Thursday, May 19, 2005

IBM Blogging Guidelines: blogospherically correct?

rules and tips for IBM bloggers Posted by Hello

Let's stroll hurriedly and intuitively
through the new IBM Blogging Guidelines.

Not the Executive Summary,
but the Detailed Discussion version.

Be sure to follow the link

and read the whole document.

I'm displaying excerpts of choice
segments of text to comment upon.

[My comments will be provided under the text in bracketed italics.]

1. The IBM Business Conduct Guidelines and laws provide the foundation for IBM's policies and guidelines on Web logs (blogs).


[STREIGHT: I have always thought that corporate blogging rules should be relatively easy to formulate.

I mean, shouldn't blogging rules be similar to already formulated rules on email, media interviews, letters on official letterhead, instant messaging, discussion lists, bulletin boards, faxes, and other forms of employee/company communications?

Are employees already cautioned and guided in these other forms?

IBM wisely states this reality: the blogging guidelines will be in conformance to, or inspired by, familiar pre-existing policies.]

2. IBM supports open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.

IBM regards blogs as primarily a form of communication and relationship among individuals. When the company wishes to communicate publicly as a company -- whether to the marketplace or to the general public -- it has well established means to do so. Only those officially designated by IBM have the authorization to speak on behalf of the company.

[STREIGHT: Read this closely:-- "blogs" = "communication and relationship among individuals".

IBM states the position that a blog will not be used for official corporate communications, directly from the organization to the blog audience, the public, the customer.

Thus, no IBM employee speaks officially for the company except its designated representatives, who will continue to use conventional means, not blogs apparently.]

However, IBM believes in dialogue among IBMers and with our partners, clients, members of the many communities in which we participate and the general public. Such dialogue is inherent in our business model of innovation, and in our commitment to the development of open standards. We believe that IBMers can both derive and provide important benefits from exchanges of perspective.

[STREIGHT: I'm not sure where you draw the line between "dialogue with non-IBMers" and "official representation of IBM Corporate". I assume the parties to the conversation or announcements have a good grasp of this differentiation most of the time.]

One of IBMers' core values is "trust and personal responsibility in all relationships."

As a company, IBM trusts -- and expects -- IBMers to exercise personal responsibility whenever they blog.

This includes not violating the trust of those with whom they are engaging. IBMers should not use this medium for covert marketing or public relations. If and when members of IBM's Communications, Marketing, Sales or other functions engaged in advocacy for the company have the authorization to participate in blogs, they should identify themselves as such.

[STREIGHT: So the designated representatives, as listed above, may jump into an IBMers blog now and then, to post an official corporate comment.]

3. What does an IBMer's personal responsibility mean when blogging?

A blog is a tool individuals can use to share their insights, express their opinions, and communicate within the context of a globally distributed conversation.

[STREIGHT: There's a good definition of a blog: "a globally distributed conversation", if the blog enables users to interact via comments and/or email to the blog author. Otherwise, it's not "conversation" but "megaphoning", "sermonizing", or "uni-directional narrow-casting".]

As with all tools, it [the blog] has proper and improper uses. While IBM encourages all of its employees to join a global conversation, it is important for IBMers who choose to do so to understand what is recommended, expected and required when they discuss IBM-related topics, whether at work or on their own time.

Know the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines. If you have any confusion about whether you ought to post something on your blog, chances are the BCGs will resolve it. Pay particular attention to what the BCGs have to say about proprietary information, about avoiding misrepresentation and about competing in the field. If, after checking the BCG's, you are still unclear as to the propriety of a post, it is best to refrain and seek the advice of management.

[STREIGHT: I like how IBM expects the employee to Think It Through, using the Business Conduct Guidelines as a tool for evaluating what to put in a blog.]

Be who you are. Some bloggers work anonymously, using pseudonyms or false screen names. IBM discourages that in blogs, wikis or other forms of online participation that relate to IBM, our business, or issues with which the company is engaged.

We believe in transparency and honesty. If you are blogging about your work for IBM, we encourage you to use your real name, be clear who you are, and identify that you work for IBM.

Nothing gains you notice in the "blogosphere" more than honesty -- or dishonesty.

[STREIGHT: I would add that stupidity, vulgarity, insincerity, insanity, and mediocrity are also noticed quickly, and shunned, in the blogosphere.]

If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out. But also be smart about protecting yourself and your privacy. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also be judicious in disclosing personal details.

[STREIGHT: Here I would emphasize the very real dangers of personal and family details in blogs. I posted a comment on this, with a link to my post "Dangers of Personal Blogging" at my Vaspers the Grate blog, on James Snell's blog.]

Speak in the first person. Use your own voice; bring your own personality to the forefront; say what is on your mind.

[STREIGHT: Again, IBM is attempting to distinguish the Official Representative from the IBM Employee.]

Use a disclaimer.

Whether you publish a blog or participate in someone else's, make it clear that what you say there is representative of your views and opinions and not necessarily the views and opinions of IBM.

At a minimum in your own blog, you should include the following standard legal disclaimer language: "The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions."

[STREIGHT: Someday someone will revise this rather cold statement in a legally acceptable, but softer, even comical manner.]

Managers and executives take note: This standard disclaimer does not by itself exempt IBM managers and executives from a special responsibility when blogging. By virtue of their position, they must consider whether personal thoughts they publish may be misunderstood as expressing IBM positions. And a manager should assume that his or her team will read what is written. A blog is not the place to communicate IBM policies to IBM employees.

[STREIGHT: IBM is again separating official policy statements from blogs. They want to keep a tight control on the presentation of policy, for good reasons.]


You should never quote more than short excerpts of someone else’s work. And it is good general blogging practice to link to others' work. Keep in mind that laws will be different depending on where you live and work.

[STREIGHT: It makes you wonder if it's proper to quote an entire post, especially a rather lengthy one, in another blog. I generally try to snip, delete enough to inspire a reader to go to the source and read the entire thing, free of my commentary. I think, if you're adding commentary to a post, analyzing it, like I'm doing here, you could quote an entire post. But snipping, deleting some of the original text may increase readability of your post.]

[snip: a lot of specific cautionary advice on IBM client protection, proprietary information, etc.]

On your blog, never identify a client, partner or supplier by name without permission and never discuss confidential details of a client engagement.

It is acceptable to discuss general details about kinds of projects and to use non-identifying pseudonyms for a client (e.g., Client 123) so long as the information provided does not violate any non-disclosure agreements that may be in place with the client or make it easy for someone to identfy the client.

Furthermore, your blog is not the place to "conduct business" with a client.

[STREIGHT: This is great wording and important advice. Employees must refrain from doing any sales, marketing, deals of any type, with a client, on a blog.]


Don't be afraid to be yourself, but do so respectfully. This includes not only the obvious (no ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc.) but also proper consideration of privacy and of topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory -- such as politics and religion.


Further, blogs hosted outside of IBM's protected Intranet environment must never be used for internal communications among fellow employees. It is fine for IBMers to disagree, but please don't use your external blog to air your differences in an inappropriate manner.

Add value.


Though not directly business-related, background information you choose to share about yourself, such as information about your family or personal interests, may be useful in helping establish a relationship between you and your readers, but it is entirely your choice whether to share this information.

[STREIGHT: Again, I'd like to see IBM display a better grasp of the dangers of personal and family details in blogs, including identity theft, stalking, and child predators.]

[snip: discussion of other IBM communications tools and events.]

Blogs aren't restricted to expressing opinions, or disputing opinions, or discussing products or services, or one's personal life.

They can also be a forum for genuine public discussion and learning -- and IBMers can play a fruitful, mature, and constructive role in helping that happen.

[STREIGHT: Here IBM is even expanding the conception of blogging, moving it beyond online debate combat and mundane personal trivia drivel. I hope to see blogs evolve into more discussion forum applications and learning symposiums.]

Know your fellow bloggers. The most successful bloggers are those who pay attention to what others are saying about the topic they want to write about, and generously reference and link to them.


[STREIGHT: I wish more business bloggers, especially CEO bloggers, would truly get involved in the blogosphere, visit other blogs, and post comments on them.]

Don’t pick fights.

[STREIGHT: Ah. My favorite part of the guidelines: blogo-combat!]

When you see misrepresentations made about IBM in the media, by analysts or by other bloggers, you may certainly use your blog -- or join someone else's -- to point that out.

Always do so with respect and with the facts.

Also, if you speak about a competitor, you must make sure that what you say is factual and that it does not disparage the competitor.

You should avoid arguments.

Brawls may earn traffic, but nobody wins in the end.

Don’t try to settle scores or goad competitors or others into inflammatory debates.

[STREIGHT: Darn. No fun. No flaming. No trolling. No baiting. Darn it to heck. heh.]

Here and in other areas of public discussion, make sure that what you are saying is factually correct.


You should make sure that blogging does not interfere with your job or commitments to customers.


Now...what do YOU think?

Has IBM devised some good blogging guidelines?

I'm sure we'll all be reading

reports and analysis of these rules

on other blogs, especially business blogs.

vaspersthegrate [at] yahoo [dot] com Posted by Hello



[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate aka Leopold the Told

No comments: