These days, it is fashionable to "Google" a person (i.e., run them through an Internet search engine -- to discover information about potential boyfriends, babysitters, neighbors, etc. You can often get a good notion of a person's hobbies and interests via the Internet (although nothing of the sort I could potentially get when I was a police dispatcher a few years back -- but couldn't due to privacy laws). Someone trying to track me down might have a more difficult time.
You see, I have a pretty darn common name. If you run "John Baker" through Google, you'd have a hard time finding me. You'd see entries on a British photographer, three baseball players (including John Frank "Home Run" Baker, who led the American League in home runs four times in the deadball era without ever hitting more than 12 in a season)* and numerous others before finally getting a hit on my old, neglected school website in 65th place. Note: This search was conducted in late December. not only do search results change over time, but they've already changed by the time I posted this.
So let's try to nail it down by adding my middle intial. Searching Google with "John C. Baker" doesn't find anything related to me until the 22nd entry (my Amazon.com profile). Even more interesting is that on the second page of the "John C. Baker" results is an old New York Times article about the 38-year-old head of a newspaper's art department committing suicide -- potentially disconcerting for those who know both my age and original career choice who miss the tiny dateline of 1906.
Only if one already knows something about me will they make headway on Google. Searching "John Baker" and adding "Glendale" (my old home town) will get my old webpage third, a story I wrote in 1993 about Rosa Parks 11th, and an old blog entry in 16th.
Adding my name to my current town of "South San Francisco" is productive, getting my website third again, with the 13th result a link to a bunch of old stories I wrote for the San Mateo Times (most with a "South San Francisco" dateline). I used to score higher on this search, but took my resume offline after getting a lot of spam.
If you're a high school chum looking for me, try searching for "John Baker Crescenta," for my old high school, Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta, Calif. The first three results are actually related to me: 1. A comment I made on an LA Times blog entry; 2. My link on the Alumni listings; 3. Something related to Classmates.com. I was also the subject of the ninth result (a story I wrote about taking public transit from Glendale to San Diego) and the 15th.
If you narrow down the search to "John Baker San Mateo," the first three results referred to me and if you try "John Baker Humboldt," the first two did.
The long and short of it? If you know a lot about with me to begin with, you can find out a lot more with Google. If you know squat about me, Google won't be much help.
* The other baseball John Bakers include former San Francisco Giants (and current Cincinatti Reds) manager John "Dusty" Baker," who sent me a personalized post card when he played for the Dodgers in the late 1970s addressed to the "other" John Baker.