Buying @Haje: How I got my given title as my Twitter handle for $250

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 11:09 PM

It involved a six-month campaign that included some light Internet stalking, badgering staff at Twitter, $250 and a visit to the patent office.

Buying @Haje: How I got my given title as my Twitter handle for $250

You’ll never guess how I succeeded in getting my first title as my Twitter handle. It involved a six-month campaign that included some light Internet stalking, badgering staff at Twitter, $250 and a visit to the patent office.

I’m celebrating my tenth anniversary on Twitter. I was the 69.103rd person to connect the social media platform, which, given that there are presently more than nine hundred seventy-four million accounts, puts me in the first 0.007 % or so of people to join.

In addition to being an early adopter, I’m an idiot. I failed to realize how large Twitter was going to become in the following decade, and, more importantly, what people would be using it for. I registered the Internet handle I was using at the time, rather than my first name, which was beautiful daft, considering that my different first title probably would've been available.

Before setting off on my quixotic campaign to get my new Twitter name, I’d already built up one Twitter account with more than 55.000 followers — but that one was focusing on photography, and I was doing a lot of non-photography stuff. My followers on the photography account were getting increasingly impatient with my non-photographic exploits, such as inconsequential rants on linguistics, righting my journalism pet peeves and creating foolish bots to expose racism on Twitter.

In the summer of two thousand fourteen, I decided it was time to do something to attempt to irritate my photography followers a bit less. To do that, I re-activated my elderly account and decided to see if I couldn’t obtain it renamed to something a bit more recognizable.

Such as, say, my first name.

Map A: Ask nicely

I typed, fingers-a-trembling, the four characters of my title into the Twitter look for box, and my heart sank. Not by much — I’m not actually off my rocker. I was unsurprised, but more than a bit disappointed, to discover that someone had registered @Haje, not because his title was “Haje,” but because his first and latest names started with “Ha” and “Je.” Clever. Dammit.

The excellent news was that the account wasn’t in use. It didn’t have a profile picture. It'd also never tweeted a single tweet. Interesting. To me, that indicated that maybe the person didn’t have much of an interest in Twitter, and that he could potentially be persuaded to give up his account.

With apologies to Lloyd.

So I crossed my fingers and tweeted at him, which was every bit as complicated as you’d imagine (have you ever tried typing with crossed fingers?). There was no response.

I tracked down his LinkedIn profile, and sent him an InMail. Nada.

Finally, through some beautiful spectacularly dedicated Internet stalking, I found a couple of email addresses for him. My new Twitter handle presently in reach, I emailed him and waited a couple of weeks. I emailed him again. And again. And, y’know, just one more time. Just in case.

I’m not sure what I’d have said to him if he replied. The map was to ask nicely, along the lines of “Hey, you’re not using it, would you mind if I did?” But honestly, I thought I’d probably just finish up offering him money to give me the username. Which was making me nervous, too: It’s against Twitter’s rules: “Attempts to sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames may result in permanent account suspension,” and Twitter has a history of cracking down on this sort of thing.

As it turned out, I was never given the chance to flaunt Twitter’s rules: The chap never replied; after several months, I gave up.

Well, I didn’t give up give up. That'd be crazy.

Meanwhile, I was beautiful active on the startup scene in London, and through going to a lot of events, I had met quite a few Twitter employees. My Bond-villainesque map was that I could just ask one of them to sort me out. All they'd necessity to do is to modify the email address associated with the account, I’d be able to do a password reset and boom. Work done. Excellent; what could possibly go wrong?

Map B: Friends at Twitter

What could go wrong? Well, quite a few things, as it turned out.

The conversations went an bad lot like this:


“Hey, could you assistance me obtain the @Haje handle on Twitter?” I’d ask them by Twitter DM, in the pub or over a dinner I'd lovingly prepared (read: microwaved) in order to be able to draw a large favor. “It has never been used, and it’d imply a lot to me.”

“LOL kind try, kid,” came the replies, one after the other. “I couldn’t if I wanted to, they stopped doing that even for Twitter staff years ago.”

Well damn. I do recollect Twitter being a bit more lenient with their handles back in the early days (I did successfully procure a couple of Twitter handles for various uses just by asking), but with the company growing and there being a stricter set of rules, things eventually changed.

I suppose I ought to give Twitter credit for having rules and sticking to them (and my friends deserve credit for unceremoniously shooting down my harebrained idea), but it turns out that Map B was a dead-end street. I'd failed yet again, and was number closer to my Twitter handle. Alas.

I perceive morally obliged to point out that this is the point where people who aren’t verging on obsessive would've given up.

I am, evidently, not one of those people.

Map C: Register a trademark

Okay, time to attempt something else. I scoured the rules on Twitter regarding below which circumstances they might hand over a username, and spotted something in the documentation around the Trademark policy around username squatting… Which gave me an idea.

Having running a business for a while, you eventually memorise that trademarks are a required evil. There’s number shortage of people who wish to pass off your work as their own (it’s a tiny bit flattering, and a large bit annoying)… But I'd also registered sufficient trademarks in my time that I knew how; and, if you know what you’re doing, registering a trademark doesn’t have to be very expensive — particularly if nobody opposes the trademark.

I'd a plan, which had taken shape when I was emailing the Keeper of the Handle (as I'd mentally started referring to this mythical, unreachable creature). If they’d gotten in touch, I’d have been pleased to pay anything up to $500 for my first title as a Twitter handle. Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but I rationalized that people spend similar amounts on fancy vanity plates on their cars. “I don’t have a car,” I thought. “I totally deserve a vanity handle.”

Yeah. I know.

Anyway, I decided that this particular vanity handle actually means something to me. Twitter is a major source of news and entertainment, and I’m building a brand there, so being able to utilize my real title seemed to create sense. (“Whatever you necessity to do to sleep at night, dude,” I hear you muttering below your breath.)

Anyway. I registered a web domain for my first title to strengthen my case (in case the trademark people decided to see any deeper), then forked over my £170 (around $250) to the Intellectual Property Office, registering my first title as a trademark.

Trademark: In progress. Yes, that’s me taking a photograph of my screen showing a PDF. Number expenses spared in the production of this article.

Even if it’s not strictly speaking necessary, I decided to register it in a category where I'd a legitimate claim to a trademark, and where having one might actually arrive in handy at some point beyond snagging a Twitter handle. As it turned out, the Intellectual Property Office gave a negative integer of fucks about why I wanted to register the trademark; from their point of view, as long as nobody opposes the application, it’s an ocean of gravy.

I filed a trademark application in Class 41: “Education and Entertainment Services.” Seems fitting, as I’m occasionally educational and (admittedly very rarely) entertaining. Most importantly, a trademark look for told me there was nothing even remotely love my title already registered in this class. There was a excellent reason for that; if someone opposes your trademark, that’s when you necessity to obtain lawyers involved, and where things can obtain really expensive really quickly.

A few months later, the application was approved and I was the lucky owner of trademark registration number UK00003077635; Class 41.

Haje™. Catchy.

Anyway, armed with my trademark, I keep on my finest suit, combed my hair, ate a couple of breath mints and contacted Twitter’s customer support. Of course, given that Twitter’s support team is a web form, there’s number way for them to know what I was wearing, but damn it, this was a big moment.

I sent them a link to the approved trademark application, and the ball was rolling.

$250 and six months later… Victory!

This is my business card. The color is True Blue from Twitter’s brand guidelines, and the only thing written on the all card is my Twitter user name. Because, clearly, I’m that guy.

About a week later, I received an email saying that I could either create a new account or move the username to an existing account. Holy real bingo jackpot home-run slam-dunk, Batman.

The real title modify was a enormous anti-climax after all that; I went into a meeting for work, and when I came out I noticed that I'd been logged out of Twitter. To log back in, I needed to do a password reset, and there it was: my name, with a tiny at-symbol in front of it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it dawned on me that I was expecting nothing: Even after spending the money, I didn’t really expect my map to work. I figured I'd obtain a excellent legend out of the attempt, but actually succeeding? That's a beautiful alien world I hadn’t considered.


Anyway, that's how, for just below 0, I was able to snag my first title on Twitter.

I’ll forgive you for thinking, “What the hell is incorrect with this guy? Who pays $250 to register a trademark to obtain a title on a website?” I’ll even consent with you: It’s a spectacularly conceited and stupid thing to be doing.

And yes, I’m ludicrously alert that actually caring this much about Twitter and the way I’m portrayed on the platform makes me arrive across as a complete and pronounce wanker. But I’m sort of OK with that. In fact, I'd business cards made in the exact exact shade of Twitter Blue, containing only my Twitter handle. Number right-thinking individual would do that, and I’ve never been able to give anybody my business card without apologizing for it at the same time.

And yet… Can you think of any other way of handing over your contact details, a brief biography and context about who you are, all in five characters?

By the way, if you’re still reading this, 2.000 words later, you’re the latest person to criticize me for my Twitter addiction: You’re obviously an unusually large fan of the platform, so you may as well give me a follow. You know where to find me.

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