Twelve Thinks

A Digital Footprint Management Plan

October 15, 2013 – Click on the following link or image to view this article on Google Drive:

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“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
-Norman Vincent Peale (

There are times when I lay a very specific plan to guide my actions, and there are other times when I lay guidelines as the substance of my plan. Specific plans usually emerge when I have sufficient experience to understand cause and effect within a particular labor or context. Guidelines as plans usually emerge as I familiarize myself with daily details and gain experience. This plan is a series of research-inspired guidelines, in nature keeping with the very thought that Norman Peale capture in his quote displayed above: promote change through thought.

The title of this plan, grammatically disturbing as it may be, is “Twelve Thinks”, meaning twelve things to regularly think about while working to manage and protect a positive digital footprint. Each “think” is accompanied by one or more questions designed to facilitate thought processes and even interpersonal discussion with other people.

Think about my personal digital archive whenever I go online

Everyone develops a personal archive of digitally delivered information in their efforts to find and manage Internet content. A personal digital archive is informal, diverse, and ever-expanding (Williams, et al., 2009), and the management of this archive is critical to the immediate functionality of information managed through the Internet and the long-term storage of digital information retrieved through the Internet. I will think about my digital archive when I search for information online.

What does my digital archive look like right now?

How is it different from yesterday?

What did I do today to make it change?

What will these changes reveal about me as a person and a professional?

Think about limiting separate and inconsistent information schemes

Information schemes arise from the types of connections made to the Internet, and, according to Jones (2004) may be diverse (as cited in Williams, et al., 2009). Managing a digital footprint can be complicated by complicated schemes for gathering and sharing information, such as using multiple accounts, multiple machines or devices, etc. I will think about limiting separate information schemes as I attempt to track my digital footprint.

Which of my social media accounts can be appropriately combined with another in an effort to simplify?

Which online resources can I (or should I be able to) access from home, work, and in church and volunteer service settings?

Which resources should I consciously maintain separate from others?

Think about the transmission and reception of passive information

Passive information is not actively sought, but presents itself through chance encounters or the work of marketers (Williams, et al., 2009). End-users can capture passive information with simple tools such as bookmarks (favorites), sharing links, and email folders (Bruce, et al., 2004). Marketers capture passive information primarily through the browsing habits of individual persons (The Internet Society). I will think about the passive transmission and reception of digital information as I work to manage a positive digital footprint.

What kinds of passive information did I gather today?

By posting, bookmarking, repinning, or otherwise responding to the information that passively reached me, what kind of passive information did I contribute to my footprint? What will this contribution do to my professional branding?

Think about the “capta” principle in my footprint branding

Deriving it from the Latin, capere (to take), Checkland and Holwell (2006) and Checkland and Winter (2000) (as cited in Williams, et al., 2009) present the capta principle, which implies that data (being meaningless to a digital footprint) will become information (having meaning and adding to a digital footprint) when it is associated with context. I will think about the capta principle when I work on branding my professional footprint.

As I release information onto the Internet, do I release it within meaningful context?

What role did I exert today over the context that my footprint experienced?

How did I align that context with my brand?

How do (or should) I work to align outside context with my branding?

Think about the role of community in creating information

The active management of a digital footprint necessarily requires content creation, and this endeavor is fostered by collaboration within a larger community (Trace, 2007). I will think about and foster the role of community in my efforts to create information.

What kinds and quality of connections did I make today?

Which communities of practice do I associate with?

Which community connections did I strengthen today (and how)?

Which collaborative efforts did I continue to ignore (and why)?

Think about the “temperature” of digital information

According to Sellen and Harper, 2002, digital information that shapes digital footprints can be classified as “hot”, “warm”, or “cold” (as cited in Williams, et al., 2009). Any one of these forms of information can influence a footprint, but each is more likely to receive attention as it continually warms up. I will think about the relative importance, or temperature, of digital information associated with my footprint as I decide what to do with that information.

Which “hot” items dominated my attention today and why?

Which “hot” items are no longer urgent?

How do these items relate to my “cold” collections of information?

Which “warm” items need to change temperature?

What happened today, if anything, that warmed “cold” items in my footprint?

Think about the role of fragmentation in managing my digital footprint

Fragmentation occurs when information is separated from its origins or context. It is usually a function of inadequate technical support for information management efforts (Whittaker, et al., 2006; Williams, et al., 2009). Digital footprints are better controlled when fragmentation is account for through personal process. I will think about the influence of fragmentation on my digital footprint when I work with technologies that are prone to separate information from its origins.

Which items did I separate from their origins or context in my online work?

Why did I separate them?

How easy will it be to retrieve these items in cases of future need?

Besides email, what other technologies did I find today which have a propensity to fragment information?

Think about the obsolescence of digital formats

With the rapid advancement of technology in our society, obsolescence of certain files and other forms of digital information will restrain control of a footprint built upon those items (Williams, et al., 2009). I will think about the obsolescence of digital information as I manage my footprint.

Which items did I move into the cloud today?

Which items did I encounter or create today which are at risk of obsolescence? How great is that risk?

Which new tools or information formats did I encounter today to offset the effects of obsolescence?

Think about my digital footprint within the context of my personal learning environment

I will align management of my footprint within my broader learning goals and track my progress toward those goals (Smith, 2010).

Which of my professional learning goals are facilitated by Internet usage?

Which of my Internet learning endeavors supply passive information to marketers and networks?

How did I track today progress toward my learning goals?

What does this progress mean for my digital footprint?

Think about the potential of professional social media outlets

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other reputable sites give careful users adequate control over their digital footprint (Girard, 2011). I will appropriately utilize these sites to create a positive presence designed to dominate Internet search results.

Which of my skills on LinkedIn have been endorsed?

What were my reasons for listing the skills that I have listed?

Which skills have I not added to LinkedIn?

Which photos or posts on Facebook need to be removed before they adversely affect my footprint?

Do I contribute to Twitter regularly enough to make it a reputable, positive influence on my digital footprint?

Think about alternative search engines when monitoring my footprint

Deep-web search engines such as, and specific sites designed to influence footprints such as credit reporting sites and performance rating sites are an underutilized resource for teachers (Kuehn, 2010). I will think to take advantage of search and reporting tools other than Google.

Have I pulled my credit report in the past 12 months?

Have I run a deep-Internet search lately on

How like are people whom I know are seeking information about me to utilize performance rating services?

Which services are they likely to use?

Think about completing some work unplugged

Not all work must be done in the online world. Some aspects of our professional footprints are known only to those who have interacted with us in person. I will think about when and where I might unplug from the Internet in an effort to maintain a positive digital footprint.

How much time am I spending in a constant state of connectivity?

When and where do I need to maintain Internet-free zones? (Smith, 2010)

How would unplugging at certain times positively or negatively affect my digital footprint?


Bruce, H., Jones, W., & Dumais, S. (2004). Information behavior that keeps found things found, Information Research 10(1). Retrieved from edu/ir/10-1/paper207.html

Girard, A. (2011, September 19). Managing your digital footprint [Web log post]. Retrieved from art-design/managing-your-digital-footprint/

Kuehn, L. (2010). Manage your digital footprint. Teacher Newsmagazine, 23(3). Retrieved from

Smith, K. (2010). Managing your digital footprint. Connections, 73(10). Retrieved from footprint.html

Trace, C. B. (2007). Information creation and the notion of membership. Journal of Documentation, 63(1), 142.163.

Whittaker, S., Bellotti, V., & Gwizdka, J. (2006). Email in personal information management. Communications of the ACM, 49(1), 68-73.

Williams, P., Leighton John, J., & Rowland, I. (2009). The personal curation of digital objects: A lifecycle approach. Aslib Proceedings, 61(4), 340-363. Retrieved from http://search. proquest.

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