Corporate Blogs -- Gradations of Value?

First, let me say once again, there has
been no corporate pressure whatsoever to cut short my previous posting
(Broken Windows Theory). Nobody has
said, or even implied, that I need to change anything about what I said. So conspiracy theorists, please rest assured
that The Man is not out there monitoring and censoring the blog world. Seriously.

I pulled the content of the posting
because productive discussion wasn’t happening. Of the 160+ comments, about five have
had any real value from an “open minds, open discussion” point of view. I also pulled the content (once again,
completely self-initiated with no pressure whatsoever from anybody) because
there is enough internal debate within Microsoft about the value and ethics
of blogging
which I’d like resolved.

[Follow-up: I've restored the original post, after much internal discussion. Essentially, pulling the content was causing undue attention.]

Internal Debate

Many perspectives have been voiced to me,
both publicly and privately, debating the value and ethics of employee blogging. Here, by “employee blogging,” I mean “blog
entries that are openly identified as being written by Microsoft employees.” The rough gist of internal feedback from
Microsoft employees falls in these categories:

  • Thank goodness someone is
    talking about this
    “Kudos for having the courage to shed light on these critical
    issues.” “It’s great that we’re
    having open and insightful discussion about this.”
  • You need to put the entire post back up. Some folks are quite
    concerned that, with Scoble leaving this week and what not, there will be
    increased fervor behind conspiracy theories about how I’ve been silenced, shipped
    to Siberia
    , etc. This sort of feedback is much more
    concerned about posts staying up from a PR/media perspective, regardless
    of the content of the post. (Let
    me say here once again, for those who have deep-seated theories – my original
    post was shortened unilaterally by me.
    I was at no time pressured to remove any part of it.)
  • Employee blogs should be an
    extension of the company message
    . Folks in this category would say that the
    moment I identified myself as a Microsoft employee, my message should be
    on target with the corporation’s message, building a positive image,
    connecting positively with customers, etc.

Let’s Agree on Goals

From my perspective, it’s not a
free speech issue
. I’m employed by
Microsoft, so there’s a valid discussion as to what sorts of posts are allowed
for me to make as an employee of the company.
Conditioned in my employment can indeed be restrictions on what I should
and shouldn’t say – I buy off on that 100%.
(For the last time, though, please remember: no one has pressured me to change anything.)

Second, the simple case that I think
everyone agrees on is that nothing confidential should ever be divulged. This is where Mini-Microsoft, as entertaining
of a read as it is, crosses a line. That’s
also the reason it can only remain up as long as it’s anonymous.

The more interesting debate I’d like to
have is not whether employees can or can’t post certain things, but should
they. I have no interest whatsoever in the
set of things that are clearly against company policy to post. I’m much more interested in the spectrum of
things where people, even internally in Microsoft, disagree.

So How Does It Net Out?

The bulk of the internal feedback I have
gotten falls on the side of encouraging posts like Broken Windows Theory. The vast majority of emails I’ve received
have to do with how the article has opened up important issues for
. Folks in this camp say
that Scoble has given a human face to Microsoft, has made Microsoft more
accessible to the majority of customers.
The openness, and in some sense, the vulnerability, of both addressing
our strengths and discussing our weaknesses has been refreshing, these folks
would say.

Another camp would say that blogs are a
key part of how a company is perceived, and that they act as a megaphone
of both positive and negative opinion. Part
of an employee’s responsibility, then, is to at all times help build and
reinforce that positive image.

What’s most interesting to me is that
even within the company, we don’t quite agree on whether Broken Windows
Theory is a net positive or net negative.
If I take it purely based on numbers, the overwhelming majority of
employees writing in say that it’s a positive thing. But I see merits to both sides of the