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Laurie Niles

Think Before You Post

August 4, 2008 at 1:50 AM

I've had a number of requests from people who would like me to erase all the posts they've ever made on Violinist.com and also disconnect their name from Google for them.

I wanted to just write one overall blog to let everybody know why it's not possible for me to do either, and also what you can do so that when people search your name, you have a good result.

First, about what is and isn't possible for me to do: Your previous discussion comments are part of the Violinist.com archive, and it's not possible for me to push a button and remove all your posts. This is why, when you register, we tell you on the registration page: “You must register with your real first and last name when registering with Violinist.com. Your name will be used to identify you on all posts made to the site. If you are not comfortable posting information online under your real name, please feel welcome to continue "lurking" on the site, but we respectfully ask that you not register.”

If all this discourages you from posting an ill-thought rant against your teacher, if this makes you think about how you say what you say, if this makes you think twice about saying something really offensive or thoughtless....well, that's the idea. Don't say anything you don't want the general public to hear, and with your name next to it. In fact, we care so much about this that we have written an entire Guidelines for Writers. We get a lot of eyeballs looking at Violinist.com, and we'd like to help you put your best self forward on this website.

If you say something and regret it later, then what can you do? You do have a limited time in which you can change a post, and then it is set.

When it comes to old posts, I don't “make” any links from Google and there's no such thing as "disconnecting" it. The options are:

1. I can delete your Violinist.com account, and you will no longer be a member of Violinist.com. It will erase your blog, but the old discussion posts will come up. When your name is clicked it will say "account no longer available." Also, I can't tell you how long it would take for Google to stop providing old versions of your blog and profile page; it would be at least a few weeks, if not months.

2. You could use Violinist.com's high Google rank to your advantage; you could edit your Violinist.com profile page so that it includes all the things you would put in a college application or resume, including your picture, samples of your best playing, etc. Your profile page is something that you can build Google rank with, and also change whenever you want. This is a potentially good thing on the Internet because it gives you some control. You could use your blog to write informative and interesting posts that show you to be the mature and unique person you now are. You can post thoughtful and interesting posts to the discussion board, so people will know you from those. The more those pages are read, the lower other, older comments will drop in Google searches for you name.

Robert and I founded Violinist.com in 1997, and we consider it to be a work of community journalism. When you become a member, you get a lot of free benefits: the ability to list yourself in the directory, to have a profile page, to post blogs for a community with this common interest, to post pictures and sound clips, to link to your own website, and to participate in discussions with people who are experts in, students of, or aficionados of in various realms of violin playing, teaching and lutherie. What would we like you to contribute? Your questions, your answers, your thoughts on your particular area of expertise, your insights and above all, your enthusiasm for the violin.

From Annette Brower
Posted on August 4, 2008 at 3:13 AM
Very well said and tactful...thanks for all you do.
From molly moriarty
Posted on August 4, 2008 at 2:34 PM
Totally agree! When I signed up the information about doing so was all there and very clear. Keep up the good work Laurie, I love this site!
From Neil Cameron
Posted on August 4, 2008 at 6:35 PM
I admit to still being bemused by much of the naivety that surrounds posting to internet sites. Some rules:

1. Don't post anything you wouldn't want anyone, and I do mean anyone, to read.

2. Google (and all other search engines and spam collectors) trawl sites collecting information. That's how they work.

3. Once it's on the net, it's effectively forever.

4. Don't post anything you wouldn't want anyone, and I do mean anyone, to read.

Neil

From Corwin Slack
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 1:31 AM
Laurie, Has violinist.com ever been asked to take down something by someone who said they were defamed by a member's comments?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 5:05 AM
Sure, but if it's acceptable criticism we leave it up. If it violates the Guidelines for Writers, we take it down.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 11:29 AM
Neil, I know of another site, where I occasionally post in discussions, which is not searchable by Google. The issue has come up among users of the site, and everyone always agrees that we would not be able to talk freely and personally if anyone could find what we said on a Google search. It is a good place to seek personal advice or to discuss personal matters freely. On this site, it is permissible to use an alias instead of one's real name, and one can also post as "Guest."
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 11:53 AM
Neil, I just checked my own statement by Googling some user names from the site I mentioned above. A small proportion of the ones I checked did appear on Google with links to the site I mentioned.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 5:15 PM
I guess I'd just say that talking freely and personally with anonymous strangers has its ups but also its considerable downs!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 6:38 PM
Laurie - an eloquent and well-put post. I'll bet you "thought before posting" it. : )
From Patty Rutins
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 7:17 PM
While I haven't tried this myself, it may be possible to insert a meta tag into your profile page or a blog post to prevent search engines from indexing it. See the webmaster guidelines at Google.
From Samuel Thompson
Posted on August 5, 2008 at 10:36 PM
This is beautiful - thank you for posting this, and congratulations on eleven years!
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on August 6, 2008 at 7:16 AM
Most forums let you edit a post at any time, and it goes back up to the top too, so all you'd have to do to make this that way is comment out some time check.

I know your approach is journalistic; once it's out there it's out there, but a forum isn't journalism. And I belong to a couple other busy forums, and they don't go wild, certainly not due to people being able to change what they wrote.

From Neil Cameron
Posted on August 7, 2008 at 12:52 AM
Patty, no inserting a meta tag is not possible within a message.

Again, I'll state - don't post something you wouldn't want everyone or anyone to read. Even if you delete it there's always a chance it was trawled by a search engine between posting and deletion.

Even things posted on websites long gone can still be accessed. The Internet Wayback Machine is one way sites are archived. (Ironically, that link isn't working as I write this, but to read more on the Internet Wayback Machine go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Archive

Neil

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on August 7, 2008 at 2:56 AM
"Again, I'll state - don't post something you wouldn't want..."

You're asking for something impossible - for example search engines "crawl", not "trawl." Also, pretty sure a site can opt out of the Wayback.

When they introduced media on this site, at first there was no user control, couldn't edit, couldn't remove, was just there forever. Now that there is control, people use it. Give control, get participation.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on August 7, 2008 at 4:09 AM
Laurie,

Thanks for an incredible and lively sight.

It is a pleasure to read peoples' opinions, get their insights, and be rejuvenated with everything about the violin and music.

Though I have had to slow down a bit, I hope to contributed much to the sight in the future and continue reading others' thoughts and impressions.

All the best,
Drew

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