Blogging │ Public and permanent

12 August 2009 │ Edited: 1 December 2009


This post was originally uploaded when this site was hosted on Blogger.

Most of us have written an e-mail in anger or sorrow, and sent it as if there were no tomorrow. However tomorrow duly arrives and that e-mail written and sent in hurry remains. The feeling of uncertainty and utter helplessness is horrible during the period where the e-mail sits unread in the recipient’s inbox, but no longer retrievable. Often such e-mail causes acute embarrassment, and awkwardness in the subsequent correspondence or face-to-face meeting. E-mails could be forwarded and forwarded, and could reach a huge number of people, causing more mortification to the original author.

Something similar can happen, for example, in internet forums, but also in blogs. The problems can be much more complicated in blogs, since they are in public, and more copies are stored or created immediately and easily. Even if an article is deleted from the blog, search engines often store cached copies. If someone took a screenshot or saved a copy of the source, then the article can be reproduced again and again, without the original author in control of the situation. Furthermore, e-mails are usually not public documents but intended as private correspondence, and many people treat e-mails as such, whereas blogs are published in public for the public, and they are considered a fair game.

There is a slight paradox: digital data seem instantly erasable but also extremely durable by the process of replication. Fundamentally, it is a question of control: up until publication, (would be) authors are in full control, but once published, the authors are no longer in control over their creation. Because bloggers can edit, change, publish and take down things at the push of a button, many bloggers feel as if they are in complete control. Yet, as mentioned above, often there are many copies created soon after the initial publication, which linger on and reproduced in public.

Any blog article becomes public at the point of publication (unless the blog is private and closed to the public), and has the potential to be in public permanently, without the original author in control of whether his or her blog articles ought to remain in public indefinitely or not. It’s more reckless than sending a bad e-mail to one person or to the entire office. The recipients of the e-mail may be decent and wouldn’t forward it to others for a cheap laugh. In contrast, a blog article in public can be spotted by anyone with internet access, and it’s much harder to contain the damage. A blog, which often allows for communication between the blogger and the readers, can lead to it being engulfed in flame by a barrage of negative comments.

Most people have private thoughts, which they would not utter in public. Almost everyone in this world exercises self-censorship in some form and to a certain extent. Blogs are no different, and bloggers would do well to be mindful about what they write in public.