Outting myself as a blogger
March 7, 2007 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Should I out myself as a blogger to my employer?

I work in a relatively small subset of a large industry where interesting things happen with new technology. So I jumped on the bandwagon and set up a blog.

I'm very careful to say nothing about the company I work for (including the company, the people, and the products), but the size of the industry makes me wonder if I'm on borrowed time.

Should I 'fess up to my line boss or just be extra careful about what I post?
posted by twine42 to Work & Money (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
uh, I would stop blogging about it, and not tell my boss, discretion being the better part of valour.
posted by b33j at 5:00 AM on March 7, 2007

I would keep blogging about it if you like, as long as you: 1) don't say anything, good or bad, about your company, and 2) don't write or visit your blog on company time or equipment. Also, I'd try to avoid blog topics that coincide with topics at your staff meetings, unless you can tie it to an outside event.
posted by MrZero at 5:13 AM on March 7, 2007

Something tells me that if your employer doesn't like the idea of someone inside the company writing about the company for outsiders, and you have a blog with a couple hundred posts about his company archived, the guy is going to find a reason in there to terminate you no matter how chronically careful you are.
posted by The Straightener at 5:31 AM on March 7, 2007

Do you work in advertising for your company? Are you authorized to release information on behalf of your company without prior approval? In what ways will your blog damage your company and help your competition?

These are all questions which will jump into your boss' head as soon as he hears about your blog. Yeah, maybe there is a chance that he will recognize it as the useful tool that it is and appreciate your initiative, but more than likely he will freak out, his boss will freak out, and his boss' boss will shit a brick.

Don't do it! Just don't! I know you may feel proud of your blog, and you are perhaps feeling like you deserve some recognition for it, but the fact that you're even asking the question means that you're unsure of what the consequences would be if you "came out", so when it doubt, err on the side of extreme, paranoid caution.

I would only keep blogging if 1.) your anonymity was insured and that none of your coworkers will recognize your writing if they happen across your blog, and 2.) that there is no way for your company to catch you blogging on company time (which by itself can get you fired form some places.)
posted by wfrgms at 5:33 AM on March 7, 2007

Launch a trial balloon at the next meeting : "we should set up a company blog". That way you will learn how blog-friendly the management is.

In the meantime, remain very, very careful...
posted by Baud at 5:59 AM on March 7, 2007

I'd say keep it on the down low. A lot of people see the negative press about blogs and bloggers and have a bias against it.
posted by reenum at 6:04 AM on March 7, 2007

Best answer: What exactly is your blog about and how does it relate to the company?

If you're not blogging about the company or any topics related to them, check what your employment contract says (the contract probably doesn't refer to it as blogging, so read it carefully). If such a section doesn't exist, then do what everyone else has said and keep it as hidden as freaking possible. Don't post pictures of yourself, use a pseudonym, do not refer to anything in your personal life that could give you away, don't do it on company resources, and don't link to anything that could remotely identify you.

Keep in mind that management can be assholic and unpredictable about these kinds of things. I used to work for a tech support company that had this annoying remote-assistance tool that was just too difficult for our customers to log into. My colleague asked our supervisor if he could link to the tool on his website to make it easier for everyone, and was given the go-ahead. Months and months later, he got fired for linking to confidential company information on a personal website. The supervisor never got reprimanded. This is a horror story for sure, the company is quite evil (everyone I know has moved on) and it most likely will never happen to you. But most employers have mixed feelings about personal blogs, so just be careful. There are a million fired blogger stories out there.
posted by Menomena at 6:10 AM on March 7, 2007

posted by dobbs at 7:19 AM on March 7, 2007

Best answer: If my (non-blogging-related) experiences of working in a small subset of a large company are any indication, telling anyone anything would be a possible disaster for you. If your boss finds out, he would probably find it necessary to tell his boss, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on, until someone recommends that you get canned. Or, more likely, he may just decide to terminate you before someone higher up finds out what's going on, despite the possibility that what you are doing is completely benign.

Short story just to prove the point that something ridiculous and seemingly innocuous can be fatal to your career: I once wrote a half-satirical email to a tech support guy at my company whom I thought of as a sort of friend and a nice enough fellow. I let slip the word "damn" somewhere in the completely harmless message. He became afraid that someone higher up at the company would see my email (why?) and reported the use of this horrible, horrible word to my boss. I was called to a conference with all of my supervisors, not knowing what the hell was going on, and to my utter surprise, I was nearly fired because I used the word "damn" in an email to another employee. Thankfully, I didn't get upset and was ridiculously apologetic, although to this day I still do not understand how something like this can occur amongst adults in the 21st century United States. The experience changed my whole outlook on life and shifted me further toward the cynical side of the psychological spectrum, especially regarding corporate hierarchies and inane policies/temperaments.

The moral is that for the word "damn" in an email, I was nearly fired. Please don't even think about telling anyone about your blog, despite whatever you may be blogging about.
posted by gaiamark at 7:28 AM on March 7, 2007

I'd keep that a deep dark secret and if they find out, play it off as much as possible. Never, ever blog about work. That slope is so slippery, you'd need snow shoes and epoxy to keep from falling. Getting "dooced" (god I hate that term) is even more of a reality than it was back then. As innocuous as your blog sounds, you know how the written word can be construed and misconstrued.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:37 AM on March 7, 2007

Response by poster: Menomena : the technologies that are around and the techniques being used. That's cryptic, I know. The blog only contains thoughts and comments on stuff that is openly available and nothing to do with our closed work here. Hell, it's got nothing visible to so with our open work here.

A prime example is a technique where there are two common open (public or open source) methods and a myriad closed methods (ours being one of them). I've spent quite some time discussing the failures in implementations of the open systems without mentioning anything specific to our closed ones.
posted by twine42 at 7:39 AM on March 7, 2007

The above advice is all really depressing. Your company doesn't own you. As long as you're not saying anything about them, they don't have any (moral) reason to complain about you running a blog on your own time, any more than they could complain about you writing novels on your own time.

That said, it may be pragmatic to ignore that and keep it all secret.
posted by sindark at 8:00 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Short answer: no.

Long answer: I'm a blogger too, and I briefly considered letting some coworkers know about my blog. I know how you feel - you're proud of it, and you'd like to get some people you know as traffic, but don't do it. It's not worth potentially losing your job over.

My advice: don't blog at work. Don't tell anyone at work you have a blog. Do not visit your blog at work. If you have your own domain, do not give someone at your company an email address pointing to that domain. Don't blog about the people you work with, or what your company does.

I understand that some people use a blog as a kind of personal diary, and if you really want to write down something about your company, find out if the publishing software you're using offers a way to lock certain posts. Even so, do not name names, or describe events or people in a way that could lead to identifying the people, place, or event you're writing about.

Personally, I took my blog-protection a step further. I edited my .htaccess so that it would block any incoming traffic from my company, so in the event someone from my company did find it, they could only look at it on their own time, not while at work.

While your company may not have a policy expressly forbidding employees blogging about work, you do not want to be the reason they finally add that rule.
posted by sephira at 8:35 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't blog about work. Don't blog about your job, or the industry in which you work. Definitely don't blog about the people you work with. If you feel that you must do so, then you must accept that you are risking your job and perhaps your ability to get work in the future. Do not tell co-workers about it. Do not tell your employer about it. Hell -- don't tell your *friends* about it. Be anonymous. Don't use a domain name that can be traced back to you. Just don't. The most inocuous comment may come back and bite you on the ass.

However, if you've got a blog that has nothing to do with work and you don't write about anything to do with work, you're fine. If you're a systems analyst and have a blog about movie reviews, there's no reason to be secretive about it. On the other hand, there's also no reason to tell your employer about it, any more than you might tell your employer that you liked to build model airplanes.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:42 AM on March 7, 2007

From what you're describing, it's as if (for example) you are blogging about using an open-source tool X and your company produces proprietary tool Y. Both X & Y do thing A. As long as you are not outing your company affiliation or talking about work in any kind of specific manner, then you are probably okay. I would probably not make blogging about that ONE thing my whole blog, though. Diversify -- but as long as you keep the topic limited and NOT to do with proprietary information, this is also work that you could maybe put on your resume one of these days. My husband's blog helped get him a job (rather than lose one), so it's not unheard of (is that reverse doocing?).

I know people who are 100% anonymous on the web, and I know people who are not anonymous in any way at all. I fall somewhere in the middle. I don't blog about work other than to maybe mention that I am busy with it, and my "real name" association is rather limited. I'm thinking about limiting it further, but I'm also thinking about not being in the situation that makes me WANT to limit it further anymore (cryptic enough?). You have to decide what level of anonymity is appropriate for you. Generally speaking I can count on my cow-orkers not finding my blog assuming I am not so stupid as to work on it from work, so I feel pretty safe. You may have more complex needs.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:29 AM on March 7, 2007

Personally, I took my blog-protection a step further. I edited my .htaccess so that it would block any incoming traffic from my company, so in the event someone from my company did find it, they could only look at it on their own time, not while at work.

This is no guarantee. I have been trying to use .htaccess to block access to my blog from a creepy market research company, but they seem to get around it with few problems.
posted by sindark at 3:14 PM on March 7, 2007

I realize it's no guarantee that they can't access the site - it's more of a form of protection (in my eyes, anyway). Sure if my boss is determined he could get into it, but then he would be using the internet for non-business purposes. That's when I can say it's blocked and have the higher ups try for themselves and see what happens. It's also a way to keep the coworkers who don't know how to get around it from visiting my site and putting my blog on the company radar when the logs are viewed.
posted by sephira at 3:29 PM on March 7, 2007

sephira: wouldn't explicitly adding your company to an .htaccess file out you in a bad way? For example: your blog shows up in a google search. Your boss clicks on the link and the page says something like "nothing here, move along." They notice that is different from the search results excerpt, so they go back and click the cached link. Now they have proof that you are being deceptive since your site returns them something different than the general public – as if you had something to hide.
posted by kamelhoecker at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2007

But do I also look suspicious if my boss comes by my house and I don't let her in? Sure I might have a crack rock on my kitchen table that I don't want her to see, but alternatively, maybe I just don't want her to see that I left dirty dishes in the sink. As owner of the domain, I have every right to try to limit my visitors to whomever I want (I realize this is futile in most situations, such as spam, but I think you see my point). If my boss sees I have a MySpace profile that is set to private, and only people I want to see it can, is that deceptive?

As an aside, I've never used my real full name on the internet, I never talk about my job, and I use nicknames for others when I discuss my personal life on my blog. My friends with blogs know that if they link me, not to use my name. A Google search would yield nothing, and even if it did, there's no way to link the site back to me (including the whois info). Some may call it paranoia, but I call it not having to use the stupid term "dooced" in reference to myself.

I realize that this may be operating in a kind of gray area, and I see where you are coming from. My suggestion may not help the original poster in any way, or maybe it will. The main point is to cover your ass when it comes to these things.
posted by sephira at 9:15 PM on March 7, 2007

I work in a relatively small subset of a large industry where interesting things happen with new technology. So I jumped on the bandwagon and set up a blog.

Sounds like the perfect opportunity to set up a company blog to me. Get your boss on board with having a blog to comment on the industry and what's going on, while in the process marketing the company as a place where people really know the industry and can spot trends. Then get some of your coworkers to contribute too.

Voila, you have an outlet for your thoughts about work, and it could actually be a great project not just for you but for your company and coworkers as well.

If that's not an option, then NO. Don't tell anyone.
posted by gemmy at 9:49 PM on March 7, 2007

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