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The Hidden Costs of a Vanity Domain

Lately, as I’ve been looking at potentially shifting careers from Software Engineering to something more customer facing such as Developer Advocacy, I’ve really been forced to reckon with some personal technical debt – primarily this website, and most recently, my vanity e-mail address.

Back in 2004, I felt amazingly fortunate to be able to register my full and last name in various forms – saghy.com, saghy.org, and briansaghy.com. I didn’t quite know yet how I would use them, but it seemed like a good idea to claim them before, say, they ended up as some unsavory website that could tarnish the family name.

I was able to set up some e-mail addresses for myself and family members using our domain name. It was excellent, and awesome. People in general would react with shock and sometimes even jealousy that I had such a good e-mail address. I created a Menalto Gallery to put up family holiday photos as well as my travel photos. I had some terrible static HTML page about our family. Those were the days.

Now, the world has changed. Photos live on social media and Google Photos. Nearly everyone expects an @gmail.com e-mail address. Many of Google’s account features, including Calendar, Meet, etc work through SSO through my gmail account. My gmail name, chosen in less mature college days, is a bit less professional looking (though I’m still proud of it). And yet, somehow, despite the uniqueness of my full name and my eagerness to register and protect saghy.com, I failed to snatch up briansaghy@gmail.com before somebody (or some bot) else. It is lost, presumably forever. Even if I were to get it, the thought of migrating decades of old gmail to a new account feels incredibly daunting.

Today, I had an initial interview scheduled with a recruiter for a Developer Advocate role that I’m actually quite excited about – and my vanity domain unexpectedly bit me. The calendar invite update sent to brian@saghy.com didn’t register with my Google Calendar. I manually added it on my phone via the attached .ics file. However, that failed to actually attach the Google Meet information. Combine this with the fact that we never discussed what communication method we would be chatting over, and you have a major interview failure. I was sitting waiting for a phone call whilst my recruiter sat waiting for me to join Google Meet. Additionally, since the invite was sent to a different e-mail than I was logged in as, Google required me to request to join the Meet.

The implications of this are quite serious, and leave me feeling a bit upset with my decisions of the past. Google, like many modern services, has it in their financial interests to keep us centralized and dependent on their platform. We went from a world of relatively decentralized blogs, photo galleries, and e-mail providers to effectively having everything consolidated to Google, Meta/Facebook, and (maybe) Microsoft as the edgy alternative. When did Microsoft become the underdog?

So, what do I do? What should this blog and site *be*?

Why should I post a technical or career blog posts here, rather than a centralized place like Medium.com that actually has an audience and SEO? Who’s ever going to come to this site to see this?

Why post my ponderings and life updates here instead of on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram? To my knowledge, nobody is checking this for updates. RSS feeds are a thing of the past.

Why post my photos to a self-managed gallery on my own domain, when Google Photos is such a better product – complete with AI recognition and searching, shared albums, and web-based photo editing?

And what is the long term plan for these domains? This site? What happens to them when I die? (You start thinking about these things when you turn 40, or, say, have a life-changing run-in with a tree when skiing on your existential mid-life-crisis sabbatical). Will any of my heirs be equipped to become a webmaster, a domain administrator? Does my 6 year old niece want to learn PHP? I don’t want to learn PHP!

Do I want to be responsible for the communications and account security of my family?

Have I made some trivial, careless, offensive sentence in a blog post 10 years ago while traveling that will get me cancelled? Or fired? Or not hired to begin with? I suppose I may have to get used to that feeling if I want to truly become public-facing.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

-Mark Zuckerberg

“The second-biggest risk is carelessly destroying humanity’s psyche with a centralized, addictive social media platform, and misinformation generation & propagation in the name of profit.”

-Brian Saghy

I don’t know what the future holds for this blog, or my vanity e-mail.

Maybe my brother and I will begin a foundation in our name some day. It could be good to have saghy.org in that case!

I don’t know if little niece Emma will grow to become an excellent web admin. Or, perhaps her AI assistant can just do it for her while she watches the latest 0.25 second video clips in her neural implants on whatever inevitably replaces TikTok.

One thing I know – I’m surprised and delighted that WordPress is still actively developed and maintained, that it auto-updates, and writing this post is still possible in 2023 on a web host that I selected 17 years ago. Perhaps not all of my personal technical executive decisions are that bad, after all.

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