Just read several accounts on IBM’s new guidelines for the “virtual conduct” of its employees in the online environment. Though the rules appear to focus on Second Life, they apply to any of the myriad online communities. (See this post on how the rules apply to employee blogs.) IBM is not the first to develop new guidelines for roaming the Web 2.0 world (I’ve helped develop the same in my own company) but from what I’ve seen they strike a good balance between common sense and critical legal protections. On several occasions, I’ve had discussions with corporate execs who are paralyzed with angst at the prospect of developing new internet rules for their employees. They are over-thinking this. Many of the basic regulations should parallel what companies already have in place (e.g. confidentiality of information, inappropriate language) and more specific Web guidelines should be fairly obvious to anybody familiar with the emerging websites and technology. (And there are plenty of great examples out there that companies can draw from – that’s one of the best things about the Web.) Ultimately, company guidelines need to encourage and direct candor and transparency – that’s the price of entry in the Web 2.0 world. Any rules that stifle timely and forthright conversation will be counter-productive and limit the credibility of the outreach.