And therein lies the problem: There aren’t any.
Awhile back Digger attended a new media seminar at FSI, and this is what she learned. It’s basic, common sense stuff, mostly.
But it doesn’t explain why some people are singled out and others are left alone. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re funny or obnoxious (or both simultaneously). Positive or negative. I know of several people in my very own neighborhood who blog, and no one seems to care. Why? Why not?
This has become a big deal recently, because there is apparently a line drawn in the sand somewhere, but no one knows where. No one will tell us where the line has been drawn, because of course they can’t. If you’re an employee, you are somewhat limited in what you can and cannot say, by virtue of the fact that you have EERs, and bosses, and onward assignments. But as a spouse, I should be able to say whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t harm the mission. Freedom of speech and all. Lots of Americans have died for that right.
The rules Digger posted seemed reasonable to me: don’t post work details, photos of government facilities, home addresses, medical information about other employees, etc... Those rules all fall under the category of “duh.”
So, what else? Are there less obvious rules that ought to be in play? Are there standards to which we, the FS blogging community, ought to hold ourselves accountable?
I’d argue that there are. We need to find that line in the sand, as a community, and maybe even do some self-policing. One of my favorite FS bloggers mentioned recently that she was warned about posting photos and information about her house that could affect security at her post. She took the post down, which made sense, and she seemed appreciative that someone, somewhere, was looking out for her and gave her the courtesy of a warning. Should we be doing that for each other, letting each other know if something we read sets off any alarms?
I started blogging three years ago. Before that, I was writing group emails home to keep my family and friends up-to-date on my oh-so-fascinating life. But that started to get a little bit awkward, because my address list kept getting longer and longer, and I was no longer sure if people were reading my updates, or rolling their eyes. I started a blog so my addressees could decide for themselves if they cared enough to click through and read my latest drivel. I did not password-protect my blog, in part because I figured people wouldn’t want to memorize another password, and in part because, hello, I’m a writer. I’ve been fortunate enough to have work published in places as big as Newsweek and as small as the Seattle Times. Writers write. They want people to read. So, no password for me. I'm not anonymous, though that would undoubtedly be safer, because I link to my published articles, and that kind of gives away my identity, don't you think?
Three years later, and I know people other than my family read this blog. Sometimes that disturbs me (note to random Chinese guy who keeps commenting: enough already!). Other times, it’s led me to new friends: Jill, and Connie, and yes, I think I can even count the famous Kolbi as a friend now. I’ve never met these people. But we’re all in it together, and we’ve become friends because of our blogs. I’m even rather fond of those anonymous bloggers, No Double Standards and Digger and Diplopundit. I don’t know them (I don’t think I do, anyway), but I enjoy reading their updates.
I loved, loved, loved the Weekly Roundup, because it put me in contact with all of these other FS bloggers whom I probably wouldn’t have searched for on my own. Can someone out there puh-lease start the Roundup again? Because that was a terrific service to the community. That blogger took the time to pull us all together into one room and make us get acquainted. That was a true gift she gave us.
So. Back to the rules. What are they? And do they change from post to post? Who can stop us from blogging? What can they do to you if they don’t like your blog? Does anyone have answers to these questions?
My own personal rule (not FS-specific, but for blogging in general) is not to post anything that I wouldn’t say in front of my mother, or my husband, or my kids. You know: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. After all, this is a public record here, if only for a very small public. When I’m writing, I picture a few very specific people in my mind. If what I’m writing would upset them, then I generally don’t hit “publish.” If what I’m writing would embarrass my children or my husband, I don’t write it. Nothing’s worth that. And I hold myself to that same standard when I write personal essays for magazines and newspapers. If it’s going to show up in the Washington Post or beijingkids or the Foreign Service Journal, I’d better be darn sure it doesn’t make me or my loved ones look ridiculous. That’s my rule.
But that’s just my rule. I imagine it isn’t the same standard to which the State Department is holding me.
What do you think? What’s your rule? And is it enough to keep you out of trouble? How can you be sure?
(Sorry, I mentioned a lot of bloggers by name, but no links from me today.)