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 discussion.  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 discussion.