This post was inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Rory Blyth on his blog Neopoleon (I’m sure he isn’t dumb enough to twice fall for someone linking to him in the hope of being mentioned but you never know). Essentially, Rory has close to no filtering between his brain and his blog posts. He uses his real name, occasionally real photos of himself, talks about his employer (Microsoft) and frequently posts on incredibly personal topics including his relationships, his family and mental illness. He explored the topic of “rules” for blogging under the heading “Blogging is stupid” and his take is essentially the idea of rules for blogging is stupid.
On this topic I have to disagree. There are most definitely rules for blogging but they will be different for each person and situation. As far as I’m concerned the rules for blogging are the same as your rules for life. If there is something you wouldn’t say or do in your real life, if you wouldn’t say it to your family, if you wouldn’t say it at work, if you wouldn’t walk down the street shouting it at the top of your lungs, then saying it on a blog is borderline insanity.
You don’t have to analyse this blog too carefully to see where I stand. I write under a pseudonym and wear a mask in my videos although it would take a determined person (or someone who knew me) five seconds to work out it was me. I generally avoid specifics unless I am writing about very public figures. I almost never post on personal issues, again, at least not on specifics. These rules are not applicable to everyone. These rules are mine and they are self imposed. In fact, I thought them all through quite carefully before I even started this blog.
The big fear in the blogosphere is getting “dooced”. The term means getting fired for something you did online and is so-named in honour of Heather Armstrong who lost her job for things she posted on her blog, Dooce. Another case in the news today doesn’t involve a blog but is about getting sacked for online activity involves Melanie Martinez, a presenter for a kids’ show on America’s PBS being sacked for a video she did a few years ago called “Technical Virgin”. The video wasn’t even vaguely pornographic but I find it hard to believe that a presenter for a kids’ show could be so naive as to think that performing comedy related to sex wouldn’t come back to haunt her. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be a presenter on a kids’ show.
I want to make it clear that I don’t support sacking Dooce, Ms Martinez or pretty much anyone else for what they do online but I’m not surprised by it. The IT job market that I have to work in is small, conservative and gossipy. For this reason I’m never specific when talking about work-related issues but I do talk about work. With quite some vehemence at times. I have worked for several managers who would freak out at the idea of me blogging about the shit they go on with and doubtless will be forced to work with such losers again in the future.
To deal with this risk I made three decisions. (1) Don’t be specific. (2) Be sort of anonymous. (3) Be prepared to lose a job because of my blog. I made the third decision consciously a while back. I’m no millionaire but I get paid more than I ever thought I would. My skills in the current job market just let me earn a shitload (by my estimation anyway). The thing is, I have to compete for the high paying jobs. I have decided, if worst comes to worst, to go for lower paying jobs where I’ll be wildly overqualified compared to other applicants. When I say lower paid I mean still considerably more than average but less than I’m getting now.
If you’re not prepared to make a similar decision stop blogging now. Even if you never blog about work. Stop blogging now. Even if you think nothing you write is offensive. Stop blogging now. Because the world is full of fuckwits. And you’ll end up working for one of them. And they’ll think they have the right to pass judgement on your blog. I don’t think they do but then again, I’m not your employer.
That’s the general points about work issues and blogging but here are some specifics. If you slander someone you deserve to pay for it. Grow a brain. If you are posting to a “company” blog and say negative/offensive/abusive things I think you’re insane. That obviously makes me a wuss but I think tying your personal voice to your employer is crazy. If you’re work involves getting paid by the government and you use a blog to criticise the government, well, I’m all for dissent (duh!) but I think only an idiot would be surprised by getting some blowback. A recent case involved a contractor working at the CIA getting dooced after a blog post criticising the Bush administration’s policy on torture. I think Bush’s pro-torture stance is an abomination against humanity but, seriously, you expect to keep a job at the CIA after saying that publicly?
A few thoughts on blogging about personal topics. Obviously I’m quite conservative in this area. I almost never mention personal things and when I do it’s in the most general terms. I never use names. I think this makes me a very small minority in the blogging world and I’m fine with that. For those who focus their blogs on personal issues I say “good on you!” But I really hope you thought it through before doing so and you’re not simply spouting off without considering the consequences. I’ve seen dozens of blogs where the writer is essentially committing relationship suicide. They say such personal things about themselves, their partners, their friends and their families while clearly having no idea if the people they’re writing about find their blog they will end up absolutely hated.
Several of the names in my blogroll write about personal issues extremely well and their confidence shows they know exactly what’s happening. So, writing about personal issues having thought through the potential repercussions = good. Spouting off incredibly personal details because “it’s just my blog and it doesn’t matter what I write” = plain fucking stupid. MySpace is basically a series of hand grenades waiting to explode and destroy thousands of lives. I suspect one day even Scoble is going to regret having provided so many details about his family through his blog.
So essentially, my number one rule for blogging is write whatever you want so long as you are prepared for the consequences. Imagine what the worst case scenario for you is. Now come to terms with the fact the worst case scenario has already come true for many, many people. Only an idiot would think it isn’t going to happen to them.
12 responses to “Mr Angry’s rules for blogging”
Sage advice Mr Angry.
My rules for personal blogging:
1. Run it past the husband when it mentions the husband and/or family. If he takes issue, or thinks I’m being indiscrete, I’ll edit or delete.
2. Circumspection, Discretion and Respect. Apply care when blogging about myself or others. If I wouldn’t want something similar said about me, why write it about someone else?
3. Always bear in mind that no matter how carefully you follow the above two rules, there may well be people who could take offence at anything you’ve written. As you say, be prepared for the consequences.
My rules are:
Never give out your home address.
Cell phone is ok but not home phone.
Email address is ok to give out.
I don’t disrespect people either.
It’s better to give constructive criticism I think.
At the end of the day “what goes around, comes around”
PS: Mr Angry, I run a wordpress blog too: http://double.wordpress.com/
and Im going MAD because I cant embed youtube like you 😦 any help? add on blog…
Kerryn: you do it better than me. I rarely check with other people, I just use my own judgement. Which often sucks.
Arty: all good rules. I’ll leave you a comment tonight with instructions on youtube embedding, WordPress have actually made it easy (once you know how).
We are going to break digg, so check out the blog and see if you want to be part of Webreakdigg.
my rules are similar to yours..i use my real name though and hide behind fictitious stories.
i don’t care about work..there are too many opportunities out there…and besides when you are a *brown*, *Mozlem*, and a *woman* in IT; you have too many things working against you already to worry about blogging.
ah well…i think as long as you deliver, consistently good quality “deliverables” you should be more than okay anywhere you go.
#1. Don’t write about cheese. It’s not funny and it’s not clever and nobody cares.
#2. Wear nice underwear while blogging.
#3. Take extra long tea breaks, it’s the internet, you can get away with it.
#4. Post lots of nude photos.
#5. Be utterly brilliant so everyone reads your blog and comments and you become the most popular blogger in the world.
Salamaat Maliha: Very pragmatic. You need to play on liberal white guilt 😉 don’t work for any conservatives
Michelle: I’d been thinking of more nude photos, thanks for the tip!
1. no personal stuff
2. no hating stuff (I hate Scoble!)
3. (angry allianz rulz)
4. no blogging about work or clients or employers
5. under a pseudonym, but anyone who knows me well knows who I am.
Rules???????? Pray that no one reads my blog who would be offended by ‘fuck you in the neck’. 😀
Range: yeah, going in with your eyes open is important. If you know your own rules then you should always be OK
Sandra: Easily offended? Fuck them in the neck with their own righteous attitude!
gotta confess this time i agee with you (80%), but the idea “nobody gonna recognize me so i can say whatever crap in my blog” shows that guy’s a real dumbass or something like that. but i dont agree with writing about my job cos im not as loaded as you, it’s a small city, i dont wanna move so i better keep my mouth shut, thanks God i didnt choose IT cos i had to tolerate &*^%$% like you.
I think I must be very lucky working for the people i do. My one boss is a big hippy who believes in conspiracy theories, and it doesn’t bother him that i blog negatively about the things he believes (he seems to actually like getting into arguments with me). The other boss, the MD, actually ended up reading a post where I ripped apart the artwork that was put up in our office, which is from his personal collection. Bad move? According to his wife, he was laughing his arse off while reading it, so i guess i got away with it!