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Microsoft Blog Policy Coming Down the Pike?

Microsoft Blog Policy Coming Down the Pike?

So far, corporate has yet to weigh in on its growing cadre of bloggers. But that may be about to change. Despite the fact that more and more Microsoft employees have jumped on the blogging bandwagon, Microsoft has not announced any kind of corporate blogging policy…at least so far.
But it seems as if Microsoft corporate is beginning to take more of an active interest in how its employees are expressing their opinions in their Web logs.

On Tuesday, as part of its ongoing series of discussions about Microsoft and community, the company is holding an internal panel to discuss employee Weblogging.

The meeting was called by Catherine Feldhausen, a member of the Microsoft U.S. corporate communications team. Several Microsoft bloggers are on the docket to present, including Shawn Alexander, Tim Ewald, Beth Goza, Andy Oakley, Robert Scoble, Sara Williams and Sue Ventura, a senior paralegal with the company.

Some Microsoft employee blogs are hosted on the company’s GotDotNet site. But the majority are not, and are built and maintained by individuals in their own free time. Some Microsoft blogs address the usual personal matters: books read, movies seen, restaurants visited. Others are all about the finer points of writing managed code using .Net. Most seem to fall somewhere in between.

Microsoft Chief Security Strategist Scott Charney (who also is Microsoft’s acting chief privacy strategist) is interested in the ramifications of corporate blogging.

“I don’t think technology should dictate social policy,” Charney told Microsoft Watch, when asked during a recent interview about his views on corporate blogging policies. “And I’m also a big believer in notice and choice.”

Microsoft bloggers, like other high-profile bloggers who are associated closely with their employers, walk a fine line.

Noted Microsoft employee Scoble in his blog recently: “I think executives who weblog (particularly at Microsoft) are between a rock and a hard place. If they say anything interesting, they’ll immediately get picked up in the press and their comments will probably be taken out of context.

“If they give away strategy or product plans, they will help out competitors. If they talk about competitors, they’ll be welcoming lawsuits. If they give people insights into what the business is doing, they could be hit with shareholder lawsuits, or other governmental actions,” Scoble acknowledges.

Although Microsoft has no official policy on corporate blogging, a number of Microsoft’s bloggers have been adding disclaimers to their sites as of late.

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Said Microsoft employee Harry Pierson (a k a “DevHawk) on his blog: “(T)his weblog is provided ‘AS IS’ with no warranties, and confers no rights….This weblog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer. It is solely my opinion.”

Others have expressed their dismay that Microsoft corporate should wade into the blogging fray.

“Inevitably, lawyers start noticing when things reach critical mass, as blogging has now,” said another Microsoft employee, David Weller, in a recent post to his blog. ” From what I’ve been indirectly told, I’m supposed to put a disclaimer in all of my posts. Screw that. Microsoft isn’t paying me to write this blog, Microsoft isn’t paying for my blogging software, and Microsoft isn’t paying my hosting fees to run my blog.”


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