Knowing Your (Incremental) Online Reputation

While we transition from the Reference Web to the Incremental Web, more and more information will be available online – especially information about you.

As the web moves from merely a reference medium to a true conversational medium, and the tools to post our thoughts and digital content becomes more accessible, the amount of information about individuals will increase. And search engines dedicated to find that information will also flourish.

I think everyone (or at least nearly everyone) has “Googled” themselves to find out what is posted on the web about them. Yes, but have you “Technorati’ed” yourself lately? Other than professional bios, the reference information available when I’ve Googled my own name is pretty basic (for example, a quote in the New York Times and the results from an Angel Island 12K race a few years back). And my Technorati results are mostly just my own blog entries & trackbacks to them.

But what happens when your online reputation goes awry? In the course of my job, I was doing due diligence on one nameless entrepreneur and learned his fiance’s “pet” name for him in her blog. That, I am sure, he didn’t wish for someone in a professional context to see. Embarrassing, yes, but innocuous as well. Yet you can see where this could go if only taken one step further. An angry ex-spouse rants on his/her blog about the other, or a not-so-flattering picture from last year’s company holiday party tagged with your name on flickr. That could do some actual damage.

Your online reputation does matter, and I’d argue it will increasingly do so.

For example, when Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures hired Charlie O’Donnell, he turned to online research, “We found his blog to be the single best diligence item in our process of hiring him.” Now that’s a powerful demonstration of a positive online reputation.

Increasingly, we are going find out information – both professional and personal – about people online. (I know from my own web server logs that ten people found have found this blog so far this month by typing my name into one of the search engines.) And as more information about us is online, people will be increasingly likely to search for us.

Do you know your own online reputation? It’s out there whether you know it or not.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.