Digital Dirt

April 27, 2009

Politics and Web 2.0: Gay Man Touches Boob

Filed under: Controlling Your Digital Footprint — Tags: , , , — Danny Petre @ 12:44 pm

I still hate the phrase Web 2.0.  I think we will look back 10 years from now a say, “Oh, that wasn’t 2.0 that was Web 1.5…”  I digress.  Social networking sites are starting to rear their ugly head when it comes to crippling political candidates.  The digital dirt of Gen Y is growing like a landfill in New Jersey, and it is totally going screw many, many other politicians in the future.

Take Ray Lam, gay activist, New Democratic Party Candidate in British Columbia’s legislative election.  He has withdrawn from the race because of the below photo that was discovered on Facebook


Everybody know that gay guys, are boob guys.  So, in my opinion, he had no reason to step out of the race.  He was just having a little fun.  Rumor has it that the party is now looking for a non-gay (perhaps anti-gay) penis toucher to put forth as next their nominee.


April 23, 2009 a great new tool to expand you professional digital footprint

I just came across a great resource for expanding your active, and positive, digital footprint for the purposes of job hunting.

The website,, provides a network for you to really bring your experience and expertise to life.  Yes, it is another site to maintain, but it does serve an important role among your existing social networks and professional sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, etc.

resumeI found VisualCV through a webinar.  Save an hour of your life and just read the details below.  The presenter, Karen Masullo, noted that the key to Web 2.0 and job hunting is transparency in the tools you use, and the information you communicate with those tools.  “You are brand you” is what she says (cute right?) so it is important to be aware of the way you are representing yourself online.

I have outlined similar steps before, but these are much clearer and more action oriented:

1) Search yourself (on Google, Yahoo, and so on).  Find out what Dirt is out there on you.  Is it positive or negative?  It is too personal, or not personal enough?  Also make sure to search nicknames, alternate spellings of your name, your email address, and even you social security number (I added that last tip).

2) Create new valuable content to push down the bad search results (if they exist).  She says you need a sound “organic search strategy [SEO].”  Duh.  Easier said than done.  I think she means this: where ever you are creating an active footprint online, you need to use terms that relate your area of expertise so you get credit for them in organic search.  Linking those closely to your name should do the trick (I think so anyway).

3) Market yourself:

  • Have a 90-second “elevator speech” prepared [in writing] and make sure you are communicating what makes YOU special
  • Have a VisualVC (I think she threw that in there because, well, it was a webinar)
  • Have a LinkedIn profile
  • Keep a blog (um, check)
  • Use Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook, etc, etc, etc.  I think she means to say here: “have a freakin’ presece online.”

So what is a VisualCV?  It’s a neat little way to keep your professional experience up to speed for everyone to see.  She calls it a “perminate professional archive of your work history.”  Check mine out here!  You should update it often, even every few days.  You might be thinking, “isn’t that what LinkedIn is for?”  That’s what I thought too.  But she delineates between the two: LinkedIn is for networking and highlighting your overall experience, education, and so on.  A VisualCV is for keeping a running tab on your work.  AND it is more visual, as the name suggests.  You have the opportunity on to add video of your work, PDFs, letters of recommendation, association and corporate logos, etc.

The important thing to note is that you need to tie all the pieces of your professional digital footprint together.  Links to and from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and you VisualCV are important because each should serve a different and specific purpose.

Blatantly obvious tip that you should have learned in high school (unless the internet didn’t exist then) is to have an email address that resembles  Not

April 20, 2009

“This Is Me”


There is a very interesting project being lead out of University of Reading’s OdinLab, called “This Is Me,” which aims

“…to help people learn about their Digital Identities (DI) by producing and testing learning materials for use by individuals and groups. As part of the project we are collecting people’s stories about their DI, and you are welcome to come on in and chat about what it means to you, how you manage your identity and how important other people’s web presence is to you.”

I encourage you to check it out. There are some really hilarious stories about peoples’ digital footprint (a.k.a. DI).  Plus they have a learning center where you can do a few exercises to discover the nation of your DI. Unfortunately the site navigation sucks and and the instruction for the exercises are not at all clear.

I’m quite happy to be discovering a lot  of new resources aimed at educating people on the impact of their Digital Dirt even though I believe at one point or another your digital footprint will bit you in the ass.

March 21, 2009

Drunk Emailing, a Thing of the Past

Alcohol has a major impact on our digital footprint.  Well, for me at least.  How many times have you sent an email after a late night on the town only to regret it once you wake up?  Problem solved.  All thanks to, who else, our friends at Google.  If you have a gmail account you can set this up from Google Labs.

Here’s the deal: you set up “Mail Googles” to for specific times when you are most likely trashed.  Say, 10pm Friday night to 5am Saturday morning (or if you have a bit more of a problem you can keep it set up 24/7).  


When you go to send an email during that time frame gmail will prompt you to answer five ‘simple’ math problems in under 60 seconds.  If you can’t do the math, you can’t send your email.  It’s like a breathalyzer for email.


So that takes care of email, but what about all of the other Dirt that is alcoholically induced, like text messaging or the infamous drunk dial?  Some cell phones abroad have built in precautions. LG released a phone in Korea that features a breathalyzer. Virgin Mobile users in Austrailia can use a feature that will allow them to block certain numbers at late hours of the night.

Now we can finally drink without fear!

March 10, 2009


The logical followup to my post yesterday has to do with “sexting.”  This is when someone texts a nude photo of themself to others.  Funny right?

It is one of the dumbest uses of digital technology that I can thing of, and it can have tragic non-digital concequences.

For eample: a teen girl “sexted” a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend.  They broke up.  And he spead the photo around school.  The girl then was harrassed by schoolmates and ended up hanging herself in her bedroom closet.  This sad story highlights the importance of being choicefull with your digital activity.

There are a few people at fault here: the girl who took and sent the photo, the boyfriend who texted it around, the classmates that harrassed the girl, and of course the school officals, police, and parents that did little to identify the potential harm it all caused.

March 4, 2009

Big Brother or Little Sister?

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with an account manager at a major internet search company and ask him a few questions regarding digital footprints and how search providers are using the information they collect.  For confidentiality reasons I am not able to provide my contact’s name or employer.


Overall how can people control their digital footprint in search and other online locations like social networking sites?


While public figures may have a harder time controlling the information on them, average internet users of average public standing can and should use their privacy settings to reduce access to their active digital footprint (information that the user actively disseminates).  


Isn’t “big search” like Big Brother, tracking our every move?


No.  Like all website cookies enable us to tracking site visits and recent online behavior, but we cannot, and do not, identify the actual individual and we do not release any information.


Sites like MySpace are able to track age, gender and geographic location, but that is the extent of our targeting capabilities.  

What about behavioral targeting.  When I open an email, why do I get ads based on the content of my email?


We aren’t able to behavioral target–yet.  When you open an email, email providers use “bots” to scan the content of the message to identify key phrases and call up ads that might  be relevant to you.  This information is not tied to the user and is not shared with outside the organization.


But you are still collecting information on “me,” right?


To an extent.  We can only look at information at an aggregate level.  Meaning, we compile your information with that of other users.  It’s not just search companies that do this.  Anyone that uses analytical tools to monitor the activity on their website is aggregating information to understand when and where visitors are sourced from, and so on.  


How is my IP addressed used to track me?


IP address are only useful for geographical targeting.  They do not connect the search company or website to the users name, age, or gender.


I have been trying to better understand the generational differences relating the attitudes toward digital footprints.  Do Gen Y and Gen X behave differently?

All the data suggests that Gen X and Gen Y are basically on par with their online activity.  Specially the data collected on users of [one of our major sites] shows very little variance between the two generations.  It basically mirrors US population.  The difference comes when you when you start looking at those older than Gen X; the 45+ crowd.  


Do you think the government will ever pass legislative privacy protection for internet users, like they have with analog communications?

Identify theft has become a big issue in the recent decade.  I do think the government will need to pass blanket legislation, like Sarbaines-Oxley (SOX) to protect online users.

February 21, 2009

Even if I Wanted to…

Filed under: Controlling Your Digital Footprint — Danny Petre @ 11:34 am



The past two weeks have been hectic for me.  School, work, family, friends and a boyfriend all make for a very complicated and busy life.  One moment I am writing a deck for my client, the next I am working on a homework assignment for school, and the next… well who knows.

Consider this: in a 1 hour span yesterday I was uploading “sensitive” client materials to an FTP site, editing a group paper for my strategic message class on Google Docs, adding my notes to another group assignment in Google Groups for my digital communications class, emailing my client, my boss, my other coworkers, texting my boyfriend, calling my sister-in-law on my personal cell, texting yet again on my work cell, watching a funny clip on YouTube, updating my Facebook status, paying my credit card bill on Bank of America’s website, and to top it off, my coworker Caitlin thought it would be fun to take my digital camera from my bag and snap a few pics of me!

My friend and classmate Alex might think I’m “(dis) engaged” (check out his blog on the subject) by doing so much at virtually one time.  But the fact of the matter is I got a LOT of stuff done in a short period of time that I likely wouldn’t have completed if these technologies didn’t exist.  A few years ago I would have had to either have a conference call with my two class groups or met them in person and I would have had to write a check for my credit card bill.   

So even if I wanted to… control my digital footprint… I don’t think I could.  My reliance on technology to get stuff done it too great.  Right now I have five Safari windows open, in addition to AIM, my email, and my iPhone sitting next to me just in case…  Oh, and Jeremy just instant messaged me, in which our conversation about his night out at the Chelsea Hotel will surely be logged on both our computers.

I jump from one digital technology to the next without even thinking.  What I mean to say is, “without even thinking what Digital Dirt I am spreading.”  So Alex is partly right, I get get a lot done because of technology, but you are so disengaged that you are reliant on it to some extent and it is hard to monitor your digital footprint trail.

February 18, 2009

Digging Yourself Out of the Ditch


So you’re trying to find a job (good luck) and you want to make sure that potential employers and recruiters don’t find anything too risqué about you?  A few tips to hide, but not necessarily delete, your Digital Dirt.

Below is some info I found on  There really aren’t too many resources out there to help cleanup or delete your digital footprint.  I will keep searching and add more tips as I find them or think of them.

Google yourself:  See what’s out there and what rises to the top of the search.

If you find something you’d rather the world didn’t see, contact the site’s owner and ask that it be removed. If you get a “no,” contacting search engines isn’t likely to help. To date, I haven’t looked into getting my mentions removed.

Clean up your social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Chris Hughes, a spokesman for Facebook, says he’s heard that recruiters with alumni email addresses log in to look up job candidates who attended the same school (according to  Remember to tighten up your privacy settings.  Plus, in you future social networking adventures, if you think it might cause trouble down the road don’t post it!

Bury your dirt. Also suggested by contributor, Jared Flesher: “The best way to make something [bad] go away is to have a lot of ‘online presence’ of your own,” says Luis Villa, senior technology analyst at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. He suggests starting a Web page or a blog.”

Tune in to your blog buzz. You can monitor your Dirt presence through sites like or Google Alerts, which will alert you by email when your name is mentioned in internet newsgroups, blogs, etc.

February 17, 2009

Playing in the Mud


Me Playing in Literal Mud

Me Playing in Literal Mud

Over the past three weeks I have intentionally been expanding my Digital Dirt.  An active and healthy digital footprint, like your sex life, can help you in many ways.  First, it helps get the the “good” Dirt about you higher in search results.  Second, it allows you to have some sense of control over the information that is out there on you.   Active creation of your digital footprint is the only way you can actually “control” your Dirt, for your passive digital footprint the best you can do is manage it. 


What I have done:

I started a Twitter account.  In the past three weeks I have only Twitted (I think that is the/a verb) three times.  I am struggling to fit Twitter into my daily online behavior.  I am constantly on Facebook, my iGoogle page, LinkedIn, and various blogs (this one included), but I can’t seem to find time to obsessively Twit.  Oh well…  Maybe when I’m done with grad school and I have more free time.

A bigger step: I have registered two domain names: and  Since I am relatively remedial at building a website I have been consulting The Site Wizard for guidance.  A very helpful site that walks you through step-by-step from selecting domain names, to selecting a web host, and finally the actual design of the site.  I will keep everyone posted on when my site goes live.  Hopefully within the next week.  I used GoDaddy to register my domains and they have been very helpful, but their site usability is trash.  I let them know that when they made their follow-up call this morning.


So, what should I include on my website?  Recommendations are welcome!

February 16, 2009

Your Facebook profile Isn’t Yours

Filed under: Controlling Your Digital Footprint — Tags: , , , — Danny Petre @ 7:25 pm


I just logged onto Facebook and found this note at the top of my homepage.  A great example of the power that consumers (and traditional media) have in today’s world.



“Terms of Use Update

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.”





Facebook, has over 150 million users.  It also now owns the information that those 150 million post to their and other Facebook profiles.  As reported on The Consumerist site, Facebook has removed some important information from their Terms of Service agreement and added even more important information that we all should be aware of.


             The removed TOS language:

“You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.”

The added TOS language:

“The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.


So what’s this mean for you as a Facebook user?  Everything you post to Facebook they legally own.  But there are some sum rumblings out there in the blog world that only information that you post on social groups, other people’s walls, etc are the property of Facebook if you cancel your account.

Word to the wise: don’t put anything out there, on Facebook or otherwise, that you don’t want to forfeit the rights to or that you don’t want anyone have access to or stumble upon.  



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