Microsoft bloggers step up the self-policing

To disclose or not to disclose. That's the Microsoft question that's rearing its head again this week.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

To disclose or not to disclose. That's the Microsoft question that's rearing its head again this week.

Softie and IT Pro Evangelist James o'Neill -- in a February 28 blog post entitled "Brave and Stupid Posts" -- chastized an unnamed Microsoft employee for sharing last week information on Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack (SP) 1.

(I saw one of the posts myself and wrote up the worthwhile info on Exchange Server 2007 SP1 for my blog over the weekend.)

O'Neill said:

"Someone ... and I don't know his name ... leaked some information about Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1 on a blog. Eileen mentioned this on her blog and the Exchange team have gone on record with information about their plans. The individual concerned is probably feeling some discomfort right now, and rightly so. Our blogging policy here is two words. 'BLOG SMART.'"

Eileen (Brown), Microsoft Manager of the IT Professional Evangelist Team, also came down hard on the SP1 leaker:

"So we've been trying to keep this confidential for a while. Unfortunately one of my colleagues in the world wide Evangelist team (over in Latin America) leaked the information" early. So the Exchange team have been forced to talk about what's in Exchange 2007 SP1 earlier than they wanted to. Why do we keep things confidential you ask? Well, it's actually for a reason. SP1 will not be available to you for quite a while yet. Heck, we've only just released Exchange 2007!"

Brown goes on about things always changing, features being cut and added, etc. -- the usual Microsoft excuses reasons for not wanting to share information. Then she cites former Softie blogger Robert Scoble as a role model:

"You know, all the time that Robert Scoble worked for us, he had access to all sorts of confidential information due to the position of trust he worked in. But did he disclose any of it? No."

(Editor's note: I know a few folks might disagree on that point.) But back to Brown:

"He (Scoble) gave hints to the fact that stuff was coming up, and guidance for how much you would be excited by the news coming out. But leak something? No way. So the unnamed ITE in South America take note.. And stay silent in future. You'll influence many more in a positive direction that way...".

While I understand Microsoft doesn't want to dampen sales for current products and/or give its competitors a leg up by sharing early feature lists, ship schedules and other related information, that desire should be balanced with customer need.

I also have to take issue with Brown's contention that SP1 won't ship for "quite a while yet." The beta of Exchange Server 2007 SP1 is set to be available via TechNet in April. The final is slated to ship simultaneously with Longhorn Server, which is due out before the end of this year.

I know I sound like a broken record. But business users with whom I speak tell me that they want and need to know when service packs (especially SP1s) are slated to ship. Many still won't deploy a new product until SP1 is available. And while Microsoft sometimes shares timeline and feature set data with its biggest and richest customers, other business users need to know, too.

I hope Softies continues to push the transparency envelope and doesn't punish employees who refuse to "stay silent."

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