He said she said

Aug 25, 2003

Over at By the Way, John Scalzi’s new little blog adventure with AOL, he’s doling out advice to some first time bloggers out there. (That’s right; AOL is empowering a whole new group of people to muse endlessly on the internet. Watch out.)

Specifically, folks queried him about writing a blog about other people. What if they find out? Grandmom won’t be pleased that I don’t like her pie. Here’s the short version of his longer response:

Scalzi’s Law of Online Communication:

Anything bad you ever write about someone online will get back to them sooner or later.

My personal blog (found right here, amazingly enough) takes a much lighter and complimentary tone because of this very fact. Mom taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. When it comes to personal acquaintances this is still a very good rule. Everyone else — political figures, actors, athletes, and even good old John himself — well, rail away.

What you may find interesting, though, is how folks you know may react to their names showing up on your blog at all, even when you post something nice about them. Some are delighted to see their name in lights (even if, generally, these lights are very, very dim). Mom might be happy that you love her. Others are more sensitive. Brother Bob might be upset to see his full name appears in so many google search results. Maybe you shouldn’t have posted his home phone number.

In some cases, you might need to be sensitive. This whole Internet thing is still rather new and scary to a lot of people. In other cases (e.g. other bloggers tend to be pretty open people), you might have a lot more rope to play with. I personally tend to let those close to me know when I write about them. It frees my conscience from the odd feeling of speaking behind one’s back and I get a, possibly faux and often silent, approval of my comments.

You’ll get a feel for this stuff as you go. Just be ready to be read, by anyone, especially the source of your material.

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