I’ve been following a small dialog between Jon Arnold and Garrett Smith on blogger ethics, arising from a Globe story about how an individual going by the pseudonym Boy Genius has been gleefully revealing secrets about RIM’s upcoming Blackberry Pearl on enGadget.
I guarantee that RIM isn’t happy.Â A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to see one of the Pearl prototypes, up close, hold it in my hand, play with it and so on, and security was tight.Â Rumour had it that RIM employees had been instructed not to use the devices outside buildings in case an enterprising photographer from the Kitchener-Waterloo Record happened to be stationed nearby with a long lens.
And, equally, I am sure that Boy Genius, whoever he is, is in violation of an NDA.Â Â NDAs, however,Â aren’t worthÂ much and most people signing them know that.Â Maxim 1: an NDA is only as good as the relationship you have with the signer.Â If you trust the person with your confidential information, then an NDA will hold.Â If you don’t… well, sit down with a lawyer and try to figure out what the damage you suffered due to to violation was, and then figure out whether you want to go to the expense of prosecuting.
Is this really an issue of ethics?Â Some blogs, including enGadget,Â have an investigative journalism focus.Â A while back, for instance, Andy Abramson obtained a copy of a lawsuit filed against Skype.Â He broke the news.Â Should he have done that? Sure.Â That’s why peopleÂ read him.Â Now, Andy’s case was a little different because the information was public, having been filed at a courthouse, but nobody had broken the story yet.Â Â To me, enGadget is doing what readers of enGadget expect — finding the news about the latest hot gadgets, and reporting it.
Having lived through manyÂ leaks during my time at Microsoft, my opinion is that they’re rarely harmful, most certainly never fatal.Â If thatÂ leak is widely reported, it shows real interest in your product.Â Â Many times a leak can actuallyÂ increase interest in the product, creating pent-up demand prior to launch.Â Both are good things.Â
Leaks are a pain, especially to those orderlyÂ marketingÂ types who nowÂ to have to revise their plans.Â By now, they’ve had three weeks of running around with their hair on fire tryingÂ to figure outÂ how to shut this guy up.Â I say, suck it upÂ guys — that’s what management pays you for!Â Your challenge now is to find ways to convert those “Boy Genius” leaks into value.Â That’s what I would do.Â
The lesson for all marketers is simple.Â Maxim 2:Â Leaks happen.Â Plan accordingly.