Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Google who?

In general writers are shy folk. There will always be some who prefer to swing naked from the trees while tap-tapping on their lap-tops, but for most of us writing is a solitary exercise undertaken through the necessity of preserving our sanity. Writers are observers. We record what we experience. We take life and jumble it up with fantasy and feelings and whatever else we have lying around at the time and then we present is tentatively to the reading public. It's often quoted that writers hold up a mirror to society, but I suspect many of them, like me, are writing to try and make sense of the world around them.

There are just so many things that don't make sense from why egg-whites go into the oven gooey and come out rock hard to the evolution of the duck billed platypus; from why a strange large lorry reverses up my dead-end lane every morning to who actually recorded the 'Stand Clear Vehicle Reserving' jingle that it loudly plays. Or why do my computer and my iPhone think it's okay to offer me entirely different calendars despite being synced or why is the weather always best when there's a deadline to be completed? And then there are the serious things that essentially all come down to why on earth do people think it's okay to hurt each other?

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it is proof positive that a lot of people out there are asking the same questions and lots of people are trying to answer them. Saying the resources on the internet are big is rather like describing the universe as being a nice little collection of stars. Who runs the internet and who feeds in all this data is a bit of a mystery. Could it be a giant army of elves of which the QI elves are the only ones to formally declare themselves?

Some of the information has bylines and even photos though you can never be entirely sure that anyone you meet or read on the internet is a) real or b) exactly what they seem to be. In a similar way you can never be sure that any of the data you find is accurate.

You'd think then that the internet was a great way for us shy authors to self publicize and to some extent it is. Social media from twitter to twirl from facebook to lj all offer us a way to reach potential readers. If we put in enough time and effort we get pages of listing on google . In fact from time to time things will be picked up and posted without any action on our behalf. My reading from A Death in the Family appeared over on The Witty Sparks blog without my lifting a finger. Someone has been also posting my performed plays on a couple of websites though they rarely seem to get the list right and appear to have borrowed the photo from my blog. They also have my nationality wrong, but it's clear it's all done with the best of intentions.

Some ebook authors on the other hand have the misfortune to find their entire works downloadable for free - presumably on sites created by people who don't understand that some of us earn a living from generating content and that giving it away for free it rather like us breaking into their houses and helping ourselves to a toaster or a telly because we rather like it.

All in all this means that the internet is at heart a reflection of humanity and therefore liable to be wildly contradictory and often misleading. The one certain thing is whatever you put out there stays out there. Googling myself recently (and there's a verb I wasn't taught in school) Caroline Dunford for the first five pages of hits is entirely me. In fact it's mostly me for the first nine pages. I think this is quite impressive - try it with your own name and see what comes up.







3 comments:

tsrosenberg said...

First page of Google is all me me me.

Second page includes links to a) an oral surgeon, b) a plastic surgeon, and c) an alternative media person who have the same name (though with different middle initials and/or spellings).

I absolutely agree that everything on the internet is permanent. Including...this comment! :)

chang said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Simon Kewin said...

Good grief, I have ten pages of me!

A suggestion - have you set up Google Alerts on your name too? The idea is that Google will email you whenever it spots a new page that mentions your name (or any other string you want to give it - book title maybe?)

You can set them up here.