Running a weblog has a lot of benefits, with some downsides:
It's that last point that is painful. You see, the community in Utah is small enough -- about 750,000 people in a few hundred square miles -- that as a UNIX admin, you gradually come to know, and be known, throughout the area. Every interview I've been to while looking for my next job, we've known someone in common. That knowledge of somone in common can be the difference between getting the job, and not getting the job.
Running an online journal brings that one level closer to you. You put your life out on display, hanging in the breeze for anyone to examine. It takes a while for you to get your bearings, and in the meantime, those old entries don't just go away on their own.
People you know can, and do, look you up.
I was recently asked by a friend to modify some data on barnson.org to make it less personally-identifiable. This really brought my thought process to a head: what are we really doing here? In posting news, updates, various rants, and other information to the Internet, we're taking conversation that would normally take place at the coffee shop and be forgotten about almost as soon as it's said, and now nailing it down in the annals of history, forever in print for us, and others, to examine, for the rest of our lives. And beyond, maybe.
When I was on my last contract, I posted some information about the place I was working for. It was all information already available on the 'net, and the kind of stuff anybody could figure out with a few minutes and a calculator. Yet I was pulled into my boss's office for a potential "violation of your non-disclosure agreement" and asked to change the data.
Now, in my opinion, the information was trivial. I deleted a single sentence, and the posting was appropriate. Had I said the same thing at home, or in a coffee shop, nobody would know, nobody would care.
But the key reason why they objected? The information wasn't glowingly positive, and my posting showed up in the first page on a Google search for the company name.
I believe it's not what I wrote, or even the less-than-adulatory perspective it conveyed, that was the problem. It was public exposure. Had I even written "the company is small and unstable, with little money in the bank", this would all be publicly-available information, but because of the employer-employee relationship, they could have exerted very strong pressure ("we'll get someone else", basically) to get me to change the information.
If it was something few other people would see, they wouldn't care. But because of that exposure, as the Internet becomes increasingly the first source people turn to for news, rather than the television or radio, it's becoming an increasingly important place for a company to keep a positive "spin" on their activities.
I'm not sure if this is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing. But running a weblog, particularly where you expose much in the way of private information, is a life-changing choice. You don't realize it on your first post, or the fifteenth, but at some point you realize it's both a good and a bad thing in your life. In my case, at least, far more good than bad; I have a place to post important information, and given my technical specialty, it's an acceptable quirk for most people.
But I do wonder what will be the eventual fate of traditional media outlets as blogs continue to grow to first sources of information, and continue to dominate the search engine rankings. What do you think the net effect of putting all this information on the Internet will be?