I’m a consultant. So I work with a variety of businesses in many different industries. Each of these businesses have their own particular (peculiar?) needs, wants, desires, etc, and I – in my relationship with them – track these things on my laptop.
And it is getting confusing in here!
My beloved MacBook Pro is with me almost as often as my dog. I do everything on it: Personal, Professional, volunteer work… everything. When I meet with a client I bring my MacBook, take my notes in WorkFlowy, and bookmark key client-specific links in Firefox for later research.
The problem is that the internet is getting so customized that refinements I make when working with one client, are then skewing the results I get when working with a different one!
For example, Google announced today a new feature which allows you to permanently block specific web sites from ever appearing in your Google search results again!
This is fantastic! All those nasty content-farm sites that keep showing up in my search results (DemandMedia, eHow, etc) can new be blocked from my view forever!
But… what happens when I do testing to determine a client’s ranking in Google? I search for a relevant term and they appear as the 4th link on the page. Great! But when they search for it, they see themselves listed 10th!
… because my Google results have been customized according to actions I took previously to eliminate those spammers who show up high in Google search results…
I also log regularly in to WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, GoogleDocs, and a hundred other shared media sites. But I log in with one account today, a different account tomorrow, and perform different actions depending on which client I am working with (or if I am browsing for my own personal needs).
This gives me wildly skewed results, because now the cookies on my machine say I am interested in auto loans, circus performances, HVAC systems, high-end bedding, prognostication, and propane valves and safety switches! (You should see the ads Facebook presents me with when it tries to figure out what I am interested in!)
So I now regularly have 3 different web browsers open all the time. One strictly for personal use (Safari), one for generic client work (Chrome), and one highly customized (Firefox).
But this is just staving off the inevitable. The internet wants to know who you are so it can present you with highly relevant content. And looking at my computer from the internet’s perspective, who I am is a lot of me, and a whole lot of seemingly random other bits liberally spread amongst my history.
It sure would be nice to have a lightweight way to switch from one browsing profile to another, and retain all the usability of my beloved machine…
The more likely future is one in which my personal life and browsing history are indistinguishable from my professional activity online.
And, as a marketer, that just means it is going to be harder and harder to find what real people want through all the noise.