Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Lance Effect

"Lance" is a relatively rare name which has some advantages. I have what's usually a unique identifier, the only Lance at nearly every conference I've attended for example.

But Lance is far from unique. Googling "Lance" has me on the third page of lists, just above New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance. The most famous Lance rides a bike.

Occasionally, though pretty rarely, I find myself in a room with another Lance and will always get confused when someone calls out "Lance" and it's not me.

But because of the rarity, most people think they know only one Lance even when they know more. So they send emails to "Lance" going to me by mistake. Usually harmless but once I got an obscenity-laced diatribe from a student. I did what I always do in this situation, reply with "Did you really mean to send that to me?"

During the last SoCG deadline day and again during last week's STOC deadline day, a certain professor (you know who you are) started sending me emails asking me to make various changes to a paper. But I wasn't writing a paper with him, turns out he has a student named Lance. But after I let him know, I continued to get emails for the student. First it was cute, then annoying, then fun as I made up answers ("no, you can't have the token"), then it got annoying again.

What's the lesson here? Be careful which Lance you send to, especially when the other Lance has a blog.


  1. There is a professor at my university named Jeff Ericksen.

    So, um, yeah. That.

  2. The auto-complete feature for e-mail addresses in most mailers is the big culprit here. They surely didn't type "fortnow@cs." Because it is a mouse-based selection among auto-complete options, it is easy to get the wrong address even when you have consciously tried to avoid it.

  3. looks like this post made your google ranking go up

  4. My name is Lance also and the last person I ever had in a class with me with the same first name was in kindergarten...until last year in graduate school in St. Louis where I was one of 3 Lances in a class of only 50 students! That was weird.
    Also, I have a younger brother named Shane (also a relatively unusual name)and one time I met a guy named Shane who had a younger brother named Lance!
    Carry the torch Lance! Best Wishes, Lance (Armstrong, Bass, Burton, Berkman, Mountain, Johnson, Meyer, Otto, Hatch, Pyatt, etc.)