By John Sonmez August 20, 2015

Will My Blogging Get Me Fired?

In this episode, I talk more about blogging and breaching confidentiality.

 

Full transcript:

John:               Hey, John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com. I got a question about blogging. I think this is kind of an interesting topic about if you should actually blog, if it could get you fired from your job. This question comes from Chuck. Chuck says, “John, has anyone asked you about blogging stuff related to work that might be borderline breach confidentiality or perceived by my employer as breaching confidentiality? I was talking about blogging with a coworker to day and he made me think about this a little more for e.g. the latest blog post on” and I’m not going to put this out here just in case he’s concerned about this, I won’t put the address. If you said this question and you like to put it in a comment I can put it in the description but for now I’m going to assume that you don’t want this public who you are. “It was related to a project I recently worked on at my company. I kept our custom app very vague on purpose and just talked about the process and the technical steps I took. I don’t see any issues there at all, but still I haven’t talked to my boss about it and I don’t know for sure exactly how he will react. I mentioned to him about blogging before and he seemed fine with it. He also understands the developer blogging culture really well. Honestly, if he is not okay with my approach with blogging that means I have 2 options. One, find a different job that lets me blog about stuff related to work, or 2, only blog about stuff not related to work. I want to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks.”

Obviously I’m not a lawyer so I have put a disclaimer on this one because I don’t want you to get fired form your job and say John did it, John ruined my life. I’m not going to give you legal advice but I’ll give you my advice here. I would say that in general I wouldn’t worry about this. If you’re taking the proper precautions, if you are not using your company name and the actual source code and the actual thing that you produced and especially—even that might be okay. I would clear that with my boss, but if you’re not doing it in a negative light then you’re probably going to be okay there. I’ve even written somewhat—I guess I would say if I have written a blog post that are somewhat negative about something that happened at work I’ve tried to definitely make it so that it wasn’t easily identifiable of the company and that I wasn’t super critical that I was just pointing out at things.

It depends on how you do it. Obviously if you write some kind of scathing thing about something that happened at work and how your boss is a jerk I would probably expect to have negative repercussions from that. If you’re sharing some technical challenge that you had at work and you’re not using the actual code and you’re just sharing just in general how this thing worked or even if it’s a specific problem but you’re not spelling out proprietary information or some kind of trade secret you’re probably going to be okay in general. I think most environments that’s going to be fine. If you’re super concerned about it I would just talk to your boss but you have to realize that the whole legalistic issue of if you ask this question you might get told no just because that’s the safe answer, right? You have to weigh that. Personally I wouldn’t ask, I would just do it. I’m sort of the kind of person that’s—I’ll do something and then ask permission later. I’d rather apologize than ask permission. That’s me. I’m willing to take those risks.

For me a job that I couldn’t do that would not be a job I would want to stay at. That’s another thing to consider. I don’t know what your situation is. It depends on the person, but in general I haven’t—you haven’t seen this happen very often. I’ve never gotten an email from someone that said, “Hey, I get fired because I blogged” or “I got in trouble for blogging.” I’ve had help developers start hundreds of blogs, probably somewhere around 5, 600, maybe 700 blogs and I’ve never once gotten that response.

Just from an odds perspective your odds are pretty dang good. I really wouldn’t worry about it. Take the proper precautions. Don’t go out there and say bad things about your employer or your coworkers. Don’t go out there and spill the details of the exact code and copy and paste the code from your actual projects. Talk about the problems you solved, the real world problems and the other aspect of this is the company might actually want to. There’s a lot of companies out there in software development field that actually do blog about their real problems and their real code that they have because they know that that attracts talented developers to them so your company might be interested in that.

Maybe you could mention—one good way to approach is without making it so that you bring your own blog into question is to suggest to your employer, “Hey, what if we had a corporate and I started writing some articles for that and I shared our code and I shared our thing.” If they say yes to that then chances are writing on your personal blog will be fine as well even if you never actually do the corporate blog. That’s maybe a technique that you could to do not directly be told no and to test the waters but you should know with the company that you’re working at.

Again, in general I wouldn’t worry about this at all. I don’t have any concerns about it. I’ve never seen someone get in trouble. Just be smart about it. Don’t do anything stupid and you should be fine. Hopefully that helps you Chuck. Thanks for the question. That’s a good question. I think a lot of people are worried about this needlessly. I just wouldn’t worry too much about it and not make a big deal of it and probably you won’t have a problem.

If you’ve got a question for me don’t hesitate to email me at john@simpleprogrammer.com and I will try to get you a video response. Like always, subscribe to the channel and you’ll get more of these videos. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."