Pros and cons of online anonymity (and DIY laptop battery)

Hide from Tuesday's IT Blogwatch: in which we ask whether it's best to be anonymous online, or if it's bad for your career. Not to mention building your own laptop battery (hopefully one that doesn't explode)...

Mary Brandel (if that is indeed her name) reports:

If someone searches for you on the Web and comes up empty-handed, do you exist? Considering that a growing number of recruiters and hiring managers are using search engines when gathering impressions of potential employees, the question isn’t as frivolous as it may seem.

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In today’s job market, turning up missing on the Web may not be a fatal flaw, and it’s probably better than having a search result in a photo of you in a hula skirt. But over time, the lack of a Web presence — particularly for IT professionals — may well turn from a neutral to a negative.

...

Here are five tips to make yourself more findable on the Web. Know where people look ... Start a blog ... Join the open-source code community ... Build a Web page ... Create a Web profile.

Douglas Schweitzer adds:

Had to chuckle ... Let's take MySpace for example ... there is a lot of information included in those pages that could cause a recruiter to "skip" that person. Drug and/or alcohol (ab)use, sexual orientation or preferences, political (in)correctness, or maybe something as innocuous as a new tattoo: they all have the potential to impact the hiring process. My suggestion is to either keep your profile private or don't put anything on there that you don't mind the whole world seeing. Sometimes MySpacers forget that once any information is put out there, it can't be taken back.

Engtech hates the idea of giving his/her real name:

When I started this blog a year ago it was with the idea that it could help with the job hunt, but then the slew of articles I read about people losing their jobs because of blogging convinced me otherwise. Building up an online profile is important factor in job hunting but the one lesson I’d like people to remember is that the internet is archived and once something is published you lose control over it.

...

Blogging and building an online identity around your real name can help you create a trail of expertise for people to find. It definitely can be a good tool for networking with people in your business niche. But it also can be littered with personal information that people are so quick to publish these days that shouldn’t be part of a job search (like appearance, political beliefs, religion, and sexual orientation) ...

  • Search your name on Google as it appears on your resume with and without quotes around it
  • Try the same search with your name and city
  • Search your public emails addresses on Google
  • Try the same searches on Yahoo and MSN
  • Try the same searches on Google Groups
  • Try the same searches on Facebook and MySpace

But Howard Owens disagrees:

For several years now, we’ve been subjected to news media scare stories about how what you do online can stay online for a long time. Google never forgets. Those frat party pictures of you naked on the lawn might never disappear. Here’s the new angle: Potential employers who can’t google you and find you might wonder how net savvy you are.

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My advice: Start a blog and use your real name.

As does Andy Beal:

While we’ve probably all tried “Googling” a date or famous celebrity, employers are using the search engines to “check you out” before they schedule a meeting with you ... not having an online identity can place a question (or black) mark against a potential job candidate ... Here are some of my own tips…

  1. Buy your domain name. Even if you don’t do a lot with it, you should own a domain name that matches (as close as possible) your name ...
  2. Understand your Google profile ... You should be prepared to explain that the person convicted for 3 counts of armed robbery, is not actually you.
  3. Own your brand. When someone searches for your name, you should try and make sure you have as much control over what they see, as possible ...

  4. Destroy the evidence

Here's Joey deVilla's experience:

Those of you who’ve been following my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, might recall a posting from way back in 2004 in which I wrote about my appearance in an article in the Globe and Mail titled Net Diarists Blog Their Way to a Job. The article also covered how the blogs helped the charming, telegenic and tech-savvy Amber Macarthur land her job. For reasons I will never fathom (but for which I am grateful), they used my picture for the article instead of hers.

Meanwhile, Kathy Sierra offers her horrifying story:

As I type this, I am supposed to be in San Diego, delivering a workshop at the ETech conference. But I'm not. I'm at home, with the doors locked, terrified. For the last four weeks, I've been getting death threat comments on this blog. But that's not what pushed me over the edge. What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs... blogs authored and/or owned by [individuals who deny this allegation]

...

It started with death threat blog comments left here ... At about the same time, a group of bloggers ... began participating on a (recently pulled) blog called meankids.org. At first, it was the usual stuff--lots of slamming of people like Tara Hunt, Hugh MacLeod, Maryam Scoble, and myself. Nothing new. No big deal ... [then] somebody crossed a line. They posted a photo of a noose next to my head, and one of their members (posting as "Joey") commented "the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size."

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[It gets much, much nastier, so if you click through, caveat lector]

...

I do not want to be part of a culture--the Blogosphere--where this is considered acceptable. Where the price for being a blogger is kevlar-coated skin ... I do not want to be part of a culture where this is done not by some random person, but by some of the most respected people in the tech blogging world. People linked to by A-listers like Doc Searls, a co-author of [one of the accused]

Seems like the whole world is blogging this, but let's give the aforementioned Doc Searls the last word:

It gets worse, and goes beyond that. Police are mentioned. So are the four familiar bloggers known to be involved with a blog called MeanKids, which is now down ... Just before class started and later on the way home from the class I called three people I knew to be involved with MeanKids and whose numbers are also in my phone. I didn't get to talk to anybody and only left messages ... some of the MeanKids creators approached me to participate a few weeks ago. I thought it wasn't a good idea, but didn't say anything. In fact, I don't think I visited the site after I failed to log into it before it launched. Wish I had.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... How to build your own laptop battery

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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