Bonum Certa Men Certa

When Microsoft AstroTurfers Are Masquerading as GNU/Linux Users

"I'm a huge fan of guerrilla marketing."

--Joe Wilcox, Microsoft Fan



Summary: Effective AstroTurfing and why it is done

ONE of our regulars and contributors, The Mad Hatter, has composed a rant about what some of us characterise of the Epic Troll -- a Microsoft troll masquerading as a GNU/Linux user. We had a lot of such trolling here yesterday. It is a known debating technique whose formula goes something along the lines of (there are variations): "I am/used to be X, but... [something negative about X]." Richard Dawkins did a whole talk about this pattern.



Some months ago we used as an example a stalking troll who goes under the name "Gentoo User" (now nymshifted to "Sabayon User," but the person visits this Web site using Windows, so it's neither Gentoo nor Sabayon, it's a faker). Another person goes by the name "Yggdrasil", one of the first GNU/Linux distributions. Aggravators of this type are using the illusion of being a GNU/Linux users (the more hardcore, the better) and/or Freedom advocates (the more zealot, the more credible) to discredit the very same thing they pretend to be in favour, along with its real supporters.

This leads up to the writings of The Mad Hatter, which go as follows:

This is not at all surprising. Entrepreneur shape their corporations in their own image. Some times this is good. Some times this is bad. Microsoft is a good example of an entrepreneur who is insecure, greedy, and lazy. This evaluation is based on Microsoft's actions as a corporation (I have never meet Bill Gates).

Microsoft holds 90 percent of operating system pre-installs. But it is afraid of Linux (and it was afraid of Netscape, and is deathly afraid of Apple). Why? Considering their market share, Linux should be a minor irritant. Instead you get things like the "Get the Facts Campaign", which was so totally ludicrous that they dropped it. But they dropped long after the damage was done - they made themselves a laughing stock with that campaign.

Another example is the "Laptop Hunters" campaign. Why is Microsoft so scared of Apple? Apple's market share is so small, that the company is only a pimple on the face of IT. True, it's an expanding pimple, but 6 percent? Why even dignify it with a response? Because they don't think they can compete with Apple. Heck, look at the Amazon top 100 list of computers. About the only ones that sell for more than $1000,00 are made by Apple. Microsoft doesn't think that they can deliver an operating system that will make a computer worth more that $1000,00 to consumers.

And then there's ODF support, or should I say lack of support. Microsoft is the only ODF implementer that messed up the implementation. It wasn't for lack of talent, Microsoft has talented employees. Microsoft is scared of ODF, because it can be used (in implemented by a company that isn't deliberately trying to break it) in a wide range of software. No Lock-In. Microsoft doesn't want this. They want people to use Microsoft XML (Microsoft calls it Office Open XML, but while it may be used by Office, it isn't Open since it's impossible for anyone else to implement). If they are using Microsoft XML, they are locked into Microsoft Office. They are scared that given the option, people will use software from other vendors. They are so insecure that they don't believe that they can compete in the Office Suite market without lock in.

Microsoft doesn't want component manufacturers to release their hardware specifications. If component manufacturers do release the specifications, another operating system might be able to use that hardware, and Microsoft doesn't believe that they can compete in the operating system market. So the company tries to avoid having to compete, but making it hard for other operating systems to use the hardware.

Microsoft is greedy. Why would a company sell a sub-standard operating system (Windows Vista 7 for Netbooks) and encourage people to upgrade? Who would produce six different versions of the same operating system, with different capabilities, using 99.99% the same source code, and prices ranging from $114.00 to $340.00? Greed.

Again, Microsoft is greedy. When they eliminated floppy disks as an install medium for compact discs the price of Windows increased, even though the install medium price dropped dramatically.

Microsoft is lazy. Why offer 6 versions of desktop Windows, and 4 or 5 versions of Server Windows, all of which use virtually the same source code? Often the only difference between versions is that one version has an artificial limit of some sort (such as number of users) while the next one doesn't. But it's easier to do that, than to design something that truly is different, with new features that would attract more customers.

Microsoft is lazy. Rather than producing the best operating system in the world, one that would have users beating a path to their door, they produce an operating system that is pedestrian, and then try to block anyone else from the market by exclusionary deals and "Marketing Bonuses".

And of course we have the Internet. Microsoft would rather pay trolls to trash Linux and OSX, rather than producing something that is so much better than Linux or OSX, that you'd be crazy to use either. They would rather use advertising money to "bend editorial views" than produce something that reviewers would love.

With the amount of talent that Microsoft employs, they should be able to totally blow away Apple, totally blow away Linux, and make users so happy that they'd be crazy to use anything other than Windows. They could do this. But they are too insecure, too greedy, and too lazy to do this.

And if they don't change, it is going to kill the company. Read their SEC filings, the company is in bad shape. Not as bad as GM or Chrysler, but unless something is done, the company is headed for deep trouble. The current management team is a large part of this, They were hand picked by the company founder, and reflect his views. Steve Ballmer is a good salesman. He might be a great salesman. But as a company manager, he's terrible.

So, yes. You get a lot of trolls. People who say, "I've been running Linux for 5 years, and it's really not that good," because Microsoft would rather encourage trolls, than make a great product. If you check the Apple news sources and blogs, you see the exact same sort of posts, stating that OSX just doesn't work as well as Windows, that it doesn't support the right software, that it isn't really reliable, etc. Whether it's Linux or Apple that they are attacking, all of these people are lying. The proof is in the targets. Microsoft thinks that Apple and Linux are dangerous. They don't think that the BSD based operating systems are, so they don't get attacked in the same way, or at the same level. They don't think that Solaris is dangerous either, and you'll note in the Solaris blogs that you don't see this sort of attack very much either. You will if they decide either BSD or Solaris is dangerous.

And it's a terrible waste. Because Microsoft, if it wanted, could produce something fantastic. They have the talent. They have the capabilities. They don't have the drive.

Until they get the drive, I'll avoid using Microsoft products, and I'll advise others not to. And when I see trolls, I'll fight them in the forums. I hate dishonesty.


For those who insist it's merely speculation, we append obligatory readings below.

Microsoft AstroTurfing examples:





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