June 2, 2007
Go Ahead...Google Yourself

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I write a column for The Ohio County Times-News in Hartford, Ky., called "From Beaver Dam to Boston," about my move from The Bluegrass State to the East Coast and some of the cultural differences I have encountered. I also share my thoughts about new technologies. I thought it might be valuable to share an old column I wrote from back in 2005 about a process we are all familiar with...Googling yourself. While this is addressed to a local readership and dealing with some local public figures, I think the point is valuable to a greater audience...

For those of you who have some extra time and are running short of things to do, Google yourself. Well, you don't have to use the Google search engine in particular, but search for your own name and see what you find.

Chances are, many of you who use the Internet have already done this, to see not only what documents can be found in a simple Internet search dealing with you and also who else might share your name. But, if you haven't, you might find some interesting things.

For instance:

If I Google our editor Don Wilkins, I find not only articles from the "Times-News" but also a sculptor by the same name from Saskatchewan, a men's track player for Grand Valley State, a self-proclaimed "cowboy poet," a faculty member of the Berklee College of Music here in Boston, an Australian photographer and the list can go on and on. I am fairly certain that none of these "other" Don Wilkins is our editor, but there were something like 20,000 hits to the name on Google.

If I Google our esteemed Judge-Executive Wayne Hunsaker, I find not only several articles on his performance as Judge-Executive from the "Times-News" and "Messenger-Inquirer," but also an eyewitness account of a murder in Oregon and a staff member of the Eugene Institute of Religion with the Church of Latter Day Saints Institute.

If I Google our County Court Clerk Les Johnson, I find an independent travel consultant, a high-ranking NASA employee, a 1950s actor, a media professor, the Director of Human Resources at the University of Minnesota and the victim of an unsolved murder in Kansas, among many others.

If I Google Circuit Court Clerk Gaynell Allen, I find a nun teaching in a Catholic school in Texas, a Colorado middle school English teacher and the golf record of our very own elected official.

Believe it or not, I even found someone who shares a namesake with our honorable Sheriff, Elvis Doolin, as someone by the same name was the former owner of a racetrack in the St. Louis area.

For my wife, Amanda Ford, I found a police lieutenant working at Auburn University, a costume designer on Broadway, a landscape consultant, a snowboarder and a women's soccer player, among many others. She is also apparently the writer of inspirational books, with titles such as "Between Mother and Daughter: A Teenager and Her Mom Share the Secrets of a Strong Relationship," "Retail Therapy: Life Lessons Learned While Shopping" and "Be True To Yourself: A Daily Guide for Teenage Girls."

Of course, I have been leaving out the person I would most want to Google--myself.

In addition to finding a lot of information about "Sam Ford Fiord," which appears to be somewhere in Canada, I did find a few actual references to me.

There were some press releases, articles from the "Times-News," and some listings regarding my involvement in some academic conferences or Mick Foley coming to WKU.

However, I found about 31,000 hits for my name and found that I appear to share my name with several notable people. Neighboring Harvard University has a student there named "Sammy" Ford, which my editor actually calls me upon occasion. Another is an award-winning broadcast journalist from the Washington D.C. area, Sam Ford, who has a Master's degree from the University of Minnesota. There is a football player for New Mexico State that also shares my name, as well as an alleged bank robber in Philadelphia.

Oh...and there appears to be a famous movie star with quite a following that shares my name. His titles include "ManPlay 005," "Holler" and "Carny. Yes, I share my name with a gay porn actor. Aside from the list of titles, I have decided never to venture further into what my namesake is doing with his career. And, I neglected to mention earlier, my wife appears to share her name with an "amateur" nude model.

So, as you can see, you might want to be forewarned before going about this activity if Googling yourself. You must be prepared to find anything. And, don't forget, anything can be fodder for these search engines, including message board postings, editorials and even official documents like marriage certificates. Be careful what you want to keep secret if it becomes a record of public search.

As for me, I may never be as famous--or as infamous--as some of my other namesakes, but I think, considering the circumstances, I'll just be proud to be who I am.

Since that time, I've found someone who actually matches my complete name as well...Samuel Earl Ford. He's on a site called Perv Watch, unfortunately, and it appears he is a sex offender who, the last time I saw, was listed as "whereabouts unknown." Every time I meet a new group of people, I'm afraid someone will Google me and mistake "me" with some other version of myself...



I wrote about this experience a few months ago when I saw Alan Berliner's The Sweetest Sound. In my case, there is a fantasy writer, a management expert, and, I believe, a police chief in Texas (there's also my dad, but he's almost entirely un-Googleable).

As my post suggests, I actually find sharing a name with others mildly annoying, but I do have pagerank, which is pretty cool.

On June 3, 2007 at 1:57 PM, Jim Killeen said:

My name is Jim Killeen and I am making a documentary called 'Google Me', about my experiences after 'Googling' my name. Check out www.googlemethemovie.com for more info and a trailer of the film.


Hey, thanks to both of you for the link and URL. I think this new era of identity management is getting really fascinating, as your respective post and film indicate.