It’s common to hear on the news “A source close to <insert government body or celebrity here> has informed us that …” – basically they’re leaking information they probably shouldn’t and may even legally be bound not to talk about. Sometimes there’s no fallout, other times it’s pretty bad. Well, the same thing happens in our world of computers. One example is a major event like CES (which happens to be this week, actually) – you see some leaks of products before any official announcements. We all love the super-secret spy shots of some as-yet-to-be-announced gadget. We then speculate what the buttons do. That’s no better or worse, but a lot of fun. Sites like Engadget are often about that type of speculation. Companies try to keep things under wraps as to keep some sort of competitive advantage – seems like that’s almost impossible.

Recently there was a discussion some of us were having around things like build numbers for SQL Server and release dates. Let’s face it, if you enter a bug in Connect for SQL Server, you see a bunch of releases both old and new in the dropdown to match up with the version that you had the problem with. Some of those builds or versions you may have never seen or heard of, so the fact there are interim builds you don’t have access to is one of the worst open secrets out there. For example, in the case of SQL Server 2012, a build number may be later than CTP3 but before RC0. That build is most likely associated with a one-off for a specific, small set of customers. An example of that is, say, an early adopter program (commonly known as TAP). These builds are not for general consumption and you hopefully won’t find people blogging or talking about them. Why? They’re under pretty strict NDA agreements not to talk about this stuff in any kind of public way, and there are consequences for spilling any beans.

TAP is not the same as MVP and covered by different NDAs as well as other rules. As someone who is in the MVP program and has been in various TAPs over the years, you have to be careful about who you speak to about what. Some folks are in that intersection where you are in both programs, some just in the TAP, and some MVP. Where’s a venn diagram when you need one? You can’t assume that what one knows the other does as well, or that you can share just because it’s Microsoft and maybe even the same product. There’s something to be said for personal accountability. You shouldn’t even need the threat of possible legal actions (covered by the NDA) to keep what you shouldn’t be talking about quiet. Common sense has to prevail.

While it’s true there are folks outside of the proverbial four Microsoft walls that may know what’s coming (be it 1 week or 1 year from now), no one who is privy to such information should be leaking it. Getting into the MVP or a TAP is a privilege, not a right. It can be ripped out from you. So if you know people who are participating, you shouldn’t be getting any information from them that they’re bound not to talk about. It’s not meant to slight anyone. I’m sure you can think of times in your own lives – be it personal or professional – you didn’t want certain people to know things. For example, if you’re looking for a job, do you really want your current employer to know? Probably not, although I do know some people who would be open about that. The majority of us keep that on the down low until your two week notice is given.

If for some reason you do somehow get access to such data or information or someone opens their big mouth, think before you go mentioning it to the world at large. There are ripple effects. In the immortal words of Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes …