September 27, 2004

Bloginfopolicy

So apparently my employer has finally realized, in another lobe of its elephantine corporate brain, that "Oh my goodness, there's this thing called the internet," and hence we now have an official corporate blogging policy. I wasn't actually aware of this until I happened upon mention of it (ironically) in a co-worker's not-a-blog. It seems to forbid a lot of things. In the interests of full disclosure, I do believe I should set out the juicy bits of it right here and now before going any further.

As I noted earlier, my fun li'l startup (well, not mine, but the one that employed me) was bought by this middlin' large software shop from one of those Mountain states. Ain't sayin' which one, but I will offer the following hint: it has a Pantone color named after it. In any case, here are some relevant bits of the lawyerese that probably now apply to me.

Policy: ------ (my company) encourages personal websites and weblogs, and it respects employees' use of them as a medium of self-expression.

...whew.

External Websites and Weblogs:
If you choose to identify yourself as a ------ employee or to discuss matters related to ------'s technology or business on your external website or weblog, remember that, although you and the Company view your website or weblog as a personal project and a medium of personal expression, some readers may nonetheless view you as an authorized spokesperson for the Company.† In light of this possibility, please observe the following guidelines:
  • Make it clear to your readers that the views you express are yours alone and that they do not necessarily reflect the views of ------.† To help reduce the potential for confusion, you should put the following notice in a reasonably prominent place on your site (e.g., at the bottom of your "about me" page):

    OOO! OOO! READ THIS! IT APPLIES!

    The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

  • Do not disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary to ------ or to any third party that has disclosed information to us.† Consult ACLB1 and ------'s policies concerning confidentiality for guidance about what constitutes confidential information. †

  • Remember that your employment documents give ------ certain rights with respect to concepts and developments you produce that are related to the Company's business.† Consult your manager or human resources if you have questions about the propriety of publishing such concepts or developments related to the Company's business on your site.

  • You may not provide a link from your site to ------'s website. Such a link may cause†confusion over the extent to which the Company is associated with or responsible for the content of your external website.† Further, you may not use Company trademarks on your site or reproduce Company material without first obtaining permission.

  • Do not disclose any personal information or opinions that could tip off third parties about ------ business.† For example, if it is known that you are working on an important project at ------ and you announce you are taking a four-week vacation starting on a certain date, it might tip off a product release date.† If you have a strong opinion on a feature of a competitor's product, it might tip off third parties about ------'s product features.†

  • Finally, be aware that the Company may request that you temporarily confine your website or weblog commentary to topics unrelated to ------ (or, in rare cases, that you temporarily suspend your website or weblog activity altogether) if it believes this is necessary or advisable to ensure compliance with securities regulations or other laws.

If you have any questions about these guidelines or any matter related to your site that these guidelines do not address, direct them to your human resources manager.†

1: Ass-Covering Legal Bible, or our corporate catch-all behavior guide. Name Changed To Protect The Consultants' Salaries.

It's not that I have all that much disdain for this policy. As corporate communications policies go, it's actually quite liberal for this day and age, I suppose. I'm just driven to sarcasm and needling by our society and legal system's constant need to to patronize, condescend, micromanage, and lay out in excruciating detail things that really could be boiled down in many cases to 'don't be stupid or evil.'

Especially when, as in the case of Sharp Tools, the blog in question does not reside on my company's computers, network, time, physical space, or any other form of resources other than maybe a couple of my brain cells during the day. I logged on to our intranet to find my private blog already happily listed in our directory of employee blogs, right next to this somewhat intrusive notice of expected behavior, despite my never having submitted it for listing there - my company had gone out, found the blog, listed it next to my name, and applied the policy to me, reaching out to my life outside of work without so much as even emailing me directly.

People tell me I'm an arrogant shit for expecting personal attention in situations like this, and so be it. However, some days, I feel that this sort of impersonal cog-i-fication contributes negatively to my attitude (at least) towards the organizations and PTB that make up corporate America, even as I have to live in it.

So, as long as this is my own little space on the web, stick it to the Man, people. Let's have a detailed look at that bit of lawyer poop, shall we?

The first few sentences are reasonably inoffensive. Then we get this gem: "You may not provide a link from your site to ------'s website. Such a link may cause†confusion over the extent to which the Company is associated with or responsible for the content of your external website." Oh-kay. Right. So let's just toss out the ENTIRE CONCEPT OF THE WEB while we're at it. We can't trust websurfers to ever understand that a link from a private site to a company could EVER OCCUR without said company's connivance and agreement, oh my no. This is how such rampant stupidity as sites attempting to require legal agreement to link to them occurs. While I might have some respect for this position were I to ever, in fact, claim to speak for my employer (which I don't, to the point of reproducing their witty little disclaimer above) I in fact view it with much the same level of glee I view this little gem of a story.

Moving right along.

"If you have a strong opinion on a feature of a competitorís product, it might tip off third parties about ------'s product features." In other words, I'm now no longer allowed to wax enthusiastic about the field in which I work, which, I had thought, was the entire point of having a blog in the first place - and, in fact, one of main reasons people who found my blog through that handy directory at my company might ever want to read it. They most likely don't care that my cat has now reached a most improbable curb weight (although he has, that of approx. 21 lbs) or that my favorite word at the moment is sussurate. I like computers and software. That's why I work in this field. I like talking about them, and I have strong opinions. I plan on retaining these characteristics, and I plan on talking about them. In fact, most of the blog entries relating to my immediate job and those of my immediate coworkers relate quite closely to software products and those of our competitors - because we work on open-source software. If your lawyers couldn't even be bothered to learn what open-source software was before handing out this stream of crap, I can't even be bothered to take it seriously before snorting and turning back to my Macintosh.

Thank you very much.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled monkey inanity.

Posted by jbz at September 27, 2004 11:52 PM | TrackBack

Comments

There's a recent Dilbert: PHB says "update to the dress code-- belly shirts and tank tops are no longer allowed." Everyone turns to look at Wally, wearing a belly-baring tank top. Co-worker: "Once again, you've ruined it for all of us."

But you know, the first time our tiny startup had a written policy it included "Employees must wear clean and hygenic clothing." Because some people didn't do it (we know who we were). If you don't write it down, then you can't use it as a reason to force people to wear pants.

I actually helped review the blog policy, and I pointed out that the link rules made no sense. The people in charge said, yeah, it's pretty nonsensical, but legal made us. I said, what if I do this: "I am an employee of Secretly Ironic Industries but this is my private website and these opinions are not related to it." And they said, sorry, legal says we can't do it.

My dad's got a friend who worked for a small biotech company that got bought by a giant pharma that merged with a gianter pharma. He eventually quit to join some tiny biotech that will probably fail. My dad asked him, you ever regret making such a risky career move? He said, look, today I found a problem with our [whatever] lab. I talked to one of the scientists, we decided what to do, and by the end of the day it was done. No, I don't have any regrets. He's afraid his company will go under, but he prefers that risk to being in meetings all day.

Big and small organizations both have their appeal and their disadvantages. You just have to pick among the lesser of two evils. Sort of like in most US elections.... this election being a little more obvious than most.

Posted by: verbal at October 1, 2004 3:39 PM
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