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Apple’s blogging policy?

Think Secret posts some interesting details on policies for Apple Retail employees regarding returns and the the like, and includes an interesting bullet point on the company’s policy on blogging :

Furthermore, while Apple employees are granted permission by Apple to create their own personal Web pages and blogs, they are not allowed to comment on anything related to Apple on such pages. Furthermore, they are prohibited from posting in any capacity on any Mac-related Websites or forums, whether they identify themselves as working for Apple or not.

I’m assuming this policy is limited to Apple Retail employees, rather than just those from Apple itself. Certainly, the handful of Apple bloggers that I know of (like Chuq, for example), have commented on issues related to Apple before, although not, of course, on rumours of new products.
But if this policy is correct and company-wide, it’s a mistake. Empowering employees, especially product managers, to respond to customers via blogging is a powerful tool for dispelling mis-information about both the company and its products.
Take for example the recent post on Slashdot about Microsoft’s new shell Monad supposedly being removed from Windows Vista because of concerns over its security. Adam Barr, who works on the Monad team, was able to publicly correct this via his blog, far more quickly than any kind of response that could have been issued through the usual corporate channels. What could have been a nasty little anti-Microsoft meme echoing around the Internet got nipped in the bud, fast.
This kind of "from the horses mouth" posting is completely lacking from Apple. Take, as an example, the story on the purported use of Trusted Computing DRM by the OS X Intel project. This originated with OSx86, spread to Slashdot, and on to Cory, who wrote an eloquent  piece on BoingBoing about how it was A Very Bad Thing.
So now the news that Apple is using some nasty DRM for as-yet ill-defined purposes is rattling round the Internet. Apple’s response? Nothing. The nearest we get to a response is from John Gruber, who accuses Cory of overreacting.
Maybe Cory is overreacting, but the fact is that the whole thing could have been stopped in its tracks by a quick post on an Apple product manager’s blog. "We’re using TPM in our machines to ensure that users can’t boot the developer version of OS X/Intel on stock Intel-based machines. We don’t have any plans at present to use it beyond that." A simple post that doesn’t give any serious information about future products, but simply clarifies an already-noted feature of the developer machines, in exactly the same way that Adam Barr clarified an already-noted point about Vista and Monad.
But that’s not how Apple works, and it’s something that will, sooner or later, mean a serious PR wound. As Scoble puts it:

Here’s something I learned while working in the tech industry: if
something is being discussed and answered in public, it almost never is
evil. But, if something is being kept secret, then you should focus
more scrutiny on that. When the stink is going up, people’s normal
reactions are to stop communicating.

Apple needs to learn that its employees communicating with its customers directly is a good thing, both for the employees (who feel more empowered) and for the customers who see a human face on the company. Let the people blog, Steve.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BillG

    Cory’s piece was not ‘eloquent’. It was a knee-jerk overreaction to a stupid assumption on his part. He assumed that Apple, contrary to ALL previous behavior, was going to use TPM/DRM all through the OS/user data. Whereas, most likely it will be that Apple makes sure that the OS runs only on ‘blessed’ hardware, as they always have. One of the biggest pieces of FUD I’ve seen in some time.

  • http://www.geise.com/index.php/GD-Linksville/Items/ PXLated

    I agree with Gruber, Cory went nuts over nothing.

    ———-

    Should Apple blog? Would it help? I’m not so sure. There are times when Scoble is as much liability as asset.

    Just because the “geeksphere” goes nuts over something doesn’t mean it has to be answered. Geeks get it wrong all the time, just read SlashDot and you’ll see many don’t read, understand, or comprehend anyway :-)

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    PXLated: Scoble’s blog really isn’t that much to do with Microsoft or his day job. Obviously, he talks a lot about MS in it – but it’s not the kind of blogging that I think Apple needs to do. The kind it needs to do is the kind I referred to – product managers communicating with their customers, not evangelists putting across PR points.

    BillG: No points for using an anonymous alias. And no points for your argument either, which utterly misses the point. Cory in fact said “If this “feature” appears in a commercial, shipping version of Apple’s OS, they’ll lose me as a customer…” Note the “if”. Not “will do”. Cory isn’t assuming anything – he’s simply stating that IF Apple goes down this road, he’ll dump them.

    But of course, some people find it hard to do anything but attack straw men.

  • BillG

    Ian,

    I think you’re missing my point. Cory was arguing against his own strawman. Apple has never used DRM in any significantly restrictive way. To write a blog suggesting that they might do so, and if they do so, that he’d leave, is just an overreaction to a blind fear. And not something that needs to be ‘eloquently’ written about.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    BillG, I’m surprised that you don’t know the difference between “if” someone does something, and “they might” do something. What’s more, it’s no blind fear: The point about Trusted Computing is not that a company *will* lock up your machine, but that they have the power to do so if they wish.

  • BillG

    Ian,

    Every OS make has the power to do so if they wish RIGHT NOW.

    IMHO, it’s a over reaction to write such a strong statement, as Cory did, with no indication based on past or current actions that anything remotely near his scenario is going to happen. It’s always been a possibility. It’s just not a probability, and thus an overaction.

  • James Bailey

    The overreaction on Cory Doctorow’s part was on the vow to stop using OS X or Macintosh computers if TCPA was implemented. This leaves very little room for his future computing needs. It is already implemented on Linux and it certainly will be on Windows Vista.

    Apple is likely to implement TCPA for the same reason that the Linux people did, namely that it is useful technology. Whether or not Apple or third parties use it for evil is a completely different question.

    Right now, anyone can implement difficult to overcome encryption on their application’s data and in the USA sue to prevent the reverse engineering of that data with the DMCA. In other words, TCPA is nothing new.