some general thoughts about blogging

McKeay wrote a great post about blogging this past weekend, and I think any security blogger should check it out. I really like his subpoints about blogging and working and balancing both:

I’ve learned a number of lessons about blogging the hard way. I’ve learned that no matter what I think I’m writing, what’s important is how other people are reading it… I’ve realized that people are reading and judging what I write, for good and for ill. And when I write something people read, it can get back to my employer.

I also like this:

More often than not, my employers have maintained an air of benevolent ignorance towards my blog, but every so often I’ve gotten the “we’ve read your blog and are not happy” conversation. Not often, but it has happened and it’s never comfortable talk. I’ve actually told at least one manager that my blog and podcast are more important to me than my job.

For me certainly, blogging is a personal thing, a way to organize my own thoughts, record something for the future, or vent a little bit. It’s also a way to dive deeper into what would always be a hobby for me, even if not a job. Even if I didn’t have a single reader my blogging habits wouldn’t change a bit.

Anyway, here are some points of my own that I try to follow.

1. Separate work from personal if you need to. This is a big deal in the past 5 years, where work and play time are blending together, largely because something you “say” (digitally) during your personal time can now easily persist for years for people at work to discover. Things you could say with buddies or at a bar don’t just stay with buddies or at the bar in a single point in time. Therefore, with blogging especially, I try to keep work separate. I don’t hide my identity on here, but likewise I don’t advertise my blog to work colleagues (they can easily find it on their own if they want) and I don’t mention my employer anywhere on here. I also leave deep personal things aside, though some incidents/anecdotes if read by the right people, would recognize themselves in them, but I also try to make sure they’re generic enough and have enough of a point to not be uncomfortable. Besides, if I piss someone off, I hope they have my own viewpoint and just move on with life. It’s a big deal to be able to agree to disagree; a very useful skill. I like dark grey cars and don’t like white cars. You might not agree. And it would be silly to get pissed about that. Same goes for what I post on my blog or elsewhere on the Internet with my screenname.

I admit, my hard divide between work and personal is slowly going away, in part to my next point, but also partly because security work and play is a career goal.

2. Don’t present false faces. I don’t like when people “front,” or present themselves in a way that isn’t in line with who they really are. Life is way too short and precious to not be yourself in anything you do, and if being yourself gets in the way, make changes to be someone better. In that regard, I don’t typically pick my words carefully on my blog; if I have an opinion, I’ll be out with it. (Though it does help that I’m an easy-going kind of guy anyway…and this is also easy to say for someone who thinks of himself as a very decent guy who is sympathetic to objectivist beliefs…)

3. It’s easy to apologize or admit to being wrong. I don’t mean this to sound like a copout for bad behavior, but it is easy to apologize for or admit to being wrong. I find it’s more important to put your opinions out there and be contritely wrong, than to bottle everything up and stew. And this is a tough thing for an INFP to say! (And it’s something my risk-averse nature will always fight with me about.) Granted, that doesn’t mean you can be an asshole and then be contrite about it and things are fine…be reasonable!

4. Remember the important things in security: integrity and privacy. This also applies to IT work in general. Typically we are in positions to know very deep secrets and have access (or get access) to very sensitive things. The same principles that prevent me from perusing my CEOs mailbox are the same that dictate what I divulge on a blog, or anywhere on the Internet. Hopefully most people in white hat security are at least aware of these principles in every facet of their lives.