Does Personal Material Belong in a Work Blog?

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That’s a question many are asking themselves these days. Bob Sutor from IBM, Jim Grisanzio from Sun, and Ted Haeger from Novell are among those that have concluded that to some extent, at least, it doesn’t. For my part, I’m undecided. There’s certainly material I don’t include here but distribute to friends and family – much in the same manner that most of my Flickr pictures are public, but I keep anything with people in them private. But personally I appreciate some personal material in the blogs I read, and hope that corporate bloggers everywhere don’t forget that uniformly on-topic blogs are at greater risk of going stale. Here’s how I put it when Charlene Li of Forrester included “I Will Stay on Topic” as one of her corporate blogging guidelines:

This is the one I disagree with most. The most boring blogs I’ve read are the ones that are uniformly, unwaveringly, on-topic. Conversely, most of the ones I love to read every day have a great deal of off-topic information in there. Maybe I care for it, maybe I don’t, but variety, as they say, is the spice of life. This can be taken too far of course (and I no doubt tried some folks patience around here during the Red Sox World Series run, though nobody so far as I can tell unsubscribed), but I think we’re all capable of managing the signal to noise ratio ourselves.

But I’ll be the first to admit that this is a highly subjective area. I find it rewarding in my interactions with people to know something more about them, as I find it helps build relationships, but what about you guys? Do you prefer less personal material? More? How about this space; would you all prefer that I scale back on my off-topic posts?


  1. I think it depends on what you are trying to 'sell' at work. For people like us, we're trying to sell our knowledge/services/relationships. Including some personal items helps build that image. Of course there are some items that may cross the line.

    Does Redmonk want to appear to be a huge corporation that brings to mind bean-counters? or do you want to appear to be open, honest, and likeable?

    In my case I created a concept blog to post items that are very off-topic, but I still plan to include personal items in my main blog.

  2. it'll all be about balance, i think. too much personal info will be off-putting, but too little i think will be sterile. the key will be getting the balance right.

    as to your second question, well, i think you already know the answer to what RedMonk aims to be πŸ˜‰

    your last comment, though, i think points to a problem. how do we keep track of all of the various blogs that individuals maintain?

  3. I think there should be no "work" blogs, just categoris in personal blogs for work related posts.

    Now, if you want to post something that needs to stay a secret, you need to put that on a non-public, probably behind the firewall blog.

    But, when it comes to public blogs, I think they should all just be people's blog. I like reading about people and what they're doing, not the other way around. That's not the best articulation, but it's something along the lines of "The Brand Me"/"Free Agent Nation".

    I'd love to see more about you guy's non-work life: there's plenty of it in your flickr account, maybe if you mixed it in with FeedBurner or something. Or do you already have your photos in there?

  4. You bore me. Really. I'm not interested in your personal life or blathering.

  5. Cote: that's what I'm coming to think, although I think at some point we're going to need an RSS solution that has some selectivity to it – that isn't just 1:many, in other words.

    On the Feedburner side, I don't actually splice my pictures in b/c I'm trying to be sensitive to dial-up users who use RSS as a relatively low-image channel. I do appreciate your inline pics though, so I'm not sure how I reconcile the two.

    Rex: gotcha. thx so much for stopping by.

  6. Voice is important. The people I most trust are those that have a real conversation, and I know a little about them. If I don't know them personally then seeing a bit of breadth through their blog is helpful. I'm new to blogging and in a new role at a new company. As I said the other day here (http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2005/02/its_official_iv.html), I'll be curious to see if my voice "changes".

  7. Stephen,

    To be clear, I actually enjoy posting some personal stuff in my IBM blog because I like the way it mixes things up. Despite what I said over there, I probably will continue to do a bit of it. One thing I've discovered is that I like to do quick entries about things that catch my interest with the occasional longer "thought" piece. At the moment, most of my quick entries (at least what I feel inclined to do) are on the personal side. So I think it would be very bad form if my work blog had personal entries at 5x the rate of the official stuff.

    In any case, this is an experiment, and having the personal blog lets me look at technologies that I can bring to bear in my technical blog infrastructure. It's my area to play and talk about my own interests at the volume level that I wish.

    Bob Sutor

  8. good news, Bob. and to be clear, i certainly understand and respect the need for a personal space which is either mostly or entirely personal with little work content.

    what i'm getting at – and i'm glad to hear you understand the balance – is that IMO work blogs *need* some personal content, if only to liven things up.

    what that balance is is the tricky part, but i think readers will tell you one way or another.

    in any event, i'll be subscribing to both to be sure that i don't miss any of your ongoing guitar lessons πŸ˜‰

  9. I thought about this a great deal — to the point of grinding my blog to a halt, actually. I agree that a blog is a personal expression, but I also believe that my personal views will come out through my work-only posts on blogs.sun.com. However, the more I have blogged over this last year, the more personal I'm getting and the more issues I want to explore that are radically separate from Sun. It's a balance I'm looking for and the decision was, well, personal. So the system works. I can certainly see all views on this. For me, though, as soon as I started to edit myself, I pulled the plug. I doubt I'll go back.

  10. understood Jim. and as i told Bob – i understand the reasoning as much as i lament the effects it'll inevitably have. for i expect that you three indicate at least a mini trend at work in blog proliferation, and i expect this to jack my subscription volume up just as i'm trying desperately to ratchet it down πŸ˜‰

    but oh well, c'est la vie. i'll read both.

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