Sunday, January 27, 2008

Plunging in

I sent an e-mail recently to a colleague who is thinking about starting a blog and posting his materials from work there. Yellow flags went up, I couldn't respond quick enough. (For the love of god, don't do it.) But then... I work for a much larger employer than he, where there are policies and guidelines defining personal property and matters of public image.

I'm sure most bloggers get to a point early on where they have to decide: to publish or not to publish? There are two unpublished posts saved as drafts with such question marks. Could I get in trouble at work for this? Will it compromise the date I have on Friday? As a newbie in the blogging world, I have to wonder how prepared I am to stand by what I write. The red devil of risk (or instigation) on one shoulder, the white angel of caution on the other battling it out, fork to harp. Who wins? ...You're torn. But truthfully, only on the follow-through. It was already decided on some level before the first post ever went out. This is my blog, my forum, my opinion. Forget the rest. Implicating details will be left out, that's fair. And considering the inflammatory stuff I'm privy to, it's probably also ethical.

And to make sure I do follow through, just to flirt a little with the risk, here's a snippet of my reply to him:

...On the topic of work/work-related materials, etc. on personal blogs. If someone sees your [documents] on a blog you create and write in with a question, do you intend to respond as yourself or as an employee and expert in your field? Employers may be concerned about liability ("this expert guy told me to do such-and-such, so I did it and my house blew up!"), or concerns about misrepresenting their mission/interests on your blog. I would suggest figuring this out before posting any educational materials you created at work.

I do not know the legalities and regulation specifics of [my employer]... I’m paid to do a job that involves creating educational materials which belong to them – not me. But [employers like mine] anymore are being run like corporate enterprises. Just ask [insert a made up name here] about the subject. He’s been under fire several times for sounding off to local media about environmental stuff and "stupid people", and the media sources cited him as an employee of [his employer] as opposed to a private citizen. It’s caused an increasing commotion within the department, and was in part why the department launched a new policy requiring that statements to the media need to be approved beforehand if one intends to be cited as an employee.

Do you see where this is going, where I’m coming from? No one has a copyright on our experiences or knowledge. I am entitled to my opinions, the more anonymous the safer, and may or may not sound off about some of the corruption and waste I’ve witnessed. It has been unbelievable, and equally offensive: ignored. But the focus of my blog isn’t to complain. My intent is to create and share something original and educational – and inspiring, if only to myself. The mere act of blogging says I'm here, and I'm interesting! And it seems to be at the heart of why we read blogs: for the raw, unedited opinion; insights free from supervisor reviews and committee edits. The real story. An account of something straight from the individual, not the enterprise.

Enough of my rantings... I'll save it for my blog. :)

And so I have.

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