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Transparency: How Much is Too Much?

March 7th, 2009

Gary Vaynerchuk offers this piece of advice:

The only way to succeed now is to be completely transparent, everything is exposed, everything you do – Gary Vaynerchuk

For most web / knowledge workers, transparency is key to cultivating an online presence – today, your online presence (your Google search results) is your resume, everything you do online is fair game – your search results (or lack of results) generally reflect whether you're an overall good-person, experienced, or a bit outdated.

A reassessment: last month the faltering economy finally hit home – I was out of work. While search for a new job, I was surprised that most potential employers (nearly all) were looking me up on Google. From Google they'd land on my blog, my Twitter account, flickr, and so on. In one of my interviews I was told of an unfortunate candidate that had questionable content and photos online – this was a deciding factor in his no-hire decision. This had me feeling a little uncomfortable and begged for a reassessment of my level of transparency.

Randy Pausch once said:

I'll [hire] an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short-term, earnest is long term – Randy Pausch

I echo Randy's sentiments. If you're an earnest, authentic, and good natured person, then transparency can be a huge asset. You should be exposing everything you do! Well… maybe not everything, there's little value in knowing what you ate for lunch, or when you're sleeping / awake – practicing some self moderation and making use of your inner monologue is recommended, because excessive transparency can bleed into white noise.

no matter what remember the web is NOT Las Vegas. What happens on the web does NOT stay on the web. I'll bet this guy wishes he'd have remembered that. – Arcanecode, Guard your credibility

With applications like Twitter and Facebook it's easier than ever to be transparent, but do we run the risk of being too transparent? How much is too much?

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Interview, Musings, Personal, Twitter Tags:
  1. Ruz Safai
    March 9th, 2009 at 05:45 | #1

    A simple way of dealing with online content and transparency would be to treat it like an advertisement. When attaching your real name to publicly available content, treat the content in the same fashion as you would when creating an ad.

    A good ad is one that grabs attention, well thought out, promotes a useful item by presenting a solution to a problem, and its scope rarely offends anyone. I hardly ever see ads that are self-deprecating, too revealing about the author, offensive, or far too subjective, and when someone uses it in this fashion in regards to online content, there shouldn’t be any issues. When someone posts public content that would have no place in an ad, such as photos from the wild party last week, it’s really irrelevant to anyone but a small group of individuals, therefore should not be posted online. It is material such as this that gets people into hot water. On a side note, of the actual commercials and other ads I’ve seen involving parties and copious amounts of available beer (i.e. Molson commercials), no one is usually seen drinking the beer, so clearly even these ads have had careful consideration of the qualities of a good ad, while promoting the beer company in such way that it ensures the actors aren’t performing any actions that can detrimental to their careers later on.

    If someone truly wants to spark a debate about something highly objective or a touchy subject, by all means go for it, but when prompted for your real name, please use something like jabberwocky455, you’ll be thankful you did later on.

  2. Adam Kahtava
    April 9th, 2009 at 05:46 | #2

    Interesting thoughts here. I can see your argument for: non offensive, non self-deprecating, non subjective content, but… life is messy, nothing is sterile, and everything is subjective. Exposing yourself, and being honest provides the opportunity for me to connect with others.

    When trying to promote yourself (with online content) as a larger than life professional figure, then advertisement based content might be better suited, but advertisement based content seems best directed at corporate level management since our peers (developers) see right through these ploys (which hurts personal credibility). Even then, writing advertisement based content could be pointless since corporate level management / hiring managers can’t invest the time to learn about all their potential employees, and if they did judge a potential candidate based on subjective / offensive content, then the company’s culture is probably a mismatch. But what do I know? :)

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