In general, I like to “keep it real” as much as the next guy. But there are three things you should never keep real: Your e-mail address, your phone number and your search engine.
In olden times (the 1990s), people used to show off by placing a long list of contact names, addresses and numbers in their e-mail signatures to show how well-connected they were. After name and title, these signatures listed business and fax numbers, multiple e-mail addresses, several instant-messaging user names, company Web site and other items.
More recently, e-mail signature showboats conveyed their hipness by adding to all that Web 2.0 and more recent communication handles such as Skype names (and even Skype “status”), social networking affiliations such as Linked-In information, and more.
E-mail signature bloat has led to a new fashion, which is Zen-like contact minimalism. I have to admit that I have fully jumped on this trendy bandwagon by using the a single line for my e-mail signature with a Web URL (http://elgan.com), which links to minimum contact information, namely my e-mail address.
Fadish or not, contact minimalism is a good thing, because it promotes simplicity and clarity, and it saves time for everybody.
It just makes sense to provide to all personal and business contacts a single e-mail address and a single phone number, regardless of how many actually e-mail accounts or phones you have access to.
But why use a real e-mail address and phone number when fake ones, forwarded to real ones, can provides some nice benefits?
Why Fake Your E-mail Address?
I give out just one e-mail address, and that address isn’t even real.
The address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mail sent to this address is instantly forwarded to a secret Gmail address. Any e-mail sent from my Gmail account has a spoofed return address with my fake address. People who e-mail me don’t know I’m using Gmail.
The advantage of the public fake address is that it gives everyone I know a single, permanent way to contact me for life. I will never change it.
Meanwhile, if something better than Gmail comes along in the future (or if I use up all the storage space on Gmail), I can set up my fake address to simply forward to the new service, address or account. The fake address gives me freedom.
I also think, by the way, that it’s a good idea to have all your mail pass through Gmail. Even if you use a desktop e-mail client with POP3, make sure it’s routed through Gmail so Gmail can spam-filter it.
Why Fake Your Phone Number?
Likewise, the phone-number-for-life idea recently imposed on the U.S. cell phone industry is a nice opportunity to standardize on a single number.
You can almost always forward calls from any phone, cell or landline, to any phone. There are advantages to taking advantage of this fact.
The average person nowadays has a minimum of four phone numbers: cell phone, home, work and fax.
That’s three phone numbers too many, in my opinion. Giving people multiple phone numbers wastes everyone’s time. You’re essentially asking people to guess where you are, then start “trying” different numbers. Then you have to “manage” different phone numbers, check multiple voice-mail systems. Enough! There’s only one “you.” Simplify by refusing to give more than one number.
And kill your fax machine. The fax is dead. Refuse to participate in the remaining echos of a thoroughly obsolete technology forced on some of us by the fax dead-enders. Just say no to faxing.
Now, choose a phone you want to get calls on. It’s probably your cell phone. So give everyone just that one number, and use only that number on your business card and e-mail signature. If you’re still going to get calls on your other lines for whatever reason, forward those calls to your cell phone.
If you’re at work, and like the hands-free headset there, or the speakerphone functionality, or whatever, simply forward cell calls to that number.
If you’re not comfortable with the cell phone as your lifelong number, consider a fake number from a service like CallWave.
CallWave performs a long list of magic phone tricks, including sending your voice-mail to your e-mail address, and letting you “screen” voicemail in real-time. But they’ll also give you a phone number, which you can forward to any other phone. You can choose which phone to route the call to on the fly, if you wish. As the phone rings, you can choose either on your cell phone or your computer to direct the ring to literally any of your phones.
This may sound strange and cumbersome at first, but once you try it (which you can do free), you’ll see how liberating it is.
Why Fake Your Search Engine?
Google is great, but some “third parties” use the Google search engine while at the same time giving you a bunch of extras on a special “front end” – including things Google itself will never provide to you, such as search access to all its competitors.
My favorite fake search engine at the moment is Sputtr. This gives you one-click search access to all the major Google searches, including images, blogs, news and a bunch more. Plus, with the same search, you can choose Wikipedia searches and dozens more.
And Sputtr is really fast.
Why use the real Google, when the fake one is so much more powerful?