On Gyi’s Better Blog Commenting post, Kyle Smith responded seriously to a joke comment about spamming blogs. I think he missed the joke, and when I responded that I think spamming blog comments makes you look like a douche, he revealed that “the douche-factor isn’t that much of a concern” because “I think that the average comment isn’t going to be seen by your clients … .”

Whoa there. It’s okay to be a douche if you don’t think your clients will discover it? Maybe that’s not what he meant, but that’s what he said.

Here’s better advice:

  1. Don’t be a douche. This is an important rule for life, not just blog comments.

  2. Assume your past/present/future clients will see whatever you post online. In other words, always behave as if potential clients are looking over your shoulder. Because they probably are.

  3. If #2 doesn’t do it for you, assume Redditors, bloggers with better PageRank than you have, and your colleagues will see whatever you post online. Because even if your clients don’t, chances are decent that someone else will call you out for being a douche if you act like one.

I don’t fully understand why so many people seem to think things they put on the Internet won’t come to light. Even Randi Zuckerberg, of all people, made that mistake the other day when she screwed up her Facebook privacy settings (LOL). (Then she responded as if she had a right to have everyone leave her alone on the Internet.) If you put it online, people will find it, even if you aren’t as well-known as a Zuckerberg.

I am regularly surprised by things I’ve put online that people find. I’ve tried to follow my own advice (including on privacy settings), so it’s nothing alarming. Just stuff I never expected to show up on searches or during casual browsing. But it does, and it’s foolish to think it won’t.

Murphy probably has a law for this, in fact. The less likely you think it is that someone will see something, the more likely they will. Which is why I think it is useful to always have potential clients, the ethics board, your best friend, etc., in mind when using the Internet. I once heard from a friend that a senior lawyer once told him never to send a letter unless he was comfortable with it showing up on the front page of the New York Times. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you should use a similar rule for the Internet: never put anything online if you wouldn’t want it on the front page of Reddit.

Back to Kyle’s comment. I regularly get spam comments from people I assume are outsourced SEO consultants working for clueless or indifferent lawyers. They flatter, they misspell things, they sign their names as if they were the lawyer they work for. I don’t post them because I am too lazy, but there are plenty of bloggers who do. The marginal increase in SEO value you might get by spamming blog comments will be vastly outweighed by the destruction to your reputation that will follow a single post from Simple Justice or Popehat with your name in the title.

And, of course, spam comments probably aren’t worth it in the first place. I’m not an SEO expert, but I know a little bit, and I know it would take a pretty substantial effort to build up enough spam comments to boost your SEO more than a single well-written blog post that gets a natural link from a high-PageRank blog (like, say, Simple Justice or Popehat).

Besides, Google hates spam. It is constantly trying to figure out how to eliminate any advantage you might gain from low-quality posts, comments, or links. Why pollute your link profile with crap Google will one day find and penalize you for? Save yourself (and your reputation) the trouble, and focus on putting cool stuff online, instead.

And don’t be a douche. Never be a douche.

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xiaozhuli/4442319130/)