Simply Fired - How NOT to Blog About Your Job. Especially If You Are a Doctor

This website is about people/bloggers who got fired when blogging about their job (the site called SimplyFired.com now redirects to the job search engine SimplyHired.com). It should be a must-read for all aspiring bloggers all over the world. Be careful what you write. Now, with the search engines cache and the WayBackMachine, even if you remove the post, it can still be recovered and used against you.

When you blog, think as if your boss is reading it. If you feel uncomfortable about it, just don't post it. Blogging is a public activity, every single word can be potentially scrutinized and inspected for adverse meaning.

Some Good Advice

Mark Jen became the prototype of the fired blogger in 2005 (the original blog has been deleted, the reference link was provided by CNet. Google "kicked him out" after he had posted repeatedly about the company products and future plans on what (he thought) was his private blog. There is no such thing as truly "private" blog on the Internet. Pretty much everything is public and monitored by millions of eyes. The fact that you type your posts from the comfort of your home, does not make your work private. Once you hit the "publish" button, anybody can (and will) read it.

Mark Jen himself gave some good advice after he got fired (Robert Scoble also added a few suggestions):

- Do not start blogging right away after you join a company. Check the corporate culture. See if blogging will fit in the current work environment.

- Enquire if there are any blogging guidelines. If there are, comply with them strictly. If there are no guidelines, try to establish them.

- Let your boss know that you are planning to blog about your job. Ask him/her to check you blog to make sure that it is OK.

Corporate Blogging Guidelines

If it is done right, blogging can be a positive thing for a company. It gives a human face to the corporation. Robert Scoble was a good example how a blogger can improve the public image of a company like Microsoft, which has not been getting much of a good press for a long time (since 2005, Scoble has left Microsoft and now works for Rackspace, a hosting company).

It comes as no surprise that some companies hastily created blogging guidelines, describing what can and what cannot be posted online by its employees/bloggers. Check out the rules published by IBM, Yahoo, Sun, Opera and Plaxo.

Any Guidelines for Medical Bloggers?

Most of the 100 or so doctors (in year 2005) who blog use pseudonyms like "Red State Moron" or "GruntDoc". Unfortunately, you cannot stay anonymous. If somebody tries really hard, they will discover your identity. The best solution is not to post anything that can embarrass you, or your patients. If you are blogging about your patients, make sure that you comply with the HIPAA rules.

To stay out of trouble, always ask yourself: What if my patients are reading this? What if my colleagues are reading it?

Be honest and respectful to others. And once again, remember the HIPAA rules.

A question for the medical bloggers: Should we try to establish guidelines for medical blogging?

Now with Medlogs.com and the Grand Rounds, the movement is becoming more or less organized. Everybody values their freedom of expression and that is understandable. But should we try to construct a crude framework of what is OK and what is not? It could be helpful to the new medical bloggers who are joining the field almost on a daily basis.

And the final words of wisdom are from a famous proverb, cited by Mark Jen: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil!”


References:
Case Reports and HIPAA Rules
Google Blogoscoped
If you’ve got a story to share, check out SimplyFired.com - Mark Jen on Plaxoed.com
A little more on Mark Jen's story - Scoble
Write All About It (at Your Own Risk) - NYTimes
Writing the codes on blogs. Companies figure out what's OK, what's not in online realm - SF Gate
Compare corporate blogging guidelines on CorporateBlogging.info
Hospital Blogging Policies? The Krafty Librarian
Who’s afraid of the big, bad blog? - FT.com
Does Your Company Belong in the Blogosphere? - Harvard Business School.
Image sources: sxc.hu, See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil! - Blog.Plaxoed.com (used with permission)

Related:
When Blogging Gets You Fired. David Bradley, 2009.
On blogging. DB’s Medical Rants, 2009.
Doctors in Social Media Shouldn't Be Anonymous. 33 Charts, 2009.

Updated: 11/30/2009

6 comments:

  1. Hi, you spelled my name "Merk Jen" in the links section at the bottom of this post. Hehehe, it's kinda funny :)

    At least you spelled it right for the rest of the article.. I suppose 3 out of 4 isn't bad :-p

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  2. I'm very sorry for the misspelling, Mark. It's corrected now. Everybody knows it's "Mark" and not "Merk", you're a celebrity now. :-)

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  3. I try to follow those rule in essence. I also blog under a pseudonym, mainly because I don't want the first thing patients find out about me when Googling my name to be my blog. They might not understand the bit about the box of blinking lights called "Orac." Also, a minority of them might not appreciate my sometimes strident advocacy of evidence-based medicine over some forms of "alternative medicine" like Hulda Clark.

    A fair number of people already know my "true" identity, anyway, including my Department Chair and Division Chief; so I already know that at least two of my colleagues might be reading, if not more. There are also a lot of people out in the blogosphere who know who I am. That's part of the reason that I don't blog as much as I used to about cases (and when I'm do I'm acutely aware of avoiding HIPAA violations), and I never, ever bitch about my job on my blog. Instead, I tend to blog about science and skepticism more these days. ;-)

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  4. I don't discuss personal details of patients, I try and make it more of a "what happened to me at work today" post. It's personal to me, not the patient. I just don't see medical blogs that are releasing anything that resembles personal information about a patient's specific care or diagnosis.

    There are a lot of bloggers who could do a better job of hiding their own identity, though! Clue: Get a new email if your only other one is scottjacobs@cityhospital.com or something like that...

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  5. Just wanted to thank you for writing this blog. It's very informative. I am a medical blogger myself. One of the ways how I try to keep myself out of trouble is by letting readers know that whatever I typed in my posts is not a medical advice, and that they should seek advice from their PCP. I'm just posting my research and new information that I have recently learned.
    http://azazelo-knees.blogspot.com/

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