I have a guilty secret. I am an ego-surfer. "Ego-surfers" periodically type their names into major search engines to see what comes up. According to Wikipedia, this term has been around since 1995, which is approximately how long I've been doing this for, back when I would get different results on Lycos (now powered by Bing), AltaVista (ditto), Yahoo! (same story) and other search engines that no longer really exist. Why do I do this? Well, there are a few reasons, but mainly they revolve around my unquenchable need to know what strangers are saying about me. Also, my name is not that common, which makes it easier to search for. According to HowManyofMe.com, there are only 49 people named "Ethan Lewis" (besides yours truly) in the country. I don't know if this is totally accurate, but I think it is safe to say that there are fewer "Ethan Lewis"-es than there are "Richard Brown"-s, for instance.
On the other hand, in a disturbing trend, "Ethan" is becoming a much more popular name. When I was a kid, I never knew any other Ethans. My mother gave me my name because her hero, John Wayne, had named his son Ethan, and "if it's good enough for the Duke, it's good enough for me". I met my first Ethan at Downtown Sounds in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1991. He was working there, and when one of his colleagues walked by and said "Ethan", we both turned and said "yes?" Interestingly, I was his first Ethan as well. But that's not a big surprise, since according to the Social Security Administration, Ethan was the 494th most popular boy's name in 1970, the year of my birth. Now, however, it is the 2nd most popular, in both 2009 and 2010--I better get ready for some verbal whiplash.
Another thing that affects my ego-surfing is that I want to be the top result on Google when searching for "Ethan Lewis", but I don't want to do any work to get there. As you probably know, part of what makes a search result higher on Google is how many other pages link to that page. I've had my own domain (www.ethanlewis.org) for over a decade now, but I have never made a concerted effort to "optimize" the site to trick Google into making me #1. If I get there, I want to earn it! This is somewhat analogous to when my father used to try to pass people on the highway using nothing but the cruise control. He said that he was willing the car to pass the other one, no human intervention necessary. Try it sometime, it's fun!
Getting back on topic, the Bing search engine has been out (actually since the second week of Bing), I HAVE been the top "Ethan Lewis" on that search engine. But Bing is less easy to use, because of my reflexive reliance on Google (due partly to using their Chrome web browser, and mostly due to force of habit). Sometimes to streamline searches I use Bing-vs-Google.com, which is pretty cool.
As you can see if you clicked the previous link, my bête noire is an economics professor at Dartmouth named Ethan G. Lewis. For years, Ethan G. Lewis has been number one on Google, and I am number three or four (the top places belonged to "Big G", as I like to think of him). Lately I've been picking up the pace, but I still lag behind Big G. "Big G" seems like a nice enough chap; I've read some of his papers, and considering that I've been following him since his college days, I feel like I know him. And while he and I are not Facebook friends, it seems that we have a number of things (besides our first and last names) in common. So, while I would never wish him ill, and I am glad that he continues to find success in his professional life, I do sort of hope that "Big G" will go on sabbatical soon, giving me a chance to overtake him on Google. Wait a second! Google is often referred to as "Big G". Could this be why they've ranked Ethan G. higher than Ethan me? Sounds like a conspiracy to me...
Update: My friend, über-blogger Sascha Freudenheim (the #1 Sascha Freudenheim on Google) has some thoughts about this post at his site: www.sascha.com. Check it out!