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Editorial

The Myth Of The Borg 196

I get a steady trickle of e-mail from Microsoft employees who dislike many of their employer's actions, and I know many good, concerned reporters who work at ZDNet, the Washington Post, USA Today, and other media outlets who do not follow any secret "editorial agenda." There are plenty of real conspiracies out there. We shouldn't waste our time making up fake ones, and we should never assume that all employees or associates of a company or government agency are part of a faceless, marching mass that always does exactly what its leaders want.

Let's start with Microsoft. Remember when they asked us to pull some reader posts? That was the work of a few people in an obscure legal department, not a case of a leering, drooling Bill Gates calling a cowering subordinate and screaming, "Slashdot sucks! Kill Slashdot, kill, kill, kill!" And obviously not everyone at Microsoft agreed that it was a good idea to keep the matter alive, because it has since been allowed to die quietly. (We haven't written anything further on the subject because there has been nothing to say. No news is good news.)

There is no giant, singleminded conspiracy at Microsoft, just thousands of people trying to get through the day. This is how things really work at any large company. Good decisions get made and so do bad ones. Projects get started. Some of them work out and some of them don't. Orders issued from the top sometimes get carried out effectively and efficiently, and sometimes they don't. I often suspect that some of the worst software (and the worst Web sites) I see are so crappy because the workers actually putting them together are unenthusiastic about management's plans and are either consciously or subconsciously dragging their feet -- or, in this case, their coding fingers. I'm not implying any employee conspiracy, either; these tend to be individual decisions that, collectively, may look like a consipracy to an outsider (or a boss) when there really isn't one.

Now let's take a look at one of Slashdot readers' favorits media whipping boys: ZDNet, which is now part of CNET. If you look closely, you'll see that ZD is no more organized than rush hour traffic in Paris. There are dozens of publications listed on the ZD main page. Some of them deal with Linux all day long, some are pure Windows, others concern themselves with consumer electronics and are only interested in things like camcorders or stereo gear. Jesse Berst is often treated as if he is the boss of this whole thing. He's not. He is the front man for one little piece of it called AnchorDesk . Berst has nothing to do with PC Magazine or Yahoo! Internet Life or GameSpot , all of which are also part of ZDNet.

The people who write for all these separate publications never meet. Most of them don't even know each other. They have no idea what ads are going to run where, so even if they wanted to pander to a particular advertiser they'd have trouble doing it effectively. The guiding rule at a big media mill like ZD or CNET is to have usable copy to fill all the pages every day, and they have a lot of pages to fill. Editors at these places are help-short and constantly looking for new freelance and staff writers. They don't have time to sit there and say, "Oh my, we need more stories today that make Microsoft look good and Linux look bad."

Offline media workers are similarly rushed. In many publishing companies (including Andover.net) close contact between editorial-side employees and and business-side employees is discouraged. There are journalistic organizations that act as watchdogs to help keep editorial content free from business or outside influence. These groups avidly publish instances of improper behavior. Now and then, their work gets direct results, but more often the influence is subtle; a media outlet that gains a reputation among journalists for altering stories or trying to taint them to satisfy advertisers has trouble recruiting and retaining high-end writers, and almost always sets itself on a downward quality spiral.

Remember, the shortage of competent writers and editors, especially in tech-oriented fields, is almost as acute as the shortage of competent programmers. This has not always been so, and may not always be so, but right now there is no excuse for a tech media writer to accept conspiracy-level censoring from a publisher.

Now we'll talk about the biggest and most perfidious influence I believe does exist throughout media everywhere, even though it is not a conspiracy per se: denial of access.

Imagine a celebrity besieged by reporters. Imagine that you're the press agent for that celebrity. Your client has one interview time slot open this week. You have a dozen writers begging for that interview, all of whom have audiences of approximately equal size. One of those writers has always been "nice" to your client, six of them have been (in your opinion) fair but not necessarily nice, and five of them have written primarily negative stories about him or her.

Which writer gets the interview?

Twenty years ago there were hardly any celebrities in the computer industry. Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were thrilled to speak openly, off the cuff, to reporters from magazines that had only a few thousand or even a few hundred subscribers. Now the people at the top of the computer business tend to be as infected with celeb-itis as movie stars and top-end politicians, and as cautious about interviews as any other group of celebrities. It has gotten to the point where interviews with computer industry honchos are about as informative as Jay Leno's interviews with actors and acresses pushing their upcoming movies.

Worse, in many cases the hardware or software itself is the celebrity in question. A tech-news writer, like a political writer, is under a certain amount of pressure to break news ahead of his or her competitors. Getting pre-release access to new products can make or break careers in this field. And who gets the most "sneak peeks" at new stuff coming out of Redmond or Cupertino or wherever? Writers who are A) generally negative; B) generally fair and unbiased; C) usually full of "Golly! Gee Whiz!" praise for any new piece of hardware or software that falls into their hands?

Pretend, for a moment, that you're a PR person for Apple. You have only 20 demo/review units of the new G21, equipped with GNU/Hurd-based MacOS 40.2 and a 3.6 GHz Intelorola available. Of the 100+ reasonably well-known computer journalists who have requested pre-release units to review, which ones will you choose? If you don't select the Mac-boostingest people in that whole crowd, then you're not a good PR person.

Computer trade journalists know that this is how the game is played. I used Apple as an example, on purpose, because they have the worst reputation among computer journalists for playing the "If you want to see our latest stuff you'd better be nice to us" game. According to posts to some of the private online journalists' e-mail lists I'm on, Microsoft is evenhanded compared to Apple, and other companies vary widely in the level of journalistic favoritism they expect to have shown toward them in return for easy access to their latest products -- and easy interview access to their key people.

But none of this is a conspiracy. It's quite Randian, really, in that a whole lot of individuals are performing in ways they perceive to be in accordance with their own (or corporate) best interests. No one can plausibly argue that computer manufacturers or distributors have any legal obligation to hand out review products in an evenhanded manner. It's a fact of life that Tuxtops or Corel are going to send Slashdot editors their products before they throw demo units at Windows Magazine , just as Microsoft is going to display the exact opposite bias.

I have questioned the whole idea of using free, manufacturer-supplied review units more than once, even those that are short-term loaners instead of "keepers." I believe there's temptation on the corporate side to make sure review units are just a little better-tested than those sold to the general public. But while reviewers who stick to buying products anonymously through normal channels may give slightly more honest reviews than those who rely on company-supplied units, they will never get anything to review before it is released, so an ethically pure reviewer will often be left far behind those who are a little more (shall we say) flexible. This is especially true of magazine writers whose deadlines may be weeks or months before publication date. I have come to accept the incestuous relationship between computer product reviewers and the people who supply those products as a fact of life. I don't necessarily like this way of doing business (even when *I* do it), but I don't think it's part of any grand conspiracy to dupe the public.

Bigger companies also have a tendency to enclose "reviewer guides" with demo products to make sure reporters know all of the product's good points so that they can (hopefully) cover them in their articles. Indeed, you can just about write a credible-looking, if uncritical, "review" from most of these guides without ever actually testing the product yourself. I regard this as the worst thing that can happen, the equivalent of writing a "news" story about a politician directly from his or her press kit. And stories that are nothing but rewritten PR pieces appear every day in all kinds of media, about all kinds of topics. The sad secret of PR-rewriting is that it can be a bonanza for a free-lancer. Take (for example) a press release about a potential new cure for [insert disease here] from researchers at [insert university here]. A hungry freelancer can easily reword the statements in that press release to produce at least three or four stories for different media, ranging from the medical trade press to regional general-interest publications. Even at low-end freelance rates, a rapid typist who does this can crank out $1000 worth of stories in a single morning. Do this six or eight days a month, and you have a nice little income to support you, and still have most of your time free to work on your (inevitable) novel, go sailing or whatever else strikes your fancy. Again, no conspiracy, just individual greed. Editors are supposed to detect and prevent this sort of thing, but they are generally overworked and have "news holes" to fill, so lazy journalism often slips by their eyes -- and not only from freelancers. In-house writers, especially on small and understaffed publications, face the same temptation to cut corners -- and often yield to it.

And now, on to the great (gasp!) Slashdot editorial conspiracy. Real life around here is that this site is run, day to day, by about six people, all of whom are independent to the point of uncontrollability. We share many common biases, and CmdrTaco sets the overall tone of the site, but that's it. One editor might post a story another wouldn't. Jon Katz writes what Jon Katz feels like writing. Hemos is ... Hemos, and also determines which books whould be reviewed, and by whom. Timothy picks stories and SlashBack material on his own, Cliff chooses "Ask Slashdot" material, and Emmett decides what stories he should cover, all by himself. Sure, we kick stuff around and ask each other for advice, and CmdrTaco will sometimes issue general directives about kinds of stories he'd like to see more often and other kinds he'd like to see less often, and these directives get followed to a certain extent, but when you come right down to it the ruling principle around here is "Chaos is Better Than Order."

No human-run organization operates with Borg-like singlemindedness. People are incapable of that kind of groupthink. Not even the old Soviet Union achieved it. This is why I am leery of so many of the conspiracy theories touted here and elsewhere. Face it: once you get behind their public masks, Microsoft, "the mainstream media," the U.S. Department of Justice, and many of our other favorite alleged conspirators are no more organized than Slashdot, and are no more capable than we are of sustaining any kind of secret agenda for any length of time -- at least not without getting caught.

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The Myth of the Borg

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  • by mzito ( 5482 )
    My GOD! I see it all so clearly now! Roblimo HIMSELF has been assimilated! Who's next? CmdrTaco? OR..dare I say it..JON KATZ!

    We all need to send shock troops right away to the Geek compound.

    In all seriousness, though, this article raises issues that I think most of the Slashdot readership are aware of, like the fact that although Microsoft may have questionable business practices, their coders are real human beings, many of whom are just trying to have a normal programmer existence. Its only the trolls, flamers, and l33t ones that somehow delude themselves (or act like they do) into believing that Microsoft is roughly equivalent to the 3rd circle of Hell.

    Now, something else I find interesting that isn't brought up is whether these trolls and flamers are hurting the linux community as a whole. We've seen in the past where people have posted negative linux articles on places like ZDNet and been flamed up and down. Next time they have to write an article, do you think they'll pick something about linux, knowing that they could spend a fair chunk of the rest of their day just sorting out the flames? Or will they just write an article about NT, or Sun's newest upgrade to their Starfire system ?

    This doesn't seem to happen as much (at all, really) with Sun articles, or Oracle articles, or even Windows articles. I think that's because the grass-roots, "us-against-them" mentality that has spurred a lot of really great linux development, press, and most importantly users has also created a jihad in the minds of some people who see anything anti-linux as a death knell for linux. I think linux has been raised to a certain public awareness, though, where we can take some bad articles, get the useful information out of them, and move on. If its FUD, fine. Everyone spreads FUD about everyone else, which doesn't make it okay, but DOES mean that its not some microsoft conspiracy.

    Which, after a long tangent, brings me back to the original post.

    Matthew J Zito, CCNA
  • by JohnG ( 93975 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:33AM (#912217)
    I was watching Silicon Spin on ZDTV a few days back. There was a guy on there (I forget who he was, I think maybe he had something to do with NEXT?) Anyhow he was saying that he knows some people that work in MS applications department that would like to see a split to get away from the politics of the OS department. According to him his friends would like to port Office and other products to other OS's.

    I don't know how true this is, so take it with a grain of salt. But it doesn't seem all that far fetched to me. Being hired by MS doesn't automatically make one "evil". Especially if that person was hired before MS's inherent "evil" came to light.

    Everyone seems to want Office for Linux, personally I just want to see Motocross Madness on linux and I'd be happy! ;-)

  • by gonerill ( 139660 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:35AM (#912219) Homepage
    I think this is an excellent editorial. Here's a mild paradox about Slashdot readers that's always struck me as odd: On the one hand, they're the people who are most aware of the power of complex, decentralized, un-coordinated modes of social organization, and are usually vociferous in their advocacy of them as models for everything from software development to social organization. On the other hand, they're pathologically prone to seeing conspiracies everywhere, run by evil individuals with vast powers who are out to dominate the world. Why is this so?

    I think there are two reasons. The first is specific to tha hacker community. The image of themselves as a loose goup of outsiders who fight the power is just part of their collective identity. As the internet has developed, this has really become a difficult identity to sustain. As linux has taken off, and many fomer penniless grad students have become billionaires, the community has been forced to believe in ever more evil threats --- Bill Gates becomes like some sort of comic book character who is impossibly evil and powerful.

    The second reason is more general: the alternative to a conspiracy theory is a structural explanation of some kind. Structural explanations are inherently more boring than conspiracy theories, and they are certainly less media friendly. Better to blame Bill Gates -- or an evil conspiracy of Hackers, depending on your point of view! --- for our troubles, than analyze the complex structure of a developing economy and society.

    None of this is to deny that powerful people can have bad motives and do evil things. But the bigger the conspiracy, the more people have to be involved, and the more it starts to look like a structural phenomenon. Having a conspiracy answer as a knee-jerk explanation for everything just isn't going to cut it anymore. As an explanation for events, blaming Bill (or whoever) is exactly what the media do to hackers when they demonize some 13 year old and say he could destroy the internet. Let's have more analysis and less paranoia.

  • Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm a zen-athiest, not some bible thumping redneck.

    However, I think that particular "commandment of our lord (ahhh, likkle baby) jesus" is a pretty good rule of thumb. It's not an exclusively xian sentiment either, dates back to the greeks y'know.

    As Bill and Ted put it, "Be excellent to each other".

    l8r
    pHile
  • Thank you for your honest reply.... I respect that. I am new to Slashdot, and was looking for a good way to start a conversation...
    I will email you at the address you posted as well... I just thought I would post a reply here too. My email address is: rogueorion@hotmail.com.
    I share your view about the pure teachings of Jesus. I say "pure" because unfortunately, even that has been clouded of late.
    Ghandi once said, "If we can all agree on the teachings of Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount, then we would have solved not only our problems, but also that of the whole worlds!"
    I have a great respect for other people's viewpoints on this matter of God, and do not wish to sound dogmatic or pushy. Who am I to judge others? Even if someone were to believe that there is only one true way to please God, only one "true" religion, I think that judging others on that basis is a very dangerous position to put oneself in. Don't you agree?

    Regarding the matter of Science vs. the Bible. One thing that I have found, is that the Bible is not meant to be a scientific book. It is meant to be a spiritual and moral guide. But were it does touch on Science, it is very accurate. And example can be found in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 40:22. It says, "Ther is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth..." The original Hebrew word for "circle" also had the meaning of "sphere". This passage was written way before the belief of a spherical planet was popular in the world scene.

    My point is this.... People charge the Bible with being contradictory with science. It isn't meant to be a scientific textbook!

    I apoligize for the short reply. Please let me know what you think... I am interested.
  • Another reason for staying at Microsoft is, believe it or not, it looks really good on your resume. Every recruiter I've talked to since I started at Microsoft has commented on my service there, even when we were talking about jobs that didn't relate to what I was doing at MS.
    --
  • I know nothing.... I see NOTHING!!!!
  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @05:23PM (#912224)
    However, successful large organizations share a characteristic which can be rather disturbing to us more individual-minded types: they have a culture, which dictates to a large degree how their members behave, even in the absence of orders from above.
    When I was in the US military, I saw the effects of leadership. Shop Chiefs affected the working environment and productivity of their shops. Squadron Commanders affected the interaction of those shops and the culture of the Squadron. Base Commanders affected the quality of life and feel of an entire base community - from military members to their civilian families.

    I thought perhapse this was a reflection of military life (so much of military life is completely foreign to the civilian sector). I was wrong. When I found myself as a contractor for a large US Government agency, I could begin to trace how the environment was affected by various leaders that made up its leadership. Right up to the highest levels.

    Perhapse its a reflection of Government beucracy? Not so. I'm now in the corporate sector working for one of the most successfull US corporations in its industry. Its culture is amazing - and it is a direct reflection of the man in charge. The company's corporate culture is key and is actively tended by its leadership.

    An organization is reflection of the personality and attitude of its leadership. It doesn't matter what sector of society that organization is a part of. Sure, its not exactly "Borg mentality". But as alienmole points out - its not random.

  • >One thing about growing up is that you stop caring so much about what other
    >people think of you and your actions, atleast to a certain threshold.
    >So You Do Your Own Thing, For *You*

    Just a nitpick - I don't think that last sentance should be concluded from the first. That last sentance describes a 5-year-old perfectly, and a mature person with mature relationships poorly. Caring less about what people think of you allows you to act with more independance from the herd (which is what I believe you're saying), but I think it a mistake to infer that this extra "freedom" causes people to starting looking after No. 1 - often it is what allows people to look beyond No. 1.
  • This sounds incredibly interesting, could you tell me the title of the book?

    (search amazon only reveal "God's Samurai : Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor (Brassey's Commemorative Series, Wwii) by Gordon William Prange, et al. Hardcover (September 1990)", doesn't seem right to me.)

    CY
  • i read _atlas shrugged_ about 30 years ago (when i was a spotty youth) and i couldn't take ayn rand seriously *then* (i always preferred betrand russell, who *could* write). it always beat the shit out of me that anyone could seriously regard her as a philosopher, with her gift for non-analytic thought
  • >Her [Ayn Rand's] ideas were ridiculous and she couldn't write.

    Yikes! Even if you disagree with all of her ideas and think she's a complete wingnut, I think any reasonable person would read her work and think, "Wow, she could *REALLY* write."

    I've read some of her work and although I don't agree with all of her ideas, they're so eloquently expressed that it's a pleasure to read them nonetheless. She has a passion in her writing that many authors lack in great quantities.

    nebulo
  • Another example of this is how the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST computers were treated by the "Mainstream" Computer magazines published by Ziff-Davis and others. You can't sit there and say that there wasn't an editorial policy in place at these publications to discourage widespread migration to these platforms. The articles published in those magazines during that time peroid prove

    How would any magazine stand to be hurt by a mass migration of users to another computing platform? All they have to do is revamp their magazine or start a second one tailored to the new one (Amiga World, Amiga Week, etc...).

    It wasn't a media conspiracy that sunk Commodore and Atari, or else Apple would have sunk just as quickly. Microsoft was aligned with IBM, while IBM was THE company that many managers wanted to buy from... Other companies scrambled to make their software run on the IBM/MS-DOS platform while others scrambled to make hardware that would be deemed PC compatible...

    And for all their percieved benefits, Commodore and Atari had the same failing as Apple almost suffered from - the percieved closed hardware (though, if you ask me, PC hardware is just as closed, it's just marketed as being open).

    And while IBM/Microsoft had the business world in their hands, Apple struggled, bit, and clawed enough that some business apps arrived for the Mac, actively discouraged gaming so that they wouldn't be percieved as a toy, and was graced with the arrival of postscript and desktop publishing...

    The amiga flourished in the video world, but aside from that it was a game machine.

    Atari didn't have anythng but games, so far as i remember... a few terminal emulators and stuff like that, but really, no hard-core apps.

    There's really no place that the media squeezed anyone out of the market... it was basically their own repective doings... Aiming at different segments, no evangelizing their platform enough to developers, etc. etc. etc.
  • I think we can take it as a given that corporations try and alter the public's consumption of information. This isn't unique to Microsoft. If you were to look at the drug companies, you would see that Searle ( a subsidary of Monsanto) tried to push Celebrex as lacking the side effects of aspirin, while the FDA ranked it as equivalent to aspirin, and much more expensive.
    Celebrex is still one of the most prescribed drugs (partly because of free giveaways.) Likewise, 90%of ulcers are curable by antibiotics, yet zantac was, until recently, one of the most prescribed drugs, let alone ulcer medications. And
    Thyroxin, a thyroid medication, conducted an information war to try and discredit a report that it had funded which showed that its product was no better than its generic competitors.

    Major corporations do conduct information warfare. They have PR departments. They even become involved in various media and entertainment ventures. All of this indicates a systematic effort to bias the public's consumption of information. Whatever chaos does exist in the news room, it has not served to eliminate that bias, as you recognized.

    I appreciate both your acknowledgement of how bias can be transmitted. It seems that your article was intended as a peacemaking effort, however. At the end of the day, our ability to make decisions, as voters, as consumers and as human beings, is only as good as our information. Thomas Jefferson said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. As uncivil as this may sound, Short of outright assault, I can't think of any activity more harmful to freedom than misinformation.
  • As to employees not being responsible for the actions of their companies? Well, I believe the excuse "I was only following orders" went out of fashion in 1945. Also, there is a quote which goes something like "For evil to succeed, all that is required is for no good man to stand against it". I think that applies.

    How 'bout a response to this from the inside?

    On Evilness: I've been working here for about 2 years, and I don't seem to be carrying out any 'evil' orders. But, I can understand how certain events (especially the way they're taken out of context by the media) combined with agressive business tactics have turned people against MS. I sincerely hope that MS softens up a bit.

    It's interesting, though, is how pure accidents (a perfect example is filtering cards from that one company into the Junk folder in OE) that could have never been predicted during development are misconstrued as malicious intent. If there is a conspiracy it's one that causes anti-MS people act like MS is omniscient and attach malicious intent to everything they do or don't do.

    On Product Quality: People need to understand that MS is a business and the overriding goal is to make money. Most (~3/4) developers here are scarily good and want to develop excellent products. However, the other necessary goal is to ship within a small amount of time.

    I think this famous ad perfectly fits: The Penalty of Leadership [utexas.edu]

  • . I work for Microsoft because I am working with some of the brightest, most motivated ..

    I'm just curious, why is this a good thing? I mean, if you are an scientist, a really good one, sure working w/ the best people is good enough a reason to stay at one place. But I think to most programmers, higher pay would be a more attractive priority than working w/ bright people. Providing all other conditions are the same. You see research scientists can do that because they are trying to change the future. Are you staying in MS for the same reason? Now be carful if you say yes, because that means you condone, support their policy. The future of one protoclol, one system, one company.

    . Microsoft is a company trying to compete - our business practices are no different than those of our competitors - the only difference is that we're better at them and don't go off crying buwahaa to Janet Reno when we get beaten.

    I'm sure the burglars say the same thing.

    p.s. Why are you so defensive, spliting the borg can only increase your stock price, no?

    CY
  • Three chimps in a closed room. A banana is hanging from the ceiling. At first, they naturally try to reach and grab the banana, but at that very moment the floor is electrified, and kept that way until they stop.
    After a while, and a few more tries, they just don't think anymore about the banana.
    A chimp is taken out and a new introduced , he notices the banana and tries to reach for it. The two others jumps on him and teaches him the lesson the hard way.
    Another chimp is replaced, the new one enter and even before noticing the banana gets beaten up by the two more experienced chimps.
    The funny thing is that after a while no remaining chimp knows anymore about the electricity.

    no idea if that's actually true, but I like the thought of it.
    (and sorry for my english)
  • Evidence: Notice the sharp increase in bright, flashing advertising recently? Like the "B12" ad I am viewing right now...

    Actually, I hadn't. Ad-blocking software [taz.net.au] is a wonderful thing. :-) (Here's a list [dyndns.org] of sites to block with the aforementioned software.)

    _/_
    / v \
    (IIGS( Scott Alfter (remove Voyager's hull # to send mail)
    \_^_/

  • I normally do, but my Windows 2000 installation is playing funny buggers on me (install a bad driver, watch it cry), and i'm on my games-only 98 partition at the moment.

    www.webwasher.com is awesome, anyone using windows should use it.

    --

  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:41AM (#912236) Journal
    While it is true that employees are usually the last to know. Certain companies are known for certain behaviors. Microsoft is known for certain things, which I wont get into. If you work for Microsoft you are one of their drones. You do what they say. The only difference between you and a borg is that you can quit while a borg cannot. If you dislike a companies policies then you need to leave the company when you find out wyhat kind of company they are.

    It took me 2 years in my last company to find out what kind of company they were and they are involved with several law suits, for failing to deliver a product. Since I did not agree with there business practices I left. My suggestion is taht if you find yourself working for a company and you do not like the way that they are then you have 2 choices. Oneis to change them the second is to leave. IF you aare in a position to make the changes then do so. If not then leave. It may take you a while to find a new job but it will be worth it in th elong run. I know that leaving M$ may be difficult as I have heard that they have great benifits and probably pay the best in the Seattle are, but I think that you have to ask your self is the money worth it? If you can live with yourself because of the money then you are a borg / drone. If not then get out and stop complaining about what people are calling you.

    Lets face it people you are and always will be associated with who you work for. Microsoft is a company that has a reputation for swallowing up little companies like the borg. Resistance is usually futile, just look at all the companies that they ate. Viseo, Frontpage (yes they were a company), web TV, lets see any more ..yes! This is who they are. If you work for them don't pretend that you don't know.If you are saying but I need the money then you are just using the money as an excuse to justify there behavior and you are just as bad as they are. If you say, but I like what I do, then again you need to find that job at a company that you can live with the reputaion of. This is not just M$ that I am refering to either. Any company has corporate culture and a 'way of doing business'. YOu have to find out these ways an dthen get in a company that fits how you are and what you want to be associted with.

    QYB

    send flames > /dev/null

  • IMHO, all a conspiracy is, is two or more people agreeing amongst themselves to do something or some things without necessarily telling other people about it. We're all in conspiracies all the time, in our social life, at work, and so on. What we need to do is distinguish between 'good,' 'bad,' and just plain indifferent conspiracies. I think that one feature of 'bad' conspiracies is the exercise of power; so we need to look at who has it, why they use it, and, importantly, who they chose to exercise it against and for what reasons.

    I'd rather talk about that, because focusing on the specifics of a situation might yield some way forward. The tendency to talk of more general 'conspiracies' seems to me to be just one more way to perhaps distance your own actions and involvement from what is actually going on in the world. It doesn't matter if it is religion, UFOs, or who whacked JFK, while the talk is enjoyable, these issues will remain in the realm of the unresolvable. And note that when these things do get out of hand, the consequences can be terrible (as in for instance Nazi conspiracy theories regarding the Jews, or Pol Pot's thoughts on the role of intellectuals and education).

  • In comparison with news coverage of say politics, or war or international news, I've found the tech. media to be quite pathetic and both uninsightful and inaccurate. (Is it any wonder we flock to a web message board to feed off each other?).

    There are many reasons for this - it's an esoteric field, so the journalists often don't know what they are writing about. It's a dull field in comparison to hollywood or missile defense, so journalists have to spice it up with as many witty Steve Jobs quotes as they can.

    When all else fails, the tech media resorts to flame baiting as a defense mechanism to survive; it's not exactly a big secret that the more you can stoke flames from your online readers, the more hits you get. It's a positive feedback cycle, and quality suffers.

    Obviously, companies tend to feed off this phenomenon as well. They need positive reviews, and reviewers need more access to the company. The odd thing is that both sides have been so incompetent at this game that in general, the quality of this cycle has been quite low - in technical coverage, good writing, and general marketing of the product being subtly pushed. Perhaps this is because if you're a good journalist, you don't end up in tech. journalism, and if you're a good marketer, you don't end up marketing computer products. So we get the worst of both worlds.

    True, this may sound harsh, but look at what we really get - crappy flame baiting from journalists trying to score page hits, badly written press releases begging for attention, sensational reporting about security breaches riddled with more inaccuracies than TV movies on the same subject.

    This is why /. is like an oasis - we get to escape both sides of a bad story. We know more than they do, and guess what....that's why *they* feed off us now.

    w/m

    PS - If you're a journalist, email me. I'm really curious about what you think of all this. :)

  • Trying to keep the loss of the Scorpion and Thresher under wraps would also be difficult with regards to family and relatives: How do you keep approximately 250 people quiet?

    It just doesn't work that way.

    The least-fleeting of all government secrets are wartime operations involving only a handful of people... althought sometimes large-scale operations like Ultra (which managed to stay in the black until the *70's*) escape public notice for extensive periods of time.

    The fact remains, I would hope the Feds have memories of CREEP, Tuskeegee experiments, radiation experiments on soldiers, Hoover's abuses of power, etc., and figure out eventually that any operation less than legal will likely be discovered by the general population sooner than they would like (i.e. Carnivore).
  • The Times, biased! Say it aint so! I suppose you could find a more "yeah big corporate america!" publication, but who wants to read the Wall Street Journal anyhow?
  • Dammit! I told Taco I'd wind up not clicking the stupid checkbox one of these days! (Actually, I missed and hit submit before I noticed I'd missed...)
  • I've worked two contracts for Microsoft. I just started the second a couple of weeks ago. Let me dispel some misinformation in this thread.

    Yes, there are two types of cardkeys at Microsoft -- blue and orange (I've never heard them called yellow).

    Contractors have orange cards. They give you 24/7 access to the building you work in, and access to other MS buildings during business hours. The lone exception to this is the Microsoft press building, curiously enough.

    It's not at all like the previous poster said, that "yellow" badges only let you in "a few buildings during business hours".

    I don't know if there are access restrictions on blue badges as I've never had one.

    I've certainly never had reason to complain about the access given by an orange card since I've never had any reason to be in a building where I don't work after hours.

    Several months ago relations between contractors and MS employees were getting pretty rough. This was mainly because of a lawsuit which determined that long-time contractors (permatemps) were entitled to some form of recompense due to never being given the stock options that MS employees had.

    This really pissed off a lot of MS employees, who felt with some justification that they had sacrificed a large amount of their life to get those stock options. Remember, contractors are often more highly paid than MS employees, who count on the stock options for a big payoff when they're vested.

    Several bullshit manoevres went down which seemed to stem from this resentment. For example, in my department all the contractors were yanked from their offices and placed in "bays", which are basically hallways crammed full of desks. There were seven of us stuffed into the bay where I worked.

    I don't think crap like this came from "on high", it was just pissed off middle managers.

    The executive reaction to this lawsuit seemed to be to try to eliminate the "permatemp" class of worker. But since MS relies on these people, they couldn't get rid of them, so for the most part they offered them full time jobs.

    This was a pretty happy outcome, all in all. I looked up a lot of the contractors I worked with during my last contract there, which was only about 5 months ago, and everyone had blue badges now. They seemed quite happy with the way things worked out, and obviously, it totally eliminated the employee/contractor friction.

    I'm still a contractor, and likely to remain one. So far, I haven't seen an ounce of disdain from any of the people I work with. I'm treated like a full time employee now. I've got my own office.

    So to summarize, the conflict between employees and contractors at MS was once a very real thing, though it was nowhere near the levels you'd expect from reading Slashdot. But it's pretty much a thing of the past now, at least in the departments of MS that I've had contact with.

  • >Aside from the whole "Us and Them" treatment of contractors (Blue badges are Gods, all else are worthless scum), it extends to their view of the world in general.

    It's exactly the same at Intel, except the contractors have Green badges. And contractors are limited to 18 months on any one contract.

    This is the reason a growing number of people won't work at Intel, except at a premium over market rate.

    Geoff
  • should never assume that all employees or associates of a company or government agency are part of a faceless, marching mass that always does exactly what its leaders want.

    I have to take issue with that. The leaders of a group wouldn't be able to do very much without the followers. Every single person has a responsiblity to do whats right, regardless of their position in an organization. If their work helps that organization out, then they are responsible.

    We don't know how bad things are in north korea, but here are some pictures of hungry children. -- CNN
  • by Now15 ( 9715 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:12AM (#912254) Homepage
    Slashdot have become part of the conspiracy, and this is just some pathetic attempt to make us think otherwise.

    Evidence: Notice the sharp increase in bright, flashing advertising recently? Like the "B12" ad I am viewing right now...

    --

  • by robogop ( 160428 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:13AM (#912255)
    I would agree that there are few genuine real conspiracies by companies and by the media but that does not mean that the whole tone of the coverage of certain stories may not be very lopsided. How many times have we heard people bashing Microsoft? Why? because it is the popular thing to do. Microsoft may deserve it, but they aren't the only one or perhaps even the worst computer company out there. (Apple seems even more proprietary and monopolistic than Microsoft) Since Microsoft bashing is popular the whole tone of the coverage of their trial was not whether they were guilty but rather how were they going to be punished. No conspiracy but certainly not independent thinking and reporting either.
  • I was in the Navy's Nuclear Power program. The Navy has lost 2 nuke subs (This is a Very Big Deal to us Submariner-types) and I've been in more than one discussion with non-Navy folk who have said "Yea, but how do we KNOW they've only lost 2???". Well, because you'd have a hard time getting hundreds (thousands?) of bright but regular folks like myself to keep something like that a secret. The difficulty of keeping something secret is EXPONENTIALLY proportional to the number of folks who know about it.
  • by pohl ( 872 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:16AM (#912260) Homepage
    What were your thoughts back when Microsoft was declared a monopoly?

    Woz: I totally agreed with the thinking. I was asked back in the early days of the lawsuit to write an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times, but they didn't print it. I got a letter back from the editor months later saying that maybe they'd run it, but it needed a little fixing. So, [I said] re-write it. I wrote 'Microsoft's a monopolist' and the Times wanted to edit it to say, 'Microsoft is innovative.' The funny thing is that I had started out in my own head without having a bias. I thought Microsoft did a lot of things that were good and right building parts of the browser into the operating system. Then I thought it out and came up with reasons why it was a monopoly. I specified the strong penalties they should undergo. Eventually I found out that the New York Times had tight friendship ties with Microsoft and that one of Microsoft's key people had an editorial column in the Times. They were trying to use me. But I know newspapers. They have the first amendment and they can tell any lie knowing it's a lie and they're protected if the person's famous or it's a company.

  • by ajna ( 151852 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:54AM (#912262) Homepage Journal
    Where is that interview found?

    http://www.failuremag.com/failure_interview.html

  • "It reminds us of how ignorant and gullible the lesser-educated amongst us tend to think."

    Whoa, there, cowboy! Don't make the mistake of thinking that education per se alters gullibility or paranoia. The Unabomber, for instance, is a college grad.

    Education may provide the tools for useful thought, but there's no guarantee that they'll be used after graduation (or even before).

  • I have talked to a number of folk who tried and gave up on working as contractors at Microsoft (talented programmers, mind you, whom I respect, not just bitter never-were spouting off at the mouth), and it's fairly plain that Microsoft is a religion.

    Aside from the whole "Us and Them" treatment of contractors (Blue badges are Gods, all else are worthless scum), it extends to their view of the world in general. You're different. You're special. You're a rebel, changing the world. Especially if you can handle 75+ hours a week. They're told that they're the Elite, and generally indoctrinated in unsettling ways.

    My biggest gripe with Microsoft is not that they tie everything together, or that they produce crappy software. It's that they produce software that is of a similar caliber to that of other companies, and them imagine themselves superior to these other companies. If you're going to claim to be better than everybody else, you'd better damned well put your money where your mouth is.

    -
  • Microsoft is necessarily biased in favor of their own products. Windows Magazine and Slashdot are also necessarily biased toward what they're set up to cover. That's kind of their purpose in life. In my opinion, it is unreasonable for someone to expect that either Windows Magazine or Linux Journal would be, in some sense, "fair" or "unbiased" from the perspective of those involved in the events reported by them. What is more interesting, at least to me, is the potential for bias in more general media

    A long time ago (as I recall, I was advocating the use of OS/2 2.1) conspiracy theories (and accusations) abounded concerning the coverage of OS/2 in the general computer-oriented printed media (at that time, mostly Byte and PC Magazine). Although I thought it was kind of fishy that Computer Shopper stopped running lists of the best selling application software after a couple of months of Excel for OS/2 outselling Excel for Windows (by something like 2:1) I saw no real evidence of a conspiracy among the more general computing media.

    The real problem was not the lack of journalistic integrity of the writers or editors, but what could be described as laziness. The general computing media are supposed to cover all significant developments in microcomputing and they did a pretty good job of that. Unfortunately, many places had a tendency to define everything Microsoft did as significant and other developments, many of which had the potential for having an even more profound effect on computing, as necessarily less so.

    I suppose there's even some justification for that. After all, when a company that dominates their chosen markets the way that Microsoft does, the tendency is for their news to be significant and for news from other companies to be less so. But still, markets change and, sure as death and taxes, sooner or later Microsoft will lose its dominance, maybe even through death and/or taxes.

    The moral of the story is obvious: If you want your stuff to be reported as significant,, you need to make it easy for it to be reported. I suppose this is what a well-organized PR effort does for you: It makes it easy for journalists to pay attention to what you're doing.

  • by invenustus ( 56481 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @08:03AM (#912266)
    I know one slashdotter quotes Tom Tomorrow 's cartoon This Modern World [thismodernworld.com]in his sig, but I've often been surprised at how they've never made it into Quickies or Humor. Here's a brilliant piece he did on the subject of media bias:
    http://www.freespeech.o rg/tomorrow/pages/rar/rar_bBrill.htm [freespeech.org]
  • OF course a cat does not have the concepts of good and evil. Those concepts are human in nature. My point is that for whatever reason we as human beings have taken our natural instinct to kill and have branded it as evil. Thou shall not kill and all that. If you look at the ten commandments they are rife with orders to curb your natural urges to kill have sex, eat whatever you want and do whatever you like. Take a look at the seven deadly sins and see how many are just natural biological programming.

    We as human beings seek to elevate ourself beyond our "animalness" and animal urges and "rise" to the level of godness. We don't think of ourselves as animals but of being made in Gods image. So we have labled all of our natural instincts as evil.

    When I say you are born evil what I am really saying is that you are born a human animal. That the rest of society sees you as evil is a constuct of that society.
  • Neither Oracle nor SAP make any pretense at being easy. In fact they seem to gloat over how difficult they are to set up. Having struggled a bit with Oracle I'd say they are right!
  • The Nazis who pleaded about following orders were personally killing helpless prisoners in cold blood. You simply CANNOT draw a parallel between this and pushing paper at a company that happens to use some questionable practices. You also fail to adress the issue of a worker at a company who is unaware of the company's practices in another area. By your logic, also, all US citizens are guilty, for we pay the taxes that have financed many illegal operations, and we do it merely because we are told to by people who hold power over us.

    And as an aside to this, in various military actions in recent decades, soldiers have been ordered to do something illegal, such as murder civilians, and when the Nuremburg ruling is brought up, they are reminded that disobeying an order in wartime is punishable by immediate death, so don't be so quick to judge.

    -----------------------

  • by satanic bunny ( 69378 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @12:56PM (#912282)
    There may be companies comprised of "ordinary folks" out there. But Microsoft isn't one of them. Plus, rarely do those ordinary bods "just trying to get through a day" set company policies.

    If /. was really part of the mainstream media, or if you'd ever had to deal with interviewing Gates or his personnel, you wouldn't be so blithe. The MS press department may not be some kind of conspiracy. But it certainly tries to exert the maximum of control. Their brand of control goes way beyond that of Rolling Stone or the most notorious Hollywood PR firm like PMK.

    They even make sure even your interviewee is fully intimidated. At "private interviews" an MS press person sits alongside whoever interviews, taking down everything said by everyone in shorthand. If you do a radio interview, they stick you in their own sound studio. Then, they record you recording - very solemnly. If it's Gates, he will call sudden, arbitrary halts. Everyone present then has to pause until he speaks again.

    Yes, it's hilarious - to any professional press person. But, as MS has evolved, the press has mostly knuckled under. What English-language paper reported the scandal of their Spanish-language thesaurus? (The one that turned out to be filled with strange Ayran synonyms). Who has gone on to monitor their plan to finance "grassroots" letters-to-the-editor throughout the country? (That one was exposed by the LA Times) Who's ripped the lid off FIN...the "Freedom to Innovate Network"?

    Certainly not the people you'd expect to be doing it. Microsoft coverage stinks in both Seattle papers. Each religiously fawns over Gates' house, his riches and charity. But even here the story runs a little deeper. Actual journalists know (thanks to the San Jose Mercury News) that the bigger paper's chief "software critic" also wrote Bill's biography. It was the News who finally made that writer admit publically that he spent seven hours taking deletions and changes from Bill.

    Yet, as those royalties continue to roll in, he is the one assigned to big critiques of MS products. Nor does his paper publish any kind of disclaimer.

    /. writers don't answer to editors and publishers. So please: don't fall into the trap they (and MS) have set for you. It's very easy for the media to go soft on anyone - as long as they keep readers believing "companies are really just folks."

    Anyone who's actually reported on Microsoft knows that's a crock. They aren't "just folks" by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, despite the home-y Bill and Ballmer ads on TV, they reserve a special contempt for anyone who buys that line.

    And before you decide where there's no "editorial agenda", better try working UNDER actual editors, owners and publishers. /. has many pluses, but independence is one of the biggest. You just don't realize how rare that really is in the media.
  • I'd specifically excluded all of /., including its ad server, from my junkbuster filters. Sorry, but distracting animated banners just don't fly (and this is with the gif animation toggle-munged version of Netscape -- sufficiently long animation cycles will appear, though they won't loop. I've reluctantly added /.'s ad server to my blockfile this weekend.

    This is unfortunate, because it's actually useful for me to keep tabs on who's advertising what at Slashdot.

    I've already written Rob & Jeff suggesting they review acceptable copy guidelines. Any animation cycling < ~1 second is seriously distracting. More slowly cycling gifs aren't nearly as bad. My skin still crawls remembering a banner which ran almost a year ago with some guy's eyes strobing out of his head (cartoon-style) looking at a bill, advertising low service rates for some luser company or another. That directly prompted my adoption of Junkbuster and other means of regaining control of my browsing.

    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Scope out Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org]

  • I think that he meant that they ask in child-like wonder: "Why should the nasty big governmetn be threatening us for a complete disregard of community and acting like we're the only important part of the universe while we're busy actively harming nearly everyone around us?"

    Micrsoft has been, and has been proven to be, destructive to those around it. That is patently obvious to anyone who doesn't want a MS-only solution to problems in the computer industry and finally has become accepted by the people (in the form of the government, to be a little idealistic about things). To compare this to a breach of laissez-faire is reidiculous. Dis-incorporate microsoft and then apply laissez-faire to them. Oh, and get rid of their copyrights and patents, too, then I'll buy the laissez-faire argument about government intervention.

    Microsoft has used the tools of the government, it must abide by the rules of the government. Just as it is illegal to copy win98 without permission from microsoft, it is illegal to use the prevenalnce of win* to squeeze out linux, mac, sun, et al.

    If they object to the laws which hinder them on the principle that they are laws, let them also object to the laws which help them on the same basis.

    People can want to be left alone all they want. To want to be left alone while you are not leaving other people alone is ridiculous.
  • by ContinuousPark ( 92960 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @08:06AM (#912285)
    No human-run organization operates with Borg-like singlemindedness. People are incapable of that kind of groupthink.


    I believe this is exactly the problem, that there may be no (central) direction on the actions of some organization. There's no conspiracy in the way that top executives at a company or a bunch of employees sit around a table and say "Hey!, let's put this new crappy product down everyone's throat by having it appear on (and only on) media that's been favorable to us in the past" or "Why don't start forcing OEMs to only install the software we want?". So what's perceived as a Borg-like organization (MS, DOJ, the FMI, World Bank, you name it) conspiring to take over the world, may just be a bunch of single individuals pursuing its own best interests (like the PR example Roblimo gave). And because what exists is just a set of local behaviors, no one is actually responsible of the global behavior. And that may be a problem when, for instance, a company is accused of illegally enforcing a monopoly. Following this line of thought, if no collective decision (that is, a conspiracy) was made, whether aroung a table or via email or whatever, no one is actually responsible if the whole company misbehaves. That, I think, is a problem, specialy when faced with a court, where a responsible has to be found. But if the alleged guilt is distributed, what do you do?

    I realize this logic has many holes but the general idea is that, imho, it may be more dangerous (and harder to correct) if an organization behaves like a conspiracy is going on when actually there isn't (no decision to do so was explicitly made). It may be the case that the organization doesn't even know (or can't understand) why it's being accused of conspiring, it's not being conscious of its own acts and can't stop itself even if it wanted to (or were forced to do so by law). That's why, if this phenomenon is not a conspiracy, we may need to use another term to refer to it.

    Or maybe I'm just further along the conspiracy theory way of thinking =)

  • OTOH, I remember reading the autobiography of a Japanese fighter pilot, one who had started the war in Manchuria and flew until the end (ie, a very good Japanese fighter pilot).

    He was assigned to fly a kamakazi mission off Okinawa as the leader of a bunch of kids fresh out of flight school. He describes flying out to the American fleet, looking at it, and turning around.

    He wasn't afraid to die, per se, but he valued his skills and it was perfectly obvious that this was a publicity stunt that wasn't going to help anything (and he was right -- if it had any effect, the kamakazi tactic encouraged the idea that the Japanese would fight to the last child, making the atomic bomb look reasonable).

    I've heard that some later kamakazi planes were rigged so as to be unable to land. Anybody confirm that? That would tend to indicate that others changed their minds as well.

  • by doonesbury ( 69634 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @08:10AM (#912288) Homepage

    As to employees not being responsible for the actions of their companies? Well, I believe the excuse "I was only following orders" went out of fashion in 1945.



    Hardly. This statement's being used every day, in every business & military situation all around the world. Besides, I think you're taking the point too far as well. Microsoft isn't pure evil. Microsoft products are not killing anyone (outright, in of themselves. You don't pick up a Word box and get ebola.) Microsoft products are just poorly made, and their business tactics leave a lot to be desired, namely competition & innovation. Don't haul up your own, bigger straw man to kill some smaller ones - especially when the truth is with your opinion anyway.

  • Interesting that you should mention Madison... who made a very tight case that there's no such thing as free people once you get a big enough crowd of them together. Free people will happily stomp all over anyone who gets in their path, and most sensible people understand this- if not from observation and experience, then from a certain level of respectable cynicism.

    For this reason, any childish pleas along the lines of 'We are just a group of free people, why should the big nasty government threaten us when all we want is to do what we want?' should not merit much respect. It's ludicrous to expect that a large faction will not stomp all over smaller ones, and nothing in history suggests the existence of overwhelming factions that are helpful or useful.

    A few simple questions- exactly why would Microsoft employees _not_ want to own and entirely control computing, the net, online services: fill in the blank. What in the self interest of these people would discourage this? Given that a lot of people enjoy Linux, exactly why would such people _not_ want to destroy Linux and sabotage its general usefulness by any means necessary? People keep going on about 'oh, they are nice guys for the most part' but what do you get when you get down to the self interest? In a word, power- and even if these guys did NOT believe that for them to win everyone else has to lose, the reality is still closer to a zero-sum game than you think, so the end result is that any choice, any power, even _self_ empowerment, is power that's not in the hands of Microsoft and the people who work there. And every single factor that gives more power to MS is part of establishing that overall control.

    It's ridiculous to go looking for Evil Mad Scientists cackling and going 'I want to take over the world and grind it beneath my boot!'. Instead, look for the people going 'But why would you want to use anything else?', because those are the ones who will smile as they cut off your options and your right to your own opinion- and believe that they are doing you a favor, not an injury.

    And the world is full of those people- _everyone_ is like that when you look hard enough. The trick is, as long as all these kindly opponents continue to oppose each other and struggle in equilibrium, the world gets to move on with some degree of fluidity. The instant anyone (Linus included) begins to have enough clout to decree "YOU WILL use this because why would you want to use anything else?" (or believe this, or behave thus), you start getting feedback, and people with varying notions start getting crushed.

    The Microsoft people do not _have_ to be out to do harm. They are far more disturbing- they are out to do good- as they see it. Key words being 'as they see it': you don't get an opinion. How can this not be a problem when they have power enough to continually do damage to any alternate way of seeing things?

  • So this is where it was decided that all the recent 'Microsoft' e-mail virus reports in the media became 'computer' e-mail virus reports.
  • I don't think Robin was arguing that employees are not responsible for the actions of their employers. I think he was saying that they *determine* the actions of their employers.

    In most large companies, there is a distinct lack of overall strategy coming from the top that actually succeeds in driving the whole organisation. That the point - there are no orders. The actions of Microsoft, or ZDNet, or Slashdot are just the actions of individuals acting more-or-less independently.
  • If you work for a company that does something "bad", and you do nothing to encourage change, you are responsible for the "bad".


    Alas, one of the currents in society is "avoiding responsibility." We blame the dominance of Windows on the evils of Bill Gates or explain the corruption of politicians in terms of faceless corporate donors, failing to realize that we have a responsibility to make change happen.


    Inaction is a choice. Laziness is a choice. If you don't like the way things are, make better choices, and quit blaming the shadowy monsters in your closet.

  • Contractors have yellow badges.. badges of shame. Blue badges will get you access to any Microsoft building, any day/time of the week. Yellow badges are only allowed in a few buildings during business hours.
  • Just like lots of great "Microsoft" applications (DOS, IE, Truetype fonts, ASP, SQL Server), many of these games were written by other companies. Actually make games companies are simply distributors for smaller companies' games.
  • by AndrewD ( 202050 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @01:44PM (#912301) Homepage

    ... is the fact that conspiracy theory is a lot more satisfying than admission of impotence, failure or procrastination.

    It was, for example, a lot nicer for an unemployed german in 1932 to believe that nice Mr Hitler who told him that the reason he was unemployed was that the International Jewish Conspiracy had stitched him up, than to believe that the world happened to be in poor shape at that time.

    Functionally, no difference - if there really was a secret world government of money (and anyway, if there was, it'd be the scots running it, not the jews) - you'd not stand a chance, people's willingness to do anything for money being what it is. Similarly with being out of work when world capital is depressed (as in the early thirties) is not something you can do anything about.

    But how much better you feel! Here is the bogeyman - hate him, rise and revile him! Makes you just want to get out there and vote for the guy who drew your attention to this demon incarnate.

    How the foregoing principle applies to the situations and organisations mentioned in the above article I leave as an exercise for the interested student.

  • by jetson123 ( 13128 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @08:13AM (#912302)
    Indeed, Microsoft employees are not all alike. Some came to Microsoft as part of acquisitions and some are in research. But the largest part appears to be long time employees whose stock options have vested and who stay because they believe in what they are doing, and new, often inexperienced, hires who stay because Microsoft gives them great opportunities, gives them a lot of responsibility, and promises riches through stock options.

    It's the latter two categories of employees that give Microsoft its Borg-like quality: they haven't seen much of the industry, they truly believe that Microsoft is doing innovative stuff, and they aren't part of a professional community that spans companies (other than, perhaps, Microsoft spin-offs). Their lack of breadth and experience and the "learning on the job" shows in their products. Microsoft hires them early and molds them their way (just like previous monopolies and the military). Those people truly believe in the "Microsoft way" and they truly believe that Microsoft is bringing something valuable to the masses.

    In order to agree with the overall vision, people don't have to agree with the company in each and every way. And it is Microsoft's overall vision and pretense that is at issue, not a few glitches in execution. People stay at Microsoft, despite having lots of other good jobs available to them, and that tells us pretty much all we need to know about their views and ethical choices.

  • Most of what he says is true. Many "reviewers" just rehash the press kits.

    A few years ago, spoke to a person who wrote a compiler review/comparison. It turns out that someone at the magazine changed the score card numbers. It seemed as though the numbers had some correlation to the advertising dollars.

    The text of the review wasn't changed so that the numbers never matched the text.

    Now with the magazines that have the scorecards, I will know what went on if the text does not match the numbers.

  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @08:25AM (#912306)
    This is dead on. I'm not sure if your friends have always worked for Visual Studio team but I know several people who used to work for other companies and then were hired by Microsoft. Within a few months, they seem to lose a few capabilities: rational thought, the ability to respond to objective criticism and large portions of their Sense-Of-Humour centres. It's like watching a CPU implant take over the brain over time. I'm not trying to be funny or frivolous - just stating what I've seen first-hand.

    They believe they are always right.

    This is just one of the company mantras - others include:

    • Bill Gates is always right
    • 100% share is an acceptable figure to aim for in any market we compete in
    • Bill Gates is always right
    • Product passion - no matter how bad the product
    • To win, everyone else must lose
    • Bill Gates is always right
    Most MS employees I know are exceptionally bright, motivated and talented in their fields. But with these doctrines permeating nearly every aspect of the company culture, it's not surprising that some of it sinks in. As a result the feedback I get from them is almost one of childish wonder like: "why should the nasty big government be threatening us when all we want to do is make computing easier?"

  • I found this article a little disturbing. I understand Slashdot's desire to be viewed favorably by both the suits (Andover et al), and the geeks (we loyal readers). This article seemed to me to be an attempt to reconcile the two by simply saying, "Any lapses in journalistic ethics that you may experience are not the result of a conflict of interest."

    Well, don't get too compfy with the media yet. They have their problems, and many of them are not limited to greedy freelance writers, or "small and understaffed publications."

    I will add that I found that assertion to be rather amusing. I've generally found that the best reporting comes from "small and understaffed publications" simply because they are not afraid to report the stories that go against the advertising grain. In fact, I've noticed that journalistic integrity almost ensures that publications remain small and understaffed.

    As for the assertion that most advertising departments and reporter segments of news organisations are highly separate, I believe that they are at the lower levels. However, you'd better believe that if it comes down to exposing a giant agribusiness company or "Joe Bob's Burger Barn" most big news publications will kill the little guy first, because the little guy doesn't buy big advertising. Is this a concious choice by reporters? No. But the senior editing staff is more likely to run the stories that keep their organisation alive.

    Everyone should check out Norman Solomon's new book, "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media." I'm a journalism major, and it sure as hell changed my outlook on this topic. He'll give you the specific examples that I'm sure everyone was looking for :-)

    Roblimo mentions watchdog organisations [fair.org] that "help keep editorial content free from business or outside influence." Right. How much press time devoted to watchdogging has anyone seen? Following Dateline NBC, do you see follow-ups where someone like FAIR [fair.org] shreds Dateline for factual inacuracies? I thought not. The reasons that watchdog groups aren't terribly effective (Yes I do think that watchdog groups are quintessential to accurate reporting), is that a small minority of people read them. Why does such a small number of people read them? Because they simply don't have enough money to get out to a wide audience. Why don't they have the money? Because most businesses prefer to remain outside the hard scrutiny that such watchdog groups provide.

    Roblimo talks about these watchdogs saving news organisations from business intervention (which I don't think is true). But Roblimo prefaces this article with the statement that we shouldn't waste our time with such watchdogging activities! Then he implies that any such activity is simply "makeing up fake [conspiracies].

    Sorry Roblimo, Slashdot (by nature) has built-in watchdogging. Some of it shoots from the hip but some of it is absolutely biting. This story is not the panacea for curing people with the urge to look for conflict of interest, be it in Andover or any other news mag.

    I'd just like to say that I really appreciate the watchdogging that Slashdot readers do. I'd like to see more of it. Not less. Watchdogging is especially important in the tech industry! Slashdot is a great source of it. Why is it so important to watchdog technology publications? The simple fact is that computers are changing the face of communication (duh). There is a lot of interest at stake in this media. Take an active role in making sure that its reporting is honest.


    -Peter

  • by dr_strangelove ( 16081 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @09:38AM (#912310)
    "I dissapprove of any conspiracy of which I am not a part."

    -- Ben Franklin, I think...
    or someone as clever with words
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

    Bill Gates looks exactly like a Randian hero to me: Peter Keating in "The Fountainhead." Oh wait, he wasn't a hero, was he? Oh well.


    ---
  • As a result the feedback I get from them is almost one of childish wonder like: "why should the nasty big government be threatening us when all we want to do is make computing easier?"

    If the attitude that free people should be generally left alone without government force or coercion is "childish" -- then so were Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, Patrick Henry, and the other "children" who said: "why should the nasty big government be threatening us when all we want to do is live freely?" If you want to attack laissez-faire, call it over-simplified, call it irresponsible even, but don't call it childish.

    -IT
  • Yup. Finding and fixing structural problems is more complex and less dramatic than blaming everything negative on some sort of personified evil. Look at the number of novels and movies (and religious works) where the fate of the world (or a galaxy or the entire universe) hinges on the actions of one Hero fighting one Villain.

    It's like a corruption case in the Maryland Legislature that is currently playing out in the local news media. An "evil" lobbyist was convicted of ripping off his clients by colluding with a legislator to imply that bills would be introduced that would harm their businesses if they didn't cough up big campaign bucks.

    This conviction won't change the overall cultural problem in the legislature: that dollar-wielding corporate lobbyists have become an integral part of the system. to the point where they can "buy" passage of bills opposed by the majority of those who attend hearings or otherwise make their voices known. UCITA is a prime example. Although it passed in a watered-down form, the chairman of the legislative subcommittee through which it passed on its way to the house floor told me bluntly, before any hearings were held, that UCITA was going to pass. Period.

    Taking MS or a lobbyist to court makes for compelling news coverage, but does little to change the underlying conditions that allowed them to do their dirty deeds.

    I have no good solutions to any of these problems. Perhaps there aren't any. :)

    - Robin
  • Will Rogers.

    - Robin
  • I agree that to accomplish all sorts of useful and important tasks, major and minor, groups are necessary, and they need to be able to work together, so there's a strong survival and success benefit to groupthink.

    But that is also the danger: this quality, that is a natural one which our species has relied on to achieve great things, is capable of being exploited by people who understand it (whether consciously or otherwise), for ends that may be directly opposed to the interests of the larger society in which the group is operating. Raising a barn is one thing, and hard to argue with; forcing a PC manufacturer to pay you based on PCs sold, whether or not it includes your product, is quite another.

    Microsoft's groupthink is considered particularly dangerous, with good reason - it has directly led to their success and dominant position, which is a threat to the success of other people and organizations. It is almost certainly not coincidental that Microsoft's particular brand of groupthink is unusually competitive, arrogant and insular, since that is what has helped them achieve their dominant position.

    Further, Microsoft's groupthink didn't arise naturally and organically, the way something like Slashdot arguably did. Slashdot posters don't depend on Slashdot for their livelihood, so the same level of control can't be applied to them. CmdrTaco can't send out directives telling Slashdottians how to think - they would be subject to the usual discussion, flames, and apathy. (That's not to say that Linux/Open Source/FSF doctrine doesn't spread via the usual propangandistic techniques, through cult leaders like RMS, ESR and the great Taco himself. It's just that this particular propaganda happens to be Good and Right :O)

    But Microsoft's groupthink is a direct result of deliberate and conscious actions taken by its top executives, actions taken to maximize the success of their group, often at the expense of other groups and individuals, to the point of violating laws designed to constrain such behavior. I think Roblimo is correct in assuming that not all companies act so overtly, but Microsoft is, not coincidentally, a counter-example.

    >Think carefully before you decide that this somehow doesn't
    >apply to you. Try to look objectively at your company.

    I agree, no-one is immune to groupthink. That doesn't mean one can't be aware of it, and distinguish between good and bad examples of it.

    There's some fun stuff about the engineering of groupthink in Part Two [pbs.org] of the PBS series, Triumph of the Nerds. Some examples from the above-linked page:

    IBM's song #74, circa 1959, sung by the salesmen: "IBM, happy men, smiling all the way, oh what fun it is to sell our products our products night and day. IBM Watson men, partners of TJ. In his service to mankind - that's why we are so gay." I'm sure some readers will think this a joke!

    And from Charles Simonyi, variously Chief Programmer / Architect at Microsoft: "It was easier to to to create a new culture with people who are fresh out of school rather than people who came from, from from eh other companies and and and other cultures. You can rely on it you can predict it you can measure it you can optimise it you can make a machine out of it.

    And finally, from one of Microsoft's own pages: Microsoft: a View From Inside [microsoft.com]: "Microsoft looks forward to the day when various annoying defects of reality as we know it shall have been overcome."

    I think what worries some people is that they might be considered a defect in Microsoft's Brave New Reality...

  • Of course, the freedom to swing my fist ends at your nose. The government's case has been that Microsoft has harmed other companies, consumers and the economy due to its monopoly status. Remember that it is not illegal to have a monopoly; it is illegal to use that monopoly in a manner which genertes results in other than what a competitive free market would have generated.

    What some need to realise is that corporations can be just as bad as government. Monopolies can be just as bad as government; after all, what is a government but a monopoly on the use of force? The free market cannot exist in conditions of a monopoly. A free market requires many competing companies; if this is not the case, then a market economy will become inefficient. Since a market economy is the most efficient possible, it is thus our responsibility to preserve it. Thus, we break up monopoolies when they misbehave (not before).

    The government's case has been that Microsoft has misbehaved. Opinions may differ, of course. But a court of law has so found, and is backed up by the opinion of the vast majority of the industry, and by those pundits who demonstrate an understanding of the subject, and by such jurists as Judge Robert Bork. I know where I'm placing my bets...

  • Mind you, I still don't buy Microsoft products. I spent part of this morning on the phone to Dell, trying to buy an Inspiron 3800 laptop without Win98 on it.

    You can buy a $3000 laptop from Dell with Red Hat on it, but not the lower-cost model (about $1700) that is all I really need. It's a quandary. I like the screen and the keyboard, but am I willing to go through all the crap to get the Windows refund from Dell after I buy one of the things?

    Yes, I can buy from Tuxtops, and perhaps I will in the end. It depends on how their new models look and how they are priced, and how their keyboards feel.

    I suppose CmdrTaco and some of the other Slashdot krewe must have similar thoughts when they buy or rent a movie on DVD (which I never do).

    If we stopped dealing with all "evil" corporations we'd severely reduce our quality of life. There are no easy answers these days, just hard questions, I suppose.

    I don't write these editorials because I have all the answers, but so that I can read the responses to them, many of which are (in my opinion) more worthwhile than my own thoughts that spurred them.

    - Robin

  • What upsets me most about this article is the weird fuzz-thought, apologist take we're seeing from a non-Katz editors. What's basically being said is "there's no conspiracy, it's just greed and myopic self-interest, so it's okay." Which is like saying, "Oh, it's not AIDS, just leukemia, so that's alright." Bzzt, try again.

    The point in the way back first place was that a trend of behavior was noted from certain companys. ZDNet was one of them, and Microsoft was another. And when you see anyone doing similar things over a period of time, it's reasonable to attribute that to a concealed agenda or private policy.

    Okay, for instance

    1. Microsoft has its OS (term used loosely; hey, yeah, I'm biased) on 95% of the world's PCs. That figure may be fluctuating, but it's one that MS is happy to publish. And by any measure, that's a monopoly. But...
    2. A monopoly is not necessarily an issue except that Microsoft has been using it to maneuver smaller application houses (read: future assets) into position for acquisition, and...
    3. to control the actions of larger business rivals. Or at least, so run so many seperate accounts that it's difficult to discount them. Furthermore,
    4. MS has begun (or by some accounts, has been for nearly a decade) building its OS such that its applications cannot help to run better under it than their competitors and
    5. leveraging their OS into markets which would, on the face of things, not be OS markets. Like Web browsing.
    Most of those items are fairly well documented, and usually by dozens of sources. It seems reasonable therefore to decide that Microsoft's policy to do anything to own the whole pie, regardless of how questionable their actions are, ethically or legally.

    I think that no one on this forum really believes, though, that Microsoft employees all lust for the blood of their competitors, driven in their craze by Warlord Gates. Or, as the mainstream metaphor goes, are will-less machines acting on the whim of Overmind Bill.

    But when you accept a job somewhere, you accept their actions and the philosophy implicit in them. And you become complicit in anything they do and you don't resign over. Usually, that's great. Microsoft employees can proudly claim that their OS is on 95% of the PCs in the world. But they have to accept with that the stigma of the corpses that success was built on.

    Not all of those corpses are companies. There's a lot of speculation that could be spent on the computing world if Microsoft hadn't been quite so successful early on; if the Intel OS market had actually been a competitive playing field.

    As far as the company being responsible for the actions of their employees, of course they are. They hired them, if nothing else, and presumably have the power to fire them as well. That relationship implies that the company is pleased with every employees actions, and condones them. To say that the company is too large to properly manage is ridiculous; that's a significant fault. In a society of individuals we lock up or put down those who have the power to harm others and lack the restraint to prevent themselves from doing so (e.g. mad men and mad dogs.)

    And to hear the argument from /. that incredible biases from certain arms of ZDNet is excusable is reprehensible. ZDNet claims to be an honest-to-god journalistic enterprise, and for them to print pieces written with a bias is rather questionable. When the editors consistantly print to a certain bias it's reasonable to gather that the editors share that bias. Especially when ZDNet regularly prioritizes its bias over facts.

    It used to be said that journalism was a sacred trust. It's always seemed to me that the reasoning behind that was that a journalist was presenting information to the populace at large, and that most of their audience was not well enough informed to distinguish fact from falsehood.

    Consider the outrage you feel when you read that [MS|Apple|Sun|The Open Source Movement] has done something that you are know they have not done (produced a decent operating system, destroyed a small business, failed to support a specific piece of hardware or market segment). That outrage, I'll posit, has it's roots in the intuition that for every person who can read the article and say "Wait a minute!" there's a hundred times that many who'll say "Really? I'll go tell my friends!" It's an intuition borne out by ZD's addition of the "What do you think?" section.

    When editors put their beliefs above what facts present themselves, or especially put financial gain over truthful reporting, they are violating a sacred trust implicit in our reading their publications. If nothing else is, that's a good higher than self interest. And my opinion is that if that's not a judgement you can identify with, there are better ways to fulfill your self-interest.

    I mean seriously, saying that the puppet master is just plain old greed doesn't solve anything. There's still puppets doing evil, until we can cut their strings.

    Ushers will eat latecomers.

  • If you are concerned about the "Borg Myth" why do you have MS's Slashdot logo being Bill Gates as a Borg? Pretty damn hypocrital if you ask me (and you didn't).

  • Heh, compared to some companies out there, MS is like the bloody Federation when it comes to Borg-ising companies. Take Computer Associates for example. I don't think they made a single piece of software they sell. They bought ArcServe, UniCenter, Ingres, Neugents (I think) and so on.

    They're not alone either. Check out some Compaq ads for NonStop. They're pimping that stuff like they sacrificed their firstborn to make it! (and they bought Tandem to get it). IBM bought Lotus, who in and of themselves bought half of the products they were retailing (cc:Mail is probably the most notable one). Demonizing only MS for buying stuff up is rather unfair if you ask me.
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @08:55AM (#912330)
    I have seen how Microsoft works from the inside. It is on par with the way any other large, corporate developer works. Some things of note:

    1. Internal teams are always one or two generations ahead of what's on the market. They're focusing on "what will be" rather than "what's out there." So when somebody moans about a certain feature on Usenet, those team members know it is being worked on and will show up in a future product. This leads to a complete disassociation with the users.

    2. Teams are working on project cycles that have relevance within the company, but not necessarily outside it. For example, Microsoft has a manufacturing division that , in effect, has other parts of the company as customers. You need to set up a pressing date with manufacturing, and they give you a window that you need to hit. If you miss the window, then another pre-scheduled product needs to be produced. There is pressure to push back bugs and cut features in order to make the arranged date. This is just one example. More commonly bugs and features are booted in order to make internal project milestones. Making milestones is more important than delivering a good product.

    3. Developers tend to be isolated from the users. They live in an abstract world, in which they focus on what they're working on and don't really see the big picture or how certain features will be promoted. When I worked at a large company, we used to laugh at the promotional videos and commercials that they put out when we saw them at company meetings. They always made the company seem goofy and clueless. Yet that's all the public ever saw from us. They had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.

    All of these items are not specific to Microsoft. They're standard practice at any medium to large company.
  • ". Some questioned the orders by the researcher to continue, but they kept on with the torture."

    There is a reason for this. It's because human beings are by nature evil. By evil I mean animals who enjoy causing pain and killing (a totally natural thing if you even watched a cat play with a grasshopper). Ony by civilising people through society do we try to surpress those tendencies in human beings so that we can all try to survive. Nevertheless those tendencies don't go away. Sometimes we redirect them in a war or corporate conquest.

    In short. Human beings are born evil and have tendency to do evil. They have to learn to be good. That's why it's so hard, it does nto come naturally.
  • Slashdot editors: single minded devotion to free software. Andover.net doesn't tell them what to write, but the bias exists and is apparent nonetheless. So what makes you think the same doesn't happen at zdnet,etc?
  • You are abosolutely right. If you work for a company you are morally culpable in what that company does. Maybe your contribution is 1/100 of 1% but it's not zero. If the soldiers in a war refused to pull the triggers the war would not exist.
  • If you want to attack laissez-faire, call it over-simplified, call it irresponsible even, but don't call it childish.

    My apologies - what I meant was child-like as in innocent curiosity.
    /me slaps forehead - use the preview button!

  • by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @09:01AM (#912336)
    You got it!

    Roblimo assumes unthinkingly that all organizations are as chaotic as Slashdot. However, successful large organizations share a characteristic which can be rather disturbing to us more individual-minded types: they have a culture, which dictates to a large degree how their members behave, even in the absence of orders from above. People behave in ways which they know their peers and superiors will approve of. It's ultimately this herd/peer pressure behavior that leads to, or at least fails to prevent, all human group atrocities - up to and including excessive accusations of conspiracy on Slashdot...

    The interesting thing is that really successful organizations often take active steps to encourage this natural human trait, and consciously harness it in the interests of the organization. At Microsoft, for example, this was done to excellent effect by Charles Simonyi. There are descriptions of this in various places, like biographies of Gates, but to give the flavor, here's a quote from Red Herring [redherring.com] magazine:

    "Microsoft is not a cult of personality, but the company is peculiarly dependent on [Bill Gates]. When Charles Simonyi, Microsoft's chief architect, devised the organizational structure in the early '80s, he made Bill the "metaprogrammer" to whom every group product manager reported. No other software CEO is so intimately involved in his company's product development, because no other software CEO has Bill's combination of technical smarts and business savvy."

    The point is, Microsoft's culture, like that of many other organizations, is not an accident - it was carefully created, by the hiring and deliberate indocrination of large numbers of impressionable young programmers, and by building an organizational structure designed to reinforce desired behaviors. One result of this is the attitude described in another message [slashdot.org] posted to this article: Microsoft programmers "believe they are always right", and are (in general) unlikely to give much weight to opinions outside the organization on which they depend for their livelihood and culture. This is what leads to "embrace and extend", even without specific instructions from above.

    >This feature was impressive if only for its incredible lack of content.

    The content of this piece was "I, Roblimo, am tired of being accused of being part of a Slashdot conspiracy. I know there's no Slashdot conspiracy, because Slashdot is too chaotic. Come to think of it, other places are chaotic too. Therefore, there are few real conspiracies."

    I am afraid Roblimo has been hanging out (virtually or otherwise) with Jon Katz for too long, and has unknowingly assimilated Katzian anti-logic...

  • obviously you have never hung out in comp.databases.ms-access. There is a cottage industry of access programmers charging up to $200.00 per hour to poor saps who get in over their heads with the product.
  • doesn't childish imply over-simplified?
  • by joss ( 1346 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @10:01AM (#912342) Homepage
    > If you look at any organization with a microscope you will see plenty of random Brownian motion going on. But there is still a whole, and this whole moves in a certain direction.

    Exactly. It's silly to single out MS for special criticism in this regard. We don't need any controlling evil mastermind to produce the appearance of a conspiracy. All we need is a set of implicit and unstated tendancies where most people do what they think ought to be done, and the mass moves inexhorably in a particular direction, irrespective of a few free thinkers trying to throw a spanner in the works.

    The media prints what they believe people want to see. The strongest motivation for reading newspapers is not to obtain information, it's to seek reassurance that you know whats going on and you are intelligent and informed. People don't read newspapers - they get into them like a warm bath. Opinions that you disagree with arouse discomfort and distrust. Almost everybody reads the journals and papers whose opinions they agree with, ie they read papers that tell them what they already "know". Which means papers print what they think people already believe. There's a massive positive feedback loop. You end up with ridiculously slanted propoganda, and increasingly paranoid "weirdos" handing out pamphlets unable to understand why nobody is interested in the truth.

    On the other hand, in places where there is a an attempt to control the media, (eg Soviet Union), people are naturally far less trusting of media, and far more interested in hearing the truth. I'm quite sure the average Russian during the soviet years had a far more informed and balanced picture of America than the average American had about Russia (or America for that matter).

    The western propoganda machine was(is) based on self-interest, flattery and greed. Soviet propoganda was based on fear. We won the propoganda war for the same reason that we won the economic war - distributed processing is more efficient than central control.
  • I would be more willing to accept the idea of a counter-conspiracy in Micro$haft's programming HQ. I mean, how better to take a company down than from the inside? That, so far, is the best explaination I've heard for Outlook and IE. No self-respecting coder would make shit like that unless she/he was attempting to make her/his company look *really* bad.

  • read how roblimo trys to tell us that there is no conspiracy, that it is all just chaos. well, i have read illuminatus! i know better then to beleve that there is no conspiracy.

    EWIGE BLUMENKRAFT!

    this isn't news just a press release to help you forget that andover.net is part of the illuminati. makes them look like their are independant!

    FNORD!

    nmarshall
    #include "standard_disclaimer.h"
    R.U. SIRIUS: THE ONLY POSSIBLE RESPONSE
  • This argument is still rather bizarre - YOU may have decided to brand humans as inherently evil, and maybe some people who think like you, but that hardly translates to "human beings have branded our natural instinct to kill as evil". In my experience, the "rest of society" does not perceive someone as evil until that someone has actively done something to hurt the society.

    The nature of your words indicates that you are looking at the world through a strongly religiously-flavored context - a viewpoint which I do not share, and which I doubt a majority of people on the planet share. (My impression that, while most of the people on the planet are religious to some extent, they tend to be a lot more secular & pragmatic than your words indicate.)

    I take issue with your belief that humans have a natural instinct to kill. Humans have a natural instinct to want stuff for themselves. If someone else gets in the way of getting that stuff, then it is a "natural", animalistic reaction to get mad (and perhaps violent). This is NOT the same thing as a "natural instinct to kill".
  • ...if you think about it.

    But part of the fun of /. is watching the conspiracy theories go off on wild tangents with no basis is reality. It reminds us of how ignorant and gullible the lesser-educated amongst us tend to think. The conspiracy theories are great distraction from the real issues at hand, and in that confusion there is profit.

    Perhaps roblimo's post here will scare off some of the conspiracy mongering idiots who tend to dilute the conversations on slashdot. That could help make the conversations a little more focused and informative.

    I've started browsing at +3 to cut down on all the useless chatter on slashdot. Maybe things will get better if people read this clearly informative editorial and glean some understanding. Naahhhhh, its more fun to flame a big mysterious conspiracy :-)

    the AC
  • You still didn't address my point about all of us following what are in effect orders to pay taxes to a government that performs illegal actions. By your logic, we are responsible for these actions, as most people are aware of at least some of them.

    -----------------------

  • by Richy_T ( 111409 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:21AM (#912355) Homepage
    You really took a mildly humorous and loose metaphor and ran with it, constructing a dozen straw-man arguments along the way.

    The borg metaphor is about Microsoft's tendencies to assimilate software companies and standards and make them their own in the quest for every machine to run Microsoft software, not that their employees are drone-like zombies with implants in their heads and nanobots running through their bloodstream (in fact, I suspect that's something most Slashdotters aspire to ;) )

    As to employees not being responsible for the actions of their companies? Well, I believe the excuse "I was only following orders" went out of fashion in 1945. Also, there is a quote which goes something like "For evil to succeed, all that is required is for no good man to stand against it". I think that applies. If you are working for a company which comits evil deeds, you *are* supporting it. Your work generates profits which allow that company to continue operating in the way that it does.

    To mis-quote a famous dead guy, "If you are not against it, you are for it"

    Rich

  • I've mentioned this before but since it looks like this is a slashdot making peace with MSFT article I thought it would be relevant here. I have a few friends who work for the Visual Studio team and also know a few people from school who have worked there at one time or the other. Here are the realities I have noticed that counter (and may explain) the conspiracy theories about MSFT employees

    1.) They believe they are always right. They also believe that they are on a mission to bring computing to the masses. When I say this, I don't mean a computer on every desktop but instead the elimination of all tasks that previously or currently need skilled computer help. A friend of mine waxes eloquently on when MSFT will render sysadmins and DBAs irrelevant thus enabling anyone without a CS degree or intensive computing background solve programming problems. Visual Basic, Access, FrontPage etc. are all steps in this direction.

    2.) They believe they are always right. This leads to trivializing the need for compatibility or standards compliance when balanced against the request for features or functionality handed down by the higher ups. Instead of some acts being a Borg-like conspiracy (e.g. Kerberos, MSIE 5.5) many of them simply do not consider interoperability when making decisions on which direction their software will take. They do not set out willingly to break standards but simply happen to break them by virtue of the fact that standards are not important to them.

    3.) They believe they are always right. This leads to the jack-of-all-trades mentality. Instead of doing a few things very well as most software houses usually do, they branch into every conceivable market and are increasingly more ambitious than the last. This leads to more of the current hodge podge of excellent products/ideas and brain dead products/ideas all residing under the same roof than at any other software house. Their good stuff is very good while their brain dead ideas are horrible.

  • ... if you actually *beleive* the above:

    (how gates got to limo I dunno, but theres SOMETHING not kosher in andover land)

    But check out this book:

    Coporate Cults: The Insidious Lure of the All-Consuming Organization

    by:
    Dave Arnott

    Hardcover - 256 pages 1 Ed edition (October 1999)
    AMACOM; ISBN: 0814404936 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.02 x 9.31 x 6.27

    I won't bother with an Amazon link given the patent related sentiment about them, just plug into your favorite booksellers search.

    Anyway, Arnot goes into lurid detail about how several companies (particularly micro$oft) *DO* in fact, have indoctrination and assimilation programs crafted to break down te inductee'd individuality and turn them into drones in the collective.

    A number of other posters have mentioned that they do know, PERSONALLY, drones who exhibit all the cult-like symptoms Arnott describes. Well, this is how they got there.

    Remember in Microserfs, what the protagonists were like before they were fortunate enough to escape? Well, as scary as it sounds, that's how these guys REALLY are!

    john
    Resistance is NOT futile!!!

    Haiku:
    I am not a drone.
    Remove the collective if

  • It's because human beings are by nature evil. By evil I mean animals who enjoy causing pain and killing (a totally natural thing if you even watched a cat play with a grasshopper).

    Oh, come on! Your application of the definition of evil is stupid.

    The cat plays with the grasshopper because the cat is having fun practicing its hunting skills - and doesn't really have enough of a concept about another creature's "pain" to feel any empathy toward the grasshopper. That's NOT evil. You have to be able to conceive that you are actually CAUSING another creature pain, before you can enjoy it. Most non-human animals don't meet this criteria.

    I also feel that most humans aren't inherently evil - they're SELFISH, which isn't the same thing (although it might result in some of the same kinds of pain & suffering). ESPECIALLY in a survival situation, where people are feeling insecure about the possibility they will be able to wake up alive the next day. That's NOT evil.

    About the only thing you got right is that an EVIL person enjoys causing others unnecessary pain & suffering. I differentiate this between someone who causes people NECESSARY pain & suffering, or someone who causes people pain & suffering but doesn't ENJOY it. (This two types of people might be classified as "dangerous", but not evil.) You're spreading that definition of evil across way too many people who don't deserve it.

  • ...what some (or all) employees' feelings are, or what reasons do they have to behave like they do? They are nobody for me, they made their choice, and if results of their work hinder the development of good, useful products or coerce the rest of population into using shoddy software when better one is available, they ARE a conspiracy. I don't care what Rand or Libertarians say, coercion and conspiracies can exist in all societies, and this is one of examples.
  • That the /. community doesn't have a single logical mind. It is a group of people with a signficant intersection of iterests. This is not the same as a borg.

    A detail to pay attention to when dealing with groups of people. Suppose you have 3 choices, A, B, and C. Suppose 1/3 rank them A, B, and C. 1/3 rank them B, C, A. And the last third rank them C, A, B. Then the group can honestly be said by 2/3 to say that A is better than B, that B is better than C, and that C is better than A! Each of those statements have 2/3 support!

    Think about this the next time you see someone wondering why the opinions of /. readers don't seem to make much logical sense...

    *Sigh* Why is it called "common sense" when it appears to be so rare?

    Cheers,
    Ben
  • Do you remember the originating post. Experiments have shown over and over that given permission to do human beings will torture and kill other human beings.

    I am not at all religious but all teh religions of the world as well as most secular philosophers agree that killing, torturing, stealing, stuffing your face, fucking anybody you want to are wrong/evil. These are our natural biological programming yet we chose to lable them evil.It wasn't too long ago that black people were swinging from trees. Many lynchings were made into postcards with smiling white people gathered around a grossly mutilated and dead black man. People bought and sold postcards so they can send it to their grandma. "Happy birthday granny here is me with the nigger I done killed." Have you seen one of these? How long ago was that? 50 years?

    You can take all the issue you want but history shows again and again that people enjoy killing and torturing and would do it in an instant if somebody told them it was OK to do so.
  • by sansbury ( 97480 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:25AM (#912377)
    It is true that a corporation cannot acheive the singlemindedness of the Borg, and that even the Soviet Union failed to eradicate the individual mind.

    But the motives of the individuals are not the question; the Soviet Union was evil because of what it created as an organization.

    If you look at any organization with a microscope you will see plenty of random Brownian motion going on. But there is still a whole, and this whole moves in a certain direction. There were many good Soviets, but that does not make the Soviet Union any less evil.

    This feature was impressive if only for its incredible lack of content. The only people left who are surprised by the public's distrust of the media, are media people themselves.

    -cwk.

    • No human-run organization operates with Borg-like singlemindedness. People are incapable of that kind of groupthink. Not even the old Soviet Union achieved it.
    Micro Nit: Imperial Japan.

    One of today's Sunday Morning Network Talking Heads shows featured a lady professor of Japanese origins at an American University.

    She has just published an English translation of a book first published over 50 years ago in Japan:

    • Letters home from Kamakazi pilots about to fly off into eternity.
    While fascinating, I did not expect to read the book and cannot tell you the title. However rather than the stereotype of foaming at the mouth fanatics, these were often university students who wrote home in the most eloquent phrases. They did not wish to die, they did not wish for their brothers to follow them. They were doing their duty to Emperor and country.
  • by AME ( 49105 )
    pure accidents (a perfect example is filtering cards from that one company into the Junk folder in OE)

    For those who don't know this story...

    Blue Mountain Arts, who marketed email greeting cards, discovered in November of 1998 that Microsoft Outlook Express was automatically filing their cards in the user's "junk" folder. Then they found out that WebTV was also blocking their cards.

    Of course Microsoft claims to have attempted in good faith to sort this problem with Blue Mountain. Blue Mountain claims that Microsoft's fix was to wait for the next release of Internet Explorer. No promises about when this would be.

    And now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. It turns out that Microsoft had attempted to buy Blue Mountain Arts, but when that deal fell through, they decided to create their own email greeting card service. The bug in Outlook Express (and in WebTV) appeared by pure accident just as Microsoft's service began.

    Now maybe that was all just pure accident, but it does give one pause. I'm not saying it wasn't an accident, just like I'm not saying that the Crusades weren't just a silly misunderstanding.

    --

  • Do you remember the originating post. Experiments have shown over and over that given permission to do human beings will torture and kill other human beings.
    am not at all religious but all teh religions of the world as well as most secular philosophers agree that killing, torturing, stealing, stuffing your face, fucking anybody you want to are wrong/evil.

    Yes, I remember the original quote - and I disagreed with it, and your opinion. Given permission to do so, MOST human beings do NOT torture and kill other humans beings. SOME humans beings do - which is NOT equivalent to ALL.

    In a bad situation, most humans beings try and keep a low profile so that THEY don't get tortured and killed. This doesn't mean that they are evil - it just means they want to survive.

    You can take all the issue you want but history shows again and again that people enjoy killing and torturing and would do it in an instant if somebody told them it was OK to do so.

    And I say again - bullshit - history doesn't show any such thing. SOME people enjoy killing & torturing - MOST people are just concerned with living comfortably.

  • Apple seems even more proprietary and monopolistic than Microsoft.

    No, what you mean is that if Apple held a monopoly position, they would act the same way. I agree. I'm sure that Sun and Oracle would, too. But they aren't. (Okay, Oracle is on the way... but not yet.)

    It's important to remember that Microsoft is not being punished because they have a monopoly; they are being punished because they used their size to push others around.

    ---------///----------

  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @10:51AM (#912401) Journal
    This is a somewhat informative article, but it somewhat misses the point.

    People think of the "X-Files" when they think of conspiracies... and from what I can tell, it doesn't work like that.

    Another word for conspiracy might be "bias". Everybody's covering their own ass, to a degree,
    and everybody's conspiring, as well.

    We /.'ers like to conspire against M$ because we are very critical of their actions, and we feel quite justified in doing so.

    Is it really so hard to believe that Microsoft employees feel similarly?

    They aren't "breaking any laws", (in their own eyes) and as a previous poster noted, they "always think they are right". Given their track record of crushing any/all competition, and their incredible stock growth, why wouldn't they?

    They've won every major market battle they've ever fought! They are simply engaging open-source now, and they are well in hand in winning that one too!

    (IE is up to what, 80% of the browser market?) Mozilla might end up being good, but so was DR DOS and Lotus Ami-Pro! Notice their ASP-centric announcements of recent.

    To hell be damned with the DOJ and "open-source".. they are taking the Internet to the "next level" (incredible marketing!) and make the standards for which we've fought so hard for, and which empowered the Internet we know today as irrelevant as the Rich Text file format. Look at IE 5.5 for a first taste of more to come.

    We'll either hear about this for years until it, in some form, is a reality, or it will disappear completely within a year. I think the former is the case.

    In fact, while I use Linux on 2 of my 3 home computers, and work as a database programmer with Linux as my main development platform, I'm using IE right now on the Windows computer!

    Is it a conspiracy when people "do the usual" and throw a favor or two to their own cause or their friends?

    -Ben

    PS: The DOJ will pass and have little/no effect long term - the DOJ is too busy tip-toeing around the egg-shells to have any real meaningful effect.

    They split the company in the one way that it won't do *anything*! IE is the new devel platform, they should've had them separate IE and everything else, and force publication of *all* API calls for IE!
  • by cthompso ( 2283 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @10:57AM (#912402)
    I've heard before that the MS culture promotes a naive sense of knowing what's best for customers, etc. It struck me how much the Microsoft employee mindset is like that of the East German secret police (STASI). Apparently Erich Mielke, the STASI head who ordered all manner of tortures and executions, was genuinely baffled that anyone would not want to be part of the utopian new order. We've seen this mindset before, notably during the Spanish Inquisition. How the Microsoft rendition will end, it's hard to say.
  • by Electric Angst ( 138229 ) on Sunday July 23, 2000 @07:32AM (#912407)
    Well, if there's no Slashdot conspiracy now, there should be in the future! Or maybe just slashdot entertainment.

    Say, for example... There are six of you, all at the compound, all working on Slashdot. What if you couldn't leave the compound? Now, what if, as we all watched on with webcams, you voted off on Slashdotter every two weeks?!? Slashdot Surviver! It would be genius! Whoever is the final Slashdotter left gets one-million bucks from Andover.

    So, what are you waiting for, posting legitimate stories and informing us!! Get out there and entertain!!!
  • Finding and fixing structural problems is more complex and less dramatic than blaming everything negative on some sort of personified evil.

    I often find myself significantly frustrated in political conversations with people in the tech industry. My academic background is in political science, so I have a tendency to want to analyze *how the structure of our economic relationships and social organizations causes problems*, with a pragmatic end in mind --- figuring out how to amerliorate the structure so as to fix the problems.

    All too often, the people i'm talking to object to pragmatic solutions because they're "just not right" on some moral ground, and assert that their actions couldn't possibly be contributing to the problem.

    I had one infuriating discussion recently about the housing crisis in silicon valley. Someone said to me: "it's people like us that are causing the problem", which is reasonable (as tech industry workers make significantly more on average than non-tech workers, and are thus able to drive the housing price up); my response was "which is why we are responsible for finding a solution to the problem", to which he responded "it's not *my* responsibility, i didn't cause the problem".

    *sigh*
  • The Myth of the Borg

    First, the Borg isn't a consipracy. The Borg assimilate, taking enough of the assimilated to further their goals. That's hardly the same thing. Even if it weren't, it's an analogy. Any analogy can be taken too far.

    ...who do not follow any secret "editorial agenda"...

    Oh, of course. You don't need a conspiracy to bend the media to your ends, you only need money. A few key editors making judgements based on potential advertising revenue to damage the perception, and probably the reality, of responsible journalism. For example, were an esteemed organization like the New York Times to suggest that an op-ed writer change their opinions from "Microsoft is a monopolist" to "Microsoft is innovative", one might reasonably assume that ones faith in the independence of the New York Times would be greatly weakened.

    Oh wait, that already happened: Steve Wozniak Interview [failuremag.com] at Failure Magazine.

    --j

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