Who owns an employee blog?

July 9th, 2008 by Gia Lyons Leave a reply »

When I was an IBM employee, I enjoyed writing my employee blog. I also enjoyed being the number two blogger at IBM, trailing only behind my pal, Luis Suarez (natch). I wrote about business stuff and personal stuff. It was my voice to my colleagues.

I left IBM in May 2008. I didn’t, however, leave my people network. Those relationships remain strong, although we are careful about what we discuss now, since many of us actually compete with one another in the marketplace (which I am not thrilled about, but that’s life).

Public Ownership

I found out a few days ago that someone at IBM has suggested that they “take over” my internal IBM blog.

Boy, that really pissed me off.

I immediately asked Twitter what they thought. Lots of IBMers and non-IBMers chimed in. After I calmed down a bit and read a few of the responses, I decided to feel this way:

  • the blog is IBM’s
  • the content – even my personal stories – is IBM’s
  • the voice is mine

I got all Zen then, because I knew who the person was who might “take over” my IBM blog, and realized that my voice is WAY different than their’s. Also, since my IBM blog contains my name in the URL, I figured it would be interesting to see how they could even accomplish a “take over”. It would be like someone taking over my email, really.

Why do they want to take it over? Most likely for the traffic it receives. I say, start your own blog, put a redirect in front of mine. Done. Oh wait. They still need some of the content in that blog.

Anyway.

So, in retrospect, all of this is a classic example of Waffle Thinking. I’m a cog who left the wheel. Need to get a new cog (waffle square?). Fortunately, there are many IBMers who are fellow Spaghettians, and I hope they continue to encourage IBM’s ever… so… slow… culture change to include more Spaghetti Thinking.

Spaghetti Nation, FTW!

So, IBM, not that you ever need my permission to do anything, feel free to replace me. Take over my employee blog. Fart in my office chair. Use my coffee mug. Take my pens. But know that my voice will always be mine.

Advertisement

32 comments

  1. Ed Brill says:

    I completely support your position on this, Gia.

    Having said that, I think this is really a case of one person in a big company making a bad judgment and having that attribute applied to the entire big company. For sure, this happens all the time, but it would be a much different thing if this had *actually happened* (meaning that others at IBM agreed with the idea and acted upon it) versus the suggestion surfacing and being squashed. As I asked you offline yesterday, I was pleased to hear that the “powers that be” were not going along with the idea… if there had been any hint otherwise, I would have thrown my voice into the mix, strongly against.

  2. Gia Lyons says:

    Good point, Ed. I didn’t mean to disparage all of IBM, because I know better. Too many Spaghettians there to let something like this actually happen.

  3. Andrea says:

    Besides – they’d have to break into your house to fart in your office chair! ;-)

  4. James Snell says:

    Hey Gia, this has just recently come to my attention. As of right now I’m still the BlogCentral admin and I’m the one that would have to make the change, which I don’t intend to do. I would have no problem adding a link from your old blog to the other persons new blog just so people can make the necessary connection, but I am definitely not going to allow them to take the blog over.

  5. Ken Krause says:

    I think (hope?) the intent was to carry forth Gia’s leadership and not emulate Gia – which would be silly and impossible.

    I think the issue here is more of ownership of content versus “voice.” There is no doubt that the voice of the content was Gia’s – business and personal – but the whole beauty of blogs, wikis, forums, etc is to cultivate, spread and make use of the that tacit knowledge to make it explicit.

    Technically (and ethically) businesses are going to struggle with internal and external social networks. Just as they “own” your email content, instant messaging texts, possible phone texts and messages, and anything that you produce while working for them or on their dime we’ll need to define how that social capital is absorbed by the company when an employee is hit by the proverbial bus or, worse, leaves the company (gasp, egads!). We (IBM) can still benefit from the legacy of information Gia left behind.

    I feel that information should end up in a read only format – potentially scrubbed, but that gets complicated – and left until through attrition the information is dated or someone else picks up the torch (their own torch!) and blazes forward. Yet another technical/ethical challenge in this new age…

  6. Jay says:

    Let them take it over and make a complete fool of themselves. Problem solved.

  7. LJ Banks says:

    This is a very interesting question. When we have bloggers that leave IBM and leave their external developerWorks blogs behind (after some trial and error on this) we make every effort to allow the blogger to continue blogging. As for ownership, our policy has been (as we disclose to bloggers from day one) that blogs belong to both the blogger and IBM.
    But the internal blog question is a little trickier. I think anyone who has been at IBM for a significant amount of time has probably written pages and pages of documentation, howtos, and guidelines (at least I know I have). Most of these are specific to IBM, but they also reflect personal voice and opinions. But historically, those belong to IBM. A personal blog under one’s name and a URL that is a name — that is not necessarily 100% IBM’s. But then is it the employee’s? I’d go with the shared idea again here. Because your internal blog is a resource, I don’t want to lose access to it. But I also think it would be odd to see someone blogging under your name — that makes no sense to me considering everyone at IBM has the option to create a personal internal blog and start building a knowledge base or even just pick up where you left off (if that is possible).
    I think IBM will make the right decision here, but it just shows how this “new media” creates new challenges.

  8. Gia Lyons says:

    @3 Andrea, I realized that after I posted. I suppose I meant the proverbial chair. :)

    @4 James, I figured you’d come up with the best solution. And really, that *is* the best solution – new person initially gets the traffic, old content sticks around until it is no longer useful.

    @5 Ken, not sure what was intended, but pretty sure they didn’t mean to blog in my name – that would, indeed, be silly. :)

    @6 LJ, I wonder if shared ownership really works inside the firewall. Everything I typed or thought of while at IBM is owned by IBM. Maybe this discussion isn’t about the legal ownership, but maybe more the psychic ownership.

  9. In an ideal world your last Blog entry would have been (besides or after the “leaving the ship” one). abc is taking over my responsibilities, so head over to his/her Blog at [address here]….
    Since that hadn’d been sorted out at the given time I would think it acceptable if the Blog admin adds a proper disclosed entry -or- modification of the skin and thereafter keep your Blog readonly.

    Preservation of social context is an interesting challenge. Should your profile be preserved with your new external Job details and a food note about your last IBM role?

    Good to have all these reactions :-) stw

  10. Kim Feraday says:

    I’ve got to agree with you. You could simply create a link from the old blog to whoever is the “new” you. Pretty simple I would think. On the other hand what if IBM is now into genetic engineering and they actually do make a new you? What then? ;) kf

  11. Gia Lyons says:

    @9 Stephan, I did post just that on my final entry. I listed three people to go to, including links.

  12. David Daly says:

    Gia, very strange. I must admit I was confused for a bit by even the idea of taking over a blog. I follow a lot of blogs at IBM, but I follow the blogs of individuals, and I follow posts based on topics (tags). You are one of the individual’s I followed, and so I redirected my feedreader to this page when you left IBM (actually before). I have only one feed that I follow that is for an organization. It really seems meaningless to take over the name of the blog. If suspect if someone did take it over I would quickly find that either: a) I already follow that person or b) I’d soon remove the link.

    Gia, one mostly unrelated question: How do you follow followups to comments you make on external blogs? For IBM internal blogs this was trivial. Now I find myself reloading posts that I know I’ve posted to, in order to see if there are any more comments.

  13. Gia Lyons says:

    @12 David, I subscribe to my blog’s comments in Google Reader – that way, I know when someone has posted a comment, and can reply if necessary.

  14. Dennis says:

    The important thing is that Gia is happy.

  15. Troy Jensen says:

    Gia, one of your Tweets confused me. You’re not operating under the assumption that I’m taking over your blog are you? If so, let me dispel the notion. My goal in the virtual world is to be immature, sarcastic and avoid adding anything that could be construed as “value”. That just wouldn’t work on Connected.

  16. Gia Lyons says:

    Troy, oh no. I would never think that. It was someone else…

  17. There are very efficient routines (well sometimes :-) ) that cleans out stuff of a former employee – removes access rights, closes down e-mail accounts, removes the person from the internal phone book/LDAP directory etc. That someone takes over ownership of good intellectual capital such as a good internal blog, cattail or media library collections is just common sense and probably something one should be able to put on the CV – my stuff was valuable enough to keep! (There may even be SOX or similar implications, since people may be making business decisions on such stuff on the intranet, and then it probably needs to have an owner – I’m not a legal nor SOX expert, so I’m not sure).

    I can also understand why someone would want to continue (and not just preserve) a blog that has a reputation and a brand – particularly something that was called something like “The social software blog”, “Lotus evangelizing” or something. In this case however, I believe “Connected” is so much part of your personal brand that it would be silly and a bit like an ordinary police continuing the “Do you feel lucky, punk?” blog after Dirty Harry left the force. (Yes, the analogy reveals age of commenter :-) ).

  18. Luis Benitez says:

    Gia,

    Dilbert seems to imply that the company owns the blog: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2007-04-28/

  19. Gia Lyons says:

    Dilbert is right. ;)

  20. Okay, when I met you at E2.0 after the shootout panel (wish there was more shooting, but hey), if I’d known you’d say things like “fart in my office chair,” I’d have given you even more cool points than I did upon original assessment.

    Super great blog post, and I’m very connected to this thought, based on a recent post where I talked about half-owned brands and how employees that are also brands are a new thing to think about in the workplace.

    And hey, swell blog design!

  21. Adam says:

    Gia, I’m just catching this. Can you shoot me a note with details? Something’s very askew here. The content from your blog already lives on BlogCentral, and stays there. Your external blog is YOURS and can/should/will stay that way unless YOU deem otherwise. This is an important distinction.

    If you could reach out to me I can make sure things like this don’t happen again.

    Plus… I wouldn’t want anything to color your post IBM experience!

    Cheers.

  22. @Adam I believe Gia is only talking about her IBM internal blog. And I hope and believe that anyone who expressed that they wanted to take over her IBM internal blog did so with the intention of preserving all the good stuff on it, and NOT to try and fill her shoes, or re-use her cool blog name or strong personal brand/reputation.

  23. Adam says:

    @mikael. That’s helpful, thanks.

    It’s actually kind of funny, because the internal blogs at IBM stay live even after someone leaves (though, obviously inactive). as @James Snell mentioned above, no one can really take over someone’s blog. So why would someone want to take it over? I can only think they must have thought all her great content she contributed over the years was going to get deleted automatically otherwise? Sounds like a misunderstanding of how these things work.

    As Ed Brill mentioned in the first post at the top here, it sounds like it was a case of an individual with possibly good intentions, though quite misguided. Particularly since the content Gia contributed within IBM’s firewall will remain there and could always be referenced/linked to.

    But the point here I see is this. If the blog is on a company-owned property (either within the firewall or outside, but on, for example, ibm.com) it seems the blog and content would stay with the company.

    But if an employee has a blog outside the firewall that they’ve personally created (no financial contribution of the company to create), it’s theirs. Maybe it is more complicated than that, but I don’t think it should be.

  24. Gia Lyons says:

    @Chris, baby, I’m colorful, if nothing else. :) I loved your post about half-owned brands, btw! I feel half-owned.

    Also, for the record, nobody actually DID take over my old IBM internal blog, and nobody will. Just the fact that the idea existed is what got me all worked up.

  25. Interesting question with the question, but it spawned another question when I came across a slightly different scenario w/ another customer. I’ve blogged about it on my site and looking for feedback. The question I posted was “Who owns a company blog created on a public blogging site?”

    http://tokenblog.wordpress.com/2008/07/18/who-owns-a-company-blog-created-on-a-public-blogging-site/

  26. Andrey says:

    Interesting post!