||Thoughts on LEGO Non-Disclosure Agreement
||Mon, 13 Jul 2009 19:12:34 GMT
||Jean-Marc Nimal <firstname.lastname@example.orgSPAMCAKE>
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I also posted this
as an article on my own site but there isnt more to read over there, unless
you want to browse 1+ year-old archives of silly stuff.|
Now that the next
cycle of LEGO Ambassadors is beginning, and Im not part of the program for this
cycle, Id like to share some thoughts I have about it. While there is of course
a lot to be said about the Ambassadors program, Ill focus on the Non-Disclosure
Agreement (NDA) in particular, as I feel its a seldom discussed but important
aspect of the program.
Up to cycle 5, the NDA was mandatory - the very first
thing you needed to do before jumping in would be signing it, along with a
release form. The exact terms of the NDA are presumably not a secret, since
people receiving it arent under NDA; but they arent very interesting either -
in a nutshell, youre not supposed to disclose secrets you might encounter while
doing your Ambassador work. Or, I assume, any other work you might do for LEGO
under another NDA.
So far, so good. LEGO protects his assets, which is
understandable. Actually, the fact that theyre even willing to share
information with simple customers shows that theyre much more open than a lot
of other companies. That said, the amount of confidential information I
personally received as Ambassador during cycle 5 wasnt extremely high either.
Of course, I cant say anything about it; lets just say that most of it were
pre-release pictures of upcoming sets, and not even long before release. Ive
seen preliminary pictures of the Eiffel Tower set, for example.
dont know if you noticed, but I did just breach the NDA: I just disclosed some
of the confidential information I came in contact with at the time. Granted, the
breach is minimal, since I dont upload the pictures themselves, and the set is
since long on the shelves so you didnt learn anything of value, but its still
a breach. Actually, Im lucky, I realized it just in time, so I still can ask
for permission to publish this article and cover myself.
OK, Steve approves.
Pfew, that was close. Thanks, Steve!
This brings me to what I consider the one
big problem of the NDA: it scares people. Most of the time, I was afraid to say
anything because it didnt know if I was allowed or not. And I dont think Im
the only one, our discussion forums during cycle 5 were littered with questions
like May we share this information?, which wasted valuable time from the LEGO
Most importantly, the LEGO community at large got the
impression that Ambassadors werent allowed to say anything, and were forced to
silence, nearly vanishing from the online world altogether. Some resented this
as a fracture between the Ambassadors and the community. Which was Not Good™,
considering Ambassadors are there to represent the community.
exaggerate the fear. As far as I can see, the Ambassadors are usually perfectly
able to decide whether the information they so much want to share with their
fellow fans is OK or not. Still, when in doubt, shutting up has always been a
On the other hand, there wasnt always much to say. The term
Ambassador is really an ambiguous one, most of the time understood by fans as
Ambassadors from LEGO to the community. Whereas it means Ambassadors from the
community to LEGO. The difference is important: our job is to relay your
desires, your complaints, your wishes to LEGO. Everything you want to say to
LEGO but dont know how can go through an Ambassador. While we do relay some
information from LEGO to fans from time to time, it is not the main purpose of
the program as I see it.
But back on topic. LEGO involves fans for much more
than the Ambassadors, for example for workshops (think about Power Functions or
Mindstorms), and there the information is much more sensitive (even showing fans
actual prototypes). There is no question that the NDA is vital there. But for
Ambassadors, wasnt it more of a nuisance?
If theres one good thing to say
about cycle 5, its that we were able to think clearly about the program itself
and how it should evolve. Maybe we did less LEGO-related stuff because of that,
I dont know, but this was necessary to ensure the program would thrive in the
future. Among other issues, we pointed out the NDA, and LEGO understood there
was a problem with it.
However, suppressing it would mean LEGO wouldnt be
able to consult Ambassadors on confidential matters, which would have been a
loss, so they did the next best thing: for cycle 6, they made it optional.
way it was done was that a part of the discussions would still be under NDA, and
only Ambassadors willing to sign it would have access to that. Everything else -
not covered by NDA. This allowed not only to allow people not to sign it if they
didnt want to, but more importantly, it allowed for a very clear and simple way
to identify confidential and non-confidential information.
When we were asked
whether wed sign the NDA or not, there was an overwhelming yes response. In a
way, that surprised me, as I had the impression more people were actively
against it. I myself had discussed the matter a lot (consider what Ive just
written so far and youll get an idea of how verbose I can be), so I felt I
needed not to sign it to be able to witness the difference. Im spoiler-hungry,
so this wasnt an easy decision, and Im still not sure it was a good one. I
write this just as a justification of sorts, in a way.
To be honest, at the
time, I hadnt expected the optional aspect of things - while a simple idea, I
simply hadnt thought about it; in my mind LEGO would either go on with or
without it. I also hadnt expected the fundamental difference it would make even
for people signing it, that is, the separate discussions and clear labelling of
what was confidential or not.
So there I was, not under NDA anymore. This
meant I could, and still can, talk about everything I witnessed during cycle 6.
Did I? Well, not that much. Most of whats going on there is sure interesting,
but it doesnt mean we should dump it all on the fans. Maybe other Ambassadors
did share more than I did; most of my discussions with fans were not online,
since I represent an actual physical club and focused on real contacts with
people, during various events in Europe. But it was good to know that I could
discuss anything and not risk to say something I couldnt.
By the way, that
actually happened to me during cycle 5, in LEGO World 2007: I had just seen some
prototype of something (notice Im not saying what, even though its out now),
and I wanted to discuss it with someone whom I was sure he knew about it yet, as
he had been ambassador earlier, and participated in various other NDA-covered
projects as well. Big mistake: he didnt know. That was a real-time oops, much
more embarrassing - no taking back, no cover. Luckily, hes a great guy and
stopped me before I even said anything too important, and even if I did, he
wouldnt have spread it further.
Still, the danger of knowing confidential
stuff is real, and while I trust most Ambassadors have a better judgment than I
do... what you dont know, you cant spread, so I was happy not to know anything
confidential during cycle 6. Well, except I still did learn a few things,
because some people still thought I was under NDA and I confess that sometimes I
played the game of not reminding them. But while I could technically speak about
it, Ill use whatever little judgment I have and not do it. Dont worry, there
isnt that much anyway.
To conclude, I think LEGO chose the good approach -
but whether under NDA or not, Ambassadors should always pay attention to what
they say, and not only for confidentiality reasons.
So, as newly appointed
Ambassador, should you sign the NDA? Thats a personal question. Id advise so,
unless maybe if youre afraid to have to pay more attention to what you say. I
remember someone last year saying that it was what the community he represented
would expect from him. I dont think he actually asked them, but that would
probably the wisest choice: discuss it with your community, and ask them what
they think of it.
You do represent them, after all.
Message has 1 Reply:
| ||Re: Thoughts on LEGO Non-Disclosure Agreement|| Dave Sterling|
|(...) While I may not be an Ambassador, I feel I can offer some guidance as to why the NDA may scare people. I think it's mainly because most people don't deal with them every day. It's a case of fear of the unknown and what the consequences will be (...) (4 years ago, 14-Jul-09, to lugnet.ambassadors) |
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