Thursday 22 July 2004

the working girl's guide to blogging

I remember one of the first "casualties" of blogging when the lovely Heather at got sacked because of her personal blog. Two years later, this is still a potential danger, as illustrated by this cautionary article posted by Blogger recently. Although I can understand why it's probably not a good idea to spend your entire workday blogging from your office PC, or why posting proprietary information about the company you work for might be frowned upon, how careful do you need to be when discussing your job on your personal blog? A blog is public in the sense that anyone with an Internet connection can access it, but does that give people the right to tell you what you should and shouldn't write about? Is that a valid argument for being reprimanded by your employers?

For example, I have a personal blog that:

-I do not "advertise" at work (e.g. I don't include the URL in my email signature or make an effort to pass the URL to my workmates)

-never mentions the name of the company that I work for (let's pretend for a moment that I don't include this information on my "About" page)

-never mentions workmates by name without their permission

-does not reveal anything that violates the nondisclosure agreement I signed when I was hired

-never discusses projects that I am currently working on or have worked on in the past

In this personal blog, let's say that I write the following post:

"I work with engineers who have really bad haircuts. My boss has an abnormal number of vacuum cleaners. Sometimes the ice that comes out of the fridge ice machine smells like fish."

The following is true about this particular post: it doesn't mention anyone by name, it doesn't contain libellous comments about my workmates, and my boss knows she's got an abnormal number of vacuum cleaners and it's a longstanding running joke. One of my engineer workmates reads this and thinks, "Lisa must be talking about me and my bad haircut. Now my feelings are deeply hurt." Should I remove this post? Should the engineer complain to my boss about my blog? Can I be sued by the manufacturer of our fridge for slander? Does someone else have the right to tell me to remove the comment about my boss and/or the engineer because it could be viewed as being hurtful?

My answer is a resounding no to all of the above. There is nothing wrong with letting off some steam about a work-related incident if you don't reveal details. Blogs shouldn't require disclaimers. It should be obvious that the opinions expressed in any blog are someone's personal thoughts and reflections, and chances are, that post you were wondering about was probably not about you.

Blog responsibly, but also read and react to other blogs objectively. Long live mediums that encourage people to write - and rue the day that people are made to feel like even the most innocuous opinions cannot be expressed.

[Although I said that blogs shouldn't require disclaimers, I will put one here. I did not get any flack for my blog nor has anyone at work taken great offence about anything I've written. A friend has been through this but is still, thanks to some people having some common sense, employed. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.]

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