Clippings by John S. McCright: Just one of 183,000; but a special one

The other day I heard some self-obsessed celebrity on the radio say that if you googled his first name a reference to him turned up on the first page of the Internet search engine’s results. I thought it would be fun to see how high I would come up when I googled my first name. Alas, my first name is not unusual; in fact it is one of the least unusual names in the English language.
Google “John” and you get about 15 billion hits. (Curiously, as of March 30 Google indexes almost 48 billion web pages, which means that nearly one in three have the word “John” on them.) I browsed the first 10 pages of results  for “John” looking for one pointing to me, and I was reminded how many really famous “Johns” are out there (none of them, apparently, me).
But since I started on this egomaniacal road trip I googled my last name, which, according to RhymeZone.com ranks 19,048 on the list of surnames in the United States (incidentally, my last name rhymes with “egg white,” “carpet knight” and “ultraviolet light”).
Google returned a mere 183,000 references to my last name. Guess where I landed? Third! I was a little surprised but not terribly, since I work for a news organization that regularly posts my name on its website, and the same is true of my last job. One thing that is known about Google’s search algorithm is that the more times a search term appears on the Internet the higher a result appears in the rankings.
Of course, I couldn’t be entirely satisfied with third place. The top result was for “McCright & Associates,” a Chattanooga, Tenn., company that provides professional services to public housing authorities. It is a business and probably pays someone to do a thing called “search engine optimization,” or SEO — a real job in which a flunky tweaks your website so it will appear high in search engine results. So I couldn’t feel too bad about not being first (at least I couldn’t until the local schools begin to teach my kids real world skills, like how to do SEO for Daddy).
But there’s still second place on search results, and the guy in second had better watch out. I know the guy whose name pops up before mine — again, not surprising since most of us McCrights in the United States are not too distantly related. But with this guy its personal — he’s my oldest brother, Joe McCright. I guess Joe is a little more famous than me. But I’m still more famous than my second-oldest brother, Matt. I was a little surprised that he wasn’t higher (his name appeared on the second page of results), since he actually works with computers for a living. Then again, he works in computer security and probably likes to keep a lower profile. Our third brother, Mark, didn’t show up until the third page of results. I like Mark, he’s basically a social worker; but he’s never going to become a celebrity that way.
I looked through 30 pages of Google results and didn’t find our dad. No huge surprise, like most 78-year-olds he doesn’t have a big online presence (though he is checking his stocks online all the time).
As I scanned the pages of McCright references I got increasingly interested in the further branches of my family tree.
Every family has its stars and rotten apples. I found one distant relative (probably) named Aaron M. McCright, an academic who exposes global warming deniers. In one of his pieces he and a colleague found “that conservative white males are significantly more likely than are other Americans to endorse denialist views … and that these differences are even greater for those conservative white males who self-report understanding global warming very well.” He’s welcome at the family barbecue any time.
Then there is Michael D. McCright in Seattle, who also goes by the name “Mikhial Jihad.” Google showed me a picture of “cousin” Mike wearing a turban and many news stories describing him as a Muslim extremist who pleaded guilty a year ago to an attack on U.S. Marines during a road rage incident. Just between you and me, I hope he’s still in jail so I won’t have to invite him to the next family reunion.
The first John McCright that wasn’t me appeared on page 8. We have a few things in common — after a little online stalking I see that this John McCright is the father of two cute little girls (like me) and is married to a total babe (ditto). His favorite movies are “Anchorman” (I love Will Ferrell, but haven’t seen this movie) and “Rocky” (everyone loves the original, don’t they? I do).
But then I see that he may actually be the anti-John McCright, as far as this John McCright goes. He grew up and continues to live in Midland, Texas; likes Mitt Romney, George W. Bush (still) and country music; and is apparently a big fan of fishin’, at least appears to be from the number of dead fish photos he posts on his Facebook page. I would guess John Boy wouldn’t make it to cousin Jihad’s welcome home from jail party. But, who knows? Maybe he’s a closer relative than me to Ray McCright — also a member of the southern branch of the family — who was convicted of horse stealing in Oklahoma in 1921 in a case that went to the state supreme court.
Using the Google feature that lets you search for inventors named McCright who had patents I found that 37 patents cite something called “New Tool Kit to Link Groove with Microsoft SharePoint” by JS McCright. Turns out this JS McCright is actually John Steven McCright — me! They are referring to an article I wrote a decade ago when I worked for a high-tech publication in Boston. After the initial blush of excitement faded I figured out that this isn’t actually such an honor. One aspect of the software industry is that companies file patents for EVERYTHING so they can sue potential competitors. As part of the patent applications they have to cite some need in the industry for their “invention” so they cite news articles ad nauseam.
Still, 37 citations. That makes me pretty special, right? Someone who stands out on the Internet at least in one small way? To be certain that they wouldn’t cite just anybody in a patent application I googled the worst reporter at the publication that garnered me the spotlight. She was dishonest, a bad writer and she only stayed with the magazine a month. I typed her name, hit return and found that really just about anybody can (and probably is) cited in a patent application somewhere. She was cited once  … in Russian.

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