Prior to wide-spread use of the Internet it was reasonable to expect that if you had a family name that was not really common and a given name that was also not really common then you might never meet someone else with the same combination of first and last names as yourself. I have never met anyone else named Russell Coker because Coker is not a really common family name and it seems that Russell was not overly common in the last 4+ decades. If you had a family name such as Smith, Ng, or Ali then the chance of having someone else with the same given name would be significant as those family names are so incredibly popular.
Even with names that are not known to be extremely popular name clashes happen, for example my sister is named Helen Coker, it doesn’t seem likely to be an overly common combination however there was another Helen Coker at the same high-school.
On the Internet however things are different. About 10 years ago I received an email from someone named Russell Coker who just wanted to say hello after having searched for his own name and found information on me. Shortly after that I found a third Russell Coker on the net (who didn’t respond to my email). It seems likely that even in the early days of the net I didn’t find everyone named Russell Coker, and it also seems quite likely that the number of Russell Coker’s on the net has increased significantly over the last 10 years. There could be dozens of Russell Coker’s although if they are using “Russell Coker” as their name on the net then I am unlikely to find them as it’s most likely that I’m the only Russell Coker to have the same email address and web site for 10 years – so my net presence probably squashes everyone else who uses that as their entire name.
A quick google search for “Russell J Coker” (John is my middle name) found one other person using that name, I also found a Russell D Coker, a Russell M Coker, a Russell N Coker, and two Russell R Coker’s (one of whom died in 2002).
It seems that if you don’t have a family name that is rarely used (EG Torvalds which was created recently) or a made-up first-name (which seems to be a popular trend nowadays) then you are going to encounter other people with the same name as you. Using an initial will significantly reduce the incidence of this, in my case if I used my middle initial then I would remove four out of five of the other living Russell Coker’s that are found by Google.
But as is the case with me it seems that many (most?) people will have name collisions no matter what they do.
As an attempt to increase my control over my name I have registered the domain RussellCoker.com. Not sure if it will do any good but it’s cheap enough and it’s worth a try.