There's a trend on these Internets that I find troublesome. It's the trend that sites are moving toward centralized, common profiles. As I'm sure my several readers will recall, I've talked about anonymity on the Internet to death already. I'm not going to further explore that idea. (At least, not today.)
But I'd be lying if I said that today's topic is completely unrelated to that. So suffice it to say that, while I definitely don't like being forced to associate everything I write online with each other I do recognize that I often can't get away from it at all. At the very least I can accept that if I have to deal with it, I can try to make the most of it.
The problem with centralized profiles is mainly the lack of granularity and control I have over who sees what content based on where they're coming from. Take Steam Community as an example. I have only one profile on Steam Community for all Steam games. So if I wanted to write some stuff about Team Fortress 2 on it, the people playing Left 4 Dead 2 with me will see it.
It's not that big a deal, but it does prevent me from posting up and game-specific details into my profile, because for those people coming to it from one game, all other game details will be seen as noise.
In the old days of games (and profiles in general), games didn't allow you to have any more customization than a name and maybe the colour of your mans. And those names and colours didn't migrate over to other games. You picked the name "Deathdude100" in one game, and "cyberspace phantom" in another. Usually, you would pick names that suits the game (and you'd obviously pick pink as your character's colour).
So in a strategy game you'd have an intimidating strategy name (Thufir Hawat) and in a shooter you'd have an intimidating shooter name (Vasily Zaytsev) and in a pony game you'd have an intimidating unicorn name (Sparklelord). That way everyone knows you mean business. If your name was Vasily Zaytsev in a strategy game, everyone would think that you're some kind of long-range-unit lover instead of a brilliant tactical genius. Subscribers of the pink-unicorn school of game customizations will want to have divergent profiles instead of common, centralized ones.
The same fundamental idea applies to all kinds of profiles, be the social networking or programming or gaming. Each niche has its own reasons for existing, its own culture and its own ways of thinking. One profile isn't going to fit into each of those communities unless it is very generic. So I resist this trend on principle, because I like to display different facets of my personality depending on the situation.
But there's a problem with having disparate online personas, which is the primary thing the common-profile thumpers are trying to accomplish: recognizability. One of the main goals of having a common, central profile is so that no matter where you are you're recognizable as "that guy I saw last week". Their solution is to always use the same picture, the same name, the same profile, etc across all sites. I find that much to rigid.
Take a look at real life. In real life you have the same name and the same face, but you change hair length and style, you change your clothes, you buy a new car, you dress up as a spy for Halloween. Real life doesn't have the massive amounts of sameness that profile-centralization requires. All you need to achieve recognizability is a face or maybe a name.
And so I try to take advantage of both profile-centralization and disparate personas by keeping a common, recognizable element as I change my approach to online interactions. It depends on the medium, but usually there's a name and an image associated with my account. If that's the case, I will vary one according to the situation without varying the other. That way I still get to pick the best pink unicorn for the job without losing the ability to be recognized by those I associate with.
Don't get swept along with the profile-centralization trend. And if you do end up stumbling upon a group of communities that share profiles and other information, do your best to have fun with it instead of letting them rob you of your situational variation.