“I’d be glad to help tilt lotus into into the death spiral. I could do it Friday afternoon but not Saturday. I could do it pretty much any time the following week.”
–Brad Silverberg, Microsoft
Many participants and speakers referenced to the OOXML standardisation process, in particular were intrigued by the French AFNOR developments. Generally speakers feel concerned about OOXML to become a standard in governmental procurement. In private a government delegate compared Microsoft’s public affairs methods with the scientology cult.
This is interesting for a variety of reasons. To repeat a fragment from an antitrust exhibit (Microsoft’s own internal documents):
A Jihad is a road trip. in which an evangelist visits a large number of ISVs one-on-one to convince them to take some specific action. The classic Jihad is one focused on getting Tier A ISVs to commit to supporting a given technology by signing the technology’s Letter of Agreement (LOA – see above).
A Jihad focuses on the Travelling Salesman aspect of evangelism. As in sales, the purpose of the exercise is to close – to get the mark the ISV to sign on the dotted line, in pen, irrevocably. Not to get back to us later, not to talk to the wife about it, not to enter a three-day cooling-off period, but to get the ISV to sign, sign, sign.
If the start of the meeting is the first time the ISV has seen the LOA, then he’s not going to sign it at the end of the meeting. Since we’re asking for a very serious commitment, we want the ISV to give their signing serious consideration. If the ISV cannot deliver, then his committing to deliver is worse than useless – the ISV’s participation may occupy one of a limited number of available slots, keeping some other ISV from participating.
To maximize the chance of getting the ISV to sign during the Jihad visit, make sure that
— The ISV has seen the LOA at least a week before the Jihad visit
— The LOA is very clear about what exactly each side is promising to deliver, and when
— An Officer of the ISV’s corporation will be attending the meeting
— Microsoft’s Director of DRG has positioned the LOA with sufficient seriousness, in a cover letter or other communication in advance of the meeting
— You make it clear from the start that the purpose of your visit is to answer any questions that they might have, preparatory to signing the LOA while you’re there
— They understand that those who do not sign the LOA, are frozen out of all further information about the techology until it goes into public beta
— They understand (without being crude about it) that you will be making the same offer to their competitors
— You have T-shirts or other swag to give to those who sign. lt’s amazing what some people will do for a T-shirt.
There are a million tips and tricks to effective road trips, and to being a Road Warrior in general, all of which is beyond the scope of this discussion.
8: The Slog
Guerilla marketing is often a long, hard slog.
slog (sl^g) v. slogged, slogqing, slogs. –tr, To strike with heavy blows, as in boxing. -intr. 1. To walk with a slow, plodding gait. 2. To work diligently for long hours. –n. . 1. long, hard work. 2. A long, exhausting march or hike. [Orig. unknown.] -slog’ger
–American Heritage Dictionary, 1991
In the Slog, Microsoft dukes it out with the competition. MSDN and Platform marketing are the regular forces, exchanging blows with the enemy mano a mano. Evangelism should avoid formal, frontal assaults, instead focusing its efforts of hit-and-run tactics.
In the Slog, the enemy will counter-attack, trying to subvert your Tier A ISVs to their side, just as you should try to subvert their ISVs to your side. New ISVs should be sought, and directed to MSDN’s one-to- many programs. Evangelism should constantly be on the lookout for killer demos, hot young startups, major ISVs, customer testimonials, enemy-alliance-busting defections and other opportunities to demonstrate momentum for our technology. If bugs are found in our technology, or missing features are found to be critically important, then now is the time to identify and fix them. Stay engaged with the technology development team; ensure that you are a valuable resource for them, not a hectoring pest. Document all of your progress (ideally in regularly updated internal Web pages) and forward it regularly to management. If management is not aware of your progress, your successes, and your stumbling blocks, then they can’t help. (They may not help anyway, but they can’t if they don’t know what you need.)
Keep those Tier A ISVs on track to delivery! They are your strongest weapons and cannot be forgotten.
The elements of the evangelical infrastructure – conference presentations, courses, seminars, books, magazine articles, whitepapers, etc. – should start hitting the street at the start of the Slog. They should be so numerous as to push all other books off the shelf, courses out of catalogs, and presentations off the stage.
Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy’s, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. “Independent” analyst’s report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent” consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). “Independent” courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage.
I have mentioned before the “stacked panel”. Panel discussions naturally favor alliances of relatively weak partners – our usual opposition. For example, an “unbiased” panel on OLE vs. OpenDoc would contain representatives of the backers of OLE (Microsoft) and the backers of OpenDoc (Apple, IBM, Novell, WordPerfect, OMG, etc.). Thus we find ourselves outnumbered in almost every “naturally occurring” panel debate.
A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select the panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only “independent ISVs” on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed – just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the “real world.” Sounds marvelously independent doesn’t it? In fact, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.
Finding a moderator is key to setting up a stacked panel. The best sources of pliable moderators are:
— Analysts: Analysts sell out – that’s their business model. But they are very concerned that they never look like they are selling out, so that makes them very prickly to work with.
— Consultants: These guys are your best bets as moderators. Get a well-known consultant on your side early, but don’t let him publish anything blatantly pro-Microsoft. Then, get him to propose himself to the conference organizers as a moderator, whenever a panel opportunity comes up. Since he’s well-known, but apparently independent, he’ll be accepted – one less thing for the constantly-overworked conference organizer to worry about, right?
Gathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of the Slog. We need to know who their allies are and what differences exist between them and their allies (there are always sources of tension between allies), so that we can find ways to split ‘em apart. Reading the trade press, lurking on newsgroups, attending conferences, and (above all) talking to ISVs is essential to gathering this intelligence.
This is a very tough phase of evangelism. You’ll be pulled in every direction at once, randomized by short-term opportunities and action items, nagged by your Tier A ISVs and pestered by every other ISV that wants to become a Tier A. Management will want to know right now how you’re going to respond to some bogus announcement by some random ISV. Some PM over in Consumer will demand that you drop everything to go talk to an ISV in Outer Mongolia, that’s run by an old college chum of his. Competitors will make surprise announcements, lie through their teeth, and generally try to screw you just as hard as you are trying to screw them.
Of course, if you are very, very lucky, there will be no competition to your technology. But this is almost never the case. ODBC had its IDAPI, OLE had its OpenDoc, COM had its SOM, DCOM has its CORBA, MAPI had its VIM, etc., etc., etc. The existence of a Microsoft technology nearly guarantees that a competitive technology will spring into existence overnight, backed by an impromptu association of Microsoft competitors which have decided to draw yet another Line in the Sand (“If we don’t stop Microsoft here, then they are going to take over the whole world!”).
Without a competing technology to fight, you just hand everything over to MSDN, give your Tier A ISVs to PSS, and find a new technology to evangelize. But that takes most of the fun out of the game
9: Final Release:
Evangelism of a given technology usually ends with the final, shipping release of that technology. One last big press event, with demos, a tradeshow, press releases, etc., is often called for, showcasing the apps that are sim-shipping and the customers that are using them. In the face of strong competition, Evangelism’s
focus may shift immediately to the next version of the same technology, however. Indeed, Phase 1 (Evangelism Starts) for version x+1 may start as soon as this Final Release of version X.
10: Critical Mass
The Slog may continue beyond the Final Release, for many months, until Critical Mass is reached. It is possible that Critical Mass will not be reached at all for Version X of a technology, such that Phases 1-9 will have to be repeated – possibly more than once – before ever reaching Critical Mass.
Critical Mass is reached when the technology starts evangelizing itself. When reviews subtract points if it’s not supported; when analysts say “great product plan, but what about [Technology Name]?”; when VC’s won’t fund a company unless it supports [Technology Name] – that’s Critical Mass. At that point, Evangelism of the technology stops, and Evangelism’s resources are applied to other technologies – or, if you’re lucky, moves into the Mopping Up phase.
11: Mopping Up
Mopping Up can be a lot of fun. In the Mopping Up phase, Evangelism’s goal is to put the final nail into the competing technology’s coffin, and bury it in the burning depths of the earth. Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.
Some technologies continue as competitors long after they are true threats – look at OS/2, the Operating System that Refused to Die. It is always possible – however unlikely – that competitors like OpenDoc, SOM, OS/2, etc, could rise from the dead… so long as there is still development work being done on them. Therefore, final victory is reached only when the competing technology’s development team is disbanded, its offices reassigned, its marketing people promoted, etc. You have truly and finally won, when they come to interview for work at Microsoft.
Victory is sweet. Savor it. Then, find a new technology to evangelize — and get back to work
Looking at the comments section of this plain-text version, you can find familiar names of known Microsoft AstroTurfers who defend the practices above or try to deny them (never mind if their source is Microsoft itself).
It’s possible that the world begins to realise just what type of “ecosystem” it’s dealing with. The problem is aggravating when this orgy of money and power encourages destruction of competitor using what’s referred to as “Jihad”. Some of the tactics listed in Microsoft’s list are of course illegal. Our concern is that Novell becomes part of this Microsoft ecosystem and it therefore cannot be trusted anymore. █