It was a startling moment the first time someone uploaded a picture of me on Facebook and tagged it with my name.Â It wasn’t a very flattering photo, first of all, I never would have posted that picture anywhere publicly.Â ;)Â And it struck me quite suddenly that the web really is a two-way street – it’s not just what I say about me, it’s also what they say about me.Â You know, them, those other people out there.
Twitter lists are another example of this two-way street.Â The image above shows a word cloud of tags and phrases taken from twitter lists that other people have created and put me, @fleep, in.Â Â I should note that this is a doctored word cloud, if I’d left it at the true frequency, you wouldn’t be able to read anything but secondlife, edtech, education, virtualworlds, and cincinnati because those tags are by far the most common.
But I wanted to bring out the other words as well because they paint a broader picture of who and what folks on twitter think I am.Â It also better demonstrates how much CAN be known about a person when a bunch of disparate voices start chiming in and contributing what they know about someone.Â Some of the folks who know me on Second Life might not know I live in Cincinnati, just like some of the local people might not have known I was involved in Second Life.Â Put all their contributions together, however, and you (and they) can learn a lot more about me.
This is the basis for the reputation economy that’s coming – in the days ahead, your resume and your profiles and your website, all the things that you say about you, will matter a lot less than all the things that they say about you.Â You know, them, those other people out there.Â They will likely be much more verbose about you than you are about yourself, and they will come from all of the different spheres of your life – personal and professional, your private life and your work life, your social clubs and your work buddies, and yes, even people who don’t like you or what you believe in, your enemies and detractors.Â Â You will have much less control over what the world knows about you, because you have no way to control what everyone else says about you.
If you google for “reputation economy” you’ll see that it’s often applied in the context of companies needing to protect their reputations, but the same applies to individuals, too.Â Do you know what the web says about you?Â Beyond vanity-googling yourself, do you have google alerts set up to let you know when someone mentions your name?Â Trackbacks enabled on your blog?Â A saved twitter search of your @username?Â Are you checking out the twitter lists people are putting you on, and are they the kinds of lists you want to be on?
And if not, what should you, or can you, do about it?