Tech Life Because I want to stalk

Rands The Stalker

In the past decade whenever I have a job interview, I always ask for the list of folks that I’ll be interviewing with before I actually arrive for the interview. Why? Because I want to stalk them, of course.

Right so, I don’t actually want to stalk them, mostly what I want to do is figure out where their head is at, what they care about, what they do when they’re not working for the company. I actually have no interest where they live or what their phone number might be unless that detail somehow gives me additional detail for their cultural profile.

This knowledge gives me a very solid advantage walking into an interview. For example, in a recent stint of interviewing, I discovered one of my potential peers went to the same college. I was sure to mention this when the interview began which was handy because, as it turns out, this interview was going to be the terribly difficult technical interview where I was to ramble about Model-View-Controllers.

When it became clear that I was seriously stumbling with the details of my answer, the interviewee took mercy… he segued to our mutual college experience. Whew. This would not have occurred if I hadn’t taken the time to stalk and find a common ground.

BUT! This column is about interviewing stalking tips, it’s about stalking…

I’m interested in ways folks use the ‘Net to find stuff out about folks. Again, I’m really not that interested in finding out personal details like phone numbers and home addresses (unfortunately, I suspect this will be a natural side effect of these operations), what I’m looking for are handy slash clever ways that folks dig up information via the web.

To get us started, I’ll describe the web sites and processed I used for the interviewees above. For all of these, I’m assuming I have a full name that is correctly spelled. Also, as is the nature of the interview, I generally know the state that the interviewee lives in.

GOOGLE. Duh, no extra points for this one. For someone who has any type of virtual presence, this is usually the one stop shop for finding out tasty info-tid-bits.

GOOGLE GROUPS. Again, fairly obvious, but also very targeted. This search assumes a person posts to USENET groups which means they KNOW how to do so. If you’re looking at non-technical types, you won’t find much here.

SAMSPADE.ORG. This is more of a second level search once you’ve ascertained that your stalkee has a website or an email address. Lots of technical mumbo jumbo here.

YAHOO! PEOPLE SEARCH. I haven’t used this much since, as stated, I don’t much care to find out where stalkee’s live or if they have a phone. People Search can give you a home numbers, but, more importantly, it can give you email addresses. Again, if you’re talking about a technical non-AOL user, this can be very revealing.

Via Yahoo People, I also found USSEARCH.COM. Using their free service I instantly found my home town and age … which is kind’a freaky. More freakiness was discovered when I found for anywhere from $19.95 to $95.95 I could find relatives, roommates, neighbors, real estate ownership status, and much much more. Shudder.

Again, all of the resources listed above are only as useful as you are smart. You may well find very little about the person you’re interested in. In fact, you may be even be able to find the person in the morass of bits that is the Internet.

Which is why I’ll ask again, what are the sites and processes that folks use to find out stuff about folks on the ‘Net. I’m not just interested in useful websites, I’m wanna hear about processes folks go through (possibly using multiple sites?) to dig up useful information.

Best answer gets a Jerkcity postcard signed by Rands.

19 Responses

  1. Stonewall Jackson 14 years ago

    There isn’t a great deal of such information on the internet, since what information we put online we choose to put online, for the most part. Simply being able to find a lot of information about someone would indicate that the person is technically savvy and wants people to know lots of personal details. What does this tell you about such a person?

    It probably makes them an obnoxious twat, really. People with confidence in their professional abilities/strength of character generally do not need to tell strangers what school they attended, what they’re so fantastic at, etc. So for the most part, personal information about a person, the type that would really matter, is unavailable online since the only people who make it available are obnoxious twats.

    The problem with people who have a personality on the internet is that they presume that other people care to know about it. The only stalkable infos on the internet are web pages themselves – their quality, technical content, etc. And this is only relevant when you need someone to design a webpage.

    Just what is the information that you’d want to know about someone, anyway? You weren’t clear. All you can track down is Usenet postings, message board postings and personal webpages – all of which are very contrived, biased data. All other information is along the lines of addresses and phone numbers.

    The best way to get to know someone is to ask people who know them – that’s really what one’s references are for. I’d imagine that in very technical circles the community is so small that you could get a very good take on someone if you just called businesses listed on a resume.

    P.S. rands you asked your fans once if there was anyway you could make serious money with a blog. Although I think ambitious design problems are the only ones that lead to great innovation, this doesn’t mean that the internet can do everything for you. It is inherently limited, especially when you need to get to know someone. Why do this sort of Sherlock Holmes type, putting together a puzzle sort of profiling when you can just ask around?

  2. ADMIRER 14 years ago

    WHO IS “JOAN LAWFORD” ANYWAY?

  3. CAN I HAVE ONE

    OH WAIT THEY’RE NOT BACK FROM THE PRINTERS YET

    BELCH

    P.S. JOAN

  4. DESIRE TO PURCHASE JERKCITY MERCHANDISE.

  5. You missed the best non-tech way possible: AMAZON. Search by name under friends and family brings up a person’s wish list and reviews. Great way to find out what makes this person tick.

  6. I remember when I first stalked you. I put Jerkcity into Google and went through the first twenty results, I checked the USENET archive of alt.fan.jerkcity or whatever it’s called because it’s been forever since I looked and forever since anyone posted there. I found one or two sites with obtuse Jerkcity links which led me to the old Bitsifter site and from there a simple whois got me the important information that invariably led me to the site where you posted “If you ever meet me in person, say “spandex” as the first thing” or however you said it. I remember the first time I saw you in #jerkcity and I messaged you with spandex I was wondering if you’d remember since that one page looked fairly abandoned and forgotten even by the author.

    The best way to stalk people is by getting to know their friends and bringing up subjects you know the stalking victim is interested in. Eventually the friends of the stalking victim will go off on “Oh! You should meet crazy whatshisname because he’s hardcore into that scene” and the rest will follow.

    This is usually easier online than in person especially if folks are socially awkward and one can assume any personality without being questioned if someone is smart and sly enough to be smart about the conversation topics. Stalking also helps if you have a job that gives you access to a huge database of names, especially social security numbers. My current job and my previous shit job at MCI was a treasure trove of credit card numbers, social security numbers, birthdays and other pieces of information.

    Have I used it? No. I’m more happy to say “I have this” rather than use it.

    My old online stalking friend has been http://www.theultimates.com which lets you search a bunch of stalking engines and do reverse phone searches. I’ve only paid once to get the dirt on someone and the results were disappointing but that may be from the fact the individual had a fairly common name.

    I don’t stalk anymore but when I meet a girl I make a point of memorizing her social security number if I get even a glance at it. Sad thing is I’ve forgotten the last one I memorized back in April 2001 and I can’t find where I wrote it down.

    Yes, I’m a creep.

  7. Stonewall Jackson 14 years ago

    That answer was shit. I get the postcard.

  8. T STONEWALL BOY HOWDY DID YOU MISS THE POINT AND ALSO DID YOU SEE YOU P000S ANSWERS BECAUSE HE’S GOING TO GET THE POSTCARD

    XO, RANDS

  9. Stonewall Jackson 14 years ago

    ALL THAT THIS PROVES IS THAT YOU ARE A TOTALLY UNFAIR AND IN LOVE WITHYOURSELF CUNT AND SO I SHOULD GET THE POSTCARD NOT POOO. IT IS QUITE CLEAR TO ME THAT THE ONLY REASON POOO WINS IS THAT HE SAID HE STALKED YOU. WELL NOT ONLY DID I STALK YOU, AND NOT EVEN TELL YOU, BUT I STALKED YOU AND YOUR WHOLE GODDAMNED EXTENDED FAMILY BACK ON VENUS.

    OKAY I WILL ACCEPT A SIGNED TSHIRT INSTEAD OF THE POSTCARD BUT NOTHING LESS. AND YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE AUTOGRAPH OUT TO ME. WITH A SHARPIE.

  10. But seriously.

    Stonewall, your response reads like you think I was suggesting stalking was a replacement for actually having decent communication skills. Not the case. The stalking I was suggesting is intended to augment social interaction, not replace it.

    Information is power (HURRRRR) and the fact that you walk into a situation with a new person knowing that they like watercoloring, travel extensively, and happen to know how to post to USENET is more advantageous than starting with a blank slate.

  11. Stonewall Jackson 14 years ago

    You’re quite right – I simply cannot believe that the internet actually contains that sort of information for most people. It probably works better for the sorts of people you have to deal with, ie, those who know what USENET is.

    How did you know I like watercolouring?

  12. Stonewall Jackson 14 years ago

    Also, that information that the internet does contain is probably flawed or stuff you don’t want to know.

    For instance: if I were to stalk you I’d discover that you run a webpage with a comic strip all about anonymous gay sex, cocksucking, dicklicking, pornography, rape, domestic violdence, pedophilia and The Smiths. Now, if I were interviewing you for a job, in what way would this information come in handy? Similarly, if all you knew about someone was that they were obsessed with tentacle porn, what good does that do you? I’ll bet not too much.

  13. Online information can also be misleading. If you were to do a search for my name for instance, you would find that I am infact the President of the SIAA (Whatever that is). I can assure you now that I am not. The problem is, you could walk into an interview with someone and have erroneus or simply wrong information.

  14. toiletstl 14 years ago

    T RANDS YOU MAY NOT OFFER ANY PRIZES FOR ANYTHING UNTIL YOU SEND ME MFT, THE IEEE-APPROVED ACRONYM FOR “MY FUCKING T-SHIRT”

  15. Perhaps you can infer and extrapolate infomation of a person from abscence of information about them on the internet? At the very least you can see that someone is careful not to drop their real name or location. See: All Tomorrow’s Parties.

  16. Stonewall Jackson 14 years ago

    You’re right, the problem is that the number of people using the internet as of now is such that the absence of information is not very useful information in and of itself. Now, if this person were a software developer, it’d be different.

  17. Lots of people use the internet but a very small minority actually live on the internet. “Live” may be an overstatement but I am referring to the folks who keep messenger services open all the time, check their email every two minutes, idle on IRC for hours on end only to flood for about five minutes about what’s going on in their real lives or wait like vultures at the various forums for a post, flamewar or their answer is needed.

    Thankfully when people are active online they are quite selective about where they interact which is a veritable goldmine because the individual thinks “No one will ever think that I’m hanging out in Gay Anime Feet Covered in Jelly” but that area will be a goldmine of information and people willing to talk about the topic (lurking is your best tactic because they’ll have shitloads of FAQs and every post will cue you in on their buzzwords so you don’t seem like a poseur. the fun part is most of these group FAQs have a section devoted to their particular netiquette and how see if you are a poseur. if only they were a bit more insular it’d make the job that much harder) and the others in their clique. Plus there are many other sources which deal entirely with someone’s real life existence like phone directories, alumni sites and many others. The only drawback is most of these services are no longer free or if you signed up while they were free you’ll be seriously hobbled when you try to use that particular tool unless you give them your birthday, phone number, credit card numbers and a semen sample.

  18. Stonewall Jackson 14 years ago

    You remind me of Columbo: how he’d pretend to be stupid when in reality he was trying to pretend he didn’t just wet himself again.

  19. banjo 14 years ago

    Some counties have a lot of information online … in my neck of the woods you can find out too much in public records (where does xxxxx live? http://146.129.54.93:8193/opr/oprdefault.asp?cur=opr&scur=Default … or, who lives in that house down the road with the spooky smell? http://www.metrokc.gov/gis/mapportal/iMAP_main.htm … or, who are the perverts in your neighborhood? http://www.metrokc.gov/sheriff/sosch.htm — you can use a combination of these searches to figure out exactly where the perverts are, just in time for inviting folks to the holiday parties). County auditors, assessors offices, courts, etc., all have tasty little morsels.

    I’m feeling really creepy as I write this, but a person has to have hobbies. And I can rationalize that I used to do this kind of a thing for a living. It also helps when you forget your neighbor’s names, or if you want to call some jackass’s landlord about the fucking noise. I generally avoid looking up information about people I know and like, because it’s a drag knowing it.

    For fun, I like to check out restaurants I’m considering lunching at to see how they prepare their hotdogs, courtesy of the health dept(http://www.decadeonline.com/main.phtml?agency=skc)

    I would be more freaked out about how easy it was to find me using some of the suggestions here, as I kept a low profile for a few years because of a particularly goofy ex-girlfriend (and her unregistered .38 detective’s special she kept in her piano bench) … but not long ago my own creepy netstalking revealed that she’s wanted by the FBI for abducting her daughter. So, who’s the creep, I guess. Or something.