Monday, October 6, 2008

Leaving a Google footprint

There’s lots of talk about carbon footprints these days, but maybe we also ought to be thinking about our “Google” footprints – those traces of our past captured forever in cyberspace.

If you’ve ever “Googled” yourself or someone else, you've seen just how much you can learn from putting a name or a few words in the “Google search” box at Google is a terrific resource for research (especially for us writers), previewing the menu of a new restaurant, investigating your neighbors (or your children) ~ and discovering what everyone else can find out about you. (For those who’ve never tried googling, instructions are at the end.)

And while all the information on the World Wide Web isn’t always accurate, it can be interesting to see what the Internet says about you.

A search of the Web for my name, for example, finds Pat Remicks in Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and the other one I’ve always known about – my mother, a former real estate agent who shared her name with her firstborn (a future subject for a blog entry or maybe therapy – but I digress).

Nearly all the citations on the 29 separate Google pages refer to me. I wonder if the other Pat Remicks are incredibly jealous or simply curious about why our name appears in entries in Japanese, Chinese, German, Russian, Italian, French, Norwegian and Danish. The reason is most are connected to the two non-fiction books I wrote with (husband) Frank Cook and the numerous web-based outlets where they can be purchased.

Our “Candidates as Caregivers” freelance article about the presidential primary candidates for AARP Bulletin also appears a few times. Most surprising was learning from a Google search that it won an award from the “Society of National Association Publications,” or SNAP. Our editor forgot to mention this, as well as another award it earned for AARP.

News articles composed before most of us knew about the Internet also turn up in odd places on the Web today. A United Press International report I wrote in 1983 is cited in the notes of the 2002 book “The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right” and also in “The National Intelligence Service – Murder and Mayhem: A historical account.” I’m too cheap to buy the books to remind myself what I wrote and you can’t expect someone who forgets where she puts her purse to remember the subject of one of hundreds of articles written 25 years ago. It must have been brilliant, though.

A 1982 article I wrote about Oil City, Louisiana, (home to the first over-water oil drilling platform) apparently is part of Southeastern Louisiana University’s “Clark Forrest Collection, Box 6.” I have no idea who Clark Forrest was, but I suspect his heirs wanted at least a tax deduction for all the boxes of newspaper clippings he probably left behind.

A 1977 photograph of my UPI softball team— “Dr. Darkness and his Night Writers”—also is on the Web for the world to see. I gave up softball, but kept Dr. Darkness. (I’m the third one in from the right and he's the scary-looking guy in front.)

Google also has captured my pithy quotes in articles about our dog running the house, education funding, the local holiday parade, elementary school discipline, an immoral bishop, and a variety of other topics. Great news for those who haven’t heard enough of my opinions, but bad news for my children and theirs, I suspect.

A word of caution: A “Google” search isn’t perfect. It reflects what’s on the imperfect Web. A search can’t always clearly differentiate between two people with the same name. The criminal history of a man who shares the name and home state as one of my relatives has caused him undeserved embarrassment. Unfortunately, he has no recourse because the court document left a “Google” footprint that may never fade.

So, if you haven’t tried “googling” yourself, you should. If you already have, did you discover anything that surprised you?

Google Instructions:
Go to You should see this series of words in the upper left corner: “Web, Images, Maps, News, Shopping, Mail, more.” The word “web” should be black. If it’s not, click on it. Then move your cursor to the blank search box. Type in your name with quotation marks around it (i.e., “Pat Remick”) and then click on the gray box below that says “Google search.” If there’s more than one person in America with your name, you may see lots of pages returned that don’t apply to you. You can try searching again and putting in your hometown next to your name in quotation marks, add a middle initial or even your profession. Give it a try. You might be surprised by what you find.


ALittleGuitar said...

in the softball picture, who's the shady-looking character over your left shoulder?

Pat Remick said...

And what the heck was that dashing young whippersnapper Bill C Trott trying to do when the photog snapped that glorious rendition of the journalism league's No. 1 team (No. 1-- that's my story and I'm sticking to it...)?