The blogging conundrum

commentary In recent times, Web logs, better known as blogs, have gained in popularity (and notoriety), especially in the United States.Blogs take the form of an online diary and offer a platform for people to rant and rave about anything under the sun.

commentary In recent times, Web logs, better known as blogs, have gained in popularity (and notoriety), especially in the United States.

Blogs take the form of an online diary and offer a platform for people to rant and rave about anything under the sun. But is the sky really the limit? In May, Jessica Cutler, an entry-level aide to American senator Mike DeWine, found out the hard way.

Her blog described sexual trysts with certain individuals, including an alleged affair with a married chief-of-staff of a federal agency.

Cutler was fired after her blog was discovered but a spokesman for DeWine said the sacking was due to illegal use of Senate computers. "Our office has determined that there was an unacceptable use of Senate computers to post unsuitable and offensive material to an Internet weblog," the spokesman said in a statement.

In an editorial published in The Guardian, Cutler wrote: "Imagine dropping your diary on the street somewhere, and the next day, it's world news. That's what happened to me several days ago. Except, I posted my diary on a blog -- the Washingtonienne -- so my friends could read it for fun. As a young single woman, the diary was mostly about my sex life. I could not believe anybody besides them would want to read such a thing. But thirteen days later, it was all over Capitol Hill."

Also last month, Amy Norah Burch, a Harvard University social studies office worker, was terminated after a superior chanced upon her blog -- which allegedly contained provocative posts, including threats to colleagues and supervisors.

Did Cutler and Burch treat their blogs as their personal online diaries, without any delineation between work and play? Or was it a case of inadequate policies for blogging?

Apart from computer usage policies and e-mail etiquette, perhaps dos and don'ts for blogging should be included at employee induction and orientation programs.

Although blogging is in its nascent stage in Australia, CIOs, human resource departments and technology chiefs should follow its development closely. After all, it would be unwise and costly to get caught with your pants down.

Is there a need to formulate policies for blogging or do you think existing company regulations are adequate? E-mail your thoughts to edit@zdnet.com.au.

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