Gainesville Ramblings

This is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Problems with Blogs

If you look to the right, you'll see that I've linked to a blog called 'Man vs. Clown.' Other than being incredibly titled, it is also one of the most consistently funny websites I know of. Peter Lynn, its author, is snarky, cruel, thoughtful, and downright hilarious all at the same time. I've never met Mr. Lynn, but I know that not only would I like to have a beer from him, but I'd like to write like him. In his short posts, he's able to tell a better story than I can with three pages and a picture of Garrison Keiler sitting on my desk (Note: I do not actually have a picture of Garrison Keiler on my desk. If I did have one, it would probably look like this picture).

Until recently, Lynn worked for an unnamed fitness magazine as a copy editor. He ruled over the English language in that office like a feudal lord over his serfs, taking their wheat and sleeping with newly married women. And he posted about his antics on his blog, often to water-spewing and keyboard-ruining effects. I say recently, because then this happened:

Resuming our scheduled programming, I'm posting this in my bathrobe on a Wednesday afternoon. Although you can't possibly see that, which is best for both of us, the keen observer will also note that this blog's archives are looking a little thinner than before.

Without getting into all the details about what exactly happened, suffice it to say that when a stern-faced man flips open a thick folder to reveal a stack of printouts, and at the the top of the first page is printed "Man vs. Clown", the opportunities for sleeping in and wearing one's bathrobe increase immediately.

So Peter Lynn was fired for writing in his personal blog. He never mentioned the company, and while he talked about the job and the people in the office, he never was particularly deragatory towards either. He seems to be a natural prankster and likely to tease people, so he wrote about particuarly good jokes, but I don't feel anything he wrote was over the line.

This worries me, because there are definite simularities between Mr. Lynn and myself. We both post in blogs with our names on it. We both talk about work (though he does to a much larger extent). And neither of us seem to be particuarly self censoring.

I decided to do this blog openly declaring my name for a few reasons. The first is that, frankly, I have nothing to hide. I have no problem telling just about anyone, including total strangers about anything in my life, so why should I be any different online? Another reason is that, in general, I'm proud of my writing. Cush poked fun at me the other week for mentioning my blog in conversation, making like I was a dick for doing that. I bring it up like that because, yes, I'm proud of this and I want people to read it. So if I'm proud of something, why should I not have my name attached to it?

I make sure in my writing of this blog to not put anything that would hurt other people. I don't write about old relationships, I don't make fun of people (unless they're my friends who I make fun of anyways), and I don't use this as a method of spreading gossip. But I also find myself trying to be truthful, so I do occasionally talk about work. Not all of it is competely complimentary. But should I be punished for this?

The internet is a new phenomoemon, one that our culture is having trouble adapting to. Whether its getting fired for writings on the internet, dying without passing on passwords, or using AIM to creepily come onto 16-year-old congressional pages, society is having trouble adjusting to this series of tubes we call teh intarweebs. And in the case of Peter Wynn, we run into the conflict of a person's freedom of expression and a company's right to protect itself. I know my dad will have wildly different views on this, the corporate man that he is, but I think Lynn was the one done wrong here. He was expressing himself in a public forum, all the while maintaining outsider's knowledge of who his employers actually were at a minimum. This, I feel was a happy medium for both. Lynn could express himself, while everyone who read him was unaware of who Lynn worked for.

I realize I'm starting to ramble here, so I'll put a stop to it now. But I would like to hear anyone else's opinions. What are the boundary lines with blogs and work? What should be the point where an employer is able to fire an employee, and how far can an employee go when talking about work? And should a company spell this all out if they are going to dismiss employees over it?

1 Comments:

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Bob McKenzie said...

Matt,

You don't know me. Even though you may think I am one of those corporate barbarians running amok at the mere thought of someone speaking badly about their company in their own time, I can assure you that this is not me.

I believe that everyone has the right to speak their mind about the place they work - the good the bad and the ugly. I also am not naive enough to belive that the people who work for me have nothing but good things to say. i am sure they are many "not so good things" said about me, the way I run the business and some of the decisions I make.

If the only reason this guy was terminated was for writing a blog about an anonymous company, then this is wrong. However, I also know that there are two sides to every story.

What if he was writing his blog while on company time? What if he said some nasty things about people he worked with. Even though you don't know those people, the people who work with them do. He could have been cooking his expense reports or any one of a number of things.

People have been fired for a number of stupid reasons. During the last presidential elections, many people were fired because they had a John Kerry bumper sticker on their car. In my opinion, this is wrong, but it is not illegal. Others have been fired because they mooned at the TV camera at a football game - thereby shaming the company they work for.

You are right in saying the internet is new phenomenon that has a number of business people perplexed on how to handle this. Over time, things will be sorted out, but until that time, my advice is to be careful about what you say on the internet.

 

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