Public but not public

Last week, I was talking with one of my friends at the club, and he said that he had written something that was somewhat personal on his blog, and that it bothered him that his manager was bringing it up at meetings as an example of how blogs can show personality (or something like that).

I also have things on my blog that I'd prefer people don't mention in a large group, and I started thinking about why that was the case. I have two reasons:

First, when I'm writing my blog I'm writing it for people who already know something about me from what I've already written, so the effect that a single post that I write on - I don't know, the fact that I like to read Jane Austen novels from time to time - is going to have much less overall effect on what people think of me than if that's one of the only things the know about me.

Second, there's a considerable difference between me relating something, and somebody else providing a quick summary of what I said. If they're doing it online, they can easily provide a link to my original words, and then people can decided for themselves what I really mean, but if it's done in person, I don't get that opportunity.

So what do you think? 

Comments (22)

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  1. If you don’t want something to be public then don’t post it in your PUBLIC blog. Coincidentally I was telling our dev manager about how I stopped blogging about personal topics after being asked by coworkers about night club hookups and chastized by others for discussing inter-office conflict a few years ago. Fortunately, I can’t seem to find the blog post in Google today.

  2. I think: If you put something on an unprotected blog – or the web for that matter – its 100% public.

    See what I mean?

  3. Rein says:

    Your friend has the right to say whatever he wants – but so does his manager. If there’s something that he didn’t want his manager to know or to recite, then he shouldn’t have put it on a public blog.

    It might not have been socially correct on the manager’s part but can we really expect more from PHB’s?

  4. WitchDoctor Attila says:

    To be misinterpreted is a great status symbol. Enjoy!

  5. Eric Lippert says:

    I put stuff on my blog _because_ I want everyone to read it and talk about it. Why on earth would you put something up on the World Wide Web if you didn’t want it known world wide?

  6. Mihai Limbasan says:

    What you’re facing is basically the same situation as InsertYourFavoriteCelebrityHere and InsertYourFavoriteNewspaperEditorHere – being cited out of context (where the context would be the one your regular blog readers are part of).

  7. You’d like it to be protected internal, but it’s de facto public void.

  8. Eric,

    its the world wide web. which, btw, is public.

    your friend should not put anything there thats not supposed to be public.


    thomas woelfer

  9. yah, the www is public. obviously Eric is well aware of that. everyone seems to be missing the point of his question though…

    i think that just because information is public and you are ok with it being public does not automatically mean that you are ok with people bringing it up or talking about it in all situations. especially when you are there to witness it.

    for example. when i get a new haircut. obviously everyone who has seen me before and now after is going to know that i got a new haircut and that is something that you accept (similar to how you accept a blog entry being available to everyone). but that doesn’t necessarily mean that i would like them to point it out in a group of five people.

    i guess all i’m trying to say is that it’s one thing to accept the fact that certain information can not be kept top secret or that you are ok with certain things about you being publicly available. however, it is still justifiable that you can get annoyed or embarrassed if people bring them up in the wrong setting.

  10. If you leave out personal information on your blog, you won’t have that problem, and the blog may be more useful to people in general, as they don’t have to wade through personal information to find the useful information.

  11. Jim Kita says:

    ANYTHING you post to the internet must be considered public. I learned this early on when posting questions and responses to newsgroups. Initially, when the newsgroup posting was dropped from all the NNTP server caches your post disappeared. Now it is captured for nearly ETERNITY and can be searched for by name or email by employers, etc. via numerous search engines.

    This is just a fact of life with the "new media".

  12. Unfortunately, you put it in the public domain, which makes it fair game. If anything, restrict the access to the blog.

  13. AT says:

    Hmm … Is it’s "personal" ( ) – then it must be kept personal as long as this is not related to matters you are willing to discuss.

    As well – what kind of readers you are willing to see in your blog? Are they interested in your personal life? Or they are interested in your technical topics?

    It’s up to you.

    If you want to have both – it can be valuable to setup two different blogs or allow people to select categories they want to read.

  14. "I’m writing my blog I’m writing it for people who already know something about me from what I’ve already written"

    What about new readers who don’t bother to read your archives? They are in the same position.

  15. Leigh Kendall says:

    I don’t know… I personally don’t understand why some folks like to leave their personal diaries out for everyone to read. There’s a reason why diaries are personal and people keep them in the sock drawer so to speak. If it’s not personal, then put it on your blog otherwise keep it to yourself. Just my old fashioned 2 cents I guess…

  16. Lol says:

    So basically Devin: You want to be an attention whore but you don’t want to be the center of attention?

  17. Vince says:

    I setup my blog 12 months ago. Spent alot of time putting useful info in it and wish somebody will be intetested in reading my stuff…..and ocassionaly I even share some of my personal stuff as well. But still very few vistors each month, nobody talks about my blog at work, nobody talks about my personal stuff either. Should I feel glad or fortunate? public but NOT PUBLIC :>

  18. Jim Holmes says:

    Another aspect of this topic is implicit in Nathan’s comment: what you blog will be saved and searchable for the ages. Folks get a bit too comfortable with technology and spit out things in e-mails or blogs which they wouldn’t put forth in face-to-face conversation or a group. Furthermore, these electronic conversations percolate out much farther than "old fashioned" conversation.

    I think it pays to take a moment and reflect on what you’re putting up before hitting send/post. You as a sender/poster need to make sure you’re comfortable that what you’re writing will be available forever (or longer) to a bunch of folks you don’t know and who don’t know you.

  19. Sean Duggan says:

    Personally, I always found it a little bit weird when people I tangenetially know (through work or my theater group) run into my site, then comment to me about it IRL. I guess, to me, a large component of online journals is that most people are closet exhibitionists. There’s a kind of a thrill to being able to say that millions of people can access it and that hundreds do. ^_^ It’s just a bit jarring when it’s someone you know! Luckily, I’ve avoided the traditional case, parents reading it. My mother is aware that I have an online journal, but chooses not to read it. Rather, she gets the filtered output through my two little brothers, who do read it. It’s all part of a general dont-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding personal disclosure that my parents have in place. Basically, we both know that I’m going to do things which she’ll disapprove of, but which she won’t outright forbid so it’s easier for the both of us if they’re simply not mentioned. As long as she doesn’t specifically ask, I don’t mention things that I think might upset her and she generally avoids asking such hard questions.

    As for the whole public nature of entries, I had a friend who got bit by that. She smokes marijuana and posted as much on her weblog, as well as the fact that her parents let her smoke and often do so with her. *wry grin* When she got brought up before the high school truancy board for excessive absences (which I get the impression was partly a valid medical excuse and partly that her parents believed she should be allowed to sleep in on mornings when she was truly exhausted), copies of the weblog were submitted as evidence and she was quite close to having her parents declared unfit. Oddly enough, there was no criminal prosecution for the actual drug offenses despite evidence being submitted in court. Anyhow, since then, she’s learned at the least to not put her name on her Xanga site, although I suspect that’s dubious protection. Myself, I try to avoid talking about anything which I would feel bad about being projected publically. Because it’s a membership-based site, I can mark an entry as protected, only able to be viewed by specific people, but one never knows when information might be passed on, or where people might access using another person’s account so, even then, I try to be circumspect.

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