Google Footprint

OK, so here's the thing. In the real world, most Australians talking about 'Nick Coghlan' are going to be talking about the guy on Secret Life of Us. If not him, then the surfer from somewhere down south. If we went to Canada, well, there's a diplomat by that name, so at least a few people would know who he is, or would have seen an article or two about him.

Enter the world of Google, though, and an awful lot of it is about me. On the first two pages of a search for "Nick Coghlan", there's just one entry halfway down the second page for the Canadian guy. The other two don't show up until the third page. The results are skewed massively in my favour because of the public mailing list web archives that Google indexes - and every one of my messages to those lists includes my name.

You can really see the effect of this by searching for "Nicholas Coghlan" instead. I disappear from the results, and the TV actor and the Canadian diplomat take control of the show. I don't show up until page 4, on an old announcement from UQ. As you might guess from that, I don't use my full first name very often.

Another interesting search is "nick coghlan -python -cygwin -software". The results are then quite similar to the "nicholas coghlan" results.

Anyway, I guess my only real observation is that, when searching just for names, Google gives extremely high weight to participation in public online communities. Obvious, one might say, but it's an interesting limitation when looking for information on more famous people that happen to share a name with someone like me.


Comments powered by Disqus