What happens on the Internet stays

Running joke in web designer circles: “How do you force Google to reindex your site?”

Answer: “You can’t force Google to do anything!”

A search for this question returns several tales of woe from developers caught in the midst of updating their websites, but found Google already indexed their content, errors and all. When we least expect it, search engine spiders work their magic. However, when we most need to update our indexed pages on Google, we are forced to wait. And wait. And wait.

Another running joke is that what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet—forever. I consider this a joke because this has always been, but so many people think it’s something new.

I received an email from a fellow STC member who was concerned that her posts on the international STC Member Forum were viewable by everyone on the world wide web. Yes Virginia, there is no santa clause… everything that is public on the Internet lives on in some exebyte of storage somewhere. I can still find my circa 1990 Usenet posts on music theory when I search archives for my very first internet email address. Send me a private message and I’ll email you that address so you can search Google Groups for yourself and see what a total dweeb I was.

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What this tells me is that on the Internet time stands still: At the same time, people can be judged for their failings even as they are praised for their achievements. How many times have you seen political leaders brought down due to their undergraduate affiliations? These remnants can haunt them long into their retirement, because posts from the past can share equal billing with those of the present.

On one hand, this can be used to our advantage. When Tablet PC Blogs was hacked I managed to recover and recreate most of my own blog entries using the Way Back Machine. The blog owner, Laine P. Heiny, also used the archive to restore most of the work for the rest of his site.

Another advantageous incident for me was when I  blogged about cloud computing for Duo Consulting. Immediately after the post went live, I received a request to reprint the article in its entirety from Jeremy Geelan, the editor of another online cloud computing zine. This other magazine is a type of content aggregation factory, only they contact authors personally, and provide credit, a bio, and backlinks. I am honoured they considered me a “fresh new voice”, and likewise I have no qualms about referring people back to them. I even Duoed the experience.

There may be times where SEO may not work in your favour, especially once you are on their radar. While on the one hand I am fortunate that my site is picked up to be indexed on a regular basis, one update caused the marketing and legal departments of a previous employer serious concern due to my wording choice. On the upside, I’m glad that my wording commanded attention. On the downside, that was attention I didn’t need. Because of it I lost five hours of paid work while I made the changes to appease my past.

Depending on when you read this, those posts may still appear on search engine results. See? When we most need the spiders to crawl….

Travel the Internet carefully. Nowadays just about everybody “Googles” the people they meet. Your Internet persona as characterized on all the different social media services are open game for prospective employers and clients, teachers, classmates, your kid’s softball coach—everybody, actually—to find out more about who you are, what you’ve done, and where you’ve been. A strong online persona can help you win business over your competitors, whereas a negative online persona could be detrimental. Likewise, in some circles, no online profile at all could be a sign of a lack of maturity in your chosen market. But it all depends on your goals.

Where do you fit in the grand scheme of the high I-Internet? Are you a blatantly public person who could care less how people perceive you? Or are you of the select mindset that no persona is a good persona?