For quite some time, many people credited part of the rise of blogging to the fact that many folks in the tech industry found themselves out of work in the wake of the dot com bubble bursting. Suddenly there were lots of tech geeks, who were always online and had stuff to say -- and now plenty of extra time to say it. It didn't take long for a whole slew of tools to pop up to make that happen, and voila, blogging revolution. I'm not sure I really believe that story, but there have been some suggestions that the current financial crisis my lead to something similar, with the unemployed speaking up online. Except... you might not want to do that if you're unemployed and in New York. Forbes is reporting that a lawyer's unemployment benefits were greatly reduced, because his blog earned about $1/day
in ad revenue. The whole thing sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare, with NY State asking her to get a form from her new "employer" who didn't exist. Then NY Department of Labor started giving her all sorts of contradicting information, and eventually an "investigation" into her "business" -- during which time her unemployment benefits were stopped entirely. She's now pulled the Google AdSense from her blog (total earned over the life of the blog $238.75).
It's really stunning how various labor departments are simply ill-equipped to handle a modern labor force. Reading through the story of this lawyer is not at all surprising. While most of our employees are in California, we've had employees in a few other states, and none of them seem to know how to deal with the idea that people in their state might work remotely for a company in another state. Just last week, we were dealing with one particular state, where we had an employee who hasn't worked for us in nearly two years -- but the state insists we still owe taxes for him and on our "office" in that state, for every day since he no longer worked for us. We've written letters, filled out forms, spoken to people at the local labor department -- and all to no avail. Every couple of months, they send us an updated statement insisting we still owe them money for someone we haven't employed in ages. All of these labor departments are designed based on an old model whereby there was a big company that had a presence in the state, and employed people. They can't handle the idea that someone might work remotely or that people might make some other income from a blog or other source. One of these days, perhaps they'll update their systems, but until then, it's just a bureaucratic nightmare.