Transparency vs Privacy

I’m sure there’s a clinical study out there about the emotional phases a blogger typically faces throughout the evolution of their blog. I’m over the paranoid ‘will I get fired for blogging that’ phase and am in the ‘defining the proper level of transparency’ phase.

I was listening to an MP3 of Alanis Morissette talking about a song she wrote. She talked about the difference between transparency and privacy. To her, there is liberation, courage, peace and a thread of commonality found in being transparent — as opposed to isolation, stress, and loss of serious energy found in secrecy. On the other hand there is privacy…information that should rightfully be handled with discretion. I think the levels of transparency vs privacy is something that each blogger needs to define on their own, but I too see value in transparency — especially in my day-to-day work operations (while working at a now non-existent start-up 11 years ago, I’ll never forget the day I was on a plane en-route to a customer site to install custom software that I knew was broken, but was forced to go on with the show to meet a legal deliverable — even tho’ it was my first job in technology, I should have stood my ground and stopped the non-sense). It’s a heck of a lot easier and far more respectable to be open about issues than to unnecessarily CYA. I love that most people at Sun see the benefits in being transparent even if that means risking a mistake in the limelight.

Right now, it seems a hot debate is “Is blogging good or bad for your career?”. I realize stories that evoke fear sell, but to be honest, I’m surprised the subject of ‘blogging can get you fired’ is still hot news. Tim Bray, noted in a recent post that he’s recently been interviewed for his opinion on the matter. In his post he lists reasons why blogging is good for your career and states:

“..not blogging won’t protect you from career-limiting moves, and if blogging provokes one, well, you were probably going to do it anyhow.”

A recent Boston Globe article also lists reasons why blogging helps your career, but I mostly disagree with the following comment:

“…pick your topics carefully and have a purpose. ”The most interesting blogs are focused and have a certain attitude,” says van Allen. ”You need to have a guiding philosophy that you stick to. You cannot one minute pontificate on large issues of the world and the next minute be like, ‘My dog died.’ “

It’s the sprinkles of transparency and humanization in a blog that contributes to it’s credibility and helps protect it from appearing contrived and simply a glorified resume or an underlying vehicle to promote ones self or sell a product in which the blog author may have a vested interest…it’s OK to be excited about a product, company, whatever, as long as those feelings are genuine and the blogger is offering more than an underlying, self-serving opportunity. For example, I’ll post entries that reveal unvarnished interest or excitement around Sun, not because I’m trying to sell anything, but because a) I wouldn’t work here if I wasn’t convinced this company has a compelling story that I can passionately contribute to and b) I blog about subjects that I find interesting or entertaining. I have no illusion that others won’t disagree or always understand my obscure humor (which is mostly a vehicle to find badly needed levity at times).

At any rate, the purpose of this blog is simple: offer bits of information that will hopefully be found informative or entertaining to someone. It’s objective is not to specifically promote my career or employer (although if it does, great!)…

…and I certainly hope my future managers/employers will know that I am more than the sum of my blog.

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  1. #1 by Ashish on April 20, 2006 - 3:06 pm

    Nice blog Linda! I personally don’t care if people agree or disagree with my point of view as long as my blogs provide me an incubatorl for my thoughts. I guess there is one simple rule for blogging based on the following two postulates:
    1. Don’t worry it has already been thought before.
    2. But the way you are putting it is unique.
    So don’t blog about things which others can’t guess (includes propreitory info).

  2. #2 by shel israel on April 20, 2006 - 7:22 pm

    Linda, thanks for a thoughtful posting. To me the issue is to know the difference between personal and private. I may be transparent enough to tell you my wife and I walked on the beach in Mexico. That’s personal and by sharing it, I let you see a bit of who I am. I don’t need to tell you what my wife and I my or may not have done in the sand dunes. That’s private. But if you blog you need to show some of your personal story if you want readers to see your humanity.

  3. #3 by skrocki on April 21, 2006 - 8:15 am

    Thanks Ashish and Shel. The trick is figuring out what personal info adds value to ones blog. 🙂

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