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Microsoft Caught Rigging ZD Net Poll 768

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-thats-funny-stuff dept.
Dj writes "Microsoft have been found to be rigging a ZDNet poll". Apparently they didn't dig on the idea of .NET losing. Of course as anyone knows, never trust an online poll because this sort of stuff is obviosly happening all the time. I just wonder how many comments posted around the net are posted with the same goals in mind.
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Microsoft Caught Rigging ZD Net Poll

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:28PM (#2810292)
    Weren't they just stress testing .NET? Isn't ZDNET ZD.NET? Doesn't Microsoft own ZDNET? Doesn't there polls use .NET technology?
  • by bricriu (184334) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:28PM (#2810294) Homepage
    ... this is particularly annoying because it's exactly this sort of statistic that will be used by middle-management (and/or Microsoft flacks) to justify switching project backbones to .NET

    "Well, look, this says 74% of programmers out there are eager to use .NET! Guess we should too!"

    It's not like this is some hobbyist site. It's ZDNet. Some people actually listen to them.

    And it's not like you're voting for Coolest Transformer of All Time. They're creating a grossly skewed statistic that could actually be used to figure out where millions of dollars gets invested.
  • by dozing (111230) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:31PM (#2810336) Homepage
    Several of the voters evidently followed a link contained in an email, the subject line of which ran: "PLEASE STOP AND VOTE FOR .NET!"

    Is this terribly different from what happens when slashdot has a post announcing some poll about linux? I'm sure we've rigged our share in the past. Not that I think Microsoft is right. I'm just trying to give a little perspective and play devil's advocate for a moment. Feel free to mod me down because you dissagree.

  • What happened (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaptainSuperBoy (17170) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:32PM (#2810353) Homepage Journal
    What probably happened is, some MS sales guy stumbled across the poll so he drafted an e-mail entitled "PLEASE STOP AND VOTE FOR .NET!" This goes along with the take-no-prisoners attitude that has been seen coming from MS execs like that sales guy who wrote the "kill linux" e-mails. So the e-mail makes the rounds, everyone at MS clicks over to the poll and votes for .NET. Nothing major, just shows you why web polls can't be trusted.

    I seriously doubt that this was organized by anyone high level at MS.. probably just a salesman who thought it would be a good idea to get everyone to vote in the poll.
  • Hmmmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Null_Packet (15946) <nullpacket@dos[ ]r.net ['che' in gap]> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:35PM (#2810376)
    It seems far more likely that an internal e-mail encouraged MS employees to vote for .NET, and they did. They seem quick to point out that some people from the microsoft.com domain tried to use automated voting, and they therefore blame that on the parent corporation. I'd have a much easier life if I could blame all my problems on my employer too.

    My questions would be, "Did anyone else outside the microsoft.com domain try to use automated voting for any of the contestants?" or, "Do you have any evidence that the e-mail sent out encouraged ballot stuffing?"

    How would a simple email with a link encouraging employees to vote be different than a presidential candidate sending an e-mail out telling everyone register for their party or even go an vote? Sure, there's an obvious bias, but what makes you think that *anyone* is voting that doesn't have a bias?

    This all reeks of sensationalism and media-based MS-bashing. Whether you like MS or not, MS-bashing is old-hat.
  • by ChadAmberg (460099) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:35PM (#2810390) Homepage
    Maybe they've been rigging the polls on the number of desktops running Windows? Maybe only a few hundred people world wide actually run Windows. But MS is going out and hitting every website that tracks usage. And they're also taking cues from Scientology. Only 300 CD's of XP were actually pressed. MS employees are going out, buying these copies, then sending them back through the supply chain, only to buy them again, thus inflating the sales numbers!!!
  • by Saxifrage (111109) <ithildin@@@teleport...com> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:35PM (#2810391) Homepage
    Obviously, anyone who's ever tried to take a poll knows that everyone tries to vote multiple times. Of course, there's no easy way to know whether someone is doing it or not; IP logging only works for those with static IPs, and between dialup and large-environment DHCP God only knows that it's hard to do that.

    I don't want to think about it this way, but maybe cookies are the way to go for this sort of thing?

    Either that, or we need to stop thinking of Web polls as reliable.

    -Sax
  • by bildstorm (129924) <peter.buchy@nospAM.shh.fi> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:37PM (#2810398) Homepage Journal

    You know, once upon a time, I was a big Microsoft fan. I liked how easy it was to do things, and how empowered I felt in running Windows. The other day I noticed (after a Google search) that Microsoft had a Content Management Server that was using .Net.

    Over the past several years I've become very negative towards Microsoft, since my Windows constantly crashed, and they were clearly trying to shut out others.

    About a week ago I thought to myself, well maybe there's just too my anti-Microsoft hype. Perhaps some of these e-mails being forwarded to The Register [theregister.co.uk] are just hoaxes.

    But now today, ZDNet reveals Microsoft trying to disrupt things and act like a big bad monopoly. Now, ZDNet has kissed Microsoft's butt so often it isn't fun, and David Coursey who's now running Anchordesk is such a pro-Microsoft weenies I get sick. But there it is, on a ZDNet site (albeit the UK site, but still).

    Guess the hype just ain't hype.

  • by mbessey (304651) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:38PM (#2810410) Homepage Journal
    I don't think that Microsoft did anything really wrong here. It'd be different if online polls had any of the same validity that real polls do. But they don't, which makes it merely a question of who most effectively stuffs the ballot box.

    There's no reason to think that any of the people who voted in that poll are actually planning to deploy any kind of Web infrastructure, ever. Most of those who voted are probably 13 year olds who think that "Java is cool", so they voted for it.

    Even if the poll results were completely "fair" before MS started stuffing ballots, who's to say that the cross-section of people that responded was at all appropriate. Real polling companies spend a lot of effort trying to get statistically-valid results, which is why they charge money for the service.

    I know that if any product I work on shows up in a popularity poll (again), I'll vote early and often, and encourage others to do the same.

    -Mark

  • by dozing (111230) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:38PM (#2810420) Homepage
    Most of the votes came from an internal Microsoft email titled "STOP AND VOTE FOR .NET" though.


    Not entirely true. The article states that "Several of the voters evidently followed a link contained in an email" I do not take that to mean Most.



    Sorry to nit-pick, but I'm bored and couldn't find anything constructive to do.

  • Hohum (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Erasmus Darwin (183180) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:39PM (#2810435)
    First, I'm sure we've all seen "please vote for X" campaigns on the internet. Just because it happens to be Microsoft employees in this case doesn't make it particularly more interesting.

    Second, Microsoft uses proxying for Internet-related stuff, which could make the multi-vote issue appear to be worse than it actually is, as many separate users would come from a single IP.

    Third, yes, it seems someone ran a script from within the microsoft.com domain. That could've been anyone in the company with a PC. My bet is on "random stupid employee". If it were an actual conspiracy, I doubt they would've done it from something within the microsoft.com domain.

    In short, it's the same bullshit that happens with every web poll. While it doesn't reflect well on the company, it almost certainly is the evil marketing conspiracy that everyone makes it out to be.

  • by jd (1658) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .kapimi.> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:40PM (#2810439) Homepage Journal
    This is NOT about someone rigging an online opinion poll. That happens all the time, and more than a few polls have been Slashdotted in their time. It's no big deal, because most such polls have no significance.


    Rather, this is about a company creating an illusion of popularity, in order to sell a technology and a philosophy that customers are hesitent to buy. People are keen to keep up with the Jonses, but nobody wants to be caught with a dead fish. Microsoft knows this. The only way .NET will sell is if people believe it already is.


    THAT is the purpose of the ballot rigging. And this may actually be a further Monopoly violation. They are leveraging a monopoly in one area to create a monopoly in another. This is in violation of the Sherman Act, which Microsoft has been convicted of violating.


    Should this "incident" be taken to the courts, as evidence of further legal violations, by the dissenting States, I could very well imagine the judge being extremely unhappy with Microsoft. Breaking the law that you're already on trial for breaking generally doesn't win many friends.


    The leaked letters, alleging that Microsoft is trying to spy out Linux installations, and pressure companies into replacing them, during technical support calls, may also prove a bitter poison to Microsoft, come March.


    This is not the mark of a company in fear. This is the mark of a company that has had its fear glands surgically removed, and is hell-bent on enslaving all minds and all technology to its will.


    In short, Microsoft's recent attitudes are perfectly timed, given the recent LoTR movie release. Forget the Borg, Bill Gates is either Sauron or Morgoth.

  • by jacobito (95519) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:41PM (#2810455) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I'm not a Microsoft fan, but every now and then I pretend to be reasonable.

    The headline seems a bit misleading. Was any evidence presented that Microsoft the company, and not a handful of Microsoft employees, deliberately chose to rig the poll? It seems more likely that some developer in the web services group with a little too much team spirit saw the poll and sent a mail to other developers asking them to vote. Big deal. Then some jerk hacked up a form submission script to tilt the poll results in Microsoft's favor. Pretty sad, but again, big deal. As the editor said, you can't trust an online poll to represent anything approaching reality. (At least that's what I tell myself every time I view CNN quick poll results)
  • by f00zbll (526151) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:46PM (#2810496)
    Everyone knows alot of companies do it, but when this type of thing happens repeatedly, does it affect public perception? I mean really. If this was GM trying to win the public over about the safety of truck tires, would the public just roll over?

    It's terribly short sighted of tech companies to resort to this type of tactic, because it makes everyone in the industry look bad. Gloating over M$ getting bashed for this kind of behavior doesn't do much for improving public perception of technology companies. A lot of people I know already have a negative view of Information Technology and think it's eletist.

    Here's to hoping companies learn to behave more ethically, but I'm not holding my breathe.

  • by Reckless Visionary (323969) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:50PM (#2810525)
    Some people actually listen to them.

    Anyone who makes their IT purchasing and development decisions based on online polls deserves what they get.

  • Re:Hmmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mjh (57755) <<moc.nalcnroh> <ta> <kram>> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:51PM (#2810531) Homepage Journal
    How would a simple email with a link encouraging employees to vote be different than a presidential candidate sending an e-mail out telling everyone register for their party or even go an vote? Sure, there's an obvious bias, but what makes you think that *anyone* is voting that doesn't have a bias?

    Becuase it's a poll. When someone reads that 74% of poll respondants think blah, they assume that it's an accurate sample of what everyone thinks. But those same people conveniently gloss over the fact that this is a non-scientific poll.

    What you see here is an attempt by Microsoft to convince the their skeptics that lots of people like Microsoft. Microsoft couldn't care less about the people who already chose them. They want to convince the people who voted for Java that they're in the minority, and they ought to reconsider switching to .NET... "everyone's doing it!". And in the software developer world, the more in the minority you are, the more difficult it is to sell your wares.

    It's worse than normal marketing. It's seriously slimey. It's not just a lie. It's an attempt to make someone else (ZDNet) lie for you! It's despicable... and no less so when /. does it.

  • by night_flyer (453866) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:52PM (#2810544) Homepage
    according to the poll numbers only 1057 people voted for .NET (1415 Votes Total), It wouldnt take much to get those kind of numbers, especially shooting out a company wide email.

    Where I work there are 1100+ people in my office and most just click links in email for the heck of it (can you say outlook virus?)...
  • so what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by donutz (195717) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @01:59PM (#2810599) Homepage Journal
    Not to sound pro-Microsoft (or pro-Linux, pro-*BSD, etc), but who really cares? it's just another web popularity poll with no scientific basis or anything. So someone at Microsoft saw the poll and sent around an email telling everyone to vote for .NET, and to pass the message along. This isn't any different than if Linux users did the same thing, pass an email around and tell people to vote Linux. The poll basically means NOTHING. The same thing happened at the college I went to, there was some online battle of the Mascots or something and I'd get emails from the IS dept secretary telling us to vote for Bucky Badger. Same exact thing.

    As for the automated multiple vote scripts...well, can't blame them for trying.
  • by Boltmeyer (530940) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:02PM (#2810636) Homepage
    The poll had the voters pick from the following (extrmely long) list:
    • .NET
    • JAVA
    • Both
    • Neither
    Well, that makes perfect sense. I guess Perl, PHP, ASP, ColdFusion, etc., don't count as web services. Since the poll didn't have a decent list of things to choose from, it was retarded from the get-go. It's like having a poll like the following: "Which car are you going to buy when you replace your current one? The Honda Civic or a Nissan Altima?"
  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:09PM (#2810710) Homepage

    ...where clueless managers (and politicians) make technological decisions based on polls and headlines, this sort of lying is very troublesome and dangerous. Such polls are important because they influence small-minded people with the power to control the software that gets written.

    Of course, the "powers that be" probably won't care that Microsoft cheated on this (or any other) poll. All they know is to bet on a winner -- Microsoft -- even if that winner is a lying, cheating scum-bag. After all, winning is all that matters in the U.S. today, isn't it?

    Damn, I'm getting cynical in my old age. ;)

  • by Zorkon (121860) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:13PM (#2810745) Homepage
    "Dude".

    The difference here is that ZDnet isn't a small-time website. ZDnet is fairly well respected in large corporate management circles (frightening, I know). All sorts of corporate justifications and purchases are made based on the content of large sites such as ZDNet.

    If I were a Microsoft-friendly IT person who wanted to standardize on .NET for my corporate computing infrastructure, one of the things I might do is hit ZDNet and start pulling down stats. Well, look at what I'd find: A recent poll says that 74% of users prefer .NET to Java.

    Not knowing the ways of the net (and you'd be surprised at just how many corporate IT workers *don't*), I'd pull the stat, put it in a nice report, and quote the source as "Ziff Davis Net" ... and it probably wouldn't even occur to me to credit it as an unofficial poll, or that it could even be ballot stuffed.

    That's why people are annoyed about this. Sure, ballot stuffing happens all the time on web polls. But when it happens on a large enough site, ballot stuffing can actually influence millions of dollars worth of sales.

  • by uslinux.net (152591) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:21PM (#2810816) Homepage
    Perhaps ZDNet needs a disclaimer? Something along the lines of:

    • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
    • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
    • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
  • by SlamboS (129106) <alambos@umich.edu> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:21PM (#2810821)
    The goal of a poll is to get a random sampling since they can't possibly interview every developer. Assuming that readers visit the site in the same proportion that they develop in, this is done pretty well. What MS did was shift that proportion and thus mess up the poll. But, since ZDnet claimed that double voters were blocked, everyone still got one vote. And since many of the people at MS will be using .NET, they really didn't cheat or lie. They just lowered the credibility of the poll. That's the same thing as hearing of a poll and visiting the site just to vote and show your support. That, too could be considered tainting the poll since it messes up the random distribution of site visitors. In short: Online polls mean nothing.
  • by fader (107759) <{moc.poptoh} {ta} {redaf}> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:35PM (#2810964) Homepage
    I agree with you... up to the point that each person should vote once. But I guess the guy who submitted 228 votes for MS will be implementing 228 different web services next year?
  • by blamanj (253811) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:36PM (#2810977)
    At least the audience at ZDNet is likely to be aware that such things happen.

    What bothers me is when CNN puts up a poll like "Now that we've squashed the Taliban, should we go after Saddam Hussein?"

    For one thing, their audience is less likely to be familiar with statistical methods, and for another, I'm sure I've heard them report the results of "an online survey" as news, which gives it far more weight than it deserves.
  • Re:What happened (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pfhreakaz0id (82141) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:46PM (#2811077)
    oh come on? "ethically bankrupt"? This would happen at just about every business. I guarantee you, at least at any I ever worked at. That doesn't make it any less wholesome, but don't pretend that Microsoft is ethically any different, it's just a matter of scale.
  • by b0r1s (170449) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @02:57PM (#2811150) Homepage
    and i attempt cast multiple votes on slashdot, consistently, not because it works, but because i get bored and have nothing better to do than hit refresh to see what new comments have shown up on the page ....

    it's possible the 228 votes were one person hitting reload to see the current status, not attempting to vote, but rather attempting to view the resulting page.
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @03:08PM (#2811230)
    ... because everyone knows online polls aren't statistically valid by any stretch of the imagination.

    In your dreams. NOT everyone knows this, and even if they do know it, they're still likely to use these stupid polls when forming an opinion.

    When teenagers buy some stock and talk it up in chat rooms before dumping it, they get in trouble even though the rumors they spread obviously have no statistical validity. Most people are innumerate and don't base their buying decisions on statistically valid information. They're influenced by stupid stuff like online polls and rumors. Part of the blame lies with zdnet for running a stupid online poll like this one. Their crime is laziness- a good poll is more work and takes more time. Easier to throw a stupid script on the site and see what happens. But most of the blame belongs squarely on the people at MS who tampered with the information.

    This poll wasn't something like "Who's your favorite Spice Girl?". Its intended audience is the clueless IT guy who's got a limited budget and is faced with a decision on whether to use MS or non-MS technology for a given project. The only conceivable purpose of the poll manipulation was to sway these people. How is pumping up a worthless stock any worse than pumping up a worthless technology?

    Web polls are inherently untrustworthy. Everyone knows this. No big deal.

    You and your friends know this. Lots of people don't. I would even say that the people most likely to be swayed by this poll are the ones who control the largest amounts of technology spending.
  • Re:What happened (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KjetilK (186133) <kjetil AT kjernsmo DOT net> on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @03:08PM (#2811238) Homepage Journal

    I seriously doubt that this was organized by anyone high level at MS..

    Yeah, and I would say this isn't really about rigging. Hey, how many geeks here would hack up a perl script to vote for something cool (say a project you worked on), if somebody passed along an e-mail about it?

    Come on! Everybody does this! It's the reason why /. polls are the way they are. Nobody should ever trust a web poll for anything, it's as simple as that.

    I remember when a bunch of guys here at the IT department (the guys who sit around with root access for all campus computers) threw in tens if not hundreds of computers in voting for their favorite beer a hot summer night. It was a big newspaper that ran the vote, and their script prevented one IP from voting more than once every ten minutes, but they could vote efficiently enough with hundreds of computers voting... After they got their own favorite beer on top, they voted a non-alcoholic beer up to 2nd place just to make a point.... :-) The newspaper never checked the logs or realized what had happened, they only noted a few surprising results...

    I bet there are geeks at M$ who are behind this. OK, we know that you sold your soul to M$, but hey, step forward and tell us about it, I'm sure we will understand...! :-)

  • To most PHBs this would be considered big news that Microsoft intentionally tried to alter an online poll. Just because "we" know how they have behaived badly before doesnt meen that the PHBs do. Most of them are just aware of what the MS salesperson tells them when he visit their company. No sane person would let MS into their company if the knew what they wore locking themswlves into and just how low MS seems to be willing to go in their marketing and sales efforts. Im not biased, just well informed after 20 years in computers.
  • Re:What happened (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bearpaw (13080) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @03:38PM (#2811460)
    oh come on? "ethically bankrupt"? This would happen at just about every business.

    Even if it would happen at just about every business -- even if it would happen at every business -- that doesn't mean that it's not ethically bankrupt. What is or is not common behavior is not relevant to what is or is not ethical behavior.

  • by Pinball Wizard (161942) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @04:06PM (#2811666) Homepage Journal
    I don't recall reading in the poll that Microsoft employees were not allowed to vote. Shit, they have 40,000 people working for them. Is it not possible that the poll could have been won fair and square with the majority of respondents coming from the microsoft.com domain?


    OK, so at least some users cheated and voted more than once. But its doubtful that upper management directed the cheating or would have even condoned it, as obvious cheating would only apply more tarnish to Microsofts reputation.


    As far as I'm concerned, unless the poll specified that Microsoft employees were ineligible to vote, its a valid win, even if 95 percent of the respondents came from the microsoft.com domain.

  • by jeff13 (255285) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @04:12PM (#2811714) Homepage
    You lucky bastard! I get butkiss! I get troll ratings. Ahh, this is weird. I am beginning to wonder if the moderation system isn't susceptible to "waves" of moderations. Something. *sigh*. You know, I come to /. for the posts. There are many really intelligent people here, but man... they are gonna bolt if this keeps up. Maybe I'm over reacting but the M$ plants are really annoying. Their posts are like reading molasses.
  • by malfunct (120790) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @04:36PM (#2811908) Homepage
    No, what happened is there are a handful of proxies to serve 20,000 employees. It makes perfect sense that if MS said hey guys, you are implementing .NET projects so go vote, that there would be lots of "multiple vote" submissions from the same machines especially if filtering was done on IP. Any corporation that uses a web gateway in its firewall would have the same problem. Its like if you are home and you NAT you would get picked up for multiple submissions if you voted on your computer and your wife voted on her computer.

    I guess what I'd argue ethics wise is whether its right for the employees for the company creating the product should vote to say "I'm using the product its cool". On one hand it is a whole bunch of people that ARE implementing .NET products. On the other hand its 1 single company implementing all those projects.

    Not that I will defend MS on the ethics front here because they were trying to boost the score for .NET. I don't know that I'd go so far as to say they rigged the vote. There are 40,000 MS employees many of which who are extremely loyal to the company who would vote from inside the MS firewall. All of those votes would be routed through the proxies so all 40,000 votes from independant people would actually look like they came from a few hundred IP's.

  • by Cato the Elder (520133) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @04:47PM (#2811993) Homepage
    "when people click there from a Microsoft Exchange email message, Exchange helpfully gives us the subject line and username."

    This bothers me far more than the "poll fixing" Do people realize that this kind of information is leaking all over the net? Is there a way to disable this "feature"?
  • Only one answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by motox (312416) on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @04:49PM (#2812010) Homepage
    "This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane. "
    (Slashdot)
  • Re: Game theory (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @04:57PM (#2812061)
    Here is an opportunity to apply the Prisoner's Dilemma part of Game Theory.

    explanation [umn.edu]. Or read Beautiful Mind [amazon.com] by Silvia Nasar.

    .forsight
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2002 @08:23PM (#2813738)
    Your theory is that a grass roots ballot stuffing campaign was hatched by 3 .net coders? Have you ever had a job?

    Unfortunately, many companies do this same thing and I have seen similar MS emails telling employees to vote in online polls. Why jump through mental hoops to come up with some contorted possibility that is truly a conspiracy theory. The obvious and most likely explanation is a good old vote scam originated by a mid level marketing manager. I don't know about you, but if I get an email from my boss to do something, I do it. That's what you are PAID for.

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