My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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from having an outlet to being a whore

In the discussions on the Friendster firing, someone noted that i do not blog about my work. I found my nose crinkling and i thought i should explore that.

In the last 7 years, i have never signed an agreement with any company or organization that forbids me to blog. Or at least, i do not believe that i have. That said, i have often opted not to blog about the work that i do for companies.

I take contracting gigs in part for the money but in part for the intellectual exercise. I usually respect the companies that i work for and realize that they are working in a competitive market and have hired me to solve a set number of problems, not simply broadcast their strengths and weaknesses to the public.

There are two types of blog posts i typically make about products: rants and theoretical considerations. I still post the theoretical considerations because it’s often possible to generalize them beyond a particular product.

The ranting is usually what i stop doing. Rants provide two roles for me. First, they let me vent my frustration. Second, they give me the false hope that i might affect the product somehow remotely. (Note: Friendster paid absolutely no attention to my critiques, thereby dashing this hope.)

When i work at a company, they give me mechanisms to rant and additional insider knowledge to rant with. Why should i bother to rant to a public unknown audience when i can go straight to the creator’s cube and chew their ear off? The advantage of the public option is to see if others (dis)agree. But seriously, the cube method is far more effective. I think it’s great that people seem to find value from my blog/rants, but the most noticeable impact to me has always been 1-1 anyone.

Once i’ve gotten out a rant, i feel no desire to actually re-articulate it for the public. Note: this is why my publication rate has dropped dramatically as my blogging rate has increased… warning for the other academics out there.

Pay me to speak and i’ll happily craft a theoretical and critical analysis of whatever. But when it comes to blogging, i have no desire to be expected to comment on my work or whatever the latest trend is out there. Nor am i ever remotely amused when people write me emails asking me to comment on their product on my blog or provide free consulting about how to fix some theoretical snaffoo.

I hate being expected to do things because i’ve done them before. Expectations kill the passion. This blog has been the product of passion for 7 years. I can be convinced to operate without passion when other needs are met (like rent money), but it’s not really my preferred way of living.

I almost stopped blogging a few months back because i was tired of the expectations. Seriously, if i could give any feedback to readers, it would be lay off, chill the fuck out and don’t expect/demand things from the writers you’re reading. For me (and many of my friends), blogging is an exercise of love, not an effort to meet an audience’s needs. Having to face expectations every time i go to my blog makes me feel absolutely disgusting, like i’ve become some sort of blogging whore.

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27 comments to from having an outlet to being a whore

  • I understand your point about expectations from readers, but it is a little disingenuous of you. Part of your authority on social networking topics (and gigs) undoubtedly comes from your academic work, but some good-sized piece of it must comes from your blog writing and your presentations to non-academic audiences at places like ETech and Supernova.

    Having set yourself up as an expert and guru, don’t people have right to have some expectations of you?

    P.S. Still hoping for a simple explanation of the Nicotine / ADD post.

  • I understand entirely what you are saying here. What is the point of writing a blog entry if there is no passion inside of yourself for its topic or for the blog itself anymore? I write in my blog with a passion for writing, a passion for the topics I choose, and for the way that writing feeds my soul.

    Granted, I would like a higher comment rate (a way to note readership, I feel) but I write primarily for me and it is simply a bonus if anyone else reads and enjoys it.

    Congrats on being true to yourself and thanks for speaking up.

  • danah: “(Note: Friendster paid absolutely no attention to my critiques, thereby dashing this hope.)”

    You gained my respect for simply ATTEMPTING to reach the ear of Friendster and Co., danah.

    I also appreciatee what you said about being a blogging whore. Sometimes I wonder whether or not I have crossed the line, but on the whole, I do my blogging for myself first.

    –Ryan.

  • Geodog – ah, this is where we disagree. I have been blogging for 7 years as an outlet, not as a tool to get gigs. My talks at non-academic conferences probably won’t count towards my academic career; i do them because they’re fun and they let me deal with a topic that i need to deal with. I chose to work with Blogger this summer because i thought it would be fun and interesting and i would get to focus on blogging; all of my other summer offers were research groups in companies due to my academic credentials. I actually have a lot of discomfort about being an authority on certain things simply because i have a different perspective. I do not see myself as an authority and guru and am fearful of those who give me such a title. I didn’t set up this blog to acquire an audience beyond my small group of colleagues, but i’m rolling with it anyhow. It’s been fun but it’s also been painful. I’m glad that i’ve been able to affect some people, but i also need to get some work done and complete my qualifying exams. This is why i won’t be speaking at any non-academic conferences this year (except maybe Etech).

    As for the nicotine/ADD post… i posted it but i can’t say that i know a lot about it.

  • Endster

    “This is the end, beautiful friend,” sang Jim Morrison in “The End” long ago. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” sang Semisonic in “Closing Time” a few years ago. These were the lyrics running through my head

  • Mike

    “Or at least, i do not believe that i have.”

    this is what I’m wondering about. Most companies, in Silicon Valley at least, have pretty standard NDA or confidentiality agreements that may or may not explicitly name blogging as a communication channel, but are usually worded so that a breach of confidentiality is not tied to particular media of that breach.

    This I think is at the heart of the Friendster issue….did it occur to the engineer to see what that confidentiality agreement included before posting ? Does she believe that she was wrongfully terminated, and that her blogging

    From what I can tell, thousands of bloggers out there (including Troutgirl herself) are assuming that since what she posted could be seen as “public knowledge” about the company’s technology, then that is enough to keep her within the bounds of the agreement that she may have signed. This seems a bit naive to me, and since most of the bloggers up in arms about it are engineers, then you might think that they would be interested in what is technically true about her dismissal, and whether it is warranted or not.

    I think that the issue in the end is less about blogging (although its more permanent nature is definitely important to consider) and more about the assumed differences between what sorts of freedoms that bloggers assume they have, and what they really have.

    I think that most people who blog should take a look at what they’ve signed that might limit what they can blog about, much in the same way that people should take care in what sorts of car/health insurance they have. 🙂

  • joe

    Man, it’s too bad it had to come to this… danah, the chillest of chill, having to tell people to lay off and chill the fuck out.

    I’d add another: If you don’t like what danah is saying, fuck off.

  • joe

    Man, it’s too bad it had to come to this… danah, the chillest of chill, having to tell people to lay off and chill the fuck out… in her own “house” so to speak.

    I’d add another: If you don’t like what danah choosed to write/not write about, fuck off.

  • joe

    Man, it’s too bad it had to come to this… danah, the chillest of chill, having to tell people to lay off and chill the fuck out… in her own “house” so to speak.

    I’d add another: If you don’t like what danah choosed to write/not write about, fuck off.

  • joe

    Man, it’s too bad it had to come to this… danah, the chillest of chill, having to tell people to lay off and chill the fuck out… in her own “house” so to speak.

    I’d add another: If you don’t like what danah choosed to write/not write about, fuck off.

  • tony

    “Squeak”,from the peanut gallery.

    ok, as an “outsider”,I promise to read more, talk less.It is all rather creepy(like barging in on others and making oneself at home)anyway.I apologize for any silly or rude behaviors. Social norms are worn..

  • Yo Joe,
    You don’t have to shout!

    Danah,
    I hope that BM restoked your passion for whatever you want to write about.

  • Sarah

    Like, dude, you have ethics? and don’t want to be a dork and possibly jeoprodize your career in consulting? If I were an employer i’d look at this as a plus… because blogging seems like it can take on the threat of “industrial espionage” even though it was just a rant…

  • Sarah

    Like, dude, you have ethics? and don’t want to be a dork and possibly jeoprodize your career in consulting? If I were an employer i’d look at this as a plus… because blogging seems like it can take on the threat of “industrial espionage” even though it was just a rant…

  • Sarah

    Like, dude, you have ethics? and don’t want to be a dork and possibly jeoprodize your career in consulting? If I were an employer i’d look at this as a plus… because blogging seems like it can take on the threat of “industrial espionage” even though it was just a rant…

  • Sarah

    Like, dude, you have ethics? and don’t want to be a dork and possibly jeoprodize your career in consulting? If I were an employer i’d look at this as a plus… because blogging seems like it can take on the threat of “industrial espionage” even though it was just a rant…

  • Sarah

    Like, dude, you have ethics? and don’t want to be a dork and possibly jeoprodize your career in consulting? If I were an employer i’d look at this as a plus… because blogging seems like it can take on the threat of “industrial espionage” even though it was just a rant…
    (is this thing on?– check check check)

  • Sarah

    Like, dude, you have ethics? and don’t want to be a dork and possibly jeoprodize your career in consulting? If I were an employer i’d look at this as a plus… because blogging seems like it can take on the threat of “industrial espionage” even though it was just a rant…
    (is this thing on?– check check check)

  • Sarah

    Like, dude, you have ethics? and don’t want to be a dork and possibly jeoprodize your career in consulting? If I were an employer i’d look at this as a plus… because blogging seems like it can take on the threat of “industrial espionage” even though it was just a rant…
    (is this thing on?– check check check)

  • sarah

    Oh crap. umm… the comment box isn’t connecting so good.. only to hiccup a whole lot… so umm… hi! — sorry for making this entry appear way more popular. so uh.. Hi~!

  • sarah

    Oh crap. umm… the comment box isn’t connecting so good.. only to hiccup a whole lot… so umm… hi! — sorry for making this entry appear way more popular. so uh.. Hi~!

  • Mel

    One of the problems I have with blogging is the privileging of frequency (of posting). In my opinion, this is something bloggers have adopted, without much question, from traditional media. This has got to change. Bloggers, unlike journalists, are not paid to produce our content and it’s therefore unfair to have *any* expectation to produce or not produce – let alone maintain consistent quality. I consider it a gift that the bloggers I enjoy can even make the time to post.

    I feel for academics who blog because they’re held to a much higher standard than the rest of us. One thing I like about Danah’s blog is that her blog reflects her as a *whole* person – not just a scholar or professional or whatever.

    I think we readers have to ask ourselves a few questions about the nature of our expectations and where that comes from. I remember reading something here one time and saying to myself “how can she say that? she should be more…” and then caught myself. I caught myself thinking I actually know and understand something meaningful about Danah just from reading this blog. But all I really know is a construction filtered through my own subjectivity and informed by my ideas and ideals of what Danah represents. When she (or any other blogger I read) says something that goes against my perception my response is often to question where she’s coming from rather than challenge the idea of her I’ve created.

    I think all readers of blogs have to examine their own responses to blogs and the nature of our expectations (of expectation in general).

  • Mel

    One of the problems I have with blogging is the privileging of frequency (of posting). In my opinion, this is something bloggers have adopted, without much question, from traditional media. This has got to change. Bloggers, unlike journalists, are not paid to produce our content and it’s therefore unfair to have *any* expectation to produce or not produce – let alone maintain consistent quality. I consider it a gift that the bloggers I enjoy can even make the time to post.

    I feel for academics who blog because they’re held to a much higher standard than the rest of us. One thing I like about Danah’s blog is that her blog reflects her as a *whole* person – not just a scholar or professional or whatever.

    I think we readers have to ask ourselves a few questions about the nature of our expectations and where that comes from. I remember reading something here one time and saying to myself “how can she say that? she should be more…” and then caught myself. I caught myself thinking I actually know and understand something meaningful about Danah just from reading this blog. But all I really know is a construction filtered through my own subjectivity and informed by my ideas and ideals of what Danah represents. When she (or any other blogger I read) says something that goes against my perception my response is often to question where she’s coming from rather than challenge the idea of her I’ve created.

    I think all readers of blogs have to examine their own responses to blogs and the nature of our expectations (of expectation in general).

  • Endster

    “This is the end, beautiful friend,” sang Jim Morrison in “The End” long ago. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” sang Semisonic in “Closing Time” a few years ago. These were the lyrics running through my head

  • Endster

    “This is the end, beautiful friend,” sang Jim Morrison in “The End” long ago. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” sang Semisonic in “Closing Time” a few years ago. These were the lyrics running through my head

  • I think this has been adopted partially out of self-interest. RSS isn’t ubiquitous yet, so blogs that update sporadically will get much lower traffic than blogs that update regularly, especially those that update daily.

  • Your rants and theoretical considerations have been so much usefull for the design of our -soon to be released- european SN website that I really want to take this opportunity to thank you about it.
    Faceted identity, privacy issues, we have been working on YASN for the past 6 months and we have tried to take into consideration most of your academic work and some of your rants.
    Keep on blogging !