Bonum Certa Men Certa

Novell Buys Keynote



Summary: How sponsoring an event allows any company to give the impression that it is the leader in some domain

A LITTLE item we spotted the other day helps us illustrate a common phenomenon where a company helps organise an event where the company itself runs the show while it's presented to the public as "independent". One recent example of this comes from the Gates Foundation, which organises events for itself to spread propaganda from. TEDxChange is a recent incident [1, 2, 3, 4].



It is usually the same story in all conferences (just watch what Microsoft did to LinuxTag 2010 [1, 2, 3] and to the OpenOffice.org Conference) and the following excepts from a press release hopefully show who runs a show that's said to be organised by UBM TechWeb (media company):

In addition to an extensive customer line-up, Enterprise 2.0 Conference recently confirmed Colleen O'Keefe, General Manager and Senior VP of Collaboration Solutions and Global Services, Novell, as a keynote speaker to join fellow thought leaders and industry executives on the keynote stage during the event.

[...]

Event sponsors include IBM, Jive, Novell, Moxie Software, Adobe, Broadvision, Microsoft, Rackspace Hosting, Spigit, SuccessFactors, Workday, BlueKiwi, and Saba.


Are they sponsoring for a keynote? What about the other companies? Do they too get their money's worth? "My talk for cloudconf got refused because Microsoft gets to approve every speaker and they don't like us," said a person very recently. Some time earlier we learned that "Microsoft refused to sponsor the conference unless the conference organizers denied Zimbra the opportunity to take a big, prominent booth at the event."

"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 die 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 marvellously independent doesn’t it? In feet, 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."

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

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