Don’t piss off a blogger

Monday, March 5, 2007

I got someone fired today, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. He was republishing the full feed from my business blog on his blog, and although he was leaving a link back to my original post, he followed it with “posted by <his name>“. Some of my regular readers had even left comments on my posts on his blog, meaning that they were not clicking through to my site and therefore not engaging me in the conversation. Since my blog is really my only form of marketing for my analyst, consulting and speaking services, anything that separates me from my readers can potentially cut into my business, and this had to stop.

I checked out his site, which appeared to be just republished full feeds from a number of other bloggers in my industry, and when I checked his About page, I found out that he’s the VP of sales for a company in my industry. Okay, republishing full feeds from someone else’s blog on your own blog is a violation of copyright, and therefore illegal. But doing it from a relatively well-known blogger who writes about your industry, when you’re the VP of sales for a technology company? That’s just plain stupid.

I did the only thing that I could: I outed him, and named his company, although I did not say that this was a company blog, which it’s not. In my books, if you hold a VP title in a company, then first of all, there is an expectation that you set some level of policy in the company, and if you’re cheating in one area of your life (like blogging) then who knows what else you’re doing in other parts of your life (like dealing with customers). Secondly, with that level of title, anything that you do in the industry can be construed to be on behalf of, or at least related to, your employer. In fact, any employment agreement that I’ve either written or signed (having been on both sides of the table) has stated that if you do or invent something that’s directly in your employer’s line of business while you’re working for them, it belongs to them, even if you do it on your own time.

Various emails ensued from the VP and his CEO, and the CEO informed me earlier today that the VP is no longer in their employ. Oh, and the VP title? Turns out it was just a puffed-up title for a salesman because he was their only employee in North America and they felt that they needed a big title for him.

It was not my intention to get someone fired by blogging about their activities, but considering that the activities were illegal and were impacting me personally, it’s hard to work up a tear over it. Somewhere along the line, someone has to put a stake in the ground about responsibility on the internet. This week, I put a stake in my little bit of territory.

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