An old friend once told me back in 1995, “Assume that every email you send will eventually land on the lunchroom bulletin board for everyone to see.” It was great advice for email. It’s even better advice for blogs.

Miffed at someone? Kill them with words. With the Web as ammo, it’s easy to wreck someone’s job, life and reputation. Google has a great memory. Glen Allsopp wrote about three women who went off to raise a little hell at their boyfriends in A New Wave of Reputation Management Issues. He wrote:

These three women found out their partners were looking for love elsewhere, they all found their relief online. Did they find support groups or forums that could help them deal with the emotional pain? Nope.

* One started a blog about the cheat
* One edited a dating profile for her partner, adding some embarassing extras
* One “hacked” into her partners emails and humiliated him

Oh, how I’ve wanted to vent, curse, whine, scream bloody hell and verbally beat the crap out of people or companies who’ve been total jerks. What stops me? It’s so uncool to do it. Why? Because nobody can hurt you unless you let them and revenge doesn’t heal the pain. It deepens the wound.

It’s frustrating me how the Web is used as a weapon. I refuse to use it that way. It’s always been my vehicle for peace, community, knowledge share and crossing bridges.

Competition on the Web can get ugly. Signals get crossed. I lost a friend because of a disagreement over links. To me, it looked as though I wasn’t good enough to be associated with his company and I took it hard.

In a different twist, I’ve been accused of being unfriendly to people who believe I’m ignoring them. Perhaps I am. Have you offered me a reason to trust you? Do you work hard or expect free hand outs? Do you want friendship or want to use me for something? I can usually tell.

With the Web, friendships seem to develop and erode very fast. The word “Friend” online is used to loosely describe anyone who walks up to you and requests to be called your friend. I know I have some “real” friends because they’ve put up with me for years, no matter what.

Not all of my friends like each other, which is tough to deal with. On the web, we’re judged by who we associate with, who we work with, our business partners, blogrolls, and now, who we yack with on Twitter. One of my SEO friends is working her butt off trying to get my 50th birthday party worked out. I met her online. She’s been one of the most incredibly loyal, devoted, supportive friends I’ve ever had. She believes in me and has faith in my work and career. Sadly, some of my other “friends” don’t like her, with one of them going public about it.

And this is what scares me about what people can do when the Web is treated like a weapon of mass reputation destruction. If someone Googles a name and finds something harsh written about the person they’re looking up, how true is it? Is it one person’s experience or 100 people?

There’s two sides to every story.

We can’t grow if we keep throwing rocks. Granted, I can see why those women went off on their boyfriends. But, would you date a woman who hacks into her boyfriend’s email or thinks public humiliation is justified? Glen’s blog post included their pictures.

Lunchroom bulletin board.

New for SES - Search Engine Strategies Awards in August
You've Got Your SEO in My Usability


Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)