mr. zilla goes to town

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

fired for blogging

A story is beginning to hit its straps here about Edinburgh blogger Joe Gordon who has been fired from his job in a bookstore for making comments about his boss at work - in particular, some leave arrangements in January - although without naming the company or the supervisor in question.

The kind of jobs I've been there has always necessarily been 40 foot high Chinese Wall between the personal and the professional and so I've never remotely considered discussing the dayjob here. (Which no doubt is why you're constantly being inflicted with me rabbiting on about the noctural employment pursuits as some kind of compensation). But I'll be honest, even if that weren't the case I still wouldn't think it appropriate to be blowing off steam about your boss on your blog. Blogs are not private conversations; unless you have genuine whistleblower issues to clean house on it's simply unprofessional. That's what husbands, girlfriends, parents, the neighbours' dog or even the mates down the pub are for. Preferably an quiet corner of the pub.

I think the casual ease of writing on a blog, much like email, gives people the mistaken impression of its impermanence. And like corporations and sexual harassers throughout the 1990s discovering just how permanent and subpoenable their email archives were, technology like the Googlecache makes every tossed off word on your blog retrievable for years to come. And it doesn't really matter if your blog is anonymous today. Seems to me that sooner or later - even years later - someone is going to be able to join the dots and see what you were thinking all along.

I'm don't believe that this is necessarily a bad thing. If anything I think it behooves bloggers to be even more honest and true to themselves and their personal beliefs in their writing. The transparence of blogging (and other internet fora) certainly have their advantages when the neo-Nazi worms of the world prattle on when they think they're lurking under a rock but have in fact been exposed to the sunlight. Go see Darp's ongoing revelations about the 'Patriotic Youth League' in Sydney for an example.

Nonetheless it seems to me that Mr Gordon's employer, Waterstones, was far too heavy handed in dealing with the situation and overreacted. At the very least, for an employee in good standing of eleven years, if they considered the matter improper they should have privately counselled him. Particularly when the likes of Neil Gaiman consider him to be "...smart, well-informed, opinionated-but-in-a-good-way and always really professional... [and] the only reason I've always done a Waterstones signing when in Edinburgh."

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