Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Meta-Blogging 14: Blogging At Work

Part of the debate over the nature of blogging concerns how to consider a blogger's independance from his or her workplace. If Kevin Drum's "Calpundit" is hosted by Washington Monthly, how much of his work can be divorced from that journal? (Answer: some, about as much as an Op-Ed columnist from the editorial policy.) If Duncan Black's "Eschaton" is financed by his work for Media Matters, how much of his work can be divorced from that organization? (Answer: some, while Eschaton disavows dependance on MediaMatters, Black has also publicly embraced that organization's work and often links to it.)

Alright, let's get trickier. If Teresa Nielsen-Hayden's work on Making Light is enabled by her salary at Tor publishing, and if she sometimes writes about what kinds of standards prevail in her place of work, and if sometimes the timestamp on her posts indicates that she was probably at work, maybe using office machines, while writing her post, what version of independence obtains?

These questions are not merely philosophical. Conservatives in particular are scratching their heads to define "sponsorship" for bloggers under campaign finance reform law, and Erick at RedState attempts to prove that under current law, more than one hour per week spent blogging at work hours will constitute either sponsored speech or just cause for termination. His reasoning picks up an ongoing conversation, so the post isn't entirely self-evident. Still, the overall gist is ominous to opiners who earn their living.

Hell, we've seen this before. The well-reputed SF-Fantasy resource at Waterstone's being fired--"sacked"--for his blogging on company time, about the company, the conservative demand for political ads to be pulled from Kos's site after his comments about the deaths in Fallujah. Well, it's starting to get codified, gradually.

Brave New Blogosphere? We'll see about that.

[UPDATE: This post seems to attract more than the usual number of hits--is it Teresa's replies below?--so I figure it appropriate to post the EFF's faq on your legal liabilities if you blog at work. If any of you would like to tell me how you ended up here, since Technorati's being of no use, I'd be curious...]


Anonymous Anonymous:

My relationship with my employer is pretty darn independent. Making Light is not a Tor publication, and Tor is happy to not be responsible for whatever I may say in it.

As for my timestamps, I work at home about half the time, and the point at which I draft a post is often entirely separate from the point at which I post it.

To the best of my recollection, the current status of my understanding with Tor is that if I ever stop underbilling my hours, I'll let them know.


6/30/2005 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

One of the reasons I mentioned you, Teresa, is that your relationship with your employer seems pretty darn independent--and, if anything, a net positive for your employer. I know I for one am reading more SF and Fantasy after finding your site. Your time seems to be your own--but how is it that you seem to have more hours in your 24-hour day than I do?

The context for this somewhat sloppily written post is the question of more political bloggers who haven't yet managed to find overt sponsorship: an Atrios blogging from his Kinko's job, or something. Such a person would be incredibly vulnerable to an outing that would expose his on-hours work to his employer. Maybe such a person, if he were really blogging instead of working, should be so vulnerable.

Again, I think you're at the other end of the spectrum, although that wasn't made entirely clear. These lines seem fuzzy now, but perhaps not so to people such as yourself who have been involved in similar communities in earlier media forms. And, of course, I would be hard-pressed to identify any specific issue--besides general decency and good writing--that Making Light could be said to be advocating...

7/02/2005 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous:

There are lots of issues we consistently advocate: register, vote, don't be stupid, remember that it's our country too, et cetera.

Most jobs don't combine well with blogging. I suppose that if you were in one of those jobs where you spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for something to happen, you could be writing for your weblog. Otherwise, you're just exploiting the fact that it's hard to tell what an employee sitting at a computer is actually doing. I can't feel it's unjust for an employer to object to paying for work hours he isn't getting.

I don't have extra hours in my day. I'm somewhat disabled. I love the fact that on the internet I have acute hearing, and am as nimble as anyone else. Also, it appears that my natural response to the world is to (1.) find out more, and (2.) write about it. If the internet were shut down, I'd have my mimeograph out of storage within a week.


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