The recent posting of the The Oracle Social Media Participation Policy on Justin Kestelyn's (Oracle Technology Network Editor in Chief) blog has caused me to reevaluate my own personal and previously unwritten policies that affect how and what I write in this blog. In this post, I briefly look at the informal and unwritten policies that I have attempted to follow in writing posts for this blog and why these internally-motivated policies are important. Other developers who blog (and I think more should) may wish to similarly take an inventory of their own blogging practices.
Mixing of Personal and Technical
One of the main differences Justin calls out between Oracle's policy and Sun's policy is the mixing of personal with work-related content. In an update to the post, Justin points out that not all personal is discouraged. In many ways, my own post (though hosted on Google's Blogger rather than on any employer's infrastructure) follows the same advice. I do weave small personal details into my posts, but the focus of each post is always technically related.
The reason for this is that I have found that I prefer that approach as a reader of other peoples' blogs. I present in a way I most enjoy as an attendee at a presentation (fast-talking, content-rich presentations) and I write my blog in the way I prefer others' blogs (strongly focused on the technical subjects with just enough personal details to make the topic less dry, somewhat personable, and to provide informed opinion).
I tend to prefer it when other bloggers separate purely personal non-technical content from their technical content. The reason for this is that I often don't know these people personally and while their technical expertise and insight is valuable to me, I really don't care about their purely personal interests (especially in terms of politics). I don't want to wade through meaningless and uninteresting non-technical details to find the technical gems. I do "maintain" a personal blog with non-technical subjects, but it doesn't get the same attention from me as my technical blog.
Long-Term Blog Availability
One of the respondents to Justin's post asked about the future of his Sun blog. This is a reminder that one's blog can get removed at anytime. Hosting one's own blog obviously reduces the chances of anyone else removing it, but insufficient backups can mean problems even then. Hackers, hardware problems, and even user error could wipe out a blog whether it is hosted externally or on one's own. Very few things in life are guaranteed and online resource availability is certainly not (see the demise of GeoCities as an example). It is important to back up one's blogs. It helps if a blog has been reproduced on other hosts (which is sometimes the case), but even this can be difficult to piece back together.
I was very happy when Blogger announced the ability to export a blog and import a blog. That certainly contributes to the ability to move one's blog to another host if necessary or desired. The ability to do that is one of the reasons that I've stayed with Blogger.
In addition, I have my blog posts forwarded to multiple e-mail accounts as additional backup. The export/import is certainly easier if I ever need to actually do this in bulk, but the e-mail messages are automatic and are easily stored. In other words, the export/import can be more difficult to remember to do in a timely manner, but are easier to do if the time comes to export/import the blog in bulk.
In the worst case, there are other options for resurrecting a "lost blog" such as using Google Cache or the Internet Archive WayBack Machine. Reconstructing a blog from these two sources would be tedious and depends on the blog being archived/cached in these resources.
In summary on the topic of long-term blog availability, I continue to use Blogger and back it up occasionally using the export feature. I also have my posts forwarded to multiple e-mail accounts as soon as they are submitted. If Google ever stops supporting Blogger, I will hopefully have the ability to easily move my blog posts to another provider or, in the less optimal case, reconstruct them from my e-mail messages.
Watching What I Say
In my blog, I do endeavor to keep my criticisms as constructive as possible and I try not to allow emotion to override technical merit. Although I feel I do pretty well at this generally, I do better at it sometimes more than others. One of the blog posts that seemed to lead to Justin's post, Assimilation Begins...Oracle Censors Blogs.Sun.com, the blog author does seem to drop into an emotionally-charged state with significant use of hyperbole (though I love the use of the image of one of my favorite fictional villains [The Borg]).
The author uses words like "muck-mucks", "subjugate Sun culture" (cultural change seems to inevitably happen in mergers and acquisitions between very large companies), "Snoracle," "draconian rules," and "cultural imperialism." Normally, use of exaggeration and hyperbole undermines the credibility of a blog topic in my mind, but in this case, I attribute it more to the blog author's referenced personal connection to the creation of the blogs.sun.com site. It is easier to understand this emotion in that light, even if it seems a little overly dramatic from an outsider's perspective.
I acknowledge that I have said things and written things that are emotionally-driven and often overly critical, especially in e-mail and newsgroups. I try a little harder with blogs to not go that far and be more controlled in what I write.
I prefer blogs with opinions and facts as long as the opinions are informed opinions and are presented as opinion rather than fact. I also understand the importance of not revealing trade secrets regarding employers, clients, etc. and in not committing libel, slander, and the like. When one writes a blog post, the onus is on that person to think carefully about what he or she writes.
In general, I sometimes feel the "online frontier" is far too wild in terms of lack of civility and respect. I do try to keep my blog more positively focused and to talk about things I like or appreciate more often than my occasional posts about things I don't like or wish would be better. There is a place for constructive criticism and constant improvement, but it doesn't need to be rude and condescending.
I think it is important to have personal guidelines that shape what we say, do, and write. Having internal guidelines that I attempt to adhere to in writing this blog is an extension of that. It is my opinion that these guidelines benefit me and those who read one or more of my posts. It's time to back up my blog while I'm thinking about it.