Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Year of Blogging

So today marks the one year anniversary of my very first blog entry. It's been an illuminating year. I've written 213 (this makes 214) entries during that time, which have illustrated an evolution in what and how I write the material herein.

I began the blog with the intention of keeping it completely anonymous -- no names, no cities, no personal designators -- all with the intent of keeping a secure on-line profile. As time went on, I found it nearly impossible to maintain that anonymity since I did link to the blogs of family and friends who don't necessarily keep things as private, and also because so much of what I wanted to write about would require me to specify place-names. While I have managed to not reference the names of any of my family members, any reasonably intelligent person could put the pieces of the puzzle together (so maybe I'll abandon that philosophy ... hmmm).

Along the way, I have struggled with the level of detail to include in the blog relating to my personal life. What I found is that I really don't have much to hide. This blog has turned into my journal -- a glorious tool which is ever-accessible to me to both write and to read. I post far more frequently, with far more interesting material than I have in many years in any journal. I love being able to include pictures, comment on current events, tell silly or simple stories, or even to wax eloquently (or not!) on things about which I deeply care (or not).

What has vexed me most recently is my struggle to determine the appropriate amount of detail to post about my professional life. This blog is indeed in a public place (I could change that, but would prefer not to), which then makes me, as somebody recently pointed out to me, a "public figure." To complicate matters most, I have come into possession of a policy document (okay, it was specifically handed to me) entitled "Release of Information to News and Information Media" that is considered one of the guiding "rules" of my workplace to the public. I was blissfully unaware of this policy, and ignorant of its contents.

Basically, it says that I should keep my mouth shut. Which sucks, big time. What I want to post about my work is the interesting or timely goings-on that are either quite important to me or that I deem to be of particular interest to any of my (three or four) readers. However, the policy basically says I can't share any first-release news (good or, especially, bad), talk about any of my colleagues (even in the most abstract sense), meter out information only when pre-approved by our public affairs office (which is a tremendous pain in the neck), and not post anything that would break any ITAR rules or short-circuit the public release of scientific information.

Okay, so how do I do keeping to this policy? I thought I was doing pretty well. I have always been gun-shy about publishing anything that was not already in the public domain (and I usually link to the source). I have also been extremely conscientious about not sharing scientific data before it was released and I never, ever break ITAR constraints. Nevertheless, with the craziness of the past month I have made a few mistakes in the other matters ...

What I struggle with the most is the balance of being able to post material that may not put my workplace in the best of possible light. I love where I work and I love what I do. I don't think anybody could draw any other conclusion based upon my posts. And, clearly, any workplace wants to look good, so readily and rapidly releases good news to the public. However, any workplace also doesn't want to look bad, so doesn't exactly make a habit of releasing bad news; we're all a little too hyper-sensitive about looking bad. In my posts, though, I don't think I have ever said anything that could be construed as being downright negative, but rather I always have hope that whatever problems we face, we will overcome.

Nevertheless, I must be more cautious in the future, as my job means far more to me than being able to post work details on this blog. *sigh* So, it'll be sanitized a bit of work details. Rest assured, though, for all my (three or four) loyal readers, I will continue to share all the other fascinating and riveting details of my life.

One year ago today, in my very first post, I said "Let the journey begin ..." Now I can firmly say, "Let the journey continue!"

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