Аs ever with the net, every year seems to bring with it a new word born out of how humans have turned technology into something useful for them. this year, “blog” was included for the first time in the US Merriam-Webster dictionary. It entered the Oxford English dictionary last year reflecting its entry into mainstream language.
There are more than five million blogs, or online diaries, and the number is growing. But increasingly, people are landing in hot water with employers over blogs about their work.
A new term has emerged as a result. According to UrbanDictionary.com, to be “dooced” means “losing your job for something you wrote in your online blog, journal, website, etc.”
In November, a US airline attendant calling herself Queen of the Sky was fired over “inappropriate images” on her anonymous blog.
And more bloggers could be “dooce dodging” in 2005 as employers wake up to the technology, warns legal expert Nick Lockett from hi-tech law firm DL Legal.
There are several very serious legal issues which employers will be increasingly turning their attention to, he says. With some, as in the Delta case, there are issues over terms of employment and codes of conduct which can become incredibly difficult to interpret, he explains. “We have already seen a number of rulings in industrial tribunals where the mere ‘misuse’ of the net in the absence of a clear policy is not grounds for dismissal,” he says.
There are broader human rights issues for governments, as well as copyright pitfalls where bloggers use company equipment and time meaning the company effectively owns blog content. What is clear is that employee blogs, like instant messaging, have largely remained under the corporate radar so far.
People blog for all sorts of reasons. To some it is a chance to have a good moan about life in general, and to many that includes life at work.
“Tom”, a London ambulance worker, has been blogging for 18 months and gets about 4,000 hits a day on his weblog, Random Acts of Reality. He thought people might be interested in what happens in an ambulance, a place people prefer not to experience.
“We get to see murders, assaults and people who have destroyed their lives through drink and drugs, and we also get to see some people doing the best that they can with whatever troubles they have to face.”
To him, like many other job- bloggers it is almost a form of therapy; he enjoys giving people a somewhat voyeuristic window into his life.
Most of his work colleagues were unaware of his blog until recently. But, Tom insists, keeping his blog anonymous is still essential.
“I’m always careful as to how my views might reflect on the ambulance service. I don’t blog about anything, or share opinions, that I wouldn’t feel happy talking about up on a stage in front of friends and strangers,” he says.
Similarly, “David Copperfield”, a British policeman, started his blog after realizing there was a huge gap between what people thought police did. He thought it would be a way to see the “funny side” of his work. Nobody at work knows anything about The Policeman’s Blog.
“I try not to talk about specific incidents because I am sure it would identify me. What I try to do is to take the ‘moral’ of the story, if there is one, and change the exact circumstances. “The blog is not really about me but about the insane amounts of paperwork and the customers that all officers struggle with.”
“Waiter” works in a New York bistro and has been blogging, or ranting, about what he sees in his workplace since April. Usually adept at cooling down demanding customers and humouring a situation, it is on his blog, Waiter Rant, that he lets it all out.
“When you get home you have all these feelings because you really can’t say what you want to say. “You write it down and you feel much better. And you get comments from others so you feel you are not the only one out there,” he says.
“It is a slice of life that not everyone sees and they get to view the world a little differently. The purpose of all writing it is to see the world in someone else’s eyes.” But he sees a deeper reason emerging for the growth of blogging, particularly in a politically correct US.
“People who work in the corporate world are circumscribed to what they should say, so they get a chance to say what they think.”
“Blogs can be good for companies,” says Mr. Lockett, but what is clear is that the rules on blogs are hazy and inconsistent, and bloggers should be alert about what they are doing. Companies need to accept that the world is moving on and must adopt the new technology and make guidelines.
“Blogs can put a human face on your company. They can also put a demon at the centre of the company PR.”
Adapted from Jo Twist, bbc.co.uk
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