gnome-blog ate the original version and now I’m reconstructing this post on the fly. Blah.
(I’ll confess that there are some odd restrictions about me linking my blog to Novell’s website, so no URL for you. Use the first link on this Google search. Any further editorializing and I get myself into hot water.)
Being the helpful guy that I am, I’ll editorialize for him. :)
Compare and contrast the marketing value of, say, Scoble and , or Tim Bray and Planet Sun, to a neutered Novell employee who dearly loves his company, and desperately wants to talk about how cool Brainshare was, but can’t even link to the brainshare videos. One set is encouraged to talk about their company and demonstrate their passion every day, and the other is not allowed to give props or google-juice to their own talk at their company’s biggest showcase. To put it another way (purely unscientific, of course): googlefight returns 133,000 results for blogs.msdn.com and 27 for planetn.org (which can’t even use Novell in the name.) One set of blogs is clearly getting their company talked about and discussed, and the other is not.
For those who have seen the Novell blogging policy [NB: the one that was in force as of two months ago, YMMV], compare and contrast with Sun’s:
If you start writing, remember the Web is all about links; when you see something interesting and relevant, link to it; you’ll be doing your readers a service, and you’ll also generate links back to you; a win-win.
Novell and Sun, of course, both have reasonable fears about dumb things being said, being googled, and ending up in the press, in the hands of customers, etc. Sun’s policy respects employees as thinking beings capable of sound judgement and creating positive value around their company, and gives them credit for being able to make judgment calls around those issues. The Novell blog and linking policy, in contrast, takes a group of employees who are by and large very loyal and positive about the company (and certainly not stupid), and prevents them from being Novell’s best PR. Novell HR’s response when my blog got ‘interviewed’ by Linuxworld was to tell me that I would in the future be required to post a copyright notice prohibiting copying or redistribution. Thankfully that idea got smacked down, but… still the same mental model.
I want Novell to succeed- I still have a lot of friends there, and I think having more open source companies be successful is critical for free software to continue to move forward. Put in context, a blogging policy is a really, really tiny part of that success, compared to their overall marketing, technology choices, etc. So this isn’t that big a deal. But a company that is comfortable with new technologies and which trusts, educates, and empowers their employees is a fun company to be at, and a good company to trust and buy things from in the long term. Does Novell’s blogging policy make it seem like it is that kind of company? I’d have to lean towards ‘no’. For Novell’s sake, I hope that that isn’t reflected in other decisions.