I posted this some time ago in a different forum and was recently asked to repost it here, and I’m happy to get it a wider audience. I think this is important for everyone and equally relevant for any internet user, be they high school students, parents, or yes, we software professionals. There’s plenty more to be said on everything contained below, but I hope a degree of succinctness will set off the core ideas.
I. You have the right to remain silent.
You do not need to blog. You do not need to “Reply to this post.” You
do not need to Get MySpace, and you do not need to Facebook Me. If you
say nothing, the blogosphere will not deflate and strangers on
message boards will not miss your advice. If you say nothing, the
internet will not notice.
II. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion.
Nothing on the internet is private. Your real name, your AIM handle,
your livejournal, and the email address you had in high school are all
out there for anyone who cares to look. Just because you don’t know
how to find it doesn’t mean it can’t be found. The internet has a very
long memory. You should be willing to bet that it’s longer than yours.
Anyone you meet could know things about you that you have forgotten
you ever said. Speak slowly and carefully… there are a lot of people
III. You have the responsibility to be skeptical about everything; if you lack the ability to do so, find someone who will do so on your behalf.
The internet is not a library. The internet is not a newspaper. The
internet is a cacophonous bazaar of peddlers, kooks, and unruly
children sharing the same advertisement littered street corner as
politicians, scientists and parents. There are no signposts that
announce when you’re in the wrong part of town, and no one is going to
tell you when you’re being lied to or misled. An open and skeptical
mind and a sense of personal responsibility are the rules of the road;
no shirt, no shoes, no service.