Be Careful What You Blog

Here we are again. It seems that every couple of months this meme rolls around, of bloggers having their employment dreams dashed when their blogs are discovered. No one, it seems, if exempt; not airline stewardesses, nor even employees of high tech companies offering blogging services. The blogosphere is littered with stories of people who got their walking papers once their bosses read their blogs.

But there’s a new wrinkle to the story. Now it seems that your blog content can keep you from even being considered for some jobs. Even in academia now, what you blog — not to mention that you blog at all — can cause a would-be employer to have second thoughts. Ivan Tribble relates how one academic search committee dove into job applicants’ blogs, only to learn more than they ever wanted to know, and enough to make them wonder if hiring any of the blogger candidates was a wise choice.

Job seekers who are also bloggers may have a tough road ahead, if our committee’s experience is any indication.

You may think your blog is a harmless outlet. You may use the faulty logic of the blogger, "Oh, no one will see it anyway." Don’t count on it. Even if you take your blog offline while job applications are active, Google and other search engines store cached data of their prior contents. So that cranky rant might still turn up.

The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.

In the article above, applicants either volunteered their blog URLs or the search committee Googled thier names and quickly stumbled upon the candidates’ blogs. Either way, they were found and read, as just about anything that’s published on the web can be. Once it out there, it’s out there forver. Even if you don’t volunteer information about your blog, a potential employer can still find it if they way, with just a few keystrokes.

Coming from the other side of the coin — where blogging actually helps one get a job — the advice I’m about to give might ring a bit hollow, but here goes. If you think there’s a possibility that blogging might come into conflict with a current or future job,  think seriously about blogging anonmously, at least in the beginning. If you don’t believe me, take it from a well known blogger who at least started out anonymous.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately, and I have some advice for new bloggers: do it anonymously, at first at least.

There’s a distinction between private/public figure which isn’t always perfectly clear, but it’s something that the internet totally destroys. If you write something on the internet, it’s public. A big blog links to it, suddenly you go from 50 hits per day to 5000 in one day. 5 hours later, CNN puts it on their "inside the blogs" segment, and suddenly you’ve gone national to a non-blog reading audience who are perhaps unaware of conventions of blogging.

I think that until you blog for awhile it’s hard to quite get a handle on how much you want to be public versus being private, and how easily blogging and the internet and the media can tear down that wall in a way you never expected.

While not everyone who starts a blog will likely become as well known as Atrios, his advice is worth considering. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good guide to blogging anonymously, so it’s possible for you to blog to your hearts content and stay off the radar until you decide to shed your anonymity.

This isn’t advice I followed when I started blogging. That’s because there wasn’t a lot of advice to be had. (Not that I was an early adopter. I started just before things began to take off in blogging.) I’m not sure I’d have followed it if it had been available. But while I made a conscious decision to blog, I certainly didn’t think about all the possible consequences of putting my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in (electronic) print, for the anyone in the world to read. As a result I learned some hard lessons about what not to blog about, and about getting caught blogging (at work) when I’m wasn’t supposed to be.

I’m not sure that I would have traded any of those lessons for the protection of anonimity, but that doesn’t mean that being an "out" blogger is for everybody. However, if you want to blog with abandon and without consequences, anonimity might be the way to go

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
This entry was posted in Life, Web/Tech, Weblogs. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Be Careful What You Blog

  1. Matt says:

    great post, T.

    I guess I understand this point:

    The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.

    but it’s completely baseless, given the fact that anyone who doesn’t yet have a blog could get one for free and use it to blog about the laundry room.

    It’s a brave new world out there.

  2. neilemac says:

    Have been out for too many years to hide this fantastic identity I only recently allowed to air. Without fear nor doubt my voice speaks freely like my spirit soared when I danced. Yes, I tap danced my way through most of my life but presently am entranced by the possiblities available via cyber space to type and hone my bilingual (english, français) writing skills. Have even learned to blog and am totally delighted each day I’m able to sit in front of this pc and deliver thoughts just that moment were conceived. However, my understanding is at an impass due to a number of things; like trying to figure out the proper use of the buttons available directly over this box in which I’m keyboarding text. To whom do I turn for advice on such things. And backtracking so that I may be able to write commentary in my own blog which will be commentary to and be backtracked to the blog on which I’m commenting. Sounds confusing, I know, but please, I know someone knows, so tell me; where do I go to find out the answers. Pass my name around, don’t be shy with it, I’m not afraid of someone finding out how stunned I am. Please read my fearlessly written honesty at http://neilemacview.blog.ca/main/ and comment an answer there.

  3. Tim Who? says:

    We each have our paths that we walk and we each must follow our own footsteps.

    I live a very VERY quiet and private life, that’s who I am and as such my blog doesn’t get too personal. I like the anonymity and wouldn’t have it any other way. Its not a question of worrying about my employer (I could care less). If fame and stardom knocked on my door I wouldn’t even open it, in fact were anything I wrote to be picked up buy one of the major bogs and I started getting 500,000 hits a day my first impulse would be to pull the plug and shut her down for a couple weeks till things cool off.

    I prefer not to post about my sex life, past drug use, family members or office gossip, all of these are personal and private. I won’t say anything about anyone else that I wouldn’t want them writing about me. (and I don’t want them to write anything about me)

    News, current events, politics, religion, and life itself, are all open topics. But I have no intention of ever airing my or anyone else’s dirty laundry.
    I’m not saying I’m right, and others are wrong. I’ll leave that to others. My point is, your blog is (or should be) a reflection of who you are. There is no one size fits all we are all different. And every blog is too.

  4. Yvette says:

    Thanks for your contribution to the conversation on “Tribblegate”!

    I find blogging as myself, using my real name, to be a huge benefit. For one, it forces me to be a lot more intentional and reflective about what I write and I do not have to worry about something being online that I want to keep unattached to me being “uncovered” as authored by me.

    As in other areas of life, I would never “out” a blogger who wished to remain anonymous for whatever reasons. But also, as in other areas, I do believe that perfectly valid decisions to remain in the pseudonymous closet on the individual level have the potential to become troublesome political decisions at the aggregate level.

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