I’ve been a bit self-obsessed I do admit. Over the last year or two I’ve been searching for my name, Michael Durwin, on Google. I’ve spoken to several companies who have Googled me prior to business meetings. It’s been very interesting to note what they have found, online community comments, Amazon book reviews, old portoflios, etc. I can’t tell you how many people looking for information on Michael Durwin have found my old portfolios. Granted, all designers evolve, but the last thing a designer wants to hear is that someone saw their work from 4 years ago and be judged based on that!
Because Google is such a big part of just about everyone’s online experience, it’s important to be mindful of your online image. Many are talking about avatars in reference to 3D characters in Second Life, Warcraft, etc. I’d suggest that users create an avatar the second the begin building their online representation, usually with an email address. Web sites, blogs, email addresses, online community comments, etc. are all facets of our avatar.
That means that everything you say or do online becomes part of your avatar. Users who act like pricks in community forums, put up pictures of them with their drunk buddies on MySpace, videos of parties in YouTube, etc. should expect that anyone looking for information on them such as human resources, recruiters, fathers of girlfriends, the government, clients, press or anyone else wanting to know you better, is not going to have the best impression.
I believe that it is very important to manage your avatar or online personality. Not to say that any of us should censor what we discuss online, but we have to be prepared to accept the consequences.
I recently ran into an interesting situation. While searching for my name on Google, a new entry popped up on a web site called Eternal Gaze//Scope, which is apparently a blog from UK writer Matt Hanson (no, not one of the Hanson brothers of 90s pop fame). THe site is intended to be a blog but pulls reviews of motion graphics clips from a site called XPLSV.tv. XPLSV.tv is an awesome motion graphics site. It is comprised of some of the most amazing motion artists I have ever seen. Users post their work for review by their peers. I have several pieces posted on XPLSV.tv and to be honest they pale in comparison to some of the other work there. That however, is the point. I’m posting to a site that, while I know it is accessed by the general public, is primarily used by other motion graphics artist. Those users feel free to be as harsh as they want in reviewing work, which is not always pleasant but it is constructive for the most part. My issue began when I found a couple of comments that, in the context of XPLSV.tv’s site are fine, but when taken out of context, shed a negative light on me personally.
As mentioned above, everyone should expect that any thing they say or do online is accessible to anyone. What is tough to take is when online comments, articles, etc. are made on one particular site and repurposed on another out of context. Of course you can’t do anything about it because those who do this have a certain sense of entitlement and hide behind the anonymity provided by the web. Eternal Gaze//Scope’s writer Matt Hanson expecting me to speak to him in a concilitory manner if I were to contact him again. I’d already requested that he discontinue pulling XPLSV.tv reviews and posting them out of context. Matt Hanson doesn’t feel he’s done anything wrong. Why Matt Hanson needs to pull RSS feeds or repurpose other sites’ content to fill up his blog is beyond me. Matt Hanson could just post a rant like this one bitching about some punk emailing him about to remove his name from his blog!
So, to sum up my rant… We all need to be aware of appearances even if they are in the form of email, forums, pictures, etc. because you never know who’s looking and you never know when your personality is going to be co-opted, and you can’t control how, where or by who either.