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On Troutgirl’s Getting Fired for Blogging [Updated]

Last night while cruising del.icio.us for new links before going to
bed, I noticed a link to Joyce “Troutgirl” Park’s blog entry on how her
employer, Friendster, fired her for blogging. Being too tired to blog,
I made a note to write about it in the morning and got scooped by Cory
Doctorow in Boing Boing
and Jeremy Zawodny in his own blog.

(The moral of the story: the early bird may get the worm, but the night
owl gets the nice juicy field mice.)

Here’s the entry in its entirety:

So I was terminated
from Friendster today. The reason given was blogging.

The levels of irony on this are pretty deep. For one thing, I
wrote a fairly well-known paper last year about the need for semi-permeable
blogging
. For another thing, by all accounts the particular
posts that led to my termination were this
one
and this
one

(although feel free to check my archives for any other incriminating
information). I try really hard not to blog about anything that is not
a matter of public record… but I guess that’s not protection any
more. You get Slashdotted, make Udell’s column, lose your job. And
finally, it’s especially ironic because Friendster, of course, is a
company that is all about getting people to reveal information about
themselves…

Let me note that I loved working for my VP of engineering,
Jeff
Winner, and I loved my team with all my heart. I worked really hard for
that company, and I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of.

[See the update below] This isn’t the first time I’d heard of someone being fired for what they’d written in their blog. Heather “Dooce” Armstrong
wrote some less-than-kind words about her coworkers in her blog, which
prompted one of them to email every vice president in the company,
pointing them to the offending entries. In her case, I think her
company had a fairly strong case for firing her, even though she’d “made sure not to mention specific places, persons, or events by name”.

[Update]: Bill points out:


Clarification on the Dooce firing:
the uncomplimentary comments were an in-joke between her and the person in question, who found it pretty funny. Someone else snitched.

Here’s what Heather wrote:

…my boss and the human resources representative pulled me into a
conference room and handed me my last paycheck. They explained that the
company had a zero-tolerance policy about negativity (?), that my
website was influencing the younger, more impressionable members of the
company, and that the CEO demanded that I be terminated at once.

I received no severance.

As for those of you who think I was stupid to post things on my
website about my job and about co-workers: I refuse to live in fear. I
refuse to be censored. I’ve lived my life far too long in fear of
disrupting expectations. I made a conscious decision when I conceived
dooce.com that I would never bow to the intimidation of others,
including employers or pussy-ass cocksmacks who think I should just
stop complaining and be a good worker bee already. For those of you who think it wrong to speak up about matters that
fundamentally bother you, go and join the fucking Mormon Church. Attend
BYU. Take it up the ass and bleed. Whatever you do, don’t read dooce.com, and certainly don’t think for yourself. Scandalous!

Get a goddamn sense of humor, for fucking crying out loud.

I will stand corrected…on the facts.

I am not quite convinced of the wrongness of her former employers’ decision.

I will keep in mind that Heather wrote this one day after her firing
and that people generally tend to be more strident in writing than they
are in person. However, the general tone of her writing, the fact that that she’d managed to alienate her own  family with a diatribe about their religion and the last bit of the snippet above all give
us a possible insight to her personality: namely that she’s whip-smart
and funny as all get-out, but for the love of God, don’t make her the
ambassador to anything.


Mark Pilgrim was — in my
opinion, I a
m not a lawyer nor a human resources specialist, and so on
unfairly fired for posting an article about how he’d overcome
addiction. The article in question now appears at a special site, AddictionIs.org.

When she was fired, the higher-ups cited two blog entries:

In spite of the fact that everything she’d written about the company was a matter of public record, Friendster’s new CEO, former NBC President Scott Sassa
(ah, a television exec — I’m beginning to see the source of the
stupidity) saw fit to fire her. The firing is especially stupid in
light of the fact that Friendster’s business is about divulging
information about yourself.

Since my displeasure with Friendster’s move is far, far greater than
its utility to me (my blog remains my most powerful social software), I
have decided to cancel my account with Friendster. If you feel that you
too would like to leave Friendster, click here to cancel your account.

(Jeremy Zawodny has posted a screenshot of Friendster’s account-cancellation page.)

C’mon, free market! It’s time for invisible hand to do some pimp-slappin’!


Side note

I’m in an unusual position here. One of the major factors in my hiring
was my blog. In fact, during the weeks I was being interviewed, our CEO
Elliot Noss told several Tucows employees to check out my blog, particularly the entry about the New Girl, which was getting tens of thousands of hits at the time. Boss Ross
and Elliot read my blog often, and Elliot often comments on my articles
when he passes by my desk (which is quite often — I’m in the dead
center of the middle aisle).

The fact that we make a blogging tool also makes it pretty hard to fire someone solely for blogging.

When I signed my employment contract, Ross simply said “keep on
blogging what you blog; just don’t give away any company secrets”, and
as of late, Ross has suggested that I blog about what’s happening in
here more.

As for not bad-mouthing my coworkers, well, that goes without saying.


Jeremy Zawodny has a collection of links at the bottom of his entry on Troutgirl’s firing — check it out.

5 replies on “On Troutgirl’s Getting Fired for Blogging [Updated]”

That is one of the main reasons I refrain from writing about anything too personal. My job, my extended family members, my kids etc are off limits. Not so much because I have anything negative to say but because I don’t want people close to me being harassed for something I may say or do. Of course work or anything near being work related is also a no no for me, for obvious reasons 🙂

On your addition: fair enough.
I’m firmly on the fence on the Dooce thing – I see your point of view and can agree, but the fuck-what-society-thinks part of me goes grrrr!
I walk the same sort of tightrope with my own blog. I don’t mention the company name, to give me a certain amount of freedom, but I know that both of my bosses and some of my co-workers read it. Actually, I gave them the URL – my personal decision is to generally speak positively or not at all (the recent layoff situation was a big exception), and knowing that they’re reading it helps me to maintain the internal censor that I choose to impose on my own content.
I frankly don’t know where I’m going with all of this. There is the individual’s right to speak as they please, but there is also a company’s right to protect their interests as they see fit. Tightrope, fence… the world is a grey place.
That said: Those Friendster guys sure have their head wedged up their ass, eh?

p.s. grrrr! at Dooce getting fired. Not at your point of view. Man, the coffee just doesn’t work as well when you get to my age…

It’s Liz here (Liz’s blog
There’s a few other people who have been fired for blogging:
here (august 27th, 2004 if things go spla). I’m not sure of Heather Dooce’s case…but Joyce’s case is just foolish. I’d cancel Friendster if I had an account.
I am neither an employee nor an employer. I have removed a few items of info from my blog at the request of the subjects of said info.

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