Mar 282010
 
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Trying to control, or even manage, your online reputation is becoming increasingly difficult.

And much like the fight by big labels against the illegal sharing of music, it will soon become pointless to even try. It’s time we all just give up on the small fights and become more accepting of the indiscretions of our fellow humans. Because the skeletons are coming out of the closet and onto the front porch.

We’ll look back on the good old days when your reputation was really only on the line with eBay via confirmed, actual transactions and LinkedIn, where you can simply reject anyone who leaves bad feedback on your professional life.

Today we have quick fire and semi or completely anonymous attacks on people, brands, businesses and just about everything else. And it is becoming increasingly findable on the search engines. Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, etc. are the new printing presses, and absolutely everyone, even the random wingnuts, have access.

That picture of you making out with two guys in college up on Facebook. Or perhaps doing a bong hit after winning a few Olympic gold medals. The random slam against your restaurant anonymously left by the owner of the competitor around the corner. The Twitter flame about how bad a driver you are, complete with a link to a picture of your license plate.

And it’s about to get a lot worse. Next week a startup is launching that’s effectively Yelp for people (look for our coverage in a few days). If someone has something good or bad to say about you, they’ll be able to do it anonymously and with very little potential legal or social fallout.

We’ve seen services like this in the past. Rapleaf and iKarma come to mind. But they were flawed – Rapleaf now collects and sells data about people, and iKarma seems to be little more than a realtor focused service. Another service, Gorb, has vanished completely.

But something tells me this new service, or some other one, might succeed where the others have failed. We’re primed and ready now and have lots of experience publishing all those random opinions about people and things on Twitter, Yelp and Facebook already. It’s time for a centralized, well organized place for anonymous mass defamation on the Internet. Scary? Yes. But it’s coming nonetheless.

This has been on my mind for a long while now. Our minds haven’t evolved much over the last few thousands of years, but the spread of quick fire opinions is now moving at the speed of light and forever findable on the Internet. We’re still wired to think of gossip as something that spreads quietly behind the scenes, and relatively slowly. But we’re already in a world where it’s all completely public, there are few repercussions to the person spreading it, and it is easily searchable. No wonder people freak out. We’re fish out of water.

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