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03.10.08

[Tongue in Cheek] Has Microsoft Taken Over Slashdot?

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, FUD, Microsoft at 2:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

People complain about it, then get gagged

When we were all much younger, we took some basic lessons. I was once taught that when one person insists that you’re excessively drunk, you might still be okay. When a second person tell you this, then it’s time to head for bed. It’s a metaphor.

“One of our readers described the problem as “slashvertisements”.”Parables and all aside, too many people are beginning to raise concerns about Slashdot as a portal which revolves around geeks and open source news. I get E-mails about this from several people. The Web talks about this also. The last voice of complaint (just hours ago, as a matter of fact) comes from noooxml.org, which spotted something that other people spotted as well.

Sladshdot is filled with a great deal of ‘fluff’ nowadays (less technology, more of the rest), which is reminiscent of Digg’s steep decline as a technology Web site. It is not easy to find a good explanation for this, but here are some experimental observations, courtesy of ours readers.

In recent week we raised concerns and passed on complaints about Slashdot’s somewhat unhealthy news bias, which was reported by long-time subscribers. One of our readers described the problem as “slashvertisements”. We covered more than a couple of examples fairly recently. You are encouraged to read these if you haven’t because we strive to reduce repetition of arguments and recycle links/text instead.

Nothing seems to have changed since the last time. One reader of ours writes:


[reader: ]

I am currently more inclined to suspect abuse rather than bias [in Slashdot].

The abuse can stem from a system vulnerable to gaming, or it can occur as the result of an fifth-columnist on the inside, or a little of both.

The fact that the tags change or disappear is in and of itself a big issue and need not be mingled with other problems. If descriptors are to be relied upon for retrieval of topics, they have to be a little less ephemeral and not subject to radical, arbitrary change.

[/ reader]


This comes in response to a lot of positive ‘air time’ which Microsoft appears to be getting at the expense of reports about its abuses or success stories which favour Free software.

It is worth mentioning that Roblimo, the editor of Slashdot, visited Microsoft some time ago. He was invited, like many others whose site is critical of Microsoft.

“That would give you some before / after metrics,” a reader of us says. He continues: “Yeah, he got really upset when I asked about the change in writing when he got back from the Gates compound. Whatever happened there appears to have taken a bit of the starch out of him.”

So, that same reader, noticing a trend which we covered here before, went on and did a bit of experimental investigation. To quote it in full (parts of it go beyond the scope of topic, but are worth a read nonetheless):


[reader: ]

Ok, here’s ‘smoking gun’ material:

Look at the caches which, at the time of this search, are from Feb 13:

http://www.google.com/search?q=vistafailure+OR+vistafailurelog

For some time, I had been planning to go over everything tagged ‘vistafailure’ or ‘vistafailurelog’ before the articles themselves somehow disappear or get ‘misplaced’

There used to be many articles (dozens IIRC) with either tag. Now, March 7, there are none:

http://slashdot.org/tags/vistafailure

http://slashdot.org/tags/vistafailurelog

“There are few other conclusions other than someone with access to Slashdot has been fiddling the tags.”There are few other conclusions other than someone with access to Slashdot has been fiddling the tags. If more were known about Slashdot’s tagging process, it would be possible to say more precisely how much it’s being gamed from the outside and how much requires help from the inside.

Certainly Slashdot is being spammed lately. Laundering of the tags may be separate or part of it.

[...]

PS. I wrote that about at least 10 hours ago and lost focus before sending. During that time I started to cache articles as PDF for printing on Monday. I thought it would be a small number, but after 5 hours, I’ve wearied. There are as many, if not more, articles complaining about how Microsoft Vista sucks, than there were for XP or even XP SP2. As usual, these are coming from various windows oriented magazines.

[...]

Irregardless of what the group may call itself, it operates like a political movement or a cult. If you have eyes, you can see it. If you have ears, you can hear it. However, if neither are good enough, then the court provides you with the cult’s own words about how it works: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20071023002351958

Damage from Windows-only malware runs into the billions of dollars annually, just for the USA. The cult of Microsoft even causes great damage in terms of stifling competition and innovation. Add to that the damage the low quality design and development cause. From Windows you get late trains, delayed planes, power outages, misplaced contracts, the works. It’s so bad in places that many tasks would be more efficient if they dropped not just Windows but computers.

[...]

It’s perfectly legal for armed services, under the direction of their national government, to respond to threats to national sovereignty. Bill’s got to be the biggest seen since the British. Though one could make a case that the militias have a stake in things and should respond in kind.

Osama is a problem and has caused damage. He also small potatoes compared to Bill, if one counts in dollars. Though as Windows heads into critical components or infrastructure, you start to be able to tally a body count as well. The east coast US power outage is attributable to Microsoft, so was the 5 hour airspace shutdown in California. California is the world’s 7th largest economy. How much damage is done daily from just the Windows malware? When you start to get into the problems from other design defects, the figures go higher. At some point even a raw dollar value begins to cost lives because resources are then coming from things that increase safety, reduce risk, increase health, etc.

Or take a milder approach. Look at XP SP1 licensing.

http://www.microsoft.com/about/legal/useterms/

Ask executives at 20 random businesses the following:

  • Who on their staff is authorized to grant third party access to their electronic records?
  • Another question, who is authorized to extend permission to third parties to be authorized themselves to grant access to 4th(?) parties to the company’s electronic records?
  • Another question, according to their policy, who outside the company is allowed to access the company’s data and electronic records?

Then ask which systems they have on their desktops and in their server rooms. If they answer XP SP1 or later, or 2000 SP3 or later, then their policy is out of line with their practices.

Most interviewees stop answering after the first question above.

[...]

There’s the law. Then there’s the blind spot the world has in regarding Microsoft.
[/ reader]


“You’re not the only one being shilled at Slashdot,” says another reader, whose status in the Free software community is very high. “After I posted a comment I’ve had two people moderate me down as a troll for it, when I comment on how in about 24h we see 3 articles unreasonably favourable to Microsoft on Slashdot,” he adds.

The example and links which prove this are omitted here (there was also a screenshot enclosed) in order not to reveal the identity of the person, but the proof seems compelling enough to justify sharing. Also mind the past conversation here (see messages at the bottom) about known Microsoft Munchkins resorting to personal attacks in Slashdot discussions. Same story in USENET and possibly in Digg also, not to mention what is sometimes found in the ODF/OOXML debate.

All in all, it seems like Slashdot has sunk and fallen into similar hands. Maybe its editors are not even aware of this. It’s recurring and recurring. It’s just a pattern which is gradually becoming too hard to ignore. Slashdot’s popularity, overall, seems to be declining quickly if traffic ranks are anything to go by, at least for sufficiently-large sites.

I have been reading Slashdot for as long as I can remember. My stories also reached the front page several times. Tonight, however, I say goodnight to Slashdot. It was nice knowing “news for geeks”, but news for geeks it no longer covers.

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10 Comments

  1. Woods said,

    March 10, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Gravatar

    Have there been any reports about what exactly happens at theGates compound in these meetings? Are people being bought, intimidated (simply shown the error of their ways and allowed to repent, ah-ha, ah-ha…) etc.?

    As an aside, the Pentagon data theft was also attributed to flaws in Windows:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/06/pentagon_breach_assessment/

    Are there any examples of people/groups having been invited to Microsoft, who have *not* bowed down? (assuming in the first place than any bowing down actually happens…)

  2. CoolGuy said,

    March 10, 2008 at 4:44 am

    Gravatar

    I am a regular slashdot reader. After reading this I have put slashdot on my ban list until it restores back to sanity.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 10, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Gravatar

    Are there any examples of people/groups having been invited to Microsoft, who have *not* bowed down?

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/index.php?p=208

    :-)

  4. chair.emballmer said,

    March 10, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Gravatar

    in order for microsoft to be broken up correctly, there will have to be further leaks from honest employees within the company.

    i feel microsoft eventually will crumble under their own weight of corruption, it is a matter of time. honest people within may help speed up the evolution.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 10, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Gravatar

    Just watch the latest news:

    Microsoft challenges ‘Vista Capable’ class action

    If granted, the motion would also postpone any new disclosures of potentially embarrassing company e-mails.

    I still opine that for each such leaked dirty trick (with hundreds more here and here, there must be like 10 more that go along with people into their graves. Intel and Microsoft thriving in crime is nothing new (not to me at least, having watched them closely for a couple of years).

    Intel’s antitrust in the EU resumes today. Microsoft is already running low in terms of cash (yes, it’s true, but it’s not to be confused with wealth of employees — both past and present). The next few years will be particularly interesting.

  6. Victor Soliz said,

    March 10, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Gravatar

    It is abuse of the firehose I must say.

    Look at this: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/07/1854247

    I submitted the same story earlier. Whatever prevented mine from getting to the home page, was not working during the time that one was submitted, that’s my theory at least.

  7. apol said,

    March 10, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Gravatar

    Hi,

    What do you think of sending a last post message there?… Here is mine:

    http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=482032&cid=22700566

    We can eventually make a collection of links to last post messages… If we all write use “last post” string in the message it’s even easy to search.

    I wrote a random ontopic message to avoid OT moderation…

    Thanks for the investigative effort,
    apol

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 10, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Gravatar

    Someone has E-mailed me to say that advising Slashdot to improve would be better than blunt criticism. Experiments like this might help (actually, it reminds me of Groklaw’s inability to ever index any comments, so only Pam’s articles get exposure).

    It would be interesting to know who runs the show. I noticed that Rob Malda rarely runs /. nowadays. His name is attached to very few posts. I know nothing about kdawson and I rarely find Zonk and Tim. A shift in editorial power is probably the thing to look into. Where is old-skool Slashdot? The frequency of Linux stories is extremely low.

  9. RlillySR said,

    March 10, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Gravatar

    Tim Bray on Twitter “Holy crap. Slashdot runs a pro-OOXML puff-piece: “The allegations that we didn’t cover aren’t true”. We are in the end-times.” http://twitter.com/timbray/statuses/768754857

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 10, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, that was pretty much the same reaction which I E-mailed to some friends when I first saw this. I can’t post it in public because it was vulgar (yes, I was angry).

    It’s not the first by the way. To just quote one friend, with whom I shared thoughts about a pattern was identified and seen for quite some time:


    
    ..let's compare apples to apples.
    
    We can complain that many of these MS ads do not address currently
    released or widely spread products or services but are only speculation
    on possible future products.  So the FOSS articles read along the lines
    
    	$RELEASED_PRODUCT $RELEASED_VERSION does $TESTED_FUNCTION
    
    whereas the MS ads follow the formula:
    
    	$FUTURE_VERSION might or might not support $PROPOSED_FUNCTION
    
    
    e.g.
    	"FreeBSD 7.0 Release Now Available", "First NetBSD Bugathon a Success",
    "Firefox Extension Guide and More", "Firefox 2.0 Posted a Day Early",
    "Firefox 2.0 Wins Phishfight Against IE7"  etc.
    
    
    vs
    	"IE8 Will Be Standards-Compliant By Default", "Little Demand Yet For
    Silverlight Developers", "Internet Explorer 8 Beta Features Revealed",
    "Microsoft Singularity Now 'Open' Source"
    	
    We can't use a metric of quality, though most of these MS "articles" are
    puff pieces and poorly dress ads.  However, Probably the majority follow
    the tautology that they would not be published unless legit and because
    they are published therefore they are legit.
    
    

    This may be a form of viral marketing from Microsoft and it works because people blog about it, having seen it in Slashdot. I’ve seen the viral effect, which only increased dissatisfaction with Slashdot seeding it all. Sometimes it’s not even news, but just a pointer to Microsoft jobs (as in Silverlight’s case).

    More on Microsoft’s viral marketing here. There is a long history to it, so suspicion seems justified. And to add another quote from a friend:


    
    Accidental side effect of needing the articles... Followed by a lucky guess
    which happened to have some links handy. In contrast, my observations
    about MS' Jihad (their words) against the free world had to wait almost
    10 years for the relevant court record
    
    	http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20071023002351958
    
    (No, I'm not expecting to be finished bringing that one up anytime soon. )
    
    

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