Thing 3: On Digital Footprints

Thing 3, post 2, week which? Keeping going, keeping going – this feels like one of those things that I’d regret not making it to the end of. There’s evidently so much more engagement that can be done here, but I think I need to feel like I’ve got my feet under the table first before popping out to say hello.

And with that feet metaphor raised, on to digital footprints.

First up – links to the main reading for this thing – a guide to ‘e-Professionalism‘ and a hypothetical case study. Useful pointers in the first piece around tone of voice and choice of subjects to write about (both of which I often wrestle with when writing online). The case study was quite interesting too. I can only recall ever having ‘unfriended’ one person on Facebook, but I’m generally quite meticulous about who I do and don’t connect with there in the first place. Unlike the character in the case study, I have the same photo in both personal and professional accounts (eg Twitter and LinkedIn), but I tend to largely keep the same tone in most of my online presences.

Next, to Google oneself. If an auto-biography is a book written by the author about the author, then does googling oneself result in auto-search results?

Once I made the decision several years ago to start doing stuff online like joining social networks, storing photos or publishing blog posts, I realised that a sense of ‘curation’ was needed in order that what others might find would more accurately represent how I wanted to be represented online. This takes quite a commitment at times, but can also just be applied in one’s thinking whenever publishing anything online – particularly if it’s associated with my real name. Taking ‘what would any of my friends or family think if they saw this’ as something that is always at the back of my mind, I’ve found that my content rarely comes back to bite me. Having said that, it also acts as a filter and means that I am not particularly contentious in what I publish.

I have a fairly uncommon name, so usually only find results related to me (although there is actually somebody with the same name that lives in the city where I grew up). I always use “inverted commas” around my name, so that the search results will be more accurate too. For this exercise, I used three search engines – Google, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo.

A Google search shows my Twitter account first (which is pretty active), photos of me, then my personal website. DuckDuckGo and Yahoo both have my personal website and my Flickr account at the top. The rest of these results are largely a mix of profiles on a range of different sites (SoundCloud, WordPress, Medium), and posts I’ve written for personal or work blogs.

The bulk of results returned when searching for my name come from articles illustrated by my photos. I’m not a professional photographer, but have published more than 4,000 pictures at my Flickr site. It eventually dawned on me, years back, that there was nothing I could actually do to prevent somebody ‘using my work’ if a) it was online and b) they wanted to, so I took the step of releasing the entire Flickr set under a simple Creative Commons attribution licence. It’s amazing the kinds of places where my pictures have ended up – from pieces on Aung San Suu Kyi or Parisian nightlife to combating flight anxiety or research into homelessness.

On the whole, my search results aren’t too troubling. High time I updated my personal website though!


Author: Dom Pates

HE Educational Technologist. Live = Brighton, work = London. Previously lived in US and Japan. Interests: global issues, travel, music, peace, internet, environment, technology, literature, culture.

4 thoughts on “Thing 3: On Digital Footprints”

  1. Hi Dom,

    Curating an online presence is a really good way to consider the material we post online, and particularly when it comes to checking what content has been posted up about us by others. It can be quite a commitment, I have a personal ritual of using the New Year as a time to reflect on my online presences, connections, and clean up anything that may have been previously overlooked.

    Really neat to see that your Flickr images are being used so widely! We’ll be looking at copyright and Creative Commons licences as our Thing 11, I’m looking forward to your blog post on that Thing for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment, Charlie – makes a big difference on the participation front!

      I used to put a lot more effort into such curation (before fatherhood, long commutes, etc), but find it harder to do so these days. Nevertheless, having previously laid the groundwork makes it easier for ‘lighter pruning’ these days! I like the idea of New Year digital resolutions too 🙂

      It’s been a real pleasure to see such widespread use of my pictures via Creative Commons. I remember feeling really precious about these things I’d created at first, but they would rarely get seen by anybody if left on a hard drive. Now, I get a great sense of pleasure from seeing the huge and unexpected variety of uses my pictures get out to! Certainly says something about my footprint, I’d think…

      Might be a bit slow it getting through the content, but very much enjoying this 23 Things 🙂


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