More Musings on Anonymity and E2.0
By Raoul on Feb 27, 2009
Billy and I must be on similar wavelengths, because I've also been thinking a lot about online anonymity at work, and the overlap between our "work" online persona, and our "personal" output. It's a tough call because the hard boundaries that exist in meatspace are not so obvious online.
Opinions posted on this blog are work-related, those on my personal site, I would like to think are personal; but there's overlap. Maybe you saw this example - guy travelling on business twitters that he would die if he had to live in Memphis. Oops - he's visiting Fedex in Memphis and needless to say the people he's meeting aren't impressed with the sentiment.
(Quick aside, I loved this line from the story "Note to non-New Yorkers: About 90 percent of New Yorkers think this about every town." I'll take the fifth on that sentiment).
Or this woman (girl? She's sixteen) who was fired because she said her job was boring on her Facebook page.
If we accept that part of the bargain of Enterprise 2.0 participation is sharing, we have to allow for people occasionally sharing things that are uncomfortable. Within the enterprise, for instance, I'm thinking of knowledge that may be unflattering to people or the company - along the lines of "this is a bad idea because this product is not yet the greatest", "this project was unsuccessful because of the following mistakes we made", or "I found these security problems with this product". These are the kind of things people share personally and they must be the kind of knowledge we seek to capture and disseminate through E2.0.
We could allow for this information to be shared anonymously, but then we run into the issues of verification, trust, and reliability - whose opinion is this and how should I value it? I strongly believe that we should encourage openness and sharing and ownership of contributions, opinions, and insight. Where things become tricky is when content is on the cusp between professional and personal. Do we need to approve pictures people post of themselves on internal directories? We want to know why a project didn't succeed, but what if the reason is because our management structure is ineffective? Do we want consultants and engineers to discuss bugs or product shortcomings in public fora? My feeling is that 9 times out of 10 we can trust people's sense of professionalism and I'd rather we erred on the side of transparency.
I think Oracle strikes a good balance - we have a corporate blogging policy (although the link to it is broken on our internal pages - oops is that too much transparency?) and I discuss architecture and technical stuff on this blog and politics and travel on my personal site. I'm interested when people like James have personal / professional sites, because that's more of a tightrope to walk. Is the disclaimer on his site enough?