Saturday, May 26, 2007

Footprints

I've been thinking a lot about my "online footprint" in recent days.

A proportion of the British press have expressed concern over Google's future plans, most significantly the Independent, which carried this worrying story on it's front page this week. When I think of all the different sites that I am registered with, all the online groups that I am part of... even under a plethora of pseudonyms, I realise that I have a fairly significant presence. I'd argue that among the people I know closely... none of them is as established on the Internet as myself. I'm not boasting... it is not about any delusions of "celebrity", it's just that I have been much more thorough in exploring the cyber neighbourhood than they have. That is the trouble with being an extrovert trapped in an introvert's body.... you grow rather fond of armchair expeditions.

An example of how worryingly accurate Google's algorithms can be arrived in my statistics page this week. Half a world away from Nick's Sanctuary, I regularly visit a bulletin board under a pseudonym of one of the knights of the round table - Galahad. Now another description of a sanctuary can be "safe haven". The other day, Google directed somebody to my blog simply on the search term "Galahad's safe haven". I performed a search on Technorati and a cached Google advanced search, specific to the url for Nick's Sanctuary. Guess what? I don't refer to Galahad at all... Google knows me well enough by association... the same is true of other handles I travel under - scary.

Google's chief executive has revealed the following corporate vision:

"The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'."

It is bad enough having a "nanny state" without having to worry about a "nanny site". The Independent has also pointed out that Google has bought up a genetic research firm - 23andMe and is also bidding for DoubleClick - a cookie web tracking software company. It does all sound rather worrying.

However I didn't just want to look at potential corporate Orwellian threats... I wanted to make people think seriously about their blog content, particularly fellow Christians.

Footprints are funny things... you can walk along a shoreline and leave a set of hundreds of personal impressions in the sand, knowing that when the tide comes in... they will all be long gone. Yet there are places on this planet, where footprints endure long beyond the time they were created - in the form of fossils.

The question I wanted to ask is this: when you leave your marks on the web, which ones will remain? Which articles are going to be the ones that people remember and actually have an effect on others... and which ones will simply wash away with time and tide?

You may never know. So I encourage you all to write from the heart, the things that really matter... the more important things you write down... the better chance that your better qualities will be preserved - set in stone.

For Christians this idea carries extra depth. I spoke about former US president Jimmy Carter the other day... in my research I stumbled upon a question that had been a key motivator in his early development:

"If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

It has become a cliche... but the truth behind it remains all the same.

Now I want you to think about the famous poem "Footprints" - the story of a man walking with Jesus along the beach who at times of hardship and stress, discovers that one set disappears. Jesus points out at the end of the journey, that in those times... he carried the man on his shoulders.

The question I want to challenge myself and any other Christian reading is... of all the experiences I/we write about... do people see two sets of footprints (those of Jesus as well as our own), in our blogs? Also, do we have the conviction to write about the hard times in such a manner that people can see Jesus carrying us through our difficulties?

I'm not talking necessarily about content here... but attitude. There are many Godcentric blogs that make me wretch - one or two even have the bare faced cheek to claim to be speaking as Jesus in the first person in terms of spirituality and also political endorsement. They seriously need a reality check.... they come across like the "super apostles" who Paul had a problem with.

When I visit a blog, especially a Christian blog... I am less worried about the subject matter and more interested in seeing how the personality of the author comes across - and where applicable, how their relationship with God is conveyed in their style of writing.

When I write, I want people to know I'm totally on the record..., yes I want them to see God... but I also want them to know I'm a genuine human being too... I want to relate to others. I want to walk among them not upon them.

Isn't that what you want?

5 comments:

  1. I know how you feel. A couple of times in the past I've Googled something completely unconnected with my blog only to find my page at the top of the search results. A coincidence? Almost certainly but it does make you think.

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  2. Hi Benny, thanks for the comment.

    It's not so much random and unconnected things that worry me. I find that quite encouraging.

    It is more the sense that Google seems to have a good understanding of who I am in different circles and how I am identified as the same person that worries me. I don't believe that level of accuracy to be coincidence at all.

    It just goes to show how powerful Google's algorithmn is.

    Blessings

    N

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  3. Just remember every web page you visit you leave a traceable imprint behind. I'm not sure that Google has the capability to track IP addresses yet but it sure is quite scary the power they do have. They are not alone though of course.

    I am amazed at some of the searches that lead to my blog.

    Oh well, it is an internet connected world in which we surf!

    I agree also about blog content, it can be a fine line between revealing a warts and all view and keeping a scriptural view. Certainly in my life the two don't always meet but that is the process of sanctification we are all in I guess. Take Care

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  4. Thanks for your warning. It reminds me of the scary things in Revelation about the mark of the beast. No, I'm NOT saying that Google is evil; not saying that at all. The company seems to have a higher moral standard than most. But such technology could be bad if under the control of thoroughly evil people.

    As for Christian web sites, some are shameless; some are gullible; some are inept; some are wonderful. I am increasingly realizing that in blogging it's very easy for me to be selfish while pretending to be holy. May the Lord deliver us from that. Thanks for calling us to reality.

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  5. This is certainly food for thought,I guess I tend on the side of "warts and all" and forget what I'm portraying.

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