Today I’m posting the new Sun Policy on Public Discourse; this companion piece describes how we built it.

Although I’m working on search and in-memory-databases and WS-sanity here at Sun, ongoing was obviously one of the reasons I got hired; Simon Phipps had been evangelizing the virtues of blogging, to the extent that then-VP now-President Jonathan Schwartz was talking about it in public.

What happened was Patrick “P@” Chanezon started the ball rolling with an internal manifesto entitled As We May Collaborate that got a lot of heads nodding. I spotted an opportunity and called for meeting for April 7th to get all the interested parties together. I was a little nervous about it because of my newbie status here. Much to everyone’s surprise, Schwartz, cc’ed indirectly, put his hand up and said “I’ll come.” Even more surprisingly, given that the meeting was three days after our big announcements and his promotion, he did. There were twenty or thirty people there from all over the company.

I presented a bunch of vision statements as to what our customers and we might hope for if we started using this tool effectively, and the discussion got real interesting. It became apparent that there were a lot of people out there who wanted to speak up but thought it might be a firing offense. It turned out that Sun had an official policy in place from years gone by, saying that speaking up in public without management and legal approval was a firing offense. Jonathan’s reaction to this discovery wasn’t printable.

We thought of a bunch of things we want to do in this space—stand by for more news—but it was pretty clear that the company needed to stand up and say officially that it was not only OK but encouraged for Sun employees to speak out in public. So Schwartz asked me to draft a policy.

John Fowler suggested a bunch of improvements: the importance of reading as well as writing, attention to clarity in what you say, and so on. Schwartz was real busy by this time and tossed Fowler and me and our draft to the wolves lawyers.

But that was OK, the points from Damien Eastwood and Steven Schulman were reasonable; they worried about some things that I wouldn’t have, but then we’re a public company and there are all sorts of legal holes we could fall into. When we’d worked through most of the issues I circulated another draft and Schwartz said “ship it.”

I was a little grumpy because I thought the ratio of cautions to encouragement was too high, so Fowler and Schwartz have both written rah-rah-go-get-’em covering notes and we’ll be publishing one or both of those internally, and I’ll see if I can relay them here.

So, here’s the policy, which was posted internally last week. Now that it’s written down I can think of a bunch of ways it could be better, but that happens whenever you ship anything.

And by the way, I’m new here, but based on what I see so far, I’m impressed by this kind of fast-moving no-bullshit way of doing things. I’ve worked for startups—I’ve run startups—that aren’t as purposeful and nimble.

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May 02, 2004
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