I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. The story behind it is a bit old now, but I’m just now feeling motivated enough to actually write it up.
Here’s the fundamental question behind this post: why are people surprised when they are fired for bad-mouthing their employer and co-workers on their web sites?
“Dooced” is a pretty common term in the blogosphere these days. For anyone who doesn’t know its meaning and/or etymology, the Wikipedia entry gives a pretty good high-level summary. Last month, the media latched onto another case of a woman getting fired for roughly the same reason (edited 2023 August 24 to point to the archive.org entry).
So, here’s how I view this. My employer as an entity has absolutely no good reason to concern itself with my life outside of work, and that includes this web log. However, part of the reason for that is that this web log has absolutely no reason to concern itself with the details of my experiences as an employee. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I’ve considered that it might be okay to share specifics of my work in this weblog, regardless of whether or not I name my employer or the people in those accounts.
To me, what it boils down to is this: whatever my “typical” readership is, this web log amounts to public media. Google indexes this site quite thoroughly. Anyone who publishes a web site and doesn’t know about the Wayback Machine at archive.org REALLY needs to go there and search for their own URL. Look up URLs for sites that are years-dead. Go try it. Look up “http://www.eng.ua.edu/~jmcclure/”. Scary.
My point… I don’t care how crafty I think I am, the web is a public medium, and there’s enough information out there to connect the dots between me, my job, and any comments I make about my job on my site. Given that, how can I expect my employer not to protect itself in that situation, and unless there was clear discrimination (based on the legal definition, which doesn’t include the right to bad-mouth my employer) how can I expect to have any recourse or right to complain?