Saturday, July 30, 2005

Scoble vs.The Register

Microsoft blogger: 'My toolbar vanished too!' | The Register: "Bullying small web publications, while maintaining an elaborate fiction, is a new step for the blogger however, and in our experience Microsoft's PR professionals have never resorted to bullying."

Scoble denies the e-mail (Update: and it may well have been faked by The Register, or SOMEONE ELSE). But the point being made (I think) is that when corporations blog, or pay individuals to blog you have to take everything those individuals say with a huge grain of salt. Scoble's blog (among others) are very vocal and carelessly casual most of the time, but then he gets into trouble and sudenly his comment system goes down, he goes on vacation, has company, eats too much cheese, and goes silent for a few days. (Update: he has company and has gone silent for a few days.)

The question is: Is the ailing Microsoft reputation benefited in any way by this? The company is known for bad PR stunts already, paying companies to produce "research" promoting their products and so on. Doesn't this just look like more of the same extended into the blogosphere?

Could something Scoble says get the company sued? Or can his posting on a non-Microsoft website allow them to wash their hands of any controversy? While most people seem to like Scoble, and at first, he seemed like a nice down-to-earth nerdy type to me too, after a while I detect a less and less subtle manipulation going on.

Microsoft has always been a great demonstration of marketings triumph over engineering. We look back at the Beta/VHS wars and can all conclude now that Beta was better, but its too late to do anything about it. The same dynamic applies to Windows. It was never the best, but now we are stuck with it. Like the Beta/VHS wars, the operating system wars may soon be rendered moot by a greater and greater emphasis on newer technologies, in this case ability of online techniques to take back many of the activities that used to require local tools (like Office).

MS wants to be a player in this arena, if for no other reason than to thwart Google who many think will eventually provide word processing and spreadsheet capabilities. You can't hire commissioned sales reps to go door to door selling MSN services (for free) as an alternative to existing Google and Yahoo functions (also free, pre-existing, and generally better). So what is a cut-throat marketing company to do? Whether Scoble is for real, a shill, or a totally fabricated persona doesn't really matter. The fact is that he is paid, and probably paid pretty well to convey a positive message about Microsoft. It's called stealth marketing, and one of these days the term will be up there with "spam" as something you want to avoid at all costs. But for now, companies are using it to push their products, and those of us who would prefer to continue thinking for ourselves have to be on the lookout.


  1. Andrew is outright lying about my email. It's fabricated. Are you willing to take the sides of a liar when I can prove I didn't write that email (Microsoft backs up all my email sent).

  2. Where did I "take sides", and furthermore, why should I be called upon to do so? I don't know Mr. Orlesky (sp?) any better than I know you. You work for Microsoft, he probably hates Microsoft.

    In case you haven't noticed, I'm not such a big fan of Microsoft these days either.

    Hasn't it occurred to you that someone could have sent him a forged e-mail? Before I publicly called someone a liar I think I would have at least examined that possibility.

    But let's assume that as you say, he is a liar. You got him so frazzled that he couldn't think of anything better than to post a faked e-mail message, and somehow, it never occurred to him that you would challenge it, or that Microsoft kept e-mail logs... or, well, not being a writer of screenplays I'm having trouble with the plot here. You finish it.

    It seems to me that it doesn't much matter whether the e-mail was real or not. I guess you two having a pissing contest keeps the story at the top of the search engines longer, and maybe that's all this is about.

    What remains is that the gist of the original story still stands which (as I read it) is:

    * Some users of earlier MS browsers who also used Google or Yahoo toolbars had them become inoperative when they installed this new "Beta" IE. I put that in quotes because as someone else pointed out, this would probably be more apply described as Alpha code by most organizations. They panicked (keep in mind some of these people may be responsible for THOUSANDS of desktop systems) and many of them forgot that they could have called your cell phone to get everything set straight.

    As someone else also pointed out the proper response to this should have been: "So what, it's a Beta." Followed by assurances from the developers that it was not their intent to sabotage Yahoo or Google.

    * The other aspect of the story, that you might be attempting to draw attention from is that Microsoft has a long long history of doing just that: sabotaging competing products by tinkering with the underlying Windows components.

    As a former user of MS products I have been burned by this on more than one occasion. I promoted the hell out of OS/2 when it was still the next great MS OS only to be embarrassed when Mr. Gates decided to take his toys and go home. Ditto for Office 2000 which was supposed to be totally integrated with the web. Sure. Your indignation as at being lied about or being called a liar pales in comparison to the billions of hours people have put in adjusting to Microsoft surprises.

    If Microsoft wants to make the claim, through your blog, or otherwise, that they are no longer engaging in such activities then BRAVO! But please, indulge us skeptics for a release or two. When my friends and relatives stop calling me ("the Windows expert") to help them get their systems working again I'll stop focusing so much on what Microsoft is up to and get back to 3DVR technology or something more interesting.

    In the mean time it is my opinion, shared by quite a few others I suspect, that the Microsoft monoculture has done more to hold back technology in this country than even the lousy education system we have (I agree with Bill Gates on that at least). Interestingly enough, the two phenomena have a lot in common.