An engineer at Google recently claimed that one of the AI chatbots might have become sentient. Great headlines, and whether true or not, this might bring some notoriety to the engineer.. It certainly did, and it also resulted in the engineer being suspended from his job. It’s entirely possible this person might be fired. Perhaps I’m cynical, but I think the more talented he is, the more likely he keeps his job. Less talented, likely fired. This might not be fair, but I am a realist. The more value someone brings, the more tolerance for missteps.
I give a talk on branding, and one of the things I do before giving you practical tips is to remind you to be cautious. A brand can be a very positive asset, but it can be a detriment as well. One of my stories is about Mark Jen, who Google fired after he blogged a few things about his employment. He was highly recruited and worked at Google for only a few days.
At one point I worked in a public company, in a large Operations group of about 20 people. We were listening to the earnings call one quarter when Security staff walked up and escorted a person out of the building that was sitting 2 or 3 cubicles away from me. They security people then returned to box up the employee’s belongings once he was gone. Apparently our boss told us this person had posted some of our earnings results online while the call was going on. They were posted literally minutes (20 or 30) before the numbers were announced, however, that’s illegal and a violation of securities rules.
Most of us know not to post passwords, IP addresses, or other sensitive infrastructure data on the Internet. Most of us should know not to post data, especially on a site like SQL Server Central. If we are looking for help with an issue, we need to mock up a situation. We might not be able to post code, and we might not be able to write about the specifics of our job in our blog. That might vary by company, and we need to understand what the rules are.
I’ve never had an issue with this in over 25 years of blogging and asking/answering questions on forums., but I’ve followed one rule. It’s the same rule I heard someone say was their internal guidance for blogging.
Don’t post anything that might cause an issue. Whether you are in a forum or on your blog. Even inside your company, some information might be sensitive and compartmentalized. If you have a doubt, ask someone. It’s that simple. Just ask someone who can give you a second opinion.
I do this regularly with SQL Server information and Microsoft. There are times that I am unsure of something is under an NDA, so I ask. This includes words, pictures, and code. I do the same thing at Redgate, as sometimes things on our internal network might not be publicly released yet, so I just ask. On my personal accounts, I might ask my wife if I can post something before I do it. I’ve learned it’s better to ask permission in these cases.
I haven’t always done that in my job. Sometimes rebooting a system or making a minor change without following every rule, but those have been cases where I had a very strong understanding of the situation and the implications of my actions. It’s not something I do lightly, and it’s rare, but there are times to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
However when dealing with public disclosure of anything, I think you are smarter to ask permission first.