Strong opinions, weakly held

Your permanent record

By way of Rebecca Blood, I found Reid Scott’s post about the political blogosphere, concerning the two bloggers working for John Edwards’ Presidential campaign who came under fire and eventually resigned because of controversial remarks they had made prior to working for the campaign.

It’s like the phenomenon of someone who was “fired for their blog.” No, they were fired for saying or doing something they shouldn’t have. It just happened to be in their blog. But a blog is not a buffer from the real world. Your words there count just as if you’d said them to someone’s face, with the difference that they are archived for a very very long time.

I think this is really the bottom line, and it’s true regardless of your field of endeavor. Political bloggers are in the spotlight now, but unless you are anonymous, what you blog about will affect your career. If you write ugly things about Microsoft, you probably shouldn’t expect to later be hired by Microsoft, or people who like Microsoft, or people who dislike people who write ugly things. Yes, your blog can raise your level of visibility and present you with new opportunities, but it can also foreclose opportunities that might otherwise have been available.

Here’s the kicker, though. This isn’t an altogether bad thing. The way I see it is that if someone doesn’t want to work with me because of the things I write on my blog, it’s better to find out before it becomes a problem. That may be impractical in the lean times when you have to take whatever washes over the transom, but in times when you can choose the situation you want to be in, it’s better to be in a setting where you can succeed.

This certainly comes into play when I’m involved with hiring people. I can find out more about anyone from their blog archives than I can by interviewing them. In interviews, people usually tell the interviewer what they think they want to hear. In other contexts, they are usually less circumspect. When I find I may work with someone, I look for blog posts, messages to mailing lists, comments on blogs, Usenet rants from a decade ago, and anything else I can find. There’s more to anyone than their persona on the Internet, but more information is almost always better than less.

And now you know why I am very conservative about blogging about what I do at work or who I work with. I know that this will all go down on my permanent record.


  1. And as I read the final paragraph of this, I couldn’t help but hear “Kiss Off” by the Violent Femmes.

  2. This is why I don’t ever make direct references to work. I think, generally, while I may post about the type of work I do, I don’t post about the specific work. For one thing, I’m well aware of often I’m wrong and it can be just too embarrassing.

    I have several blogs, and have had them quite a long time, and while I’m sure there is a post or two in the archives that would make me a little red-faced, on the whole I’ve no problem with a potential employer going through them. In fact, I think I’d prefer they did go through them to get a better sense of what I’m about and seeing if I’d be a good fit.

    Excuse the cliche, but the bottom line for me is that blogs probably aren’t the best place to vent since, venting, you often say things even you don’t believe. But there it is for the world to see.

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