‘The right to be forgotten’ and your online presence.

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Was it for kicks or was it to see what a potential employer might find?

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My online name twins are writers, events planners, lawyers and psychotherapists. I reckon I got off lightly. Can you imagine sharing a name and a city with a porn star, a fraud or a paedophile? Or worse, what if you’d done something in the past you aren’t proud of and now it’s still out there, sprawled across the internet with YOUR name on it and you have no way of removing it?

The idea of one’s identity online and the right to remove those references has recently come into the spotlight due to a European court of justice ruling saying that Google will have to delete some information from its index. The central division that’s causing a lot of debate is the right to privacy versus the right to freedom of expression. The information might be about you, but it’s in a public domain.

According to the Guardian, the facts of the case are that a Spanish politician had to sell some property in a government-ordered auction to recover social security debts that he owed. A newspaper article published online about the situation has become a prominent search result and González argued that the newspaper and Google should remove the information about the auction because they infringed his right to privacy. The upshot of the ruling is that someone who wants information about them taken out of the index will have to apply to Google, who will then have to weigh up whether it is in the public interest for that information to remain.

Yesterday I had a chat with a friend who described ‘the right to be forgotten’ as the sweetest five words she had ever heard and felt like they were the only thing she’d ever been inclined to use as a tattoo. You see she’s a journalist and she wrote some arbitrary stuff at the beginning of her career that isn’t her best work but she was told to do it so she did. Now, years later, it’s always the top search result for her name and it makes her feel creeped out by the internet in general. Being online is not a happy place for her because of this incident. In fact, she just wants to get off the grid entirely.

But can you ever ‘get off’  the internet? (this article suggests only the powerful will actually benefit from the ‘right to be forgotten’). And is this the best decision if you are a freelancer by trade? After chatting it through, we decided the solution would be to build her a portfolio website. Adding a site to the list of search results might sound counter-intuitive, but perhaps in this case you have to fight fire with fire.

We dreamed up a site that shows off her latest work – pieces she’s proud of – and does so in her own way. Instead of trying to erase herself, she curate a space that’s all her own. In a Google search, alongside old rubbish, there would be a current site where potential clients could find out more about her, see some of her work and get in touch with her.

So what do you find if you Google yourself?

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For your viewing pleasure: The Elizabeth Fletchers of the internet wilds

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How to blog: Content marketing lessons from Coca Cola

In the fast-changing world of digital marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and content marketing go hand-in-hand. In order to improve your SEO, you need to consistently produce content that people are interested in – not only do you want them to read it, you want them to share it across social media platforms, driving more traffic to your website and keeping your brand top-of-mind.

There are many pieces of advice on content marketing, and blogging in particular, floating around the internet. Here’s one from one of the biggest brands of all: Coca Cola.

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Partnership, a possum and a flying bulldog

For this month’s Inspiration Day, we decided to get out of the office and get into “the nature”. It was a little chilly for skinny dipping in Silvermine dam so we went for a walk in one of Cape Town’s gems, Deer Park. It’s a tranquil forest nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, just a stone’s throw from the CBD.

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A classic case of a city photo bombing a forest.

We’d just started our stroll when I saw something dash into the brush to our left. It was swift and agile, moving low to the ground – not a rat or a dassie – but it was long and skinny – it definitely wasn’t a squirrel. I stood aghast, filled with the excitement of big game spotting, pointing at it where it was a moment ago, willing Sarah to see the creature but completely unable to find its name. Eventually, I uttered, “possum!” at which point he popped his head out from behind a bush and looked at me as if to say, “Seriously?” and Sarah doubled over laughing. After a few moments, she managed to get out the words, “It’s a mongoose!”. Satisfied that he had been correctly acknowledged, he scampered off again after throwing me a disdainful scowl.

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Sarah, the river sprite.

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Pondering the path of least resistance.

We clambered over some rocks to sit next to a stream in the wintry sun. With some exciting new things happening for Pomegranite very soon, we had the chance to talk about how we wanted our business to work and how we would work together. A guy ran past with a dog trotting behind, obscured but the long grass. Our conversation stopped abruptly when we witnessed a stocky bulldog flying through the air in mid bomb-drop. She landed in the little dam with a glorious splash and I’m pretty sure her flapping cheeks were curled upwards at the edges. Soon enough, she bobbed to the surface, under-bite first and paddled back to her human for more, curly piggy tail wiggling.

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The site of the flying bulldog

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We saw a path striking out from the clearing around the waterway and decided to see where it would go. Once I had got us properly lost and we were wandering around just trying to find our way back to the car park (all romance of the adventure long gone), it struck me how similar getting lost together is to running a business. Both can be tiring and uncomfortable situations where you have to negotiate choices and make decisions. You have to rely on your partner’s skills and trust them. There’s no one else but you and your partner to get through challenges and so you have to stand by him or her and figure it out. Most importantly, you don’t split up. Ever. Because that’s a classic start to a horror movie.

Five things I love about doing work that’s worthwhile

We’ve recently built three different websites for an NGO called STEPS. STEPS does amazing work treating kids in southern Africa who are born with clubfeet. It was started by Karen Moss, whose son was born with clubfoot when the only treatment option in South Africa was surgery. She did some research online, found an amazing doctor in the States who could correct her son’s feet without surgery, and flew all the way over there to meet him and have him treat her son.

She was so impressed at the results of this gentle method of treatment that she wanted all children in southern Africa to have access to the same treatment. And so, she brought it to them.

Inspiring right?

The work she has done since she founded STEPS in 2005 is quite amazing, and we have loved being a part of the process of telling the story of STEPS through their websites: www.steps.org.za (focused on the charity and the work they do), www.clubfoot.co.za (more medical info), and www.ponseti.co.za, which is still in the final stages of being built (where parents can buy specialised products for the treatment of clubfoot).

So, now that you have the background, here are five things that I have loved about being part of such a worthwhile project:

1. Helping to frame a story that is so uplifting is good for the soul. It just is.
2. Working with people who spend their days improving the lives of others is good for you.
3. Perspective – reading stories about the struggles of mothers whose children are born in rural areas with no access to medical treatment will put your trivial “problems” in perspective pretty quickly.
4. Unforeseen extra work – which is pretty standard with any project – somehow doesn’t bother you.
5. It’s wonderful being a part of the creation of something really meaningful. You know that feeling you get when it’s cold and rainy outside and you’re sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and fuzzy socks on your feet? It’s kind of like that.

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