Josh Ledgard (who along with his wife Gretchen hosted an excellent barbeque this past memorial day weekend) has a post entitled Blogs, Alpha Builds, Customer Community, and Legal Issues where he discusses some of the questions around legal issues some of us have been asking about in the B0rg cube with regards to the growing push to be more open and interact more directly with customers. Josh writes
Some Microsofties are now including disclaimer text at the end of each posting in addition to linking to a disclaimer on the sidebar. A long internal thread went around where “best practice” guidance was given from a member of the legal team that included inserting the disclaimer into every entry as well as in any comment we leave on other blogs.
The various discussions I've seen around blogging disclaimers often boil down to pointing out that they are unlikely to be useful in preventing real trouble (i.e. some customer who gets pissed at bad advice he gets from a Microsoft employee and decides to sue). Of course, I don't know if this has been tested in court so take my opinions with a grain of salt. I look at disclaimers as a way of separating personal opinion from Microsoft's official position. This leads me to another statement from Josh
From a purely non-legal perspective I would also have to call BS on the standard disclaimer text.
“These postings are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. The content of this site contains my own personal opinions and does not represent my employer's view in anyway.”
I have no problem with the first sentence, but the second would bother me a bit. What represents a company better than the collective values and opinions of its employees that are expressed through their blogs.
I completely disagree with Josh here. I don't believe that my personal opinion and the Microsoft official position are the same thing even though some assume that we are b0rg. Also I want to be able to make it clear when what I am saying is my personal opinion and when what I am saying somewhat reflects an official Microsoft position. For example, I am the program manager responsible for XML schema technologies in the .NET Framework and statements I make around these technologies may be considered by some to be official statements independent of where these statements are made. If I write “RELAX NG is an excellent XML schema language and is superior to W3C XML Schema for validating XML documents in a variety of cases”, some could consider this an indication that Microsoft will start supporting RELAX NG in some of its products. However this would be an inaccurate assumption since that comment is personal opinion and not a reflection of Microsoft's official policy which is unified around using W3C XML Schema for describing the structure and validation of XML documents. I tend to use disclaimers to separate my personal opinions from my statements as a Microsoft employee although a lot of times the lines blur.