Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Access Denied

The disadvantage of a blog is simply that it's sometimes too accessible as a 'public domain'. The writer of a blog probably (and most often)has in mind an invisible audience of friends, some who are real (and possibly live in the same city or country as the blogger), others who might be known to the blogger but either forgotten or the blogger is simply not continuously conscious of their existence, and then still others, friends of friends and strangers from farflung places like Iceland and Nepal. It's all good, of course, when someone google's their way to your blog because they're looking to read something about, say, how South Africans spend Christmas, or(a girl searching for) a guy's Christmas wishlist.

It's altogether more sinister when someone is googling stuff like '9/11 twin towers satan' and they find their way to my innocent piece of webspace dedicated to training regimens and environmental concerns and perhaps an incidental reference to hell or satan as in: why the hell would I do that? Or: it was hot as hell.

Meanwhile, if you think I've just conjured up the satan link, check this out:
My point is, over a period of time, your blog is going to be hit (now the word starts to acquire a grim kind of significance) by undesirable people. I don't just mean nut jobs, I mean, maybe you were driving somewhere and you pissed someone off that you knew. Or you're applying for a job and a jealous (or vindictive, or simply insecure) person that knows you has access to your personal diary, and it's with some vindictive glee (and no small amount of self righteousnous)that they're going to source whatever they can find that paints you into a bad light.

If you're like me, and you publish the good, with the bad, with the ugly (hoping that the good shines the brightest), then you do run the risk of being run out of town. I've had a couple of undesirable visitors, and even at times, I want a bit of privacy from the people who regularly read my blog that I actually like. Sometimes one needs to express something about someone close to you, but you simply don't dare. This is why it's a good rule of thumb (for me anyway) not to eviscerate the details of a recent argument with one's girlfriend, simply because things can change in 24 hours, and once again, a jealous rival, or big brother, or someone who simply wasn't there might draw the wrong conclusions. There's the very real risk of someone coming across a single post (particularly once it's been referenced and passed on to/or by another) and then read as an isolated but apparently substantive representation of who you are.

There are blogs entirely devoted to flashing this sort of voyeuristic stuff, as a sort of my-life-as-a-soapie. Often the more sordid the better. It's not my thing. Mushypeasontoast is a very popular blog about an attractive girl (whom I've met) who basically pinballs from one drunken encounter to the next. It's very popular, but unlike me, she simply has to conceal her identity. When we met her she refused to allow photographs of her to be taken (but some were taken anyway), and also refused to share strategic information (such as for which magazine she worked). She also confided that she'd already suffered the attentions of stalkers, and I can't think of anything more unnerving than a stalker who is nourished daily by your blog, even worse, when your disappointments and setbacks actually make them feel better about themselves.

While the core audience of this blog is probably less than 20 different people viewing this page per day (and probably even less than that, maybe 5-10 different people who may check and recheck and refresh a few times a day), it certainly doesn't constitute my definition of a public forum, and I wouldn't want it to. Correction: sometimes I would, for example if I post a story that I believe is meaningful and important. But other times, I might not want anyone to read something I've posted. I remember writing about the 180km cycle and being really upset about the race (and not happy with a teammate), and although I was determined to write and log the workout/race (for comparitive purposes one year later especially), in the back of my mind I thought: I really don't really want anyone else to read this (but I suppose they can).

Then I received comments on that particular post which I felt like responding to as follows: Please stop reading my blog. Or: Can't you just not look at my blog today?

And what about someone like me who routinely posts articles, fiction, sometimes even a university assignment: isn't it just an invitation for plagiarism? After all, if someone in Smallville USA published a perfectly suitable article I'd written(found using google), how would I know about it? Unless it was published on the internet and unless I went back and googled all my own articles looking for duplicates, and who does that, I would never know.

Fortunately, google has a remedy for this dilemma. Anticipating massive demand for increased privacy (and possibly to defend from unnecessary lawsuits), google have come up with a beta version of blogger, which will allow users to password protect content.
I think this will prove both very popular and very useful, although it's a shame in a way, because it simply constrcuts millions of gates in cyberspace, when blogs helped create endless fields of unfenced access.

In the case of my blog going beta (and it will, the version is simply not compatible at this stage with such a huge blog - mine has over 5000 posts), visitors to this blog can simply email me for access, and obviously, if I know you, and you prove to be devoted and trustworthy, you're always welcome.

The password for the rest: access denied.

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