On the rhetoric of the academic geek’s handle

I had an interesting discussion with the esteemed Jim Haendiges yesterday about the rhetoric of handles on the personal websites of geeks who are also academics. Which we both are. It’s tricky, because the goal is to convey insiderdom in both communities. Amongst geeks (and, more specifically, gamers), the handle is the standard way to do name yourself. But most handles involve Netspeak conventions, like numbers instead of letters, carefully placed dashes and underscores, etc. – the kinds of newfangled grammatical constructs that drive your more grammatically and/or technologically conservative academics crazy. Ordinarily, I might aim an argument about the validity of all cultures’ languages their way, but I gotta get a job.

And but so, my handle is  some variation of “critter,” a nickname I got in grad school here at good old WSU. “Critter” is a tricky handle: the word itself is really common (hence it not being my domain name), so it never works anywhere unless it’s altered somehow. Trying to be consistent across various websites and social networks has proven impossible, what with their varying rules about allowable punctuation marks; but for my own site, I wound up going with “Critt-r,” which was Netspeak-y, but only slightly so. But now, contemplating the expectations of the job market I’m about to enter, I think even “Critt-r” is too, well, weird. So I changed it and let font size do all the work.

Waddya think? Did I make the right move, for sound reasons? What handles do you use, and why?


  1. It looks much more professional, simply because it now looks like you are C and Ritter put together, which looks like your name abbreviated. However, on the subject of losing geek cred, I don’t know. On this, I draw from my own experience with poker where all you really know of a person is their handle. I’ll admit that when I see a person called “joesmith23” I think he’s uncreative, but only because its the one opportunity to express wit through your name. Whereas, I saw a guy with the name “nh gg fu” which translates to “nice hand, good game, fuck you” I had a pretty clear picture (or assumption) of what that person was like. So, while a person with a clever name gets points for being clever, most are so easy to ignore that the impression is neutral. Besides, the other thought is that people think you’re a critter, which sounds like a bug, which is vaguely PCish, which might be funny for some people.

    • CRitter says:

      Funny, I didn’t think of the PC bug connotation. I initially didn’t like the nickname because it seemed too cute and diminutive, but I eventually decided that there was a friendliness to it that I liked. Mostly, I liked it for the “crit” part – both in terms of being a critic and in terms of “critical hit,” a further link to games and WoW in particular.

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