Transparency and Making Choices

Not long ago, I was sitting across from the CEO of a media company. He showed enormous pride in the social value of his organization – in delivering news to the world via a global team of thoughtful, award-winning journalists.

He asked what made me proud to be at Sun. Among a number of things, I said I’m proudest of the role Sun plays in making sure stories like his are told – “Our technologies, after all, are how your journalists file their stories, and we play a central role in how you present them to the world via the network.” I am unreservedly proud of Sun’s role in making the world a more open, transparent place.

Beyond professional journalism, the network is a social utility for the world’s citizenry – whose digital cameras and cell phones and blog postings and emails form a tidal wave of transparency. We live in a world whose traumas and triumphs are visible instantaneously. Sunlight’s not just a great disinfectant, it’s a wonderful safety net, too – you can’t fix the problems you don’t know about. But once you know about a problem, even small attempts to help, multiplied over the long tail of the internet, can make an extraordinary difference.

Over the past few days, the world has watched an earthquake in China lead to the death and dislocation of countless thousands. The San Francisco Bay Area, where Sun is headquartered, has felt the impact deeply – beyond co-workers, friends and family, we’ve suffered our own traumas with earthquakes. A cyclone in Myanmar triggered similar thoughts among those of us effected by hurricanes in New Orleans, Louisiana.

But the world’s an increasingly transparent place. And any help, from $1 to $1m, multiplied over the world, makes a difference.


Which is why I’m sending personal funds to the relief organizations I trust to bring aid to those stricken.


And I’m encouraging you to take the time to make a similar choice.

39 Comments

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39 responses to “Transparency and Making Choices

  1. mike

    I work for an IT & business services company. I suppose I could give a similar answer to the same question: I am proud of the fact that my company helps bring products and services more swiftly and efficiently to consumers, by helping its customers (other companies) to be better at what they do. My company also provides "offshore" services, so in addition to making processes and technology more efficient, it helps to share the wealth of the rich world to the burgeoning middle classes of the developing world. So far so good. But what is it that makes my company different from the others in its sector? That needs to be the real source of pride – is my company better at doing those things than others, or does it go further? I’m wondering what Sun does that is better than its competitors.

  2. Java Employee - Still hopeful but hurting

    I appreciate your generosity Jonathan, I would like to join you but find myself a single income provider for my family, with my income steadily going down the last several years, and my cost of living steadily going up. I have to think of my family first, my children are my priority. Changing or helping the world comes after that. I would hope you feel the same about Sun and its shareholders – that they come first, and changing the world comes after that.

  3. Sun Employee

    Johnathan,
    I feel the same way as the post above. Saving the world is nice, but a lot of us employees do not have the discrentionary funds like you do. Our salaries are flat and cost of living is rising. I do not have any money for the Chinese victims.
    Whatever the case, China has plenty of resources to tackle this.

  4. Raju

    Java Employee – If you are able to use a computer to type this blog comment you are probably the top 5% wage earner in this world. Everyone has their own priorities in their budget but claiming that Sun shareholders are going hungry and looking for some shelter, food and drinking water like the people hit by natural disasters is just over the top and make you look a greedy person.

  5. I agree with you Raju, It is a strange comparison Mr Java Employee makes. I have seen lately just for the heck of it some of the comments rip apart what ever Jonathan writes. I have seen some genuine points being made in earlier posts but some theories that people are putting forward are not rational at all. Similarly, how ever can you compare your pampered existence to that of a little child stuck in the rubble. A hungry pregnanat woman with nothing to feed her brood? There is this way of understanding and accepting things. I might be planning to buy a diamond ring and this might be my priority number one, but when I see a child needing a transplant I might cut down the expences and plan the purchase later. Actually this is how web will change the world we live in. Gradually as people connect all the silly beliefs will dissolve. Sharing of knowledge and experiences will spread across the continents and minds. Small changes will gather momentum and be a driving force to bring about mass movements against threatening things like WMDs. It looks like a dream but as this web gains a firm ground, this is the way the thought process will move. I appreciate Jonathan’s gesture, it’s a strange thing but when you learn to give then by some law of Universe the flow of positivity is directed back to the source of generocity. Just to make this clearer do you remember E=mc2, well we all are basically energy so though it seems the suffering occured somewhere far off in China but at collective level, if we are able to comprehend the suffering happened to us too. It’s ripple effects will be there at the collective level. Its just a matter of perception. In simpler words we need to be more humane even when we are desiring to survive. I will try and contribute to this cause. Thanks for such a sensitive post. There is something wrong with the application, the comment text and the list at the RHS in orange are overlapping.

  6. More concerned about Myanmar

    Two natural disasters. The difference is the response.
    The result of the quake in China is devastating and people are suffering, you can’t deny that. But their government responded by dispatching 100,000 troops (or something like that) to the region and the gov. leaders are visiting the stricken areas. People are being rescued, some of them after 100+ hours trapped in rubble.
    Contrast this with Myanmar, where the tragedy and suffering are on a same/similar scale but the Myanmar "government" has responded by not allowing foreign aid workers in and only dispatching a handful of troops. There have been signs that the gov. there is letting up a bit, but it could be too little, too late.
    Whatever news coming out of Myanmar over the next fews weeks will be horrible and sad in the extreme as the survivors deal with water borne illnesses and starvation.
    a small aside: I’m always more impressed by someone who quietly gives of his/her time and money vs. someone who advertises "look at me, I’m giving, aren’t I wonderful", which is what this post smacks of. This could be more of what the 2 posts that said "my family first" were reacting to. I had the same reaction and said to myself "hey, I’m not an unfeeling person, why did I have that thought first" and further contemplation revealed it was the "I’m giving, what’s wrong with YOU" attitude in JS’ post. Jonathan is a good hearted person, I’m sure, and I know this was not his intent.
    To Ragu: I disagree. access to/the ability to use a computer as an indicator of being a top wage earner? Not everyone who works for Sun (or who works PERIOD) is a tech or business guru. There is still a significant population who work in the mailroom or warehouse or do admin work. And the price of EVERYTHING is going up with no end in sight. You can be making high 5 or low 6 figures and still have little or no discretionary income. You can be a small investor; not everyone who holds sun stock is a Warren Buffett.

  7. Harry Lu

    Johnathan, as a Sun Employee in China, I am proud of you. Thanks a lot!
    Every single action makes changes.

  8. Just an observer

    I think Jonathan’s heart and comments are in the right place. He’s a good writer and he’s speaking from the heart. If he’s in a place that he can hopefully influence others to give, why not?
    But I’m on board with ‘More concerned about Myanmar’ too. I think Raju and Rina are guilty of doing what they’re accusing others of: looking at it from only their perspective. I’m the sole bread winner for our family of six. We live in a low cost of living area. We make sacrifices, we don’t drive around in Lexus or BMW’s, and we give in other ways. For instance we adopted a little girl last year. You can’t tell me that because I choose my family over China that I’m guilty of something?
    Also, you should keep you religious opinions to yourself. This whole ethereal global connectedness and ripple effects as the ‘collective’ is not applicable in any way shape or form to that child buried under the rubble. Of course we feel horrible and wished to God (or Gods in some cases) that it never happened and this ‘collective’ is certainly not the first thing that little child or that parent is thinking of. But accusing somebody of not giving enough because they’re making the choice to hold their very minimal funds back to take care of their family first, that’s simply not right.
    I would hope that everybody who can give, will. I hope that everybody who does not has a real reason. To think otherwise is hateful, and to accuse them of it is even worse.

  9. 18 year Sun employee

    +1 on the funds issue, my salary doesn’t leave my family room to pay the rent, the
    bills and still eat some months. I believe in loyalty and I love Sun but my salary
    has dropped in real terms while the very real costs of energy and housing have
    raced out of control. I can’t fund my family home let alone the moral imperatives
    of caring for the rest of humanity. Sorry Jonathan but, get real, we’re about done
    here.

  10. Blogs like this make me so proud to work at Sun and of our leadership.
    To continue in this thread of giving is the option of Sun’s Disaster Relief Drive, supported by the nonprofit organization, Aidmatrix. The Drive is a web based tool that offers a simple and effective way to support disaster relief. The tool will allow you to send your donation to one of three nonprofit organizations (Red Cross, World Vision, Save the Children)—you will see these choices when you get to the “check out” page of the tool. Then you can also designate your donation to go to China or Myanmar. The drive is open to everyone.
    Sun employees can also have their contributions matched by Sun’s Matching Gift program by selecting this choice at the "check out" page.
    If you want to help go to http://vad.aidmatrix.org/vadxml.cfm?driveid=1203

  11. Give whatever you can

    To all those who are able to give financially, and to those who cannot, there is, most likely, one thing you can give for all those hit hard by difficulties; prayer. Say a few words of hope for those who desperately need it. For the people in China, in Mayanmar, and your friends with loved ones with medical needs, and may others as well, please say a prayer or 2 for them, asking that they be given the strength and spirit to handle all that has been thrown at them. Give whatever you can.

  12. 20 Year SUn Employee

    Please write another blog asap so that this one gets superseded. Clearly, this is one that should not have been written. You should just stick to Sun and how you’re going to grow JAVA.

  13. Seeing good in all

    Hey folks,
    I think we are all getting ahead of ourselves. The fact that Jonathan is encouraging you to donate doesn’t make it mandatory for you to do so. Of course, it is a personal choice based on your own assessment as to whether you can or want to donate or not. I think his admission of his intent to donate is only to prevent the obvious cynic from commenting that he do so before he asks other to donate. At least that is what I would have done if I were to request people to donate. I wouldn’t think there was any self-aggrandizement involved as somebody seemed to suggest. But to use this post to vent your frustrations is just out of line.

  14. W. Wayne Liauh

    It appears that the rescue period is over, and China is now officially moving into the reconstruction stage, preceded by a three-day nation-wide mourning period from May 19 thru May 22.
    This earthquake affected over 30 million people, and everyone can imagine that the reconstruction, including carrying our Premiere Wen Jiabao’s promise to take care of children who lost their parent(s), will involve building a humongous amount of database.
    I don’t know what could be a better, more efficient, more effective, and faster way to establish a data center in such a totally devastated area than using Sun’s BlackBox? Thus, I am wondering that, in addition to sending funds, whether Sun could consider re-routing to the Sichuan Province one of its BlackBoxes that are currently in the demo tour? Eventually, this could benefit Sun as well.

  15. rmrf

    Support W. Wayne Liauh , I think BlackBox is good choice for the reconstruction.

  16. sorry, I must have miscommunicated what I was trying to say. No offense or religious message was intended. I tried to donate through the link Julie has posted but it does not accept my ICICI credit card. I will have to donate through my husband’s organization. When I wrote about giving, it was not about forcing some one to give. Sometimes our necesseties might be someone’s luxuries. Maybe I am over optimistic about the future of the web, but looking at the way things are this seems to bring some hope. Just a single blog entry made so many of us think and re-inforce the thoughts of helping.Some of us might have thought but were not sure whether to act on it. These are the kind of changes I was talking about. I have always been accused of being a non-religious person and it’s a pleasant surprise as ‘Just an observer’ called my perspective ‘religious’. I agree with your statement that we have to first meet the basic needs of our family and then think of helping. I don’t know why but here I remember a story of a Hindu King-Raja Harish Chandra, he was known to never say no to any request, here is the link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harishchandra
    Quiet possible that reading such stories as children have shaped the perspective to the other extreme. I respect your opinions and thank you for enlighting me about the other relevant points of this issue.

  17. I am stunned that some of the commenters here are hating on Jonathan for giving to charity and encouraging others to do likewise. I hope that the ones claiming to be Sun employees are lying, and actually work for some evil competitor who’s trying to make Sun look bad — because if you really do work for Sun, I’m ashamed to have you as a colleague.
    The people affected by this earthquake are dealing with a calamity orders of magnitude more devastating than most of us will ever experience. They are facing the simultaneous loss of their children, their homes, their possessions, and in some cases, their entire community. Everything they have ever known and loved and cared for, gone.
    Using this post as a vehicle to complain about the stock price is beyond reprehensible.

  18. ilovechina

    I think we should all donate as much to the Chinese as possible. After Katrina, it was clear how much the international community supported us, now it is time for us to support them.

  19. Terry Hunt

    What the heck is wrong with you people complaining about someone suggesting you help out those in dire need?. If want to give, great. If you don’t, then don’t. The suggestion was "any help". For those of you complaining that "times are tough" I say to you.. Waaaa! Times are always tough.
    Give. Don’t give. Your choice, but you should be ashamed of yourselves for flaming someone who is only trying to help people in obvious need.

  20. My condolences and sympathies for China and Myanamar. Acts of god happen, sometimes, but I hope we are all able to pick up the pieces and rebound from it. Regarding "…and we play a central role in how you present them to the world via the network…", I know syntax is a sticky issue, but I think it’s how one COMMUNICATES an idea, and not just how one presents an idea. Communications, that’s what it’s all about to me. Whether it’s electronically, orally, via print, or any other medium, it’s the method that counts, not just the content/information. What the information MEANS is up to each individual recipient. You can’t please everyone, nor should you try to. The network, like money, is a means to an end, not the end itself. Yet, still, The Network IS the computerTM.

  21. Bill_W

    Amen to the posts by Jeff Bonwick and Terry Hunt!!!!

  22. djv

    I agree with Terry Hunt. If you want to donate, great. If not, well that’s your choice. Just don’t flame Jonathan for wanting to help out those who need it more than others right now.

  23. I’m agree and I think we all must donate some!

  24. SunEmployeeAgain

    The point we’re making against Johnathan is not that his message of giving is wrong…
    but …
    – In a time when Sun’s performance is very sub-par, his job#1 is to make the company more competitive. Donations to China and Myanmar started long before Johnathan’s post and will continue for a long while after. This blog did little to the total collected for China and Myanmar. This blog also did little to assuage shareholders, employees and customers that Sun can deliver on it’s promises. Why are we not holding top management to a stricter level?

  25. junior activist

    Communication technology is powerful, and it helps us study politics,
    culture, history, and science. Companies like Amazon.com let us
    quickly order print publications. All of this can generate empathy,
    and encourage us to give assistance in times of disaster. I found
    the web helpful when I donated to Sichuan relief efforts.
    The people of China, the UK, and the US may lose out to government
    power as technology increases, as Naomi Klein writes:
    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/15/8970/
    I don’t mean to single out the Chinese government; China has
    many accomplishments, and much of its population takes pride
    in them. Criticism of China is often for political grandstanding.
    The tone of this article was rather harsh as well. The spending of
    large amounts of money on control rather than on social services
    is a universal danger.
    May technology be used for good.

  26. long time shareholder

    Jonathan, you wrote, "’Our technologies, after all, are how your journalists file their stories, and we play a central role in how you present them to the world via the network.’ I am unreservedly proud of Sun’s role in making the world a more open, transparent place."
    Here’s the thing that grinds against logic: Sun is a small, little part of the internet world these days. Do a reality check on where Sun is really playing today, and then work hard to derive pride from plugging the holes in what appears to be a slowly sinking ship, and get this company back on its feet, firmly. Sun is not ‘the good guy’ if you cannot use solid business acumen to grow the company’s top and bottom line. Come on! The stock price last I checked was a pre-reverse split of $3.32. Oy vey!
    And yes, we all should do what we can to help alleviate human suffering, taking care of our own families first, then those most in need.

  27. Java Employee - Still hopeful but hurting

    Jonathan’s blog and the resulting discussion in comments (well, some of them) have resulted in me finding a small amount to give by sacrificing on my family’s end, which my children have agreed to. My small donation went to Myanmar, FWIW. Further, I think Jonathan has a very big heart and my appreciation of his generosity was sincere… I don’t think anyone is "hating" on him for it. That accusation is a bit extreme I think.
    There is a natural disaster, man-made disaster, or other serious need in the world literally everyday; how do we draw the line on how much and how often to give? How do we decide who to give to when there are so many needs? I think that’s a personal choice and I respect everyone to make their own. I don’t believe a quid-pro-quo is required to lend assistance to other nations, but I do think the comment made by "ilovechina" is worth consideration as the scale of disaster between Katrina and the recent earthquake in China are comparable. I work very hard for what I have, I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever about it, and I’m not going to create hardship (by my definition of "hardship") in order to help the world, and if chance or mother nature should befall me, that’s simply a risk we all share. Last, I’m not ashamed to have any of you as a colleague, and appreciate all comments made, whether I agree with them or not.

  28. Former Java Employee

    @ Java Employee
    I think you’re right. The cost of living is going up and wages are stagnant. (I’m assuming you’re in the U.S.) I understand the fear that creates but let me say this. Follow your passion and never the money. Do what you love with alacrity and you will attract passionate successful people. And give back. The universe has a way of making sure what you put out comes back to you in a greater amount.
    I’m sure we can all cut out one luxury from our lives and use the money we save to help those in need.

  29. Another Sun Employee

    Why Sun officially donate millions to China. Lots of Taiwan manufacturer donates millions US$ right after the event. Their names will be remembered, a very good marketing effect. Sun have office in Sichuan province, how much did Sun donate ?
    JS, your blog is not a "personal" assets. Any words on this blog should be treated as official message at company level. Don’t waste this resource on personal work.

  30. Young

    Thank you,Jonathan! I’m one of the Chinese translators for your blog! Thank you very much!

  31. Just an observer (again)

    Rina, thanks for the clarification. I think you’re a fine human being for caring, as I think Jonathan and everyone else who gives as well.
    On the other hand, you cannot dismiss other comments out of hand. Salaries are stagnant, cost of living is going up while the US dollar falls. Oil is very expensive (no political statements being made, just a fact) and the general morale of employees is relatively low. With a pending ~10% US workforce lay-off around the corner, it’s hard for people to say "Yeah, let’s follow Jonathan and give our money". He has more than enough money to retire on, and he has no real fear of losing his job. Executives have contracts, not at-will employment. I do applaud his giving, truly I do. And I’m sure he’s given more than many people combined. The fact is, though, that not all of us are in that position. I’m sure he understands that too.
    Like somebody else said: give if you can. If you can’t, don’t. Nobody here is a monster, some people are just in a better position to give, and God bless them for doing so.
    I, however, will be focused on my own family until the Sun reduction in force is worked out. Even then I’m going to be more focused about growing my savings account lest another round of lay-offs come, and another executive urges people to donate when his or her employees are being laid off.

  32. Anonymous

    @Another Sun Employee, you don’t know how lucky you are to have JS steering the ship. The blogs are for Sun Employees to say what they like. To "participate" in the "big picture".
    @long time shareholder, you don’t see the big picture. JS is choosing a bold strategy of "zero price to enter, zero barrier to exit" to win in a highly competitive market. Yes it’s counter-intuitive, but I believe it will win in the long run. And that that’s how JS (and Mike) will be measured.
    Congratulations on your donation JS and thanks for leading Sun to a better place.

  33. You might consider joining a network called "1% for the planet" which is an organization of companies that donate 1% of their profit to NGOs fighting for a better world.

  34. Employee From China

    Thank you Jonathan, I am a Chinese, and Sichuan is my hometown where the earthquake happened. We hope that SUN’s business in China will grow faster and faster. Thank those kind-hearted people.

  35. Marc Karasek

    Java Employee, et all,
    While I can have some sympathy about wages vs cost of living. The fact is overall (unless you live in the mountains in a shack somewhere), the vast majority of US Workers live far and above the rest of the world. Accorinf to wikipedia "In 2006, the median annual household income was $48,201.00 " The same page only put Switzerland ahead of us in terms of median income. (They were at $55,000). And this is just in the "developed" countries.
    I have an idea, why don’t all of us for just one week, do one or more of the following:
    1) Forgo the morning Starbucks. $5
    2) Fast for 1-2 lunch $5-7 or pack a lunch from home.
    And then donate this small amount to either China or Myanmar.
    It never ceases to amaze me how we fail to understand how blessed as a nation we are.

  36. I’m very sorry to heard what happen in China and Myanmar recently.
    I already donate some money to them and wish all of you will do the same to help them. Thank you

  37. I (L) China,I (L) Sun

    Johnathan,as a Sun Employee in China,Appreciate your kindness. Thank you!(谢谢)

  38. Matt Linden

    The fact of the matter is that everyone who posted is right. These topics are highly personal and the individual point of view is what drives them. So how can anyone be wrong?
    However, I admire Jonathan for showing leadership on this issue. Sun is not going to go out of business because he takes the time to make this post. If it did, I would say we are organized incorrectly by being too dependent on a single leader.
    The issues brought up here are faced by everyone, all the time. Did you know that the biggest givers to charity based on percent of income are the "poor" in the U.S.? Act according to your your unique situation and conscience. If Jonathan inspires us to do good for fellow humans whether in China or Kansas then that is a net positive.
    If you cannot, or choose not to help this time then that is your decision and no one else is qualified to second guess you. But, I can only feel admiration for folks who encourage and try to help those in need. Bless us all, but let’s pay particular attention to those who currently need it most.

  39. i think some of us who cannot afford to help in cash can help if you have free internet access in your own small way – that’s the beauty of this long tail thing:
    freerice.com
    poverty.com
    I guess anyone will have to work hard to find a defect with those two🙂
    Check out the stats as well.
    And keep the kids in mind, not for today but for years to come.
    Listen to Richard Stallman’s speech given at Curitiba where he explains how freedom-software helps save billions of dollars for the govt to use in crises like these. We can’t change the world individually, but collectively we *already have* !
    We can’t change corrupt govts but we can greatly reduce the formal burden on the govt’s finances by using freedom-software.
    May i also take the liberty of requesting SUN’s startup customers (we’re a startup too) to give a little bit just like the ones who wrote all that beautiful code for you to build on, gave.
    Karma or no karma, when you go down to China (or hopefully a free Mayanmar) on your next business trip to explore emerging markets, you may well see a few kids, neatly dressed up, waiting for you, say: "Uncle Sam, you gave us food back then when our house was broken. Thank you soooo much! We love you!" (in chorus)
    There’s nothing quite like that feeling in this world. Much like being a father. Feels like heaven. Just a day’s profits or something.(startups, not others)
    Every bit helps. Thanks for listening🙂
    DISCLAIMER: I’m not pally with any FSFer or Linuxer although I am not as blind as to ignore the change in world order that the internet and freedom-software have brought about. For the other camp, I also admire Bill Gates’ success in putting a PC on each desk. After all, it worked.

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