Here is a scenario and discussion that comes up with monotonous
regularity on the technical aliases in Sun.
It starts with a question to one of the internal aliases that we
have for discussions that are not appropriate for the equivalent
aliases on the opensolaris.org
site. These aliases were intended for “confidential”
discussions, typically where sensitive customer information is in the
So hypothetically we have a confidential alias to discuss the
fitting and maintenance of gears to bicycles
firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a
email@example.com alias. The intention is that
when you have a question from a customer that is of a sensitive
nature it would go to the confidential alias otherwise it goes to the
What happens next is that a question is posted to
firstname.lastname@example.org that contains nothing that
is obviously confidential. The response, usually from someone who
does not deal directly with customers is “Why did you not post
this to email@example.com”. To which the
reply comes back, “The question came from a customer and I
don't want the customer to see the same question appear on
opensolaris.org”. The discussion then descends into a war of
attrition that is not quite as bad as “vi v emacs” or
“korn shell v c shell” discussions but is more vociferous
than “Shimano v Campagnolo” (mainly as cyclists will tend
to stick together).
I can see two reasons for the “inappropriate” use of
the internal aliases:
The engineer does not want to expose themselves to the whole
The engineer is not certain that reaction of the customer
would be if they saw their own question bouncing around externally,
even if it by then contained no confidential information.
Point 1 is interesting as there are potential privacy issues.
However since I clearly don't fall into that camp I won't comment
further. If you do fall into that camp then email me to discuss or
comment anonymously on this entry.
It is point 2 that I feel is not well understood. Returning to my
Suppose a customer sees a commercial advantage to fitting Oval
chain rings to the bikes they make so call up and ask what the
implications would be for such a venture with respect to the bicycle
gears. Does the engineer have the right to ask that question in the
open? I say that they do not. If they did then this could potentially
tip off a competitor that someone was thinking about the problem. Now
should the engineer make a value call on every issue?
If the customer had been happy for the question to be asked in a
public forum then they could have done this. If they wanted anonymity
there are plenty of web email accounts that could be used to post.
The fact that they chose to contact Sun as a commercial organisation
either as part of the sales cycle or as part of a support contract
means we have to respect that confidentiality .
On the being open or closed, I have pondered hard on whether this
entry should be open or closed. If my blog goes very quiet in the
next few days I guess it should have been closed!