This was the first of three sessions I joined during the BlogHer unconference on Sunday. Also known as: "Transparency - how much is too much."
Does knowing who reads your blog change what you say and how you say it? Do you censor what you say because you don't want your readership (or potential readers) to learn something or to be offended? An alternative wording: do you judiciously edit what you are writing so you aren't embarrassed about it later? So that you don't offend people or institutions being written about?
It depends. Some participants let it all hang out with the knowledge that people might discover what they say. Others explicitly decide to avoid topics because they know their family or co-workers read their blog, and they do not want to talk about it with those people. Still others think about slanting what they have to say based on how people respond in the comments or on their own blogs.
Most of the discussion revolved around revealing personal information on blogs or other online media, but the issue relates to professional blogging as well. Does one write about their work (even indirectly)? Do you talk about personal matters on a business blog? I had the experience of being asked to change or remove a post because someone thought it was overly critical. I decided to leave it stand, but only after discussion with several trusted advisors.
Several people had the concern about having strong personal opinions or rather personal information discovered by people in a professional setting. Most seemed to favor continuing to write and keep a wall between the personal and professional. They also recognize that it might be possible that the wall could get breached.
Some interesting rules of thumb from the participants:
- Only write about myself on a personal blog, never about other people.
- Ask permission of children / friends / colleagues when writing about them. One person gives her teenager final editorial sign-off. For example, I ask my friends if I can post photos of them to Flickr.
- Use a pseudonym or create a persona to write a particular style of articles. (I want to say something about the difference between a sometimes-used persona and being completely anonymous. But I can't articulate the difference.)
- Or use a private blog to do this kind of thing. Blogger lets you password protect. LiveJournal has per-post protection.
- The blogger (and any writer) must realize that they have accountability for their words in any platform: spoken, written...
- My blog is my space. If you don't like what I say, please don't read it.
There was a discussion about comments during our session, since a number of the participants had dealt with trolls and other negatives (comment spam). I found some of the approaches rather entertaining.
- My approach: Most of my issues had to do with comment spam, so I I set up an extra field in my comment form to knock out comment spam robots. And I approve comments from any unknown commenter.
- Dealing with trolls: Edit the comments to totally change the tone that the troll posted.
- Dealing with negative comments: A friend will frequently post a follow-up comment as the troll "apologizing" for being such a jerk. This diffuses the energy of the negative comment.
- One person noted that someone was arguing with an anonymous commenter who he wanted to date in real life. (Be careful what you say.)