October 31, 2003

How to Keep Your Weblog From Getting You Fired

After some poor guy working at Microsoft gets fired for publishing a picture of a truck containing six new Macintosh computers on his weblog, Microsoft's Robert Scoble writes about how to keep your weblog from getting you fired:

The Scobleizer Weblog: ...co-workers inside Microsoft are pushing me to write some blogging guidelines so they will know how to avoid getting fired...

I've been asked to avoid discussing the firing on my blog because it's a personnel issue and because it's Microsoft policy not to discuss those issues in public.

Posted by DeLong at October 31, 2003 02:57 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Someone will take that case. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, Microsoft fired a man for having a hobby . . . The biggest hurdle is getting it past the Judges (who are just people who were once lawyers who happened to be a friend (or contributor to or sometimes both) a Governor)).

Posted by: Cal on October 31, 2003 03:39 PM

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Nah. We're an employment-at-will country. The boss can fire you for no reason at all.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 31, 2003 03:51 PM

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How to keep your weblog from getting you fired: Don't post anything on your weblog that might get you fired. And don't complain about how only Radiohead understand you.

Posted by: the CDR on October 31, 2003 03:55 PM

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What's wrong with complaining that only Radiohead understands you, you Brit you?

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 31, 2003 04:21 PM

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This episode drives home a point I like to make to my "get government off our back" friends. In the US, big government is not nearly as intrusive as big business. A perfect example. The government could care less what I post on a blog. Big business cares and will fire you for it. Big government cares not who your doctor is. Big business only pays your health care costs if the doctor is on the approved list. So many of the restrictions on our lives come because of big business not big government.

Posted by: bakho on October 31, 2003 07:16 PM

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of course, the US may not be an at-will country forever if the labor shortage some demographers threaten doesn't get mitigated by immigration.

Posted by: wcw on October 31, 2003 07:50 PM

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Wow. For sheer sleaziness it's hard to beat that. It speaks just volumes about MS personnel policies. And the response from Scobleizer is astonishing. Basically, assume that anytime your manager doesn't like something you publish outside of work--they'll fire you? Way to go, MS! What's next, armed guards? Um, they already have them, I'm sure.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on October 31, 2003 10:20 PM

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"of course, the US may not be an at-will country forever if the labor shortage some demographers threaten doesn't get mitigated by immigration."

Posted by wcw at October 31, 2003 07:50 PM


Would these be the same demographers who, in the 1980's, predicted a shortage of Ph.D.'s in the 1990's?
Or those who talk about a shortage of programmers?

From what I saw, in the late 1990's, a few companies had just figured out that their old employment practices were perhaps obsolete. Then the recession hit, and it was back to the old ways.

Posted by: Barry on November 1, 2003 05:22 AM

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The crowd at slashdot, not a microsoft friendly place (they're fond of referring to bill gates as a borg), were generally sympathetic to microsoft on this. Apparently, microsoft has a policy against publishing pictures of anything on its campus, due to security concerns. Also, the tone of the blog was to mock microsoft, for no good reason (msft produces software for apple computers, so it's not surprising they're buying apple computers).

Posted by: richard on November 1, 2003 08:09 AM

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I hate to burst all the MS-haters' bubbles, but I worked at a somewhat similar firm (obviously smaller); taking pictures anywhere inside the buildings, and in some cases, even on the company grounds, was sufficient for instant dismissal. The problem stemmed from some moron taking photographs of a prototype; an effort was then made to clarify OK and inappropriate photographs. That policy quickly became unworkeable, so the decision was made to simply ban photographs.

Posted by: Earl Hathaway on November 1, 2003 10:02 PM

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I've worked at lots of manufacturing companies, and most of them have strict policies on against casual photography.

This is especially true at assembly plants or engineering buildings at Ford, GM, etc. It's something that will get you thrown out at the least, and maybe fired if you are under contract with them.

There are trade secrets at most companies. There may be a new style, look, or color for some product. Or, a manufacturing method may be secret. I could go on and on.

Firing the guy, especially a contract guy, is pretty standard for this offense.

Posted by: snore on November 2, 2003 03:15 PM

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"At will" is a presumption that can be overcome if an employee can show a written contract, oral contract, an implied contract or a company policy that overrides the presumption. Employment matters are highly fact intensive. But don't be so surprised if you see that a lawsuit is filed over this matter.

Posted by: Cal on November 2, 2003 04:54 PM

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Randolph: I've worked for a few companies now and it always has been the rule to not piss the boss off.

When you work for a company with 55,000 employees and billions in revenues (and are publicly traded, no less) you better think hard about what you post.

Michael wasn't fired for the content of his photo. The other guys posting here nailed it. Revealing business secrets is a no-no.

Posted by: Robert Scoble on November 5, 2003 06:36 PM

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The US is an employment-at-will country as long as you are a White Male. If you are a woman, or of any other race the US has laws that make it difficult for you to be fired.

I recently went through this, I am White, and Male, and had my Boss come into my Cubicle Screaming and cursing with knuckles white from clenching them. I had no clue wether he was going to throw a punch or what.

When I took this to his superiors I was told "We know we have a problem, but we are not willing to do anything about it at this time". I then began calling local attorneys about this. The first question I was asked was what Race am I? Then of 18 attorneys I spoke to, I finally found one who would be honest with me, and tell me he could not take the case because it would never go to court. He explained that if I was a minority, or a woman, he could take it to court, and probably even receive a settlement in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Buts since I am a white male I am not protected under any of the laws.

His suggestion was to deal with it, or find a new job... WTF????

Posted by: Michial on December 17, 2003 01:57 PM

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