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How Microsoft May Deal with European Antitrust: Mouthpieces

Guest post

EDGI - Microsoft - talking points
Source: Microsoft internal memo [PDF], labeled "HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL"



SEVERAL YEARS ago Wired Magazine published the following article:

The author of the email, posted on ZDNet in a Talkback forum on the Microsoft antitrust trial, claimed her name was Michelle Bradley and that she had "retired" from Microsoft last week.

"A verbal memo [no email allowed] was passed around the MS campus encouraging MS employee's to post to ZDNet articles like this one," the email said.

"The theme is 'Microsoft is responsible for all good things in computerdom.' The government has no right to prevent MS from doing anything. Period. The 'memo' suggests we use fictional names and state and to identify ourselves as students," the author claimed.


"Bizniz€® as usual for Microsoft," says Slated. We wish to present his message regarding this incident because Microsoft is again under fire from the authorities, so it's likely to be using similar tactics. According to this new article from Roughly Drafted, it currently uses talking points from Dan Lyons and Paul Thurrott:

Two notorious Microsoft shills, Dan Lyons and Paul Thurrott, have sunk to new lows of historical revisionism order to decry that “the media” is conspiring to uncritically fawn over a company other than the one they have uncritically fawned over as paid flacks over the last decade. They’re wrong, here’s why.


Below is the take of Slated on this former issue about Microsoft employees battling the government anonymously (or via pressure groups [1, 2]):




Note the carefully constructed and wholly evasive response, by Microsoft's hired mouthpiece, Heidi Rothhauser of Waggner Edstrom:

"Microsoft has never had an employee by the name of Michelle Bradley,"

“Note that "not aware" is not synonymous with "does not exist".”Well naturally, after all, Microsoft's shills have been instructed to "use fictional names".

"We are not aware of any memos or verbal directives of this nature."

Note that "not aware" is not synonymous with "does not exist".

"It is against Microsoft policy for any employee to misrepresent him or herself by email or any other means."

Again, this carefully evades the truth. I'm quite prepared to believe that such a policy really does exist (after all Sweaty needs something to show the auditors), but it's likely this policy document is currently being used as an "Out of Order" notice in a disused toilet somewhere at Redmond HQ. The "official line" and "working practises" are not necessarily the same, and given 's documented history of hired shills (i.e. "Technology Evangelists"), it's pretty obvious this "policy" is just a sham.

Here's the truth that Waggner Edstrom won't tell you:

Here's what happened. In January of this year, a newcomer popped up in the Canopus forum named Steve Barkto. He said he was from Oklahoma City and had been an IBM customer for seven years. He wasted little time before attacking IBM, Dave Whittle, and your fearless reporter over issues we had previously discussed with Rick Segal.

This Bartko character had a writing style which was so similar to that of Rick Segal's that it immediately caught my eye. In fact, I responded to his first message to me by asking if he were Segal in drag. Nobody (including myself) took my question seriously. At least not at first.

Then one of the forum Sysop's noted that instead of calling from Oklahoma City, where he claimed to be from, Bartko's calls were originating from the node closest to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington. This led Will Zachmann, who 'owns' the forum and is Wizop there, to look more closely.

What he found was incredible: Barkto's account was in fact owned by Microsoft. It had been opened with a corporate credit card belonging to Rick Segal. Will sent a letter to the Microsoft Board of Directors demanding an investigation and explanation, but no explanation has ever been forthcoming.


And, of course, this:

Effective Evangelism James Plamondon, Technical Evangelist

[...]

Our mission is to establish Microsoft's platforms as the de facto standards throughout the computer industry.... 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).


Apropos:

"Between 1992 and 2000, I was a Technology Evangelist (TE) with Microsoft, where I was widely considered to be its leading TE theorist and practitioner. For example, in the late 1990's, I was the only Microsoft employee to design and lead TE training seminars that all of Microsoft's newly-hired TE's were required to attend." ~ James Plamondon


So, which one of these two Microsoft representatives is lying ("it is against Microsoft policy for any employee to misrepresent him or herself by email or any other means") ... Microsoft's hired PR firm, or their ex-head of Technology Evangelism?

Hmmm...

Note also that if they do astroturf for Microsoft, then they're violating more than just company policy. In the EU they'll be breaking the law:

The European Union’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (PDF), enacted in May, 2005, already bars companies from "falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer"


And (from that same page):

"Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal. The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site. Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that."


Soon nowhere will be safe for Microsoft's shills.

[Ed: Also see coverage here]

This is why I'm so sceptical when (supposedly) ordinary Microsoft staff protest "but we're not evil!". Like this guy here, Charles Carmine, self-described "spiritual advisor to Channel 9" [*] (transcript of minute 23):

So I guess, you know, one of the things that I find interesting is, is, you know, what is it about Microsoft, I mean you mentioned, Miguel, that your friends called you, like they said "gee, you can't do that, it's Microsoft, man"? I get the same sort of vibe from people, you know, when I say that I work for Microsoft, that they're immediately like "oh man!", you know, and these are, again these are developer friends of mine that don't work on our stack, which, and they're good friends of mine. So what is it about the community out there, that you're definitely, you /know/ these people, I mean why are we so evil? That's my question, why are we so evil?


Answer: See above.

If Microsoft staff follow these off-the-record "verbal" memos, which naturally "don't exist" because they are "against Microsoft policy", then at the very least they are complicit in Microsoft's "evil", if not actually supportive of it. IMHO the two acts are indistinguishable, both in terms of morality and outcome. So clearly this "evil" extends far beyond the boardroom. That goes for de Icaza and friends, just as much as any "official" Microsoft employee.

_____ [*] Referred to:

C9 started as a grass roots effort on a team of evangelists. It got going with some help of a lot of people. Now that it is up and moving, some people move on to new jobs and others come in and join us.

Charles and Scoble are the driving forces behind the day to day. You have to love their dedication to this site. We love to hear what we can do better, so keep the feedback coming.

As for me being a "kingpin" ?

Carmine ... I prefer "spiritual advisor to Channel 9"


PS: Carmine's constant "interesting, interesting" responses, delivered in a tone of perplexity and scepticism, to de Icaza's crystal-clear definition of Open Source and Free Software, as if the concept of Freedom was completely alien to him (Carmine), is both frightening and hysterical. It's right at the start of that video. I recommend you take another look, and give yourself a good laugh (or the shivers, whichever).

Also check out the bit (a few minutes later) where Carmine tries to redefine "open source" ("we recently open sourced the base-class libraries"), and later on protests (paraphrased) "Sometimes ... you've got IP. It's mine, it's mine, I don't want it to be yours. It's my IP."

LOL!

Want a bib with that dummy, Carmine?

Also note the sly little jibe he slipped in, after de Icaza's protracted explanation of FOSS, spelled out in words of one syllable for Carmine's benefit:

de Icaza: "...you are in control" Carmine: "Should you care to"

IOW in Carmine's limited imagination, the only possible reason for the existence of Free Software, is to benefit those "few" with the necessary programming skills to capitalise on it. This is someone who apparently has no concept of the principle of Freedom, or principles in general. If someone asked him to vote for the reintroduction of legalised slavery, I wonder if he'd vote "yes" based purely on the fact that there was no one waving a banner and actually protesting against it outside his building ("Nobody cares to protest against slavery today, therefore, you know, I'll, like, vote 'yeah' on this form thingy").

It's at times like this that I'm reminded of one of PK's sigs:

"You're not my type. For that matter, you're not even my species"

What species is Microsoft?

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