Thursday, September 29, 2005

Off the record part II

The other day, I wrote about private conversations and how they should be kept that way, meaning - if you and I were to have a conversation (email, face to face, phone to phone, whatever), you would not read about it here unless I asked and you said "OK".

I got a couple of followups on that, and one email.  The email stated:

Have started blogging recently at In some of the posts I've used references to the 'unison' tool (picked from your blog) and about your blog site too. Although my site is not public, after reading the 'off the record' post of yours, I felt really bad about using your references without prior permission. Thought would drop a line about it and apologize. If you do get a chance to check out my blog and decide that the references should go away, then I'll do that immediately.

(Yes, I asked before posting it :)  That to me is different.  I've written it, it is public, it is out there.  Anyone -- ANYONE should be able to reference it, quote it, comment on it, make fun of it, praise it, do whatever they like with it.  It was a very public comment.

So, let me refine my thought - things you reasonably expect to be private such as

  • An email directly to me, without a .cc list (it is not already public)
  • A conversation we have standing face to face, even if a few others are milling about
  • A phone call, even a conference call - it is still a "you and me" sort of thing.

That sort of stuff is private, will be kept that way. I would not publish that without getting your consent and would hope you would do the same.

Events that would cause this to not hold true:

  • It is already public, you (I) wrote it and put it on the web somewhere, a white paper, blog, book whatever.
  • It was a question to me and I was on a stage talking to dozens of other people during the answer (it was already public)

So, anything I've written - reference away.  Anything I've said in public - reference away. (try to include links back to the source whenever possible, in case the "source" changes over time with corrections and in order to properly attribute the thought to the source). I encourage the references, get the information out to as many people as possible.

Howard Rogers had an interesting comment. I don't agree 100% with the "if you send me something, what I then choose to do with it is up to me" part, but I do agree with the "threatening emails" comment.  I would have to be pushed really far to print them but I could see getting to an "enough is enough and this needs to be exposed" level of frustration. It would take repeated and fantastic claims to have that happen.



Anonymous Mikito Harakiri said....

This particular case doesn't favor Fabian, really. What was the point, to score a couple of points on his favorite topic - normalization, at the expense of embarassing Tom?

Thu Sep 29, 12:53:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

Just to be clear: I don't actually advocate publishing everything I'm sent!

My statement was (or was meant to be) that I have the *capability* to publish everything (which is merely a statement of reality); and the disclaimer on my site means I have the *right* to do so (I think).

But such blunt rules are always tempered by the normal demands of civilised behaviour: an appreciation of what others expect, what custom, ethics and professionalism demand and so on. And a lot of when not to publish is pretty obvious from the very nature of the correspondence, and the identity of the correspondent, too.

If someone shared a confidence with me, for example, I definitely have the ability to publish it. But if I hope to hear any more confidences from that quarter in the future, I would in fact be a fool to publish.

Similarly, as a matter of practical realtionship-tending, I would probably ask before publishing anything from someone with whom I had had a lengthy correspondence over the months or years. It would be foolish to jeopardise a good realtionship by blindly insisting on a right to publish, and I wouldn't do it.

Thu Sep 29, 04:17:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Sudhi said....

mikito harakiri said...
What was the point, to score a couple of points on his favorite topic - normalization, at the expense of embarassing Tom?

hmm...did that sound like scoring points?? It was a honest question.

Being a novice at interacting over the web, never paid attention to the fact that when things are put on the web - the basic idea is that its "public" (lesson learnt acutally)

Also I don't think Tom was embarassed by that question. But only he can confirm that.

Thu Sep 29, 05:03:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Gary Myers said....

Re Howards comment : "and the disclaimer on my site means I have the *right* to do so (I think)"

Whole host of murky issues.
Firstly copyright. The contents of the email may be protected by copyright. If someone emails you the entire scanned contents of Tom's new book, you still don't have the right to publish it. [Although if Tom does it, knowing your policy on publishing email content, a lawyer could argue he is giving you implied permission to reproduce it.]

Companies are putting lots of legal bumf in email signatures too about whether the contents are confidential or not.

Secondly, libel. (Re)printing a libellous comment can land you in trouble.

There's probably also a host of specific laws covering, for example, what you can say about a pending or ongoing court case, disclosing government secrets....

Thu Sep 29, 06:49:00 PM EDT  


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