In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Peripheral artists (6): George Henry and E.A. Hornel | Main | On His Own, Man Lives Like a Beast »

July 10, 2006

Googling on Oneself

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --


Admit it.

Once upon a time -- let's say it was at the office on a Friday afternoon when it was 20 minutes before quitting time and you were totally bored out of your skull -- you hopped on the Internet, called up Google and proceeded to Google yourself.

Andy Warhol's famous remark about everyone getting their "15 minutes of fame" predates the Internet, so perhaps he was thinking of being above the fold on page A1 of The New York Times. Or maybe anywhere in People magazine (hope they spelled the person's name correctly -- that's what counts).

That was then. Now our/your/their fame can be quantified (something that brings a sprig of joy to my data-loving heart). All you have to do after Googling yourself is look at the upper-right part of the report Google sends back for an approximate number of citations the system found for your query. Okay, not all hits refer to you. But you can skim through a couple of screens to get an idea as to what share of them were truly yours.

Back before I was (ahem) raised to Blowhard-dom, I boasted 50-ish citations total from various permutations of my name. These were mostly from references to web-based government publications, some articles I wrote in reference to computer languages, and a few references to a book I wrote ages ago.

As I started writing this I Googled on "Donald Pittenger" and got 739 hits. Most of the ones from the first few pages were indeed references to me, mostly having to do with blog posts. A check on a later page turned up a larger proportion of Donald Pittengers who aren't (or weren't) me. "Don Pittenger" turned up 104 hits, but not many had to do with me. On the other hand, "Donald B. Pittenger" yielded a princely 14 hits, nearly all mine, mine, mine.

Excited by results of my quest, I Googled the other main Blowhards. Michael got an astonishing 52,600 hits. Then I tried his real name and turned up more than 800: the guy really gets around.

Friedrich yielded 12,800. I suppose I should be jealous, but he's smarter than I am and writes (mostly) about weighty topics instead of the silly stuff I often churn out. So of course the Internet gives him greater fame. (Friedrich's real name is a fairly common one so it got almost 100,000 hits, none on the first page or two seemed to have to do with him.)


Apparently the new path to world conquest, fame-wise, involves having a blog presence (though I suppose hiring a good public relations consultant still wouldn't do you any harm).

But even (Internet-) innocent bystanders can get swept up by Google's tentacles. My wife and children got a few hits even though they don't blog (though my son has a Web site).

What do you think about Web fame? Eat it up? Recoil in horror? Castigate it publicly yet secretly crave it?



posted by Donald at July 10, 2006


I've googled on my own name now and then, but the motivation isn't ego. It's just to see what's out there -- and to see what someone googling on my name would come up with. I look at it as a security precaution somewhat similar to having a credit report done to guard against identify theft. Not that you can do much about what's out on the Web once it's there, of course, but it's a good idea to be aware of it. I'm probably going to have to dust off the old resume and hit the bricks looking for a Real Job sooner or later, and I assume it's not impossible that the people in charge of hiring at a given company might well run a Google search on likely applicants as something of a background check.

In my own situation, I'm not the only one of me out there. Doing a search on Dwight Decker will get you hits on a big-time corporate executive with a different middle initial, and who knows, if I'm mistaken for him, maybe it will help my chances of being hired. (Or maybe not - "We can't afford him!") There are other Dwight Deckers, too, and they seem to be mostly credits to the name. The only renegade is that weirdo who seems to be doing a lot of stuff with comic books...

Of course, you can control what's associated with your name on the Web to some extent, although if people really thought about it, they'd be less inclined to post really controversial opinions on discussion sites like this one. But I guess that's what pseudonyms are for. (At least I don't think Michael Blowhard was the name he was borned with.) Even so... when the Swift Boats flap blew up in the 2004 election, wasn't one of the Kerry people's talking points the fact they had outed the writer who had helped the Swift Boat vets with their book as someone who had posted opinions that weren't exactly PC on Free Republic? It was guilt by association and fairly irrelevant, but politics ain't beanbag, and the point is that they turned him up even though I think he'd used a pseudonym for his Freeping anyway. More generally, I've often seen reports in the news about people engaged in dubious enterprises or saying dumb things on the Web -- and the reason they're in the news is because they forgot how public the Web is and someone they were hoping wouldn't notice actually did. When one posts in forums like this, it might be best to remember that it's not anonymous.

On a related note, I've lately wasted many happy hours looking up every subject I can think of on Wikipedia. I don't have an entry of my own, but I'm referenced in a few items. What I have noticed is that some aspiring folks in the creative professions aren't waiting to be famous enough for their lack of an entry to be conspicuous, but are apparently writing their own entries as a form of self-promotion. Most obscure individual I've seen so far who obviously wrote his own Wikipedia entry is a very bad amateur poet who was somewhat notorious some years ago for claiming that many Hollywood movies over the past few decades were based on his ideas or even elements of his personal life. Unfortunately, his Wikipedia entry mainly just mentioned his poetry and the numerous awards he's won (some scam he's fallen for, I think). If he still thinks screen writers call him up at midnight so he can tell them his ideas or agents from the movie studios are secretly following him around and observing all the wonderful things he does so they can make movies about them, he's learned the hard way not to say it too loudly, as puncturing his delusions was a popular if cruel indoor sport for some people for a while. That's almost a shame... his colorful claims were what made him interesting, and now he's just one more bad poet.

Posted by: Dwight Decker on July 10, 2006 7:06 PM

Until the Google age, I never knew how blessed I was in having a common name (James Baird - 9,550,000 entries!) Anyone trying to dig up dirt on me isn't likely to find it. I dwell in obscurity; I contain multitudes; I am nowhere, yet everywhere. I am also an art gallery and a state park in Upstate New York...

Posted by: jimbo on July 10, 2006 8:05 PM

Holy cats! I tried it and Google came up with 10,500,000 hits. Alas, few had anything to do with me, and I ascribe this to having common enough first and surnames.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on July 10, 2006 8:16 PM

My name (Peter Rosa) yields 21,900 hits, unfortunately I have to dig quite far into the lists before I come across anything actually relating to me. A Scottish university professor seems to account for the lion's share of the hits.

Posted by: Peter on July 10, 2006 9:00 PM

I already got threats from unhinged jihadis (luckily for me, they live in Amsterdam...but who knows for how long?),
so - the less hits, the better.

Posted by: Tat on July 10, 2006 9:56 PM

Now, Donald, nice southern girls never castigate, would never admit to such a thing, and most certainly not publicly.

However, I do believe Marilyn Monroe oogled herself quite often...

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on July 10, 2006 10:52 PM

On my site in "about" I list about 30 John Emersons who are not me. The most famous were Dred Scott's owner, Anita Loos's husband, a scuzzy Democratic politician, and several Orientalists involved in China, Japan, Hawaii, or Iran.

Posted by: John Emerson on July 10, 2006 11:00 PM

My pseudonym is much better known than I am, at least by Google.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 11, 2006 12:14 AM

863 hits this evening on a simple "Mary Scriver." If I use my middle name, I'll get lots less. If I use "Prairie Mary" I get all kinds of strange stuff: beds and breakfasts, conservationists, and so on. I notice that some of my more stupid remarks posted on listservs in the late 1990's have been gradually bumped off, and I'm grateful. But my three present blogs come up, as I intended them to, and I'm grateful for that, too.

Today I had an eye exam. The doctor had googled me and treated me with far more respect than he had before. Since my career as a minister is memorialized on church website histories, that helps -- if the googler is impressed by religious credentials. Now and then I make contact with a family member, an old friend, or a person who wants to buy a book. At a funeral not long ago, someone blurted, "What? So YOU're Prairie Mary??"

It's sort of like being a law enforcement person in a town where everyone listens to the police frequency. "What? So YOU're 719??" Some anonymity. But I'm retired. No more reputation bondage for me, you danged personnel officers!!

Prairie Mary (AKA 719)

Posted by: Mary Scriver on July 11, 2006 12:16 AM

I wrote a guest posting for 2blowhards in 2004 concerning an apartment complex I lived in for a summer. It had been designed according to New Urbanist principles, and I compared it to a neighborhood in Boston where I once lived.

When I 'Google' myself, this posting comes up first. It outranks my Ph.D. thesis, any of the research papers I've published, and any of my patent filings.

Don't doubt the wide reach of 2blowhards!

Posted by: Charles Sestok on July 11, 2006 3:41 AM

I share a name with a very famous illustrator and a Mexican horror film star, so basically I'm safe from Google.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 11, 2006 9:38 AM

Some scattered replies ...

Dwight -- Lots of good points you raise, especially regarding Web "privacy."

Since I blog under my own name, I try to be a little careful about what I write. Some of this has to do with my temperament as well as my fancied role here: try to be entertaining, but slip in educational/informative stuff where possible. I also try to avoid getting very deep into partisan politics because (1) it can be a turn-off to many readers, and (2) I work for a very prominent government agency where I'm not protected by civil service laws. The latter case will be a non-issue in a couple months when I retire, but I don't think I'll change my blogging much when the fear of getting canned is lifted.

Richard -- It looks like you didn't put your name in quotes. I just tried "richard s. wheeler" and got 39,100. Without quote marks, Google will scoop up all sorts of fragments where it finds Richand and Wheeler, even when separated by many other words. Actually, even using quote marks doesn't prevent getting some odd returns.

Jimbo -- Ditto for you: I just got 74,100 hits with your quoted name (and the gallery and state park top the list).

Tat -- Hmm. Might be time for a pesudonym.

Pattie -- For that, you ought to be exiled to ... Oklahoma?

Mary -- Nice to learn there's an upside; Decker got me to fretting.

Charles -- Thanks for the (data-driven) compliment.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 11, 2006 10:31 AM

What shocked me when I first googled myself was finding comments I'd made on bulletin boards years before, that just don't seem to go away -- any dumb thing you said might be hanging around forever. That made me a little more careful, at least when operating under my own name.

My old name -- 12,000 entries. My new married name -- 0. Maybe better to keep it that way.

Posted by: missgrundy on July 11, 2006 1:53 PM

I used Gigablast (better results and features Google doesn't have) instead to search for Alan Kellogg. Got 1,116 results. Of the first 10 results 8 are for yours truly, 2 for a fellow in Edmonton Canada.

Searching for Mythusmage gives 6,734 results, all me.

Overall the results for either name has been consistent over the years.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on July 11, 2006 3:03 PM

Yeah, I've googled myself (as "J.") and now I'm familiar with the mathematician and the elementary school teacher. I utterly dominate them in the hits though.

Posted by: J. Goard on July 11, 2006 3:37 PM


You've taught this old dog a new trick.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on July 11, 2006 4:18 PM

Isn't there a catchy, clever new word for Googling yourself? "Auto-Googling"? Something like that? "Narci-Googling"? No, it's better than that. I'll see if I can remember it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 11, 2006 4:24 PM

Ah, it's called "Ego Googling." Great term!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 11, 2006 4:33 PM


Posted by: the patriarch on July 11, 2006 5:01 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?