You are Your References
Seth Godin writes:
Your references are everywhere, all the time, whether you want to share them or not.
Wherever we go, we leave electronic footprints. When you post a complaint on Epinions.com, a review on Amazon, or a comment in a newsgroup, your opinions are shared, with everyone, forever. Buy a house, default on a credit card, switch jobs a few times–it’s all there, online, for everyone to see.
If a friend tells me a play is no good, I don’t go. A friend’s recommendation will also determine my choice of lawn-care service or an island to vacation on. My publisher just sent me an email asking about a potential author–and if I don’t back up the author’s version of our relationship, he won’t get the contract.
No person or company can escape their past. You can no longer change your prices with impunity, because the old price lists may be cached at The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (www.archive.org ), which regularly takes snapshots of Web sites and stores them forever. With a little care, you won’t hire a manager with a history of abusing his employees, because the lawsuits are all in the public record.
So what should we do? Should we fret and live in fear of our past actions and words coming back to haunt us? I don’t think so. There’s a bright new opportunity just sitting here, waiting for organizations and individuals to take advantage of it: Spend your future creating your past, starting right now. Live your life out loud, well aware that everything you say can (and will) be used against you (or for you). Treat every customer as though he could turn into a testimonial. Treat every vendor as if she could give you a recommendation. And then, when the time comes, the seeds you’ve sown will pay off.
Blogs, newsgroups, professional organizations, and all the rest are perfect for someone who wants to leave a vivid, positive trail. You can choose to use the new tools or to become a victim of them.