Monday, February 14, 2005

The work-blog conundrum

I spend a lot of time writing about the interface point between technology and culture. I'm not so much interested in the inner workings of the technology as I am about the implications of that technology on the way we live. I think the tech press does a fairly thorough - if ultimately meaningless - job of the former. Its understanding and coverage of technology's implications, however, could be significantly improved.

The inevitable collision of personal blogs and the professional workplace stands as a relatively recent case in point. We have witnessed some fairly spectacular blog-related firings in recent months. Indeed, hardly a week goes by now that we don't hear of another bloger running afoul of the big bosses at work. Here's quick rundown of the higher-profile ones:
The nature of my blog - namely, that it is published under my real name - precludes me from digging any deeper into my 9-to-5 experiences beyond the most generic of references. This was part of the original intent of the site: I didn't think you wanted to listen to me whine about work. And even if you did, I didn't think I could write in that style with any degree of excellence.

I'm saving any juicy bits for my book, anyway (to wit, I'm dissecting my life at previous-employer Mother Corp. for a future authorly project. Names and some details are being changed to keep me from being sued, but anyone I used to work with will instantly be able to guess the object of my disaffection. Think Scott Adams/Dilbert in literary form and you're not far off. It's great fun!)

The Washington Post ran this story last week on the unfortunate Rachel Mosteller, whose anonymous rants about her newsroom resulted in her being shown the door. No offense to her (OK, I lie, maybe just a little offense is intended here), but you figure she and others would learn that there is no real anonymity when you go online. IP addresses are easily traced, and pseudonyms don't stay hidden for long. As stark as these realities of online life may be, it's a virtual certainty that many will fail to learn them. Consequently, Ms. Mosteller won't be the last. We all think we're immune, I guess.

Word to the yet-to-become-wise: absorb everything that goes on in your current organization, but don't post it to a publicly-accessible resource that is even remotely connected to the Internet. After you've had a chance to voluntarily find another source of income, feel free to go for the jugular by putting pen to paper and sending the results as far around the world as you please.

Key issue here: quit first, then write. Like most things in this brave new world, survival has everything to do with process and precious little to do with technology.

Okay, I've ranted. Your turn.

12 comments:

Kitty said...

Good morning, Michele sent me :)

twenty something said...

Happy Valentine's Day Carmi!

Kung Pow Pig said...

Oh yessss. Store, write, and save, and then quit and publish.

It's a dream that I have.

Leanne said...

I too often wonder the workplace ramification of blogging. I try so hard not to blog about work no matter how badly I want to use it as a form of venting. I guess the blogging and work brisge will have to be crossed when we get there.

Diva said...

Excellent articles and post.

I do feel rather ill now though. I think I'll take a few days off and regroup. I need to do so anyway, I'm getting on another plane tomorrow.

Thumper said...

I'm amazed at how many people get fired for what they blog about...I write about work stuff once in a while, and dangit if I haven't had to fire myself twice because of it. The perks of being self employed, you know...

But sometimes I do think I should shut up, lest I offend people who are submitting their work to me...

Suzanne said...

I've also been sorely tempted to write about work in my blog. I don't have too many negative things to say, but work is such a big part of life that to ignore it certainly skews the picture of my life that I present in my blog.

That said, I've been extremeley circumspect in my references to work---as the high-profile cases have shown, spilling the beans in public just isn't worth it.

Linda said...

I think in Rachel's case, she underestimated the interest of coworkers in what she had to say. Also, there's having an awareness of the Internet and who has access to you and then there's the element of people being so self absorbed that they read into everything you write, especially those things that are "anonymous." I had a friend when I began blogging who is no longer my friend because she read some of my stuff, thought I was writing about her and reacted instead of confronting me to find out if it was the truth. She remembered me saying that I didn't care if those anonymous people knew I was writing about them, as long as others didn't know. Well, she apparently thought so little of my character that I would turn on her in an instant and publicize her mercilessly. There's not really a whole lot you can do about people like that. When you combine those people and a professional relationship, tensions increase exponentially. It's easier to fire someone than ask for clarification or ask to curtail writing about office politics. It's safer to take that stuff to happy hour.

DeAnn said...

I have to agree with you: People should expect that to happen. I never blog about my work, except maybe in a completely general sense. But, no, not happening.

mike said...

you would think that people would wait till they leave to do a tell all.Or at least learn from other bloggers. How much money has Scott Adams made anyhow? :)

Dean said...

I'm someone who blogs about work from time to time, and who probably shouldn't, because I tend to rant.

Still, you can't identify my employer(s), and only someone who knows me fairly well would be able to identify me, so I think I'm reasonably safe.

On the other hand...

Kate said...

Stop it, you're scaring me!
Well, you are a little.

I wonder if school districts have anyone who would actually read the internet to see if they can identify people.