How to find someone online who doesn’t want to be found
Here is a recap of my presentation at ROC day ‘17 for those who couldn’t make it.
The mission of the day was to solve a Sourcing mystery collectively with the participants in 20 minutes.
Before presenting the challenge, I gave a little backstory about how my colleague/nemesis Emmanuel Meriaux messaged me one day to ask for my help to identify the owner of a website whom he was desperately trying to reach out to.
Unfortunately, I was swamped with work that day so I absolutely had no time to help out, hence I responded:
So the challenge was to identify the owner of “info-stades.fr“, a website about Football Stadiums in France, in 20 minutes:
Due to the time limit, we had to act quick.
After a quick look at the website, we noticed there is a Facebook fan page and a twitter account associated with info-stades.fr. A quick brainstorming and we had a general idea of how we wanted to attack this challenge.
- Google x-ray
So here we go,
After checking info-stades.fr, we found that the website was registered on whois.net.
However, the owner of the website chose to remain anonymous so we hit a dead end!
There were no traces of information on the website itself. However, the site had a forum page which we thought might be useful. We assumed that the owner of the website is probably the moderator of the forum and the creator of main threads on the forum
Bingo! We most probably found the nickname of the owner, which is “Kybo”.
Googling “info-stades.fr” didn’t bring anything useful. After a brief discussion, we decided to enhance our search string further. If someone mentioned the owner of this website at an article, there was a high chance they also used one of the following keywords: owner, creator, created, founder, website
However, since the website was in French, we also had to include the French translations as well.
“info-stades.fr” (owner OR creator OR created OR founder OR website OR propriétaire OR fondateur OR créateur OR créé OR “le site”)
We found an article in French at capital.fr that mentions the owner of info-stades.fr:
For, Thibault, a young engineer who created the site info-stades.fr… (translated via Google)
This was the breakthrough moment which gave us some hope that we can find this guy in the last 15 minutes we had remaining.
So what did we know about him so far?
As we were running out of time, we rushed into Twitter.
We assumed Thibault might be following Info-stades.fr’s twitter account or vice versa.
We, unfortunately, didn’t have enough time to scroll 1500+ followers to identify any Thibault.
(Hint: You can filter followers of a Twitter account with a paid followerwonk account)
Now, our only hope was to find a Thibault in the following list of info-stades.fr.
No luck, no Thibaults in the list ☹ The list mainly consists of some football/stadium related twitter accounts. At that moment, we started to feel a bit desperate..moving on to our last hope..Facebook.
We quickly checked the latest posts of the Facebook fan page to check if any Thibault posted/made any comment on/liked any recent posts. None!
This is getting frustrating! This guy is definitely not interested in getting any personal credit for his website and definitely likes to preserve his online privacy. Tough cookie…
Well, there is no bailing out at this point.
We decided to check if there is any Thibault who liked the info-stades FB fan page:
To find out, we had to do a Semantic search on the Facebook search bar:
Grrrr, so much for Semantic search…apparently, we have to write our query just the way Fb likes it.
There are only 8 Thibaults who liked the Fb fan page of info-stades.fr.
Assuming one of them is our guy, we finally brought it down to 8 suspects.
Let’s take a closer look..
Unfortunately, we couldn’t rule out any of the profiles easily since they were all young men living in France.
However, there was a small detail that might help us rule out some of those guys? Do you see it too? Take your time..
Yes, the number of pages they liked!
It is Probability 101 that the lesser page they liked, the higher chance they liked it on purpose. It would also make sense that our secretive guy wouldn’t have a huge online presence, liking thousands of pages on Facebook, right?
Eliminating the Thibaults who liked thousands of pages on FB, we ended up with two remaining suspects, Thibault Bra & Thibault Kal. We decided to take a deeper look at their profiles.
Well, this is quite interesting…
Both profiles have liked only a handful of fb pages around 10, which of 6 are same!
I think it is quite safe to assume those two accounts belong to the same person.
..but is he our guy? how can we be sure?
..wait a second..
At that moment, we recalled something interesting from our previous Twitter search which didn’t seem significant back then.
Thibault Kal/Bra on Facebook liked Kyos Engineering, which is also followed by Info-stades.fr twitter account itself!
Yes, we made it, he is our guy!
Only 3 minutes remaining, we finally have a face!
Quick google image search returned no results but doesn’t matter, we are on him big time!
As a young engineer, there is no doubt he might be affiliated with Kyos Engineering.
With almost one-minute left, we quickly searched Linkedin “Kyos Engineering”
There were few results but only one had the right logo.
Ok, that is a bit scary…but this is our last shot.
Let’s click and see the fate of our search:
Yessssss, we found him, we did it!
Thibault Brandle is the owner of info-stades.fr!! ..also a young engineer at KYOS engineering, working on the thermal efficiency of buildings, including football stadiums!
Another mystery solved!