Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Unique Name --- An Interlude

I am the only "Ori Fienberg" in North America, and for now, if Google is to be believed, the world.

Some of this is because "Ori" is a unique name outside of Israel. Some of it is because "Fienberg" is a unique spelling (The likely apocryphal story of why the family name is "Fienberg" is worthy of it's own post on another day).

When I first started to care about what popped up when someone searched for me on the internet I would always start by typing in my name without quotes. Invariably I would be prompted: "Do you mean Ori Feinberg?" Who was this person who shared my name, but for a slight spelling variation (also, I don't know his middle name)? Why did Google prefer him over me? What did I have to do to be the dominant "Ori F---berg" (there's also an "Ori Fineberg" in Israel)? Apparently Mr. Feinberg has an MA in Contemporary Art, and at the time was an aspiring gallery owner. Every now and then I'd receive an e-mail intended for Mr. Feinberg, sometimes in Hebrew, which I'd forward along to him.

Last night I was checking my e-mail and saw that one of my colleagues had sent out a general update in which she instructed students who did not know their Workshop times to e-mail me. Great! But evidently she doesn't know how to spell my last name because she gave them the g-mail address for Mr. Feinberg. I e-mailed the students with my real e-mail (which the students and my colleague should have anyway), and then I sent an e-mail to Mr. Feinberg, apologizing for the random queries he might get, and asking if he could please forward them to me.

Later this morning he replied to say he would (he never has before, and given how often my name is spelled wrong on name tags at events, I can't imagine that he hasn't received anything before), and then suggested that in order to avoid this in the future I should change from g-mail to Yahoo. While I can't help but feel some small connection to Mr. Feinberg, in part because of our names, and in part because we both value the arts, his response seemed rather presumptuous. I never told him he should change *his* account when I received his e-mail.

Perhaps his suggestion stems from some insecurity: not long after I discovered he existed through Google's suggestions I eclipsed "the other Ori F" in internet presence. I suspect when he Googles his own name it asks him if he meant "Ori Fienberg." I've been there, so if this is the case I understand his irritation. But despite this and the minor inconvenience he may have had in the past when he deleted messages intended for me and now when he may choose to forward me a few student e-mails, I don't have any plans to change the main e-mail account I've had for 7 years.