Rules for the Unruly

Rules for the Unruly

According to the old rules at Sun Microsystems Inc., employees could be fired for speaking about the company without permission. That changed last year, when senior management embraced blogging. "As of now, you are encouraged to tell the world about your work, without asking permission," say the guidelines compiled by Sun bloggers. Company lawyers approved the policy; bloggers who register at Sun's site must acknowledge remaining restrictions on discussing financial data and other confidential information.

It's a Two-Way Street. Whether or not you're going to write, look around and do some reading, so you learn where the conversation is and what people are saying. If you start writing, remember the Web is all about links; when you see something interesting and relevant, link to it.

Don't Tell Secrets. It's perfectly OK to talk about your work, but it's not OK to publish the recipe for one of our secret sauces. There's an official policy on protecting Sun's proprietary and confidential information, but there are still going to be judgment calls. If the judgment call is tough—on secrets or one of the other issues discussed here—it's never a bad idea to get management sign-off before you publish.

Be Interesting. Writing is hard work. There's no point in doing it if people don't read it. People like to know what kind of a person is writing what they're reading . . . [but] a blog is a public place and you should try to avoid embarrassing your readers or the company. Write what you know.

Avoid Legal Hassles. Talking about revenue, future product ship dates, roadmaps, or our share price is apt to get you, or the company, or both, into legal trouble.

Looks Count. If you're not design-oriented, ask someone who is whether your blog looks decent, and take their advice on how to improve it.

Think About Consequences. The worst thing that can happen is that a Sun sales pro is in a meeting with a hot prospect, and someone on the customer's side pulls out a printout of your blog and says "This person at Sun says that product sucks." Using your weblog to trash or embarrass the company, our customers, or your co-workers, is not only dangerous but stupid.

Post Disclaimers. Many bloggers put a disclaimer on their front page saying who they work for, but that they're not speaking officially. This is good practice, but don't count on it to avoid trouble; it may not have much legal effect.

Use Tools. We're starting to develop tools to make it easy for anyone to start publishing, but if you feel the urge, don't wait for us; there are lots of decent blogging tools and hosts out there.

This article was originally published on 04-05-2005
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