On Sunday, online reputation became the subject of a big debate on the Internet following a blog posted by Mike Arrington on TechCrunch (http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/28/reputation-is-dead-its-time-to-overlook-our-indiscretions/). The basic argument is that, after privacy, reputation is dead so we should get along with it and adjust our behavior because our legal system allows it. This argument spurred a multitude of responses on other blogs such this thoughtful response from Fred Wilson (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/03/how-to-defend-your-reputation.html), in which he mentions another blog post that I also found quite interesting (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/02/own-your-online-brand.html).
What I find scary about the trend highlighted by Mike Arrington is the potential impact that this behavior may have in terms of lack of creativity and a drive to compliance. According to Mike Arrington, the threat to our reputation will come from people who are close to us, members of our families, friends, or people we end up meeting at a party. If we follow his advice, nothing we will try will be hidden and our level of intimacy will be reduced to very little if any, which is to me even worse than losing reputation. If there is no intimacy anymore, people will be far more worried about trying new things. If we can’t experiment anymore including being drunk with friends without facing the risk of having an indelible black mark on the Internet, we just won’t try anymore or enough and if we don’t try, our personal development will suffer.
I don’t buy the fact that people will learn not to care. This is wishful thinking at best. In a competitive world, recruiters will choose the safer choice and the person with the drunk picture will be disadvantaged.
If we don’t have intimacy and we are faced with the pressure to comply, this is starting to look like a very Orwellian world with the crowd as Big Brother. Scary!!!
On my side, I see more people self regulating them, hence those type of businesses being short lived. And if they don’t, I am hoping that regulators will chime in to adjust the legal system to make this world a better place.
Spoke has an active role to play here and offers a unique opportunity for many people to have another chance to manage their reputation by controlling a page showing up on the first pages of Google. This is not easy to do and has been obtained over time and because of the sheer size of pages we manage. The majority of our members understand it as the ratio between people who are maintaining their profile public versus people who want to remove is 9 to 1. Still, we are very adamant about doing the right thing and offer people to remove them when they want to on a self service basis. On our next blog, we will show some interesting examples of Spoke profile.