Many of us at Sun are doing work that could change the world. We need to do a better job of telling the world. As of now, you are encouraged to tell the world about your work, without asking permission first (but please do read and follow the advice in this note). Blogging is a good way to do this. [Update: This document has an official home on the Sun Website.]

Advice · By speaking directly to the world, without benefit of management approval, we are accepting higher risks in the interest of higher rewards. We don’t want to micro-manage, but here is some advice.

It’s a Two-Way Street · The real goal isn’t to get everyone at Sun blogging, it’s to become part of the industry conversation. So, whether or not you’re going to write, and especially if you are, 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; you’ll be doing your readers a service, and you’ll also generate links back to you; a win-win.

Don’t Tell Secrets · Common sense at work here; it’s perfectly OK to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community, 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 doing it if people don’t read it. Fortunately, if you’re writing about a product that a lot of people are using, or are waiting for, and you know what you’re talking about, you’re probably going to be interesting. And because of the magic of hyperlinking and the Web, if you’re interesting, you’re going to be popular, at least among the people who understand your specialty.

Another way to be interesting is to expose your personality; almost all of the successful bloggers write about themselves, about families or movies or books or games; or they post pictures. People like to know what kind of a person is writing what they’re reading. Once again, balance is called for; a blog is a public place and you should try to avoid embarrassing your readers or the company.

Write What You Know · The best way to be interesting, stay out of trouble, and have fun is to write about what you know. If you have a deep understanding of some chunk of Solaris or a hot JSR, it’s hard to get into too much trouble, or be boring, talking about the issues and challenges around that.

On the other hand, a Solaris architect who publishes rants on marketing strategy, or whether Java should be open-sourced, has a good chance of being embarrassed by a real expert, or of being boring.

Financial Rules · There are all sorts of laws about what we can and can’t say, business-wise. 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.

Quality Matters · Use a spell-checker. If you’re not design-oriented, ask someone who is whether your blog looks decent, and take their advice on how to improve it.

You don’t have to be a great or even a good writer to succeed at this, but you do have to make an effort to be clear, complete, and concise. Of course, “complete” and “concise” are to some degree in conflict; that’s just the way life is. There are very few first drafts that can’t be shortened, and usually improved in the process.

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 print-out of your blog and says “This person at Sun says that product sucks.”

In general, “XXX sucks” is not only risky but unsubtle. Saying “Netbeans needs to have an easier learning curve for the first-time user” is fine; saying “Visual Development Environments for Java suck” is just amateurish.

Once again, it’s all about judgment: using your weblog to trash or embarrass the company, our customers, or your co-workers, is not only dangerous but stupid.

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 it to avoid trouble; it may not have much legal effect.

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.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
May 02, 2004
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