How Ashley Madison cheated me by not verifying email addresses.

Results from

Results from

The earlier you got a Gmail account, the more likely it is to appear on the Ashley Madison hacked user list. This assumes you picked a short, easy to remember username on Gmail. You are also likely to:

  • Send money in India via mobile payments on a daily basis
  • Submit applications to start home mortgages in multiple states under multiple names each year
  • Get added to a dozen political campaign lists every season
  • Not be able to use your email address on sites as popular as because someone, years ago, already used your email address when they signed up for an account

Pretty much anything popular that doesn’t require a verification of email, you’ll eventually get signed up for.

And by “you” I may mean you, but I certainly mean me.

My Gmail account is a decade old and has a short username that is super easy to remember. I get compliments on it when I give it at the dentist and doctor’s office (hey, I will take all the compliments I can get), but it can come with annoyances.

I remember seeing an Ashley Madison email appear in my inbox sometime in the last year. I figured it was likely a phishing attempt and marked it as spam.

Yesterday I ran my email address through a couple sites that are hosting the Ashley Madison hacked email list, and there was my email. Still surprising, but somewhat expected, given what I indicated above. One lookup site was nice enough to put this in the results:

xxxxxxxx@gmail was found. However, someone else could have signed up using their email addresss

Are the email addresses verified by the account owners?

No. It is possible someone accidentally or deliberately registered with the wrong email address. Determining the likelihood of this is left to you.

You’d be amazed how many people apparently don’t know their own email addresses, so be skeptical about the results, especially if the person’s name is common.

And that’s the thing with Ashley Madison. They sign up users without verifying email accounts and then proceed to email, almost daily, if my spam and Social Promotions Gmail tab is any indication. My email account is composed of roughly 30% relevant personal emails, 60% lists I signed up for, and 10% emails where someone else signed up for something, using my common email.

To be clear, I didn’t sign up for Ashley Madison.

I would like to look up the Ashley Madision account details, associated with my email address. I am in the small percentage affected by hack, where having access to the actual information associated with the email address would be a benefit. But that is fairly difficult to do.

To quote Gawker:

The hacked data is also (until someone inevitably makes it easily searchable), a huge pain in the ass to sift through. The leak is basically an enormous, unwieldy text dump chopped up into a handful of folders.

When the database gets release in an easy to read format, I will have a look, if there aren’t any legal risks, and update this post, . Having a popular email address is causing enough annoyances, as it is, without risking some malware install from a Dark Net zip file or a Pirates Bay file. All I know about the account is what I found when I clicked on one of the links that was in my Google Social Tabs folder.

AM Screen Cap

Including this screen cap as it doesn’t seem to include any detailed personal information.

I am fortunate that my wife knows me well enough and our relationship is solid enough that isn’t necessary for me to go searching Tor or Pirates Bay for the database and learn how to navigate Open SQL (right, honey? right? – she is my editor). Editors Note — I believe him. We researched this piece together. I also looked at the account in question.

She also knows about getting signed up for things based on a common email address. She got her Gmail account a decade ago. Her two-name email is signed up for random lists almost weekly by other people. She even she gets important documents intended for other people of same name, and she tries to educate the sender. I just hit the spam button.

Someone who chooses an obscure email address is less likely to have it entered by someone randomly, but it does happen. Does this provide plausible deniability to the 30+ million people who were in the Ashley Madison database? Likely not, but I have to imagine tens of thousands of people fall into a similar situation.

On Twitter, I experience something similar. I have used @JoshD on Twitter for close to three years and routinely get @messages intended for other people whose users names begin with “@JoshD”. They are either incorrectly entered or simply get cutoff when some app does a manual retweet.

If you have a short username on any popular network or services, you may have experienced the same thing.

The Ashley Madison hack is a potentially destructive to some people and a diversion for others. I felt like writing about my experience with this cultural phenomenon as it may be relatable to some of my digitally-active audience. I am not vain enough to think everyone (or even anyone) I know is entering my email address in these lookups, but this database is going to live on the Internet forever, so I also don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

This hack has more importance to the personal lives of more people than any hack before. Most of us have had some of our personal information hacked before. The fact that I have an Adobe software subscription isn’t judgement-worthy. That fact that my email is associated with an Ashley Madison account likely is.

Digg has put together a good list of information on this hack if you are wanting to get caught-up or explore this issue further.

I chose to not list my email address on this post. If you know me personally, it is the primary one I use for the last five years, but given all the security issues around it, I have left it off. If you are a journalist who has access to the full data base, I am happy to provide my email address (and authenticate it) in order to get the details associated with the account and answer any questions.

Have constructive comments? You can leave them below or you can message me @JoshD. If you get the username wrong, I am sure someone like @Josh will completely understand. He likely gets even more random tweets than I do.

Why Google Author Tags are important and how you can easily add them.

This blog post has two purposes. The first is to explain why Google Author Tags (also referred to more broadly as Authorship) is something you should consider implement on your own blog. The second part is to introduce a new flowchart that will help you accomplish this with step-by-step instructions. If you are already familiar with the benefits of Author Tags, you can go right to the flowchart.

Google Authorship one of the best things about Google+ accounts.  Simply put, these tags allow you to associate your Google+ account with bylined content you have published on your own site (and potentially others). If your name is listed as the author of the content, you can associate it.

Here are the key benefits…

Getting your photo is Google search results

Once you associate your Google+ account with your content, this association extends to search results where your photo shows up next to results that include your content.

Google Author Tag in Search Results Example

Example of photo in search

While there hasn’t been a comprehensive study of how much additional traffic sites get from a photo appearing in search, a number of blogs have seen traffic increase from 15% to 50%. When I added author tags, I saw a 20% increase in traffic.

Getting an extra chance to engage with people doing searches

Google also provides something unique in search that is only for people using Author Tags. If someone clicks on a link to your content, spends some time on your site, and then clicks back to search, they will at times see links in the search results to additional pieces of content you have written. These additional links appear below the initial search result link that they clicked on.

You get a second chance at capturing reader interest with Google Author Tags

Example of additional chances to reach searchers with your content

Getting ahead of Google’s continued move to making Author Rank a key element of what results show up in search

Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman, has a new book coming out, and The Wall Street Journal published a number of short paragraphs from it, including one that points to the future value of Google Authorship.

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

I don’t believe that Google will ever eliminate anonymous content from search, but for content that you feel comfortable publishing under you own name, the future value of of Google’s Authorship program becomes clear.

Now that you know the benefits of Authorship, I highly encourage you to check out the flowchart I made to get your own account setup with Google Author Tags. I feel it is the best piece of how-to content I have worked on.


SlideShare vs Scribd

Quick Summary

SlideShare is best for hosting high-quality, business focused presentations and documents. The clear choice if you are willing to pay for a premium account that offers analytics and lead generation. 

Scribd is for best for bulk document uploads or high-quality imbedding options for your own site. You give up a strong branded experience for free analytics.

SlideShare vs Scribd A comparison of services which one is right for you

Why use either?

  • Another way to reach customers. Both of these sites have broad reach.
  • A way to host your presentation or document with the option of imbedding it on your own site.
  • Another way to capture share of search (i.e. more search results that have your content).

How SlideShare and Scribd make money influences their sites and should influence your decision on which to use.

While both sites have advertisement on them. Slideshare allows users to select a pay option to completely remove ads from your document and user page. Scribd doesn’t offer any premium package for the brand (i.e. the uploader) and instead runs ads against all upload document. If getting someone to download your document is a goal, Scribd likely isn’t the best service for you. See this from their advertising page:

[A]fter 6 weeks, a document uploaded to Scribd it is no longer freely available for download. The user must then either upload a document to get one in exchange, or create an archive membership for unlimited downloads.

Traffic and the kinds of traffic

Both sites get similar amounts of traffic with Slideshare increasing getting more, but I think the key is the kind of traffic each site get and how they brand themselves. Slideshare is focused on business information including presentations and reports, while Scribd seems to allow almost anything. If you have a look at the Scribd home page and featured sections, most of these pages focus on consumer oriented books and textbooks.

I rarely see Scribd rank for Google searches I do. It could be that I am not doing the right kind of searches, but I have done thousands of various industry, marketing and general searches in the past year and have seen one or two Scribd result from all of those. This could be because they lean toward books and government documents (thus why I don’t think they are the ideal fit for myself or many clients). So that gets them some serious volume.

On the other hand, I routinely see Slideshare in the first page of results for many searches.

High volume uploads favors Scribd

One advantage of Scribd is that their code for embedding provide a superior presentation of content. This has resulted in online publishers like TechCrunch and Mashable using Scribd to imbed documents on their own sites.

Scribd is also the best choice for bulk uploading and hosting of documents. When you have hundreds of documents that need to be shared, Scribd is a superior solution to Slideshare. This is reflected in Scribd being the official document share site for the U.S. Federal Goverment including the White House, Congress and FCC.

The Experience

Slideshare offers the ability to pay a premium to remove ads. Scribd does not.

In addition, Slideshare premium users can control their own pages look which allow brands to better control the user experience.

That said, if you don’t want to pay a premium for hosting or analytics, Scribd is a good choice since they provide analytics for all their accounts and don’t charge any fee.

As I mentioned earlier, if getting someone to download your document is a goal, Scribd likely isn’t the best service for you due to them forcing readers to pay for a premium service or upload a document in order to download.

Downloads can be particularly important for larger purchases in the B2B space where the researcher might not be the decision maker.


Both services do an exceptional job of doing what they do. If you are focused on lead generation, promoting thought leadership and are willing to pay a premium, SlideShare is the site you should choose.


Pinterest’s Twitter account hacked?

Many Pinterest users have dealt with their accounts being hacked in the past, but this morning, Pinterest’s own Twitter account seemed to have been compromised.

This tweet clearly stood out as not being a normal Pinterest tweet. Clicking on the link directed the users to fake news story on “the power of the Acai Berry”.

Over 20 minutes after the tweet was posted it remains up and had been retweeted 11 times with 22 people favoriting it.



Who is a good plumber? – How Facebook is bringing back the power of a Like.

Trying to piece together Facebook’s announcement today from live blogs had me frustrated. Why would I care which of my friends like both Star Wars and Harry Potter (that is all of them). 😉

But after thinking about the new Open Graph Search system today, and then reading Erin Griffith’s piece on marketing potential, I can see some uses, and the biggest one I see as a marketer and business owner is that Facebook is going to become a powerhouse for lead generation.

I wrote last year about how Facebook was decreasing the value of a Like. Other writers questioned that notion, but as I talk to small business owners and Page Admins, they consistently talk about how their reach and engagement decreased in August and September of this year.

It felt like Facebook had tricked many of into putting effort into the system, only to then pull the rug out from under us. While I still don’t think  a third party service, including Facebook, should be a place to focus marketing and advertising budgets, the Open Search Graph is certainly going to bring back the power of the Like.

How Facebook Open Graph Search will change the value of a Like.

Let’s use the example of looking for a plumber. In the past you would likely do a Google search or ask for recommendations on a social network. With Facebook Open Graph Search you just type your search into Facebook.

“Who is a good plumber?”

Facebook already has an extensive social graph just for you, and it seems they have figured out some natual language search.

If not from the start,  then eventually you will likely be served up with a list of plumbers in your area that have the most likes from your friends.

This is a simplistic example of what Facebook could do. It is more likely that they will eventually weight your whole social graph into the results. You are more connected to some people? Then their liking a plumber will be more important. Your friend took the time to engage with said plumber (I know, get a life 😉 ), then that like will be weighted more.

Even with those qualifications, the Facebook Search return a list of plumbers with your friends images associated with the plumber. 

You might look at a couple of the page or maybe then Google the same inquiry, but none-the-less, Facebook becomes an essential place you look when you are searching for a service. 

That is lead generation, and that has been where the money has always been and likely will continue to be in the future.

Google dominates internet advertising because they understand intent. Facebook just took a significant step to figure it out too.

Why you still shouldn’t put all your “Likes” in Facebook’s Basket

We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that the results will stay purely based on the open graph data. If Facebook is successful at generating leads this way, the next step will be to allow businesses to get priority listings based on sponsored results.

Just as Google gives additiional placement to companies who pay for placement, so too will Facebook when they have a system figured out.

Those who have worked in any lead generating system understand that the game is always changing. The same type of dynamic nature that we have seen with Facebook Edge Rank and Google search algorithms will occur in Facebook search.

If you put a considerable amount of time into Facebook, the Open Graph Search should be viewed as a positive development. If you haven’t put time into Facebook, keep an eye out for opportunites as this new search features plays out.