On our corporate blog I posted a somewhat irritated little screed, which was originally triggered by an e-mail message sent to me by a service provider who said that a pirated copy of our software, which was leaked by a member of the press, was using a test account for obtaining its location–and the test account was daily hitting its limit. That caused our pirated version of the software to stop updating its location–and the failure of the pirated copy to update its location was resulting in negative public reviews.
And PR rewrote the article.
Now I’m not irritated at the rewrite. The reality is that for a public facing corporate blog, the blog is owned by the corporation. If someone at PR decides they want to review all posts before they go out or if they decide to edit or rewrite all blog posts, that’s their prerogative: I’m not one of those fools who believes the First Amendment also applies to private citizens and corporations.
But I am irritated, from an intellectual standpoint, that my name is still associated with the post. I know, it’s counter-intuitive: most people would be glad to get credit on what is, in the end, a much better article than the one I originally posted. (It’s less obnoxious, for example.) But it’s the the guy who attended Caltech asserting himself: intellectual honesty demands that if someone rewrites my article, that person deserves the credit, not I.
Update: The request was acknowledged, and the post is now no longer in my name.
It could be that I will never be a successful CEO of my own corporation of a thousand person corporation: I don’t like giving credit where it is not deserved and I don’t like taking credit where it is not due. And from what I’ve seen over the past few years, corporation building seems to involve a lot of people taking credit where it is not due, and giving credit where it is not deserved. (I’m partially irritated because at one point in one conversation I had someone come up to me while I was standing in front of an investor ask me if we had a “great client development team,” and I replied “yes, we do.” Um, what team? Me, myself and I? But I had to play the game. Feh.)
The sad thing is I’m not even irritated that this is the world works. I may as well also be irritated by the fact that gravity makes me heavy, hot things burn, and occasionally into everyone’s life a little rain must fall.
The reason is simple, by the way: investors, customers, and the general public like to believe in a company, a product, an image. Our preconceived notions often make it difficult for us to believe that one person is responsible for a thing, or they want a single individual to root for. To violate this image–to suggest, for example, that Steve Jobs is not the center of the Apple Universe, or that some anonymous programmer drove the complete rewrite of iMovie’s new user interface–is to run against this public perception. And it causes people to lose confidence in what it is you’re trying to sell, when you show them what’s behind the curtain and it’s not what they think it should be.
The play’s the thing–even if the “play” is serving a customer at a restaurant, or providing them QA feedback, or downloading a cool free app from the Android Marketplace or the Apple iTunes App Store.
On a related note, it’s why I believe when there is a public facing corporate blog, individual bloggers should also have their own blog, separate from the PR feed. That way, individual posts from individual bloggers can be separated out from the main PR message.
We all have our own voices. It’s intellectually dishonest to run all of our voices through the PR speak filter–though I’m fine with PR asking for a post to be taken down because it violates a contractual requirement or doesn’t represent the public voice the company wants to project. I would never write the following sentence in a million years: “Although this was not an official release, we were thrilled to hear the overwhelmingly positive response to the application, and to see people really talking it up around the various social networks.” That’s because I don’t follow social networks. I’m a coder, I have better things to do than waste my time on Facebook. Marketing follows uptake; that’s their job. Mine is to produce great code within the platform, time, corporate and political constraints presented me.