One thing has become quite clear to me in the last week, but I hadn't been sufficiently motivated to write anything about it until now. It's a revelation I had recently. One that should have come about 14 months ago when Jon Udell first suggested I "get involved" in the weblog community. Jon's always had the ability to see these things before most of us, so I don't feel so bad.

Anyway, it had absolutely nothing to do with the technology. It was this simple realization:

Weblogs are powerful.

Yup, that's it.

The Bad

By "powerful" I don't necessarily mean "good." There are times when weblogs have negative consequences in addition to the positive ones we normally associate with blogging. Take for example, the fact that Chi-Chu Tschang was fired from Bloomberg for his blog (thanks to Dan Gillmor, another journalist blogger, for the pointer).

And even though I've not discussed it before and will not go into any detail, suffice it to say that people at work have noticed my blog on more than one occasion. While there weren't happy about it, they had the integrity to bring it up with me.

It's no coincidence that roughly 6 months ago, In a post titled "Would you change your blogging habits if..." I wrote:

Would you blog differently? Shy away from criticizing your employer? Purposely avoid work-related topics?

The most interesting responses that post generated were those that arrived via private e-mail, never to be posted in a public forum. There were some compelling, surprising, and even scary stories.

What's that old saying?

With power comes responsibility.

Yup, that's it.

The Good

Despite the occasional work vs. blog conflicts that may arise, weblogs are generally quite positive. The good outweighs the bad 95% of the time. They open up so many doors.

I can no longer keep track of the number of great people I've "met" as the result of having a weblog. I can no longer count the number of times someone I've met at work, a conference, or even the gliderport who said "Hey, I read your blog!" I have no idea how many times a post on someone's blog has taught me something important or saved me countless hours of time.

Over the last year, I've seen many of my friends and co-workers start weblogs of their own. A surprisingly high percentage of them have stuck with it and appear to also be reaping benefits.

It's really quite amazing, now that I think about it. And looking ahead to the next 12-18 months, I only see it getting better and better. Services like TypePad are coming on-line to bring a whole new class of users (the non-geeks) into the fold. It's just going to get easier and easier to mine the riches of the social networks we're building.

Of course, the fact that you're even reading this probably means I'm preaching to the choir.

Life's funny that way.

Posted by jzawodn at September 22, 2003 09:28 PM

Reader Comments
# KJO said:


Chi-Chu Chang *says* he was fired by Bloomberg because of his weblog (Dan Gillmor gets this right). This may be true, it may not be. Until he posts "more about it later", we're not really any the wiser.

on September 23, 2003 04:18 AM
# wil said:

This may of interest to you:


I'm just worried by one small detail. If people in your work read your blog and come to you to comment on it ... wouldn't it be a hell of a lot better if we all started communicating again? Get from your desk and over to your colleagues, manager and directors to talk about your latest ideas and to discuss projects. Why the need for such isolation that blogs bring us? *Especially* at the heart of an organisation.

Fine, keep weblogs to inform the outside world, but if this is the only way you communicate with your colleagues something is very wrong at the business practices at Yahoo.

on September 23, 2003 04:27 AM
# jr said:

I don't think that blogs are good or bad ways to communicate so far as I don't think that telephones or email are good or bad, they simply are methods of communication. Does it make sense to have various engineers at Yahoo! follow Jeremy around continually asking him questions (well, maybe it would get rid of a few folks when Jeremy finally snapped, but that's beside the point).

A blog is a personal journal, as such, an individual gets to air out ideas and thoughts pretty much as they happen. It may just happen that some of those ideas may spark an idea in some other group which Jeremy is unfamiliar with, and those folks seek out his opinion off-line.

I'm resonably sure that if Jeremy comes up with a killer idea, he (like I presume a great many other folks at his company) would have absolutely no problem emailing, calling or even stopping by someone's cube to hash it out further. From what i understand, his company is full of "highly opinionated" individuals who happily share thoughts between themselves.

Whether the others want them or not.

on September 23, 2003 08:58 AM
# Marius said:

Could you tell us some info about your server? How many hits, visitors do you have or some other interesting things...

on September 23, 2003 11:48 AM
# Tim Conrad said:

many eyes make short work?

People are often amazed at the things I can find on the internet. The reality is, is that I don't find them, per se. I read someone's weblog, and they find it. It's the domino effect, essentially.

The web is a huge place. Weblogs make it larger, but smaller at the same time. There's a lot of information that's really a big deal that gets missed by the mainstream media, and bloggers will pick up on it, and run with it.

I suppose every blogger that does it to any degree does it for different reasons. For me, it's cheap therapy.

on September 23, 2003 12:12 PM
# incognito said:

This is one of the reason that I blog without using my real name or the company that I work for. I do however mention the company that I contract at. I guess you just need to be careful. Of course I don't think that many people read my blog so maybe this is a non-issue.

on September 23, 2003 07:38 PM
# Gerald said:

A company that tolerates blogging employees is much more sympathic to me. A company that does not trust it's employees is a unfortunate company. A company without trustworthy employees made some big mistakes in recruitment of personnel.
By the way, Yahoo comes back to Pagerank 10. Jeremy, what has been the price for a backlink from the homepage? I must have forgotten ;-)

on September 24, 2003 02:29 AM
# Jeremy C. Wright said:

Personally I do everything under my real name and hide no details. Back in 98 when the net was still young and I'd only been online for 4 years I used pseudonyms but eventually I realised that because it wasn't the real me expressing the opinions that (for me) the opinions lost some of their validity.

Since then I've been writing, participating in communities and (lately) blogging under my real name.

I hold no disrespect for people who don't as it's a personal decision. As far as people reading my stuff at work, to be honest most people don't even realise how big the internet is.

I work for one of the largest churches in the world. At yesterday's executive meeting I was keeping the crew up to date on where we are with the new website. They asked what was wrong. My killer response was: "If you search for my name on the internet, it is more popular than John Arnott's" (the person in charge of the church).

Of course this blew them away, but mainly because they have no idea how BIG the net is.

So for me I have no fear writing about work, my job hunt or anything. Not because people won't find it (they do, on occasion), but also because I know that there simply isn't enough time in my day to tell every idea to every person it might benefit, and sometimes it simply isn't appropriate. A lot of my blogging is simply getting things into the open so I can reference them later. Other parts are ideas I could never use.

So, in many ways, I hope people from work read my blog because there's a lot of info that could help the company :)

on September 24, 2003 06:06 AM
# Chris said:

I used to hide under false names and creative accounts without ever disclousing my real name or location not so much because I was scared of being using what I said against me but more because my parents and the media had done such a good job hyping cases of internet "bait-and-rape" type deals.

Growing up a little, its not that big of a deal. Only specific type of people are going to fall for that. Anyways, while I am working for a rather large company that does very sensitive trading and has a rather large tech presence...I still post with my real name and information (though not location). I know I probably should be worried that something I say will be used against me but at the same time...I'd rather not work for a place that does have a problem with it.

on September 24, 2003 09:46 AM
# Matthias said:

To get fired for a blog is hard, indeed!

But I never would criticize my employer in my blog!! It's readable for the hole world. And it's not a good advertisement for a company, if an employee runs his employer down in public.

Of course, there are a lot of shades of criticism! ...

on September 29, 2003 10:33 AM
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