Hello, my name is...
December 4, 2010 10:37 PM   Subscribe

If you use different usernames for different websites, how do you keep track of it all?

I've come to realise that having one username for all my online activities might not have been the best decision, and I'm thinking about using different identities from the one which all my friends in real life know me by.

Also, can you please tell me how many you have, (ie. do you rotate a few or do you have completely new ones for each site) and what do you do to keep track of it all? Also, do you have an email account for each of your identities?

Right now I'm leaning towards continuing to use my existing one and just having one or two other aliases. I guess the real issue is I'm pretty lazy and have a terrible memory, so I'll probably forget which is the correct username for different sites if I ever stop using firefox.
posted by fallsauce to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I use 1Password. It used to be Mac-only but recently went Windows, too. Also has an iOS app. It works as a plugin for most browsers, and it has Dropbox syncing, so you can use it on multiple browsers and multiple computers without worrying about maintaining remembered passwords on each one.

It's for password management, but that pretty much makes it an identity manager, too. The nicest feature for your purposes is that when you hit a login prompt, you just hit a hotkey and it either auto-enters your identity and password, or offers a list to choose from if you have more than one account on a given site (which is how I keep admin and test user accounts straight on sites I manage).
posted by mph at 10:47 PM on December 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

I guess I added my various identities slowly enough that it's not been too hard to keep track. I have three main online identities, with variations on each one: the real me, bluedaisy, and my old blog pseudonym.

The only one I went about deliberately was my blog pseudonym, which is connected to a twitter account and, back when I was blogging, I used that pseudonym to comment on other blogs to get traffic back to my blog. I had a gmail set up for my blog and that pseudonym, though I think I just had it feed into my main gmail. They were all mostly connected so it was easy enough to track.

The tricky part is when I am signing up for a new service, I don't always know how I'll be using it. If it's professional, I usually use some version of my real name. If it's not connected to work at all, I use bluedaisy and its associated gmail account. And when it used to be blog-related, I used that pseudonym. So having a system makes it easier for me.

If I ever get confused, I can typically find my chosen user name in the sign-up email I archived in gmail.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:50 PM on December 4, 2010

Sadly I use a text doc in a 'secret' folder on my hard drive........checking out Lifehacker and 1Password now - thanks for the prompt.
posted by micklaw at 10:51 PM on December 4, 2010

Write it all down. I know (and I'm guessing you do too) that security people usually tell you not to write down your usernames, passwords, etc..

But if you use the same username and pass for all your online activity, or you only slightly modify your passwords, it is actually safer to generate long random passwords, and write them down.

Then store that piece of paper in a safe place (eg put it in a safe, hide it in a book, blutack it to the underside of your chest of drawers, or whatever is safest in your home).

Alternatively, go for some of the digital solutions that people have already mentioned, and will mention some more below.
posted by Ahab at 10:52 PM on December 4, 2010

Three approaches:

1) have different levels of accounts - a simple one for throwaway registrations, a medium security account for most website, and a secure account for online banking, personal email, etc.

2) include some pattern from the website in your login/password. Like "joe_mefi/1234_mefi", thus all your accounts will be unique but still memorable for you.

3) write down your accounts on a paper, then keep it in your wallet. In fact, this is the method recommended by Scheier, the god of security:http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/06/write_down_your.html
posted by jpeacock at 10:59 PM on December 4, 2010

Notecards. Seriously. Each handle gets a card, a slightly different DOB, and a list of accounts that handle manages as well as cryptic password hints that make sense to me but not to my partner.

My current total is eight, which is ridiculous, plus one I'm trying to decide if I'm going to retire permanently but is going to require some wrangling with. One, of course, is my real name. I also have a 'common' handle for stuff that is really me, and if it got googled wouldn't get me in trouble, and a 'crap' handle I use when I just need to register to use a service. Two of the remaining ones are 'topic' handles - one for genre writing and one for politics and protests.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 11:07 PM on December 4, 2010

KeePass is my lifesaver. I keep the password file in my Dropbox folder where it's synced automatically between my computers, and I do a periodic manual sync with the copy I carry with me on a USB stick (on which is installed KeePass Portable).
posted by nicebookrack at 11:08 PM on December 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

I use different usernames for different sites. I have one name for gaming sites, one for fashion forums, one for my blogs, one especially for metafilter, etc. I have a specific set of passwords as well that are grouped, like my usernames, by function and security needs.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 11:17 PM on December 4, 2010

Even if you use the same name, you should always use a different password for every site. That means you should be using a text file or password helper program (or whatever) anyway, and once you've got that you might as well just long randomly generated passwords since you don't have to remember them.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:38 PM on December 4, 2010

I use LastPass for everything, and a paper notepad as backup for important sites.
posted by Sufi at 11:56 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding LastPass. Plugins for Firefox, Safari and IE. Just one master password to remember. It even supports two-factor authentication. It autofills both username and password fields for you for any web site you visit. Since it remembers your passwords, it promotes use of highly complex, unique passwords for each site you visit (it can auto-generate random passwords for you). Very secure (listen to Security Now's podcast discussing how it works and why it's so slick).
posted by jaimev at 12:25 AM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have 6 or 7, and about the same amount of passwords. Both names and passwords follow a pattern of sorts, and I pretty much never forget them. What I use depends on security, and the type of site.

Remembering it all is just a function of how much importance you attach to the information. I can't ever remember my bank account number or license plate, but I can manage a handful of online identities.
posted by shinyshiny at 12:36 AM on December 5, 2010

I use Password Safe.
posted by dhens at 3:04 AM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Using different browsers can help too - I tend to be the professional me in Firefox, silly stuff in Chrome and other stuff in Opera.
posted by ceri richard at 4:14 AM on December 5, 2010

KeePass does the job for me, except when I can't cut and paste into password fields (like when using Remote Desktop under Windows 7) - trying to manually type in a randomly generated 128 bit password multiple times, without timing out, is nigh on impossible. But that shouldn't be a problem for websites.
posted by Diag at 4:47 AM on December 5, 2010

I generally use my real name because I have a thing about being open about who I am and what my opinions are. I feel that I need to refuse to be paranoid or afraid about what i expose on the web. And yes, I realise this may be foolish but i honestly don't care.

Oddly, Metafilter is one of only two exceptions and I'm not really sure why. I'm "Decani" here, "Jackanapes" at The Guardian and my real name everywhere else. So, not difficult to keep track of.
posted by Decani at 6:00 AM on December 5, 2010

At work every application I work with had a different person assigning my user name. All of them had the same guideline: use the name. There should have been three versions: lastfirstinitial, firstinitiallast, firstinitialmiddleinitiallast. Alas, my last name is hyphenated and too long for some of the applications, and each application was set up by a person who apparently saw no need to figure out what everyone else's solution was, so I have, at last count, 11 different usernames. It's very entertaining to imagine how they thought my second surname should go in the middle initial field.

Anyway, I keep the list in a Notepad file which I open in front of our technology people whenever they want me to sign into something for them.
posted by SMPA at 6:15 AM on December 5, 2010

I'm old skool and write them down in an old address book I got as a gift. It's already alphabetized, so I have them sorted by site and then I list my log in name and password for each one.
posted by NoraCharles at 6:53 AM on December 5, 2010

I used to keep a small notebook with all that stuff in it.

I have graduated to using KeePass and Dropbox.

Some of the other password managers store the passwords on the web and I don't care for that.
posted by Drasher at 7:07 AM on December 5, 2010

1password, I've got over 500 entries in it since I need to keep track of not only my passwords, but various passwords for several clients. And it syncs to my iPhone. Awesome.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:20 AM on December 5, 2010

Since the age of 13, I have about 8 to 10 usernames floating around somewhere. Obviously, the ones I've made more recently I actually remember. Admittedly, I write mine down in a just-for-that-purpose notebook because not having to remember the passwords and usernames for tester or throw-a-way type sites means I can actually remember passwords and things for more important purposes.
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:34 AM on December 5, 2010

I use the same name everywhere that I can get it, if I can't I tack a 2 at the end. I also have roughly 5 alphanumeric passwords I've memorized and rotate around.
posted by MikeMc at 9:31 AM on December 5, 2010

I write it all down in computer/digital form, but I don't write down the actual usernames and passwords. I write them in my own personal shorthand. This jogs my memory but would be incomprehensible to anyone else.
posted by John Cohen at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2010

Thanks everyone! Lots of good ideas, especially those who suggested using dropbox to sync.

I'll download the suggested managers and see which one I like best and whether it's easy to have lots of different names/passwords. If not, I'll use the different levels of account approach suggested by jpeacock.
posted by fallsauce at 3:51 PM on December 5, 2010

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