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One’s face to the ‘net…

September 9th, 2010

A personal blog, really any publication to the internet, sticks to you like tar on your shoe. In this reality there are both opportunities and perils.

In beginning work on this blog, I am forced to face some hard realities. If I’m effective at this, I will expose what I believe and how I think on a personal level in a very public way that may have consequences for my future in some contexts.

I had a ‘blog’ before they were called ‘blogs’. It had a series of essays some of which presaged, for example, the wisdom of a direct to customer retail strategy for Apple. Some of which predicted, for example, concepts of media accessibility and the challenges of copyright to innovation. (I wasn’t hip to patents then to the extent I am now.) Then, I basically went silent.

Eyes wide open decisions about what one posts on the internet are vital to having opportunities and to being able to hold your head high. Not everything I post here will be agreeable to all potential clients or employers and I must be aware of, and accept, the risks.

Over the last few months, I realized how much I was self-editing, even now, about how public I could be about my opinions regarding, for example, Patent Reform, Antennagate, the ACTA treaty, and the licensing encumbrances that could jeopardize public use video on the web. I have been guarded about what I see as anti-user behavior by some software and content companies. I have been reticent to express, in public contexts, how I feel about the way religion, patriotism or even party loyalty is being used to corrupt human rights and personal freedom in the current political climate. Then I realized something…

For twelve years while working at my former employer, I was extremely careful about what I said in any public forum. I always had in mind that my work there did include editorial responsibilities in both overt and indirect ways. I spoke at QuickTIme Live! several times, once even in a keynote. I was a conference speaker at Macworld Expo more times than I can remember, at NAB and a W3C Plenary session and other less publicly visible fora in all of these events, I was very, very careful. I used to say when asked certain questions after or during these presentations, sometimes presentations to, literally, more than a thousand people; “Well, I work for Big Bird so, I can’t really comment on that.” and I said it with a smile and my innate sort of ‘nod-and-wink’ irreverence but, always, always, always there was the weight of what I believed was a very serious responsibility not to do or say anything that would undermine the mission I deeply believed in. Always a restraint about the occasional difference between how I might respond as a person and a professional and how it was appropriate to respond as a representative of my employer.

When you have a job as a professional, especially one in a senior management position, you need to be ever-mindful of how your actions may reflect on your employer. It is, to me, a fiduciary responsibility and a professional one. We don’t all get to be as vocal as Larry Ellison and get away with it. Even Steve Jobs didn’t get away with it, at first.

Loyalty, integrity and a belief reflected outward in the ability of the people you work with is the only honorable stance for a manager. It’s the only way to succeed and it’s the only way to maintain the support of the people who report to you and who you have to work with every day. Ironically, I was hardly this politically correct in internal conversations. This too, I believe needs to be a core value in doing a job as a professional. Two conflicting obligations: Speak up inward and be measured outward.

Now though, I’m not employed by any one company. I am consulting and in a variety of disciplines from my professional history. Now, I am blessed with the opportunity to commit career suicide in a blog. Lucky me!

Now, I get to, perhaps have to. speak my mind publicly about what I believe in. Now, the mere fact I express any opinion or advocate political contribution or action isn’t a breach of an editorial firewall. What I say won’t get me fired, or, worse yet, it won’t make me feel I am disloyal to goals and ideals I committed to when I took a job. Now, I just have to be responsible to my own integrity.

I have a responsibility to be willing and able to speak my mind and, I hope, back up my assertions. I need to be able to hear criticism and disagreement and modify my position. I need to be a participant. And…

I need to be prepared to suffer the consequences arising from the inevitability that some potential clients or employers may not want to work with me because of my opinions.

My hope is that I will get thoughtful and even highly critical comments and that I’ll learn from them. My hope is that I can bring sufficient balance and maturity to this that it will attract as many as it might repel.

Here’s hoping my wishes come true. Once more into the breach my friends…..

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