settling in

Sometime in the early 90s, Nancy and I acquired a piece of real estate. A company named Juno had a bunch of Internet space and were giving it away. We took our chunk and named it after ourselves: jnswanson at juno dot com. We existed online. People could contact us. We had an address.

We were living in Goshen at the time, at 59000 Lower Drive. It was the second house and fifth address we had used in less than ten years of marriage. We didn’t think much about this email address compared to the street address. After all, it was just email.

We’ve moved again since then, back to Fort Wayne. We’ve lived in our current house for almost 11 years, which feels like forever to us. But we’ve had our email address for longer.

Somewhere along the line, I started using jnswanson as my online identity in other setting. You can find me on flickr, on linkedin, on gmail, on tumblr, on lejit. It is moving toward being a brand, I suppose. However, when I started blogging, I wanted to hide more than that. I started writing with the title “levite”, first at blogger, and then here at wordpress.

I think I wanted to hide a bit. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to tie the writing I was doing to jnswanson. After all, there were religious connections and church connections and all. I didn’t want people to tie the writing I was doing to my role as a pastor.

Why this long review of history, particularly when there is a sign at the top of the post and I haven’t written about signs yet?

Kies Road is in Hillsdale County, Michigan. It is the road that runs past a farmhouse which has been owned by the Kies family for somewhere near 150 years. That farmhouse, expanded, refurbished, reclaimed, now serves as a second home for Tom and Marion Kies, my in-laws, Nancy’s parents.

For a long time, mail sent to that address on Kies Road would eventually get to a Kies. And that mail would most likely show respect, because the Kies’s have been good farmers and solid people. They have a strong reputation in Hillsdale County. The Kies brand, at least the part I’m connected to, is a great brand.

There is another little road in northern Wisconsin, Larson Road, where my mother’s family still lives (though the name Larson is gone, something about having all daughters.) John Larson, however, and his daughters also have had a great reputation.

In the old days, families would build reputations around their names and everyone could find them. These days, with family farms almost gone and everyone working for places with made up names on the front door (I mean, what exactly is a verizon?), our identities, our brands, our addresses have disappeared. It has been difficult to find people. There aren’t many streets that are peopled by the family they were named for.


More and more people are creating online addresses based on their real name. We are moving into the internet village, staking claim to a label that connects where we breath with where we type. Yes, there are problems with connecting all of the places seamlessly. Yes, there are still places where we used funny names (AIM: soccerdadats for example). Yes, we still aren’t sure how much of our selves we are willing to open to everyone. But more and more we are willing to find that one label, that one street, that one name and point to it and build around it.

Am I ready to rename this blog? No. Too many links to it already. However, you can find more and more about how to reach me on the about page all the time.  I am far more comfortable with not trying to hide. And I’m thinking that the more that the kitchen door can be open so you can stop by and talk, the more interesting and comfortable the conversations become.

Our street addresses and employers and cities and friendships and other things may change. However, start building an online place where the relationships and thoughts and growth from all aspects of your life and grow. We’ll learn the address. We’ll know what we can find when you are home (we promise not to show up to loot everything when you aren’t home). And step by step this wilderness will be settled.

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4 responses to “settling in

  1. What a great post Jon, and let me tell you why ( well im commenting so you can guess I would eh ! )

    I am a self employed IT guy a freelancer, brain for hire etc etc. The name of my Business is “Reduced Hackers”. Its called reduced hackers because that was the last good domain name I had at short notice following a split with some good friends ( a longer story for another time ).

    I have found Reduced Hackers to be an effective hook for attracting attention when dealing with a very small business but a turn of for the type ofclient I now want to attract.

    So I rebranded and created “Azydeco”. Zydeco being a dance style and the letter A helping it be at the start of a list . However whilst doing this rebranding I have noticed that my own current NickName is picking up greater interest and “brand” value quicker than I would have believed.

    so now I have several brands and identities focussed on me but directed to different levels of real world environment. e.g.

    Nik Butler, the Loudmouthman who promotes Social Media and Networks and contributes to the global conversation.

    Nik Butler, Reduced Hackers who provides IT support to businesses.

    Finally the one I am growing is Nik Butler , Azydeco for Strategic IT descision making for business.

    So there we have it, ive been really greedy and invested in several brands to spread the load. Since each brand can have a different activism in the community I avoid confusing the brand messages ( I hope ) .

    Anyway thats more than enough I do hope it provides you a little more insight and ideas.

    Nik Butler

  2. Great great conversation and as usual your lead up to your focus was totally engaging.

    At Gnomedex Vanessa Fox talked about comfort online and decisions to be who we are, or not (*not* being a worthy choice too) but the conversation that made me sit up and take notice was done from the bed of Derek Miller who is battling cancer in multiple organ systems. I had one of those lightbulb moments at that point.

    As an artist I always knew that the audience was buying me, my reputation, my name recognition as much as they were buying art. What I now need to recognize is that it is only fair to reveal my reality as well as my name.

    So the questions for me are about how to reveal who I am, not just what I call myself. Thanks for helping me work towards that, as you do every day.

  3. Here’s what is so comeplling about Nik and Susan. Both of them have brand labels for their blogs different from their names. However, both of them have chosen to allow us to find them, to meet them, to talk with them. Both of them are encouraging in conversation. Both of them are willing to interact.

    It is as if each of them has created a storefront (or two) which isn’t their name, but they spend time working in the store, and if you go into the backyard, you can sit on the deck and enjoy a cup of coffee (okay, that’s what I would have, or tea, I suppose at Nik’s. They may offer something else).

    Susan is right. There are places and people for making the choice to not be public. And there are things that you don’t disclose. (C.C.Chapman had a marvelous converation about this on Managing the Gray, though I don’t know which episode). However, the more we want to live with this world being part of who we are, the more we will let people know how we matter, how we mean, how we live.

    Brogan is great at this. We see him get really frustrated and we see him get really happy. Connie Reece talked about her struggle with remembering her Dad’s death…and life. There are others as well.

    That’s enough. This is becoming another post. But I’m enjoying a community that is deepening in awareness of and respect for each other.

  4. …and I thought this was just another post about another sign. Thoroughly enjoying all these thoughts that take my mind in a zillion different directions…