As many of you who read this, you know that while I don’t make huge efforts to “hide” my identity, I don’t go out of my way to be open about it, either. Most of you DO know that I work in State government, in Albany, NY – I am revealing about this, in that it’s often pertinent about what I blog on in here.

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending a professional conference in a very beautiful setting (the hotel/convention center, on the other hand, was a complete and utter disaster – but that’s another story for another day, and had little bearing on the overall quality of the conference). It being May, this made for a nice hiatus from the office, as well as an opportunity to mingle with others who do what I do for other States or localities.

One of the seminar topics was entitled, “My employees are blogging! What do I do next?” I went back and forth about attending it, in that I don’t work in labor relations (or, at least, the hiring/firing/disciplining part), and there was another seminar offered at the same time that also looked interesting. However, I knew the latter seminar would be packed, and I also knew that the speaker for that seminar is coming to my chapter next month to speak. So, I decided to go to the blogging seminar, looking to sponge some information on the topic.

The person who presented was very informative – he gave examples of what is “okay,” what isn’t, why it’s important to have a policy on blogging, and some recent court cases. I also learned that, as a public sector employee, I’m protected by the First Amendment – I figured that I was, to an extent, however it’s still reassuring nonetheless.

He also gave examples of people who demonstrate no common sense whatsoever. I know I’ve gotten burned for things I’ve written in other blogs in the past, however there’s a difference between being naive and being just plain dumb. For example, how wise is it to pose in provocative photographs in your work uniform, post it on a website, then ask your employers if they want to advertise with you? Of course, this is an extreme example, however it never ceases to amaze me with how fast and loose some people play the “blogging game” with their employers.

Regardless, however, I found the speaker to be very “anti-blog” in general. Not surprising, in that he’s an attorney, but I found that other than his “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” suggestions to be just that – we CAN’T beat them, unfortunately, so I GUESS we should embrace it, reluctantly.

The next morning, another speaker (unexpectedly) talked about blogging – positively. He said, “It takes a lot, to put yourself out there like that. Indeed, it does. But beyond that, my years blogging, I’ve met a number of incredibly fascinating people, many who have become close friends. I’ve learned a lot from blogging peers, I’ve reconnected with people I otherwise never would have seen or talked to again. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. There’s nothing that focuses your thoughts and mind as well as putting those thoughts down on paper.

And, most importantly, I’ve become a better writer. Which, perhaps, seems like the least of what I’ve gotten out of this exercise – yet, it was my initial goal. If I write in a journal that no one sees, yeah it’s practice, but since only perfect practice makes perfect, I figure that posting in a forum that everyone can see and comment will force me to be, well, more perfect. And it has.

So, while I can see why some employers become panic-stricken by the idea of employees blogging (mostly because people just don’t use their heads), I can’t understand how they DON’T see how it can be beneficial to encourage this avenue of creative thought. Instead of, “I guess we need to let them blog, so let’s monitor it closely” (IBM’s policy), why not just say, “Blog! We encourage it! But use your head” (Sun Microsystems policy) – though, it’s exactly that line of thinking that the lawyer who spoke to us was all kinds of nervous about that.

In the meantime, I will blog responsibly and hope that others will do the same, in order to proactively change minds on this topic.