There have been many news stories about blogs and the various concequences many individuals have had to deal with as a result of content that has been posted. Many bloggers do so responsibly, but far more seem to treat a blog as a secret diary. The following are my personal blogging “rules that I generally follow (some of which I always follow).
1. Maintain Perspective
Remember that when you blog you are publishing a document on the Internet that can be read by anyone. ANYONE. The next visitor to your site could be your boss, your significant other, or your annoying neighbor. Most people probably wouldn’t write about every little detail of their life in a journal and then leave it on their doorstep, so why would you do the same but place it in a far more public place?
A blog is just a better way to organize your personal writings than simply popping them into a vanilla Web page, but it’s just as accessible. Don’t assume that you have the protection of anonymity. I’ve read blogs that were “anonymous” but the individual could be identified because of certain references such as where one lives, works, etc. Assume that everyone will read your blog. Accept the fact that anything you write may one day be circulated among people who know you.
2. Do Not Blog About Your Job
I am often amazed at the number of blogs on the Net in which people gripe or complain about their jobs and fellow co-workers. There have been cases of people being fired for this action. I’m also surpised about how much inside information some will reveal. It would be ridiculous for someone to get fired for blogging about things that are not related to one’s job and having done so in one’s spare time.
However, it is perfectly reasonable to me for someone to be faced with disciplinary action for revealing trade secrets, spreading rumors, or presenting a negative image of the company one works for. If a person is fired for such an action it’s not a case of free speech being denied, but instead a case of the company protecting it’s best interest in the same fashion they always have.
Nobody would want to keep a salesperson on payroll if that person is telling people the company is running itself into the ground. Primarily, I view it as a sign of respect. If the company I work for respects my personal life and how I spend my free time than I have no business disrespecting my employer’s business activities. The most I generally write about work is that “I’ve been busy” or something similar.
3. Avoid Blogging About Other People
I generally avoid using my friends’ names or providing specific details about their lives. They did not ask to be mentioned in my blog. If a person takes a photograph of you and later uses that photograph for an advertising campaign without your knowledge how would you feel?
4. Avoid Giving Specific Information
Similar to the previous suggestion, I recommend avoiding specific details. For example, where you live, where you work, what your birthday is, where you were born, etc. Some of the information people so freely offer in their blogs could be used for identify theft. Granted, you shouldn’t have to censor every word but at least make it a challenge for someone to find the information. I generally blog to keep family and friends updated on what’s been going on. They already know many details. I often question whether or not I should even include a photo of myself in my blog. Again, my friends and family know what I look like.
5. Credit Your Information
When you post a section or summary of a news story you should give credit to the author and/or website and provide a link to the original work.
I’m sure there are more rules, etc. but the five I’ve outlined above are probably the most important. While many people already have a good understanding there are many more who obviously do not. Keep in mind that whatever you post to the Web could very well end up in the Internet Archive for all of eternity…