Tuesday, July 19, 2005

C-Y-A

Yesterday I was in the crew room when I saw Debbie, a flight attendant I've flown with before. We exchanged pleasantries, and then she exclaimed, "Oh, I heard that you do the blogging thing!" Oh, really? I certainly don't advertise the blog to Horizon crewmembers. "Yeah, I heard you have Sacramento pictures on there." I wasn't sure what she meant. She'd apparently been told this by a Q200 captain that I know, although I hadn't told him about the blog either.

Afterwards, I realized that I had indeed taken a picture of Debbie and the rest of the crew at a mexican restaurant in Sacramento, and it was on a post talking about how a good crew can make the difference between a so-so trip and a great trip. At the time, I didn't really give it a second thought. Now I wonder: would Debbie, or for that matter, the other crewmembers, be upset at their picture being on a public blog? It was one thing when I had a tiny circle of readers, mostly friends. Now that the blog is apparently becoming better known, such considerations take on a certain importance.

It can be awkward when the flying blogosphere meets the real world. Any honest portrayal of the airline world will include descriptions that are unflattering to certain companies or individuals. Bloggers must accept that there could be real-world consequences to what they post online. One blogger who found this out the hard way is Ellen Simonetti, aka Queen of the Sky. She was fired from Delta Airlines for posting provocative pictures of herself in uniform. Delta had no policy concerning employee blogs at the time. Many airlines still do not, including Horizon. The lack of clear guidance constitutes further risk.

The aviation blogosphere displays widely varying degrees of wariness. Aviatrix uses pseudonyms, not only for herself but the people and airlines she deals with as well, and she posts no pictures. Her identity is effectively hidden. Dave of Flight Level 390 and John of Freight Dog Tales keep their respective employers discreet, although it's easy to deduce who they work for. Although their identities aren't completely hidden, their employers would have less reason to take disciplinary action, since the airlines are not named. I myself don't use my last name but given that I disclose that I'm an ultra-junior FO on the Q400 at Horizon, anybody with a seniority list could figure it out in a heartbeat - to say nothing of the pics I post. My only protection, then, is watching what I post. I try to provide an honest portrayal of the job but CYA has to come into play.

This was seen in action recently on Glenn Calvin's RantAir. Glenn obviously uses his full name, and is upfront about which airline he flies for. One of his most recent posts was about a grouchy, somewhat overbearing captain he had to fly with (the guy shaped up after the first day, though). Initially Glenn provided details on what exactly this guy was doing. Then a reader commented that he could be opening himself up for trouble with the airline, and Glenn edited the post to include far less detail. It's too bad, because it was interesting to read and think what you'd do in that situation, but I think it was wise move on his part.

So. In my situation, having effectively disclosed my identity, what do you think I should and should not post? I still think criticism of upper management is fair game, as is comment on contract negotiations when they open next year. I'm inclined to be more discreet when talking about specific incidents on the line - in most cases, I should omit names, dates, and places. Aerial pictures and pictures of aircraft I don't see a problem with, but I'm going to try and refrain from posting pictures of fellow crewmembers. Your thoughts?

7 Comments:

Blogger Lost Av8r said...

I have my name and employer on my blog. Originally, I didn't think many people would read it and included a bunch of fairly juicy and confidential information on the demise of my former employer (who still owes me 3 large....but we wont get into that). It quickly got picked up by another blogger who linked to it. Realizing I was setting myself up for some trouble I got rid of the post and now I'm much more descreet about what I put on the web. I don't post anything I wouldn't want anyone from ramp guys, to captains, to the CEO to read. Hopefully, should managment come across it, they'll have no objections and enjoy their visit.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Ron said...

I think LostAv8r is correct. If you always try to write as though your boss and coworkers are reading over your shoulder as you write, it should be easier to keep out of trouble.

The blog is nice, but it's not worth losing your seniority number over, ya know?

As far as posting photos of your coworkers, that's a tougher one. If you don't put any names to the faces, it might be an easier sell. Why not ask those you photograph if they'd mind your posting the pic on your site that way?

The nice thing about the photos is that the consequences aren't as severe as they would be for posting gossip or criticism that the company takes issue with.

So if you post a pic that a captain or FA would rather not see on there, all you have to do is remove it.

Writing anonymously is not a bad idea. The problem with that, however, is that you would only need a pseudonym if you were going to be open enough about your writing that you posted the negative or critical stuff. And then, it's just a matter of someone out there unmasking you. You might think you're hidden in a bulletproof way, but believe me nothing is bulletproof on the internet. Many other anonymous bloggers have been unmasked, so part of me feels that it's not even worth trying.

Final note: things posted on the internet never go away. Ever. I can still easily pull up messages I wrote in the late 80s. Between the Wayback Archive and other such resources, keep in mind that anything you write, from a blog post to a comment on another site, can easily be presented to you in an interview at a major in ten years or whatever.

Welcome to the new world. :-|

5:36 PM  
Blogger GC said...

Though it was not the first time a concern such as that had been brought to my attention, I chose to take the conservative approach and listen to the concerned individual rather than leave the post as it was originally written and risk action by my employer.

Besides...it sounded bitchy anyway.

I've come to accept that people know who I am and where I work. That's fine. I'm not after fame and fortune (because if I were, it wouldn't be through a blog...or before seeing a personal trainer and plastic surgeon). I'm just going to have to be more careful about what thoughts make their ways from my brain to my fingertips.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Aviatrix said...

You pretty much have to write as though your name is one it. There are enough details on my blog that anyone who knows me personally can recognize me. Canadian pilots easily identify the airlines I mention.

I maintain the pretense of anonymity so that no one googling for me or my employer will find the blog. I'm already among the top hits for "autofeather" and I've only blogged about it once.

11:44 PM  
Blogger John said...

My goal with blogging is to give readers a sense of what my job is like, but discretion is important. My policy is to not write personal details about people I work with, about safety or items that could result in an enforcement action (that's what ASRS forms are for!), or about my company's specific operating procedures. Sometimes it's easy to cross the line, so when I write something, I make sure I sit on it for a day before posting.

6:47 AM  
Blogger eatsleepfly said...

I've been struggling with the same thing. I won't name my employer, co-workers, tail #'s, etc. However, like others have said, it wouldn't take much to figure it out, and that makes me a little uneasy.

On the other hand, since I'm not giving out confidential information or specifics, if a company chose to get rid of me over anonymously sharing my experiences with others, I say, "good riddance."

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

This is an interesting topic. I also didn't think anyone other than my personal friends and family would be reading my blog. As it ended up, word really got out, and people I never expected ended up being regular readers. I anonymize to some extent, but it's for the other people involved, not for me. I personally don't care, but employment isn't involved with my blog. I do name my flight instructors, but not my airport. Still, you would have to be pretty dense to not be able to figure out exactly who I am and where I fly out of if you were really interested.

Anyway, I leave stuff out of pretty much every entry. A lot of it would be really good reading and quite fabulously interesting. If I had kept more completely anonymous, I would be able to post all that stuff. As it is, my readers only get maybe 75% of the real story. I keep this in mind when I read others' blogs, too.

-C.

7:35 PM  

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