Blogging about your job.
December 19, 2002 10:19 AM   Subscribe

The job, the blog, and you. Interesting Washington Post article I ran across today that discusses the pitfalls about blogging about your job. Makes some good points, especially how the blogging community needs to take account of things such as non-disclosure clauses in employment contracts.
posted by PeteyStock (16 comments total)
Good link. I think a lot of the 'pitfalls', however, rely on the fact that openly publishing information about certain subjects (relationships, employment, your sex life) is bad etiquette, although not morally wrong in and of itself.

A lot of managers know that their staff hate their jobs, or at least have some gripes about it, but if a member of staff openly spoke with customers about their dissatisfaction, they'd be fired.

I think this is a bigger problem that simply violating nondisclosure agreements. Companies simply don't like you talking about your job period, not particularly for reasons of privacy, but simply because it's not good etiquette.
posted by wackybrit at 10:46 AM on December 19, 2002

I believe that the unidentified person who was fired, sounds like a little dooce.
posted by mkelley at 11:10 AM on December 19, 2002

Who needs a fascist government when the corporate sector can do the job so much more effectively?
posted by divrsional at 11:17 AM on December 19, 2002

I believe that the unidentified person who was fired, sounds like a little dooce.

My thought exactly, though I hesitated to say so in light of the person's request not to be identified.
posted by gleuschk at 11:26 AM on December 19, 2002

Well, under "just a few of the very important things i learned while living in los angeles", she says:

"It is not only possible but very much likely that in a company of 30 people, 15 of those people will show up to work every morning stoned out of their fucking gourds."

Yes, I would fire her ASAP as well, as long as the website, or she can be traced back to the company.

posted by Witold at 11:50 AM on December 19, 2002

Checking through my hard disk for rooms to jetisson, I came across this piece of editorial I wrote for an early version of my site:
”Other than Vinnie Delpino, the lovely Wanda and a euphemism for baby faced doctors, the greatest invention the TV show ‘Doogie Howser Md’ brought to the world was the idea of keep your journal on your computer. Little did they realise that eventually the Internet would give people a place to pour their hearts out.

The obvious questions are whether these ‘diarists’ actually tell the complete truth because you can be certain that their friends will be reading the entries and its one thing to talk behind someone’s back a polar opposite to potentially be letting the whole world what you think of Frank, Mable or George.
It seems even then I was ruminating on ‘The Rules’. I’ve mentioned ‘The Rules’ on my website before. There is an actual list and here it is …

The Rules

(1) Don’t write about your friends unless they’re doing something amazing
(2) Don’t talk about work unless you’ve left
(3) Don’t talk about things you know nothing about
(4) Don’t make the rules too conspicuous
(5) Some rules can be broken ...
posted by feelinglistless at 11:52 AM on December 19, 2002

Though I'm passionate enough about work-related topics that I commonly discuss them on my page, I rarely talk about work itself. I've signed NDAs on several fronts, both day-job and freelance related, and I don't understand people who don't take them seriously. There's always have the option of not signing them, and in some cases they're even negotiable (I've tweaked NDAs in the past from "can't talk about this until the end of the universe" to "X years after end of project"; what lawyers want and what employers will agree to are often different things.)

If you're offhandedly signing an NDA you don't intend to follow (or worse, haven't read) simply to get or keep a job, then the fault isn't in the document. The paycheck you're also signing is in part purchasing your silence as part of the terms of your employment. That's the deal.
posted by Inkslinger at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2002

Well, as someone who very nearly lost his job due to blog-related issues, I can agree that bloggers in general should be careful about what they write, even on so-called anonymous websites. For my part, as a worker at a large news company, actual copyright/proprietary issues were being batted around due to the things I had written. However, much of what I posted was less offensive to the company in the respect that it violated the company's code of conduct as it was that I had violated employee-employee trust. As a result, the company had little reason to actually fire me, and ultimately I retained my position after a week of paid suspension while they scoured my computer and talked to legal about whether or not I should be allowed to keep my job. However, I spent my remaining months at the company as an outsider that no one could trust. I left not too long after, knowing that I had burnt my bridges there, and that tho my work wasn't bad, I had lost any number of references that I could take into a future career.

Remember, it's not all about NDAs or intellectual property. Just as much is about how you're perceived by the rest of the staff and how they see themselves as being perceived on the Web. It didn't matter that there were no names, no faces, no likenesses or even genders in my references to work-related situations. What mattered was that even if no one else in the world knew what I was talking about, coworkers did, and while they may never so much as share an elevator with one of my readers, they still felt slighted by being represented at all. This is the same lesson that dooce learned (or maybe not), tho she was very much more vocal than I was.

Anyway, while I'm much happier now -- and a lot more careful! -- I still regret the decision to throw caution to the wind while at my old employer. I think everyone would have been a lot happier with the situation had I just shown a bit more restraint.
posted by dogmatic at 12:24 PM on December 19, 2002

feelinglistless said: (3) Don’t talk about things you know nothing about

Community weblogs are exempt from that rule, right? MetaFilter, Slashdot, and Fark would be empty if you had to apply that.
posted by wackybrit at 12:58 PM on December 19, 2002

Kids, remember, blogging and jobs don't mix.
posted by adampsyche at 1:04 PM on December 19, 2002

I had problems with this at a previous job. I had to take my site down for a period of time. My site was coming up before the company on search engines. I learned you don't name actual (or fictional) names

Now, if I vent about work - it's in pretty general terms - general to any web/graphic designer. I told my boss about my site up front when I was hired and luckily we have a good working relationship. She'll let me know if I ever cross the line in a fit a being pissed off - which hasn't happened yet.

I think that you can vent about work. I don't think you need to censor yourself really. Just be smart about your kvetching and make sure that you, your name, your site, is not linked in any negative way to your employer.

It's about not biting the hand that feeds you more than anything.
posted by thinkdink at 2:11 PM on December 19, 2002

This just in! If you have an NDA, your employer expects you to honor it! If you say rude things about people in public, they might object!

Not to say the article isn't well done, for what it is, but I am wondering why people think that words on a screen would somehow be absent of any of the consequences of those same words in any other public situation.
posted by anildash at 2:18 PM on December 19, 2002

There's a pretty similar article in the September 15 2002 issue of the 'Library Journal'. The basic thrust as far as I can remember was 'bosses distrust bloggers', and whatever you do, for God's sakes don't bring up your blog in a job interview.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:31 PM on December 19, 2002

So, for anyone with any First Amendment law experience, is it legal to restrict employees' personal writings? Like dogmatic, I work for a big news organization. In our manual covering standards, practices, and conflicts of interest, it says that any employees wishing to publish personal writings must get permission from our Ethics Committee (VP-level+ people...real brass) in advance. "This includes writings on any subject, or the publication of photos or other materials." So, I guess, what I'm doing right now is wrong. Anything I may have written in an online guestbook, blog, or any pictures I may have posted online could concievably get me in trouble.

How common is this? Is this defensible? I can certainly understand wanting to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, or restricting employees' writings about the company, the competitors, or the industry...but ANY and ALL writing?

oh, and if you work where I do, all of the above is purely hypothetical.
posted by Vidiot at 8:45 PM on December 19, 2002

I'd talk to a lawyer, Vidiot. Since you work for a news organization, there might be copyright issues in addition to First Amendment issues. That is, they might be claiming that anything you write during your employment is a work-for-hire and belongs to them.

In general, I'm with anildash on this. If you wouldn't say it standing on the sidewalk outside the building where you work, don't post it on the Internet.

Of course, that's easy for me to say. I work for myself.
posted by kewms at 9:30 PM on December 19, 2002

Vidiot: Okay, you've crossed the line! In my office, NOW!!
posted by wackybrit at 1:02 AM on December 20, 2002

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