I have been going back and forth on a possible job change and a few months ago I mentioned to a friend that I was considering working for Microsoft. To which she responded, in all seriousness, “I don’t know if I could be friends with you anymore. I mean, they read people’s blogs.” There are a lot of issues with her (and everyone else’s) issues with the mega-company, but I don’t understand why anyone would think that blogs were outside of the purview of standard NDAs and other employee contracts. Or your responsibilities to your employer in general. It’s said that every blog entry is the start of a conversation. Personal blogs are often used to have a conversation with the world about whatever is on your mind or going on in your life– you post your thoughts and then through posted comments, emails in response, spoken comments when you see your readers in person, etc., you get feedback and the conversation begins. In some ways, it’s just like striking up a conversation with a friend, an acquaintance, that guy sitting next to you in the doctor’s office waiting room or that girl you meet at the bar. Except, of course, your voice’s reach is magnified infinitely and your words are recorded for all of posterity somewhere on the Web (I’m convinced that nowadays, you just have to post something onto the Web once and it will live on in one form or another for the rest of time). So this means that you should only be that more careful about what you say– you wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) tell just anyone confidential information or announce corporate secrets loudly in a public place, so why would you do it on the Web where it’s that much easier for someone to “overhear” your words? And you probably wouldn’t trash talk your company in front of your boss, so why would you do it in such a public forum?
Granted, your personal blog is just that: personal. But it’s not like your employer is tapping your home phone or digging under your mattress to look at your pink Hello Kitty diary. They’re simply going to the public place in which you have posted your words. I mean, by posting on the world’s giant corkboard, you’re kind of asking for it. And if I were running my own company, I would certainly have people surf the Web for references to it, whether it be a news article on a major news site or an entry on an employee’s blog. It’s essential to know what others (and your own) are saying about your company, good or bad.
Of course, it’s a little hypocritical for me to say all this considering how often I vent about the downward spiral of university policy on this blog. But that’s one of the nice things about working for a university (at least for now)– you’re given more leeway when it comes to freely expressing your opinions, at least compared to a corporate environment. But even under the protection of academic freedom, as a University employee (and specifically not a faculty member), I do have restrictions on what I can and cannot talk about and as hard as it may be to believe, I do follow those restrictions here. And as acerbic as I might get here, I never say anything that I wouldn’t say publicly, especially considering my boss has told me that he’s read my blog. I mean, hell, I admitted in the first sentence of this entry that I was considering a job change. And for Microsoft too!