Monday, July 11, 2011

Can Blogging be Harmful to Your Career?

I blog 5 days a week.  This is my 935th post.   Monday through Wednesday are generally policy and technology topics.   Thursday is something personal.   Friday is an emerging technology.

Everything I write is personal, unfiltered, and transparent.    Readers of my blog know where I am, what I'm doing, and what I'm thinking.   They can share my highs and my lows, my triumphs and defeats.

Recently, I had my blog used against me for the first time.

In discussing a critical IT issue, someone questioned my focus and engagement because I had written a post about single malt scotch on June 2 at 3am, recounting an experience I had Memorial Day Weekend in Scotland.

I explained that I write these posts late at night, in a few minutes, while most people are sleeping.   They are not a distraction but are a kind of therapy, enabling me to document the highlights of my day.

I realize that it is overly optimistic to believe that everyone I work with will embrace values like civility, equanimity, and a belief that the nice guy can finish first.

If Facebook can be used against college applicants to screen them for bad behavior and if review of web-based scholarly writing can be used by legislators to block executive appointment confirmations, what's the right way to use social media to minimize personal harm?

There are three possibilities

1.  Ignore the naysayers - blog, tweet, chat, IM, and wiki as you wish!

2.  Give up - the world is filled with angry people who can stalk you, harass you, and criticize you.   Better to keep your thoughts private.

3.  Write what you think, back it up with evidence, and temper your emotions - assume the world will read everything you write and have an opinion, but transparency and communication, as long as it is fair, is the best policy.

I've chosen #3.

Why did the person criticize me for blogging about Single Malt?

I have three ideas

1.  Maybe they did not understand that I only blog for a few minutes at the end of my 20 hour day, when all work and family responsibilities are done to the extent I can do them.   Hence my blogging does not detract from anything else I do.

2.  Maybe they cannot accept that I've done everything I can to serve my customers in the 20 hour day before blogging.   In that case, it falls under my leadership principle, "You cannot please everyone".

3.  Maybe life is not fair and I should be judged by different criteria than other people.  When I was 15, I wrote in my journal "If you are judged using rules that are inherently unfair or unreasonable, then you should realize that the game cannot be won.  Stay true to your values, work hard, and all will be well."     No matter what people say or how harshly they criticize me, even when their ideas are not factual, I will stay true to my values - not pursuing fame or fortune, but simply trying to make a difference.

So the answer to the question is yes, blogging can hurt your career.  However, if you take the high road, you'll always get to where you want to be.


Rishi said...

This sounds outrageous! No one has a right to question what you do after hours. Besides, your blog is an important voice in the healthcare IT world and it helps others find information, get an informed perspective, and learn more about HIT world--so the time you spend on it is an investment on behalf of others.

HCPSW said...

You sir are the high road in my opinion and I always look forward to your posts. You are an inspiration and guide to many of us in the field. So please carry on as long as you wish. As for those on the low road - they lost their way a long time ago and they will always be around. Unfortunately.

Bernz said...

Or maybe the person should read one of the blogs where you talk about time-management and sleeping so they know that a blog at 3am is not only usual, but likely part of your chock-full-of-work workflow.

E Joffe MD MSc said...

Dear Dr. Halamka,

I am writing to state my support and say that I enjoy your blog immensely and find it educating, informative and entertaining (That piece about Alaska was spectacular).
It is on my homepage and the first thing I read every morning.
No need to listen to those "good souls".
I hope you'll keep up the good work.

Thank you,

Alex I said...

Your blogging and accessibility is personally responsible for the success I've had with Meaningful Use. It's unfortunate that someone finds fault in the variety of your blogs. There is a saying, "no good deed goes unpunished". I like to believe that if you stay true to who you are it's the most important thing.

Sherif Hashem said...

I will be conducting and experiment for the sake of science and see if being "Facebook Friends" with your CIO can be harmful to your career.

James said...

Thanks for sharing your tribulations. Your blogs help me appreciate the reality of our chaotic HIT world, and expose many people to a mature and rational approach for addressing healthcare IT that is sorely needed.

The personal posts help balance, create perspective and lend credibility to the business related material.

Thank you for sharing and please continue.

InformRN said...

Keep doing what and how you are doing it! I learn a great deal from what you write. When I read this blog I immediately thought, "you must be doing something important and worthwhile that causes others to think...if you were not, you wouldn't hear anything back". Carry on, I say!
Thanks for your great blog.
Sarah R. Tupper, MS, RN-BC

Unknown said...

If you are not engaged because you write on subjects outside of your specific career expertise, then reading such posts would be an equal waste of time.

I don't believe either is true.

Alan said...

Benjamin Franklin visited Scotland twice and, by his own account, had a very good time on both occasions. Scottish intellectuals of the time were well known for their drinking, often holding their discussions in taverns. They would have agreed with you on the importance of civility and equanimity.

With that in mind, your critic may have meant that your solitary blogging about single malts at 3am suggested a lack of "focus and engagement" simply because he suspected that your time might have been used more productively by consumption of the described beverages at for more social and conversational hour. Personally, I like your "personal, unfiltered, and transparent" approach, whether it is stimulated by discussion lubricated with a single malt or not.

Tom said...

I am assuming the person in question simply does not like single malt scotch and therefore should not have an opinion about you or your blog. Keep blogging for the rest of us who appreciate your wisdom and enjoy hearing about your adventures!

P. M. Hollott said...

While I agree with your option #3, as well as your opinion of Highland Park, I do think there is inherent danger in any activity where you can't see your audience directly. Be prepared to apologize if required; then, when you don't, it becomes apparent that you have nothing for which to apologize.

You take the high road; I'll take the low road... we'll all get to Scotland.

GreenLeaves said...


I fully agree with both points labeled 3). I am not sure that I could have formulated my thoughts as succinctly at age 15.

Definitively stay true to yourself, I enjoy what it generates!
Thanks, Martin

Roberta Mullin said...

ANYONE that does not see you as top of the list in policy and standards for EHR adoption doesn't know this industry. I for one will have a Dewers and water with a twist tonight and toast you! Don't stop what you are doing it is all for the good. You are a true champion for the cause.

Julie Montgomery said...

You were already a wise man at the age of 15....keep going.

Anonymous said...

Dont even waste any more time talking or thinking about that idiot who complained. Every once in a while, you step on a pile of a poop - you curse, wipe your feet, and keep on trekking.

Zach Tumin said...

What you have given to the community every day is staggering, John. The comment is ill-making. What you do with your time is your business. Do you create passion and value everywhere you turn? Yes. So if you blogged about malt liquors at high noon in Times Square and that was ALL you did that day, tell me where whoever gets off having word one to say?

Chris Harding said...

As someone who reads your blog a few times a week, I couldn't disagree more with your detractor, John. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, and it sounds like you really enjoy writing it (after hours no less...). Please don't stop. There are many of us that depend on your blog for updates on the latest trends in healthcare information technology (not to mention how to ride a bike between offices in the city of Boston...).

I read a great quote that I'd like to share with you. To me, it speaks to your detractor, but more importantly, it speaks to the type of person you are, John. Enjoy.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

Ned said...

John: your blogs are meaning full and your personal ones give guidance to those of us who want to live life to the fullest. Thanks for all the effort you put into the blogs.

Hannah said...

I would like to add my support and appreciation! Your blogs have taught me much both professionally and personally. Your willingness and generousity to share HIT to all who are also striving to reach the same goals is greatly admired and appreciated as far south as Australia!! Your decision to take the high road reflects the high principles you uphold! You rock!

I've recommended your blog to my CIO and he's considering attending the Leadership Strategies for IT in Health Care at Harvard next year!

Anonymous said...

Your last comment sums it all. Just so you know, there are more of us out here who read it all and take it in versus taking one comment out of context for personal or other gain. Keep up the great blogging!

Peter Bachman said...

#3 seems the reasonable choice. #1 belongs to the true artist.

A proper retort is a fundamental tool of distillation, which leads to an oganoleptique understanding of the cogeners which must be uniquely identified in any requirements analysis for an IT project.

Not understanding fundamental requirements leads to a huge waste in scarce IT dollars due to rework.

Don't you find Laphoriag a bit medicinal?

Kidsdoc said...

The most likely reason that your colleague use your blog about scotch against you was to try to knock you down a peg. Whether for jealousy or to feel superior their use of an ad hominem attack reveals the weakness of their position.

Well for every action their is a reaction and I think that you would not have normally seen the outpouring of support here on the many posts on your blog if not for the one nasty comment at your meeting.

Keep up the good work and please continue with the non-IT posts! You have made me consider starting a garden and doing more kayaking.

terry said...

Difficult to understand the motivations of a naysayer John and frankly it is not worth spending a lot of time on. I think the support you have seen in the comments above speaks volumes for what you do. Where you find the time remains a mystery to me, but your dedication to this blog is part of the reason I started writing one related to the intersection of nephrology and health IT. I recall you mentioning in this blog taking heat for your 30 seconds of fame in the iPad video. I would toss that in the same bucket (trashcan) as this one. Please keep up the fabulous work.

thedyx said...

Dear Dr. Halamka,
Your blog is most informative; please continue making this important contribution to the healthcare IT community and disregard the negative comments. Thank you so much!

The EHR Guy said...


Those of us that embrace social media have as many reputations as we have followers in twitter, friends and colleagues in facebook and whichever other network we belong to.

Embracing social media will indeed place you in the public light in a similar way as a politician. Politicians have been victims of smear campaigns that have hurt their careers forever. It is possible to have your career by blogging and tweeting impacted if you do something very bad.

But I doubt a post on scotch, my favorite spirit, especially if it is a single malt can harm your career. :-)

Anyways, your contributions to healthcare and technology outweigh any criticism.

And I believe that if you didn't personally mention it nobody would have noticed in the first place.



Denton Shanks said...

I'm a MSIII (just started my 1st rotation: ward-based Internal Med) and I have been reading your blog for several years. I look up to you as a role model and mentor for both my career and personal life. Through each post to your blog, of which I think all are at an utmost professional level, your words inspire me and guide me to be a better physician & technologist and a wholesome person.

Thank You for sharing your broad spectrum of expertise and experiences, your ideas and theories; and Thank You for your transparency and openness.

I appreciate the wide-angle lens of your blog.

Denton Shanks

Mark said...

I'd say you were mugged. Criticizing your focus because you wrote about the single malt Scotches served in the club at St. Andrews is like attacking Paul Krugman because he posted about gourmet mushy peas while attending the Keynes Conference in Cambridge.

I thoroughly enjoyed your Scotland posts. More please.

Gary M. Levin said...

Good stuff, John. Ignore the naysayers and keepers of the old. I am up late at nite and early AM blogging and researching during the quiet hours. Congrats on recognizing you do need to move on. Stagnation is never a good thing. You contribute much, I especially like your gardening tips and your annual vacation reporting. I often give attributions to your blogs on THCB and Life as a Healthcare CIO in my own blog.