De-anonymizing with Google

The other day Mitch Kapor posted an anonymized request for a guest spot on his blog. He asked: "I wonder how many of these were sent out?" Well, I got one, and so did some other folks I know. I responded privately to the PR person, reiterating what I've said before 1, 2, 3) -- that executives who wish to influence the conversation can and should join the conversation by writing regularly on their own blogs.

I wasn't going to comment on this latest incident, but the story has taken a fascinating turn. From Viswanath Gondi's Design Media, I learned that -- in a comment on Kapor's blog -- Jesse James Garrett found a clever way to de-anonymize Kapor's posting:

Here's a hint for those interested in identifying the subject: the phrase "disruptive competitive advantage" appears on very few Web pages. [Jesse James Garrett]

Had this possibility occurred to Kapor? My guess is probably not. But once again, the all-seeing Google has rewritten the rules. Identity is woven deeply into texts, and many texts are now public. I am sure we will soon see applications of the Google API that automate what Garrett did -- in other words, that answer the question: "Does Google clearly identify who owns (or is closely bound to) the words in this document?" Whether Kapor would have used that application, and if so whether he would have further obscured the text, only he can say. Certainly the PR person responsible for this misguided effort would like to have done so!

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