Saturday, February 17, 2007

Big Brother Will Be Watching Someday

The recent controversy concerning bloggers hired by various presidential candidates has reached even the weblogs I read. Rebecca Blood's "What's In Rebecca's Pocket" directed me to Attack of the Blog Archives by Reid Stot at

...political bloggers “expressing their opinions in provocative and often crude language“ [is] not only counterproductive towards the all-but-dead dream of an Internet that would advance political discussion into a new realm, but also ultimately destructive to their very own partisan cause....Your words...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.

It’s hardly news. But people are still waking up to it....Stipulated, it’s your right to express your political opinions in the harshest manner you can muster, dump ad hominem all over your opponents, and cuss at will. It’s your blog....This is the price. When you can really make a difference, it will come back to bite you...

Stot's points are valid, and his range of blog topics coincides with my interests, but I'm unlikely to return because the post was long, rambling, and repetitious. It read like a promising first draft. This was the same reaction I had to John Edwards' discarded bloggers--too rambling to bother with. These writers have more readers than I by three orders of magnitude, but if I bail out, there must be others. Rebecca Blood's writing is clean to the point of minimalism, and she has shown staying power.

On the same blog link trail, Rafe Colburn's well-written warning about Your permanent record gave me the willies.

....unless you are anonymous, what you blog about will affect your career....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....

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.

"Circumspect" is my watchword, but I have commented on troll websites (thinking they were legitimate; the topic "Appalachian culture" seems to bring out the worst in some people), joined hobby and pet Listservs, and let slip a few personal details. A few months ago I blogged about my newest part-time job, and within hours got emails from my new boss and the university IT department. I had said that I was pleased to be working there, and that refreshments at the Faculty Development Day were outstanding. If I'd known they were watching, I would have emphasized intellectual matters and downplayed gastronomic matters.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that some of the folk at these highly popular blogs ramble on forever. I wonder whether it's a hazard of the activity. I've noticed my own posts tend to get longer all the time.

Thanks for the Mothman posts. I may have to go hunting for that book.

Rebecca Clayton said...

My own writing is rambling and repitious, so I'm probably hypersensitive on this point. Editing, for me, is cutting, and cutting again.