James O'Neill's Blog

January 1, 2008

On blogging, leaking, disclosure and the like.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 3:02 pm

It’s a new year, and that always means a new start, and a certain amount of spring cleaning. I’ll be blogging in 2008 in much the same way as I blogged in 2007. Which is to say mostly about the technologies I evangelise, but now and then on anything else  I feel like. I’ll keep on trying to be a human face of Microsoft; I think Microsoft is a great company, but that doesn’t give it an exemption from making the occasional screw-up, and inside the company we get as exasperated as those outside.

Through exposure to Microsoft’s more exasperating side,  I learnt in 2007 that being a “human face” is fine, but when that  face is angry, snarling and ranting it’s better to hide it away. So what else shouldn’t be here… ?

I was going through the drafts in Windows Live Writer and found this which has been sitting there for some months. I’ve said I was told off for talking about the future, so a new year is a good time remind myself of the second half on product secrets.

Speaking as a company person requires a degree of editorial control and since no-one has to approve what I write, I have to apply that editorial control to myself. So what don’t I write about.

Details of my own – or others’ employment contracts, promotions, bonuses, reviews etc. In the general “working at Microsoft” theme I think I’ve said the base salaries at Microsoft are lower than a lot of people think, but our other benefits are make up for that. Commenting on the details e.g. “I’m delighted with my recent salary review” or “My recent salary review sucks” – would just send the wrong impression. Better to say nothing.

Management. I’ve worked with quite a cross section of Microsoft’s management over my time here. I’m not going going to write “Eileen is a lousy manager” [rude] “Eileen is a brilliant manager” [sycophantic]. Again better to say nothing, and people who care will draw their own inferences about management from what I say about life inside Microsoft.

Good stories that would embarrass other people. I’ve got the “what really happened” story behind a funny press story. But the person who’s at the heart of it has asked me not to tell it – even with the names removed.  

Product secrets. Despite jokes about the Borg, we are are not the collective / Hive mind that some people think. I’m not “in-the-loop” on everything, there are things which would be interesting which I simply don’t know – and speculating would be unwise – and other things where I do know but it is other people’s news to break. And breaking it early could be a bad thing to do

Someone forwarded me something from someone very senior, he talks about the problems of sharing advance information too soon. He didn’t want the piece to leak as he’d get embroiled in a lot of discussion of it, but there are two small quotes I want to share – without saying when it was written, by whom or about which product.

There were a number of breathless stories about {product} including dates and features. These stories caught us (management) by surprise since not only have we not announced any of the things in these stories, but much of what was reported was not or will not be the case

My heart sinks when I read things like that. Stories about dates and features which haven’t been announced are never good. It means that either (a) Someone leaked or (b) Rumours have expanded to fill a vacuum. There’s a line in one of the Terry Pratchett books “A lie can go round the world before the truth can get its boots on” so better, surely to get the truth out to combat that – even if that is in the form of a leak ? Well no. Here’s the second quote

Customers and partners want to know about {product} . Actually they need to know. We want to tell them. But we want to do so when our plans and execution allow that communication to be relatively definitive. We are not there yet. So telling folks and then changing the plans causes many more challenges than readily apparent

The only people who know if a statement on a product is relatively definitive are the people who are working on it.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


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