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Category: Personal

The Next Chapter

After more than 10 years at The Wall Street Journal, I took the buyout offered to the newsroom this fall. My decision is bittersweet: Although I’ll miss my colleagues, I am excited for the opportunities coming my way this year.

My family is set to expand this spring, when I am due with my second child. The buyout offers me the chance at something most women in the U.S. don’t have: months of time to spend with their families after a birth.

In the meantime, I will be serving as interim communications director at the new Knight Institute for the First Amendment at Columbia University. The institute, funded jointly by the Knight Foundation and Columbia, works to protect and expand freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age.

As the Internet has shaken the media industry, traditional outlets have been less able to undertake First Amendment litigation. Simultaneously, changes in communications technology are raising First Amendment questions about things such as surveillance and the freedom of Internet platforms. The institute will aim to help solve these problems in favor of greater press freedoms. I’ll be working with them to get their website launched, get on social media, develop an introductory symposium and produce initial research and commentary.

I also will do some freelance work this year, so stay tuned. My plan is to head back to full-time journalism work late in 2017.

Episode IV: A New Job

For most of my time at The Wall Street Journal, I’ve been a “Web producer,” laying out stories on the website’s home page, editing headlines and descriptions, that sort of thing. Recently I moved into a new role with the Journal’s Digits technology blog.

You can check out my work there. The blog looks at start-ups as well as major technology companies, but I’ve found that some of my favorite pieces involve tech research and technology policy. Recently I’ve looked at things like government use of technology in Manor, Texas, and whether doctors should Google their patients. If you work with these kinds of topics and have a tip for me, feel free to drop me a line at jennifer[dot]valentino[at]wsj[dot]com.

My Name Is Too Long for Twitter

When I got married a couple of years ago, I spent a fair amount of time deciding whether to change my name. “Valentino” isn’t a bad name, and I’d never really thought I’d want to change it. But I happen to kind of like my husband, and I thought taking his name in some way was a nice thing to do. It made both of us happy. I’m aware that my name is long and annoying — 24 letters (four of them capitalized) plus a hyphen — but it’s my name.

Unfortunately, it’s not my name on Twitter. It’s too long.

Now, I can understand why my username on Twitter can’t be more than 15 characters. Usernames are added to outgoing messages, and they’re used within messages in retweets and so forth. You don’t want your entire 140-character limit on messages being taken up by a username. But what gets me is that real names on Twitter also have character limits. The restriction is raised to 20 characters (including spaces) to allow for people with longer names, but my name goes beyond even that. I’d imagine that many of Twitter’s female users might be known by two surnames as well. Plus, there are several nationalities with names that would easily test Twitter’s limits.

There’s a practical issue here — the ease of finding people in the Twitterverse. On Facebook, I can search for friends whether I use their married names, maiden names or even nicknames. On Twitter’s people search, which is notoriously problematic, I can be easily found with a query for “jenvalentino” or “Jennifer Valentino,” and that’s about it. If you search for anything involving “DeVries,” or even for “Jen Valentino,” you don’t find me, even though I list my full name in Twitter’s little “bio” section. It’s not that I think I have legions of fans who are dying to follow my anemic Twitter feed. But for a social-media service, this is a user-experience problem. Shouldn’t Twitter be facilitating my search for relevant people to follow?