Bonum Certa Men Certa

Shill Watch: A Quick Ramble

Rant alert

We sometimes hear from people who suspect that their Web site or forum's community is getting poisoned by companies. The following is not necessarily related to the previous post about Microsoft 'evangelism', but one we received a couple of hours ago from a known and reliable source reads: "Do you have any way of finding out more about who is employing this shill on behalf of Microsoft?"

"Åtkomst nekad Du har inte behörighet till denna sida," the request for this page returns, meaning that details are unavailable except for subscribers. LinuxPortalen's sysadmin would have to provide details about user "plun" somehow, based on what we were told.

In a short conversation that soon developed it came up that Microsoft employs by proxy. "If I understood correctly Waggener Edstrom is [only] one of several (many) marketing firms, but the main one though."

Watch the news in their front page at the moment:

"Yankee Group Chooses WE [Waggener Edstrom] as its Communications Partner"

Remember the Yankee Group, which we last wrote about just a fortnight ago? The apple doesn't fall so far from the tree. Increased disinformation activity has been noticed not just here.

A reader points out that "though Microsoft is famous for lobbying / marketing, it isn't even good at that. Those functions are outsourced. So, Microsoft is good at ... well ... nothing, except outsourcing."

We had our share of problems too. This nymshifting troll (mind the comments) caused a lot of pain and hours of lost time. He keeps changing names and he harasses Beranger also.

In previous correspondence said the same reader: "It would also be useful to shoot down the Microsoft "talking points", the blog entries [on ODF] can help compensate for Microsoft functional ownership of the media. I'd also like to know how Microsoft is gaming Google's page rank." (c/f ODF smear campaign, akin to "The Slog")

"Earlier attempts to hire veterans from firms like Microsoft had awful results. "Google is so different that it was almost impossible to reprogram them into this culture," says CEO Eric Schmidt."

--Google Goes Globe-Trotting (2007)



Microsoft was caught spamming (the 'proper' way) search engines before and it still does that. It has no guilt or shame. It's the beautiful naked emperor in its own eyes.

"Microsoft has warned Google to steer clear of corporate search, declaring that the market is "our house".

[...]

"Those people are not going to be allowed to take food off our plate, because that is what they are intending to do.""

--Microsoft warns Google off business search (2006)



Further says our reader: "I would appreciate if you could send [share] the link. Since 2004 and onward I've mentioned a few times to Google staff about the problem of developing toxic shock. I see former Microsoft employee as largely unreformable and unemployable inside of high-technology for the rest of their careers. However, be that as it may, taking them without a cooling off or acclimitization period at another company means that all the problems at Microsoft transmigrate to Google."

It is a worrying thought, surely, but it doesn't quite ring a bell. There was another recent example where Microsoft escorted a Microsoft-to-Google defector out of campus like he was a criminal. It was only mentioned in Microsoft blogs, but not in the mainstream media. Microsoft's Google envy has spun a little out of control, which brought out vanity as we showed before. It's a hard problem to solve.

“They use lies, insults, extreme libel and bury everything (comments, submissions) they want to intercept.”Going back to the problem with manipulation of content and search, the reader added: "Google and others could deal with the problem. Rather than let it slide. Google did announce a change in policy a few years back and said that it will interfere with pages and groups gaming their ranking system.

"Back to Slashdot. On Slashdot, for example, there has been a lot of offensive text (coprophilia, homophilia, etc) posted prominently in discussion of articles which strike at the core of the issues. Some of it is more low key, for example towards the bottom of the wiki page on codes, there is a link to a problem in Australia."

Speaking from personal experience, the same tactics seem to be used in particular newsgroups in USENET, namely the use of vile language that drives readers away. It happens in forums that are focused on Linux or -- more broadly -- on Free software. The very same people (from the same newsgroups where they have harassed for over a decade) came to Digg.com where they systematically insult me in the same obscene way using libel (see this, for example, because the problem recurred just a couple of days ago). Memories of a recent article spring to mind because it's not an unusual tactic (even outside technology):

"The activities uncovered by Wikileaks include deleting Guantanamo detainees' ID numbers from Wikipedia, posting of self-praising comments on news websites in response to negative articles, promoting pro-Guantanamo stories on the Internet news focus website Digg, and even altering Wikipedia's entry on Cuban President Fidel Castro to describe him as "an admitted transexual" [sic]...

The proof Wikeleaks assembled includes the IP address and whois ownership record for public.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil, which is Guantanamo's Internet gateway server, google hits on that IP address, a traceroute through a satellite downlink, the whois ownership record for that downlink, links to the defaced Wikipedia entries, links to comments posted at news websites, records of approximately 140 promotions of news articles at Digg, links and quotes about three alleged US military propagandists who are stationed at Guantanamo, and fourteen links to other Wikileaks articles about Guantanamo."

--US military propaganda team busted (2007)



The personal attacks that you can find in Digg (in my case, from users with the names "kretik", "flatfish", "harlowmonkeys" and several more) come from the same people who have harassed advocates of Free software for many years (in some cases for over 8 years with victims re-chosen until they give up or flee). They use lies, insults, extreme libel and bury everything (comments, submissions) they want to intercept. They lurk in Slashdot too and post anonymously sometimes, for a fact (it's permitted in Slashdot, but not in all popular sites, whose reputation companies attempt to ruin if they dislike the message or topical focus they change).

An interpretation of this broad phenomenon comes from a reader: "That creates several problems, one of which is to turn new people off from both the topic and the site. Another, is that in regions or institutions using corporate censorship products, the site will eventually ease its way into the banned category. Yet another is that it tries to piggyback one issue onto another, unrelated, topic."

There is a lot more to this and the issue was raised before, e.g. here. In addition, false accusation were made against my Web sites, saying they are the source of DDOS attack. Shades of Sys-Con and Groklaw. Then, my sites got blacklisted by Websense (Groklaw likewise).

"'Riders' are not any more appropriate in technology than they are in congress," concludes the reader. It's an interesting thing to explore, overall.

"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."

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

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