The Ungooglable ManSaw this comic a couple of weeks ago (HT @barbaragordon) and – as well as making me laugh – it made me think about my own online profile.

Now, I pretty much live online. I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, LibraryThing, Delicious, Google Reader, Flickr, Blogger, WordPress (of course!) and probably a bunch of others I’ve forgotten! I was on MySpace too but deleted my account a couple of years ago.

However, if you Google my name you get pages and pages of results – virtually none of which have anything to do with me. It helps that I have a very common name (and I apparently share it with an Irish TV presenter, so her results take up the first few pages of Google anyway!); it also helps that I almost never use my real name online.

The decision not to use my own name was a conscious one when I began blogging (but not when I began Twittering – my Twitter username was originally my own full name, but I had to change that quite early on). For personal reasons, I preferred not to have my full name linked to anything I was writing online – without wanting to go into too much detail, I had some problems with an ex-boyfriend who was harassing me online, and I didn’t really want to give him that much of an insight into my life. He did find my Twitter account – hence I changed my user ID – but I don’t think he ever stumbled across my blog. I could be wrong, of course.

Thing is, I set this blog up never really expecting anyone to read it. As it’s turned out, while I don’t have an enormous audience, there are quite a few people reading this – and it’s become a very useful professional tool for me. I’m starting to think that the disadvantages of keeping it anonymous outweigh the benefits. I haven’t heard from the ex in a while, and it would be really useful for me to be able to point people to this site from other places where I do use my real name, such as LinkedIn.

So this was really just a roundabout way of saying that I’ve decided to relax my policy of never linking to – or allowing links from – any site that identifies me by my full name. I’ve done this in a few places already and the world hasn’t come to an end (yet) – so it probably shouldn’t make much of a difference to my blogging.

I’m also planning on shifting this blog fairly soon, to a self-hosted WordPress site. My plan is to make the new site a kind of online CV – so I’ll pull in my LinkedIn details, plus anything professional-like from other sites (like the New Professionals Conference programme). That’s really been the spur for this decision – it’s a bit pointless building an online CV if you can’t include your real name on it! Hopefully will all work out ok – watch this space!


12 comments on “UnGooglable?

  1. I think it takes a certain amount of guts to blog under your own name. There’s an article on Penelope Trunk’s blog about why you should blog under your name, here: http://bit.ly/1nhbcY (forgive me I am forever referencing Penelope Trunk!) and it’s pretty convincing. But I’m still not comfortable enough to do it… maybe one day… sometimes I feel my name makes me just a bit *too* googlable!

    • Good article, cheers for the link. Penelope articulates a lot of the thoughts I had on the subject of anonymous blogging, far better than I could! I do think there’s a difference between blogging under a pseudonym and blogging under a nickname though. Penelope mentions that “people who were just getting to know me got hung up on the name issue – they couldn’t believe that I was so well known by a name that wasn’t my name”. I doubt that’d be an issue for me really – I can’t see anyone being too shocked at finding out that my birth certificate doesn’t actually say “woodsiegirl”!

  2. I’m quite pleased to have a very common name, google returns many people with my name none of them me! This is something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently, mainly since realising how many online identities I actually have. I don’t use my real name for twitter or my blog because I’m only just starting out and learning as I go, would be very easy to make some mistakes that I worry could come back to haunt the real life me. Was faced with a mini crisis recently when the we blogged about web2.0 for a work thing and I ended up with people who I work with following me on twitter. The main worry being that I wasn’t sure if I was ready for work people to discover my blog.

    • Yes, I’d probably be even less keen to have this stuff linked to my real name if I had a very distictive, easily-Googlable name! The whole work/privacy thing is tricky, especially when just starting out, as you say. I guess in a way I’m sort of lucky with that – my boss and my co-workers all know that I’m on Twitter and I have a blog, but none of them have ever shown the slightest interest in it! They’re all very web-savvy people, but I don’t think they’ve really got much interest in social networking in general.

  3. This has never really been an issue for me – I set my blog/twitter up for professional purposes, and, as you say, there’s no point to that if people don’t know who you are!

    I’m very lucky in that I’ve never felt the need to hide my blogging/tweeting from people at work – they encourage me to do it, and sometimes leave lovely comments too! I do see that that might change in future jobs, but I guess I’ll deal with that when it happens. The only person who I am kind of worried about seeing my blog is my mum – it has swearing in it! I’d get a clip round the earhole for that 😦

    In general, I try not to tweet/blog anything that I wouldn’t want to be asked about at a job interview. I don’t always quite manage that, but on the whole it makes me fairly confident about the professional face I’m presenting. I do censor myself sometimes – for instance, I’d never say anything mean about a user or colleague on twitter, or indeed anywhere on the internet (I’m thinking of places like this http://community.livejournal.com/library_mofo/). If I need a bit of a moan, I’ll confine it to the office – I’m just not comfortable taking it outside that environment.

    I also have a unique name (according to Google and the passport office, anyhow), so have no hope of hiding under someone else’s bushel 🙂

    Anyway (to finally get to the point and stop rabbiting on about myself), I’m really pleased you’ve taken this step! I think it’s a great move towards building a really strong and impressive online profile. Good luck with it all!

    • Ha, never seen that LiveJournal group before – I’m surprised that it wasn’t blocked by the web filters at work!

      I think your point about not saying anything you wouldn’t want to be asked about in a job interview is a good rule of thumb. I do stray off topic here – and have had a bit of a general moan about work on Twitter, although I don’t *think* I’ve ever said anythign negative about a colleague or user – but on the whole, there’s nothing on here I’d be worried about a potential employer seeing.

  4. Laura as you’re on LinkedIn you may as well go for it. LinkedIn is ugly and annoying, but boy have they nailed their SEO… type anyone’s name into Google, LinkedIn tends to be the first thing that comes up, so people can find anyone online regardless of their nom-de-blog.

    Incidentally, there is a Ned Potter who reports for ABC (US TV network) who takes up all the Google flack for me – and a second-hand car dealer as well. 🙂 Sadly for me, a couple of other people thought of thewikiman first – some guy who never uses his Twitter or youtube accounts despite having registered them, plus someone else who writes for the Spectator. Me and Boris = like THAT.

    • Part of the reason I wanted to start using my real name online is so that I can put a link to this blog on my LinkedIn page. The main thing for me was not to remain totally anonymous at all costs – as well as LinkedIn, I also have a Facebook account which (obviously!) uses my real name – just to keep unwanted attention away from sites that didn’t have the kind of built-in barrier that Facebook and LI have. It’s pretty easy to control who can view/comment on your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, but not so easy with something like Twitter or a blog. I actually used to have a MySpace profile, but had to delete that a year or so ago because there was no easy way of stopping a stalker from harassing you on there.

      So yes, I know I’m already findable via LinkedIn – I just haven’t wanted a certain person to be able to find this blog or my Twitter account quite so easily! I really don’t think it’s a problem any more though, so it’ll be good to be a bit more open in my communications online.

  5. I use my real name quite liberally around the internet, and score quite highly in search results for my name (it varies immensely whether it’s my website, or Linked In, or pages related to old my PhD which show up from search engine to search engine). One reason for this is that I don’t have any stalkers (that I’m aware, no malicious ones at least!). As far as I can tell it’s been a positive for me that I’m easy to find in a professional context.

    I do use other usernames for certain activities. For example, I’m a member of the LJ community above (although never post in it) under my LJ account. It’s more than possible to track between my other usernames and my real identity, but there’s usually enough distance that you’d have to be actively looking. And once you’d got there you’d probably be disappointed: I’d never put anything too extreme in an open online space. I just like to control what comes up a curious prospective employer types in my name!

  6. [I linked in here through Bethan & Joeyanne on Twitter (hi!)]

    I have two completely separate online identities – this one, that I use for professional purposes and set up during Oxford’s 23 Things programme (or rather, moved to WordPress after the programme, because I hated Blogger so much), and an LJ which is personal and fannish. Like you, I really, really wanted to be able to control what happened when my name was Googled, and with blogs becoming standard tools for new professionals in particular, it seems appropriate to have a personal hub as well as a pseudonymous one.

    My current dilemma is what to do about the craft posts I want to make. Can I really set up a third blog? And what name do I use? I’m happy for most of my professional colleagues to see things I make (many of them craft as well), and I’m happy for the crafters on my LJ-friends list to see what I make as well. So I’m currently trying to keep the two worlds apart, and am still trying to work out how (cross-posting is looking good right now!). The overlap is always a hard place to manage.

    I think putting your name to your blog sounds like a great idea – are you any more comfortable with the idea 10 days on from writing this? (yes, I’m late…sorry!)

    See you at NPC2010 in July! I feel like I’m going to know half the people there before I even arrive…

    • I know what you mean about managing the overlap – I don’t have that much online that’s purely personal, but there is stuff I still want to keep separate from my work stuff. Someone actually left a comment on a previous post which I think sums up this idea really well, so I’m just going to go ahead and quote it here (sorry Annie!):
      “I think this problem partly arises for us because we have the middle ground between work and personal – professional. Chances are, if you’ve chosen to be an information professional, it’s because you enjoy the work and are interested in the wider professional context. ‘Work’ becomes ‘personal’, because you’re not just interested in things because it’s your job to follow them. So it’s difficult to separate out a work persona from a personal one unless you have a clearly defined, fairly discrete purpose for each account”

      So yeah, that’s kind of my thinking on why I don’t have entirely separate personas (personae?) online.

      Looking forward to meeting you at NPC2010 – this is why I love Twitter etc, it’s so much easier to go to these things when you sort-of know people already!

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