It was interesting. I have been trying to write up a few blog posts recently, on the Knight Conference I just attended, on an aspect of media sharing that I find interesting, and a couple of other topics that are in my brain.
But there was also a more personal topic I was thinking about, and since it was front of mind, I started to type while riding on my bus to work.
Then I stopped.
I stopped because over my shoulder, the person sitting next to me was reading as I typed. Sharing a seat again this morning, that scenario came back to me – and got me thinking. If I was so comfortable sharing more personal reflections in a space where anyone could read it, why would it bother me so much that someone looking over my shoulder would be reading it.
I realized that while my thoughts would be public, my creation process was private. My finished product was sharable, but as it was crafted, I was not ready to share it with even one person without my express permission.
We talk a lot about being open and transparent in business and philanthropy. In fact, tying back to the Knight Media Learning Seminar, there was an excellent session on open data that is worth a listen. During the session, Dan O’Neil noted that the instinct of the bureaucrat is to keep data private, because with sharing comes vulnerability. What if the data has errors? What if it leads to negative conclusions? What if it had personal or professional repercussions?
It’s easy to laugh that off or simply state that the public has the right to know. And I think we do. But we also need to remind ourselves that sharing your own thoughts, your own data, creates vulnerability. When you think about the most noted “sharers” of the past few years, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, one cannot argue that they did not put themselves at grave personal risk – but they were still outsiders sharing someone else’s work. They bravely exposed things that they needed to expose, but they were not *their* things.
A lot of people I know in the public and nonprofit sectors are in it because they have a very personal connection to the work they do. Their work isn’t just work, it is theirs. It’s not by them, it’s of them.
It’s something to take into account as we ask ourselves to “be more transparent,” especially when that transparency goes beyond facts and numbers, to process. How do we create a safe space for sharing, especially in an environment where we are ready to pounce on, share and highlight every transgression or error by others?
It’s a question we need to ponder as we ask for more data, as we try to build our communities, as we try to get “late adopters” to become better sharers.
Maybe they’re not trying to be devious. They just might be uncomfortable with someone looking over their shoulder as they work.