Thursday, September 18, 2008

Self Censorship

I always treated this blog as my free playground. I express my true opinions and thoughts, as they occur to me. Whether about products, people, processes, or just life experiences - I usually never apply a filter between my brain and my keyboard. I would only do so in case I feared someone would personally get hurt, or if my opinion might carry legal consequences (and I have 2 such posts - fully written but marked 'private', to save me some lawyer money smile).

I also avoid criticizing certain organizations that frown upon any kind of criticism and may reciprocate by making my life miserable, just because they can (think airports...).

But recently, a friend warned me about another kind of retribution I may face for expressing my own ideas: every time I write something, it gets indexed by search engines and backed up for posterity. 100 years from now, people will be able to read my blog posts (not that it'll matter to me). What does matter is what will my next potential employer/investor/partner would think about me because of my opinions.

In a world where the gray color is slowly fading out from big discussions, leaving only black and white; where you're either "with us" or "against us" on certain issues - my way or the highway; someone may decide to never give you a chance just because he does not like your political opinions, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), personal ideals or sense of humor (again, or lack thereof smile).

A future employer googling my name would find all I've written in this blog so far, including my ideas about software development, my personal thoughts and my recommendations. He may draw a picture of me and my personality in his mind, without giving me a chance to present myself. That, my friend argued, beats any novel notion of truly expressing yourself. Leave some of your opinions out, he said, to avoid being labeled based on a post.

I thought about this long and hard and decided my friend is right. As long as I'm not indipendantly wealthy and as long as this world doesn't really uphold the freedom of speech ideal to the letter, I'll keep my true personal opinions and experiences out of this blog. I'm not a reporter and I don't have to write the hard truth - especially not if it may hurt me.

But the need to write down my experiences is still strong - that's what drove me to start a blog in the first place. So I decided to open another blog, write my personal stuff there and keep it private, until such time that it would be safe to expose it. While this blog will continue to contain my personal travel and tech experiences, I'll try to tone down the level of exposure on certain issues. Unless I get really pissed off by something and would have to react smile.

What I won't do, though, is censor what I've already written. All past posts will remain where they are. If someone doesn't like them, well, too bad. I'm against re-writing the past.

Finally, there's another reason why you may want to keep truely personal information off the net. I'm talking about identity theft. Think about your email account, or online bank account: if you lose your password, you get asked a series of personal questions to verify your identity, before the site resets your password.

Well, if the answers to those questions can be easily retrieved by googling your name - you're screwed. Somone else may retrieve your password and log in to your accounts. Just ask Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-president candidate. Her Yahoo email account just got broken into (I won't dignify this simple action with the verb "hacked"), because all her personal information (like where did she meet her spouse) was readily google-able (read more here).

So make sure nothing too personal can be retrieved from your blog, and make sure your passwords are hard to crack.


avi said...

The common solution to the problem you're presenting is to have several blogs.
(1) Bearing your full name and contacts - where you write what you want business prospects to think of you (i.e. BMC is a fantastic employer).
(2) Written under cover (under a nick other than "GV007"), where you tell the true (i.e. Mac Book Air has too little USB ports).

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to believe that a potential employer will start reading all of your posts.Would you? (of someone you are thinking of hiring , of course). If any , he'l just look at some of the headlines and will buble (tribute to comics) "hmm.. this guy writes a blog on technology. He probably knows a lot. Lets hire him".
Of course , this is true until google will launch their new tool "GPeople summary" which "googles" for your potential employer and summerize in an executive summary all that is known of this person (If any google employee is reading this - i want some royalties on the idea).

About the identity theft , as long as you don't post the name of your first school , i think you are ok.

Traveling Tech Guy said...

Thanks for the comments :)
Avi: already done - I have another blog that I truly use as a diary.

Ohad: some aggregation services already exist, that summarize Google results on a subject, or a person.
As an employer, it's hard to resist the temptation to know more about your candidate than he's telling.
Maybe the current generation of HR people is not that versed in current technology, but rest assured that the next one will treat online search tools as a standard.