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February 6, 2007

Who Is Caitlin Roran?

You may have seen a lot of pictures in Gmail that show messages received from people like Caitlin Roran, Nathan Wood and others. Someone tried to solve the mystery and created a Wikipedia page for Caitlin Roran, but it was deleted. Here's the full content:
Caitlin Roran is a fictional character (or advertising character) devised as part of a Google advertising campaign. The ad was created to promote Google's Gmail service and its availability via mobile phone. Caitlin's name appears as having sent the second email from the top dated September 13 regarding a surprise party.

The surname Roran seems extremely rare in the United States and may be nonexistent outside this ad.

However the ad has been seen by enough Gmail subscribers that a Google search for the name will turn up at least one Web site dedicated to keeping track of these searches.

Caitlin's e-mail appears in bold typeface, and is thus yet to be opened by the owner of the phone. The email at the top of the phone's display, from Buck regarding a recent trip to Hawaii, is also bold and thus unread. Buck's message also appears to have a file (or files) attached (presumably pictures from Hawaii, but possibly some other type of file).

It has been suggested that Caitlin does not represent a real person but is a name attached to a spam message. Buck's message is under similar suspicion. The messages from Susan (third position from the top) and Nathan (fourth from the top) seem less likely to be spam, as their subject headings are less typical of computer-generated spam subject headings.

It's not clear if the recipient of Caitlin's email is the organizer of the "surprise party" or is one of the guests. It is also possible that the recipient is the party's honoree and is being informed of the secret plans -- though, for what purpose is unclear.

According to one theory, Nathan, whose name appears next to the message "BBQ on Saturday," is the party planner and the party is to honor Buck, the author of the simulated email about having just gotten back from Hawaii. The owner of the phone possibly is Buck's best friend and the boyfriend of Susan, who is trying to make plans to have sushi.

If the owner of the phone is female, however, the sushi plan suggestion is more difficult to interpret.

Another question that has been raised about this ad is whether the "BBQ on Saturday" might happen to be on the same day as the "Surprise party." No day of the week is given for the surprise party, giving rise to the possibility that Caitlin's and Nathan's mutual friend (the owner of the phone) could have a conflict between the two events. Of course, even if they were on the same day, they could be at different times, which would solve the problem.

It's also noted that the owner of the phone responded to Buck's e-mail about his return from Hawaii and to Susan's message about plans for sushi but ignored the messages about the BBQ and the surprise party. One could assume that the latter two messages were sent to a mass list of guests and did not require responses. Or perhaps the person has not responded to either message because both events are scheduled for the same time (presumably in the afternoon of September 16, 2006) and the person has not decided which one to attend.

The interface shows only two unread messages, a sign that the phone belongs to a person who has recently signed up for Gmail.

Judging by the content of the messages, the owner of the phone is likely between 20 and 40 years old and has at least a moderate amount of disposable income and leisure time. There is no evidence that the person is employed or has any interests other than planning events.

Judging by the month (September), the event (BBQ), and Buck's travel destination (Hawaii), the owner of the phone likely lives in Southern California, where an email advertising a fall bar-b-que would be so ordinary as to merit no response.

The tentative nature of the sushi plans with Susan also suggests that Susan is likely the significant other or close friend of the phone's owner, or at least someone with whom the phone owner socializes frequently enough to make spontaneous plan making possible.


  1. S/he got an empty Orkut profile, too.

  2. Looking at how much time, effort, and seriously deep thought went into this extensive and well thought out article on an inconsequential fictional name seen in an advertisement... makes me feel so much more productive.

  3. 'Roran' is a non-extremely-rare surname in Ireland, at least.

  4. Why would we think Buck is the person that is back from Hawaii?

    The image makes clear that the e-mail is second of a short contact between the owner and Buck. If Buck has been to Hawaii, the attachment suggests that the owner asked Buck to send some pictures in his first e-mail.
    But this does not make any sense, because why would you ask somebody to send pictures before this person announced that he returned? Also, the subject of the e-mail doesn't really match with this scenario.

    No, my suggestion is that the owner is the one who has just returned from Hawaii. And now everybody is inviting him/her for parties and dinners to hear all about his/her holiday trip.
    The file attached to the Buck's reply just is just a random image or movie clip, probably office humor.

    Maybe the owner even created the Gmail account to stay in contact with his/her friends at home!

  5. My hunch is that the designer grew up in the 90's listening to the Cranberries and Whiskeytown and the name is an amalgamation of Caitlin Cary and Dolores O'Riordan.

  6. Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Caitlin Roran.

  7. One of the best articles that I read in a long long time.....what a thought...fantastic....time consuming and totally unneccesary...but fantastic...

  8. I'm sorry but, Caitlin Roran died a horrible AIDS and Rabies related death on March 16th. The funeral was March 20th. Nathan Woodward and Susan were there, but Buck Rodgerson wasn't as they had a falling out because of some unread emails. It was a sad day for all. Shortly after her death a cell-phone was found next to her bed. She had been composing a message to Buck apologizing for ignoring him.

  9. My name is Nathan Wood and I'm honored to be a part of this posting.

  10. Check it out, there's an easter egg in Facebook using these names. Go to Facebook privacy settings, then choose "Custom" and click Customize settings." Under "Include me in 'People Here Now' after I check in," click "See an example." Three of your friends, plus Caitlin Roran and Nathaniel Woodward. How obscure!

  11. This explains things:


    Caitlin Roran. You can't add her. :(