GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

May 23, 2005

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.

  • Christy

    I learned that lesson very early on by, as a graduate student, using my school email address to post on a purely recreational b-board. It was innocuous, but mildly embarrassing to have potential employers know of my outside interests and to be able to read my hastily-written and unguarded comments. Fortunately, the topic was skiing, but I learned my lesson about what I did and did not want use my ‘real’ email address for. The comments, now written almost ten years ago, are still kicking around out there for people who really look hard. Ugh. At least lots of others like skiing, too.

  • Gibson

    Check out http://www.newmediastrategies.net/ – they specialize in managing brand protection (and promotion) online. Very interesting (and somewhat scary) stuff…

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