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Watch Those Wikis: Small Public Posts Can Cause Big Business Problems

Inside knowledge, much less insider knowledge can be a dangerous business thing. Just ask the wiki-poster who got fired for leaking early news of Tim Russert's death.
Inside knowledge, much less insider knowledge can be a dangerous business thing. Just ask the wiki-poster who got fired for leaking early news of Tim Russert's death.In the great ongoing wave of mourning, retrospective and, you'll pardon the expression, post-mortems over Tim Russert's death, the news of a Wikipedia update artist getting canned for scooping NBC News is pretty small, well, news. The Times article linked here is about the only coverage the story's received.

But in the world of small and midsize businesses with access to e-mailing lists, instantly and publicly accessible blogs, wikis, Twitter, IMs, boards, forums, social network pages and name-your-posting-poison, the story and its implications are worth some thought.

The propriety -- or oppression, depending on your perspective -- of delaying news in deference to the deceased's employer, which happened to be a major news organization, will be debated for some time to come, and not just in terms of the Russert story.

But the propriety of not letting your employees post anywhere anytime at their own discretion should be debated as well. And once debated, codified into firm and enforceable policy.

Say your company has just landed a big contract that's big industry news and an employee updates your Wikipedia entry... before the ink has been placed on the contracts, much less dried.

Got layoffs or other painful adjustments to tough times coming up? Twitter-Tweets aren't the best way for your staff to learn about it.

You get the picture.

Some of this is unavoidable -- gossip has been with us always, and will continue to be; digital tools just make it easier to spread rumors farther faster.

But the instant a member of your company comes into possession of hard information is the instant that the employee's impulse to share, transmit, post or Tweet that info should be subject to policies designed and implemented to control the spreading of the word at your business's pace and discretion, not the Net's.

bMighty's Naomi Grossman has some good business wiki insights here.

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