Sun was one of the first companies to open the blogging floodgates, officially. We wrote a policy document to help keep people out of trouble. Many others in our industry followed our lead. There was a lot of worry around the business that empowering ordinary employees to talk to the world could lead to damaging leaks and get us or them in trouble. Hah.

Just to quote from the Sun Guidelines on Public Discourse:

Business Outlook Rules

There are all sorts of laws about what we can and can’t say business-wise. Talking about revenue, future product ship dates, pricing decisions, roadmaps, unannounced financial results, our share price or similar matters is apt to get you, the company, or both, into serious legal trouble. Stay away from financial topics and predictions of future performance.

This was accompanied with lots of pointers to the perfectly-clear written company policy on the subject.

I note, with some pride, that we’ve had maybe ten thousand person-years of blogging since we launched, and we’ve never had any material disclosures or legal trouble. Nor have I heard of any over at IBM or Microsoft or Oracle or any of the other companies who empower their people.

[Yes, in the five years, there’ve been a small (single-digit) number of takedowns; one moron caught in rank plagiarism, another enthusiast applying a pure math/engineering analysis to the future direction of our share price; but never anything really dangerous at the corporate level.]

The Real Risk · It doesn’t come from your line staff but from your executives and their Wall-Street-hedgie-scum friends. Read it and weep, and if you really want to get depressed, read the actual text of the legal complaint (PDF).

These bastards were allegedly leaking Sun quarterlies from inside the IBM-Sun acquisition due-diligence process! If the government’s allegations are true, they are not just lawbreakers, they have dishonored some pretty damn great companies and a profession that I care a whole lot about.

The next person who suggests to me that it might be risky to empower ordinary employees is apt to get their head bitten off.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Vanni (Oct 16 2009, at 23:35)

Sad fact. Greed has no limits.

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From: Rams (Oct 17 2009, at 00:35)

Is it possible in the tech-industry to work for a management that cares about ethics ? I have been asking myself this question for the last couple of years and consoling myself with lame excuses.The big sharks are more visible, but most start-ups are no better playing all kinds of back-room valuation games.

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From: DGentry (Oct 17 2009, at 04:36)

Indeed. There are intellectual property leakage concerns at the individual employee level, but they are not in the public blogs with someone's name attached to it. The concerns all crop up when something can be done anonymously.

For example, someone resigns and takes a big disk of source code/verilog/customer lists with them. That is a real concern - witness the Synopsys vs Avast! IP lawsuit of the previous decade, and more recently Cisco vs Huawei. The Cisco IOS source code has probably left the building with a departing employee hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

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From: Ron (Oct 17 2009, at 06:21)

Alas, this will not be the last of this type of event.

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From: df (Oct 17 2009, at 09:25)

Yeah, it does seem to take a different type to be in upper management. I'm on the insider trading list at my (Fortune 50) employer and I have to say that the idea of using the information I have access to doesn't really cross my mind.

Not to mention that at my paygrade what would I do? If I really had a hot tip I could probably buy $2K of stock :P Big deal -- it takes people who have a certain amount of money to justify the risk I guess (maybe I'm just lacking that kind of fraudulent creativity that's required).

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From: The Contrarian (Oct 17 2009, at 14:41)

Take a look at Moffat's bio: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/biography/10068.wss

Is it possible he is actually the guy who decided not to buy Sun? Is it possible he just held on long enough to get this information? With great power comes great responsibility.

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From: Simon Phipps (Oct 17 2009, at 15:25)

It's also worth pointing out that almost all those "takedowns" were actually voluntary once the person involved had the matter pointed out to them by the internal blogging community (as opposed to some regulator).

I've always said that blogging creates no risks for an organisation that don't already exist because of their culture, ethics or hiring policy. I tend to believe that a "closed" attitude towards blogging is a symptom of larger problems that should make communities think twice about the corporations involved.

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From: dr2chase (Oct 17 2009, at 15:50)

I do wonder, what the heck was in it for Bob Moffat -- what reason does he have for passing info to Danielle Chiesi? and is he married?

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From: Alan Hargreaves (Oct 18 2009, at 13:17)

And it's such a shame that one of them got caught holding JAVA short when Oracle announced their intent to purchase. Karma!

Alan.

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From: len (Oct 19 2009, at 11:58)

There are two somewhat trite but probably true observations emerging from various blogs I've read around the Wall Street scandals:

1. BOF: school chums look out for each other. The money elite protects and makes opportunities for its own. That is edging us toward a class war.

2. Capitalism has a self-organizing criticality (SOC) aspect. No matter how formed, it tends toward money elites given a free market. Regulated regulators (second order controls) are necessary.

My best advice is smaller systems and choose your own family. We are witnessing resurgent tribalism.

It would be nice if every ten years everyone had to give up their goods in a giant garage sale and start over. Otherwise, we should have learned by now that The City on The Hill is made of plaster and painted gold. Unfortunately, is is a lesson that doesn't stick and we go from "Eat the Rich" to "Greed is Good" in less than a generation.

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From: vanni (Oct 19 2009, at 21:50)

" Bob Moffat -- what reason does he have for passing info to Danielle Chiesi? and is he married?'

Same old same old... sex money rock and roll. what does "being married" have to with their morals ;-)

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