Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Blog Frenzy & Blog Dangers

Bad news for casual bloggers.

Personal blogging can be dangerous, in many ways.

I refer you to my own articles on the subject at Vaspers the Grate, "You are Not a Blog" and "Dangers of Personal Blogging".

I also plan to inspect, along with my readers, the following article:

"Bloggers Learn Price
of Telling Too Much


The Associated Press/CHICAGO


AP National Writer

JUL. 8 3:33 P.M. ET

[QUOTE]w/{STREIGHT commentary}

Blogs are everywhere -- increasingly, the place where young people go to bare their souls, to vent, to gossip. And often they do so with unabashed fervor and little self-editing, posting their innermost thoughts for any number of Web surfers to see.

{STREIGHT: ...but also exposing their poetry, sock puppets, photos, digital art, political opinions, web usability insights, favorite music, videos, podcasts, etc.}

There is a freedom in it, as 23-year-old Allison Martin attests: "Since the people who read my blog are friends or acquaintances of mine, my philosophy is to be totally honest -- whether it's about how uncomfortable my panty hose are or my opinions about First Amendment law," says Martin, who lives in suburban Chicago and has been blogging for four years.

{STREIGHT: Like democracy itself, which has spawned both the worldwide web and the blog, there is freedom, with responsibility. Bloggers must be brave and smart simultaneously.

Personal bloggers have audiences of friends, family, lovers, classmates, work associates, neighbors, hairdresser, paper boy, milkman, and random surfers.

Some of the personal blogging is debate on concepts of art, politics, music, etc., not just confessional trivia blatherings, though that's nice too, and can even be very funny or eccentric, sometimes, in a personal, not a business, blog.}

Some are, however, finding that putting one's life online can have a price.

{STREIGHT: Just as, for corporations, putting one's company or business online, on the line, toeing the line, performing candidly in a highly interactive volatility of comments and cross-comments, reblogging and deblogging, link rot and 500 series server error codes, trackback spam and abusive trolling, this putting the company "out there" and "online" is full of risks that most businesses should not take.

Business who cannot hack this hostile, unpredictable, high-repercussion blogos-fearic environment should_not_blog.

But the few good corporations and other organizations may implement blogs with great accuracy and massive results.}

A few bloggers, for instance, have been fired for writing about work on personal online journals.

{STREIGHT: ...and for improper use of email, postal mail, office supplies, work associates of the other gender, alcohol abuse at company Christmas party, flirting with CEO's wife or concubine, etc.}

And Maya Marcel-Keyes, daughter of conservative politician Alan Keyes, discovered the trickiness of providing personal details online when her discussions on her blog about being a lesbian became an issue during her father's recent run for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois (he made anti-gay statements during the campaign).

{STREIGHT: Again, not to be dismissive, but remember that the exact same precautions and considerations apply to email, telephone conversations, interoffice memos, issues posters in your cubicle, sayings on tee shirts and ball caps, postal mail, and public speaking, all forms of communications and relations. Not just the poor little no budget blog that gets all the blame lately. Along with it's nefarious money-waster brother, text messaging.}

Experts say such incidents belong to a growing trend in which frank outpourings online are causing personal and public dramas, often taking on a life they wouldn't have if the Web had not come along and turned individuals into publishers.

{STREIGHT: I think this drama, this life, would indeed have eventualized, via frank outpourings elsewhere, through some other, probably clumsier, non-inclusive means: text messaging, wikis, email, postal mail, skyping, podcasting, etc. The blog reigns supreme of all communications vehicles, due to comments, easy publishing, and being able to include everything else in an intimate manner: video, audio, games, polls, forums, photo, art, etc.}

Some also speculate that more scandalous blog entries -- especially those about partying and dating exploits -- will have ramifications down the road.

{STREIGHT: I"mm gllladdd I don't do any partying or dating exploits anymore, unless my wife tells me to, and I do it with her only.}

"I would bet that in the 2016 election, somebody's Facebook entry will come back to bite them," Steve Jones, head of the communications department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says, referring to thefacebook.com, a networking site for college students and alumni that is something of a cross between a yearbook and a blog.

More traditional blog sites -- which allow easy creation of a Web site with text, photos and often music -- include Xanga, LiveJournal and MySpace.

And they've gotten more popular in recent years, especially among the younger set.

{STREIGHT: Thank you. I like being considered the younger set. Younger than what? Tyrannosaurus Rex?}

Surveys completed in recent months by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that nearly a fifth of teens who have access to the Web have their own blogs. And 38 percent of teens say they read other people's blogs.

{STREIGHT: Lurkers! Say it like Seinfeld says, "Newman!"}

By comparison, about a tenth of adults have their own blogs and a quarter say they read other people's online journals.

{STREIGHT: Wish there was a statistic on how many post user-generated voluntary content: in other words: comments. Comment is blog cement.

Get that weirdness? -- "they read other people's online journals" ...

is like "they wear other people's underwear" or "they eat other people's vomit".}

Amanda Lenhart, a researcher at Pew who tracks young people's Internet habits, says she's increasingly hearing stories about the perils of posting the equivalent of a diary online.

{STREIGHT: Okay, now for the juicy stuff. The DANGERS, and I mean that seriously, of Personal Trivia Blogging. or Personal Earth-shattering Profundity Blogging.}

She heard from one man whose niece was a college student looking for a job. Out of curiosity, he typed his niece's name into a search engine and quickly found her blog, with a title that began "The Drunken Musings of ...."

{STREIGHT: Hey, cut the kid some slack. I bet her father wrote Kerouac, Ginsberg, or Dylan imitation poems or song lyrics, joint hanging out of his grin. At least it wasn't "The Drunken Stoned Pharmed Out Multiple Piercings Tattooed Lesbian Motorcycle Gangblogging Anarchist Environmentalist Communal Labor Rights Deconstructivist Musings of ...."}

"He wrote to her and said, 'You may want to think about taking this down,'" said Lenhart, chuckling.

Other times, the ease of posting unedited thoughts on the Web can be uglier, in part because of the speed with which the postings spread and multiply.

{STREIGHT: You never know who is avidly reading, recording, bizarro-ing, burrowing through, paralaxing, maxfactoring your blog at any given moment in past, present, or future. Careful what you say, how you say it, to whom it's said.}

That's what happened at a middle school in Michigan last fall, when principals started receiving complaints from parents about some students' blog postings on Xanga.

{STREIGHT: What on earth were these parents upset about? What blog postings worried or angered the parents? "Mom's taking Aunt Richard's Ativan and Stadol again, so I better hide my money and my stolen Ritalin"? What were the students blogging about that caused alarm? This is very intrinsic to the story. Intriguing.}

School officials couldn't do much about it.

But when the students found out they were being monitored, a few posted threatening comments aimed at an assistant principal -- and that led to some student suspensions.

"It was just a spiraling of downward emotions," says the school's principal. She spoke on the condition that she and her school not be identified, out of fear that being named would cause another Web frenzy.

{STREIGHT: Web frenzy! Oh, how I'd love to start one myself, a frenzy about Vaspers the Grate, or about Blog Core Values, or even Cosmos Blogmos. I love a frenzy.

The humble little blog! Causing a frenzy! Like Beatle
Mania or Elvis Hysteria. Blog Frenzy. Blog and Roll High School by the Blogmoans?}

"Kids just feed into to that and then more kids see it and so on," she says. "It's a negative power -- but it's still a power."

{STREIGHT: Look out, Blog Power is here. I agree. A blog is a power, better than any stupid Harry Potter stunts. Blog Power. Blog Revolution. Blog People vs Non-bloggers. yeah...}

Lenhart, the Pew researcher, likens blogs to the introduction of the telephone and the effect it had on teen's ability to communicate in the last century.

She agrees that the Web has "increased the scope" of young people's communication even more.

"But at the root of it, we're talking about behaviors middle-schoolers have engaged in through the millennia," Lenhart says. "The march of technology forward is hard, and it has consequences that we don't always see."

She says parents would be wise to familiarize themselves with online blogging sites and to pose questions to their children such as, "What is appropriate?" and "What is fair?" to post.

{STREIGHT: Hey parents: if your child already has a blog, it's too late for a crash course in ethics, civility, and etiquette. They're mimicking you and their peers and idols in their posts.}

It's also important to discuss the dangers of giving out personal information online.

{STREIGHT: Again, "too much information" anywhere, not just online. On the phone, in the postal mail, in a chat room, in magazine article, in a job interview, on a date, wherever.}

One Pew survey released this spring found that 79 percent of teens agreed that people their age aren't careful enough when giving out information about themselves online. And increasingly, Lenhart says, this applies to blogs.

{STREIGHT: Are blogs, then, the gateway drug? Once your thirteen or thirty year old child is addicted to blogging, what next? Text messaging? Podcasting? Vlogging? Glogging? Clinking? Trolling? Scam-baiting? Wiki-ing?}

Caitlin Hoistion, a 15-year-old in Neptune, N.J., says she knows people who go as far as posting their cell phone numbers on their blogs -- something she doesn't do. She also often shows her postings to her mom, which has helped her mom give her some space and privacy online.

{STREIGHT: Youth Hint--surest way to keep parents from prying into your blog is to force it on them, with digital art too abstract for their tastes, and photos of friends they don't like. Rants about music bands and fashion designers. Rants about not wanting to grow up and be like them. That'll do it.}

"That's not to say if I thought something dangerous was going on, I wouldn't ever spy on her," says her mother, Melissa Hoistion. "But she has given me no need to do so."

{STREIGHT: Parent Tip--by the time you figure out something dangerous is going on, it's always already too late. Think about it. I think you actually should read your children's blogs. And let them listen in on your phone conversations to your shrink, lawyer, and best friend.}

Many college students say they're learning to take precautions on their own.

John Malloy, a 19-year-old student at Centre College in Danville, Ky., has put a "friends lock" on his LiveJournal site so only people with a password he supplies can view it.

"A lot of times, my blog is among the first places I turn when I am angry or frustrated, and I am often quite unfair in my assessment of my situation in these posts," Malloy says. "Do I wish I hadn't posted? Of course. But I haven't actually gone as far to take posts down."

Instead he makes them "private" so only he can read them.

"I like to keep them to look back on," he says.

Meanwhile, Joseph Milliron, a 23-year-old college student in California, says he's become more cautious about posting photos online because people sometimes "borrow" them for their own sites.

It's just one trend that's made Milliron rethink what he includes in his blog.

"I know this very conspiracy theorist -- but I wouldn't put it past a clever criminal to warehouse different databases and wait 20 years when all the Internet youth's indiscretions can be used for surreptitious purposes," says the senior at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, who's been blogging for about three years.

Martin, the 23-year-old blogger in suburban Chicago, agrees that blogs can "provide just one more avenue for a person to embarrass him or herself."

"They also make it easier for people to tell everyone what a jerk you are," says Martin, who'll be heading to graduate school in Virginia this fall.

Still, she thinks blogging is worth it -- to stay in touch with friends and to air her more creative work, including essays.

"I suppose in that way," she says, "I think of blogs as 'open mic nights' online."



On the Net:

A few blogging sites:








Martha Irvine is a national writer specializing in coverage of people in their 20s and younger. She can be reached at mirvine (at) ap (dot) org


carrie said...

i tend to think of xanga and livejournal as being oriented toward young people. kids.
because that is usually what you see on those sites. kid's blogs.

that was an interesting post.
i'm glad you addressed both sides of the issue.

Hans said...

Steven, I found the Nonist- Blog
and I am quite exited.

steven edward streight said...

See? Another web frenzy starting. But not about Whispers the Grape. sigh.

Hans said...

What is a "web frenzy" ??
I am not that much into your slang, please explain...

steven edward streight said...

The use of "frenzy" seems almost funny and maybe exaggerated, hyped, over stressed, fanciful.

The word "frenzy" is usually used to describe a "hysteria", "fever", "over-excited", "mania", "frantic", "crazy", "wild", "extreme reaction".

The person is trying to say that if their name is mentioned, the student will "go nuts", "wacky", "frenzied", will start writing blog posts that criticize the adult, maybe death threats, supposedly.

I think this is wild statement in itself. Imagine: a blog frenzy among high school students, "they feed into it", like it's some dangerous activity, blogging.

Blog-induced crazy acting.

Blog-generated insanity.

I guess this is the meaning here, pretty sure of it.



Victoria Was Here! said...

Don't you tell off Harry Potter! Lol. This whole Article was funny! ;)

steven edward streight said...

Victoria Was Here: you are the first to have an animated avatar in my comments. It's creepy the way it pulsates.

Yes this article was unbelievably funny, reactionary, and distorted.

Now I don't mean to pick a fight with Business Week or Pew Internet. I blogroll both and I've been the subject of a post over at Business Week's Blogspotting blog, which is quite an honor. Not many business bloggers have this distinction.

But I don't care who it is, or what their company is, if they write something that I think is wrong, silly, or evil, they're going to hear from me.

But of course, I say nothing bad about my Great Benefactor: Google, who gives me FREE stuff all the time, showers it on me.

I won't bite the hand that feeds me.

So far, I have no complaints about Google, Blogger, or Gmail.