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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

One Digit Short of a Googol: The Brief Blogging Life of Mark Jen

Just saw the news that ex-Microsoft employee Mark Jen, briefly famous for ninetyninezeros, his weblog at Google, has been fired - less than a month after joining Google. Now this is interesting for several reasons.

I've been following Jen's blog off and on since it started, and I have to say I'm not surprised. Anyone who thinks that having a personal weblog gives them license to be totally frank - even partially frank - when they work for a high profile company, is in for a "Jen" awakening.

Weblogging changes nothing. A corporate career can mean, of course, a lot of money - or at the least material comforts. But it's always come at a price and still does.

The rule of corporate life yesterday remains the rule now. If you can't say something that avoids putting your employer in a less than favorable light, say nothing. This is the same iron dictate senior execs follow (which is why so few of them have blogs - and when they do have them, they generally say nothing of substance).

Jen's firing does reveal something about Google, though, if it needed revealing yet again. For all its pretentions otherwise, Google is a company like any other. At best.

The real danger in blogging is that few companies have in place any policies about it. Bloggers often make the mistake of thinking that no rules means they can say whatever they like. But unwritten rules are even more constraining than written ones.

Take a lesson from Mark Jen. He is unemployed today so you don't have to be.

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