Those of us interested in the case are not following it because of our perverted interest in the potentially lurid testimony if the case goes to trial. Of course not. Nobody in America is interested in stuff like that. The much more important aspect of the case is that it should help establish whether people who keep blogs are obligated to protect the privacy of the people with whom they interact offline.
Of course I don't expect anyone is going to sue me over what I write in Proper Course. But I do have a concern about how far it is sensible for me to go in writing about other people -- the people I race with, other sailors, my friends, my family.
I don't try to be deliberately offensive but I do understand that some of the incidents I describe may look totally different to another party involved. For example I am sure that the other sailor involved in this mark rounding probably wouldn't agree with my account. Would he be upset if he found out what I wrote about him?
Or the folk I write about may just not appreciate that what they say or do in the context of a casual interaction or a sailboat race ends up on the The Interweb and is accessible to anyone who knows how to use The Google.
- I very rarely use the real names of the people I write about. So even if you recognize yourself in one of my posts, your friends at work and the club (or even your family) won't know it's you. Sometimes I make up silly names like Alphonse, Bertie and Cedric in the Mark Rounding post. Sometimes I use initials such as the mysterious "S." who helped me start a Laser fleet a couple of years ago.
- The only times that I can recall using real names of people I sail with and write about, (a) they were already nationally well known names in the sailing world, and (b) I only wrote good stuff about them like the fact that they were great coaches or that they won a race.
- I don't even use my own real name though it wouldn't be too hard for anyone to discover it given the two years of clues I have written. And a few people who know me well and have stumbled on the blog have, of course, recognized who the writer is.
- I don't even mention by name the clubs that I sail at regularly. This may seem like a ridiculous conceit to some folk. But I don't want the other members of my clubs to be worrying that I am spying on them and that anything they do may end up on this blog. You know what they say: what goes on at the yacht club stays at the yacht club. But this almost seems deceitful. After all some of the things that happen at the yacht club will end up in this blog. Would it be fairer if everyone knew of that possibility?
I'm not sure if these informal rules are the right ones. Am I being too cautious or too protective of the privacy of myself and my fellow sailors? I'd be interested to hear your views, especially if you write a blog yourself. How do you strike the right balance on this question?