A Collection of Smurfs

I’m going to borrow a term from eSports and talk about the value of having Smurf Accounts.

When Paper launched last week I heard the usual drone of individuals complaining that they couldn’t try the app because they don’t have a Facebook account. This surprised me because many of the people in that situation are also developers.

As a developer (but also more generally) I think it is highly valuable to have a collection of Smurf Accounts. These are accounts with services setup so that you can separate your use of a service from your main online persona. Think of them as your boring, useless alter-ego. I have accounts like this on any service I use regularly and even a few for services I don’t often frequent.

Setting up Smurfs gives you a few advantages.

  • You can test social sharing features in your apps without flooding your followers with “just testing” messages.
  • You can keep your more personal life services (like Facebook) separate from your business/work needs.
  • You can try out services and apps that require account creation without needing to give the developers your actual information.
  • You can enter all those silly twitter contests and giveaways while holding onto some modicum of self-respect.
David Smith