Someone … and I don’t know his name … leaked some information about Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1 on a blog. Eileen mentioned this on her blog and the Exchange team have gone on record with information about their plans. The individual concerned is probably feeling some discomfort right now, and rightly so. Our blogging policy here is two words. “BLOG SMART“.
Blog smart means keeping our personal honesty and integrity and if that comes into conflict with some standard corporate message we have to manage our own way through. Sometimes it’s valid to say that if a particular decision was ours to make we’d have done it differently, or that we hope to see a feature change in the future because we share customer frustration with it, but not always.
It also means being clear about what is commercially confidential or what will create an awkward situation for another part of the company, and generally making disclosures forthcoming products does that. When I first knew Darren Strange he was working with a very interesting technology, which I shall call “Basingstoke”. (If I ever get to choose the place names used for Microsoft projects, Basingstoke and Scunthorpe are top of my list). I asked Darren about “Basingstoke” … ‘You can’t tell anyone about it’ was his reaction before I even got my question out; telling one person is bad, so how much worse is telling the world via your blog ?
Lets assume a fictional product “Scunthorpe” is planned to ship in October next year and to introduce a new “Coffee / Refreshments API” to allow users to interface with networked beverage dispensers from their desktop. Putting that information out creates expectations, so that cutting the “C/R API” feature from the final product or delivering in December actually becomes a problem – yet the nature of big projects is that they change. Creating badly founded expectations is NOT Smart, so the only people who can say “Feature X is in, feature Y is out for now, and we expect to be ready round about date Z” are the people who own the project.
This isn’t the only situation where you have to keep your peace to avoid embarrassing others. Someone told me a story recently which illustrated misconduct by a Government office. Part of me says I should tell the story, but that would embarrass the person who told me and a chain of other people too. I could construct an argument to show that the ‘greater good’ would offset that embarrassment, that it’s a matter of principle, and a courageous thing to do. Maybe so, but it would be better to put the time into doing something about it elsewhere than spending it defending a piece of less than smart blogging.
If you read the IT Pro team’s blogs you’ll know that we’re doing a road show. I’ve found my part hard going, I let too much material go into the abstract we advertised and covering it in the time is a battle – especially as I’ve found tightly scripted things don’t work for me. Improvising without diving down 100 different rabbit holes, looking relaxed when realize that you don’t know if the next demo is correctly set-up and trying to sound coherent when half way though spelling out an abbreviation and your memory won’t come back with the last word … this is all normal for a presenter. Darren’s first session of the tour went badly. A lot of people wouldn’t want to talk about this, but Darren wrote about it on his blog. He calls it “probably the worst crash and burn I have ever suffered during a live presentation.” It’s brave of Darren to talk candidly about what it feels like when it all goes wrong, but what lifts it into the realm of excellent posts is he talks about what you have to do afterwards. He describes himself as “desolate” after that session – something I can vouch for having driven him back from Nottingham. He was great in Bristol yesterday. He came off stage 10 minutes late and I said he’d over-run. In fact he came on 10 minutes late and kept to time. Oops; sorry Darren. I over-ran myself. Double oops. I’m not desolate about my part, but I’m not happy either. Darren talked about the different audiences, the Bristol audience laughed, which the Nottingham audience didn’t, and every time I think of audience laughter I think of Ken Dodd’s famous quote “Freud considered laughter the conservation of psychic energy. Then again, Freud never played Friday night, second house, at the Glasgow Empire” We’re in Glasgow next week. I have to carry on honing my presentation; and put a prize in my bag for the first person to mention Ken Dodd to me.