« Why you you have to be very careful before letting people in their late 60s decide policy for the next 50 years | Main | Microformats presentation in Canberra and Brisbane »

May 11, 2007

life and resumes

I read recently an article in some esteemed magazine or other (WHO weekly most likely) with the observation that increasingly it seems people live their lives for resumes, rather than a resume being a reflection of the life lived (it was particularly referring to middle and upper middle class parents in America, where their children seem to live lives constructed for their CVS.)

It resonated with me, in part because it is such an obvious, but little said thing, and in part because a quarter of a century ago, at the school I attended, we were encouraged to think in that way (aconsciously or otherwise I can't say).

The reason I find this worth writing about at all is that this morning I read reference to a wall street journal article, via Collision detection about

how tech-savvy parents are picking unusual names for themselves and their kids -- so that they'll be more googleable.

I could say a lot that is fairly tech-snobby about this (in effect, it's about as tech-savvy as being able to pre-set a video recorder, while others are using a TiVO, you know, excitingly "with it" for the wall street journal crowd, pathetic to someone who has, you know, like a clue), but it brought to mind a conversation I often have with people about SEO. We have a couple of quite highly ranked websites, in terms of traffic, and google rankings, and so forth. We pay no attention to SEO, and never have. We've just built sites with valuable content on them, (using valid HTML) and after a while, people seem to recognize they might be of some value to others, and link to them where appropriate. Now we get millions of visitors a year.

But we don't build sites with great quality content to get high google rankings. We do it because we feel it is valuable to people in our industry. Sure, it certainly helps sell some software, online courses, maybe get some people to an event we hold, but its far from just about that.

As for naming yourself or your kid something unusual (see Freakonomics and the phenomenon of African American childrens' names) in the hope to be readily googlable, well, couple of things come to mind. Why does that matter? Surely if you are an IP lawyer, and someone enters "ip lawyer" in a search engine, then the fact you are called Horten Pimbleworthy won't help you get much by way of ranking.

And hey, even if it did, I wonder (this from a guy called John OK) whether 18 years of schooling with a name that will probably get you more teasing than a tattoo of a target on your butt will get you a kicking at a nudist colony for ex professional footballers, wouldn't leave you so fucked up you won't ever do much to achieve anything worth googling for in the first place.

People - live your lives interestingly and well. Then, not only will you end up with a reasonable google rank, but when people find you, online or in person, they'll think - what an interesting person, rather than, what a boring sap.

Here endeth the lesson


May 11, 2007 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference life and resumes:


That's gold!

Can you imagine in the years to come, people with the titles "SEO Life Coach"?

Make sure you have a hyphenated name, so it contains more keywords :-)

Posted by: Scott G | May 11, 2007 11:36:55 AM

I think I read the same article but I had a different take on it than you did - I saw it more as giving your kid an unusual name as an incidental thing, especially if you have a common surname. It is a gripe of mine when I'm looking up people with common names - I usually google everyone I'm thinking of interviewing for a job and it's annoying when their name is John Smith.

I probably would google any name I was thinking of for my kid, if I were to have one - I wouldn't be precious that they had to be the only person in the world with that name, but just to give them a slight advantage in search - I would make sure they weren't called Sally Smith, for example.

I agree with living an interesting life, but why not live an interesting life with the name Petunia Smith so when people do go to find you they don't have to wade through hundreds of pages of bum results...

Posted by: Cheryl | May 11, 2007 11:41:50 AM

Heh, funny, earlier this week someone pass this one around - http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/

I can just imagine the job interview:
"So, Googlewhack-24601 Jones, tell use about yourself..."

Posted by: Ben Buchanan | May 11, 2007 12:33:12 PM

Heh. I totally agree with you, John. ;-)

Posted by: Adam-Web-Design-Schilling | May 11, 2007 2:13:18 PM

Consider if you are called Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts or some famous star. You are suddenly unfindable (which maybe a good thing ;) ) on Google. Now you can't predict the names of the popular "stars" before hand. But consider that it can becomes worse if you are buried with noise without some serious SEO. I have that problem.

Still interesting point.

@Adam - ho ho ho ho.

Posted by: Gary Barber | May 11, 2007 4:43:23 PM

It all depends on what you want people to know about you.

Cheryl is not the only employer I know who will google your name before interviewing you for a job.

So if you have a murky past, you might want to lose your history on google by changing your name. Though not be able to be found on google, who seriously lessen your employability in this industry.

Similarly if you share you name with somebody with a less salubrious background, ie my old boss had the same name as a gay porn star, it could lead to interesting situations.

The other issue here is google and its successors will hold a huge amount of information about a person. So that stupid rant you posted on a blog/myspace/email list/twitter could come back to haunt you in 5, 10 or 20 years time.

Being findable because you have a relatively unique name or non deplume can be a two edge sword.

Posted by: Nick Cowie | May 11, 2007 7:11:26 PM

I'll proudly collect the 'lamest joke comment' award. ;-)

Posted by: Adam Schilling | May 11, 2007 7:52:12 PM

---People - live your lives interestingly and well. Then, not only will you end up with a reasonable google rank, but when people find you, online or in person, they'll think - what an interesting person, rather than, what a boring sap.---

True and wise words. Besides, when every kid is named Zaphod or Slartibartfast, what's the point.

Posted by: Patrick | May 12, 2007 12:22:50 PM

Great little discussion here folks.

Just for the record, I'd never checked, but this blog is in the top 10 results for "John" at Google. Ahead of John Kerry!

Dunno how that wors, but suffice to say, being called the commonest Anglo name there is doesn't hurt my google rankings ;-)

Posted by: John Allsopp | May 15, 2007 10:05:33 AM

My name is Horten Pembleworthy and I am deeply offended by the context with which you reference my name. I was googling my name just now - as I downloaded some kiddie porn, and happened across your blog. As a future leader of the Australian Liberal Party, I want to warn you that I will do my very best to stymie your left wing ramblings in future.

Good day to you

Posted by: Andy | May 16, 2007 5:57:23 PM

John - I've heard a few people say that now about themselves (I saw an awful presso at Cebit on the benefits of blogging for business) - this guy was bragging how he was on the first page of results when you look up his first name.

I wanted to shake him and say "but what's your point???" What are the odds on someone wanting you (I mean this as a generic you, not you in particular) when they google a first name, except for maybe Madonna or Prince - it really is just a vanity brag.

Sorry I'll get off my soap box now. It just really got my goat to hear this being presented as a valuable metric at a conference (people were actually paying for this insightful advice).

Posted by: Cheryl | May 17, 2007 11:02:34 PM


I actually think you've put my original 5 times better than I did.

Where is the value in people being able to google your name and get you. Surely you want them to find you when they look for WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM when they have never heard of you?

I actually think blogging can help that, but of course, only if your blog presents you as an expert in the field they are interested in.

Lots of BS out there eh? Why am I surprised that you got a load at CeBIT ;-)?


Posted by: John Allsopp | May 19, 2007 10:11:27 AM

"We pay no attention to SEO, and never have" - But why do you think there are many small-medium or even larger sized businesses seek the help of SEO firms to do online promotions and internet marketing for them? IMO, SEO plays a big role in making the business successful online if not.

Posted by: SEO reseller | Apr 14, 2011 7:33:46 PM