Voice Card  -  Volume 31  -  John Card Number 4  -  Sat, Mar 5, 1994 8:40 PM

During my recent employee orientation at Sybase they gave us two presents: a Sybase coaster for our coffee and a self-inking rubber stamp with which we could stamp things "Confidential."

Everyone has secrets here in Silicon Valley. As a consultant I can't turn around without signing another "non-disclosure" form. As an OracleCard 2.0 beta-site I have signed an oath never to reveal secrets to Sybase. As a Sybase contractor I have signed an oath not to accept any money from Oracle while employed at Sybase. And my non-disclosure at Ziff forbids me to discuss any Oracle OR Sybase secrets I may have learned while working at Ziff.

This sometimes puts me in awkward or ambiguous situations. Sybase and Oracle are engaged in a kind of database cold war, yet I have friends in both worlds and use products from both companies. If I need to talk to my friend Muhi (with whom I work at Ziff) I absolutely cannot call him from my desk at Sybase because Muhi's voicemail is at Oracle. I am now well-qualified to write a review of upcoming client-server tools for Wired, but my non-disclosures cancel each other out and leave me speechless.

It's all rather silly, but some people take these things VERY seriously. My friend Tom, who moved from Ziff, to Ziff's competitors IDG, and then to Sybase has to be VERY careful when talking to industry analysts. The things he says could actually affect stock prices and SEC regulations could get him in trouble if he says too much or even if he says too little.

Since everyone in this industry hops from job to job, and since consultants often serve many masters simultaneously, the situation becomes confusing for all concerned. And for all these non-disclosures and confidential stamps, no secret ever stays secret for long.

It's a curious side-effect of the information age. When you live in a world where information is everything, everyone has secrets.