Privacy on the internet is a serious matter and with all the opportunities for architects to share their information, certain considerations need to be made … it’s not always our information to share. Believe it or not, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about the privacy of my clients. A lot of the people I work with know of this site and it’s normally just a matter of time before they become regular readers. For most of them, they think it’s pretty cool to have their project documented as thoroughly as I do – not to mention all the stories that I tell that happen when the clients aren’t around.
But that’s most of my clients … not all of them.
Part of the reason I wanted to introduce the topic of privacy, architecture, and the internet was I received a negative comment on my site earlier this week and it really got under my skin – not really sure why, it was an ignorant comment. This site is ridiculously lucky in that very few comments are derogatory in nature and even less make their comments personal (i.e. “You’d know better if you weren’t so stupid”). I have very few rules on my site and I almost never moderate comments on my site because people generally avoid name calling and typically make what they have to say constructive. If you make things personal or if you can’t figure out how to make your point without cursing, it isn’t worth leaving up. At any rate, this particular comment negatively judged one of the projects and I thought to myself, “How can you judge a thing without understanding it?”
I know that I open myself up to evaluation and possibly criticism just by putting something out there for people to see – and I think I’ve accepted that consequence. However, this most recent exchange led me to start thinking about how important it is to explain how sharing information works on this site.
Let’s start with “The Plans“
The plans above are the only full plans I have ever put on this site that were designed for a specific client. I did this project for a high school friend of mine and it was the basis for my low-cost modern home challenge. Simple shapes, simple roof plan, off the shelf window package, millwork package most likely from IKEA … and it still hasn’t been built. I still have my fingers crossed that one day it will but this isn’t a real house at this moment (remember “It doesn’t count if it doesn’t get built“?)
I have shown partial plans on Life of an Architect quite often … but never the entire plan. Unless I get permission from the client, I won’t publish their plans on this site – regardless of the fact that we technically own the design. I still think of myself as a service provider and if the client doesn’t want their project on this site, I won’t put it up here. Sometimes, not having the plans makes understanding the project immeasurably more difficult … sorry but that’s too bad for you. I know that if I look at popular shelter magazines, it is becoming more and more common that full plans are not available as part of the presentation package – but that doesn’t stop me from trying to figure out the plan myself based on the images shown.
Let’s take a minute and talk about “The Images“
If you didn’t realize, I take a lot of pictures. Once I started writing this site, I quickly became aware of the perils of using other people’s photos and what a complete pain in the ass that was … as a result, I use my own pictures and images almost exclusively. There are actually a lot of articles that I would love to write but I would have to seek out images from other sources and I just don’t want to deal with what that process involves.
If you follow me on Instagram or Life of an Architect on Facebook you would see that I put together a lot more photos than I show on my site. I might be out one a job site and take a picture of a nice foundation vent cover and while there isn’t enough to it to warrant an article on the site, I still want to share it with other architects, designers and homeowners. One thing that I have to be mindful of is the geo-tagging capability that programs have built into them. Some companies want you to locate yourself at their business on Instagram but I have to be careful what images end up on the map. The image above is my geo-tagged photo map (at different zoomed in levels). I really like this feature and use it frequently … but not everyone wants their business or project tagged in my photo stream. Considering that over 300,000 people a month come through this site, it might not be as big a deal if your grandmother is taking kitten pictures and geo-tagging where she took them (preposterous example – like she would even know how to geo-tag her kitten pictures), but I get to work on some pretty cool projects and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that some architecture curious fan of the site wants a closer look at some detail I showed in a post. Clients probably don’t want strangers sneaking around their bushes at night to see “how the ceiling at the back patio finished out” and I can’t say that I blame them. Either they have thought about it and don’t mind having pictures of their house out there for public consumption, or they HAVEN’T thought about it and instinctively decided that they don’t want their pictures out there for mass consumption.
Finally, let’s talk about “The Money”
I saved this one for last because it’s most simplest one to explain and discuss. I don’t EVER talk money on this site when it comes to a specific client’s project. Even when the client is on board with showing plans, drawings, photos … anything and everything … I won’t share the financial particulars of their project. I don’t even ask them. Pretty simple and obvious to me as to why this is a good decision. As I sit here typing this up, I am trying to think of a story to tell to make my point, but nothing this particular is coming to mind. I have written posts on residential construction costs before and if you and I were sitting down in a non-public forum I would probably share a few more particulars with you.
Those are the three big privacy categories for me on this site and I think about what I’m saying and what I’m showing with regards to these three items in every single article I write. If that means that it’s harder for the reader to understand my point or truly grasp the depth of my creative genius than so be it. I either need to do a better job of explaining it or I need you to understand why I didn’t really explain it in the first place.
Thanks for understanding and being part of an amazing online community. The sharing has certain limits but so far, I think we’re doing pretty good pulling the curtain back and exposing most of the good stuff.