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.