they are really gonna mess with their karma.

foodiemama | 8:43 PM

i had someone do that and then email to let me know, haha. littlefoodies minus the s. it wasn't a big deal to me cause my blog is more of a recipe box for myself and family but its still kind of lame, right given how you can use a ton of search engines and find shit out but whatevs...its lame on their part.

cerebralmum | 8:51 PM

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. There just doesn't seem to be anything genuine about it. I think it's easy to spot the difference between a coincidence and a deliberate ripoff and this looks like the latter to me.

We had a similar issue at a forum I use with someone signing up as "Problogger", (which is a pretty well known name. :) ) Being a forum, we just asked him nicely to change it and installed a block so no one else could do it. Unfortunately, you can't do that with someone else's site.

I don't normally leave links in comments, but you might be interested to read Darren's response to people using his "brand" (he's also a member of the forum) so you can find it at Definitions: Problogger and Problogging.

Overall, while it might gain someone some initial attention and some search engine love, any site worth copying is going to benefit more than they will in the long run. Whenever someone sees that name, they are going to think of you, not the ring-ins. If you want to build an identity on the web, this isn't the way to do it.

And to be honest, I'm being as kind as I can here because really, I just want to go over there and give them a piece of my mind using not very nice words. But I'll restrain myself. :)

S.T. | 10:21 PM

I think it's called "Girl Gone Child" because, from reading their welcome page, only one of them has "gone child," the other is a single party girl.

That said, I think I'd contact them and let them know that you've got dibs on the name and hopefully they will do the right thing and change it.

Melissa | 11:05 PM

Obviously you'll always be the original GGC, but this doesn't seem like a case where sharing will be good for anybody. Protect your brand.

motherbumper | 3:53 AM

After I went to bed last night I sat up and said to myself, I didn't finish when I made my comment (I'm like that, but you already know that). So many have said it after me and Chag said it best: protect your brand, you have worked to hard.

Karen Sugarpants | 5:05 AM

I just don't know how they could not know. I'm with everyone else - protect your brand. If I'm not mistaken, this happened to Styrofoam Kitty some years back and the claws came out. :)
Maybe a simple email will clear it all up - not that that always works, as you know. Hopefully you don't have to get legal on their butts.

Deep Fried Yankee | 5:32 AM

If I had known better (hear this people), I would have grabbed all the urls, including BLOG urls with my domain name.

There's a motherhooduncensored.blogspot.com -- she updates rarely and I haven't asked her to change her blog name.

However, it's in poor taste. Two clicks would get you to my blog if you googled it OR yours (sorry, not about me here). I'd email them... and then snatch up every single related domain name out there.

verybadcat | 6:00 AM

I think you kind of have a right to your "brand", but I also think that being the ultra-hip momma blogger that you are, you have a responsibility to be nice to the new girls on the block. Be firm, but be nice. See if there is anyway they'll change the name and get a new domain. Offer them a link and a signed book copy. Offer not to sic your entire readership on them. Sweeten the deal.

They might be internet-stupid, or just unawares of the rulez. Educate them. Help them come up with a new name.

If none of the works, scratch their eyes out. :)

verybadcat | 6:03 AM

uh, none of that.

metro mama | 6:14 AM

Firstly, don't give them linkage.

You are too well known for it to be an accident. I would craft a letter with a litigious tone.

Michelle | 6:21 AM

I think that you have a right to be a little pissed off! I think in the age that we are in, a simple google search would be in order before you start a new blog! You are the only GGC!

KaritaG | 8:04 AM

stealing, stealing, stealing. I agree with the mommy. if something like this happens, unintentionally, I think us bloggers need to act as you did - and quickly change to some other name and apologize. how do people not know about google in this day and age?! plus how lame is it to not even put some effort into coming up with something original for your blog?! it's not that hard.

Anonymous | 8:24 AM

Ditto on the protect your identity. I'd get legal on their asses with a quickness! Dimunition of value? Infringment? Hello?!

Mrs. Chicky | 8:52 AM

Gotta agree with everyone else. I'd be a bit miffed if this happened to me. But it is a cautionary tale to everyone else, including me. Go grab your URLs while you can.

I say email them and talk it out. They might be cool with changing their name.

tpon | 8:53 AM

I didn't see anyone else mention this, but you also have your book to consider. Your online brand will contribute to your offline brand (at least, they should help each other out)...

Protect yo' Shizit, girl!

Anonymous | 9:01 AM

How dare they. There's only ONE GGC and that is you my dear.

city kitty | 9:23 AM
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
liz | 9:55 AM

Becs - tell those girls to check themselves, before YOU wreck themselves! It's obvious just from scanning their site that they are too smart NOT to have done a google search.

kbeach | 10:08 AM

Ouch Rebecca.. I REALLY feel for you on this one. I would be all up in arms if that happened to me. You need to check these chicks and protect the awesome identity that you have worked hard to create!

mfk | 11:08 AM

I would just email them nicely first of all and tell them that you already grabbed the name... a la Childbearing Hipster... b/c it's possible they really didn't google it. See what they say to the email and if they are bitchy and rude then I think you have full justification to give 'em the same right back :) Obviously you were upset and apologetic for accidentally stealing someone's name... I would think that they should be the same if they really meant no harm. and if they did, well, they suck and you should bitch them out. maybe sic BMC on them :)

Becky | 11:29 AM

I'm weird enough that I get kinda bent out of shape when someone blatantly steals a patented Becky-ism.

So yeah, I'd be kind of annoyed.

Trenches of Mommyhood | 11:39 AM

I read all your comments and I concur with your peeps.

Have you contacted them?
Did you just find out about this?

Please keep us posted!

Anonymous | 12:12 PM
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
caramama | 12:25 PM

I want to ditto what very bad cat said. I think your first communication should be nice and welcoming, but firm in your stance. It could just be a mistake, and notice from you (such a popular blogger) might help them realize the error of their ways. Because they should change their name. I don't think it's something to share.

(And now I'm thinking, "Thank goodness I remembered to google my name before I used it!!!")

Suburban Turmoil | 12:57 PM

I feel for you.

About a year ago, a woman e-mailed me and said she wanted to name her closet organization business "Suburban Turmoil" and I e-mailed her back a nice note that basically said, "Why the hell would you want to do that? Can't you think of your own damn name?"

That said, I created "Suburban Turmoil" without knowing the mommyblogging community existed and was mortified to find out several months down the road that there was a "Suburban Bliss." And at the time, I thought, "I can't change my name! I have 40 readers a day!!" Anyway, I have since had an apology conversation with Melissa about it (luckily, she didn't care). Now there are so many Suburban____'s out there, it's ridiculous. You can't exactly lay claim to Suburban, but you can claim Girls Gone Child, I think.

I can tell you that since these girls have had a write-up in Jezebel, they're probably going to think they're all important and shit and be reluctant to change their name. However, I'm sure they're also getting tons of traffic from this post and are eagerly reading every comment.

Your readers are the readers they want. The mommyblogosphere is not THAT big. If they have any sense, they'll change their name.

cali | 2:50 PM

I read what you had to say about someone having the same blog name as you. So, I went over to her site and read a lot. Look's like from the comment's she has, she also has a very big following, and people faithfully read her blog's also. She has also had that name for awhile now... and you are just catching it? THIS BLOW'S! I think it would be nice of you to share it! NOT! Tell her to pack up her shit and pick a different title. Are those 2 woman seriously that stupid that they couldn't google the name first. I googled the name and YOU come up on the whole page. Thats such BS that they STOLE your name. Their blog is not even interesting at all. Two friends, and from what I read I only saw the ONE chick writing every entry on how she is so upset that her BFF got married and had a kid and now has a life.
Becca, can you get rid of them? You have a book coming out... with GIRLS GONE CHILD! You have worked for years for this name. Good luck! Your blogs are great!
xoxo
Cali

wooliegirl | 4:26 PM

But you will always be the original GGC to me!!! The fave, number one, undefeated....

something blue | 5:35 PM

I would have knickers in a knot.

Personally I don't think it makes a lot of sense for them. I hope this gets resolved.

Jen | 7:08 PM

I agree with the person who mentioned the book coming out. This is your brand, the book will be HEAVILY associated with this site, which will also end up with you bringing in even more traffic.

You don't want any issues with this at all. I suggest you get this patented or what not, talk to the publisher and your attorney.

That being said, they have to change their name. It's too close to yours, way too close.

J

anneglamore | 7:47 PM

I'm with Suburban (Turmoil)-- I stumbled into the whole blog thing accidentally and never thought to google names first.

As I grew bigger I bought similar domain names but honestly, who has the time or money to do every combination, especially the one in question here that isn't even grammatically correct?

The lawyer side of me says approach nicely at first, flies with honey, blah blah, but if that doesn't work, you must protect your brand.

I bet your publisher's attorney would have an interest in crafting a strongly worded letter to the ladies in question, right? Even if you have a separate author site, there can't be any question as to the URL of the original blog material.

Anne Glamore
www.mytinykingdom.com

(this comment thing sometimes makes me accidentally anonymous)

S.T. | 8:05 PM

I'm glad they're doing the right thing and changing their blog name. I enjoyed what little I read over there and want to keep reading it without feeling like I'm betraying you. ;)

kgirl | 12:15 PM

Anyone that matters (us) knows who the true original is (you). But noone likes to have their style bitten, so maybe a nice but strongly worded email is in order.

(This from the gal that bit a Who song for her identidy. Meh.)

Averil | 12:39 PM

Long time lurker here.

I'm so glad to hear they're doing the the right thing by you.

Because, well, I can't believe how dismayed & protective I felt on your behalf when reading this post! After all, you're the only CGC!

Christina | 5:55 PM

That's great that they're being nice and changing their name. Your internet name is your brand, and you need to protect it, especially with your book coming out. The media buzz alone will increase searches for your blog, and another one by a similar name would really confuse people.

Of course, you prompted me to Google my blog name, and I found another A Mommy Story blogging at wordpress.com. Looks like I've been around far longer than her. Now you've got me wondering if I should contact her?

kittenpie | 7:54 AM

WEll, I wasn't too thrilled to find there are already kittenpies out there, although I had been using the name in forums and whatnot for a while, but apparently, I'm not the only one to come up with the name. There is no original idea under the sun, I suppose, as the old saying goes?

But then again, you're not exactly an unknown, so I find it hard to think someone coming into the momsphere wouldn't have found you. Seems a bit hinky to me.

Shellie | 4:50 PM

Sounds from what people commented that they knew a lot about what was going on in the blog world, but when I started, I had read 2 blogs and had no idea about the big bad blog world, I only saw excerpt posts from reporter's blogs here and there and had no idea what I was getting into. It just looked fun so I took off and I looked up blogspot.com and filled in the blanks. Never even occurred to me to google my name and see if anyone else had it. That said, it seems like a lame move if they knew about you. It might get traffic initially, but in the end a bad reputation. Whether they knew or not, I would think that they would want to have a different name and I do think you have a right to the name. Who wants to share their identity like that? Glad to hear they are changing.

Dana | 9:56 PM

Going through the exact same thing right now. I even trademarked my name but still, people ignore the little ®. If they can't research it I can't feel very bad for them.