September 20, 2020

More on ARDG and the Press

I wrote yesterday about the ARDG’s policy, banning the press from the otherwise open ARDG meetings. Apparently the official rationale for this is that some companies refuse to allow the people who represent them at ARDG meetings to speak to the press.

I have to admit that I find these companies’ policies hard to understand. A company trusts somebody to speak on its behalf in a public forum, where many of the company’s competitors and customers are present, and where everybody is welcome to take notes. And yet somehow it is too dangerous to let that employee say the same things if a reporter is also present.

In my experience, companies that allow their best engineers to speak in public get more respect than ones that don’t. I can understand the desire to manage a company’s image, but reporters and the public have gotten pretty good at separating vacuous marketing-speak from substantive discussion, and at ignoring the former. You’re not doing yourself any favors by blocking access to the people who can best articulate your technical vision.

Microsoft’s approach to the Berkeley DRM conference is a great example of the benefits of letting your engineers speak. This was a large conference with many reporters present. Microsoft sent several senior engineers, who gave substantive presentations and engaged in real debate. What they said was not spin-free, of course, but whether you agreed or disagreed with their arguments, you had to respect them for participating in the debate.

James Grimmelmann’s definitive account of the Berkeley DRM conference has this to say:

… the [Microsoft] people at the conference are among the straightest shooters …. Compared with the other industry flacks


  1. Finkelstein Replies on ARDG and the Press

    Seth Finkelstein replies to my previous posting on companies’ press policies by suggesting that companies are rational to keep their engineers away from the press, because of concerns about being unfairly misquoted. I can see his point, by I think…