Bonum Certa Men Certa

Perception Management at Microsoft, Using Web Agents

SWAT
Microsoft's strategy is also used by the Department
of Defense for political purposes



Summary: Another exploration of how a brand's value is defended while its opponent's gets tarnished

A WORD ought to be said about attempts to disrupt this Web site either by derailing the subject of discussion, attacking the server, or insulting people who are involved -- both editors and contributors. One such contributor, "The Mad Matter", wrote about this last night:

You know there are some things that really piss me off. Some goof ball using the name "Yggdrasil" posted a comment to my article Trolls and Linux and the rotten little son of a bitch had the gall to call me sensitive!

Actually I find it quite funny. I write about trolls, and lo and behold, Yggie, a fairly well known troll shows up, and proceeds to write a pro-Microsoft screed which accuses me of being dishonest. Think of the odds. I write something critical of Microsoft, on a blog that almost no one knows exists besides a few friends. It gets one mention on a relatively popular site, and I get a pro-Microsoft troll popping up the next day. A fairly well known troll. What does this tell you?


We've had a lot of trolls not only in the comments but also in IRC -- trolls whose nature was rather vile, not just rude. They try to spoil it for everyone. They've tried the same thing with Groklaw too, especially recently (earlier this year, based what PJ told me).

"The Mad Matter" responded to an issue we've seen here for years. Mere comments get discouraged when anonymous trolls start attacking commenters personally for merely daring to comment. From the same thread which led to some of the flames (a comment from Linux Today) we also have this new bit [via Slated]

June 5, 2009 1:11 AM Ex-Microsoft marketing manager said:

Of course Microsoft has a perception management team and specifically targets Web 2.0 sites like Digg and Reddit. Some of this is outsourced as well. It is felt inside MS that the reason why Vista failed was that on Web 2.0 sites it became fashionable to bad mouth the OS, this turned in to group think and thus the OS failed. Seriously, that is the belief and there is at least some merit to it. Lets be real, Vista is just not as bad as it is painted.

Now contrast that to Windows 7; Microsoft have spent a lot of money manipulating user generated content sites to hype the OS. Let me tell you, it is not so much different from Vista but the perception is that is it much better. Again, lets be real, Windows 7 is just Vista with some UI tweaks and *much* better marketing.

Watch for the talking points used, this is starting now but will be pushed harder after Win7 is released, I would expect "Windows 7 is the death blow to Linux on the desktop" will be a favourite.

I think it is poor form for MS to manipulate sites like Digg, there will be a backlash when the users figure it out.


As Slated points out, "This anonymous comment may be purely anecdotal, but it is nonetheless highly convincing. He certainly seems to know what he's talking about."

Waggener Edstrom, which is Microsoft's PR department, explains quite openly this practice of "perception management", so this should surprise nobody. Slated borrows an explanation of this term from Wikipedia.

Perception management is a term originated by the U. S. military. The U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) gives this definition:

€  €  Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.[1]

The phrase "perception management" has often functioned as a "euphemism" for "an aspect of information warfare."


Adds Slated: "Well now we know how to formally address the shills in comp.os.linux.advocacy ... they're "Perception Management contractors".

"Is this comparable to Dubya's "Regime Change" hit-squads, I wonder?"

Also he says, "First there was the "Technology Evangelist" (TE):"

For eight years (1992-2000), I was the driving force behind Microsoft's effort to make its Technology Evangelism (TE) efforts more efficient, effective, and ruthless, by studying both the practice and the theory of TE. After leaving Microsoft in 2000, I spurned the inquiries of numerous Microsoft competitors to testify on their behalf. As recently as year, I fell on my sword on Microsoft's behalf.

[...]

My belief that I was one of the Good Guys was similarly flawed. This is now inescapable. I was wrong. Many of the TE practices that I developed, taught, and espoused were wrong. Anyone who continues to practice them is wrong. As a first step towards making amends for my past wrongdoing, I must make this clear, and widely known.


We have already written a lot more about it [1, 2]. Carla from LinuxToday added yesterday (in light of a lot of trolling in the Web site she manages):

Some of the grumpiness comes from the endless torrents of anti-Linux FUD, propaganda, misinformation, astroturfing, and just plain whining that keep pounding on the same theme: that Windows is easy, Linux is hard, and expecting computer users to spend more than eight or fifteen seconds in study is a sin. It has never been true that learning to use a personal computer is easy; that is a plain lie. Conversely, it's not that hard.


Microsoft AstroTurfing is a reality, not mere speculation. Microsoft admits it, but it contracts those who are responsible through outside entities. Microsoft is not alone by the way, but it is very unique in its field.

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