Before the Auction: Choosing a Username

First Published:
Date Published: 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Kevin Savetz

Every online auction site requires bidders and sellers to register. When switching from the role of anonymous lookey-loo to registered user, you could be asked for all sorts of information: name, address, credit card number, birthday--and you know the answers to most of these questions by heart. Then, there is the tricky question: What will be your username?

Not Just Any Name

Picking a username is complicated. On one level, it doesn't matter what you come up with. You might as well type a jumble of letters or a random word from the dictionary. On another level, your username defines your identity on that auction site, giving other participants a glimpse into who you are and what interests you. (Also, a good username is a whole lot easier to remember and type than that jumble of letters.)

You might go for a username that's based on your real name: RWEmerson or RalphWaldo, for instance. Then again, some of us paranoid types don't want to give strangers a clue to our real identities. So, how about a fun username that hints at your interests or what you collect? For instance, an aviation buff might choose FlyBoy, Aileron, or Blimpy. It's probable that other folks already have snarfed the most obvious usernames. So stretch your brain and come up with a something creative.

Try, Try Again

Aaargh! Despite your best efforts, you might see that fateful message: "Sorry, that username is taken. Please choose another."

Now what? First, take a deep breath and remember that the most popular auction sites have tens of thousands of users. Make your name longer, weirder, even more creative. You might tweak your desired username by adding a prefix or suffix. (MrBlimpy? CessnaFlyBoy?) A popular alternative is to describe your geographic location, such as FishToesInCalifornia.

If you're in a hurry and not feeling very creative, a quick cop-out is to add some digits to the username. FishToes378 does not exactly roll off the tongue, though.

Actually, you may not have to pick a username at all. Some sites--eBay, for instance--will let you use your email address in place of a username. Among the benefits, it's a little easier for other auction participants to contact you. Among the drawbacks, it's a little easier for other auction participants to contact you. That is, a more visible email address makes you an easier target for spammers.

Password, Please

There's also another issue to consider: your password. If you use the same username on multiple Web sites, don't use the same password. And if you want to use the same password, use different usernames. So many Web sites require registration that it makes sense to reuse passwords occasionally, simply to save brain cells.

On some sites, an imposter could do real damage--it would be a bad thing if someone broke into your PayPal account or bid on dozens of cars at eBay Motors. On these sites, you just might want to use a jumble of letters for your password--something that can't be guessed.

Articles by Kevin Savetz