Today I did some learning, and it wasn’t a fun learning… You might remember a while ago (like about a year ago) I was rather peeved because a certain person who I had done some freelance work for was not paying me. I mentioned one of his excuses (that he’d paid another developer with the same first name as me by mistake and later he made the excuse that he was still waiting for them to pay him back so he could pay me). In that excuse I mentioned the other developer’s full name. I didn’t say that he was “bad”, I but I did say that he was involved because of the client’s mistake, and I also mentioned that the client had let me know that he was aparently waiting for my namesake to pay him back.
Someone recently found that entry on my blog (only about 30 people have viewed that entry in the year) and he e-mailed me to say that I should not have mentioned someone’s name in such a bad way. When I wrote the entry, I did not intend for it to appear as though my namesake had been at fault in any way… I was fairly sure that it was just a feeble excuse on behalf of the client. But clearly my namesake interpreted it differently… I’m guessing (although I can’t prove it) that the person who e-mailed me knew my namesake and passed on the URL to him, because soon afterwards (while I was in the middle of updating the blog entry), I saw an e-mail from my namesake ordering me to remove his name from the site or else he’d follow up with legal action.
Anyway, I learned that mentioning peoples names is not a good idea in a blog, even if you don’t intend the mention to put them in a bad light. Of course, only people who knew this developer and his previous work history could have made a positive match that this guy was the guy that I was talking about in the blog… But still, I’m pretty sure that I was legally in the wrong to mention his name in any context, especially when I was using his name based on what one person’s testimony who, as it turned out, lied a whole bunch to me. So I guess I should have gone back to the entry later and updated it to reflect the fact that the client was most likely lying, and to remove the other developer’s full name… (I probably should never have put in his full name to start with…)
But it got me thinking that I mentioned the client’s full name and his company name, and I (unfortunately) have no physical document proving my claims that he owes me money. (I have e-mails from him about most of the sites that I worked on, I have a friend who works there who can verify that I did work for them, and I have the source for the websites and the databases that they run off on my computer, but nothing from the client that actually accepts the costs/quotes I gave before I started working on the sites – most of the approvals happened over the phone, since he seemed to be out of the office regularly, and didn’t seem to always be able to e-mail me) So I’ve now removed the client’s name and his company name from the blog too, just incase…
I’d love to know what my rights are with regard to postings I make on the internet… In both cases I couldn’t prove that everything I had said was true – its not like I had an e-mail from the client claiming that my namesake had been mistakenly paid… I was told that when I went to the client’s offices to try and sort it out in person, and its not like I carry a tape recorder around with me to record every conversation I have incase I have to prove it later. The whole “proving that I did do the work” thing was just stupidity on my behalf… I trusted the guy because a friend of mine knew him well and asked me to help the client out. So I trusted that he would be honest – if my friend trusted him, so would I. I guess I was a bit naive, but I’d like to think that it had less to do with my naiveté and more to do with the bad nature of the client. Anyway, I guess I better check my blog for any other name references that should be removed… just in case … but I wish I could know for certain if I needed to worry.