Technorati gags Community Manager’s voice…

Over at Niall Kennedy’s blog: “Technorati would rather I did not express an opinion on issues such as corporate blogging policies that are affecting the world of weblogs. This post has been overwritten and my artwork posted to Flickr is now marked as private and available only to Flickr contacts marked as friends.”

Note: I’ll update this when we know if it’s a practical joke, an attempt to generate buzz, or yet more free speech being quashed by corporate overlords providing nothing more than at-will employment.

Update 635PM: For those who don’t read the comments to my posts, note that Niall dropped by (thanks Niall, sorry I’ll miss you and the rest of the crew at tonight’s Mobile Monday) and offered the following:

“No, this post was not a joke and it was a post meant to generate buzz about a topic. Technorati executives are concerned about how employee weblogs expressing opinions may be interpreted as an official Technorati position. All Technorati employees have been asked to review weblog posts with staff members before posting. I reinstated my original post this morning and I am ready to willing to hear the community’s response to my individual voice. I hope to continue to share my passion for the industry through my weblog without editorial oversight.”

This prompted a reply from Jason Kotke:

“For a company that relies on aggregating content by scraping full posts from almost 8 million blogs, vetting their employees’ personal writing seems like a curious (not to mention ironic and hypocritical) position for Technorati to take.”

I agree, Jason.

I’ll add some additional thoughts here:

  1. It’s not clear from Niall’s post if “…without editorial oversight” means that he’ll be a) adding a Technorati disclaimer to the footer of every post, or, b) if he’s decided to head for greener pastures;
  2. I’d like to know who’ll be providing “editorial oversight” for David Sifry’s posts (perhaps his Board of Directors?), and whether his blog will still be worth a read;
  3. Just how thrilled Andreas Stavropoulos of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Ryan McIntyre of Mobius Venture Capital must be to know that their $6.5MM is being spent reviewing employee blog posts…

Update 1024PM:

Niall’s posted a heartfelt update on the situation in a new post entitled, “Whose voice is it anyway?” It sounds like Technorati’s new ‘policy’ isn’t censorship, but rather a recommendation “that Technorati employees seek the opinion of a coworker if they are unsure of how a post might be interpreted by others.”

This is certainly more reasonable (and more aligned with what we might expect from Technorati), but it’s still not right.

Niall’s weblog is hosted at Niallkennedy.com, not niall.technorati.com. Whether or not he is a Technorati employee by day is irrelevant. Unless Technorati is paying him to be an employee 24 hours a day, he is first and foremost a private citizen. As such, Technorati (and any other corporation) must not sanction its employees for lawful, after hours views and/or actions.

Just as Technorati could not sanction Niall for race, gender, or sexuality, it likewise can’t sanction him for being a socialist, flag burning, porn watching, pro-choice vegan (not that Niall is or does any of those things).

Yes, markets are conversations. But the conversation being had here is between Niall and his audience. Until Niall declares his blog an “official voice of Technorati” — hosts it on a company provided server, and writes it with a company provided computer — the company’s stance is an insult to the intelligence of Niall’s readers, who do know the difference between a private citizen and an on-the-clock company spokesperson.

I’d like to hear what JD Lassica and Jeff Jarvis think about this (as it is unique from either the Google or Friendster blogger situations).

P.S. No one at Technorati should read anything into any of this; I’m a regular user of (and commentator on) the company’s offerings. Technorati just happens to be the company to stumble into this mess, which hopefully won’t result in a blogging equivalent of the nonsense “invention clauses” so common in tech industry employment “contracts”.

Update 1015AM 3/8/05:

CNET has a solid article this morning on the sad state of the rights of private citizen’s to blog vs. ‘safe’ employment. I recommend a read if this topic is important to you. I’ve emailed the authors to get more details about the ‘recently passed’ California law they reference… but no reply as of yet. If Larry Lessig (or anyone with a legit legal background) stumbles upon this post, I’d greatly appreciate a link to the full text of the CA law(s) referenced in the article.

Update 1224AM 3/9/05:

Technorati’s David Sifry speaks out on the issue. It’s late, and I have an early morning, so some very brief comments… I understand where David is coming from — it sounds like he likely got more than one phone call from upset third parties — and can sympathize with his position. In my mind, the “Technorati aspect” of this is closed.

However, I still feel unsettled about the whole work/life (or as others have put it, ‘freedom of expression’) issue(s) that this situation has brought to light. I hope that the community opts to continue to discuss and debate the issue — we’d all be better off with a shared solution, rather than “us” vs. “them” animosity.

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10 comments on “Technorati gags Community Manager’s voice…
  1. Hi Tony,
    No, this post was not a joke and it was a post meant to generate buzz about a topic. Technorati executives are concerned about how employee weblogs expressing opinions may be interpreted as an official Technorati position. All Technorati employees have been asked to review weblog posts with staff members before posting.
    I reinstated my original post this morning and I am ready to willing to hear the community’s response to my individual voice. I hope to continue to share my passion for the industry through my weblog without editorial oversight.

  2. Anonymous says:

    T–

    Consider that the directive is possibly coming from said investment, insofar as the issue relates to SEC regs governing IPOs…

    It still sucks, but the explanation may be that simple.

    It’s all about the money, man.

  3. Tony Gentile says:

    Anon -

    Well, you may, of course, be 100% correct (i.e., it’s all about the money).

    But… I definitely don’t follow w.r.t. an IPO; I can’t imagine that either Technorati or its investors think it’s in a position for that type of exit. (An acquisition target, perhaps…)

    Regardless, having every employee’s blog post double checked isn’t exactly a scalable policy.

    T –

  4. Cheyenne says:

    Hi Tony, I work at Technorati too and just for the record we were never told to have every post of ours reviewed. We were asked that if ever we were in question about anything we were blogging about that touched on company issues that we should ask someone else in the company for a second opinion. I wouldn’t work for a company that violated our free speech in fact the passion that Dave shows for helping bloggers use their freedom by developing more and more services to aid them is one of the main reasons I work there. I really hope that people take time to look at all the facts before making any judgements on this topic.

  5. Tony Gentile says:

    Hey Cheyenne, thanks for dropping by. I believe my last update this evening (1024PM) accurately reflects the policy as Niall has explained it in his new post (referenced in that update); that is, a recommendation for review vs. outright censorship.

    At this late hour though, the rest of my comments still make sense to me. Of course, since this is all being blogged real time, who knows what the story will be when I wake up tomorrow (you know: his truth, their truth and /the/ truth).

    But for tonight, this will be my last comment and/or post on the subject.

  6. If someone could email me a pointer to the said artwork or email me an image, then I’d much appreciate. Thanks. randy@kbcafe.com.

  7. Anonymous says:

    http://www.seanbonner.com/blog/archives/001503.php#001503

    This post talks about the other image Niall photoshopped where he applied a Technorati logo to a Nazi helmet.

  8. I am a first and foremost a proud Technorati employee. Secondarily, I am the founder of Blogrolling.com and am not green to the space by any stretch. Thirdly I have been building websites professionally for 11 years. I am an artist and free speech advocate and I also posted my response to the situation. Please take this into account when responding to the situation because I’m responding to the facts and not here-say.

  9. Tony Gentile says:

    Hey Jason, thanks for dropping by (and for your contributions to the web, especially Blogrolling.com!).

    I don’t want to read to far into your comments and re-open something that I’ve already clearly communicated I believe is closed… but I would like to point out that each and every update to my post was based on new information from Niall (or Dave), that it was made as timely as was practicle, and that my interpretation of that information was inline with what others were seeing.

    Scoble’s got some great takeaways from the whole affair, and I believe I largely agree with all of his points (and suspect you would as well):

    http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2005/03/dave_sifry_and_.html

    I’d welcome your additional comments, here, by email or call, if you feel that there are any facts that aren’t disclosed or accurately represented at this point.