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Adam Orth leaving Microsoft proves personal Twitter accounts are dead (penny-arcade.com)
86 points by unfasten on Apr 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments



I'm missing why this is news to anyone. Almost any large company will have language like this in their ethics guidelines. Take this random company, for example [1]:

> Never give the impression you are speaking on behalf of Biogen Idec in any personal communication, including blogs, social networking sites, chat rooms or bulletin boards.

Others are similar [2][3][4] (search for "behalf of" in the pdfs). This google search will show you dozens of similar documents [5]

This is completely normal. What Orth did was something that no employee should ever do, and particularly not someone in his fairly high position.

[1]: http://www.biogenidec.com/Files/Filer/USA/pdfs/Request-Web-C...

[2]: http://www.demasterblenders1753.com/Global/Attachments_Gover...

[3]: http://www.babcock.com/about/ethics/pdf/codeofconduct.pdf

[4]: http://www.k2m.com/en_us/conduct

[5]: https://www.google.com/search?q=Unless+authorized%2C+do+not+...


It's not news to anyone except the writer on a site looking for link bait (and it worked).

Didn't @dooce make this situation highly public? Twitter is no different then a blog...

Orth was a moron and spoke for his employer - clearly he wasn't sanctioned to do so. There is no controversy, no outrage to be had.


> It's not news to anyone except the writer on a site looking for link bait (and it worked).

Sounds like most of what currently passes for news on CNN and FOX.


It would be hugely ironic if those ethics guidelines were private/confidential and you got into trouble for posting them on a public forum.


Ha! I thought about it, and hoped that the fact that it's publicly available on the internet and indexed by Google would clear me of the problem; I'm not posting it, I'm just linking to it. Still, who knows...

EDIT: You made me paranoid enough to edit it out and replace it with one of the dozens of other identical examples on the internet. You have my thanks.


I know my employment agree is to be kept private according to the document.


I'd say more "consistent" than "ironic".


It's kind of surprising given how much Microsoft seems to otherwise encourage their employees to post work stuff on the Internet.


The HR trainings all employees are mandated to complete each year will strongly contradict this,

> Microsoft seems to otherwise encourage their employees to post work stuff on the Internet


How is taunting customers "work stuff"? They're encouraged to be evangelists, not jerks.


Not when it comes to rumors about unannounced products.


The point this article seems to be missing is, it was his personal opinion about something he was also involved in professionally. He didn't say something unpopular about fly fishing, or jenga, he was stating his opinion about products and services that the public assumes he has a hand in designing. Not only that, but he was fairly abrasive in the way he chose to respond to backlash. Telling people to 'deal with it' just isn't a smart way to go about it when you are (rightly or wrongly) seen as speaking for a company.


Agreed. To me this is a story of lack of professional common sense. When this guy spoke, he spoke as someone with (implied) inside knowledge of both his employer and his industry.

He should have either stressed he did not have inside knowledge and this was his personal opinion, or he should have said nothing. The problem with the first option is that he did have inside knowledge.

Put another way, if he had said something that had affected stock price, he would probably face criminal charges.

That's reason enough to shut the heck up, bite his lip, and let the internet be wrong. All of us with inside knowledge about our employers (specially if our employer is a public company) do that routinely.


> He should have either stressed he did not have inside knowledge and this was his personal opinion, or he should have said nothing. The problem with the first option is that he did have inside knowledge.

All in under 140 characters?


> > He should have either stressed he did not have inside knowledge and this was his personal opinion, or he should have said nothing. The problem with the first option is that he did have inside knowledge.

> All in under 140 characters?

Well, the second options works well in under 140 characters (since it takes exactly 0 characters), and the first option (as noted in the grandparent post) has problems unrelated to character limits, so, yes, "all in under 140 characters."


Saying nothing is really easy with 140 characters. Anybody should be able to manage that. ;)


Sure, he could have easily inserted "I am not speaking for Microsoft".

Just one tweet saying that before the stream of stupidity would have made things a lot better, though he probably shouldn't have commented on the situation at all on an account identified as belonging to a Microsoft employee and he especially shouldn't have been such a huge jerk in his responses (eg. his why would I live there? comment, etc).

In the grand scheme of things, I think he's probably getting dumped on a bit too much and is taking some flack for becoming the public face for a poor decision (always-on console) that I believe Microsoft as a company fully intended to deliver on(though they may attempt to change course on this if possible given the backlash). But he really did show some poor judgement throughout the whole thing.


They used to say: "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Equally important: "if you can't say something the right way within the constraints of twitter, then don't say anything at all."


I hope that Reg FD will be fixed to consider Twitter as "fair disclosure".


It's not even the first time that somebody has gotten themselves into high-profile trouble for insulting a place where a customer lives on Twitter, either.

>Much has been made of Ketchum vp James Andrews, who became an international embarrassment to Ketchum when he used his Twitter account to insult Memphis, the hometown of client Fedex, the morning before he was to meet with them there. The tweet was copied to Fedex's marketing management, and a predictable round of corporate apologizing followed.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-42740256/worst-twitte...


Adam M. Smith was fired http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/08/02/totally-heterosex... for expression that wasn't work related.


Yea, but that wasn't just expressing an opinion, that was harassing someone. It's not like he just posted his opinion about Chick-fil-a on his facebook or twitter.


Even more importantly, he probably violated his NDA by indirectly revealing facts about the next generation xbox (which has not been announced officially in any manner) which are still supposed to be secret. Being an asshat certainly didn't help his case, I'd imagine.


"Personal Twitter accounts are dead" is a bit over-the-top.

* He didn't make inflammatory comments that were un-related to work. He was directly commenting on a rumoured feature of an upcoming product that he is over seeing.

* He made no attempt to distinguish this as a personal Twitter account. On the contrary, he 'prominently' displayed his employer and position.

* There's no reason that he couldn't have had a personal Twitter account without identifying information (i.e. pseudo-anonymous).


You seems surprised that the title was link bait, I assure you it was quite intentional.


He's an adult, and an experienced professional, and had been working in the job for a while.

Compare his situation with that of Paris Brown. She's 17, employed as a Youth Consultant. Tweets she had written before she got that job, when she was just 14 (maybe 15) were found, and thus there was a pile on calling for her to lose her job.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-22070354)

Some people supported her. Others didn't.

She left her job.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22085693)

Her tweets were really offensive; but kids are stupid and it's a shame we can't let children make mistakes (and then learn from them).

I guess people are going to be more careful with their interview process from now on.

EDIT: in general I tend to see anything that someone writes as their personal opinion, separate from their employer's position, unless it's a statement from the company on headed paper (or an official account); or unless the person has said "this is what the company says". It's weird to me to link someone's views to their company.


> in general I tend to see anything that someone writes as their personal opinion, separate from their employer's position, unless it's a statement from the company on headed paper (or an official account)

This is actually important in this case. (BTW I do not work for Apple, never have).

Lets say Apple has a new Mac Pro coming out. I tweet the following

Mhurron: The new Mac Pro performs like shit.

No one thinks anything of it really. However if the following happens:

Mhurron(Product Development Apple): The new Mac Pro performs like shit.

Apple has a problem (which is quickly going to become mine) and what I just said looks like more then just some crazy guys ramblings. This is what happened here. This guy clearly listed his position at Microsoft then proceeded to comment and argue with people over a product he had direct knowledge of. That looks like more then just arguing about personal preference.

I too hate the idea that someone could take my opinions as official position of the company I work for, but at the same time I don't go out of my way to brand myself as working for that company either.


When I joined Microsoft in 2003[1], I was told very clearly to never write anything I wouldn't want to see published on the front page of the New York Times.

I feel bad for Adam that he was canned, but he should not have been making news, especially in an inflammatory fashion, about an unannounced Microsoft product.

[1] I should also mention that I left in 2007


> I was told very clearly to never write anything I wouldn't want to see published on the front page of the New York Times.

This is what I recommend to everyone. We can't trust Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. to keep our secrets for us. I mark everything "public", as a reminder to myself to carefully consider what I write there. I have anonymous ids to say things I can't be held legally accountable for having said.


It's not limited to online services. It's "Don't write anything you don't want to see on the front page of the NYT", full stop. Your internal emails and documents can be subpoenaed or hacked or leaked.

Also, your anonymous ID does not absolve you of legal responsibility, it just makes it a little more difficult to track you down.


I don't rob banks, run a slave trade business, etc. I'm fairly confident I'm not an interesting person, as far as governments are concerned.

If you want to try, I wish you luck in figuring out who my employers were/are.


"If you want to try, I wish you luck in figuring out who my employers were/are"

If you say something stupid enough, one of your acquaintances will do it for us.


You would be surprised at the people who think they were just doing something very ordinary, when suddenly a class 5 media shitstorm descended on them, often because of circumstances entirely out of their control.


Incidentally, this is why every account I create has my full name. It's a good reminder to me to always think before I hit "reply"


It's good to self-censor, but you can't always predict what others might be outraged by, take personally, or want to retaliate for. Plenty of internet persons aren't well off.


As a reminder, that did not work for someone, and that's why we have this story on HN.


I think in general we have a problem of deifying the concept of free speech (everyone loves the First Amendment), while at the same time we get our kicks censoring everyone whenever we get the chance (while gleefully pointing out the truth that the First Amendment restricts only the government).

This is a real problem. I don't think we value free speech as much as we say we do. If we did, we'd tolerate a LOT more before pulling the censorship card.

That said, canning Orth was a no-brainer. He set himself up as the ultimate anti-evangelist for the next Xbox console. He seriously undermined a product that hasn't been announced yet - this after the announced PS4 details had already positioned Sony as the "good guys".


Also, aside from NDAs-- most people willingly consent to limiting their free speech as it relates to their employer when they sign their employment contract.

The typical boilerplate employment contract usually includes easily overlooked clauses that cite publicly embarrassing or disparaging the employer and/or its partners, customers, etc. as cause for termination.


This is sad, but true. You can't ask the public to draw a line between your personal and professional life. A good rule of thumb I was taught that if you wouldn't want to see it on the cover of the New York Times then don't write it!


The problem here isn't the notion of personal Twitter accounts. It's Twitter itself.

Twitter is designed to be encourage users to post things without thinking too hard about it. So they do, and sometimes that results in them saying stupid things that they would never have said if there had been even a tiny speed bump along the way to force them to think about it. Then they get in trouble if they're lucky, or lose their jobs/suffer social ostracism if they're not so lucky.

This is nothing new, it's been happening for as long as Twitter has been around. I can remember it happening to political pundit Ezra Klein back in 2008: http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc/is-ezra-klein-in-troub...

The problem is that Twitter's design is at odds with its actual nature. It's designed to feel breezy and conversational, but it's really about publishing, with all the permanence and exposure that implies. If you say something dumb in a conversation, it floats away on the wind unless someone else involved makes a concerted effort to tell people about it. If you say something dumb on Twitter, the ease of re-tweeting can make it blow up into a Big Thing in minutes.

If people keep shooting themselves in the foot with significant real-world consequences while using your application, year after year, it seems reasonable that at some point people would start wondering whether it was the fault of the application instead of the users. But Twitter apparently has not reached that point yet.

(If you want a more fleshed-out version of this argument, I wrote one here a couple of months ago: http://jasonlefkowitz.net/2013/02/i-kind-of-hate-twitter/)


I don't buy this argument. Communicating verbally requires far less friction than posting to Twitter does, and yet professionals have managed to not say everything that crosses their mind when it isn't appropriate.


I think the parent addressed this pretty clearly.

"If you say something dumb in a conversation, it floats away on the wind unless someone else involved makes a concerted effort to tell people about it."


That don't make Twitter not a good idea. The problems needs to be fixed properly.


Or not..... comments about "legitimate rape" come to mind.


His comments (note the plural) on Twitter suggest some poor decision making. Who is to say that this wasn't merely the straw that broke the camel's back?


Seems more like a case of the cement truck that broke the (possibly already strained) camel's back.


"You can’t separate your work from your rhetoric these days..."

How exactly is this a new thing? We are free to say what we want, it does not mean we are free from the consequences of our statements.


Having "rhetoric" in the first place puts you squarely in the public eye when you're in a high-profile position. If you can't keep that out of your public presence -- personal or professional -- then you're taking a risk, and not being aware of that just isn't an excuse at that point.


One part of the issue that I haven't seen addressed is the confusion caused by his job title. Much play is made out of "Creative Director" - all this means is that he was A Creative Director, but the story is spun that he was The Creative Director.

I have no idea how many "Creative Directors" Microsoft has, or how many in the XBox division, but in general at MS "Director" in your job title usually just means that you are at a level above senior (otherwise known as principal) and (sometimes) are a manager of managers.

So among other things, this is collateral damage caused by title inflation.


Companies really need do be less uptight and more grown up about the web. People share their opinions all the time, even gasp on the web. Get over it.

I recall that MS employees can blog at microsofts domain, but there is a disclaimer that opinions expressed in blog posts not necessarily reflect the policies of MS. That is a more suitable way to handle things.

Twitter isn't even connected to MS. Seriously.


Having employees be free of any consequences of what they say on the web (or otherwise) is a bad idea. Do you want your employees telling your customers or competitors what your next product feature is?

Uncontrolled PR is an all around bad idea, and it's why many companies explicitly forbid saying anything about the company.


Obviously, keeping company secrests is important. That goes without saying. But that wasn't what happened, was it? An employee expressed his personal prefeerence for a technology that may, or may not be part of the netx gen consoles. (And everyone have been anticipatin this for years anyway.)


Well, I have said before about secrecy that "neither extreme is a good idea": http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1185168...


There's a difference between expressing opinions and insulting customers. That's what got him in trouble.


Hopefully what you say is true. It is not what the article described.


"Companies really need do be less uptight and more grown up about the web."

Companies taking responsibility for the actions of their employees is far more grownup than whatever you're suggesting.

"Twitter isn't even connected to MS. Seriously."

What a meaningless statement.


> Companies taking responsibility for the actions of their employees is far more grownup than whatever you're suggesting.

Agreed. But firing someone for expressing personal oppinions (if that is what happened, as the article sucgests) isn't "taking responsibility".

> "Twitter isn't even connected to MS. Seriously." > What a meaningless statement.

You missed my point. The article suggests you can't tweet anything without your employee feeling you are representing them. That would be reasonable if you used the company website to communicate, but the person in the article had used twitter. There is absolutely no reason for a reader to believe he is representing anyone but himself.


Also, remember what happened to Adria Richards and her explicit mentions of her employment at SendGrid. In both Orth's case and her's, they greatly damaged customer trust for their employer, which resulted in firings.


They're slightly similar cases but still pretty different. Adria Richards was a spokesperson for the company, that was her official role, Adam Orth was not. And despite that, Orth's comments hurt his employer because people took them as official, whereas Richards' hurt SendGrid not for that reason, but because people disagreed with her actions and therefore wanted her employer to take action against her - i.e. the backlash was to punish her, not because people directly blamed SendGrid.


This seems to be a problem with social media in general. It doesn't encourage us to be our authentic selves but instead forces us to constantly be only who are allowed to be under scrutiny from others (usually strangers) - not the same thing. The fear is that with so much more of our lives getting scrutinized, the project of becoming an individual might become less and less possible.


The difficulty with being perfectly honest is that you might find out that you're honestly wrong. When technology amplifies our voices to the whole world, those private revelations become public spectacles.


Just create an anonymous twitter account.


Not the proper fix.


If you show the world you are an a*, you should expect that to effect you in real life...


And heaven help you if you act like a dijkstra.


IMO, the most interesting thing going on here is whether Microsoft will incorporate the backlash against his comments as meaningful product feedback. We don't know if the feature is being seriously considered or not, but if it ends up being included, that'll say a lot about how much MS values those opinions.


If video game companies have learned anything from the relation between "rage on the Internets" and "sales figures," it's that they are positively correlated.


Somewhat amusingly, this troll on the debian-user mailing list predicted that Orth would be "fired". Let's see if he starts making commits to Tux Racer :-)

https://lists.debian.org/debian-user/2013/04/msg00265.html


>this troll on the debian-user mailing list predicted that Orth would be "fired".

I don't follow the mailing list but are these "reddit-like" conversations common/tolerated on a mailing list?

Off Topic: Is debian.org using a self signed SSL? It popped a warning on my browser.


Everything personal is dead once its negatively impacting your employer because of your poor judgement.


Well after seeing this [0] and this post [1] from the other guy, I think that while he might have done nothing wrong, he did get a lot of attention, just the wrong kind [2].

[0]http://i.imgur.com/Na2Xkh0.png

[1]https://twitter.com/manveerheir/status/320064992080691200

[2]theVerge http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/5/4185938/adam-orth-speaks-on..., Neowin etc,

EDIT: removed wrong info about Sony's CEO responding to the original tweet, thanks @maximilianburke


> even Sony's CEO took a jab at his post.

I'm pretty sure the Twitter account @KazHiraiCEO is a parody.


Moral of the story: Don't be honest about your opinions on twitter. Just parrot whatever your current employer wants people to think all of their employees believe.


Better yet, don't tie your social accounts to your real name unless you're going to be professional on them.

Think of it like the difference between chilling on the beach with shorts and talking shit over beer vs. chilling a the beach in your $company uniform and name tag and talking shit over beer. If you're going to do the latter, you best hope that you know and trust all the people you're shitting with.


One of the many reasons why social media is overhyped, and private conversations are as valuable as they always have been :)


The lack of forgiveness that the internet has shown to individuals is frightening, (insert biblical persecution allegory here).


It's less nefarious than this. If most people read your twitter because you are a friend, then it's a personal account. If most people read your twitter because you work for some company, then your twitter account is not personal. That simple. Know your audience.


This case only proves that posting about work stuff on your personal Twitter account now makes it your alternate work Twitter account.


I hope to have a colorful enough online profile to prevent myself from ever getting a boring, stifling job.


I guess that's nothing, compared to what'd happen if he was against the ideas of own company.


I am happy he left/got fired. The guy does not belong in gaming.


Welcome to 1984.


Not if you aren't popular! Aha!


Somehow I doubt this will improve the situation with DRM on consoles. I.e. with him, or without him, MS will use DRM.




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