Sunday, July 18, 2010

Controlling your digital identity is as easy as 1-2-3

Google or You? Who Would You Rather Control Your Digital Identity?

While many users of the internet have accepted a passive digital footprint over which they have not taken control, Dean Shareski recently presented at #BLC10 on ideas for managing and manipulating what Google says about us. To do this, first it makes sense to 1) Get in touch with what your digital footprint says about you, 2) Determine if that is what you would like your digital footprint to say and if not, determine what you do want. 3) Start establishing your digital footprint. Here’s how.

  1. Get in touch with your digital footprint.
    Do you know what your digital footprint says about you? If not, find out. Here’s how.
    1. Google yourself.
      You can start in the obvious way and just Google yourself by typing your name into Google’s search box in whatever way(s) someone doing a search about you might i.e. John Smith, teacher. Take a look at what you see. Any surprises? Anything you wish were different?
    2. Spezify who you are.
      Spezify is a search tool presenting results from a large number of websites in different visual ways. The site moves web search away from endless lists of blue text links and towards a more intuitive experience giving viewers an overview of a subject. The site mixes all media types: blogs, videos, microblogs and images. Everything communicates and helps building the bigger picture.
    3. Check out your online Persona.
      Personas shows you how the Internet sees you. It is a critique of data mining, revealing the computer’s uncanny insights and inadvertent errors. It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current future world where digital histories are as important, than oral histories, and computation methods of condensing our digital traes are largely opaque and socially ignorant.
    4. Use Google Alerts to monitor what others are saying about you
      You can sign up for Google Alerts to receive email updates of the latest relevant Google results about you by simply visiting the site and entering your name. You can click preview to see the type of results you'll receive.

  1. Determine if your digital footprint conveys the message you want.
    Once you’ve investigated what your digital footprint says about you, it’s time to determine if this is the message you want to convey. If it is there are several ways to grow the message more widely. If it is not there are several ways you can begin taking control of your digital footprint. Step three outlines several such ways.

  2. Begin taking control of your digital footprint
    There are several things you can do right now to begin taking control of your digital footprint.
    1. Create your Google profile
      What do people see when they find you online? You can control how you appear in Google and tell others more about who you are by creating a personal profile. A Google profile, enables you to easily share your web content on one central location. You can include, for example, links to your blog, online photos, and other profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You have control over what others see. You can also allow people to find you more easily by enabling your profile to be searched by your name. Simply set your existing profile to show your full name publicly.  
    2. Connect with
      Go to and BAM you have your resume online. This site allows users to create a free and easy one page summary of who you are including your Facebook, Twitter, blog, website, and more.
    3. Create a wiki
      Use a site like Wikispaces to create a wiki that can serve as a collection of materials that you want people to find about you. Wikispaces is an easy[-to-use option that is free for educators.   
    4. Launch a blog.
      You can launch a blog in minutes and for free on sites like Blogger and Word Press. A blog provides a terrific forum for you to right about topics of importance to you and enables you to begin to establish credibility and expertise in areas that are important to you.
    5. Make videos or podcasts
      Make videos about topics important to you. This ultimately serves the same purpose as a blog. High school student Armond McFadden did a great job of this with his Transcast and Mass Transportation series on YouTube. When you look up Armond McFadden, you immediate know what this young man is expert in. Transportation, buses, trains.
    6.  Comment on blogs and in discussion forums
      Comment on blogs and in discussion forums about topics and issues important to you. Be sure to include your name and if applicable a link to your webpage or blog. This ultimately will come up in searches and will. let people know what you stand for and how you feel about topics of importance.
    7. Join Twitter
      Set up a Twitter page and join the conversation. Make sure you fill out the bio information with your real name and important information about yourself. You can start following friends on Twitter by searching for a topic. For instance someone interested in education could simply search for “education” or search for a popular education search term like #edchat. You may want to follow the people who tag Tweets with this tag. Find one that’s interesting and reply to it. This becomes part of your digital footprint. 
    8. Create a Facebook Group or Page
      While some people use Facebook for purely personal purposes, a growing number of individuals are using Facebook to establish a digital presence from which they can make professional connections and join conversations. The beauty of Facebook is the ease in which you can share links and information with specific people by tagging them and others can see and join the conversation as well. You can create a public Facebook page that conveys who you are and what you stand for while at the same time developing and maintaining valuable connections. You may want to consider a group instead which allows people to discuss and connect about topics of interests.  If you’re not sure which to start check out this advice for choosing pages, groups or profiles.    
    9. Create your own domain
      Select a domain that represents you. In many cases this will simply be your name. In other cases it may be a phrase that represents you. For instance, I bought the domain but there are also those who buy their name as a domain such as To create your domain you need to do two things.
      1. See if the domain you want is available at a site like
      2. Buy your domain at any number of sites. is one that Dean Shareski recommends
      • Dean shared the story of one innovative school Nokomis Regional High that upon graduation bequeaths each graduate with a domain using their name. After one year students can keep the domain or choose to let the renewal lapse. Some innovatie schools are taking this a step further and providing students with a domain upon entry to school and supporting students in developing a site that represents them during their years in school.

Thanks to Dean Shareski for inspiring this post and providing a thought-provoking and engaging session. For more ideas on controlling your digital footprint you can view the entire presentation filled with thought provoking questions and quotes, advice, and videos below.


  1. Thank you for summarizing Dean's points and providing the links. I had heard that he was giving this presentation and I was curious about it.

  2. Wow this is so great, very informative. Thankfully I have completed most of these steps but I will be sharing this with my Social Media Group #smmoc so they can use this as a resource, thank you.

  3. Sorry I missed this presentation, but you have done a fine job summing up, Lisa. Thanks so much. I didn't know about a lot of these social media, and I certainly intend to check out most of them.

  4. @Mark Barnes, had you heard of Spezify??? It's so cool. I thought it would be amazing at PD for adults to have a browser window with tabs open to various people's "Spezifies." Or, have the Spezify of you as the presenter open and some commonly known people like the principal, superintendent, maybe a teacher, etc. and lead into a discussion on Footprints.

  5. In addition to using most of these tools above I have also saved them and about 50 other social sites and tools to a public Symbaloo webmix to view it click the link and then click "Add This Page":

    Daniela @symbaloo
    Team Symbaloo

  6. I found this article very informative and enjoyable as well. If there was only a way to acquire a domain name free of charge. ;-)

  7. @Jacob Gutnicki, thanks for the kudos. Re: the domain name, I was talking with Andrew Gallagher and we believe the Obama administration should bequeath every American citizen with a domain. Even if they just purchased the initial domain the rest were launched from. The domain would be the person's First Name, Last Name, Last for digits of their social security number.

    The administration would single-handedly give every citizen an opportunity to begin creating their digital footprint (if they wanted) and what a simply amazing way to connect Americans!

  8. i was thinking about doing this before but it got out of my priorities somehow. thanks for reminding me and for the brilliant post. i was just thinking about googling my name but i didn't know what to do afterward.

  9. This is excellent information. I will definitely use this and tell my local BNI group about it as well. Thank you Dean.

    Melody Rubie
    Smart Start Sitters

  10. RE: personal domain name using last 4 digits of SSN. This is NOT a good idea. If someone knows your name and age, they can guess the first three digits from your location and the second two from your age. They would then have your entire SSN. You should protect the last four digits of your SSN as much as the whole thing.