Interlude: What Won't You Write About?

73 Responses

  1. Charles says:

    I had a pretty doofy wedding-planning blog that petered out after a few months because fans of my wife's earlier work just couldn't understand why someone would want a WEDDING. The comments got gradually worse and the fun of writing waned.

  2. eddie says:


  3. Globex Corporation says:

    There are many things that I write about, but I do it all under a psuedonym as I don't want people to associate my personal views with my firm (where I am a junior associate).

    This was a particular concern of my previous firm where I often voiced strong opinions against the current government in my province while my firm was in the habit of making routine and large donations to the political party forming government.

  4. Thad says:

    I've picked up a couple minor, incompetent stalkers over the years, so I make sure my home address never gets tied to my name on the Internet, and I don't generally mention names of family members.

    I've also taken to not mentioning when I'm going to be out of town for the weekend or at a show or what-have-you, but that's not because of any specific paranoia so much as security best-practices.

  5. bw1 says:

    I think I would draw the line at personally identifying my family and friends, by name, picture, or other unambiguous reference. They didn't necessarily sign on for the flak that comes with it. The web can be war-like, and they are non-combatants.

    I enjoy the stories about your kids, but their names and likenesses don't add anything to the stories, and there are people out there who might use that information in ways we don't even want to imagine.

  6. Dan Irving says:

    Ken – sucks that this has impacted you this way. Unfortunately that seems to be the way of the interwebs. Not being able to shove your fist down some moron's piehole when they say something offsides gives trolls an inflated sense of worth. They lack the intellectual capacity to accept alternate pov's and the emotional development required to empathize with their fellow travellers. I personally blame the 60's.

  7. I wrote on my blog a couple years ago about problems my wife had with a hospital. I made the mistake of mentioning her primary care physician by name, and a while after that, some crazy guy showed up at her PCP's office waving printouts of my blog postings, identifying my wife and her PCP by name, and forcefully insisting that he simply had to speak with my wife's doctor. It was very scary. I try to be a bit more careful not about eliding stuff when I post.

  8. That sucks, man. Trolls – ruining the fun for all of us.

    My guess is that part of the difficulty is the transition from pseudonymous writing, to pseudo-pseudonymous writing, to 'When I type "Who is [pseudonym]?" in Google, my name comes up.' The amount of personal detail you'll reveal is generally decreasing from one case to the next, as presumably would be the number of off-color jokes, politically incorrect rants, ad hominem attacks on random public figures, and all sorts of other stuff that's entertaining to read, but not entertaining to explain to your boss or mother. But unfortunately, everything you wrote when you thought it was all totally anonymous is still completely searchable once your name (and State Bar address for filing complaints) becomes known. As Bob Dylan put it in his autobiography – privacy is something you can sell, but never buy back.

    I ended up at the policy of 'write under a pseudonym, try to conceal your identity, but choose what you write under the assumption that you'll be outed anyway'. But within that limit, push the boundaries a little, because otherwise what's the fun in the whole thing?

  9. princessartemis says:

    It isn't in the same sphere as blogging, but I no longer use certain instant messaging software nor do I present as female in most online social venues due to the completely random harassment I've received.

    If I ever were to blog, there are subjects close to my interests I would avoid simply because I can see what sort of commentary it invites when others do so, and I know I'm not up to handling that much hostility. Apparently, people deeply invested in anatomically absurd women in video games, comic books, and fantasy games feel really strongly about how important it is they stay that way.

  10. Dwight Brown says:

    For the most part, I do not write about my workplace, even if the information has been reported elsewhere. I know some of my cow orkers read my blog (because they've told me so), and I like having a job and getting a paycheck. But that's not so much due to my personal experience as it is seeing what's happened to other people.

    I don't discuss my personal religious beliefs, for what I consider to be good (and personal) reasons.

    I know my mother reads my blog as well: I can't think of anything that I've censored myself from discussing because of that, but I have been trying to tone down my usage of profanity for that reason.

  11. Valerie says:

    In 2008, I wrote what I thought was a pretty unexciting comment about the election in The Guardian's comment section. Within minutes, several people were commenting that I was asking to be anally raped by the paper's editors and readers (their language was more colorful, but you get the gist).

    The article I commented on was about how foreigners could influence the US election & help elect someone they would prefer to work with (in 2004, the Guardian had their readers call voters in Ohio – didn't work).

    All I said was calls from strangers in England were unlikely to go down well with American swing voters. What that has to do with anal rape, I am not sure, although I have since noticed trolls have something of an obsession with it.

    It was disconcerting, to put it mildly, but I've still generally used my actual name to comment and included some personal details if relevant. If I ran an actual blog, I might be more circumspect since it gives people a clearer target than 1 comment among many.

    Anyway, Ken, I hope your hiatus ends soon & that you can take legal action against whatever asshat decided to contact your employer. Call Chuckles – I hear he specializes in "raputation" now.

  12. I blog anonymously and under my real name. Among other things, family stuff goes in the anonymous blog — and, even there, I'm careful not to give away too many details that might lead to my unmasking.

    I hope you won't be too long away — I'm selfish and shallow and I enjoy your work — but I understand, respect and sympathize with your reasons.

  13. John says:

    It's sort of funny… All last week and into this one, I was thinking, "Gee, I wish Ken and Patrick would write more often." Then I stopped to think, "Gee, they're probably doing their real jobs. There are people who need their legal services far more than I need to be educated/entertained by reading what they write in their spare time."

    The trolls, though… they can be spooky, they can be dangerous, and sometimes, they can just be fun to pull the legs and wings off. But because I can't tell which is which based on a comment, I try to avoid much in the way of personal information about my family, even though I write under my real name. I also rejoice that I live in a state with a "Must Issue" ruling on CCW.

  14. ktpick says:

    I write a tiny family blog. I do it for myself mostly, I want to remember the funny, cute, endearing things that my kids do while they're little. I actually print it out each year into a hardcover book so I can look at it later without ring online. I don't really expect much commentary on it since it is probably about as interesting as a strangers vacation pictures to other people.

    That said, I was extremely taken aback to find out that my inlaws *keep score* of how many times I talk about my own parents versus themselves. I have never once said anything negative about anyone but I do sometimes talk about my very supportive mother instead of my alcoholic in laws. After a few blowups over this score keeping, I'm now very careful to try and balance it more though I don't write positive things about the inlaws that I don't feel are true. It's kind of ruined the fun for me lately and posts have dried up.

    As for rules of posting online, I do reference my kids by their first names and show pictures. I never say anything negative about anyone, and I never post anything that I wouldn't want my grandmother to see. All the same rules I live by on Facebook, google+, and my blog :)

  15. Hal 10000 says:

    I refrain from writing about really personal stuff – family health issues and so on. And while it's fairly easy to trace who I am, I like to keep the identifying details to a minimum. Mostly I avoid writing about things I know will start flame wars in the comments: abortion, global warming, etc.

  16. I have dialed back on political postings and comments recently, especially on Facebook, as I have realized that this is an intensely polarized country this electoral cycle, and my style of interaction, which is based on questioning and debate, does not play well with people who are already dug into a specific set of positions. Having been called out as "arrogant" and "abrasive" on more than one occasion for pointing out that the people in question were merely stringing together slogans and juvenile ad hominems, and asking for some arguments instead, I tired of that level of sterility. I concluded that it is better to refrain from discussion with people whose minds are already welded shut, and instead to frequent other places (like Popehat) where I can encounter a different level of comment and discussion.

  17. angstela says:

    For a number of years I was paranoiacally private. I moderate a play-by-post RPG forum (think slow-moving games of D&D, GURPS, &c.) and have had users with their own particular axes to grind over moderaton decide, for example, that a great way to annoy me is by annoying my retired parents. But I'm slipping back toward the side of "no matter how obsessively private I am, obsessive whackjobs are still going to find a way to get to me, having that level of keen, hyper-obsessive crazy that out does my fairly average obsessive crazy." Of course none have (yet) made plain death threats, so that could change.

  18. d-day says:

    I had a blog many years ago that I thought was totally anonymous, until a reader sent a link to my personal profile on my company's webpage with a note "you might want to start covering your tracks better." She meant well, but it was so creepy I gave it up. I wanted to blog about politics and that really would not have gone over well at my old job.

    Now I just assume that pseudonymous or not, everything I ever post online will be found. I don't say things about people that I'm not willing to say to their face. Luckily, I'm a jerk, so that's not as restrictive as it could be.

  19. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Please take your time attending to your life. I think I can speak for everyone here worth the oil necessary to fry them in Hell when I say, we'll be here when you get back.

    Since writing is the process of staring at a blank page until beads of blood form on one's forehead, I see no reason why you should write so much as one word you don't want to.

    I WAS a little concerned, but mostly in a vague "I hope everything is OK, especially with family" sense, which this puts to rest.

  20. Grifter says:

    I agree with C.S.P. Schofield (and everybody else)…you'll be missed, but we'll be here!

    On the subject of speaking on the internet: I refuse to be intimidated out of speaking unless there's a direct threat to Mrs. Grifter that could come as a result. I am perfectly willing to stick my neck out, but hers is not up for grabs. Thus, I almost always feel fully free to speak my mind… to a point. Of course, that also means I've been barred from more than a few places IRL and online.

  21. Tim says:

    I miss the regular Ken insights, but that's my personal problem. I don't mind the hiatus because what Ken is doing in real life is giving him new experiences, perspective, and insights to write about in the future. Who wants to read the insights of a person that doesn't live in the world but only looks upon it from a distance? Not me. In other news…

  22. TheOtherMatt says:


    I know that we are not entitled to your writing, but rest assured what you do here is important, and very much appreciated, if you wanted fund it via kickstarter or something, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would donate. Also if you need inspiration in recent weeks airline security people have been caught discriminating against, and sometimes abusing PWDs not that you need that strictly speaking but i can' t think of anyone more qualified to give the govt and airlines a rhetorical crochshot over irrational prejudice then yourself, well i can but they're all dead is the thing. So bottom line Don't stop :)

  23. Miranda says:

    I've missed your writings terribly! David's have been educational, but being so far out of my realm of knowledge, hard for me to understand. But I figured you were actually attending to your life. I sometimes wonder how busy lawyers who are also prolific bloggers (like you, Greenfield, Bennett) blog and have time to do your jobs.

    As far as this series of tubes, I think very carefully before writing anything online having to do with feminism or "women's issues," or even where I'm simply giving an opinion as a woman. Although I am a grown-up, the replies I have received (and that other women have received) when posting about those subjects can be especially vitriolic. They get to me, no matter how hard I try to not let it.

  24. M. says:

    I believe that nothing on the Internet is ever truly private. Trust no one, etc. However, I do compartmentalize my various personality traits onto different sites – anything really emotional or TMI goes on my LiveJournal, which has a viewership of two very old friends. The bawdy and gallows humor is for Facebook, intellectual stuff mostly goes on G+, and the beauty blather goes on my beauty blog. Not to blow smoke up anyone's ass, but Popehat is probably the closest I come to doing it all in one place.

  25. Orville says:

    When my wife was pregnant with our first child routine testing discovered that he had a horrible birth defect that was going to kill him. The only available treatment had an extremely low chance of success and would have resulted in a lifetime of pain. So we decided to let him be born, and then die on his own. It was the hardest decision we have ever had to make. It came very close to destroying our marriage.

    My wife, seeking an outlet, blogged about our pain. It was picked up by a religious nut case who made sure everyone at an extreme pro-life forum knew the story.

    That's when the death threats started rolling in.

    It has been several years since my son died in my arms. I remember that moment every day – and so does the internet. We still get random bits of hate thrown our way by people who don't give two shits that we made the exceedingly painful choice we did because we thought it was the best thing for our child.

    The experience taught me two things – always post using a pseudonym and always keep a powerful firearm close by.

    Other than that, it hasn't changed my posting habits one bit. Insane people are going to be insane and there is nothing you can do about it except be prepared to defend yourself if their delusions cause them to strike at you outside the internet.

    Besides, crawling into a hole and keeping quiet for the rest of my life would be the same as surrendering to those moronic fuck weasels and I refuse to give them that satisfaction.

  26. Kat says:

    I no longer write about anything akin to politics, but that one may have been obvious to everyone but me.

  27. In addition to the incident I mentioned above…

    Long ago, before there were blogs, or LJ, or Facebook, or anything else like that, at least two different KOTM winners tried to get me fired from my job for things I had posted on Usenet. It wasn't pleasant.

    Nevertheless, I've always posted everything I've ever posted anywhere online under my real name, and I have no intention of changing that. Posting anonymously because of the kooks and crazies is letting the terrorists win.

  28. Davey says:

    Ya know… blogging (or any participation in the 'Net) is a lot like busking in a New York subway station:
    1. The decision to perform in public has to be weighed very carefully.
    2. On good days, you attract an appreciative audience and polite applause.
    3. On bad days, all you see are tinfoil hats and a drunk that tries to whiz in your instrument case.

    Blogging is public performance. You don't get to choose your audience unless you sell tickets.

  29. Thad says:

    I notice that there is more than one of me, so… this comment is by Thad, who is not to be confused with Thad.

    Right. That's cleared that one up :)

    Happy Hiatus, Ken … but is one on a hiatus? If so, wouldn't one fall in to it? Should it be in, or having, …or what?

  30. nlp says:

    Several years ago my company hired a summer intern. In the little introduction email that was sent out there was a mention of his blog. A few days later he made some comment about some government proposal; possibly a cap and tax system. He mentioned possible costs and said it was a back of the envelope projected number.

    In a company that made its money by consulting on finance, utilities, energy, and related matters, this was a mistake. A day or so later he said (in his blog) that people with other envelopes, bigger, more experienced envelopes, came to other conclusions. It seems that the principals of the company, not content with sending emails, were stopping by his office to explain why his numbers were off.

    I'm sure he got a great education that summer, but I suspect it wasn't the education he expected to get.

  31. En Passant says:

    I add my voice to Grifter, C.S.P. Schofield and others above. I miss your posts, Ken. But I recognize the need to attend actually important things. I hope you can return to delight us all with your writings soon.

  32. AlphaCentauri says:

    I had been pleasantly surprised you had as much time as you did before. I know how long it takes to write and edit high-quality blog posts. And I know moderation was probably becoming a chore, what with all our tl;dr posts to read! I'm looking forward to your book.

    As far as what I post on line, I try to keep real-name posts and persistent pseudonym posts in separate universes. It's not been 100% successful, but I've avoided most problems. I have no fear of trolls showing up in person, however. They are only brave when they're anonymous and online.

  33. En Passant says:

    AlphaCentauri wrote:

    I have no fear of trolls showing up in person, however. They are only brave when they're anonymous and online.

    While this is generally true, there are exceptions. My personal experience with one internet loon was quite different. In fact, it (the loon) terrified some of my friends and associates whom it targeted online and physically assaulted in the flesh.

    Prosecutions and convictions ensued. Unfortunately it still infests the internet. Some jail time apparently reduced its penchant for physical confrontation a bit, though not for internet loonery.

  34. Basil Forthrightly says:

    I no longer say anything about Scientology on the Internet. Back in the '90s, I got on their enemies list (they distributed Internet-blocking software to their adherents and my name and email were blocking keys), and *someone* was building a dossier on me, contacting folk that knew me in 3 states and the navy.

    I also started getting emails from high school girls who needed help on school projects related to things I'd posted about on Usenet or the early web.

    It was too creepy and I had plenty of other things to write about.

  35. Robert says:

    I inadvertently became the #1 topic on a now defunct trolling website because I blogged about entertainment media through the lens of my experience working in the industry. I was 18 years old, landing a bunch of big auditions, and was able to write about stories from the lens of someone who had been through it. Cue a trolling website finding my site and accusing me about lying about every detail of my life. I'd post evidence to back me up and that would somehow make me worse.

    Then the actual cyber attacks against me started (they got me fired from sites I freelanced for with false allegations against my character and drained my paypal account) and continued for…7 years. What stopped them? Aside from numerous DMCA takedown notices for when they'd copy and paste entire articles I'd written without permission, their site owner got tired of the monthly bill and split without warning.

    They absolutely killed my business. I had to shut down my homepage and adopt a pseudonym for non-ghostwriting gigs. I just got up the nerve to put my own site back up in a public forum with my name on it two years ago but now my life is excluded from 99% of my writing. I occasionally mention some of my music work or when I'm so sick that looking at the computer screen causes an instant migraine, but otherwise it's all business.

    All of this over reality TV recaps and movie reviews.

    I can't blame anyone for taking a break and putting a moratorium on topics if it makes them feel safer and saner. Nothing worse than feeling dread every time you log into the back end of a site.

  36. JWH says:

    I blog infrequently, but when I blog politics or law I make it a rule to take a very intellectual approach, and I never, EVER write while angry.

  37. Elise Logan says:

    There are many things I won't write about/blog about. Some of that is because I'm an author and I don't want to cause people not to buy books because of personal things that have nothing to do with books. That includes things like religion and politics and so on. Another set of things I won't talk about because I'm protective. I don't refer to my kidlet by name or discuss her school or any specifics or particulars about her. I don't discuss personal things which are specifically identifiable for my husband or my family.

    So, yes. There are a lot of things I won't blog about or discuss online.


  38. Bill says:

    As someone who blogs myself, I realize how time consuming it is. You have to come up with an idea, find a way to say it all in an interesting manner and keep up with it (your posts are quite striking in this regard b/c they it's clear you put a lot of thought into them). Even if you can do it in 20 mins a day, as busy as many of our schedules are, finding a dedicated time to get it done can be a real inconvenience. I agree with the rest… We'll be here when you get back and as much as we miss you, your family no doubt needs you more. Also, as someone who asked for your help, I was really struck by how willing you were to help and can imagine that there're a lot of folks asking for your time. It's tragic that you get hassled (you're a big boy and i'm sure it rolls of your back, but family is a different issue) but we can only hope it never escalates above hot air. Best wishes man, and yep, I'll be waiting with bells on until you come back.

  39. Lucille says:

    I have missed your posts. Peppering your writing with personal details gives a certain credibility to your blog that you are more than a think piece. You're a person, a citizen too. Having said that, I agree with the majority of comments so far. It's just good practice to avoid baiting your hook while sailing uncertain seas. Most of the catch is good, but there are some out there who could ruin the whole trip.

  40. Lucille says:

    Also, I have been enjoying Some of you needing a legal intellect fix with humor might enjoy this site also.

  41. M. says:

    I should add that, several years ago, I showed the Internet my ass in a big way. I did my best to make amends, but ultimately had to beat a hasty retreat into relative anonymity. If someone had that particular debacle in mind, it wouldn't be hard to recognize my writing style and some identifying details and "ruin my life" online; frankly, I would deserve it. For now, though, I try to be a force for good and relative sanity on the Web, while being careful not to chuck the first stone too violently in certain familiar situations.

    I also have a naughty little vice called flamebait trolling, but I only target stupid and/or narrowminded people, and only when I'm quite bored or frisky.

  42. Bruce says:

    There's no need to grind out a hobby.

    Mostly based on old-timers ennui, I don't bother to write about God or abortion, or even bother with threads where they are the topic. I think I've seen all the arguments both sides have and am happy with where I sit on the issues and do not think anything I say will ever change anyone's mind, nor is anyone likely to reveal something new that would have me rethinking my position.

  43. James Pollock says:

    I post almost exclusively with my real name, for several reasons: 1) I don't have to worry about being "found out". 2) I'm not afraid/ashamed to own my opinions/words, and 3) it reminds me to self-moderate, so that IF something I'm involved in devolves into flaming trollfarts, it wasn't ME who started it. Is there a chance I might provoke some online nutjob? Sure… I also live near a volcano and downstream from a big dam (actually, a whole string of them). Life is risky.

  44. Terry Gibbs says:

    I realized a few years ago that the stories I tell about my life define me. I decide when an occurrence is something to be shared with others.

    I've been attacked frequently online. But those are exceptions.

    My experience has been more of people being kind, than people being assholes. My tendency is to think about the few people who behave badly, but they are really a small group.

    When my father died in 2007, I wrote about it on my site, and got a 18" stack of cards from readers. These are people who spent the time to get my address and send a card.

    I've had readers (not publicists though that happens too!) send me books they thought I'd like.

    I've been to shows around the country and had people come up and introduce themselves to me as readers, and thank me.

    Those are the people I think about when I write. Not the trolls and quick-to-be-offended.

  45. Windypundit says:

    I blog under my own name, but I do avoid giving out personal contact information, financial details, information about my job, or identifying details about my friends and family. I also practice a certain amount of opsec by not revealing some of my plans in advance. Finally, although I don't avoid controversial topics out of fear of trolls, I do follow a strict practice of not feeding the trolls, which includes not writing about them if the only reason to write about them is because they're doing something troll-ish. So far, I haven't had any stalkers.

  46. scaredninny says:

    I have, for many years, considered writing about my experience with abortion. I cannot make myself publicly do it- either online or in print- because:

    1) I haven't told my family and don't particularly want them to know and assume that its possible that it'll get out even if I write under a pseudonym

    2) Don't want to get the hate-mail that I know would ensue. Nor do I want to submit my family to that kind of attention.

    3) I can't quite get behind pouring out the painful emotions to a space that I know is not going to be supportive, or at least not judgmental.

    I'm actually enough of a scaredycat that this is under a wholly new pseudonym that will probably never be re-used ever again just in case.

  47. Joe says:

    Ken, I hope your internet stalker trolls are under control and have retreated back under whatever rock they crawled out from under. I understand the workload issue, I too am on a bit of a hiatus. Q4 is by far our busiest time of the year and I won’t be sleeping much between now and Christmas. Will miss you postings in the interim but am sure your cohorts will do an admirable job of keeping things humming along.

    To answer your two questions above:.

    (1) Are there things that you won't write about now because of your online experiences? Hasn’t been an issue for me since when I post online it’s always been under a pseudonym and from a spoofed IP. Not because I’m concerned so much about someone discovering my real identity but mostly because I just don’t have the time to engage in a protracted legal wrangling with some asshat that doesn’t understand the first amendment or who got their feelings all butthurt because I posted something they disagreed with.

    (2) Have things happened to you online that have made you more circumspect in what you blog or otherwise write about? As a habit I don’t generally post anything online that I’d be embarrassed about if it was tied back to me, but I have become more cautious after witnessing the experiences of others who posted under their real name and incurred the wrath of some unbalanced internet troll.

  48. Joe says:

    Another example of what can happen when posting an opinion onine. Oregon dentist suing patient for negative online review.

    Story is missing some facts such as second opinion of another dentist. I suspect it will be thrown out and the dentist is certainly going to learn about the Streisand Effect.

  49. David Brant says:

    In appreciation for your ideas, spilled ever so effectively all over Popehat, I thank you. I am not entitled, but I do so enjoy your writings, even if I do not always agree with the sentiment.

    Take your time, relax, try to see this blogging thing as the release that it should be, rather than an anchor holding you in the harbor.

  50. TimS says:


    I appreciate all your effort on this blog – and respect the trade-offs you need to make. I aspire some day to do as much good with my law-craft as you do here at Popehat.

  1. September 6, 2012

    [...] censoriously brilliant play, is to try and get your critics fired. It's right up there with going after their uninvolved family members and photoshopping dicks on their faces. Everyone uses their work computer for personal tasks, just [...]

  2. September 6, 2012

    [...] of Self-Preservation Has Snuck In the Door Posted on September 6, 2012 3:30 pm by Bill Quick Interlude: What Won't You Write About? | Popehat – will the troll-stalkers be incorporating it into their deranged and threatening faxes to my [...]