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Do you Google just about everyone you meet?

My philosophy is that you can't be too careful these days.  Whenever I meet anyone of any significance -- whether it's clients, potential romantic partners, or new neighbors -- I immediately Google them (or as soon as practicable, anyway).  You'd be amazed at the stuff you can find out that way.  I'm always surprised that the vast majority of my business clients never Googled me (so far as I can tell, anyway).  Most of them don't even look at my website, ferchrissake.  Naïve fools.

Information is power.

Anonymous for this one
Friday, September 26, 2003

I do it all the time.

One question, how do you feel when you can't find anything at all? I google every technical resume that comes in and it worries me when I can't find anything on them.

Marc
Friday, September 26, 2003

What do you google on? Name? Email address? What do you expect to find?

Philo

Philo
Friday, September 26, 2003

How do you know you're not making decisions based on namesakes?


Friday, September 26, 2003

I Google on whatever it takes to get the information.  One time I found out that a potential client was involved in a nasty legal battle with his landlord.  I've never actually learned something truly stunning (like my would-be blind date is a paroled ax-murderer or something), but I've often found out stuff that makes me go, "Hmmmm....".

Anonymous for this one
Friday, September 26, 2003

Name and email address.

As for what I expect, I'm not sure. But it is hard to believe that anyone in this business has managed to never post anything to a news group or put up a page on the web.

If you search for me you find the 3rd or 4th link is to a message I posted to the Sane-Devel mailing list back in 1997 (sane is a twain driver for Linux).

Marc
Friday, September 26, 2003

I do worry about the namesake issue. But at least with me (searching resumes) I have a context for which to look for.

I can feel pretty confident that the posting to alt.computers is accurate while skipping the NFL stats for the same name is also a safe bet.

Marc
Friday, September 26, 2003

I have a rather unique name, but just Googled it.  My name is as ubiquitous as dirt.  How can you have much confidence in getting the right guy?

Brian R.
Saturday, September 27, 2003

You know what's _really_ depressing?  When you Google all the fat, drunk, and stupid people you knew in college -- and you find out that they're now successful attorneys, doctors, and business executives.

Underachiever extraordinaire
Saturday, September 27, 2003

"I Google on whatever it takes to get the information.  One time I found out that a potential client was involved in a nasty legal battle with his landlord."

So?

Philo

Philo
Saturday, September 27, 2003

I use different email addresses / fake name for a while now, just because these issues.

I use my full name in normal discussions, etc, while I use a fake one where is chance that in the future I want to hide that.

na
Saturday, September 27, 2003

In short, no.  I rarely ever google anyone.  Really, about the only time I google somebody is when I google for a old friend that I've lost contact with.  What exactly do you hope to accomplish by googling everybody you meet?  Do you really trust some statement on the web that may or may not actually have been written by the person in question and that you probably don't have sufficient context to fully evaluate more than your own impressions of the person in real life interactions?

Matt Latourette
Saturday, September 27, 2003

"What exactly do you hope to accomplish by googling everybody you meet?"

I suspect it's done largely out of boredom... More mindless surfing the web really.

Mark T A W .com
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Apparently the name for this is 'counter-googling'. Because some places do it at a counter? Don't know, though I read one story where an immigration official did this to someone on arrival.

http://www.trendwatching.com/trends/2003/09/COUNTER-GOOGLING.html

http://joi.ito.com/archives/2003/08/26/authenticated_my_id_with_google.html

I need to get a new domain and start using a pseudonym--if you ask me in person (that includes email), I'll happily tell you my real name. But in a long-term archived format? Um, that worries me.

mb
Saturday, September 27, 2003

New from the people who brought you disposable e-mail addresses: Disposable Identities. Yes that's right, tired of running into pesky ex-boyfriends at the supermarket? Well we can give you a completely new identity.... He won't even recognize you.

There are a number of books out here on protecting your privacy. A quick trip over to Amazon will reveal a few... As long as you don't mind Amazon knowing you bought them or browsed for them.

I have a few tips on my website as well, and yes that is my real name on the About Me page. That's even my real photo. Google finds me real fast.

Mark T A W .com
Saturday, September 27, 2003

No.  Just the women I think are hot.  You know, for stalking them later.

I once had an interviewer google me after a particularly grueling interview, where he came across my blog in which I reported on the experience.  I got the job.

Alyosha`
Saturday, September 27, 2003

> Google all the fat, drunk, and stupid people you knew in college -- and you find out that they're now successful attorneys, doctors, and business executives.

I google those people and they don't even show up. They probably get their secretaries to do their email.


Saturday, September 27, 2003

"I google those people and they don't even show up. They probably get their secretaries to do their email. "

Yeah same here. Though I guess it would make a difference if you were in school with all computer science people. I wasn't.

Mark T A W .com
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Philo:  Finding out about a client's legal problems can have implications for predicting the client's future behavior and for estimating his or her ability to pay.  It's an important piece of information.

Matt wrote, "Do you really trust some statement on the web that may or may not actually have been written by the person in question..."

Ah, but the web also has things written _about_ people, not just _by_ people.

Anonymous for this one
Saturday, September 27, 2003

I spent a lot of time getting my real name removed from the google archives.  Now I only post anon.  There's just a few sites/messages that have my name now, most of the google results are by some nudist/swinger freak in NY. 

still anon.
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Anonymous, you do realize that every story has three sides, right?

In addition, I will venture that personal life!=professional life. I know a guy who has had his power cut off a few times because he simply forgets to pay the bills. But he's a project manager at his job and highly respected. Why? Because he knows that at work he has to overcompensate for his forgetfulness. At home it's just him, so he doesn't really care that much - if the power's cut off, he just goes and pays the bill.

I think employees should be judged solely on work performance. Period. Pulling their private lives into it is wholly unfair and unreasonable.

Philo

Philo
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Pardon my ignorance, but how do you "google" somebody?  I use Google to search for my own name, and it turns up hundreds of hits none of which are me.  No matches on my email address.  Is there a special "people search" within Google that I don't know about?

Unsilent Bob
Saturday, September 27, 2003

I agree with Philo.  Chances are that your name is not unique and you had better be damn sure that what you find on google actually refers to or is by the person you're interested in.  Even so, most states have court records that are easily accessible on the net.  Be careful how you go about judging people.


Saturday, September 27, 2003

I've always been protected from this - I've got the same name as a celebrity, so you'd have to dig through a whole load of other junk to find anything about me...

R1ch
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Philo, my client was involved in lawsuits with the landlord for his (the client's) place of business, not the client's personal residence.

Anonymous for this one
Saturday, September 27, 2003

"Ah, but the web also has things written _about_ people, not just _by_ people."

Yes, you're right about that.  The graffiti on the bathroom walls and the office rumors about who's f#@king who are also a matter of people talking/writing about people and generally have about the same amount evidence to back them up.

I have a friend that works for a shipping company, which shall remain nameless.  According to office gossip, she's been screwing her boss for years.  One day, her housemate stopped by the office to visit.  Shortly thereafter, the rumor around the office was that she was having a torrid lesbian affair with her housemate.  Of course, there's not one whit of truth to it all.  She's been in a monogamous relationship with her boyfriend for a long time and they've recently gotten engaged.

Whether you're googling people on the web or just listening to the conversation at the water cooler, you're likely going to find gossip, not information.

Matt Latourette
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Matt,  have you Googled many people before?  You're likely to come up with newspaper articles and other such (relatively) reliable sources of information, and not just random rumors.

To give another example, when I Googled another client, I found an article from some local newspaper that showed he was in a partnership with a real estate developer to do some major renovations/expansion on a local ski area.  Again, useful information for me to have -- and information that I never would have found had I not Googled.

You never know what will turn up.  Of course, you have to use your judgment when evaluating sources.

Anonymous for this one
Saturday, September 27, 2003

" You're likely to come up with newspaper articles "

Wow. How many of us have had newspaper articles written about us? I was mentioned once in Wired, but I thought that was a pretty extreme example.

Mark T A W .com
Saturday, September 27, 2003

true story:
When google aquired all the really old usenet stuff I had a great time searching for old friends/co-workers from college.  Then I found a post from my old boss in alt.sex.beastiality looking for a "large dog or small horse"..

Steve H
Saturday, September 27, 2003

I just gave it a try and googled the math department sysadmin from my college days (someone I knew fairly well).  What did I find?  Mainly mailing list archives, USENET posts, and a few web pages.

1) Apple SCSI drive post
2) A post that had so little context that I couldn't figure out what the topic of conversation was or whether or not it was actually written by the person I knew, despite knowing this person well.
3) A mailing list flame in which he roasts a troll.  I only know this was written by him because I know that particular email address belongs to him.  Someone who just met him would definitely not know this.
4) A web page for Marines who served in China.  Definitely not him.  Anybody could figure that out.  The age is wrong.
5) The web page for the indie record label that published albums for various bands that he played in.
6) Web page for a CD store that carries one of these albums.
7) Mailing list archive for some software package I've never heard of.
8) rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic post that simply lists his name along with a lot of other names of people all over the world.
9) A PDF newsletter from DuPont that mentions some foreman with the same name.  It's not him.
10) Another military service page.  Not him.
11) Court records about some well drillling operation.  Not him.
12) A posted question about a laser printer
13) County birth records.  Not him.
14) Newsletter for people interested in Cthulhu stuff.  Name is mentioned as a volunteer that they've lost contact with.  I can't tell whether or not this is him.
15) Broken link to an old PDF from the math department.

So where exactly is all the useful information that I was supposed to find?  IMO, the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty bad and would be truly abysmal if I did not already know a lot about this person.  Note that I specifically picked this person as a best case scenario for finding information because he has an unusual last name and has been on the net continuously for a long time, since before there was such a thing as the web.

I guess I'd have to have a lot more time on my hands and a burning desire to find out what so-and-so posted on alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die four years ago for this to be a useful source of information for me.

Matt Latourette
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Go ahead.  Google me.

I dare you. :-)

David Jones
Saturday, September 27, 2003

I just googled myself, all the other 'Realists' are pretty well rounded sort of folk too. Musicians, artists, astrologers...etc

Realist
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Davy Jones,

I googled you and found your locker.

anon
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Well, this is what we skeptical of this method are talking about:

"I found a post from my old boss in alt.sex.beastiality looking for a "large dog or small horse""

May I suggest that those who think this means anything are gullible newbies who just arrived on the net? I would find it *more* interesting to find a boss, high school principal, or politician who *didn't* have "incriminating" posts in alt.sex.bestiality.

Forging email headers is trivial and obvious to do, and an extremely common 'gag'.

Tony Chang
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Take any information with a grain of salt, but it can be useful. Most likely more useful with tech people, though. They're more likely to have something up. If you google me, you'll see my web page and some messages from my mailing lists.

I imagine it would be useful when hiring: does this person have dozens of troll-ish posts to boards and lists? You often can confirm identities here by email addresses (many mailing lists post them in archives, even if in a slightly munged anti-spam format), and the sorts of mail they've sent can give character information.

Big grain of salt, of course, but I see no reason not to: if they have any online presence and a non-ubiquitous name, it should not be difficult to see a bit about them.

As for googling love interests... I should be so lucky to meet sexy girls with online presences 8-}

Mike Swieton
Saturday, September 27, 2003

So if someone hates their boss, should they post in his name dozens of times to alt.sex.bestiality with tips on how to receive anal sex from large dogs? Or should it be small poodles?

Pepe LePieu
Saturday, September 27, 2003

If you hate your boss, you should find the next country he's going to, post some anti-their-government propoganda to a website in their country in his name and...

Whoops, wrong thread.

So it seems that if someone were malicious enough, they could ruin someone's reputation with a few falsified forum and newsgroup posts. I guess this is similar to ruining someone's credit, but easier to do, and presumaly less malicious (though let's face it, ruining someone's credit and preventing them from getting a job are about on par).

Perhaps the best defense here is a good offense. Become increadibly active in humanitarian groups, in fact, hire people to post to alt.save.the.whales and rec.peace.and.love and a few of your grandmother's cookie recipies to some cooking sites all day every day.

Just look at Joel Spolsky, how much dirt could you bring up on him? It seems he's "controlled" his Google results to within a certain degree where the percentage of bad possible hits to good ones is highly favorable.

Mark T A W .com
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Fake sex histories on asb is so old schoool. Try a.s.extropians.

Tony Chang
Saturday, September 27, 2003

What is an extropian? I did a dictionary.com search for extropy and this is the definition:

log in for this definition of extropy and other entries in Webster's Millennium™ Dictionary of English, available only to Dictionary.com Premium members.

Mark T A W .com
Sunday, September 28, 2003

If you google on my real name, which is incredibly unique, you'll find that I died in 1996 (I still remember coming to work and finding my obituary on my desk, placed by a friend). That's okay, though - I was published and highly respected.

Oops - just did a whowhere search. I appear to also be living in Massachusetts.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, September 28, 2003

Google on mine, and you find a number of academics, a cookbook author, and a deceased modern artist.

You also find a drag racer and an ice-skating magician.

I'd hire me, based on that. For what, I'm not certain.

Steve Wheeler
Sunday, September 28, 2003

I googled myself and discovered I am a chief of police in Nebraska.

Bill Rayer
Sunday, September 28, 2003

We know from thermodynamics that, in the big picture, the amount of entropy/disorder/chaos/noise/unretrievable energy in the universe is continually increasing.

This begs the question to explain evolution, which posits that things are eternally getting more structured.

The answer is that in a local system, entropy can decrease and extropy/order/structure/intelligence/usable energy increase.

For more information:

http://extropy.org/
http://www.mit.edu:8001/people/jpbonsen/extropianism.html

Tony Chang
Sunday, September 28, 2003

I just googled "Stephen Jones + computers" and "Stephen Jones + Saudi Arabia", and the llink to all my Joel postings on "usabiltiy must die" comes up fifth on the first page, so sometimes it works with common names. When I Google for "Stephen Jones + EFL" the "Usability must die" link comes up first, even though I have scarcely ever mentioned EFL on these forums, and the hundreds of postings I have made in my own name on the leading International EFL forum don't come up at all.

On the other hand change "Stephen Jones" to "Steve Jones" (which is the name everybody outside the web, and many on, know me bye)and I disappear off the map. This no doubt tells you sometning about the perceived formality of the web.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, September 28, 2003

This name googling is stange.

For my name an old post on this forum comes out at number one.  Of all my postings here, why that one?

I've left quite a trail, although there is another Ged Byrne in the Irish Guards Association.  I hope nobody gets the IGA confused with the IRA and fails the security check :)

Ged Byrne
Monday, September 29, 2003

Philo: "I think employees should be judged solely on work performance. Period. Pulling their private lives into it is wholly unfair and unreasonable."

What if you googled someone and found that they supported political hate groups (white power, anti-Catholic, whatever)? Not that I'm aware of this happening IRL, but I'm curious how far your 'Period.' feeling goes.

Chris Winters
Monday, September 29, 2003

Or a male model?
http://www.chriswinters.com/raveio/

Putting the complete inaccuracy of reporting on names aside, I stand by my statement - if someone was a member of the KKK but kept it 100% out of the office, none of my business.

Mind you, if I caught one whiff of it *in* the office, one warning then termination.

Would *you* want your private associations brought into your business life? What if your best friend was a member of the KKK and you didn't know? What if your brother-in-law was a communist? What if your wife participated in rallies against your nation when she was in college?

More to the point - businesses seem to want it both ways. We don't do the "company man for life" thing any more - you don't spend 30 years working for a single company. When that was the case then heck, I could see the "we don't want [x] representing our corporate image" mentality. But no longer - no more pensions, no more job entitlement, no more standing behind employees, yet companies want to be even more invasive into our private lives.

I'll tell you what - when you pay me a pension, let me call home from the office, let me hit ebay from my desk now and then,  and don't charge me for the hour I need to go to the bank, then we can talk about your interest in my private life. Until then, back off - you haven't earned the right to care about what I do when I'm not in your office.

Gruntled Worker
Monday, September 29, 2003

"What if you googled someone and found that they supported political hate groups (white power, anti-Catholic, whatever)?"

I'm an atheist, and to some stupid Christians, that gets equated to "Satanist". So, yeah, I agree with Philo.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, September 29, 2003

This could open some beautiful discrimination lawsuits. If you DID have some unsavoury namesake, and were rejected in unusual circumstances, the evidence would be sitting there in the corporate web-logs.

Your honour, "Mr HR accessed Google at 2:10 pm searching for Chris Winters and clicked to the KKK link. Shortly after he phoned Mr Winters ...."

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Monday, September 29, 2003

Ha, that 'Chris Winters' (chriswinters.com) isn't me (cwinters.com), just a coincidence. Anyone who read my resume (Unix-based Perl/Java developer) would know that the other 'Chris Winters' (Delphi developer) isn't me. We're both around the same age, but he's much better looking :-)

My point about political beliefs is still valid, but it's important to note that I wouldn't toss an otherwise qualified candidate based on googled information about their political beliefs. I'd *ask* them about it, person-to-person, and see if the information is accurate and, if so, how they react. If they go into a rant about mud people and the protocols of the elders of zion, then adios. If it's not them then at least we can have a good laugh about finding infomration on the web.

I agree about personal life being separate from work life, but IME people who are believe in the sorts of things we're talking about cannot keep them separate. And bringing the beliefs of personal associations is entirely separate -- how can you possibly control what your brother/brother's wife/uncle believes or how they behave? (See perception of Billy Carter when brother Jimmy was president...)

Chris Winters
Monday, September 29, 2003

"but IME people who are believe in the sorts of things we're talking about cannot keep them separate"

IME people who like Linux are frothy-mouthed zealots who can't make a logical decision for themselves. So should I skip any resume that has "linux" on it? Or should I treat each applicant as an individual who's capable of thinking for themselves and simply see how it plays out?

How about a simple "geeks can't relate to other people"? Valid based on observation of the masses?

By the way, asking these kinds of questions during an interview could be a really good way to buy a lawsuit. Political affiliations aren't explicitly illegal questions, but you're on incredibly shaky ground.

Philo

Philo
Monday, September 29, 2003

That's what I'm putting 'IME' on this stuff: my experience with linux folks is vastly different than yours. If that's your experience with linux folks and you're hiring for a position that has to do with linux then maybe someone else should be making the hiring decisions. And I think adding the 'linux' anecdote of it changes the whole meaning of the conversation we're having: whether non-work related opinions and behavior have any place in deciding whether you want to hire someone. In most of our jobs linux (and open source software) has some sort of professional impact, even if it's just to define the boundaries of a discussion. (Shoujld we use OS components to develop our software? Should we rely on OS application servers or O/R mapping tools? etc.)

Same with saying that geeks can't relate to other people: if you believe that then maybe you shouldn't be hiring geeks. Or maybe you should meet different geeks :-)

I entirely agree with your statement that we should treat each person as an individual. But pretending that these issues mean nothing is being disingenuous and pretending that work isn't an important part of people's lives. If I were hiring someone who would work only remotely with folks I probably wouldn't care a whit about what they believed. But

And I don't think equating blind tech-zealotry with ingrained racial or religious prejudice is valid either. The former IME diminishes for smart people with experience and actual exposure to different types of technology. (If you're not smart, I don't want to hire you anyway...) The latter, sadly, doesn't diminish with time and experience.

As for the lawfulness of asking various questions I must plead ignorance. I know that you're not allowed to ask a person's age, their religion or marital status but that's where my knowledge ends. Fortunately I'm not a person who hires people (just a coder), and if I were I'd certainly know what I can and cannot do.

Chris Winters
Monday, September 29, 2003

it's illegal to ask a candidate what social organizations they belong too.  i hope you arent interviewing, because when you get googled after the interview, you're up for a whole host of lawsuits.

R. Barister
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I googled myself and discovered that I am a collectible baby doll which old ladies seek out on e-bay!

name withheld
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

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