Undoing Digital Damage: How To Write Your Way Out Of Trouble

The keyboard may be mightier than the sword -- If used properly

By Andrew Siff
|  Friday, Nov 12, 2010  |  Updated 6:45 AM EDT
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Undoing Digital Damage: How To Write Your Way Out Of Trouble

NBCNewYork

Students on the web.

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Fordham University Technology Professor Lance Strate couldn't help but laugh when he googled himself -- and saw a surprising hit.

"Somebody claimed I'd written this soft-core film for a Commodore 64," said Strate, who pointed to the link on projection screen inside a classroom on the school's Manhattan campus. The film he supposedly wrote was called Sex Vixens From Space. But the professor never wrote such a script, and never even owned a Commodore 64. Strate laughed it off, assuming some mischievous blogger had co-opted his name for some reason. Then, he happened on a pretty good strategy to abolish the fictional shout-out.

He wrote some real stuff.

His blog, Lance Strate's Blog Time Passing, advises the young, the old, and the in-between to write, write, and write some more. And by keeping it clean you'll gradually earn a good reputation, impervious to any search engine. After all, Google and other navigators tend to rank searches by the age of a post. And recent writings register higher. So, you can also tweet your way to a clean rep.

Of course, it's not always so easy. Financial advisor Alan Gottlob was horrified to see the words "insurance scam" only a few hits from the top when he entered his name into Google. The phrase came from an article he insists was totally false. But his attempts to reach the author, the editor, and Google itself have proven unsuccessful.

"Makes you feel angry," said Gottlob. "Makes you feel like you can't get the truth out there."

The truth, say young Web-surfers, is that the Internet tends to be written in permanent ink. Rebecca Bates, a student at Fordham said it's all about knowing the risks before you even log on for the night.

"You're putting yourself out there," she said. "You should have the knowledge that anything you put out there, anyone can see."

Professor Strate offered other advice. Use an alias, or alternate screen name, if you plan to post anything too controversial. That way, it won't show up in a search for your name.

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