In case you've missed this one, there was another of those inevitable '[New technology of choice] gets person fired' stories. In this case a Cisco employee with the id theconnor tweeted
fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work"
Inevitably, someone else picks up on it. The strange thing is that it then goes viral. There is something of a pack mentality then. Helen Popkin gives a good account of the unfolding story here. She describes how:
meme. And thanks to Google Cache, the deleted content of "theconnor’s"
homepage resurfaced on CiscoFatty.com, a Web site erected to
commemorate this cautionary tale."
It's not clear if this has caused the individual to lose (or not start) their job. The incident raised a few issues for me. Firstly was the sad inevitability of it – Brian Kelly asked last May when we'd hear the first such story. I think people will gradually learn how to handle these types of online conversations, and develop an appropriate online persona, but we'll have these stories for the rest of our lives (except they'll be so commonplace no-one will report them).
But how bad was theconnor's crime? Most of the response has been barely disguised schadenfreude at how could someone be so stupid. But while most of us wouldn't tweet something so obviously compromising, if we want our tweets to have any interest then you have to add in some element of the personal. Simply tweeting a corporate message isn't going to be of interest to anyone. I don't think I've tweeted anything sackable (maybe saying I didn't like presenter Neil Oliver counts?), but equally I wouldn't want a communications officer to track through all my tweets and advise me on their suitability vis a vis my professional status.
Sure, it's a bit embarrassing for Cisco, and you might want to know if someone hated their job, but realistically, how many people have said similar things in a pub to a fellow worker? At least they're hiring someone who's engaged with new media.
What would worry me more was if one of the people who took such delight in outing theconnor was on my team. What does it say about them and their values that they'd want to reveal the person's identity and attempt to get them sacked? So, if we're going to play the 'the internet can get you sacked' card, then maybe that should include unpleasant and unprofessional behaviour too, not just indiscretions?
Learning to have perspective on these type of incidents, knowing what constitutes a serious offence, and most of all understanding the medium, is going to be a big challenge for all organisations. Personally I hope theconnor is fine, and has maybe learnt a bit of a lesson, but nothing more.
[Update: The woman in question has a very reasonable and balanced post on it here (thanks to John Connell). In the end she has come out of it looking quite good I think, she seems thoughtful, reflective, non-judgmental – all the qualities you'd want in an employee (she had decided not to take the Cisco post when she did the tweet, so it hasn't 'lost' her the job). On the other hand, those who pursued her with a kind of rabid ferocity have come out of it rather tarnished. So, there's a moral in this somewhere – beware the righteous meme.]