Feb 3 2009

Privacy and the Inadvertent me

Jamie Barrows

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before or not. At least I’m not sure if I mentioned it on this blog. But even if I have mentioned it before, it still bears repeating. Anything you put online may come back to haunt you some day in the future. So be careful what you post or say in forums and on blogs like this one.

What brought this topic to mind for me was a blog post I read on the Freedom To Tinker blog, called Satyam and the Inadvertent Web. Basically it’s the story of how a group of pictures taken and uploaded to Flickr several years ago, suddenly became highly relevant when Satyam became news worthy.

The pictures were taken by someone with no real connection to the company other than visiting it on a trip to India. They sat on Flickr for years and lived in obscurity all that time. Then Satyam got in the news for one of the biggest financial coverups of the Indian high tech industry. Suddenly, they were being referenced and viewed regularly. Suddenly those photos became a very large part of who the photographer is online.

The point is, whatever you say online. Whether on an obscure blog like mine, or on a major traffic destination, could become a big part of who you are and how you are perceived when people do a search for you.

People search engines are becoming better and better at finding all the bits and pieces of yourself that are scattered all over the web and aggregating them into a clear picture of you. Don’t believe me? Do a search for your name on Google and see what comes back. Probably more than you would expect. And Google doesn’t even specialize in people searches. If you do a search on a people specific search engine like Pipl.com. You will be amazed at what it can find about you. All those little comments, pictures, and even government records get matched up to your name. It can often even match up nicknames and pseudonyms that you have used in the past.

Those little tiny pieces of you that are scattered all over the web may lie in obscurity and be hardly noticed for years, and then a current news story can easily bring them to the forefront. Suddenly that comment or picture you posted years ago, is on the first page of a Google search for you. And what’s worse, is that you can’t ever really get rid of info once it is online.

It’s not like having an embarrassing conversation with someone or saying something stupid. Those things are easily forgotten once the conversation is over. Comments, blog posts, pictures, and social networking profiles can stick around forever once they are online. Even going back and deleting them (assuming you can) doesn’t really make them go away. They will still be in caches and archives all over the web. And it’s getting easier and easier to find that info if you are looking for it.

I’m not writing this to scare you off from commenting in forums or on blogs. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your own blog or facebook/myspace account. All I’m saying, is that you really should think very carefully before posting anything online. You should carefully consider your words before whipping out a comment on a blog or forum. Because you never know when that little piece of you might become a BIG piece of you.

Dec 30 2007

Missions Project

Jamie Barrows

Rock PileToday I set up a website for my missions project. The whole thing kind of went on hold over the last month. What with Christmas and everything, I just didn’t have a lot of time to work on it. But now I’m getting back to it.

Things are going rather well on the Installer. So I thought it was time to set up a website to host the project files and various pieces of data that this project entails. It’s mostly a shell at the moment, but I’ll be adding to it in the next few weeks. So stay tuned to the new project website for updates.

Check it out: www.MissionDisk.com

Nov 21 2007

New Project Idea

Jamie Barrows
DVD disk

Ok, the paying bills post got me actively working on trying to find something I could do. Preferably, at least to start, it needed to be something I could do with my current resources. And after a lot of discussions with friends an family, I think I came up with something I can do now. This project would be just the beginning, but at least it’s a start. My thought is to put together a software and training package for missionaries.

Specifically a package for missionaries and native pastors dealing with writing prayer letters and doing basic publishing. I’ve been trying to find something where I can use my current skill set. And I think this might be useful. I realized that, while I don’t have a lot of formal training, I do have a lot of word processing and small scale publishing experience. Things a lot of people can do with very little experience, but most wouldn’t know where to start.

Small CrossIf I could create a training package that used nothing but free software and taught missionaries and native pastors how to create prayer letters and presentations using that software it would be a really useful tool. Maybe add some basic image editing to the package. I could try to get a list of cheap digital cameras that I could evaluate and recommend (or tell them to avoid) as part of the package.

I’ll also be trying to collect a bunch of online resources and links for them. And if they have local Internet access, try to teach them how to set up and run a blog (which would be basically just an online prayer letter).

So the plan is to use my expertise to build an entire resource package geared towards missions that would be very low cost or free for the missionary. I’ve done a good bit of research already to see if there is a package out there that does this, and haven’t found anything. And the more I talk to about this to people, the more it seems like there is a real need. And it is something I can easily do and should be able to do a good job at.

Finding and evaluating disparate pieces of software, integrating them together, and writing support documentation is something I do in my job all the time. So building and collecting the pieces needed for a package like this is something I have some experience with and should be able to do.