John Battelle asked some good questions about the Mark Jen controversy.

Believe it or not, I met Mark tonight (err, "last night" to most of you at this point) and had a chance to chat with him about his brief time at Google and various other things. I'm not going to reveal everything we discussed, but I would like to clarify a few things and respond to John's request for commments.

First off, nothing Mark said surprised me. Yes, he was fired from Google. It was directly related to his blog. He was employed there for just a couple of weeks.

Mark's a good guy. He doesn't believe he was doing anything wrong (neither do I based on what he told me). In fact, he wasn't even aware of the blogosphere's Google obsession--or at least the search bloggers who watch every little thing Google does--until this happened. Let's just say that he was surprised by his sudden fame.

John (linking directly to my RSS feed for some odd reason) asked what Scoble and I have to say about this. So here's my take.

At Yahoo

Yahoo has been very good at dealing with blogging. A lot of people at Yahoo read some of what I write here. Some of them are even on our executive team. If I write something about Dan (our COO), there's a really good chance he'll hear about it. He may even read it himself. The same probably goes for Jerry. In fact, he and I met late last year to discuss employee blogging. I didn't have to sit in a room very long with him to realize that he gets it.

Jeff is a big supporter of the Yahoo Search blog, our first "corporate" blog (I dislike that term). He reads blogs every day and wishes we posted every day. He's also proven to be a very good barometer for what's blogworthy and isn't. How many SVPs at other companies can you say that about?

I could go on with more exmaples, but that makes my point quite well.

Has it all been fun and games? No.

I've been at this for a few years now, so there were bound to be problems. To date, I've removed one posting and modified one or two others. Each time, someone paid me a visit to discuss the problem. We went into a conference room and talked it out. All along it very clear to me that we were trying to figure out what's reasonable. The person was quite up-front about the fact that Yahoo doesn't want to be getting in the way of my rights to write what I want to write. Each of us walked away having learned something. We were getting closer to shared understanding of where "the line" is.

Oh, and I have managed to piss off, anger, and otherwise frighten more than my fair share of PR folks at Yahoo, including Chris. But that's hardly a surprise. Many PR professionals initially have strong reactions. Some continue to do so. But on the flip side, ask the recuiting folks if writing my blog has helped or hurt our ability to hire. I think you'll like the anwer you'd hear.

[Clarification: That didn't come out the way it should have. I left out an important bridge between this that paragraph and the next one. Chris and others in PR are really supportive of blogging (just like the others I called out). She and the PR team are writing the policy I mention below and doing it with all the right intentions. After a few folks asked, I realized that it sounds like was painting her as a roadblock or someone who doesn't get it. Sometimes the things in my head don't quite make it out the same way here.]

Aside for the normal agreements that one signs as a Yahoo employee, we have no additional policies or rules about blogging. But we're working on something: a set of guidelines that are very much in line with those used by Sun Microstems. The idea is to let all employess know that it's okay to blog about life at Yahoo, as long as you're smart about it.

At Google

Last Thursday I lad lunch at Google for my second time (the first was back in October). Yes, the food is good. And free.

Both times I've joked that I didn't expect them to let me in the door after I typed my name into the badge printing computer in the lobby of building 41. In reality, it's just that: a joke. We're all allowed to talk to hang out and talk to each other. I have several friends who are happily employed there and even tried to track one or two other people I'd been hoping to meet.

When I got back to Yahoo, a couple friends asked me what we talked about at lunch. I think I said something like "just about everything that wasn't realated to work."

Google has their reasons for being paranoid about public communication and remaining as secretive as they can about nearly everything they do. That's just the way it is, and I won't speculate on their reasons. But I do think they're missing a real opportunity to get involved in a lot of interesting discussions. For now, though, they're apparently content to watch and listen.

The only advice I have for Google is this: please make sure it's abundantly clear what the rules are. You're getting to be a big company. Don't rely on unwritten rules or company tradition/culture to do the job.

My advice to Google employess who really want to be more open than they can be: send me your resume.

Just kidding!

Well, I'm only half kidding. And it's late, so I should sleep.

Update: Scoble's response.

Posted by jzawodn at February 09, 2005 02:19 AM

Reader Comments
# Anonymous coward said:

"In fact, he wasn't even aware of the blogosphere's Google obsession--or at least the search bloggers who watch every little thing Google does--until this happened. Let's just say that he was surprised by his sudden fame."

I think that says a lot about Microsoft culture , than it does about Mark himself. And that's quite scarey if you are an investor in that company , when you think about it.

Mark was an ex-Microsoft employee.

on February 9, 2005 03:19 AM
# curious said:

so here's a question about yahoo's blogging policy.

will they allow you to post an entry saying "we
have knockout financials! wait till you see this!"
around a week before the earnings report is
released to the world?

if the stock price shot up after that "inside leak"
and the earnings weren't actually that great, both
you and yahoo could be in hot water with sec, no?

martha stewart is much richer and more powerful
than most people, and yet she is in jail.

this has nothing to do with blogging about your
life in a corporation. it's about violating
insider trading laws. neither you nor scoble
cross that line in your high-profile blogs. but
it looks like mr jen did ...

on February 9, 2005 03:59 AM
# Dirson said:

What did he to show Google AdWords with the word 'google'?

on February 9, 2005 04:58 AM
# /pd said:

This does not cover the fact, that Google actually removed the indexing and all reference to 99zero site /Mark Jen's site. That was a manual effort on damage control. This voilates the blogpshere....SEcondly it was in cache of bloglines -- which JohnB cleary digs out with his first posting on the fact did Google , coverup and remove content from blogsohere !!

It a fact of life that Mark Screwed up. He got fired. Deal with it and get on. But Google displayed a radical behavior in the art of coverup.. now that calls for what more are they doing under the covers eh ??

on February 9, 2005 05:55 AM
# Nicole Simon said:

Besides the fact, that Google took action to remove the content I think there is more behind it. How can one - as far as I know Mark Jen was product manager for Adsense? - have no clue about the role of blogs and especially the connection with Google?

The lesson learnt from it for Google defenetly is to make a clear statement to employees on when to blog about what in the sense you described (be smart about it) and to evaluate more the applicants understanding of the business at hand (in this case Google and it's connections to the Net).

I for myself am not in any role to be in an important company (speaking in net terms), but yet I don't even blog about things at work, because they are always out of context.

But the latest episode with Mark Jen motivates me more to finally start an anonymous German blog for stories out of our daily jobs - so we can share those without having to fear backlash.

on February 9, 2005 06:47 AM
# Rob... said:

If Google is going to manually manipulate search results for their own ends, maybe it's time for me to consider using a new search engine.

on February 9, 2005 07:02 AM
# Jeff Boulter said:

This is probably the best and most fair essay I've seen on corporate blogging to date. I loved every word, especially the last two sentences. :-)

on February 9, 2005 07:14 AM
# j said:

Why are people saying Google removed Mark Jen's site from its index? I've seen sites saying "Yahoo had it, but Google didn't... suspicious!". I hardly think that's conclusive. In fact, I really believe they didn't.

on February 9, 2005 07:26 AM
# z said:

You are slick, silly, and your hatred for google is apparent.

on February 9, 2005 07:28 AM
# John Dowdell said:

" I'm not going to reveal everything we discussed..."

Was there any word on why he isn't speaking for himself in a weblog, instead of putting a competitor's employee in the slightly odd position of publishing his words...?

"The only advice I have for Google is this: please make sure it's abundantly clear what the rules are. You're getting to be a big company. Don't rely on unwritten rules or company tradition/culture to do the job."

I understand the desire, but I'm not sure any of us are yet familiar enough with this situation to codify universal rules for all staffers. We're still learning, oui...?

John Dowdell
Macromedia Support

on February 9, 2005 07:29 AM
# Jerry Yang said:

Hi jeremy,
You're fired. Just kidding!

Well, I'm only half kidding.

on February 9, 2005 07:32 AM
# Cap'n Ken said:

I dropped a similar observation at Battelle, but isn't it just plain stupid for somebody to go in to a new job - especially at probably the highest-profile company in the world right now - and start blogging about life then on DAY 1?

Did he want to work for Google or write about Google? Put yourself in management's place: you've got a guy who's been on the job a week that has already posted things you consider inappropriate. Is it worth giving him a break in the hopes that he'll learn not to post such things, or is it just better to cut losses and get rid of a guy who made really stupid decisions right off the bat?

on February 9, 2005 07:33 AM
# Nancy McGough said:

My guess is that he got fired because he talked about his compensation package, namely the fact that he got a signing bonus and relocation expenses (and probably stock or stock options because he was bemoaning the high stock price). And probably his contract said something like "don't talk about your compensation package." It is very disconcerting to other employees to hear about the package another employee in a similar position got. For example, I bet there was someone in a similar position who did not get a "signing bonus" and had no clue that there even was such a thing. I know that when I worked at Microsoft I used to cringe whenever I heard someone talk about his/her compensation package.

on February 9, 2005 07:37 AM
# Dare Obasanjo said:

>I think that says a lot about Microsoft culture , than it does about Mark himself. And that's quite scarey if you are an investor in that company

That seems like upside down thinking. A person's behavior doesn't tell you about him but instead about the company he works for?

I work at Microsoft and know that the blogosphere is obsessed with Google as evidenced by the fact that the Google Weblog is #7 on the Bloglines Top 100 list at Where does that put your inestment theory now?

on February 9, 2005 07:37 AM
# Dan said:

I think Google was right to fire him. When you're part of a company, you represent the company. I know this isn't going to be a popular view, but what would you do in Google's place? I read his blog in full and it looks to me like he was writing things that could potentially hurt Google -- bad. How many potential employees would it scare off?

The fact is, no place is perfect. As humans, we complain about whatever situation we're in.

on February 9, 2005 07:42 AM
# Eric Bergen said:

The last entry I can see is from January 27. Do you know if he is going to post a final entry?

on February 9, 2005 07:43 AM
# TDavid said:

Another Blogger Fired for (stupidly) Blogging About His Job story. This one has most, if not all, the elements of the other stories. Nothing evil here, IMO.

Mark might be the nicest guy on the planet and have had pure intentions, but I'm surprised that he even got hired by Google if he wasn't aware of the blogosphere obsession with Google. I mean, don't they only hire the brightest of the brightest? I mean -- doh! -- Google owns!

on February 9, 2005 08:06 AM
# Mark J said:

>>My advice to Google employess who really want to be more open than they can be: send me your resume.

Do you even know how to spell? (speeelll).

Dont you try for some brownie points, you POS.

on February 9, 2005 08:21 AM
# Eric Bergen said:

As of 2/9/05 10:32AM CST Mark's site is still in google's index.

on February 9, 2005 08:30 AM
# Anonymous said:

note that the following, like so much that has come before it in this thread, is pure speculation.

Let's think about this for a moment: The day Mark started at Google he created a weblog with the express purpose of talking about his experiences as a new Google employee. He left a good job at Microsoft to relocate and take a job at Google knowing full well in advance what the stock price, options package and salary would be, then goes on to criticize all of the above upon his arrival.

The first question that springs to my mind is "why did he leave Microsoft?" The second is, "what happened that we-the-blogosphere don't know about?" Mark's blog went down for several days, and when it came back it was with minor redactions and a comment from Mark that Google's management was being "pretty cool about this." Several days later Mark left the company.

Who here thinks the folks at Google spent a few days deciding whether to fire Mark, and who thinks perhaps they investigated what information Mark might have been sharing with his personal friends, many of whom work for Microsoft?

Mark already showed poor judgement with his blogging (there's a difference between having a blog that doesn't exclude your work life and having a blog specifically mandated to detail your workplace). The outsider has to wonder: if Mark is so free on his blog, what would he say to his Microsoft friends when they ask about what cool stuff Google's working on?

Well, you and I have to wonder, but if Mark was responding to those emails from his work address you can bet Google doesn't have to wonder.

Two understated truisms in cases like these are that people who have loose lips on their blogs often have looser lips when talking to their trusted friends, and that when someone is fired and can point to their weblog as the reason will often do so to throw the blame somewhere other than themselves.

A person might find it harder to find his next job after being fired for blogging, but how much harder woould it be to get hired if you were fired for revealing information to friends who happened to work for a rival company?

on February 9, 2005 08:58 AM
# Jarrod said:

Maybe these companies should add something to do with blogging into their NDA when you get hired. That would clear up any confusion about the subject...

People really love to hear about what it's like to work at google, yahoo!, microsoft and the other big technology companies, so their blogs are going to be popular. The companies need to realize that their employees will have blogs and will be writing about their experiences, then they need to manage it... and NDA would be perfect.

on February 9, 2005 09:07 AM
# Aaron Brethorst said:

> The companies need to realize that their employees will have blogs.

They do, and we do have blogs. is exactly that for Microsoft.

on February 9, 2005 09:26 AM
# Natali said:

Whatever happened to "don't be evil"? All Mark Jen did for me (someone who isn't really involved in tech employment) was expose Google to be an average company with both positives and negatives. Since when was telling the truth grounds for being fired? It wasn't like he was abusing or mocking his workplace.

on February 9, 2005 09:53 AM
# Steven said:

Google more evil than satan.

on February 9, 2005 10:13 AM
# BZB said:

He was fired for being an idiot. Seriously. His title there was "product manager" and his repeated lack of judgement demonstrated that he was not competent for that position.

on February 9, 2005 10:56 AM
# BZB said:

By the way, has Yahoo offered him a job yet? I somehow doubt that they will (though I'm willing to be proven wrong). Please update us on his plans for the future.

on February 9, 2005 11:01 AM
# I, Brian said:

The bottom line is that most of us outside the incident have insufficient information to draw any firm conclusions on. Speculation is fun but meaningless.

Overall, though, it is potentially damaging to Google if they are seen to have acted heavy-handed.

on February 9, 2005 11:17 AM
# Craig said:

I have to agree with one commentor on the fact that none of us really have complete information with which to draw any real good and/or accurate conclusions.

I do believe that Mark should have been more careful about certain things he voiced in regards to Google. Perhaps not so much that he shouldn't have said anything, but that his manner of presentation most certainly could have been different.

If anyone ever expected Google's work environment to be A+++ and 1000% better than any other company, I'd say they should go have their head examined.

As Mark points out at his blog, Google has all of these on-site services to "keep you at work". What's wrong with that? That's very smart. And heck, if you don't want to work so long, then just go home, but don't sit there and complain about it. Personally, I love programming, and if a place like Google offered on-campus dorms, I might take them up on it!

In any event, it's kind of stupid and plain naive to begin a brand new job and then start complaining about it. Mark tried to do a good job at stating both positives and negatives, but he just wasn't that smart about it. I agree with another commentor that discussion of his compensation package is a big no-no. Although, I don't see the problem with talking about relocation. Most companies offer relocation to either everyone or no one, or at least to prospective employees within certain job areas of the company. In any event, it's probably company specific.

I agree, companies, realizing how popular blogging is, ought to have some clear policies on what is appropriate and what is not. And, if there is a problem with a blog, that it be discussed and addressed appropriately. There are inevitable things that ultimately will lead to termination, but hopefully with clear guidelines set forth by companies, these kinds of situations can be avoided.

on February 9, 2005 11:41 AM
# Jerry said:

"Google's culture is strong and inclusive, and we have an unusually open organization, where communication is actively encouraged among all employees and business information is broadly disseminated."

on February 9, 2005 12:10 PM
# Casey Marshall said:

I agree, I can't draw any solid conclusions about the firing. What exactly did this guy post that was so bad? Unless I know that, I can't tell if Google might be evil, or if this guy was just stupid.

What gets me is how could you get hired at Google and not know about Google's importance in the (hate this word, but here goes) blog-o-sphere? Did this guy even talk to anyone at google before starting the blog? If I was going to start a work blog like that, I'd at least get some written approval, even informal, to use as some kind of backup in the event someone got pissed about it later on. So I am leaning more toward the "stupid blogger" theory, but I'd like to know more.

on February 9, 2005 12:13 PM
# Nicole Simon said:

"among all employees" - the world is not among all employees.

Plus - again - someone who has no clue about blogs might not be the best PM for a program like Adsense ...

on February 9, 2005 12:21 PM
# Justin said:

Maybe the lesson for Google is "dont hire Microsoft employees"?

I can't help wondering that maybe he wasn't fired for the blog - maybe that's just a smokescreen for what really went on.

MSN Search has just been relaunched - are the two connected. I dont know, and I dont have proof - but there's something v.fishy about all this..

on February 9, 2005 12:58 PM
# Scott said:

I gotta agree with "curious" above. If I were a betting man, I'd bet he was fired primarily for talking about the financial update he got at the internal sales meeting. That's a big time "no-no." I guarantee you there are plenty of money managers who got the message loud and clear -- and who made a ton off of his tip. A message that was spot on, I might add.

on February 9, 2005 01:36 PM
# Chris said:

He's a product manager... supposedly able to represent his company to outside customers. Yet, the words on his blog are "50th percentile salaries". Right there, he gave Google's competitors quite a bit of information about how to compete for employees. That's just plain dumb.

on February 9, 2005 01:38 PM
# said:

Will Yahoo hire him and fire him in a month now? :p I jest.

IMHO: He made several mistakes, some small, and some big. He deserved what he got, maybe less than that.
I don't have to mention the mistakes he made, since everyone can read into it from different angles.

I hope he learned from these mistakes and maybe he will not make them again.

on February 9, 2005 01:50 PM
# n3td3v said:

On or around February 9, 2005 07:32 AM Jerry Yang wrote this: #
Hi jeremy,
You're fired. Just kidding!

Well, I'm only half kidding.

I'm still laughing, the best comment i've seen on this blog to date. :))

Thanks, n3td3v

on February 9, 2005 02:51 PM
# Dan said:

What about some conspiracy theories for entertainment purposes? Like Mark returning to Microsoft after a successful mission behind enemy lines?

Just kidding!

Well, ...

on February 9, 2005 03:56 PM
# nil said:

Jeremy your a wanker! Funny how much a blog can say about a person....

on February 9, 2005 05:11 PM
# Paul Fehrnstrom said:

I would have fired him too but not for the reasons people have been inferring. I've read Mark's posts a few times and yes it's a blog but it's also very journalistic.. almost like he was recording events and commenting on them like a reporter. Start blogging after you've acclimated a little to the new environment and gained some perspective. I mean, people wouldn't be reading it if he was working for Caymus Software (just made them up). The main subject matter was -- GOOGLE. I don't think the fact he worked at Microserf had anything to do with his being let go. Anyway, my 2pence.

on February 9, 2005 11:29 PM
# YahooDeveloperEmployeeJerk said:

to quote Michael Corleone: "never let them know what you're thinking". the easiest policy for employees is don't blog, just like the easiest way to keep a secret is to not tell anyone.

on February 10, 2005 10:18 AM
# Jaemo said:

"Never have so many commented so much over such a completely miniscule issue."

This post and the deluge of comments that have followed have clearly illustrated to me why they call the internet (and blogs in particular) a medium of communication: they are neither rare nor well done.

On a side note, one wonders if Daytime Soap Operas have experienced a decline in ratings since the mass-adoption of blogs as a method by which "the dirt" on people can be acquired.

on February 10, 2005 11:04 AM
# n3td3v said:

In a nut shell: Delete your blog

on February 10, 2005 03:37 PM
# Becky webster said:

good chat lines that kids have that are safe

on April 8, 2005 04:50 AM
# emmanuel said:


on May 30, 2005 03:24 AM
# Adi said:

My advice to Google employess who really want to be more open than they can be: send me your resume.

nice ending note. :-)

on August 13, 2008 01:58 AM
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