Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, April 18, 2005

Not Quite Man Bites Dog, Chapter 2

I have refrained from addressing the issue of blogging in the workplace, not because it's not topical, but because others seem to be covering it very well, particularly George Lenard at George's Employment Blawg. Check out this post for his series of comments. And also possibly because I have always had sort of a "stick my head in the sand approach" to the idea of "permission needed." (Perhaps taking a lesson from the first woman admiral in the U.S. Navy and computer pioneer, Grace Hopper, known for her famous quote: "It's always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.")

The first time I was asked about my blog by anyone outside my normal every day circles, that question did come up. Although my answer didn't show up in the American Lawyer article way back in November '02, I remember telling Matt Black that I had not at the time, (nor did I ever) ask permission of the management committee at my then firm. Maybe I wasn't too worried because at least in Black's view, I wasn't doing anything terribly controversial:

Functional though the format can be, attorneys may have difficulty satisfying its inherent bias: punchy, attitudinal expression. Demonstrating expertise in public can make one cautious. "I've been careful not to do anything very far out," concedes Fox. It shows. Only one visitor to Fox's site has posted a comment. Fox says he is "still trying it out," and hasn't formally alerted anyone to the site. (emphasis added)
Not sure I have advanced all that far since then.

However, that was just a long winded way of getting to today's post, which is in fact about the employee as blogger issue. Fast Company's lead to its story, Blogging at Work, got my attention:

The debate over employee blogs has reached new heights ever since a blogger who works for a blog company has been reprimanded for blogging about employees blogging.
Sort of like an employee of a union filing an unfair labor practice charge, which was the first chapter of Not Quite Man Bites Dog . As the story (originally in the New York Times) plays out, it wasn't a serious reprimand, (the company was Technorati), in fact it sounds more like a mild mannered request. Still it makes a good point -- when a company whose core business involves blogging is sensitive, it's easy to see how employers who still think a blog is some sort of mud pit or jelly roll, would be concerned.

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