Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WorkPlace 101: To Tweet, Or Not To Tweet.

Between the nonsense I talk on this blog and on AverageTwitter, I've got a huge digital footprint online. This obviously means I can't run for public office at any point in life. Think about all the greasy talk here that anyone could liberally take out of context to paint me as some racist, nationalist, socialist, sexist, or garden variety bootlicker-ist. Take your pick. Sorry Dad, but it looks like I'm gonna have to make this Engineering degree work for now. The Oval Office is but a distant dream.

On that note, few will argue that the new age of social media with stuff like UStream, Flikr, FaceBook, MySpace[1], and Twitter presents some issues to employers. Namely, when it's now the accepted norm to have some piece of your life online, how much this this online life effects your ability to carry out your Day Job? Employers now issue guidelines for existing employees, and routinely run a search of online sites as part of pre-employment background checks nowadays, so it's not farfetched by any means to say that what's online could effect your ability to keep and/or get a job. It's a risk that anyone with a digital footprint takes, which is why I don't blog using my gubb'ment name, although anyone with some advanced level of technical acumen could dig my info (and for that manner, the identity of anyone who posts anything online) up if so inclined. Haven't ya'll watched CSI? Nobody's truly anonymous. Nobody.

In recent weeks and months, the sports world has seen some really, really irresponsible online behavior. A Redskins player accidentally posted a picture of his junk on his blog last season. Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley essentially wrote the world a suicide note before the team intervened and checked him into a substance abuse center. Players have tweeted and used cellphones (see pic above) during games. Celtics guard Marquis Daniels recently Tweeted overtures about selling dogs he's bred for fighting. And yet another Redskin lambasted fans for booing during the team's home opener, only to backpedal and issue an apology the next day. And who could forget the very unfortunate summer of Stephon Marbury, who definitely isn't getting another NBA gig.

I hope you invested wisely, Steph. F'real.

Much like any employer, these incidents have forced leagues to issue some very strict guidelines for social media usage, and while I understand the need to reign things in, the NBA's policy just goes waaay too far.
The NBA formally announced its new social media guidelines Wednesday, informing teams through a league memorandum that the use of cell phones, PDAs and other electronic communications devices -- and thus accessing Twitter, Facebook and similar social media sites -- is now prohibited during games for players, coaches and other team personnel involved in the game.

The league has defined "during games" as the period of time beginning 45 minutes before the opening tip and ending "after the postgame locker room is open to the media and coaches and players have first fulfilled their obligation to be available to media attending the game."

"During games" also encompasses halftime, according to the memo, but the new guidelines do allow players to engage in social networking during the pregame media access period that starts 90 minutes before tipoff and lasts for 45 minutes.

The NBA is widely considered to be the North American professional sports league most associated with Twitter. One of the chief catalysts for that link is Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O'Neal, who responded to a Twitter user pretending to be O'Neal by launching his own Twitter feed, which now boasts more than 2.3 million followers.

The league office, to enforce its new policy, intends to keep treating social-networking commentary in the same manner as comments made in the traditional media, which means that anyone in the league can be fined for posts via Twitter, Facebook, etc., that are deemed over the line.
Whoa Nellie, and I don't mean the Warriors' coach. Isn't this more or less walking a very slippery slope towards suppression of free speech? Who exactly gets to determine what "over the line" means? I don't really like that.

The NBA should really fall back on this.[2] It's one thing to protect the image and integrity of your product, but its quite another to fall into some Big Brother-type of regulation.

Question: Can the NBA be more critical of their players online habits given the nature of their business and the amount they are paying in salaries? Do you fear the effects of using social media as relates to your future employment prospects? Is it fair for employers to police employee usage of such sites as Twitter and FaceBook?

NBA social media guidelines out [ESPN]

[1] Does anyone actually still use MySpace other than cRappers who live in their mother's basements and scrippers?!?

[2] On a related note, the NBA also passed a rule prohibiting bench players from standing during gameplay for any reason other than as spontaneous reaction to a play. For anyone who's spent hundreds of dollars on floor seats, only to have your view of the game's critical final seconds blocked by a bunch of 7 foot millionaires, this is a smart move. Nice work, Stern.

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