February 8, 2005 11:34 AM PST

Google blogger has left the building

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Mark Jen, a blogger whose candid comments about life on the job at Google sparked controversy last month, has left the company.

"Mark is no longer an employee at Google," a Google representative said in response to an inquiry Tuesday. Efforts to reach Jen for comment were not immediately successful.

Jen's departure comes less than a month after he joined Google as part of a wave of new hires and began recording his impressions of his new employer, including criticisms, in his blog.

Employee blogging is on the rise, sparking increasing clashes between workers and management over the line between appropriate and inappropriate commentary. In one recent dispute, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant lost her job after posting photos of herself in uniform on her blog.

A Microsoft contractor lost his job last year after he took some pictures of Apple G5 computers being unloaded onto the software company's campus and posted them to his blog.

Friendster, known for breaking new ground in online social networking and promoting self-expression among peers, fired one of its employees in August over her Troutgirl blog.

The employee blog issue is doubly sensitive for Google, which became a prominent booster of blogging through its acquisition of Web logging pioneer Pyra Labs in February 2003. The company also has made a point of putting ethics before profits in its business operations, suggesting it holds itself to a higher standard of care than the average for customers and employees.

While details of Jen's departure are unclear, the newbie Googler ran into trouble at the company almost immediately when he decided to record his impressions of Google on a blog called Ninetyninezeros--one zero short of the mathematical term known as a " googol."

Jen began making entries in Ninetyninezeros on Jan. 17, and soon drew the notice of other bloggers. Curiosity spiked when the postings temporarily disappeared about a week later.

On Jan. 26, an edited version of the blog reappeared on the site, with a new entry explaining the on-again, off-again commentary. Gone was the first day's post explaining his reasons for creating the blog, as well as a description of an employee orientation event that vaguely touched on discussions of Google's booming business.

At that time, Jen denied he made the change under duress, insisting that Google "was pretty cool about all this."

News of Jen's job status was posted at Google Blogoscoped. According to an anonymous message in the blog forum, Jen was let go on Jan. 28.

9 comments

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Welcome to the business world
No legitimate company would tolerate an employee posting potentially sensitive info. Why does anyone expect Google to be any different.

Good move on Googles behalf, sets precedent.
Posted by Lite Rocker (42 comments )
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Right on.
Free speech has its limits as any 8th grader knows. You can't do just anything you want without reprisal.
Posted by sdencar (28 comments )
Link Flag
Impressing your new employer from day one...
New employee on the job starts a blog and starts posting details about his workplace the very first day?

Most employers have some sort of 'probationary' period to evaluate the employee. Obviously this clown never considered that first impressions count.

At least Google got a chance to see from day one that they had hired someone who could apparently not excercise good judgment. A fine way to make an impression on your new employer  after your first week describing their well-publicized perks as 'thinly veiled timesavers to keep you at work'.

Amazing they let him stay on as long as they did.
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
clap, clap clap....
Very good. Nice to see CENCORSHIP alive and well in the good ol' USA.

I'm glad to see that you folks are finally coming around and supporting the corporations rights to step on their employees.

Wake UP people. Get with the program! If you dont start asserting your First Amendment rights, soon YOU WONT HAVE THEM.

And dont give me this crap about corporate information thats sensitive. If someone spills that kind of info, then they should be disciplined. But there is a fine balance there, and Im afraid that the corporations, with the hearty help of people whove been brainwashed in school into ignoring their rights (and responsibilities) as Americans, are turning the USA into an wholly owned subsidiary of the corporations based here.
Posted by (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Freedom of Speech != Freedom from Consequences.
Freedom of speech is a governmental matter, not a private
sector protection. In fact, Mark Jen DID exercise his right to free
speech. And Google has every right to fire him for what he said.
And they did.

You can disagree with what they did from a PR or business
standpoint, but freedom of speech has NOTHING to do with this
situation.
Posted by brasten (33 comments )
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Censorship v.s Company Privacy
Ok, from what I've read about this story, and on his (the employee's) blog. He did miss-step by posting information that was potentially sensitive. But from what the he wrote in his blog a few days before ("google was pretty cool about all this"), it does not seem that a big deal was made at the time, nore that the information posted was all that sensitive (as he was not canned on the spot).

Now, even if what he wrote was sensitive, was there a policy in place about blogging? Was he made aware of it? Was he made aware the the information he heard was sensitive? It's not enough to say "everything you hear here is sensitive". People talk, and Google is NOT the CIA. A simple reprimand in this situation seems to be in order, not a firing or lay-off.

Now, none of us knows the full story ATM, so there could be somthing much more to this.

But IM(not so)HO, a company should not be able to fire/lay-off an employee for what they write in thier blog, unless it specifically and directly breaks an NDA signed by the employee. The US may be a theocracy ATM, but it is not a dictatorship, and freedom of speach is still a right.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
First amendment doesn't apply.
A corporation is not a government entity, so the first amendment doesn't apply to them.

Most employees are hired, I believe the term is at-will. That means an employers may fire an employee for any reason, other then what is covered by law(ie discrimination laws) and the employee may leave whenever he/she wants.

There doesn't need to be a policy in regards to blogging. If an employee talked to the media about that company and in a disparaging manner, he would be fired. Blogging is no different. If he had not identified himself as a google employee in his blog, things would be different.

Google did the right thing and fired this clown. Just like that moronic flight attendant a few months back, he got what he deserved.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
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