Edited Out of History

Now here's an interesting difference in corporate styles. I remember when I left IBM in 2000, the (extensive) mentions of me on IBM's web pages were gradually edited away until today, six years later, there seems to be only one or two left that date from my pre-Sun days (doubtless they will also get expunged now). This one's interesting - my job title has been changed to Sun even though I was still at IBM on the date I gave the talk (7 months before I gave my notice in fact).

When we started blogs.sun.com, we had a long discussion about what we should do when employees left. The conclusion we all reached, supported strongly by Jonathan Schwartz who attended the meeting, was that they should simply be left in place, merely closed for further changes. Our view was that, if the blog text had been acceptable when it was published, there was no reason a change of employment status should vary that. Not to mention the desire by Tim to preserve URIs. Interestingly, one of Jonathan's motivations for this was also so that people could pick up where they left off when they rejoined Sun! Going one step further, Sun now has a blog aggregator for alumni.

So it's with some surprise that I see IBM's former Fellow, "Father of Websphere" Don Ferguson, is already in the process of being airbrushed out of history. His blog already redirects to the home page for IBM's dW bloggers (he's still listed as I type this) despite the cached version showing no signs of being any less defensible than it was a month ago. You can see an older version in WayBackMachine. It seems that, now he works for Microsoft, his views are retrospectively unacceptable. Or is there another explanation?

Update: IBM has responded to this controversy by re-instating Don's blog, with the addition of a comment to say he no longer works at IBM. Jolly good, hope it's now a policy since URL-rot is a problem we all hate!


I suffered a similar fate too, last year. I was working for a very large scientific publisher and was one of the first to start blogging on a company server. It was all going well and there was talk of a corporate blogging policy being introduced. Then I left and the blog came down too. Months of entries just gone. I've learnt my lesson now and am blogging on blogspot about personal and professional things. This way no-one will get to delete it other than me.

Posted by Chris Leonard on January 16, 2007 at 05:16 PM PST #

Everything's relative. IBM is much better in this regard than it used to be. In 1989, when I left IBM, my name was removed as co-editor of the "IBM RS/6000 Technology" book (published in February 1990) and from articles that I had co-authored that had not yet been published. I was requested to not give an AIX tutorial at Usenix in June of 1989, even though I prepared the bulk of the material. (Jack O'Quin, who also prepared material, was asked to present without me.) Now all sorts of ex-IBM people are still noted. I'm surprised that a many year ex-IBM luminary like Hester is still credited on ibm.com, for example at http://www-03.ibm.com/servers/eserver/pseries/hardware/whitepapers/power/p2ppc_tech.html. Will that be cleaned up becaue it is now cited here?

Posted by Charlie Sauer on January 16, 2007 at 10:34 PM PST #

Hi Simon - I wanted to clarify what we've done and are doing with Don's blog. There's no effort to delete Don from IBM's history. While any and all IBMers are encouraged to blog on an external platform, our developerWorks blogs are for IBMers we want to feature for a variety of reasons. After Don left, it was appropriate to remove a direct link to his blog from our developerWorks home page. A temporary redirect was placed on his blog URL until we could change its status, and that will be removed shortly. Once that's done, the content of his blog will still be accessible to search engines. In hindsight, was the temporary redirect the right call? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps we could have handled it better. But while I'll cop to that, I don't agree with your characterization of the situation, and I wanted to offer this explanation. Thanks for watching, though. Christopher Barger IBM

Posted by Christopher Barger on January 17, 2007 at 12:33 AM PST #

[Trackback] I don’t have any information from one side or the other, but Simon Phipps has made a very interesting post today about corporate blogs and what should be done and what happens when people leave an organization.  When you have a chance, check out...

Posted by Todd Mitchell's Personal Blog on January 17, 2007 at 01:55 AM PST #

Seems that Don's blog is back up and it simply says he no longer works for IBM. Well that's what I call a storm in a teapot!

Posted by Bill Higgins on January 17, 2007 at 04:36 AM PST #

@Christopher: Thanks for e-instating Don's blog. Is this IBM's new policy?

@Bill: Can't help thinking if I hadn't mentioned it nothing would have happened...

Posted by Simon Phipps on January 17, 2007 at 07:34 AM PST #

@Simon, I'll grant it's possible, but...

But I've always found Chris Barger to be an honest guy, so I'll take his word for it.

Posted by Bill Higgins on January 17, 2007 at 08:09 AM PST #

Simon: trust me, there was a dialog going on about the redirect before you brought it up :-).

Posted by James Snell on January 17, 2007 at 10:23 AM PST #

@James: I'm pleased to hear it, and thanks for commenting :-) I know that if there is the slightest hint of censorship of any Sun blogger we instantly have an extensive debate on the internal mailing lists.

Posted by Simon Phipps on January 17, 2007 at 06:36 PM PST #

[Trackback] Simon Phipps went to work for IBM and helped to turn around the image of an evil empire that was inherently proprietary and anti-Unix into one that was inherently proprietary but pro-Linux. Not only did he help to put lipstick...

Posted by Guardian Unlimited: Technology on January 17, 2007 at 09:22 PM PST #

Talking of airbrushing, do you know the story of Klement Gottvald and Vlado Clementis? A poignant moral that in the end, all you leave behind are your acts of goodwill.

Posted by Patrick on January 18, 2007 at 07:50 AM PST #

I remember a time, pre-1990s, when IBM was the big bad wolf of our industry...(I apologize to the wolves for this analogy, their bad rep is more mythology than truth).

Posted by serge on January 21, 2007 at 03:57 AM PST #

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