James Snell posted IBM's blogging guidelines today in his post Blogging@IBM. Some have heralded this as another triumph for corporate blogging, I'm, not so sure this is the case. The particular sticking points for me are the following

2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time -- protect your privacy.

3. Identify yourself -- name and, when relevant, role at IBM -- when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.

Basically IBM states in these two bullet points that blogging isn't a way for IBM as a corporate entity to engage in conversation with its customers, partners and competitors. Instead its a way for regular people to talk about their lives including their work. What IBM seems to have done is give its employees permission to state that they work for IBM, and recommended that its employees post a disclaimer. For people like Sam Ruby of IBM, this is actually a step back since he now has to post a disclaimer on his personal weblog.

As I mentioned in a comment on Sam Ruby's blog I guess I must be tainted by Microsoft where product teams use blogs to announce features (e.g. the IE team) or engage in conversations with customers about product pricing (e.g. a conversation and its results). Simply giving your employees permission to mention their employer in their personal blogs doesn't a corporate blogging initiative make. In addition, the position that one has to give employees permission to state where they work if communicating in public is also rather startling.

Why I like blogging as a Microsoft employee is that it allows me to have conversations with our customers, partners and competitors. It isn't just me spouting off about my likes and dislikes, it is a way to communicate to our customers and partners. I've lost count of the amount of times I've referred people to posts like What Blog Posting APIs are supported by MSN Spaces? or Why You Won't See XSLT 2.0 or XPath 2.0 in the Next Version of the .NET Framework. Posts like these led to interesting conversations both internally and externally to Microsoft and informed our decision making processes. Additionally, our customers also appreciated the fact that we are up front with them about our plans and kept them in the loop.

I think communications via "official channels" and "company spokesmen" pales in comparison to the various conversations I've mentioned above. IBM has taken the first step towards accepting corporate blogging. Hopefully, they'll eventually go all the way.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005 12:20:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Frankly, I think everyone, including yourself, is reacting a bit over the top about this. The IBM list reads more like a list of dos and don'ts from a contractual point of view. If Microsoft were to do the same ( http://www.buzzmarketingwithblogs.com/weblog/msn_blogging_policy/ is the only thing I could find that was remotely close to one) and come out with an official policy for blogging, I am sure it won't read a lot different as it is not about saving the bloggers, but about saving the firm just in case one of the bloggers is stupid enough to say something for which the firm can dragged all over the courts.

From Lenn's list this is how your points of contention compares:

2) Don’t break news; don’t disclose confidential information; Respect existing confidentiality agreements.
3) Identify yourself; Speak for yourself.

I don't see how different that is from IBMs guidelines that you have a problem with.

Of course, conversations via "official channels" and "company spokesmen" pales in comparison to blog conversations, but you have to remember that every blog conversation is not a PR release and vice versa, both have their own specific places in an organisation.

Even while Microsoft has been something of a pleasant surprise with regards to the way it has adopted and used blogging to change the way people look at the company and how they interact with it, you need to realise that no two firms are ever the same and what works in one firm need not necessarily work in the other.

Lastly, most of these are pointers, it is up to the firm to figure out how they enforce it and I am sure IBM is not stupid enough to go about policing each and every post or blog. I guess this is more a case of leaving an escape clause open just in case of trouble than anything else. After all, if everything that Scoble had to say about Microsoft or what Russell had to say about Yahoo! was to be taken as official company policy, all hell would break loose!
Tuesday, March 28, 2006 3:20:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
You write an extremely interesting blog, I love it.
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