An IM Fable

Years ago at my old work, we had a big blowup with our users. They were working on a large global project, and the consulting firm suggested (behind the IT Ops group’s back) that everyone install Yahoo Instant Messenger (YIM) and use it to chat about issues related to the project.  When we (I was on the IT Ops team at the time) discovered this rampant usage, we flipped. Using a public chat server for confidential company info was wrong on many, MANY levels. I mean, what genius thinks it’s a good idea to share company process info, revenue info, and other product specific info.
But it’s secure! They don’t log our chats.
Ah, the naivety of the uninformed.
Finally our CIO who was on our side from the start mandated they were to stop using it or they would be fired. Starting with the large consulting firm that was expecting millions from this project. The consulting firm stopped, but the apps group did not.
Soon after, our team did deploy a corporate wide internal chat solution. When adoption among the YIM users was low, we started sending them the court cases proving that chat logs are kept. Toss in the fact we were able to capture a chat stream between two YIM users (employees who were using it at the company to have an affair – boss and employee) – then use it to get one fired for misconduct – and they got on board with this new technology.
What always amazed me about this situation was how stupid the other IT people were in not understanding the truth or the technology. These guys were programmers. They write code for a living. They know how it all works. Yet, they turned a blind eye and pretended to play dumb.
Or did they?
After reading this article, I realized maybe they were just too cocky to notice.
If you are a Facebook user, go read that article. But, for those of you who don’t have time. It is an article talking about Mark Zuckerberg the creator and founder of Facebook. It talks about the lawsuit that arose soon after its introduction to the world between him and three Harvard seniors who claim they had hired him to bring their website idea to life – their idea that was basically Facebook for Colleges and Alumni. Their first rollout was Harvard, but they could see a greater use. They had a great idea, but just needed a programmer to build it. They talked to him about it. He signed onto the project as programmer, was excited about it, then ditched them before launching Facebook….his side project that looked a lot like their idea.
The lawsuit was settled after a judge found there not to be enough evidence of a contract between Mark and the other three. There was more evidence, but it was settled before it saw the light of day. There is currently an appeal process going to get the evidence admitted into the suit.
This article examines the evidence – evidence that is mainly chat logs and emails. What do the chats say? Well, he talked to his friends about how to “ditch those guys”. He admitted in chats that he was stalling their project and doing his own because it’s better. He grappled with whether or not to let them into it because “they had money he did not.” In the end, he clearly ditched them.
Will this evidence many any difference in their case? Who knows.

So I guess the morale of the story is two fold: If you are going to screw over business partners, don’t flippantly talk about it via a chat session. Because you never know when it could be used against you – especially if your idea brings in a lot of cash.

The second – don’t treat people like shit. Karma is a bitch.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Just me... says:

    Within the last year, our company dropped it’s purchased, secure, internal IM software (didn’t wnat to pay the $$ for continuing service) and instructed us how to download and use Windows Live Messenger.. Not so bad for me, I can generically chat with friends elsewhere..
    But I always wondered about the security of it…

  2. Secretia says:

    That is a good writing and karma is a bitch.

    Secretia

  3. Hubman says:

    This story reminds me of a relative on my step-fathers side of the family. She is a big-shot corporate lawyer who specializes in “electronic discovery”, otherwise known as using the evidence you leave behind in that great online cloud against you or your company, in defense of her company, etc. People don’t realize that a lot of stuff is admisable in court.

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