It is becoming increasingly apparent that the information that can be obtained online can either be to our benefit or detriment. Privacy concerns make the news almost daily and many have lost their jobs due to material they though was either irrelevant or anonymous. Employers are increasingly turning to online sources to look for detailed information on potential employees. I think that this latter case can actually work in our favor if we take the time to make sure that there is little to no negative information about us online and make sure that positive information takes its place.
This post will detail the steps I have taken in that regard. Please note that these are just ideas to get you thinking. You are responsible for your own actions.
Out with the old
A quick google search will get you started on what information is out there about you. I was amazed at how much information there was about me already. In my case there wasn’t really anything that I felt needed to be removed, but if there was I would have taken the following steps.
1. Delete the offending content. Always a good first step. Yes, that material is indexed so it won’t disappear immediately, but you have to start somewhere.
2. Delete the offending account. For me this means FaceBook. Even though there is no offending content for me, the fact that it is so easy for others to post pictures with my name on it worries me a little. Check out http://www.quitfacebookday.com/ if you need a little help there. It doesn’t stop with facebook. Be tenacious in reclaiming your information. Take the extra step of making sure that the service you are deleting removes the data from their servers.
3. Contact the poster and ask that they remove the content. This is more along the lines of newspapers, blogs and other services that post information about you without your express permission. If they refuse, you may have a legal basis to compel them to remove the content and should definitely check with your attorney.
4. Stop posting your random crap. The internet does not need to know how drunk you were last night, how many people you slept with or whatever other drivel you manage to think up in an effort to make you feel better about yourself and if you think about it neither do your friends. Simplify. Take a second and think about what you are going to say. Ask yourself, “Does this help me or hurt me.” This is by far the most important step in this section. You don’t have to worry about how to get rid of the information if it never existed.
In with the new
This section is open to more debate as everyone has their own idea of how to disseminate information. The important part is that the best way to remove the power that negative information has is to overpower it with positive information. Sufficed to say, this is what I’m going to try.
1. LinkedIn Yes, I know it’s yesterday’s news, but they do a pretty good job of getting your resume indexed by google. Thanks to them the top result for my name is now my resume.
2. WordPress I don’t care which blog you choose, I chose WordPress because it gives me the best of both worlds in terms of a extensibility and minimal fuss. Yes, I am technically capable of hosting my own site, but why expend that effort when I can focus my energy on more profitable pursuits like learning something new, starting a company or writing a killer web app. Not to mention unless you are getting paid, running your own site just sucks.
3. Twitter Meh. Twitter makes my list because it is a popular gathering place for minds on the internet and thus a source of people to communicate with. My intent here is to locate useful content creators and let them locate me. To that end most of my content here will be generated by posts on WordPress. One of these days I will get around to posting about what I find to be truly innovative about the twitter platform, but not today.
4. identi.ca Double Meh. If they are not on twitter they are probably on identi.ca. There are quite a few significant open source minds on identi.ca which makes it worth looking through from time to time. Also the StatusNet software interests me.
5. Buzz Yeah, I know kind of a flop, but I like the public profile and it’s easy to post to. I like buzz for the same reason I like LinkedIn. It is another place where static information about you can sit and be indexed. Remember, the goal here is to get good information about us out there.
6. GitHub Yep, just as soon as I start coding in my spare time this is where it will go. Yep… On a more serious note, the book Getting Real by 37signals mentions(I’m paraphrasing here) that if you are looking for a developer look at their open source contributions for frequency and quality. What a person does in their free time can tell you a lot about what kind of employee they would be.
This is the essence of this post.
It doesn’t have to be GitHub. If you are a writer WordPress may be all you need. Whatever you do, get involved with the community that does it. This concept extends to the real world. Humanity prospers when we work together.
The change won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. I hope the day finds you well reader. Until next time…