Interspersed among the many nice comments to my “By Maricopa / Hello NMC” post, was one comment that ended up addressing directly with the writer, rather than in the comment stream.

Gemma had commented (likely via the first place to write) about her displeasure that I had used a screen shot and a link to her LJ site as one of my examples of “blogs as diaries” in my 2005 presentation on “More Than Cat Diaries”:

You never asked for my permission to put a screenshot of my site up on your presentation on online diaries. You never asked for my permission to link to my site. Whether you read it or not is not the issue here. My site is as private as I can make it and I do not appreciate the fact that you’ve used it without so much as even letting me know, and then put up a link for all to see, and use. It would have been common courtesy to at least ask. I doubt you’ll do anything about it, but I found it and couldn’t just sit back and not say anything.

And in part she was right, and I was wrong, badly wrong. I had used the screenshot of her blog, without asking permission or letting her know, something I should know better than doing. It is a courtesy worth extending. So I emailed her privately and apologized for that piece, and as requested, removed the links to her site. However, I did let her know that there is NO requirement of asking permission to hyperlink from my site to any publicly available URL, and pondered if she had done the same for every link in her site.

She has since emailed back her thanks, and appreciation for me at least paying attention to the situation:

I really appreciate it, and to be honest, most people probably would have just ignored me.

And buried in all of this is once more iota about the specialness of the insanely, wildly connected, messy human web network… the power and role of listening and responding humanly is what makes up for all the slimy spam, drivel, ad-crapped, crud of the net.

Taking the time for an individual response, even short, even cut and pasted, is important to me as a netizen. We all are craving to be heard, and even more so acknowledged. it’s the giving and receiving that is the virtuous economy of the web, not Google rank or Technorati chips. I may tattoo it on my arm to remember how key this is. Do the right thing, Over and over.

Thanks for the connection, Gemma. Blog on, blog on, blog on.

The post "(Trying) Doing The Right Thing" was originally pulled like taffy through a needle's eye at CogDogBlog ( on March 21, 2006.


  • windygap

    “the power and role of listening and responding humanly is what makes up for all the slimy spam, drivel, ad-crapped, crud of the net.” – cogdog

    Your public, sagacious response is advantageous to me both in my work and in in life. Thanks for the reminder.

  • One interesting sidenote to this affair is the obvious shock this person (and her online peers) exhibit on learning that what they were doing on the web was viewable by anyone. This person seems most upset by a “violation of privacy” when she has revealed all sorts of very sensitive stuff about herself, and you revealed nothing more, just provided a link to a public site. (I agree, the screenshot is another matter, and I feel bad I never thought about that myself — and wish I had looked more closely at that specific example, for that matter.)

    These are the vaunted digital natives we keep reading about, in their natural habitat, exhibiting a fundamental illiteracy concerning the medium. Given the very sensitive material published on these sites, this lack of understanding is frightening. The ferocity of the response makes it clear that thus particular group are clearly very vulnerable — what happens when they run into a genuine creep?

    Hate to sound like one of those MySpace naysayers — it occurs to me educators need to stop hiding from the web if they are to play a constructive role in enlightening and protecting their students.

  • It is vital that students and educators learn that all content published is indeed public. With Google caching everything and soon to cache even more, deleting won’t even remove content.

    People are not getting jobs because their information in Myspace is being perused and potential employers find their weekend doings unacceptable.

    If a person needs a private journal, they should keep it private or use some sort of privately hosted blogging tool that requires a password to access. They could even us a private Wikispace.

    You were very gracious. I wish the person who started Gemma blogging had done a better job educating her about the realities of public information.

  • I must note that in her followup message to me she was very apologetic for her tone, and had she had been through several experiences of people reading, linking, and using her content in a way that she was bothered by. So I infer, Brian, she had experienced some real creeps.

    And to Vicki, those are good points about privacy. There is this tension between a desire to be open for the positive feedback that social spaces provide and the dark side that creeps in the same doors. When we sit alone in our rooms pecking into a keyboard, it does not feel like people are looking over our shoulders, peering through our blinds. The public-ness of it all is invisible. I am less concerned over “who taught her blogging” (more likely a friend) and prior lessons– she, like all the rest of us, are learning, re-learning as we go.

    It seems no different than the first email spam I naively responded to and said, “No, I really do not need that body part enlarged, please do not bother me again” — we walk, trip, correct, and walk on.

  • David

    As I started reading this narrative, my first thought was “obviously Gemma does not read cogdogblog or she would know that Alan is not like that.” I was happy to see Alan act true to his character as a good, upstanding netizen in this matter. Thanks for the good example.

  • Information Wants To Be Free » Blog Archive » Libraries in Social Networking Software

    […] Paul Pival wondered in a recent post if young people have a lesser expectation of privacy in the online environment. I don’t know if that’s true. I think they have far less of an awareness of privacy issues. For example, look at this issue that came up when Alan Levine posted a screenshot and link to a publicly available LiveJournal blog. These profiles and blogs are freely available on the Web where anyone (parents, teachers, administrators, potential employers, etc.) can see them. In the case of Facebook, profiles are slightly more private but can still be seen by anyone with an e-mail address from that school. And I’ve seen students who live on “dry campuses” writing about getting drunk the night before. And I’ve seen them complaining about teachers and posting half-naked pictures of themselves. So if they have no expectation of privacy online, why in the world would they be posting these things? And I wonder if they really believe that parents, teachers, administrators, potential employers, etc. won’t find them there. I wonder if they have a false sense of security. And if all that is true, how would they feel about librarians building presence in MySpace and Facebook or even posting comments on their profiles. […]