The Silent Strangers on Your Blog

Let’s examine a hypothetical situation, shall we? Let’s suppose you are a blogger and you have a pleasant, widely read blog about your life – your family, things you do, places you go, local interest stuff.

Okay? Now let’s suppose that one day someone decides to write an article about bloggers and your blog is one of the several discussed in this article. You only find out about this article by accident as it’s not in a widely-read publication. You read the article and find the author has made some devastatingly  unflattering assumptions about you and your family based on what he has read in your blog.

Questions to consider: 

  1. Are you flattered that your blog was included no matter how nasty or reductive the author was about you? 
  2. Are you angry that you weren’t consulted about being included in this article or that the author did not seek your permission to include your blog? 
  3. Would you feel violated in some way? 
  4. Would it change the way you viewed your blog or what you did with it in the future? 
  5. Would you contact the author and what would you say to him?

Some of you may recognize that this hypothetical situation is based on something that actually happened recently and will notice that I deliberately changed some of the circumstances and have not named the blog or the author/article in question. I didn’t want to make this about that situation specifically, but rather about situations like this, generally.

Over time, blogger become accustomed to their small (or large) circle of commenters who we think of as our “readers”. They are nice, normal, intelligent people (for the most part) and make us feel comfortable and make us feel like we’re part of a safe, supportive community.

But that’s not reality.   The reality is that many, many more people read your blog than actually comment on it. You’ll know this, of course, if you have a stats counter.

You have no idea who these people are, why they’re reading your blog or  how they even found your blog. You may never know what they’re doing with the information, ideas, photos or words they find on your blog. Maybe they’re doing something good with it. Maybe they’re doing nothing at all with it. Maybe they’re doing something not good with it.

Do you think about all these lurkers, these silent strangers, who every day become privy to the bits and pieces of your life?

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51 responses to “The Silent Strangers on Your Blog

  1. I throw it out there and anybody who wants can read it. If I want to keep certain things private I just don’t write about them.

  2. I would have to pick door #1, but my feelings would also be hurt if it was mean. I think once you hit the publish button, your post is out in the world for public consumption. We’ve all posted things about news reports, TV shows, TV commercials and movies without consulting the owners of those properties.
    I have probably been lulled into a false sense of what my silent strangers are like, because one of them sent me an e-mail and she was a nice retired lady living in a west Canadian fishing village. She told me about her late husband and asked me some questions about Meals on Wheels. So for some reason (except for the local ones), I imagine they are all sort of like that. I do admit that the local ones that show up on my feedjit make me a little nervous because I mention bars and restaurants that I frequent, which they could easily drive to, but I try not to think about that.

  3. I actually like publishing into a black, silent void. I mean, I love comments and conversations. Any blogger does. But I also don’t mind that it is frequently a one-way conversation. Just me, broadcasting my silliness.

    Thankfully, I have not had to deal with many trolls, yet. But I know it is a risk of putting ourselves “out there.” Someday, somewhere, someone is going to judge. I hope I have thick skin on that day.

    I think you can look at the warm, interesting, funny community you’ve created and take that as an indicator of your other readers who may stay silent.

  4. Before write any post I always consider whether I am saying something that I might feel a need to retract in the future and then edit. Of course I have made mistakes a couple of times but it generally works. Actually one of my now dormant blogs, got me a job and a newspaper column, but I was also almost sued over something I wrote there.’

    I would contact the author via email and explain my thoughts and ask them to amend or retract what they said about me. If they failed to do so, I would write a post of my own and include any email correspondence we had and explain my situation. I would also do my best to keep things civil and avoid name calling.

  5. I have had the experience of having my blog referenced/quoted/copied several times. Fortunately till now, they were either positive or that neutral but I think they should seek permission before using any original material if for no other reason than it makes me feel nice. I have had two such requests.

  6. I actually can’t believe how candid some people are. They show photos and use their real names, not only of themselves but of their toddlers (good lord!) They tell you where they live.

    And some like to air their dirty laundry, and tell you about deeply personal stuff, like medical problems, abusive marriages and unwanted pregnancies and stuff.

    Don’t people realize, that once something’s out there on the Internet, it’s out there, and you can’t take it back?

    When I blog, I’m under the assumption that everybody reads what I write. This doesn’t just include my genteel readers…it could also include, weirdos, stalkers and the Factory Thought Police.

    That’s why I don’t’ use any real family names, or mention the place I work, or the town I live in.

    Seems to have worked (so far!). If I google myself using my real name, nothing on my blog turns up.

  7. if you put it on the internet for the world to read, you are opening yourself to anything. i don’t know if you really have a right to get angry. you can certainly defend yourself though. i try to keep things pretty light and airy on my blog for the most part. god knows i have most dramatic and salacious things going on in my life that i would NEVER write about (kidding!) i do wish i had kept the kids names a secret though and have thought about deleting all old posts and starting fresh. i don’t have many people reading me, so it isn’t a huge concern.

  8. Dr. Monkey – That’s my thinking. I guess in this case it wasn’t so much a privacy issue as that the blogger was upset about the assumptions made about her and her family based on what was written on the blog. And that the assumptions were apparently insulting and inaccurate. And that a lot of people said exactly what you’ve said – you put it out there and people can do with it what they want.

    Geewits – I’m always surprised at the various strange online publications and such that pick up my blog or the emails I sometimes get from people who I didn’t even know read the blog. I got an email recently from a guy in the Czech Republic asking if he could use one of my posts in a textbook on English he was writing. He may be using it as an example of how native speakers abuse the language, but oh well, right?

    Heather – Any time you put yourself into the public eye, I think you need to have a fairly thick skin and not let the nasty words or one or two affect you too much. Sure, your feelings are going to be hurt and you may be more cautious, but you have to keep on doing whatever it is you want to do. I’m not as confident as you that the silent strangers on my blog are as benign or nice as most of the commenters.

    Sean – I suppose that’s worth a try, but it just might get the blogger into even more hot water. If something is available in the public domain it can be used in any way anyone wishes. If you have something copyrighted then they have to credit you before quoting you, but that’s pretty much your only protection. If someone names you and says something defamatory then you can sue them. But, I don’t see any way you can make them retract something just because it’s unflattering.

    LSG – I’ve had requests like that, too. It’s polite if they ask first, but I see no reason why they are obligated to do so. If you’re writing an article about Hemingway, you don’t need to ask his or his heirs’ permission to do that, right?

    Friar – A wise practice. I try to follow the same principles. I think I do mention a few more personal anecdotes than you do, but I always think carefully about how the information I’m posting could be used. What drives me crazy is people posting photos of their young children – I’ve blogged about this before – “fun” photos of their kids in the tub even. Who knows where those photos are going to end up? It amazes me too, how people convince themselves that they just have a little blog with a handful of readers who are all nice, well-meaning people. Others, of course, don’t care. They’ll air their laundry anywhere – Jerry Springer, blogs, whatever.

    Meanie – See, that’s not a guarantee of safety “I don’t have many people reading me”. Blogs get picked up all the time by these automatic trollers who paste your blog post on their blog — they get tons of hits. That’s the point of them…lots of hits = lots of money and they do no work. I don’t think your kids’ names all on their own is all that risky, unless you also post photos and/or give a pretty good description of where you live or where your kids go to school or something.

  9. I tend to keep my blog not too personal. I have a journal for that. Personal angst is not for public consumption. Anything you put on a blog becomes public, so I make sure there’s nothing I wouldn’t want my mom to know. That way I figure I won’t inadvertently post something I’ll later regret.

    I also don’t use real names and only rarely post pictures of myself and Mr. Jazz on my blog, and then, only us. Friends and family don’t make it on. To protect their identities obviously and because c’mon, we all know it’s all about ME, ME, ME!!!

  10. @XUP

    It’s especially the photos of people’s kids that gets me.

    There are enough weirdos out there, and kids get abducted all the time.

    Why increase the chances of this happening?

  11. knowing the situtation that you are vaguely referring to, i find it interesting the difference in comments that are left here, compared to what was left at another blog.

    i know i divulge too much, but have recently changed things up a bit to try and keep a little more privacy. i don’t look at stats (i have no idea how to do this!) which is probably a good thing. although i really enjoy the few comments that i receive and have made some nice bloggy friends, i think i enjoy living in oblivion. otherwise, it might weird me out too much.

  12. You were inspired by the most recent “House” episode to write this, weren’t you? 😉

    Actually, I know of what you write, so I won’t mention it here. I did read that other blog, and was surprised that the blogger wasn’t contacted at all.

  13. Hi XUP…

    It’s part of the risk of blogging. If we want our blogs be read only by that handful of supportive people, we should make it private and readable by invitation.

    From the very moment we publish with no restrictions… we had to face the consequences.

    I feel sorry for that blog and I’d feel really bad also… but it’s in the package and we have to deal with that!

    Have a great day.

  14. I was fortunate that when I did blog I had very few followers. Pretty much anyone who WANTS to read the shit that I spew I don’t want to have anything to do with. They are probably retards or insane.

  15. I don’t think about the lurkers.
    A lot of the “private” information about us is freely available on the web anyways.

    For example a blogger I read in the past had received a particularly nasty comment on her blog and in retaliation she posted the “anonymous” commentors name, address, phone number and zip code on her response.

    I also saw several really good bloggers quit blogging due to cyber bullying by lurkers.

    If you think that the people you care about will be offended or hurt by something you consider posting about then don’t post it..

  16. Re the “what-ifs”: I think I’d be flattered even if it was a negative review. I’d find it amazing that someone felt the need to write about my blog.

    I try to keep things vague about who and where I am… and I just put my thoughts and poetry out there for the world to use as it will. If someone publishes a book of my poetry under another name (yea, right), than so be it. I know what I have done and who I am. I’d hope that people would give credit where it’s due, but I realize that I give up control over that as soon as I hit “publish”.

  17. I swear I’m not a crazy lurker. Well, I’ve been lurking for a couple of weeks, but innocently and not in that weird cyber-stalker way. It’s funny around here and we can all use more funny.

    But with regards to the topic, I think it’s pretty rude when people quote your posts without giving credit. And to make nasty comments about someone else based on random things you’ve read on their blog is totally ridiculous, uncalled for, and despicable. Sadly, I think people feel like the anonymity of the Internet gives them the right to just toss out any sort of etiquette or decency. Why is that? If you don’t want the person to know that you’re writing about their blog, then whatever you’re saying you should probably just keep to yourself. Much like everyone’s mom has probably said to them at some point: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

    The person writing the blog isn’t to blame for sharing things, it’s the person that would presume they know someone and their life from blog posts.

  18. I followed the story as it unfolded on twitter, then on the internet through various blogs. Oh no, am I a lurker(?) At first, I was surprised by the bloggers response. If you put your life out there – why the shock when someone has an opinion? People’s responses were fascinating…some supportive…some nasty and aggressive. I read the “article” too. In this special case the author should have contacted the blogger due to the type of article – to lend credibility and validate. After more thought, I now understand the bloggers response. I do not have thick skin for that kind of public negativity. This incident has creeped me out…even though I know anything we put out there is open to critique and other negative things. The blogger involved has written this has affected her deeply and that is awful. The author of the article has a thick skin since apparently; the reaction that followed has inspired her to write another piece. Thanks to the internet, this is not going to disappear.

  19. [oops, you can delete the other comment out of your spam filter]
    I’ve been blogging for roughly six months now, and my blog, as you know, is highly personal, and I talk about illegal stuff a LOT.

    At first I was worried that maybe people I didn’t want knowing all this about my life (i.e., the cops) would stumble on it, but they haven’t (as far as I know). Unfortunately, I had a link posted for quite a while, that, with a little digging, led the reader directly to my myspace and facebook pages. Which was quite disconcerting, obviously, but I’ve removed it and am praying no damage was done.

    If the reporter wants to be mean and say bad things then it’s not even worth your time to read it. I know that a LOT of people judge me based on my blog. Fortunately, nobody has left nasty comments yet (except for a lot of ads for Viagra — maybe the spammers know users have problems getting it up?) but if they ever do, or if anyone writes anything nasty about me, I’m lucky, because in my line of work I’m constantly under personal and professional attack and I would be able to shrug it off.

    But don’t worry XUP, having immersed myself in the blogosphere, your blog is tied with knitnut in the quality and interesting-ness. Every time I see your posts in my email account, I read it before everything else — even when there’s an email from Mr. or Mrs. Important!

    -JM

  20. Fascinating situation XUP, and one that I’ve been following and thinking about too.

    I don’t think anyone needs to ask permission to examine and quote anything in the public sphere. If you put it out there, it’s fair game. If someone distorts my publicly available words, I might not be pleased, but it goes with the territory.

    I use my real name on my blog, so before I press “publish” on a blog post, I ask myself if I would mind having this same piece published in the newspaper. If the answer, sure, then I publish.

    I also feel very wary about photos of children on the internet. It’s a sad reality that these images can be used in very disturbing ways.

  21. I am aware of all the losers and pathetic individuals out there who have nothing better to do then troll and stalk, so I try to be careful about what I publish. I also don’t tend to post many photos of myself and obviously change names out of courtesy.

    As for the mentioned situation, I would be pissed that the author of the article didn’t contact me first and instead decided to make huge assumptions. But it can be difficult to control how some people choose to interpret what you write. Its just unfortunate, that in this case, they chose to blackball the blogger, instead of speaking to them first to get the real story.

  22. Jazz – Yes, wise move. I think there are plenty of ways to write about yourself without being too personal. Cyberspace is vast and has a long, long memory.

    Smothermother – It’s fine to live in oblivion if that keeps you from being weirded out, but as we discovered, sometimes reality smacks you in the face when you least expect it and really throws you for a loop. I guess it’s a risk we take in many other areas of our lives – driving a car on a highway for instance. If you think about it too much and figure out your odds of getting killed or maimed in a traffic accident, you might never get in a car again.

    Ken – I guess it’s polite to contact a blogger before writing about him/her, but certainly not necessary. The author had decided what the article was going to be about and used examples from the blog community to illustrate his/her point. What purpose would it have served to contact the blogger first? The blogger can’t withhold permission, the blogger can’t edit the article before it’s published.

    Guillermo – Hi! It’s been a while. And yes, I think you’re right. It’s very unfortunate that it has caused the blogger so much distress, but it was really just one unpleasant article in a community of generally kind, supportive people.

    Lebowski – To paraphrase Groucho Marx, right? When did you have a blog and why did I never know about it?

    Glen – That was rather rude of that blogger. I think one of the first unwritten rules of blogging is that you don’t “out” your fellow anonymous bloggers. I kind of like a nasty comment now and again. It gives me an opportunity to respond in kind.

    Christine – Very rational response. I wonder how that would work – the scenario you mention with your poems. Is your work automatically copyrighted because it’s published on your blog? If you saw your poems in a book that someone was making money from, could you sue them?

    Kimberly – The blog was credited for anything that was quoted. It was all legal and even ethical, though it may have been rude. But the internets isn’t a tea party. It’s the big wide open world and everyone is free to use the information they find there however they wish. The author of the article wasn’t just being unflattering for the sake of being mean – there was a purpose to the article.

    MM – Yes, you do need a thick skin if you’re putting yourself out there and it’s really awful how much this has affected the blogger. However, the author of the article is under no obligation to contact the blogger. As I said earlier, to what end? If you’re writing something on your blog about one of Margaret Atwood’s books, will you contact her to make sure it’s okay with her? Do you give her a copy of what you’re going to write ahead of time to make sure she approves of it? Having the subject edit your work actually takes away from the validity and credibility of the article you’re writing if you think about it.

    Junkie – Cool! I agree with you (not only about how awesome my and knitnut’s blogs are – har har). It’s totally not worth spending a lot of angst or emotion over. It’s like someone being rude to you in public. It says more about them than about you; so you keep that in mind and move on. One person in your community not liking you much weighed against hundreds who love you? Who cares?

    Julie – Totally agree – especially about the photos of children. It actually makes me cringe when I see someone posting lovely photos of their wee ones. Yes, their children are beautiful and funny and charming and adorable – but there are an awful lot of people who will find these photos and do very strange things with them. And one day when your child is grown-up they may stumble across their own photo somewhere and will not make them happy.

    Pauline – Well, they didn’t “blackball” the blogger. I don’t they have that sort of power. But you’re right — you really have no control over what people do with your blogs. I’ll ask you, too – what purpose would have been served by the author contacting the blogger? Just to say, “I’m writing this article, heads up?” What would that change? The author did not need the blogger’s permission and certainly would not be giving the blogger editorial rights over the article.

  23. Whenever you click the “publish” button, you have to realize that there is no “undo”. Once something’s on the ‘net, it’s there permanently.

    I would probably be upset if I was in the blogger’s position, but I think you have to look at it this way: The reporter drew their conclusions based on what she has published on her blog. Other people who visit her blog may have drawn similar conclusions. How I approach my blogging would almost certainly change. Confronting/approaching the reporter could backfire and result in a story about the “whiny blogger who didn’t like my story”. If the publication has an ombudsman then I might consider talking to them.

    It is a bit unprofessional of the reporter to write a one-sided story without getting comments from the people being profiled. Someone said that we often talk about public figures and television shows without talking to the people themselves, but that’s a bit different situation. “Public figures” are, ipso facto, public figures and do not necessarily enjoy the same privacy that the rest of us do. That having been said, if you are posting on the ‘net, you’re giving up a certain amount of privacy.

    When I post on my blog, I’m try not to mention my family and friends in a way that makes them identifiable. Exceptions to this are when those people are bloggers themselves. For example, I’ve mentioned one of my cousins who is an up and coming author in a couple of blog posts. And of course referring to Ken or Squid, both of whom I’ve known for a long time in the real world, is fair game. 🙂

  24. [skipping reading the comments this time…]

    You’re clearly not a musician (at least not a particularly notable one), and have not been written about in the paper. Musicians are in a love-hate relationship with the media because, on one hand, they depend on the media to get the word out about their band, but on the other hand, they do such a godawful job of it.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve spent considerable time with reporters to explain to them the nuance of whatever situation they’re interviewing me about–say, cycling–only to look in the newspaper the next day and discover in large print, with my name next to it, the claim that cyclists are safest when riding in the middle of the street! (True story!)

    – RG>

  25. I only use first names for myself and the girls, and like Friar, did the ‘google’ test and none of our full names brings up the blog.

    I don’t think any of us brings our total life or personality to our blog posts. We all filter when we choose what to write about. So anyone who thinks that they can make accurate judgments about someone’s life, financial status, or marriage by reading someone’s blog posts is mistaken. We now know each other in real life. Do I seem exactly how I present myself on my blog?

    I guess I don’t think much about the lurkers. I think more about the readers, the ones who comment. God knows I have more pressing concerns in my life than what random people (not the regulars) think when they read my blog.

    Also, I’m super envious of your Paris trip. Please drink a lovely coffee in a cafe while you’re there and think of me while you soak up the atmosphere. I shall live vicariously through you and XUP junior.

  26. Gordon – Hi! Yes, inevitably a person would be likely to be upset by things written about them that aren’t nice. The article isn’t a “reportage” sort of article – more of a feature on the nature of blogs and these particular type of blogs. I don’t think unprofessionalism came in to it. It was an opinion. I would disagree about bloggers expecting any privacy. I think we give that up when we put anything personal into the public sphere.

    Grouchy – Any time you talk to the press, you’re taking your chances. I’ve never been quoted accurately or even in a very flattering manner in the press. It’s best to write everything down and just send it to them via email instead of doing “live” interviews.

    Alison – How nice to drop a mention of Paris into a string of comments about horrible lurker people and stuff. I shall drink something for you whilst there, I promise. I think a certain amount of our personalities shines through our writing. If it’s a good writer and you’re a good critical reader, you should be able to glean a certain amount of information about the writer. And as you say, let people make any assumptions they want – they’re going to anyway – you just don’t get to hear about them most of the time.

  27. XUP-O.k. maybe blackball isn’t the right word, slander or libel sounds more like the word I was looking for. I think it would have been nicer for them to contact the blogger to possibly correct any false assumptions before they publicly criticize them.

    No one HAS to do this, but it is the decent thing to do. (Unless the person you’re criticizing has made a career out of purposefully being nasty. ie. Perez Hilton) Many of us bloggers are just regular people trying to reach out and perhaps this blogger didn’t realize that they were unwittingly giving out the wrong impression of themselves and their family.

  28. So I’m one of these “lurkers” you speak of, though I have commented occasionally. I read a lot of blogs but don’t have my own and feel awkward commenting or explaining why I’m reading. I just like blogs.

    My two cents? I think that if a blogger is misrepresented, it sucks but the people who actually read and follow that blog will often be the ones to stick up for the blogger. It’s happened to the Bloggess a few times, where one of her posts is picked up but totally misrepresents her and her followers are often first in line to point this out (classic example – she wrote about confusing Diet Pepper cans and when it was picked up by other outlets, they didn’t seem to understand that she writes satirically).

    It still sounds like a crap situation, but from this post, it sounds like the people who truly follow the misrepresented blogger know the real truth. And that’s a pretty good place to be.

  29. I agree with most of the other commenters: once you hit that “Publish” button, whatever you wrote is out there forever and out of your control. You can’t control what others think of you, either. I guess some people just haven’t gotten that message yet. Bottom line: if you worry about privacy, even a little bit, then you should be purposefully vague about identities/ locations/ events on your blog. And please, no photos of your kids naked in the bathtub!

  30. I agree, no need to contact Margaret Atwood but as I mentioned earlier this is a special circumstance. This was not just a random blog post or even a news article – this was a university thesis. Shouldn’t an educational research paper should be exactly that…researched? I think in this case the bloggers should have been contacted/interviewed. Not to edit the students work, but to validate assumptions and theory. The author made very incorrect statements based on random posts about socio-economic status etc, without ever checking her facts. Normally an author is under no obligation to contact the blogger…unless you are writing a research based paper.

  31. XUP – I wasn’t approaching it from the perspective of privacy. My take was more of professional courtesy.

    “Hey, Ms Blogger, I’m doing an article, and your blog will be used as an example,” the author says.

    Despite the public aspect of the ‘net, I still think if a blog is going to be used, not only should the posts be credited, but also the bloggers permission should be obtained.

    It’s the professional thing to do.

  32. @ Friar – kids get abducted by FAMILY MEMBERS all the time. It is exceedingly rare for kids to be abducted by a stranger, or a blog reader.

    This issue is part of why I feel so gagged right now. Just how sanitized am I supposed to make my blog and when does it stop being my blog and merely a happy mask?

  33. oh and as to the writing in question I only made it to the word “heteroglossia” before my post academic stress syndrome kicked in and I closed the tab, and went and sat in a corner to rock and suck my thumb for a while.

  34. You bet. It happened to me – I was extensively quoted, not just out of context but to support the opposite of the point I was making.
    I squawked to the organization that ran the article. Never got an answer.
    I keep writing, but sometimes I edit myself a bit so that it will be harder for that kind of thing to happen again.

  35. Someone said this was a university researcher. If this is a case then the blogger might want to contact the university’s ombudsman or the dean of the person’s faculty if it’s a serious concern. If the researcher interacted with them through their blog and then wrote about it without obtaining informed consent first then they’ve almost certainly violated the ethics guidelines at their university, something all universities take very seriously.

  36. Pauline – It wasn’t even that bad in my opinion. I haven’t read the whole thing, but skimmed through some of the relevant points. It certainly wasn’t slanderous or libelous. I think the worst you could say is that it was reductive from the point of view of the blogger.

    Heather – I think that’s probably the central point here – the people who read and follow the blogger will stick up for her and enjoy her regardless of what one person thinks.

    Pinklea – I’d almost say no photos of your kids, period. But that’s kind of important to a lot of people’s blogs. Who knows where they end up?

    MM – I was hoping we weren’t going to get this specific, and I hadn’t even read the thing until recently and then just a quick browse to see what all the fuss was about. I think the point of the work was a study of the blogs – not of the people themselves, but of the people as seen through the blogs. Of course she’s making assumptions – that’s part of the academic exercise. I don’t think it’s any different than when I did a paper on Faulkner. The focus has to be on the literature itself and assumptions about the author can be made from it. Whether or not they’re completely accurate is not the point. It’s not a biography of Faulkner I’m writing, but a study of Faulkner the novelist, through his work. It’s still a research paper, but I am under no obligation to contact Faulkner or his family to verify that the assumptions I’ve made are correct. My research consists of comparisons of various works of literature, maybe some literary criticism. This is the same thing. She’s done a comparison of various blogs of a certain genre and drawn valid conclusions based on what she has read in the blogs.

    Ken – And if permission is withheld? How do you give permission for something if you have no idea what it entails? This would mean the author has to do the work and then the blogger must read it and say yes or no or no, unless you change stuff. That’s not professional. It might have been nice and polite for the author to give the blogger a heads up, but still not necessary.

    Mudmama – It’s entirely up to you how you want to conduct your blog. You’re a grown up and well aware of what it means to post something on the internet. I think it’s possible to find a good balance between creative freedom and maintaining some privacy. I don’t think the issue of kids getting abducted is a big one either. My main concern with people posting certain types of photos of their kids is what is going to happen to those photos. Your blog has always struck me as being very sensible. As for the academic – it’s fairly standard university student superciliousness and I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

    Mary – There is so much – so very much stuff out there on the interwebby. I reckon an abuse of my words here and there doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans in the overall picture.

    Gordon – Again, I didn’t want this to get into a re-hash of the entire situation. I was more interested in talking about this sort of thing generally, but please read my last comments to MM. No consent was required, no scholarly ethics were violated — some human ethics perhaps, but nothing legal.

  37. Peter was telling me I am too nice to be in politics (speaking of being a public person) and somehow Sarah Palin came up and Peter said the reason she was so successful was because she had thick skin and a thick head. I thought it was a great line and I may use it, except I won’t mention her when I do.

    I am meeting my web page guy today and my site is going up as we speak and I am getting nervous! Because baby, then I will be out there. I am writing content but I am running it by 3 different “editors” before I put it up. One of the pages will be FAQs and I am writing a series of answers to the Q: “Why should I vote for you?”
    Shiver.

  38. I have also been following this story, and couldn’t agree with you more, XUP. I feel like my blog is a self-publishing exercise, and I treat it as if I were publishing a book of memoirs. Anyone is free to review it, talk about it, quote from it, and yes, make assumptions about me from it. Even when I try to write for humour or with a light tone, I’m still saying something about myself. I expect people to make assumptions about me — even to feel that they “know” me! — and so I don’t feel like I’d have the right to be offended if someone got the wrong idea.

    I also go the super-privacy route on my blog – no real names, no photos except for one of myself. Over time I’ve come to realize that you can’t be a “top” blogger without sharing the juicy details. The bloggers with the mega-audiences — thousands of readers — are the ones who use their real names, post pics of their kids, and share their intimate lives with their audience. I love those blogs, don’t get me wrong!, but it’s not for me. I think bloggers have to accept the fact that if you want to be big and famous, and thus are sharing your personal life…you have to be prepared for a little tabloid coverage. We all cry foul when people like Brad and Angelina whine about how they didn’t expect anyone to pay attention to them just because they are totally famous :).

  39. Julia – If I weren’t going away I’d offer to be another one of your editors. I’m sure it will be fine with all those vettors. But ya, prepare to grow rhino hide.

    Lynn – I think you can still have a great and popular blog without sharing all the intimate details of your life. And there are plenty of ways to talk about yourself without violating your own privacy. Just like there are plenty of successful actors who aren’t in the tabloids every day.

  40. If someone quotes from ANYTHING without permission from the author it can be considered plagiarism and/or slander and grounds to sue.

    Trust me on this.

  41. I don’t mind lurkers, unless they suddenly decide to make an appearance with a snarky comment. But it would bother me to have another blogger talk about me in an ugly way with no notice. I did have this happen once, although she did not actually link my blog or use my name. But she made several ridiculous assumptions about me and was really nasty. Fortunately, she has a drivel-filled blog and few readers.

  42. Kim – Okay, I will

    SAW – Ya, those lurkers that suddenly pop up with a rude comment are hilarious. I don’t mind them though because it gives me a chance to give them a similar comment back. It’s all part of the game.

  43. I would conclude that if people made incorrect assumptions about me based on my writings, that the fault must largely be in my writings for conveying such a message.

    When you post to the internet, you are sending a message about yourself. If people read the message and don’t agree with what you think about yourself, odds are, its you who is wrong – either because you don’t know yourself very well or because your postings do not send your intended message.

    Whether or not you care what the faceless internet masses think is another matter altogether.

  44. Squid – Agree! Of course there are always those who just don’t seem to be able to read the words on a page and invent a lot of subtext that isn’t there. That’s always fun.

  45. It’s happened to me a couple times where my thoughts were discussed, dissected, slammed all without a virtual shoulder tap when it would be so easy to bring me into the dialogue. Ample ways to leave comments, send email. For some reason trackback or techorati didn’t ping it. I was googling to find my own words and found these.

    In my case, those discussed posts I took offline and felt icked about.

    Is it book mentality, presuming people who write are untouchable, unreachable?

    I suppose it’s the same as talking. Some people will listen, check, did you mean this or the other and dialogue. Others will run dismissive or without interest in connection, race with a story’s spark for fodder and not let info get in the way of a story.

  46. very scary topic and comments. i’m guilty of giving too much information and like to think i’ve pulled back a little. i write more personally on another site that i do not use my “real” handle on so i can have that veil. it’s helpful for me to be write under a veil, i think i write better.

    depending on the blogger or entity that i choose to write about, i do ask permission before hand out of respect. some people think i’m silly for asking, some do not. in the beginning i didn’t do this, assuming b/c they were on the internet they would be cool with it.

  47. oh, one other thing, reality check of what I’m making public happens everytime I see a search string has found me with my home town and maiden name. you’d think from my reaction that marriage is a witness protection program. there’s no taking back whatever goes online with waybackmachine and the like but the urge to erase hits hard then.

  48. I’m disappointed for you and your recent experience in this situation. I admire the way you’ve responded. Look at this cool and informative dialog you’ve cultivated!