Burying the bad news

iStock_000005618867XSmallGoogle is being required by the European Court to allow individuals to request that certain personal information about them will; not be found in a search. This does not mean that if you already know the web address where such information is to be found you cannot see it. It is just that Google cannot lead you there.

This is rather worrying and one wonders exactly whose rights are being protected here. This article states: “the BBC learned that more than half of the requests sent to Google from UK individuals involved convicted criminals.” Well, if I want to know whether my potential client has a criminal conviction, or to make a quick judgement as to whether I should see the person in the first place, I think I have the right to be forewarned.

On a non-business level, surely we should have the right to find out whether our new love is a criminal or dangerous? Fortunately I am not in the dating market, and we are very happy, thank you.

This brings us to consider how much information about ourselves we should share on the good old world wide web. I am very active on various social networking sites, particularly Twitter. I have a moderate number of friends on Facebook; not thousands, you understand. This is because I do like to have some idea who everyone is. Most of the hundreds I have met, and if not then either my friends I have met know these others, or they are quite famous bloggers who have allowed me the honour of being their friend.

Also on Facebook, I do not believe in sharing every personal detail as some do. Some things are private, although there is really nothing in my private life I am ashamed of (honest, guv).

I tweet a lot. It is mainly business-related content, though not salesy stuff. I do let slip some geeky and technology related material, but that is me. I do not usually tell anyone what is going on at home – not even what we are having for dinner.

I have several websites, all of which have some information about me, mainly business. The exception is the health issues I have blogged, and that is because I believe people, and especially men, need to be conscious that they are not invulnerable to becoming ill.

You will have gathered that if you type “Jon Stow” into Google or any other search engine, there will be a lot about me; more than about all the other Jon Stows. I have a high profile, and nearly everything you will find on the first few search engine pages will be fairly recent and probably no more than two or three years old. You will get tired after that. There is nothing I have to hide anyway, going back however far you wish.

Some people have had embarrassments in business though, or even worse. Someone I have worked with quite a few years ago is not at all active on-line. He has one business website and as far as I know is not at all active in social media. Consequently one frightful business mess which did not reflect well on him always comes up on a name search. This financial scandal, in which my ex-colleague may in reality have done nothing wrong, took place fifteen years ago. Because his name is not very common and because even that long ago newspapers and trade magazines published on-line, the stories will be on page one of any search.

I think it would be in the interest of this guy to be very active on social networking sites, at least for a year or so. The search engines like newer stuff. The old embarrassing stuff can be buried further down, and perhaps not come to light on a cursory search for this individual’s name.

I enjoy the positive benefits of my higher on-line profile, because they lift me up the scale of being noticed. It just occurs to me that negative stuff can be buried with a bit of work, while avoiding restricting our rights to know what we should about people, and without restricting our personal freedom.

What say you?

 

Taking our business lives seriously

Be nice to your customers!

Playing at business

You may think the title states the obvious, but some people don’t use their heads. They take short cuts in their work, such as the carpenter who does a quick botch job, or they take long holidays and wonder why their business income falls and they are broke. It would be hard to believe for most of us, except it happens. Not attending properly to customers’ or clients’ needs means they will go elsewhere.

Doctor Doctor I feel like a pair of curtains. Pull yourself together!

If those slackers, because slackers they are, don’t pull themselves together and offer proper consistent reliable customer service rather than indifference and shoddy work, their businesses will suffer. In so many ways it is easy to make the change. I don’t understand how there can be such people who must rely on the next mug to sign up because they don’t keep their customers for long.

Don’t neglect the marketing

‘Doctor, doctor, people keep ignoring me.’ ‘Next please!’

It is no good setting up in business and not marketing. It is much better to make sure that everyone knows about you. You have to be visible. We know there are people who don’t market, but that is when they are so established and offer a great service or product. They get brilliant and deserved referrals.

If you have a new business or one quite young, that won’t work because you have no track record. Otherwise no one will know you are there. Get out there and market, and if you don’t know how, find someone with experience to help.

Make sure you are taken seriously

‘Doctor, doctor, there’s a strawberry growing on the top of my head.’ ‘I’ll give you some cream for it.’

Some people trash their businesses at meetings or networking event by talking too much and not managing their reputations. It is even worse on-line, so everyone needs to watch what they say on Facebook, in on-line forums, in their blog, or even in a thoughtless email. Google is our friend generally, but our enemy with our careless talk because it will come back to haunt us.

Reputation is the most important asset we have in business. Do you know people who are careless about their main source of income?

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Fifteen ways to get unfollowed and disconnected from my network

Google Appliance as shown at RSA Expo 2008 in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Or just not followed in the first place

  1. Tweet advertising the whole time
  2. Tweet other peoples quotations
  3. Tweet religious tracts
  4. Tweet political comments and unkind comments about politicians.
  5. Tweet every meal you have (occasional food comments or pictures of dishes you are pleased with are OK).
  6. Send a request to connect on Linked In to get my email address to put me on your mailing list.
  7. Tweet on automatic from RSS feeds that have nothing to do with you just to please Google, Klout and Peer Index. Actually both Google and I will go off you.
  8. Tweet in a company name and not tell me your real one.
  9. Auto-feed absolutely every comment, tweet and link.
  10. Never RT or pass on someone else’s link.
  11. Never have a conversation or interact
  12. Swear (even with an apology)
  13. Rubbish a competitor.
  14. Be rude about anyone at all.
  15. Criticise fellow networkers even if they deserve it.

Now, everyone is entitled to their political views, and their religious beliefs. Just spare me, please. Be original, help others and don’t be lazy or disrespectful. It seems not much to ask. What do you think?

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Why employment is the other side of the fence

I was talking recently to a senior manager of a major financial institution. She is by any measure a successful person, well paid and valued by her employer. She is a person whom one would describe as a serious IT techie as well as a manager of others. She knows how things work in the virtual world.

I was explaining to her about my blogging activities; how often I do it (which is quite often as you know), how I get inspiration and how I manage to blog regularly. Of course I explained a few of the tricks; how one should take advantage of “purple patches” to write a string of posts, how I schedule posts ahead as most serious bloggers do to take off the pressure of readers’ expectation that they will hear from me if they have such expectation. At the same time I can still write about a topical matter fresh in the public domain and slip it in to the stream. This part is perhaps for another post.

The senior manager said to me “I don’t know how you have the time”. Well, firstly, it is about time management, and secondly I write for pleasure to a large extent so some of the pieces are written in my leisure time. Mainly of course, I blog for the market, which means my market, my reputation, and my networking as well as for my friends. It is about marketing to people, and if there is a Google effect, all well and good, and there generally is.

The Googleplex welcome sign

What struck me though was the difference between the perception of a senior employee, driven by the work that comes in, and someone in business on their own account who has to drive the business to make money, to take the business forward and build a future, and of course have some fun along the way. It is the difference between being reactive as an employee and proactive as a business person. It is the difference between being bound by others and being free to make our own decisions.

What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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Managing our online reputation – a personal view

This is a popular subject for bloggers, and we know that our online reputation is important, but somehow human nature seems to mean that many of us are as casual about it as with our offline reputation.

Most of us away from our computers do not say unpleasant things about others and whilst there is always gossip and tittle-tattle, by the time it is passed on, if it is, it is often taken with a pinch of salt. The recipient of the information often clouds the issue in their mind by thinking about the teller’s motives for passing on the information and anyway much of what is said soon fades in the memory. Gossip and even things we have witnessed are forgotten in time and in the light of later events.

However, our online behaviour is there for all to see. Everything we say may be taken down and used in evidence against us. Of course we manage our professional websites, but our blogs and other web material can be seen by anyone at any time. A comment I make to someone on Twitter about our weekend plans is in my Google Alerts, sometimes within a couple of hours, so quite apart from giving information to my followers, anyone can find out anything I have divulged at any time. I cannot retract remarks I have made on Twitter, and if I delete anything from my blog, it could still be seen through Google cache for sometime to come, and anyway it might have been re-blogged or copied somewhere else.

At this point one might say that “what you see is what you should get” but really we do not want to reveal all our foibles even through Facebook, because if we are careless, we could give away a lot of information people do not need to have. We could even become victims of identity fraud or simple impersonation, further damaging our reputations. Whilst we may want to be as open with our friends as we would in an off-line environment we do not know who is watching with evil intent, or who might simple misconstrue a remark taken out of context.

When I am going to meet anyone new in a business context, including a new client, I do a web search. I am sure most other people do too. That is not to pry, but often because we need to make our new acquaintances feel we are interested and to be prepared for our meeting and for what issues might be raised. It is simple due diligence, but who knows what impression an ill thought-out remark might give in the wrong virtual ears or hands?

I try to show enough of my personality online to give readers an idea of my interests, of what I do for a living and for recreation and of course family. Those readers need something to which to relate, so I have pretty much stopped the boring stuff like Twitter advertising, or promoting myself directly through my blogs. Of course many may still think I am boring. Someone more or less told me so before “un-following” me on Twitter. However, I think I would rather be boring than have every cuss word I might have thought broadcast on Twitter, or every detail of our family life known to the world.

What is your approach? I would love to hear your views.

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