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Portfolio.

com published a very interesting article today by Chip Robinson of Click


Markets. I urge you to visit the link to his article and read it. It discusses the effect
technology has on eliminating the distinction each of us tries to construct separating our
personal life from our business life.

The article points out, as a by product of the major theme of the piece, that the internet is
a major force breaking down this barrier. While there is a great deal of truth in that
contention, it is also true that the internet, by virtue of its 'narrowcasting' ability; that is,
its ability to allow small groups of like minded individuals to 'find' each other and crate
sites dedicated to a narrow interest, the technology also sets a powerful countervailing
force in motion. Namely, the internet allows people to find and associate with a group, or
groups, each of which has only one, narrow area of interest.

This possibility can, and has, unleashed a historically unparalleled opportunity for people
motivated by specific passions to contact one another and maintain ongoing
communications. In doing so, like minded persons can and do develop a digital
community of interest. In the earliest days of the internet these communities of interest
evolved, almost immediately, among aficionados of this still new medium of
communications. This rapid evolution of specialized communities of interest testifies
powerfully to the demand for these kinds of connections.

Either through avatars or an individual separating his or her interest between different
web based communities, individuals do make constant attempts to separate some of their
interests from the view of the wider community. So, while I do not dispute the contention
in the Robinson article that younger people do not perceive the need for separation
between what is public from what is private and, by extension, what is personal from
what is business, I believe the urge for this separation remains, in some degree, in all
people.

As the younger set ages and the perceived costs of a failure to separate certain interests
from common knowledge grows greater, they too will impose, or attempt to impose, just
such separations. While it is true that my children, having grown up with the internet, are
far more comfortable with its amazing capacity to expose you in ways heretofore
unimagined, that may prove be as much a function of the view point of the young versus
the view point of the older person as it is from any inured comfort gleaned from
familiarity with technology. They may find that their opinions about what is, and should
remain private, will evolve as they grow older.

I do not know anyone in my general age cohort who does not look back on his or her life
without remembered moments of embarrassment, shame, regret and/or the deliciously
thrilling sense of having 'gotten away with it.' I did not live a particularly licentious
youth. But, even I, as pedestrian a life as I have led, have moments from my past that,
had there been video cameras built into handheld pocket telephones and anything like the
internet upon which any resulting images could be immediately and internationally
published, would have been hard to explain to a teenager in need of discipline.
Even relatively public acts, such as one might see at any decently rowdy fraternity party,
if captured in images available now, some forty years later, could not only undermine a
parent's moral authority but could easily derail a Supreme Court nomination. When I
have mentioned this concern to one or another of my children the standard response,
aside for the fact that none of them are attorneys and will never be nominated to the
Supreme Court, is that since everybody will have that sort of thing hanging over them,
the force and effect of such stuff will be blunted.

Perhaps, that is so. If it proves to be that all of us are to be an open book with all
peccadilloes and idiosyncrasies and perversions public, then that may be a good thing.
We are, all of us, human, and such a society would surely demonstrate that. All too often,
serious decisions are reduced to trivial matters that may have happened long ago and
have nothing to do with the character and ability of someone today. Maybe a society in
which everybody's warts and special desires are known would be a society in which such
decisions could not be made on the basis of trivialities, old or new.

However, it may well be that openness will not fall evenly upon everyone and some will
come through less scared than others. Those emerging less scared may not be so because
they desired or experienced less than those 'caught' in the glare of the world wide web.

If this proves to be the case, I am reminded of the reputed quote from Teddy Roosevelt
who, when President and upon being urged to nominate someone to high federal office
who had been indicted for something or other, raised the indictment as an objection to the
action. "But, Mr. President," Roosevelt's advisors are alleged to have replied, "that was a
long time ago and he was never convicted. And, he is a big supporter. We owe him."

To this appeal Roosevelt is reputed to have said, "Very well, put him on the list and I will
consider him after we have disposed of all the unindicted applicants."

Like Teddy, there may be many, now and in the future, who will put anyone 'caught in
the web' on the list right behind all those who were not caught.

It is not simply the time bomb potential of a documented youthful indiscretion. What
about all us everyday old aged perverts? And, you don't even have to be a pervert. You
can just be a serious professional with a frivolous, private interest you would prefer
stayed private. If you happen to be such a person and are active on the internet, then you
have, or should have some concern.

There are companies out there, trolling the internet, trying, and succeeding to a
remarkable degree, to match up separate internet personas as being different personality
facets of the same individual. Employment recruitment firms sometimes utilize such
services. Likewise, competitors in business may attempt to gain some commercial
advantage from such information. Regardless, this sort of research can hurt you.

It can hurt you even if it is not true. Particularly in a closed information system, like an
employment search, to which the 'victim' may never have access to the 'finding' presented
or know why he or she was passed over for a particular opportunity (unlike a credit report
the findings of which are generally available to the subject of the findings), false
information is as damaging, if not more damaging, than something real.

There two countervailing forces at work. One is the instant leveling of barriers to privacy
inherent in the technology. The other is the unparalleled opportunity to connect with
small numbers of like minded folk sharing a narrow, even very narrow, common interest.
This is a major by product of the new technology that directly affects everybody. It is one
that may soon require each of us to develop a conscious coping strategy.

Let's face it. We all have a bit of Mr. Hyde in us. The question is, do we trust society at
large to see us in that role?