For at least fifteen years my name and its tri-letterization has been something with which you could conjure up a lot of attention among hackers and other sorts of geek. This fact presented the more clueful of my personal friends with a delicate problem: under what circumstances would it be proper for them to invoke this instrument?
I have actually been asked for guidance about this more than once. I developed some guidelines more than a decade ago. To the best my knowledge my friends have been pretty good about applying them. I present them here for your amusement.
1. Please do not drop my name to score cheap social-status points. That’s crass and I don’t like it.
2. Do drop my name if by doing so you can achieve some mission objective of which I would approve. Examples that have come up: encouraging people to design in accordance with the Unix philosophy, or settling a dispute about hacker slang, or explaining why it’s important for everyone’s freedom for the hacker community to hang together and not get bogged down in internal doctrinal disputes.
3. Do drop my name if by doing it you can rock someone’s world in a positive way. A case of this that comes up fairly often is encouraging a young proto-hacker.
4. Do drop my name if doing so would be funny. Funny is even an acceptable excuse for scoring social-status points with it – if you think I’ll laugh when I hear the story, go right ahead.
And yes, I apply these rules (or obvious analogs thereof) to myself. I think it’s vulgar to wave my fame around in contexts where it’s irrelevant. It can be very amusing, if you’re clued in, to watch what happens when somebody in a group of programmers (or gamers or SF fans or any other population that oversamples programmers) that hasn’t met me before twigs to The Presence.
If this attitude seems odd to you, understand that fame is exhausting and psychologically dangerous (I have a lot more sympathy for rock stars who fuck themselves up with drugs than before I felt the pressure myself). Ironic detachment from one’s own celebrity is, I have found, an effective coping strategy.