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Do you know what the internet says about you? And would you want your mother, or your boss, to see?

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Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at askleo.info.

I occasionally get questions from people that boil down to: "how do I remove myself from search engine results?" The answer of course is track down every site that mentions you, convince each of those to remove you from their content, and wait 3 to 6 months for the search engines to re-index. Even then, there are sites and archives and search engines that didn't remove you, won't remove you, or just don't care.

So when you Google yourself, do you like what you see?

Will your mother like what she sees? If she's on-line, you can bet she'll be looking.

Will your potential employers like what they see? We've all heard stories of people doing really well on their interviews, only to be declined an offer after the employer discovers their blog or the blog of a friend detailing drunken parties, stories of previous employers, or worse.

Will your customers like what they see? If you have any kind of an on-line personality, or are personally identifiable with your business, you can bet that customers will look you up. Will what they find offend them? Will they perhaps think twice about doing business with you, or visiting your web site?

That last one is a particular dilemma for folks such as myself. Yes, I have a personal blog, but how much should I put in it?

Most weblogs are a form of personal expression - an uncensored venue for people to talk about, even rant about, topics that interest or motivate them. The problem, though, is that even though there is no formal relationship between personal and business venues, there is a very real practical one. People interested in me and my business may stumble upon my personal rants and opinions. Even though it has nothing to do with my business, my personal blog naturally reflects on me, which becomes part of my public persona, which in turn can impact my business. Even mentions on other sites not under my control become a part of who I am on the internet.

The bottom line is that while you and I have the right to post or say whatever we choose to in our personal venues, doing so without considering the bigger picture could be a huge mistake. Whether it's a lost job opportunity, a pissed-off friend or family member, or a lost customer, every aspect of our footprint on the internet can play a part.

Think long and hard about the potential side effects before you start posting all those cute personal stories in your blog. A couple of lost job opportunities later, and you may be very sorry if you didn't.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 10392 in the go to article number box. Leave a comment, I read them all.

This is a presentation of askleo.info, a free on-line technical question and answer service. Hundreds of questions and answers are online and ready to help solve your computer problems.

That's askleo.info.

Article C2682 - June 8, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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7 Comments
Greg Bulmash
June 9, 2006 12:00 PM

In 1997, I wrote a joke job application for a humor site I was running. I posted it to some joke groups on usenet to try to generate some traffic.

Someone grabbed that post, stripped off my copyright and intro, added the claim that it was real, and sent it to a few friends. That snowballed until it's now on thousands and thousands of web pages, has its own urban legend entry at Snopes.com, and in many of the cases, my name is still in the applicant slot.

If you Google my name, about 90% of the hits will be pages running that joke.

Emine
June 10, 2006 5:55 AM

Good afernon Leo
Thenkye very mache
No comment
byee

dsullman
June 10, 2006 10:41 AM

An easy way to beat this problem is to use your initials and last name if you writing something you might regret later. Google L Notenboom for example. The first Leo Notenboom hit is five down and has little to do with Ask-Leo. And you a fellow who really wants Leo Notenboom to be found.

Leo A. Notenboom
June 10, 2006 10:48 AM

Actually the #2 hit is me also (help system).

I don't think it's enough to alter your name slightly. If you really want to go stealth, you need to adopt an entirely separate persona. Completely different name, etc.

The reason I don't mention that, though, is that then your personal blog (for example) loses it's connection with you. I'd say that most people do want their comments to be attributed to them ... their opinions lose legitimacy when posted anonymously. And there's the whole ego thing - this is my blog, why shouldn't it be my name?

I think practical reality is somewhere in between. Rational, think-before-you-speak caution in personally identifiable venues. Other stuff - well, if it'd be a mistake to post it such that you could be identified - should it really be posted at all, anywhere? (I know that sometimes the answer is yes, but I'd claim not as often as people seem to think.)

danullman
June 10, 2006 4:49 PM

Perhaps I am lucky that I share a last name will a lot of professors. My name is a wasteland of cited articles.

BTW, the fact that I did not figure out that the second item was you does sorta proves my point. Had you not told me I would not have known. If I had thought it might be you a click on the page (an index of the late Dr Dobb's) would not have helped me track the evil side of your personality (grin). Or any other part for that matter.

Another idea, if you post something that you have second thoughts about edit the entry and note "I got this from... and thought it might interest you folks."

Lee Neslon Guptill
June 12, 2009 4:00 PM

I was advised by none other than Leo Notenboom himself to make up a name which I now do. No one will be able to frame ME for that wachadiggee that happened on Hoosit Island before the rum runners went wild!

Rob Abdul
August 1, 2009 6:22 PM

My name “Rob Abdul” for the last 3 years has been my brand name.

I was so proud when my name appeared in Google’s suggestive list.

It may not sound like much but at least 60 to 80 people goggle me a month.

It is nice for the Ego, I must admit!

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