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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 29, 2010 7:45 AM. The previous post in this blog was A photo op with Bill Clinton. The next post in this blog is A hat check girl for the freeway ramp guys. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

A blogger's dilemma

Here's an interesting issue that's cropped up in our little corner of the blogosphere. A reader writes:

A long time ago, I randomly posted a few comments on [a post on your blog]. It was in my college years, and frankly, reading it over again I'm surprised by my tone; my apologies.

Anyway, I’m keeping my eye out for employment opportunities at the moment and was hoping it was possible to remove the comments. I don't know why, but I put my full name in the comments and when I "google" myself it comes up pretty high on the list. Obviously, there are very few people who share my name and they say it is important to see what comes up on internet searches for prospective employers. Anyway, I'd appreciate it, but the power is yours. Keep up the good work; I enjoy reading the blog every now and then.

The comments were pretty snotty, and other readers responded to them. My software will allow me to change the reader's signature on the comment so as to eliminate his last name; perhaps that would be a solution.

Or maybe I should leave the comment up there and let him "own" it. Or how about I ask him how much it's worth to him for me to take it down? (The devil made me think of that option.) What do other readers think?

Comments (56)

Ah, give 'em a break! And I hope you don't need the money! If so, we are all in the tank!

As Charles Krauthammer said when speaking of the Rand Paul Aqua Buddha hoo-haa:

"I think it’s time for the truce of 2010 where we declare that for all candidates, in all places, and for all time, life starts after college. And we’re not going to count witchcraft, wearing a beard and being a Marxist, or the joining of a fraternity where you do stupid pranks."

Give him a pass...

I say keep the comments up, but change the user name and include a note about why the user name has changed. The only question I have is whether google will change anything soon due to cached versions of the page.

If it was just run of the mill snotty, and it happened more than 5 years ago, then I would say that the thing shouldn't haunt him forever. If it was just last year and/or the guy was displaying a serious character flaw, or spouting other socially unacceptable opinions, then I would make him own it. So it's a matter of doing a balancing test of the severity of the snottiness weighed against the passage of time from when the comment was made.

(1) His/her request sounds borderline flippant and not particularly apologetic ("my apologies" isn't the same as "I'm sorry").

(2) He/she also doesn't say they regret the comments, just that they're "surprised" by them.

(3) He/she is asking for removal or change for the sake of convenience, not for a change of heart of perspective.

Leave 'em. At least until you hear something more meaningful than that message.

I'd say go with First name plus last initial, and leave the comment up. God knows we've all done stuff in our past that in hindsight we regret, and it's not like you're removing the comment or attributing it to someone else.

Is it healthy to "google" one's self? How about asking for an "indulgence" payment to a charity?

I agree with Dave J

How about this, If his snotty comment was directed at, oh, let’s say those “wacky tree huggers,” have him go volunteer in a forest clean up. If the comment was more sinister in nature, like recent “Tea-Party talk, I say let him own it.

Speaking of college friends, I ran into one recently who charges people (companies mostly) for suppressing or optimizing the results of google searches. It involved a bunch of techniques that made my eyes glaze over, but he said that he's getting more individuals looking for that service.

I suspect that for a few hundred dollars he could push this post down several pages in a google search of his name - but only Jack could wipe it out (subject to google's caching policy).

Of course this is mostly relevant in helping you determine a market price for removing his name.

I agree with zonedar's take (with a little bit of Usual Kevin's thrown in).

If sufficient time has passed (and contrition shown) he probably deserves a pass.

The guy is looking for a job, cut him some slack. I vote first name and last initial remain and no, no charge (ever tried to live on unemployment?).

What a strange conversation... Of course you should remove his name from the comment - it's the decent thing to do.

Zonedar and Dave J are absolutely correct. I'm very thankful that the Interwebs wasn't really around to capture MY pre-30's idiocy.

And I really can't agree with the posters who expect you to determine if 1) he was "contrite enough"; or 2) if it was long enough ago; or 3) what the snottiness level of the comment was. Geesh... the guy says he regrets the comments and he's trying to find a freakin' job. Which ain't exactly easy right now.

To get unemployment, first you have to be employed.

The guy made a mistake, owned up to it, and wants to get a job. Sounds good to me. Change his name to Howdy Do and wish him luck.

I've always been a fan of 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. But it's your call.

Cut him some slack. All of us have said or written things we regret. We owned them at the time, but we don't need to own them for the rest of eternity. If some are correct, the rest of eternity could end as soon as 12-21-2012.

Cut him a break. Life is hard enough without silly youthful indiscretions getting in the way of growing up. And let's face it, who of us here hasn't wished we could delete a blog comment or two...

I think removing his name is the right thing to do.

I think my only question would be at what point is it asking too much work of the blogger. What if Jack got five of these requests per day? They may all be sad tales, worthy of removal, but the blogger has better things to do then clean up after imprudent commenters all day.

Anyway, if this is an infrequent occurance, I would try to help the guy out.

The rule of this day and age: If you're using your own name on the intertubes, don't say anything you wouldn't say to an acquaintance at church.

Oh, and if the guy went onto google, searched his name and clicked on links lower than the offensive comment, wouldn't they start to move up the list and push the offensive link down?

Anyone more familiar with the ways of the goog?

Torrid Joe is looking for work?

Show some mercy, it is the best thing to do. Sure this guy sounds like a jerk but it is a rough job market and for the most part kids under 26 are idiots anyway (especially college students.)

Gibby,
That's scary!
As for the google search of one's name, that's exactly why many people do not use their full name. They don't want every chat, post, rant or whatever to show up.
There's been many anti-anon people who can't seem to get that.
They've disparaged anons for being cowardly etc. for using a pseudonym.

Now obviously there are times when accusatory remarks would suggest one should back it up with their real name. But even that doesn't in itself require full disclosure or even to justify why not.

There are always exceptions, but I'd say anyone but public figures and politicians who request that they be removed should be obliged. What's the big deal?
But I'm nicer than most people.

Removing his name only sends the message that apologies can be accepted and that's only going to encourage him to write MORE snotty comments. If I hear one more youngster bum apologizing I'm moving my business out of Portland.

There's growing evidence that with our increasingly complex society it's taking longer for people's brains to fully develop, even into their 20s. Let the poster blame his asininity on his still-maturing brain cells and cut him some slack.

Slack.

This is a flippant reply. But, he must be preparing to run for office. If so, let him live with it. I enjoy the explanations that candidates have to give if someone digs into someones past so deep. And that goes for me too. But I won't be running for office, I'm already on home-plate.

Cut the kid a break. The Karma you get will be a good thing.

If you take money to remove his comment or alter his name, wouldn't you be acting like the owner of Busted?

Poor guy?

What about the "poor" employer? Doesn't he/she deserve to know?

What about the "poor" competing applicants who didn't do anything stupid?

The internet never forgets...

Thank G-d there was no internet when I was young and bulletproof.

Who didn't do something they regret when they were in college?

Give the guy a break.

Hg,
I don't see calling the next generation "youngster bums."
The kid would probably have a job already if we hadn't screwed up the world.

Well. There's an overlooked question or two here: first, how much good can it do to change your archive? There must be copies of it all over the universe. And how much effort are you expected to expend in whitewashing someone's past? How much exposure do you have if you don't do it? Or if you do it for some, but not others?

I think people are going to have to find a way to put the facts into some sort of perspective, that the internet helps them uncover.

I don't mind "giving a break" — if that's what really happens — to someone. I guess, too, that we should all remember how relatively easy it is to alter history, to the extent that it reposes on the web.

While I agree with the "give him a break" ethos here - and it certainly would be gracious of you to oblige him on his request, Jack - the youngster has failed to comprehend the Prime Axiom: what goes onto the Internet remains on the Internet.

More to the point, there are actually several Internets today. There's this one, which we all know and use, and there's the "dark" one, which is generally access-restricted (but which I once blundered into by mistake - you'll know you're there if you see a yellow triangle in the upper left corner of your screen). There's also 'Net2, the super-highspeed system that originated in Champaign-Urbana and which presently serves only supercomputing centers at universities and labs around the USA.

No matter what course of action you choose to take, Jack - the kid's name will be associated with his comments somewhere on this 'Net and on the "dark" 'net. All that can be done at this point is to render discovery a bit less trivial.

I wonder what would happen if this mystery person put his apology as a comment to this posting using his real name. That might say more about his character than anything.

Yeah, I dunno. A lot of youngsters dont seem to understand that the internet is permanent. Even if you do grant his request, its all still out there somewhere. Google cache, server backups, etc. I try to get my kids to understand they need to watch themselves on the internet. I also encourage them to not be anonymous and stand up for yourself and your name.
My employer has a Facebook account and was asking us to "join in" with them. Now who in their right mind would do that? This is why I dont use Facebook or Twitter. I use my real name on the 'net. There is no shame in it.

I say leave it. They need to learn sometime.

Satire, Bill! I mean, if that is your real name.

I've been commenting and blogging (on and off) for a long time, in a lot of places, and have said many, many things that I now regret (including the long internet debates I got in supporting Nader presidential runs -- I AM SORRY). I've done most all of that under my own full name (Matt Whitman, mattwhitman dot com, etc) though because of my autocomplete settings that hasn't always happened here.

We leave footprints. That's part of life. Leaving footprints on the Internet is purely voluntary.

Hg,(or Mercury if that's your real name from the element charts)
Don't you get that I was leaving a snotty comment on a post about leaving snotty comments? I was being ironic.

The solution to pollution is dilution! The best way for that individual to get rid of nasty comments he may have made is to blanket the airwaves with lots of nice, benign ones.

Don't you get that I was leaving a snotty comment on a post about leaving snotty comments?

Sigh...

If you have to explain...

I was being ironic.

Maybe obtuse is closer to the mark.

See, THAT'S snotty.

Take it from me.

He's polite and contrite; put his name out of sight.

Okay, I didn't know Hg was doing satire with his comment and I made up the rest. There. I got fooled and I admit it. You know... it's a relief just to come right out and say it. I'm not sure I could have carried this burden much longer.

Perhaps someone has already suggested this above, but is it possible for him to still comment on the original thread? Maybe he could post his apology there, so that people searching his name would see that as well. I think the Google cache will ensure that the original post will never actually go away, even if you change his name.

forgive

It's not Robert Canfield, is it? If not, I say go ahead and remove it.

Leave it ! as was said above , think of his poss.boss , doesn't he have some right to know , and those competing for the job , who may be good people , don't they have a right to a fair game !

A few years ago I accidentally used my last name on a comment I posted here and then asked Jack to delete it, knowing that anything you post on the internet remains “out there” forever(and like the gentleman he is, he graciously did so).

So yes, if you’re going to use your real name, be careful what you say, because it might come back to bite you!

For example, never sign off using your real name if you’re going to write something inflammatory like this:

I don’t give a rat’s ass what nosy prospective employers, acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, City Hall, or anyone else in this preposterously silly town-or anywhere-thinks about my comments on this blog.

My plan is to use my real name now and then legally change it to another name later.

I say you scrub his info.

I do think that the entire issue raises interesting questions about the Internet as a public forum. I wonder how much more civil, and hopefully informative, message boards would be if all posters had to own their comments and use their real names.

And yeah, before you point it out to me, I know I'm using a screen name.

You'd think I'd have an opinion on this, given that I've used my real name here for years. :-)

And I do: Do what you think is right. That's all.

I'd say remove it.

And don't start making a habit of it.

I think reader comments on any website (other than very specialized professional or serious academic ones) should have a limited shelf life, unless the site makes it clear that reader posts will remain online indefinitely. I used to post under my real name in the early years of the Internet because I naively assumed such writing was ephemeral. I suspect that this reader was similarly unsophisticated about the nature of the Web at the time he made his comments. It was virtually a brand-new media in the late '90s and early '00s, and few of us were truly aware of its implications. If I ran a blog I would probably scrub reader commentary after about a year.

Oh the mortification of remembering some of the things I said in my college days, and worse, the totally cocksure way I brandished them.

I punished myself. I'd remove the name and let this guy do the same.

At the end of the day most employers looking at character traits would probably prefer to hire the repentent blogger, rather than the unforgiving blogger for the job at hand. And that's the truth!

I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members. ~ Groucho Marx

I say put the heat on lazy incompetent 'employers' -- too lazy to build a better world of personal connections with employees and applicants (so they 'go by' and go buy a .0215-seconds Search of Google records), and so incompetent they lack sound character judgment of persons they meet in the world, and lack character judgment of human nature in themselves (as in each of us).

Jeez, it's your blog, Jack, a credit to you personally, your asset, your labor in love: You make the call. That's why you get the big bucks.

(I'm serious, though, that people can learn more self-respect for their own Labor, capabilities, and capacity to labor; and such self-respect is worthy and able to tell wage-slavers to go take a flying leap, we the good people decline to work there for them in those conditions and SHAME on them. 'Ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.' - Bob Dylan The unlearned (or untaught, anyway lack of) self-respect -- so many people's lack of respect for themselves -- is how come there are LIARS Larsons in the world and how come their 'thirty million pieces of silver' is called obscene and they: filthy rich. One way to judge people's character is by the money they take. bojack is dot-ORG and there's a good quality in that. I stood on principle once-upon-a-time and am defamed ever since: I refused a lucrative offer to work my mathematic prowess into guidance-control algorithms that could put a nosecone down any chimney in the world (even my own) that The Employer pointed at, without me having a say in the 'chimney'-selection decision. Yeah, I was fully aware when I wouldn't do it there were a dozen applicants in line behind me who could, and would. Now I'm a pauper kept alive by the largesse of friends and I like my friends. Maybe there are my words on the internet I should regret and seek to 'strike from the record,' I don't know, I've never looked back. I do know I have written and said things I wasn't fully informed about and didn't know what I was talking about, at the time. But tomorrow's a new day and a new life, and opportunity to make new mistakes as long as I can learn from my past ones and grow beyond repeating them.)

I found fun along the way in my research for writing this comment, (looking up the Groucho Marx quote -- .0872 seconds of 'research'), which I hope is enjoyed by others: quotes by Steven Wright ... whoever he was ... or is.

Hi Prof Jack -- my first impulse was to let him hang, but it only took me a second to realize that if he posted under his real name, he is actually a bigger man than most of us here. Sometimes if I feel like being particularly snotty, I don't even use my regular handle. Give the boy a clean slate, a dollar, and a pat on the head.


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Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
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Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 293
At this date last year: 145
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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