Want to see something scary? Here’s my web site as it appeared back in 1999. At the time, I had sold only a handful of short stories, and was pretty much an unknown. The site was a blend of writing and personal, as you can see by the Photo Album link. (Only about half the pages on the archived site are still live.) Later on, I added more photos for friends and family, including pics of my daughter.
As my writing career progressed, the site shifted more toward the writing, but I still talked openly about family and kept the pictures. Then, when my daughter was around five years old or so, I got an e-mail telling me how hot she was.
I pulled the pics that same day.
These days, I rarely even mention the names of my children. There’s a LJ icon I use that has them, and truly determined friends on Facebook can probably find some pictures, but that’s about it.
I’m revisiting that decision. I know most people don’t come to my blog to read about how awesome my wife and kids are. On the other hand, my family is a very big and very important part of my life. I love them, and I’m proud of them. I look at folks like John Scalzi and Tobias Buckell — both are successful, professional authors, but both talk openly about their families as well. It gives a fuller, more honest picture of them, and I enjoy that. And looking back at the guy who thought my daughter was hot, do I really want to let some creep control what I post?
Some things I’m considering:
- Nothing gets posted without talking to my wife about it.
- If I’m going to share stories or pictures of the kids, I check with them as well. They’re only 9 and 5, but they should still have the right to control what goes onto the Internet about them.
- To the best of my ability, nothing gets posted that the kids’ friends might tease them about if they found it.
That still leaves a lot for me to think about. I’ve spoken very openly about my diabetes, for example, and people seem to appreciate those posts. In that same vein, do I talk about the health issues my son has been struggling with pretty much since he was born? Some of them, absolutely not — see rule three. But other aspects I’m not sure about.
How do you make the decision about what to share and what to keep off the Internet? What about when you’re reading other people’s blogs? I know I appreciate those glimpses into the personal side of authors I admire, but there are also times I cringe because it feels like the author is perhaps sharing more than he or she should.
Discussion is very much welcome.
April 22, 2010 @ 10:30 am
As most of the people who know me personally have come to discover, I am not a fan of social networking. I think most people put WAY too much information on the internet and it can only lead to bad things. I can see the professional benefit too, of course.
I worked for tech support at the university I attended (small university… only ~2700 students) and I was constantly amazed by the amount of information people put on their facebook accounts. Everything from class scheduled to room number, out there for everyone to look at. It led to many real life stalking incidents including one where the stalker made a fake ID and actually tried to show up in person and have the other person’s password reset.
Jim C. Hines
April 22, 2010 @ 10:45 am
One of my boundaries, based on some nasty experiences years ago, is that whatever I post, I don’t want anyone to be able to find me or my family in person. (The exception being scheduled appearances — conventions, booksignings, etc.) I’ll occasionally go “hunting” for myself and my family online. I’m not the most skilled P.I. out there, but I figure if I can’t get an address or location, most others shouldn’t be able to either.
We’re already getting handouts from the school about Internet privacy and safety, so I know they’re starting to teach this stuff when the kids are relatively young. Hopefully it sinks in.
April 22, 2010 @ 11:08 am
That’s pretty much what I try and do as well. I don’t want people to find me. Not easily anyways. They should at least have to put some effort into it!
I’m glad to hear they’re teaching younger kids about Internet privacy and safety. I know it failed horribly on a college level. No matter how many announcements, classes, postings, etc. we made about it, the students just NEVER listened. I can just hope that parents today help re-enforce these lessons to their children, otherwise all the teaching in the world won’t help.
My daughter is only one, so I’m not at the stage yet that I have to worry about her getting into trouble on the internet. However, I seriously dread the day I do!
PS – Love the old website. Reminds me of my first web design days in high school, but I’m glad you were able to move on to a nicer looking page! One of the things that seems to plague the writing world is absolutely TERRIBLE websites. Even publishers and agents! Makes the designer in me cry.
April 22, 2010 @ 2:15 pm
That website brought back memories. When I was in highschool I had a Yahoo Geocities site devoted to collecting pictures of Sailor Moon and Pokemon. I worked on it for a few years and even taught myself HTML to make it look better. I abandoned it when my boyfriend (same one I have 10 years later) and the Drama Club Presidency started taking up all my time. Right before Yahoo shut down Geocities I went back to see if it was worth salvaging. Definitely not! Whenever a friend asks me to help them with a website I remember that site and cringe.
LOL I think I did a thorough job of defining myself as a nerd, but by using the least attractive of my nerd qualities and none of the good ones.
April 22, 2010 @ 2:47 pm
As you pointed out, Jim, not putting the information on the web is at best like putting locks on your doors. A truly determined crook will get through *any* lock on *any* door… but it’ll keep out 99% of the casual burglars.
I’m really, really open about my public life – things anybody can find without too much digging. I don’t publicize where I work, but I don’t hide it either. I’m one of the (relatively few) people in Second Life who is open about who they are in real life as well.
But…I’m about to make my (actually inaccurate) residental listing unlisted, so that only my PO Box shows up. Kiddo is… well, Kiddo.
And that pretty much sets the bar. I had a similar “creepy person talking about my kid” experience over a decade ago.
So I share *exactly* what I’m comfortable sharing. I use pseudonyms, mix-and-match details, and even fabricate a few key things on a regular basis. Kiddo doesn’t make an appearance unless absolutely necessary (though he’s done a guest voice for me before), and then he’s just referred to as “kiddo”. Hell, I won’t even tell people my relationship status anymore, though that’s for different reasons.
I share a lot, and do so freely. But that’s what I choose to share. Anything beyond that, and you better have a damn good reason for asking.
(Since you mentioned him above, I actually credit @scalzi for that framework, when I asked him about a tweet he made about his daughter just before Millenicon 2009.)
Jim C. Hines
April 22, 2010 @ 3:03 pm
I wonder if part of it is the whole “I am teenager. I am immortal!” mindset. I know I suffered from that one and did a few stupid things growing up. Fortunately, there are no Internet records of those exploits.
Happily, there’s also no record of the web site I had before that archived one … the site that used the starfield background, animated gifs, and pretty much every other late-nineties web-newbie mistake 🙂
Jim C. Hines
April 22, 2010 @ 3:05 pm
You know, I’ve found that even ten years later, the self-taught HTML is a useful skill. Whether it’s tweaking the WordPress settings for the new site or wading through XML at work, it all started with Geocities and Microsoft Word’s page designer.
Ah, Pokemon. We used to sell the cards in the computer shop where I worked. I still have nightmares 😛
April 22, 2010 @ 4:14 pm
Hell, Jim, you should start a “my first website” comment thread. Like my first one – it’s kind of painful, but looks a hell of a lot like the BBS I used to run at the time. (The version before it, not caught by the internet archive, looked almost exactly like the BBS interface – but I got e-mail from people who couldn’t figure it out…)
Jim C. Hines
April 23, 2010 @ 8:00 am
That might be fun. I’m still bummed that I don’t seem to have any record, anywhere, of my very first site.
April 23, 2010 @ 1:05 pm
It’s a good question to consider. I’m not precisely sure where the line is, myself. Within my blog, I use pseudonyms for my wife and in-utero child, because I’m not comfortable sharing certain details about them. I also don’t share the name of my employer, nor that of my wife, though I do share details about the nature of my work.
I would agree on also not posting things about our children that could be a potential source of embarrassment to them. In that vein, I plan on occassionally talking about what I do as a father, but I don’t think I’ll share that awful much about my child, or what his day is like. I’ve not had any run-ins with anyone acting creepy, yet… but I want to avoid the possibility. I realize I can’t really blog without talking in some terms about my family, but I hope that I’m able to disguise the details enough that your average creepy online stalker won’t be able to find too much information about me.
That’s an interesting thought above about the P.O. Box; not that I’m in danger of this any time soon, but I often wondered what you do as a “famous writer”, with regards to getting fan snail-mail (which may be increasing moot as more communication moves to the electronic sphere, but I wonder nonetheless). I guess holding a P.O. Box is one potential answer to that question, and it looks like a good one. Or does fan mail for all famous authors get routed through their agents?
Jim C. Hines
April 23, 2010 @ 1:15 pm
I should get a P.O. box, but I haven’t yet. I just don’t know that I’d use it often enough. I’ve very, very occasionally gotten mail through my publisher. (Addressed to Jim C. Hines, care of DAW Books.) Almost everything comes in via e-mail, though.
April 23, 2010 @ 1:27 pm
That’s as I expected, I guess. This being the FUTURE and all, there just might not be that much use for a physical P.O. Box, or certainly not enough to justify the extra expense.