Red SwingLine Blogging
I used to work in an office. 8:00am to 5:00pm, one hour for lunch. It was an autonomous position, so I could take my OSHA-mandated breaks whenever I wanted. If there was time. Offices are a funny kind of servitude in many ways. There will be days of non-stop activity that really needs doing. Filing purchase orders, executing contracts, pacifying high-strung artists who want to know why they don't have a royalty check this quarter &mdash all the important stuff. But there are days, both whole days and fractions of days, where nothing happens. You've got to wait for this woman to get out of a meeting or that guy to figure out the new policy. So you sit there. Before computers you'd file your nails or read a magazine. You'd leave your light on and your chair facing outward to make it look like you just got up for a minute when in reality you are down on the third floor trying to make time with the cutie in Payroll.
Now there are computers. And now you can blog. You can read the tossed-off crud from other people's brain or you can toss off your own. You can send emails to your husband, you can IM the guy in Vermont who sells you all your hardware. I've been there. I've seen it done. For about three months my company was on a 'no-internet-for-personal-use' policy. In the end the policy was dismantled by the President's secretary refusing to do his shopping for him over the Internet. Shopping falling as it does under the "personal use" category that the home office was in such a twist over. So, Presidents wielding more clout than Associate Brand Managers in these types of situations, that policy was quietly retired.
Company internet policies are strange animals. Everyone (save certain industries) disallow porn, but beyond the obvious "NSFW" sites there seems to be a sliding scale. Some companies encourage web use as refreshing and productivity enhancing. Others discourage it outright, with detailed specifics in handbooks and memos. I'm betting most places merely tolerate it out of the realization that a no-personal-web policy would be to difficult and costly to enforce. It's also very difficult to tell people whose health insurance premiums you've just doubled and whose annual raise you've just cancelled that they can't read "Dilbert" on the internet first thing every morning.
So what? Well, first we have the AllState guy fired for apparently writing something that his company didn't like. The debate rages on as to whether or not he wrote his pieces on company time. Then today we have the Nashosphere in a twist over allegations of a state employee blogging on company time.
My questions are these:
1. Should a blogger be fired for writing about something other than their own company? If my boss is a big Garrison Keillor fan, should I be fired for saying that I think the dude is teh suck on my blog?
2. If there is nothing in writing made available to employees about an internet policy, can one be enforced? Do we assume that people know by osmosis what the correct use of the Internet is during work hours?
3. Most importantly, what the blue-blazes is 'company time' anymore? If you are salaried you are constantly told that you are being paid not only for your time but your expertise. So you will have those 18 hour days during crunch time. With no added pay. But you will also have those lulls. Since the demand for your time can't always be accurately measured, the breaks due you can't always be scheduled. So, if you can blog on your break or your lunch hour, but neither one is scheduled how can the "blog only on your break/lunch hour" philosophy be enforced?
In case you can't tell, I'm mighty glad to not be in an office anymore.