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Sun begins blog program

In an effort to improve its communications with the outside world, reports, Sun Microsystems Inc. (the Java folks) has set up a blogging system that lets any employee create a blog on the site. Sun sees its Web site as a possible model for a new type of grassroots corporate communication, according to Tim Bray, one of the creators of XML who was hired by Sun earlier this year and has been driving its blogging effort. Attorneys have much to learn from Sun’s thinking.

At first comments from the public were not allowed but that policy was dropped following an April 7 meeting to examine ways in which Sun might improve its collaboration and communication with outside users and developers.

The report of how non-marketing employees led the charge is interesting and something marketing departments in some large firms could learn from:

Bray and others in the room were wrestling with how a large company like Sun could better communicate with developers and technical users who had little use for the information coming out of the company’s marketing department. “The language of marketing is the language of faceless corporations, and most people don’t like it,” Bray said. “I think the company got a little bit of a case of ‘big company’ disease. It’s hard for a big company to be good at communication.”

Soon after the April 7 meeting, Sun was on its way to becoming less of a big, faceless company. Sun executives drafted a new “Policy on Public Discourse” and Snow was enlisted to set up a server to host the site, which would be Sun’s unfiltered public face to the outside world.

“As of now, you are encouraged to tell the world about your work, without asking permission first,” states the policy, which is posted on Bray’s blog.

To date, approximately 40 bloggers have signed up for, which was unveiled in an internal Sun announcement on Thursday, Snow said.

It’s reported Sun’s marketing department is jumping on blogs as well:

The most popular contributor to date is Mary Smaragdis, a Sun marketing manager whose breathless enthusiasm for Java and the personalities at Sun is matched only by the frequency of her posts.

Smaragdis managed no less than 12 posts in one day from Sun’s SunNetwork conference in Shanghai this week, peppering them with candid photos of show attendees and comments like, “People were literally on the edge of their seats,” “Awesome keynotes,” and “John Gage is a true genius,” referring to Sun’s chief researcher.

She even has a story about being recognized at the show by a Macromedia Inc. executive. “Are you Mary — the one blogging?” he asked, according to her posting.

Lawyers should pay particular notice to Sun’s reported long term blogging goals:

By offering more public comment from those working in the trenches, Sun hopes to paint a clearer picture of its thinking and avoid the kind of strained relationship that has colored its dealings with open source developers over the years. Sun engineers will also be able to better promote the interesting work they are doing, Snow said. reports Sun is not alone in blogging:

While the extent of its blogging project may be novel, Sun isn’t the first company to try such an experiment. In January, Microsoft Corp. began publishing employee blogs on its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Web site.

Bray believes that is more than an experiment in developer relations. According to him, the kind of corporate blogging being done by Sun, Microsoft and others could ultimately have applications outside the world of technology. A company such as PepsiCo Inc., for example, could use the technology to better communicate with a specialized audience, he said.

“There’s a huge community of retailers, grocery merchants and so on who probably care intensely about the moves that Pepsi is making,” he said.

Law firms have a God awful public reputation – only the media is thought less of. Less than one in two people faced with a legal issue would even consider calling a lawyer. Lawyers should be out blogging about what they are working on, how the legal system works and how they are trying to improve their service. A recent ABA study tells us such public communication would improve our reputation.

Lawyers get excited about stuff just like other folks – we should be blogging about it. If you are a good law firm that gives a darn about its reputation what are you are waiting for?

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