I had a bit of a bummer just now, but it makes it worth reiterating some of the rules of blog etiquette.
What happened is that I discovered when I went to check on the blog of someone who I have really enjoyed reading, and who has a made a lot of thought-provoking posts, that apparently some loser had gone to the point of finding out about them and contacting them personally. This is out of bounds unless you know the person from outside the blogosphere, or the two of you by mutual agreement decide to correspond by email (and then it is limited to email).
As we have seen in a number of recent cases, blogs have sometimes been abused, even to the point of possibly planning for murder as we saw in the ongoing case of two teenagers in Pennsylvania. And it is certainly true that by posting online you do open up the possibility that some nutcake will take an unhealthy interest in you (a remote risk to be sure, and one I am willing to take) but it is still a sad thing when it happens, and something to be prepared for.
Here are some thoughts I have about this:
Common sense would dictate that posters (whether writing the blog or posting on it) do the following: 1) don't post too much personal information on what is a public record. 2) It's OK to talk about your life, but keep in mind that whatever you say is open to anyone who could wander in off the web. 3) I myself never post pictures of my kids or family, or say what their names are, because of the number of sex predators out there (an unfortunate and tragic, but now more widely publicized side of the internet). In the case I am referring to, apparently someone took an unhealthy and unwarranted interest in the blogger(s) and/or their child. 4) It is best to stay pretty topical. One way I avoid too much personal information is that I remember that this is a political blog. So I post on politics. If it were a sports blog, I would post on sports. If it were a poetry blog, I would post on poetry. 5) Even at that, I was once tracked down by some loser who wanted to argue with me about something I wrote. Luckily, he wasn't a stalker, but be aware that it can happen and think through what you plan to say or do if it does. There was also an incident a couple of years ago on a large blog where I contacted the FBI about a threat that someone posted against the President. That person got very angry about being investigated and made death threats against two of us who had turned him in (I still keep the emails I got during that episode in my mailbox just in case they ever become relevant again). But if someone threatens the President, whoever it is, I have no choice as a citizen except to bring it to the attention of the proper authorities.
Blogging is fun. Blogging is healthy. And the miracle of the internet is that it is no longer possible to completely suppress a news story because there are thousands of bloggers out there to put it out there if no one else does. But like anything else in life, exercise due caution when common sense says to do so.