August 11, 2009

Private

This week, Kayla set her baby blog to private and then, last night, my sister-in-law, at the urging of her husband, made her family blog private as well.

(Also, I told Kayla a few minutes ago that I was writing a post about private blogs and she said, "Condemning us?" and I assured her I was not. Much as I'm now assuring you).

I certainly understand the private blog concept. I don't in any way think my desire to read your blog conveniently through Google Reader outweighs your desire to keep your kid safe.

On the other hand, I have a lot of friends with public blogs that have an enormous amount of information about their children on their blogs - full names, birth dates, naked or half-naked pictures, the neighborhood they live in, and the schools they attend.

It's clearly something some people worry a lot about and some people worry . . .not at all about.

Bart and I have talked at length about what we may or may not do when we have children of our own.

I have no intentions of starting a separate baby blog, for I know myself and I know I would not keep it going. The multiple blog thing simply does not work for me. Also, I am worried I would write a ton about my first! precious! darling! perfect! child and then about two posts for each subsequent child. Which would make me feel guilty.

I also think private blogs can give you a bit of a false sense of security - blogs can be hacked, people can share their passwords around, or someone else can get on their computer where all the passwords are saved. If your blog was once public but goes private, every post that was written while the blog was public is still stored in Google Reader and can be emailed around.

I like that, with a public blog, I am always always aware that absolutely anyone in the world can see it. I know that a prospective employer, my in-laws, my parents and grandparents, every person I go to church with, my children's friends can all see exactly what I've written.

One problem, of course, with a public blog is that as much as you try and keep yourself somewhat anonymous, people can comment with information you are trying to keep private (like your last name or your kids names or the specific suburb you live in). My sister-in-law mentioned to me last night that, despite only using her kids initials, family members almost always refer to them by their names in the comments (including my lovely husband). One of my Internet friends, Angela, has this text above her comment form:
I love comments. I also love feeling safe from creepy internet stalkers. So, "real life" pals - please refrain from using a) our last name and b) our child's first name. Initials work nicely. Thanks!
I have never once used my last name on this blog, but tons and tons of people who know me from my real life, link to me as "Janssen ______" which means that when you Google my full name? This blog shoots straight to the top. There is no hiding from myself.

For now, I plan to keep up this blog and mention my kids on occasion when I, you know, actually have them. But I don't intend it to be a journal of their lives or a record of our family. This is my blog about my own interests and reading. I won't use their names and I certainly won't have pictures of them naked (even if I was so inclined, Bart would never ever allow it. He is deeply against naked baby pictures of any kind).

And who knows how differently I'll feel when I actually have kids of my own.

(P.S. I'm paranoid now that suddenly all the blogs of friends I read will start going private after this post. Wouldn't that serve me right?)

28 comments:

  1. I tried to post incognito but finally gave up on it.

    I have found that when people go private I lose track of them (Google Reader is my friend).

    :)

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  2. I agree about the private blog thing. If I felt I needed to go private I think I'd probably just quit blogging because private blogs make me crazy. But maybe someday I'll have to eat these words.

    And Jacob is also vehemently opposed to naked baby pictures! Not that I want to take a bunch of naked baby pictures but he really really hates them!

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  3. I've been thinking about this a lot the last few weeks. My stuff is already out there. I don't use my kids names, but people know them. If you google me you get my goodreads account, which leads you back to me pretty quick. I'm not overly concerned NOW, but as my kids get older I'll post less and less of them. The thing that worries me the most is Facebook, because that's ALL out there. I try to tell myself that the world is a (really big) village now, and I need to treat everyone like they could be my neighbor (stalker) and use caution and common sense and hope for the best.

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  4. your p.s. made me chuckle b/c I thought as I was reading this "julie just posted a bunch of half naked pictures of reagan....I bet she'll read this and want to go private" hahah here's to hoping she won't!

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  5. Private blogs are great for sharing among family members, but only if they start out private (for the reasons you mentioned).

    It *is* difficult to stay anonymous (sp?). Your Aunt M, figured out immediately where I live! She might not know my full name, but she'd have no trouble finding me. :)

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  6. I have thought about this. But really. I do not use too much personal information. (although I do use the girls' first names. C'mon! There are a million Catie's in the world.)
    My MIL has voiced concerns that people are snagging kid's pictures off blogs and using them for fake adoption scams. My response to this was- so what? There may be a family somewhere who thinks they are adopting one of my children. But that's the whole basis. It's a scam, no one is going to show up at my door and take my kids.
    Plus, I think a lot of these private family/baby blogs need to get over themselves a bit. There are gazillions of hum-drum family blogs out there- nobody is really paying attention! And if you really wanted to know who was looking at your blog- there are specific programs that will tell you that. Private blogs drive me crazy. And most of the time I just ignore the ones that go private.

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  7. I think you hit the nail on the head on several points. One, unless you keep your blog 100% private from the get-go, you're likely to get exposed one way or another, either through visitors, people "figuring it out", and so forth. Using initials, pet names, and what have you really doesn't protect you from those who REALLY want to figure out who it is, it only confuses those who don't care to find out who you are, they just hate reading about "M" and "J" and "D" all the time.

    Secondly, much more of your personal information is public anyway. For instance, how much you paid for your house and where you live is 100% public knowledge. Addresses, phone numbers, and so forth are all public unless you pay good money to keep them private, and even then, there's ways to get around them.

    Frankly, I don't and wouldn't ever blog privately. My personal website lists everything about me, including my phone numbers, full mailing and physical address, and my kid's full name, pictures, and so forth. I have no fear that it'll be used nefariously because frankly, if someone wanted to, they could get the information about me and my family, webpage or not.

    As a reader, if someone went private, I'd drop them from my reading, most likely. I have no time to compensate for something that won't pop up in my reader.

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  8. I agree that blogging publicly makes me think more about what I post on the internet, and that's a good thing. I think I'll go for a middle ground, as I do now. I don't post our last name (though it wouldn't be that hard to find it out). I don't post our address or even the name of our neighborhood. I try not to make it easy for stalkers by avoiding announcing where we're going that night, if it's somewhere specific (i.e. it's OK to know the town but not the specific restaurant, or whatever). Same will go with my kids. Intimate photos, no. School names, no. Last names, no. General information and cute, appropriate photos? Absolutely.

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  9. I know a few parents who give their kids blog nicknames. I think that's a good way to do it. That said, I'm obviously not too worried about it. Sometimes I feel like I should be, and other times, not so much.

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  10. Jeremy is always telling (threatening?) me that I'll have to go private once in law school (I forget his arguement why)... and I hate the idea. I know I probably post WAY too much info... and I try to worry about it, and somehow don't.

    I am also not a fan of naked (or bathroom) pictures... but Jeremy HATES hates them. Funny how it's the men who are so adamant.

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  11. When I first saw the title I thought "Oh no, not another one!" but then I remembered that you would never do that, so I breathed a sigh of relief.

    I, like you, understand the reasoning, but will never do it myself. I love knowing that anyone can stumble across my blog.

    And my husband is anti the nuddy pics too. What is it with men?

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  12. I don't like when friends go "private" because they blog feeds don't automatically update so I ignore them. It's sad actually.

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  13. Well, I (being the sister in law that changed over last night) hate private blogs. I never check them. I can't even remember the addresses to type them in. If it's not on Reader, I am not reading it. That being said, I switched the family blog anyway. I realize that all previous posts are out there, and anybody who had a feed still has them. I am not worried about my family's location, or (clearly) my last name being used, but I did think it was a real threat to have somebody take an innocent (never naked) picture of my kid and put it on a child-porn site--like happened to the girl Kayla referenced. So, my husband particularly, and I, thought it was the best thing to limit access to those pictures, and try my best to do the double blog thing. I actually felt that my blog was of two sorts anyway, family stuff, and rambling crap by me. Now they will just be separate somewhat, but I am sure there will be crossovers all the time. But I tried to have a solution for the RSFeed issue by supplying a link on my new (me) blog for my family blog invitees to know it was time to click over if they are so inclined. Phew. That might be the longest comment I ever type. Ok, anyway... I think it is a personal issue and I certainly don't judge anybody who stays public, though I will admit to judging those private blogs as annoying in the past.

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  14. I have a really hard time with private blogs, although I can respect the privacy issue.

    I have an even harder time with too much personal information blogs, I actually cringe when I see people's last names, kids names (especially when I know they are correct, and not nicknames). The Internets is a scary place, yo!

    Yes...I just said "yo". I am ashamed.

    xox

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  15. Huge news for privacy buffs and people who want to keep track of them: you can now add private blogger blogs to Google Reader. Follow them through blogger. Then add them through your main Blogger to Google Reader.

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  16. If I had kids or wanted to get in more personal detail, I think I probably wouldn't blog at all. I tend to write more about fluff any way (with a little bit of personal angst thrown in from time to time.) I do keep my blog off the search engines and had to ask a friend to edit my name out of a post so I wouldn't show up in google...that's the only thing I stress about really.

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  17. Janssen I'm really disappointed. I thought that when you and Bart had kids you were going to post cute nakey bath pictures of them, describe the contents of their diapers for "journaling purposes," and make us all feel bad for you when their schedule is messed up!

    How am I ever supposed to know if you're a good MOM!?

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  18. I was just having a conversation about private blogs with someone yesterday who had decided to go private. When I set up our blog I (obviously) used our last name and didn't really think about it being an issue since my purpose was for my family and friends to be able to look at it. I have a site meter and can tell at least the location of any one who looks at it and have never had any concerns. I use my kids' full names and their pictures (never posted any naked ones, though).

    Just out of curiousity, I just googled all of us in the family and did not get one site that remotely related to my kids or my husband or our blog. Even though I have a very public posting about myself on my law firm's website (which is in another state from the one we live in), it did not show up until the third page of websites on google.

    Since I use a private investigator to find people all the time in my line of work, I know that if you want to find someone, you can, even if their blog is private. So, mine is public and will stay that way.

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  19. 1. I love this discussion! LOVE it!

    2. Becca, you're funny.

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  20. This is something I have wrestled with too, but honestly, I have a distinct advantage. My name is Katie Wood. My husband's name is Josh Wood. There are a million of each of us, and we don't have kids. If you google our names, you will get nowhere. I do try to be careful though not to complain about work or say things I would be embarassed about, but other than that, I'm okay with being open.

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  21. I've often worried about the implications of having a public blog, but I haven't been scared off just yet. Unfortunately, I have a very unique last name and though I've never used it on my blog, it's the first website that pops up when you google my full name. I hate when I see that someone has googled my name and found me.

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  22. That's very useful, Douglas. Thanks.

    And yeah, I totally agree with Bart and all the other husbands.

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  23. Just today, I got an advertizement email from someone regarding my family blog, purporting to be able to expand the readership of my blog. Several of our children have set their blogs to private, and that's fine, I understand their concerns. Sure they might not be absolutely secure, but they have made it a little harder for opportunistic individuals to exploit them. And I think, as a parent, you do what you have to do to protect your family. But we physically have to go there to see if they have updated. So sometimes we are a little late on getting the news.

    On the other hand, by teaching blog is open, I WANT readers. So I have had to come to terms with keeping two blogs up to date. One public and one private. Having said that, I have to be very careful on the school blog to maintain privacy and security, so I have REALLY tried to make it anonymous in the sense that the reader shouldn't be able to identify any of my students, my school, district, or even what state I'm in. Sure, you might be able to figure some of that out, but not hopefully all of it. I do know that some blog traffic mappers identify where I'm clicking in from.

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  24. Whoops! My huge news was premature. It turns out that exactly when I followed a blog and added it to Reader to test the idea one of the private blogs that I tested went public. It showed up on Reader so I thought that the scheme had worked.

    So I don't know how to get private blogs through Reader. Anybody?

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  25. I'm with you... keeping my blog public helps remind me that anyone could find it, anytime, and I should therefore remember not to say anything I'd be mortified about if my boss or my grandma found it.

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  26. Thank you for being against naked baby pictures Bart....'nuff said.

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