More Human Than Human

the human touch
Originally uploaded by max_thinks_sees.

“I am the jigsaw.” – R.Z.

I have to disagree, relatively strongly, with a number of items in Dave Taylor’s post “When Is A Blog Too Personal?” Dave writes:

“One of the great ongoing debates in the murky world of blogging is whether your weblog should be personal or professional, whether you should be revealing or private. There are, of course, many different answers and at some level the real answer is “whatever you’re comfortable with”, but I think it’s a topic worth exploration nonetheless.

Business blogging is a different story because your goal is to convey a certain level of expertise, credibility and, yes, professionalism, and that can be counter to the idea of being too personal.

One solution is to use the “water cooler rule”. If a topic isn’t something you’d talk about with your supervisor hanging around the water cooler or coffee station at your office, it’s probably not appropriate for your professional blog either.

That might work pretty well for you, but I don’t think it goes far enough, because I can easily imagine chatting about the latest TV show or sporting event with colleagues and supervisors, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for my business blog.”

I actually think the “water cooler rule” is a pretty good one. However, Dave continues:

“I have a friend who is a professional editor and writer who is also in what she calls an “alternative relationship” where she and her husband both date other people. It works for her, but when she blogged about her relationship on her professional blog, I was shocked.

She said that “I’d rather just ‘out’ myself and if it turns off potential clients, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to work with them anyway.” I just don’t see it that way. When you buy a burger from the local eatery, do you want to know the politics of the owner? When you get your car tuned up at the local garage, do you even care about the religious background of the mechanic?”

Here is where we disagree, strongly. When choosing a service provider, I absolutely want to know his or her context and worldview, biases and motivations, whenever possible.

Exhibit A: I will never get a Domino’s pizza, because I disagree strongly with founder Tom Monaghan’s politics.

Exhibit B: I really like the Magnolia pub, in the Haight in San Francisco. Not only do they have terrific beer, but their menu tells me this about the philosophy of the owners:

“Magnolia is proud to support sustainable agriculture as well as local farms and businesses in order to serve food that tastes better. We buy as much of our produce as possible from independent, local, organic farms based on seasonal availability. Our meat and poultry is all natural, free range, and raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. We make sure that our seafood choices are abundant and fished or farmed in sustainable ways. In general, we buy as locally and sustainably as possible and encourage you to do the same.”

So I suppose, yes, I do want to know the politics of the owner of the burger joint. (n.b. That said, there are a whole bunch of waypoints from transactions to community.)

We’re all jigsaw puzzles of varying interests, history, background and, yes, skills. For some, the Joe Friday, “just the facts” approach may be what they desire from their vendors. On the other hand, many of us spend at least a third (ha, right…more like two-thirds) of our days in our “professional” skins. Do we really want to be denying all of those aspects of “who we are” a majority of our lives? I think not, so Dave, I need to respectfully disagree with your post.

Some other viewpoints on humanity and business blogging:

From the archives:
The Business Blogging Field Guide (HTML, or PDF)

4 Replies to “More Human Than Human”

  1. Totally agree. we each have to choose what we feel strongly enough to act on. During 2004 I felt strongly enough about the political landscape that I was willing to blog vociferously for the Democratic Party. If a client had chosen NOT to work with me because of it, that would have been best for us both.

    On the other hand I don’t feel strongly enough about my sex life, as one example, to blog about in the same way.

    And yes, I’m happy to know people’s and company’s ethical and political philosophies, and to try to spend my money where it will support those philosophies with which I feel aligned. This in everything from the food I buy to my engagement ring.

    I’m with you Chris!

  2. “Exhibit A: I will never get a Domino’s pizza, because I disagree strongly with founder Tom Monaghan’s politics.”

    I contend that his politics is a deal-breaker precisely because he made his politics a divisive issue. Personally, I don’t buy Domino’s pizzas because I think they’re crappy. Conversely, I wouldn’t load up on Domino’s pizza if the CEO was ultra liberal or whatever.

    We (Marlena and I) have standing boycotts with a few companies (Whole Foods and Exxon most notably) because of high-profile political/economic/environmental gaffes of varying degrees of severity. Again, it’s because it was tied so closely to the company, as opposed to “one person’s opinion.”

    BTW despite his attempts to be oblique, I know exactly what situation Dave Taylor was talking about. I think it’s fair to say (with 20/20 hindsight) that it was more teapot than tempest.

  3. I’m torn about this, actually. While I definitely believe in keeping certain personal politics up front (after all, I’ve built my business on my commitment to eco-friendly design principles, and my personality is vital to everything I do), I don’t know how I feel about discussing your personal relationship choices in your professional blog.

    At the same time, this makes me think of the prejudices so many of us who are outside what’s considered the mainstream face in our daily lives, and that makes me feel, “why wouldn’t you?”

    For example, let’s say that you’re a solo entrepreneur blogging for your business, and you happen to be heterosexual and married monogomously. You’d likely have no problems talking about your husband/wife on your blog if something came up that was applicable to the blog and involved him/her. What happens, then, if the solopreneur is in a long-term gay relationship, or a polyamourous relationship (with more than one partner), and something relevant to the blog happens that involves their partner(s)? Do you not talk about it because people might be shocked that your relationship isn’t mainstream? Why is it okay for people who have made one relationship choice to talk freely about their relationships, and those who make different choices have to somehow hide the fact?

    At the end of the day, I tend to feel that my business blog and my private life (which includes my relationships) are my business, not anybody elses. But I also don’t necessarily feel that it’s okay to determine who gets to talk about their relationships based on what form those relationships take.

  4. Personally, I think the basic rule should be ‘whatever floats your boat.’

    At the same time, I think there’s something to be said for bring your humanness to your business dealings, and that includes your business blogging.

    There’s been a positive explosion in the number of tiny, one-person businesses and slightly larger microbusinesses in recent years. I think a part of the reason for the exodus from the traditional business environment is that it’s psychologically unnatural to compartmentalize your personality to fit the different arenas in which you have to operate. Work is supposed to be a part of life and life is supposed to be a part of work.

    Besides, I think it says something that people are becoming more willing to go to extraordinary lengths in order to find real, unscripted people to talk to in customer service scenarios. Why hide the fact that you’re a real person from customers who are longing to deal with real people?

    There’s no rule anywhere I know about that says “professional” and “human being” are mutually exclusive terms.

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