Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Are You Wired For Transparency?

Wired Magazine's recent issue, Get Naked and Rule the World is making the rounds ~ as much for Jenna Fisher ("Pam" from The Office) and her provocative photo as for its coverage of the matter of corporate transparency.

The issue's feature content is:

Smart companies are sharing secrets with rivals, blogging about products in their pipeline, even admitting to their failures. The name of this new game is RADICAL TRANSPARENCY, and it's sweeping boardrooms across the nation. Even those Office drones at Dunder Mifflin get it. So strip down and learn how to have it all by baring it all.

Which is to say it's all about what the boys of Naked Conversations have been saying: business being open and honest and talking with employees, customers, and partners.

Ironically, the feature on the 'transparent' and no-longer-evil Microsoft sort of well, backfired...

A dossier "which summarizes Microsoft execs' efforts to plant the story, and gives tips on how to handle the magazine's reporter, Fred Vogelstein, makes for astonishing reading. But it's more embarrassing for the Conde Nast magazine than it is for Microsoft: the author appears to have promised Microsoft that he'd show them the article well before publication, which is against the policy of most magazines."

(Here's Vogelstein's reply.)

It seems the emperors are too afraid to really be naked; many just want the 'new clothes' so they can look naked. But you either are naked or your not. (Naked Suits just don't work.)

Talking about being transparent has lots of folks in a tizzy lately. To be sure, as the authors of Naked Conversations point out in their book, blogging and transparency aren't for everyone. And there are risks to consider.

Among the concerns are the matters of the competition scooping you and the embarrassing boo-boos being out there because all this open and honest talk is instantly published.

For example, the new (Beta) Assignment Zero, a Pro-Am collaboration among NewAssignment.Net, Wired, and those who "choose to participate" is "is an attempt to bring journalists together with people in the public who can help cover a story."

The investigation takes place in the open, not behind newsroom walls. Participation is voluntary; contributors are welcome from across the Web. The people getting, telling and vetting the story are a mix of professional journalists and members of the public -- also known as citizen journalists. This is a model I describe as "pro-am."

The "ams" are simply people getting together on their own time to contribute to a project in journalism that for their own reasons they support. The "pros" are journalists guiding and editing the story, setting standards, overseeing fact-checking, and publishing a final version.

An interesting concept, they are already wondering about their transparency issues:

I wonder if this thing isn't *too* transparent... I don't think it's appropriate for people to see our sausage being made, so to speak; much of what's posted is written unprofessionally or stolen wholesale from other site... What does transparency mean to you? What are we trying to accomplish?

The replies are interesting; especially those on the "degrees of transparency." You can't be partially naked ~ at least not for long. *wink*

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of transparency, but in the world of news ~ where 'scoop' is even more meaningful than at an ice cream shop ~ this is a big test of the issues.

On a related matter...

In With a business model like this, who needs enemies? the idea of 'open' takes a slightly different turn when thoughts turn to Open Access Vs Closed Access publications. (For those in the adult business, consider this paid subscriber membership vs. free sites.) Just how can publications pay those bills? Is giving it away a model that can support costs?

If the argument for transparency is one of human warmth, accessibility and being liked, then open source or 'see for free' is a very legit question.

So, can you afford to be transparent? Before you get naked, remember to look at it from all sides ~ even the unflattering angles. Because that's how they'll be looking at you.

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