Friday, April 08, 2005
Why I Am Not Anonymous
Today Slashdot had a pointer to an EFF article entitled "How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)," containing advice about how not to suffer negative consequences for blogging about your job. It got me thinking about my own approach to blogging.
What I liked about the C2 wiki in its heydey was its focus on people's experiences, not on formalized processes or abstract principles of software development. Francis Hwang summed it up nicely in The Importance Of First Hand Experience: it is valuable to share the stories and opinions of real, identifiable people. Understanding people's backgrounds and personalities helps a lot when trying to make sense of why they say the things they do. C2's culture also encouraged people to talk about their feelings in relation to work and their co-workers, rather than pretending that emotions don't matter. C2 gave me my first hints that there were other people out there who didn't want to spend their careers just being highly-paid robots.
When I gave up on C2 and started this blog, I wanted it to be identifiable as mine, and I wanted to be as open as possible about what I was thinking and feeling. Some people may respect me, some people may think I'm an idiot, and billions of people don't care at all, but at least everyone can associate this collection of writings with a real person.
As readers of my blog know, I have written about various disappointments at work and a general dislike for the organization. I'll admit that I have had self-destructive-but-immensely-satisfying thoughts like "If the bastards don't like it, I hope they do fire me." However, I've always been careful to not name names or identify particular events that might offend anyone with whom I work. I haven't given the names of my employer (although it's not hard to find), the products I've worked on, or the customers who have bought them or who may buy them. So while I'm not anonymous myself, almost everyone else mentioned in this blog is. This protects me and the others involved from guilt by association: people Googling me won't find my company, and people Googling my company won't find me.
Unfortunately, this self-censorship prevents me from writing some of the things I'd like to write. There have been incidents that gave me insights into relationships with co-workers, managers, and customers, but I couldn't figure out how to write about them without offending people or giving away internal company information. I've considered writing them up as "children's stories," where the people are portrayed as bunny rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels working on some important woodland project, but I don't think I'd be skillful enough at hiding the true identities of the characters. I've also considered writing the incidents up as anonymous contributions to the C2 wiki, but that is not an attractive forum for me anymore.
So, while I'd hoped to be able to share some useful insights about the software development business, instead this blog contains more personal minutiae and non-specific "I hate my job" whining than I'd like. An anonymous or pseudonymous blog might let me get more interesting stories out there, but I'm not sure anyone would take my stories seriously without a real person's name attached.
Having my name on this blog has plusses and minuses. What really pushes me toward the non-anonymous side is an ever-greater realization of who I am and what I want to be. Flawed as I am, I want to take full responsibility for everything I think, write, and do. This is in sharp contrast to the younger Kris Johnson who was terrified whenever anyone asked his opinion, who was unbearably embarrassed whenever he received compliments or recognition, and who felt completely powerless over anything that happened in his life. I'm now sometimes a little shocked at the self-centeredness and arrogance I read in my own blog, but if writing about my personal experiences can help others to figure out their own true identities, then I'm glad.
If my bosses don't like it, I hope they do fire me. My name is Kris Johnson; you can find me in the company directory.