Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Businesses

Microsoft PR: Looking Under The Hood 389

Posted by timothy
from the leave-that-tracking-info-in-remember dept.
mtr writes "An interesting article uncovering some embarassing and amusing PR practices of our friendly software giant had been recently published by Michael Zalewski. The author recovered change tracking information from all the DOCs published on microsoft.com, and came up with something to cheer you up. It's funny when it happens to others - but even better if it fires back on themselves. Read the full story here."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft PR: Looking Under The Hood

Comments Filter:
  • Cue Lawyers! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:16PM (#8709818)
    I believe the analysis posted here meets the fair use criteria and does not disclose trade secrets - because it is a critical review of short excerpts of publicly available resources and data accessible with a click of a button in Microsoft Word - but I am not willing to dispute it too vigoriously if I receive a cease-and-desist letter. As such, enjoy it while it lasts.
    Hint, hint, save a copy. I wonder how long it will take Microsoft lawyers to smell blood. Wagers? I'll put five bucks on "yesterday".
  • His Name is "Michal" (Score:4, Informative)

    by porkrind (314254) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:18PM (#8709827) Homepage Journal
    And he's writing a book for No Starch Press due in August :@)

    It's called "Silence on the Wire" and he is One Smart Dude (TM).

    Full disclosure - I work for No Starch Press.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:28PM (#8709911)

      The program he used is called wvWare [sourceforge.net], obviously a handy little tool. He also gives links to some documents that supposedly yield interesting results. They are reproduced here:

      1 [microsoft.com],

      2 [microsoft.com],

      3 [microsoft.com],

      4 [microsoft.com],

      5 [microsoft.com]

      So get cracking and have fun!

      • by afree87 (102803) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @02:26AM (#8711586) Homepage Journal
        Here's what I found. The italicised portions were deleted from the original.

        eim.doc had hilarious references to "the Digital Nervous System" all over it, which had been deleted and replaced with more down-to-earth language.

        From PrintCluster.doc:
        This flexible model allows you to configure Cluster service to provide
        the best better value and greater protection for your particular circumstances.

        From LaMagnaBio.doc:
        With a staff of 200 intelligence analysts, special agents, computer engineers, and private contractors from the DEA, the FBI, U.S. Customs and the Department of Defense
        in a unique intelligence gathering operation designed to support field investigations.

        Let's call this Microsoft's investigative team

        agreed

        From XO_final.doc:

        A total cost of ownership (TCO) study at XO, comparing the annualized TCO of comparably configured servers built on Linux and the Microsoft solution for Windows Web hosting,
        (is this a fair comparison, i.e. apples to apples?) reveals that a Linux system costs nearly $1,550 more per server per year than its Windows 2000-based counterpart. The key difference lies not in the cost of hardware or operating system software but in the annual cost of engineering, administration, and security support. (detailed support on file for this claim?)

        Linux-based systems are much more subject to hacker attacks than systems built on the Microsoft solution for Windows Web hosting(support on file?)


        (The press release appears to have been published without fact-checking.)

        Mastek EPM.doc is HUGE and has all sorts of junk in it.
        • by zero_offset (200586) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @07:04AM (#8712457) Homepage
          A total cost of ownership (TCO) study at XO, comparing the annualized TCO of comparably configured servers built on Linux and the Microsoft solution for Windows Web hosting, (is this a fair comparison, i.e. apples to apples?) reveals that a Linux system costs nearly $1,550 more per server per year than its Windows 2000-based counterpart. The key difference lies not in the cost of hardware or operating system software but in the annual cost of engineering, administration, and security support. (detailed support on file for this claim?)

          Linux-based systems are much more subject to hacker attacks than systems built on the Microsoft solution for Windows Web hosting(support on file?)


          The point you Linux fanboys are missing in your frenzy to publicly jerk off over relatively boring internal discussions is that they're at least interested in important questions like whether they're making apples-to-apples comparisons and whether they have supporting documentation on file.

          You may disagree with their message and methods, or with their conclusions, and you probably won't even concede the validity of their definition of "apples-to-apples", but this is far more responsible than a great deal of the raw bullshit which is accepted as fact 24x7 here on slashdot, and certainly more responsible than Microsoft is ever given credit for around here.

          • What is important is not that someone at Microsoft is interested in fact-checking. That's obvious; they don't want to get fired.

            What is important is that these examples show clearly how Microsoft's evaluation of itself comes into being. First, someone who knows nothing about technical matters, and absolutely does not care about technical matters, quickly writes a complete fantasy. Then the fantasy is sent to some people who have a clue, who eventually eliminate the worst of the inventions.

            The examp
  • If only... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Frisky070802 (591229) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:18PM (#8709831) Journal
    Don't you wish we had the same thing for White House internal memoranda?
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:19PM (#8709841)
    Now even Microsoft is in on the tired^H^H^H^H^Hclassic "^H" joke!
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:20PM (#8709845)
    Oh come on, Debian isn't that big...
  • Embarassing not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:20PM (#8709846)
    By definition an effective PR person cannot be embarassed by the stuff that comes out of his/her mouth. The bastards lie -- err -- "manage the truth" with no shame at all.
    • by mykepredko (40154) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:14PM (#8710182) Homepage
      I've known quite a few "communications specialists" (I think the term "PR" has been out of vogue for 20+ years now) that have been embarrassed by what they have said; when it comes back to them. I would rephrase the basic statement as:

      The most effective PR people know how to shade the truth/lie in such a way that the message, regardless of how misleading, cannot be challenged as being inaccurate.

      An experienced communications specialist would come out with the statement:

      "The Senator is taking a hiatus from active service to better understand how to reduce his own reliance on foreign products while minimizing any potential financial repercussions."

      which is much better than saying:

      "The Senator is drying out at the Betty Ford clinic after realizing that he can no longer afford to drink Chivas by the boatload."

      myke
      • by Roofus (15591) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:42AM (#8711066) Homepage
        An experienced communications specialist would come out with the statement:

        "The Senator is taking a hiatus from active service to better understand how to reduce his own reliance on foreign products while minimizing any potential financial repercussions."

        Please, that is SO pre Bush Administration. Their stye of communications would give the following press release:

        "There is no Senator, there never has, and there never will be. And if their was, the notion that he is in rehab is insulting and unpatriotic. You must be a member of the Taliban"
  • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:20PM (#8709848) Homepage Journal
    "our friendly software giant"

    Is that sarcasm?
  • Pining... (Score:5, Funny)

    by inphinity (681284) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:20PM (#8709852) Homepage
    An Office removal wizard?

    This makes me harken back to the days of yore...

    ....when an uninstall actually, well, uninstalled..?

  • Ah ... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Sonic McTails (700139)
    Nothing cheers me up as much as watching something backfire on Microsoft.
  • Tool? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joe5678 (135227) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:21PM (#8709857)
    Odd... that tool linked to in the article and again in the post, links to a tool that removes all traces of office from the operating system, it has nothing to do with tracking changes or removing them from documents.
    • Re:Tool? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:31PM (#8709927)
      Actually, the removal tool is just part of the application on that page... upon actually downloading and installing it, one comes to see that there are several tools/options that one can do with the "Office Resource Kit", and removal of Office is simply one of those things. So actually, yes, yes it does have stuff to do with the above =).
  • web page tracking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frisky070802 (591229) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:21PM (#8709860) Journal
    The issues with evolving Word files using version tracking also come up with web pages, since there are tools to track changes to web pages (for instance, WebCQ [gatech.edu]). When a projected date changes, it can be pretty embarrassing. I've seen projected Ph.D. graduation dates slip in six-month increments, huge price changes, policy changes, and so on.

    The key difference here is that the tracking reveals internal versions that were obviously never meant to be public. The idea that a draft would attribute a quote to a nameless executive is particularly appalling!

    • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:26PM (#8709897)
      I have had Rackspace do the same thing when I worked for a company that was a major Rackspace customer. Their PR team provided some quotes and the CEO of our company picked the ones he liked and attached his name to them.

      It happens all the time.
      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Frisky070802 (591229) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:39PM (#8709978) Journal
        Their PR team provided some quotes and the CEO of our company picked the ones he liked and attached his name to them.

        Yeah, but isn't this case more like the PR team from your company attaching the CEO of someone else's company to their own quotes? Sure, if that person then agrees, it's OK, and I'm sure that's done too. But it does devalue such testimonials a bit in my eyes.

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Magic5Ball (188725) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:59PM (#8710096)
        Find me a CEO/senior executive of something important (company, government) who doesn't use speech writers, and you will have found a failed executive.

        Does anyone seriously think Bill, Bush, Gore, Gates, Thatcher, Scott, Arnold, etc. really have time to research and prepare up to a dozen dozen speeches every week on topics ranging from youth education, the state of the automobile industry, and how the new initiative will enhance health care in a region?

        PR firms and flacks write speeches all the time because they are the ones with the time and training to parse highly specilised information into something Joe 6 p.m. nightly news reporter can understand, while making disasters look good for the company or government. Executives, however, are tasked with leading/spearheading/announcing important things when they happen and providing overall organizational leadership and management.

        It would sometimes be nice if $leader fully understood the consequences of bituminous petro extraction and writes the entire speech himself before he speaks about it before their association, but I'd rather have $leader worry about leadership and management things which I might be paying him for through holdings or taxes.
        • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by spood (256582) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:56PM (#8710411) Homepage Journal
          Not entirely true. An executive without innate oratory skills and limited ability to think on his feet or understand all facets of the business at hand (be it government or private business) would be well-advised to use speech writers.

          However, if he does possess all of these skills (i.e. is a natural leader), he would be well-advised to make use of them. Not only will his employees appreciate the honesty and ability, but clients, constituents, etc. will, too. Everyone responds better to candid PR than to packaged and polished lip service. Packaged PR carries a lower standard of truth.

          A leader should always be held accountable for consequences. Some situations may call for delegation, but overall that leader must be intimately familiar with his domain. That's what management and leadership are all about, and that's why they get paid the big bucks.
    • Re:web page tracking (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AndroidCat (229562) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:31PM (#8709926) Homepage
      Doesn't Word also save a GUID in the file that contains the MAC of the network card of the computer where it was created/edited? Something juicy could probably be done with that, but it would take a lot more work.
      • Re:web page tracking (Score:3, Informative)

        by kris_lang (466170)
        Hmmm... I remembered something about that too, and found a link from 1999 [davemathews.com] on a site not related to the Dave Matthews Band. Don't know if XP is doing it too. Haven't cared since I've been MS free since 1999.
      • Re:web page tracking (Score:3, Informative)

        by sqlrob (173498)
        GUID's aren't (obviously/reversibly) MAC dependent any more, that was considered a security hole and removed. 2K/XP don't have that issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:22PM (#8709863)
    did anyone else see that .cx address and have a slight moment of hesitation before clicking through?
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by wideBlueSkies (618979) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:24PM (#8709877) Journal
    From the article:
    Call me paranoid, but all those "xxx, Chief Information Officer/Vice President at Avensis" quotes make it look as if they were fabricated prior to even figuring out who to talk to at the company, not to mention determining what his/her name would be.

    Could it be that the Author of the memo heard a taped recording of the comments, and transcribed them without knowing the guy's name, thus leaving placeholders?

    I don't think that even M$FT would stoop so low as to intentionally misquote someone. They'd never get away with it.

    wbs.
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Thanatopsis (29786) <despain.brian@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:27PM (#8709907) Homepage
      Actually it's a pretty common practice to write place holder quotes (ie quotes they write for you) for the executive and then ask if it's ok to use them. I have done so for Netledger [www.netledger] and MyGeek [mygeek.com]. Most executives don't have time to think of something nice to say about the vendor. In joint marketing efforts this is the norm, usually it also passes through your PR department as well.
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Penguinshit (591885) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:41PM (#8709991) Homepage Journal

      Having participated in this sort of work before, a "quote" is created by whatever marketing agency Company "X" hired to create the white paper, arrange press exposure, etc. They will write stuff up and make "quotes" which are then reviewed and approved by the executive being "quoted" (often as many as 10 or 15 revisions).

      I've seen "interviews" where the whole thing is carefully scripted; the "interviewer" and the executive only see the final copy the day before (or even day of) the interview video is shot.
  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:26PM (#8709890) Homepage
    Between Microsofts marketing attempts - Windows ME, the BSOD on stage, the DOCs with changes in them that insult users or other companties - it almost seems like Microsoft marketing is trying not to sell to users.

    It would be fantastic to find out that MS is actually some kind of joke gone wrong. Like,

    "Hey, lets make a really bad operating system and see what happens."
    "Holy cow, they are buying it!"
    "Man, thats insane, lets make another one and see if they still fall for it."
    "Jesys, can't these people learn? I know, lets hype up something that doesnt exist and then not bother releasing it."
    "Woah, demand is so high we can afford to pay for it to be made."
    "Why not, but insert some easter eggs that make it crash. That should let them realise it's all a big farce."
    • There is an element of truth in this. Microsoft don't make money out of their trimmed down offerings (WinME, 98, XP Home, Outlook Express,...) but they do/have on their professional stuff (Win2000/WinXP, Office). So while they want people to get sucked in to their lower end stuff, they'd like it to be nasty enough to prompt people to upgrade.
      • Re:Stunts gone wrong (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Shakrai (717556) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:12PM (#8710168) Journal
        There is an element of truth in this. Microsoft don't make money out of their trimmed down offerings (WinME, 98, XP Home, Outlook Express,...) but they do/have on their professional stuff (Win2000/WinXP, Office).

        Win98 was a trimmed down offering? I thought it was their flagship product at the time. What else would the homeuser have used? NT Workstation? I doubt it. Hell we used 98 for workstations in our enterprise environment for years without any major problems. As far as ME goes I always figured it was a (shitty) remake of Windows 98 designed to suck more money out of old code before they went to the NT Kernel (ala XP) for the end user.

        I'm sure they make enough money on XP Home too -- just not as much as XP Pro. Outlook Express and IE are insurance for the future -- kill off all the other e-mail clients and web browsers and you'll have the community by the balls sorta thing.

        So while they want people to get sucked in to their lower end stuff, they'd like it to be nasty enough to prompt people to upgrade.

        What's so nasty about XP Home for Mom & Pop users? Why would Mom & Pop pay extra for XP Pro? It's not like Home (in my experience -- your mileage may vary) is any less stable then Pro. It's just missing a few features.

        For the record I purchased Pro for my home computer -- but I got it under a OEM license though my old job -- the full (non-upgrade) version "only" cost me $129.00 iirc. No sane home user is going to fork down the $270-$300 for a (non-upgrade) legal version of XP Pro. Most home users aren't going to even bother to pay the $99.00 to get the upgrade to Pro from their OEM -- which is what Dell charged the last time I quoted a PC with them.

  • Already slashdotted (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:27PM (#8709900)
    Google Cache [216.239.51.104]
  • by LBArrettAnderson (655246) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:27PM (#8709903)
    Micrsoft releases final drafts onto the web... but WAIT! we can see their ROUGH DRAFTS TOO!!! I'm sorry, but there wasn't anything embarrassing about any of that. It's not like Bill Gates himself or anyone high up in the company is the one who initially wrote those documents. And besides, they were corrected... so i don't get it... who cares? this is not news. (anyone want to see the rough draft to my english paper!?!? it's HORRIBLE! how embarrassing!)
  • by eLoco (459203) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:33PM (#8709939)
    where are the SCO articles?!! I need my fix man!
  • wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Whelzorn (761799) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:36PM (#8709962)
    wow... If microsoft can write a piece of software to remove one of their own programs, they could effortlessly write the world's most effective virus removal tool...
  • Mirror Provided (Score:4, Informative)

    by baximus (552800) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:38PM (#8709969)
    Mirror available at PlanetMirror now here [planetmirror.com].
  • by syousef (465911) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:43PM (#8710002) Journal
    Some of the conclusions are dubious. Most of this looks like fairly standard business practices.

    For example xxxx CEO of blah said yyyy
    may simply be the result of the employee drawing up the report not knowing the full name or title of the person who made the statement.

    As for exact facts and figures about a customer being included, this looks like they got asked not to include them, or decided against it, and complied.

    Where's the story here? There's plenty of more interesting things that go on. This is just pure MS bashing. Bashing any company you dislike for genuinely bad business practices this way is a fantastic way to come across as a lunatic with a chip on your shoulder, but not a good way to be taken seriously when pointing out a company's flaws.
    • For example xxxx CEO of blah said yyyy may simply be the result of the employee drawing up the report not knowing the full name or title of the person who made the statement.

      But we've evidence that's not true. Read the MS press release reported on slashdot earlier today which quoted P.Diddy: "[I] believe that the system's cultural influence as a social entertainment brand has only just begun."

    • Trust me. The PR firm wrote the quotes and then was going to run it by the executive. It's done ALL The Time. It saves time and allows your marketing partner to stay on message. I have had quotes presented to my by Netledger [netledger.com] for a story appearing in the Wall Street Journal. I looked at the quotes and said, "Fine run with it." to the PR person. Netledger is an Oracle company.
    • Where's the story here?

      The fact that a company has been caught out fabricating quotes by its own insecure document formats. Is this proof that they are evil incarnate? Maybe not. Is it embarassing for them? Yes. Is it amusing? Yes.
  • by xs650 (741277) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:43PM (#8710004)
    One of the examples in the article was was:

    "Home Depot: evaluated both, chose Windows for 8,200 Windows desktops, 42,000 Windows embedded for POS devices,... "

    Several devices that I have bought at Home Depot have been a POS, but I wsn't aware Windows was embedded in them. Is windows in every POS that Home Depot sells or just certain items?
    • I work at Home Depot and our whole computer system is a POS. It takes me 2 seconds to type in a 6-digit sku number, then it takes the computer 5 seconds to display all 6 digits, then it takes another 25-40 seconds to display the relevant information. When I gotta look up 10 or so skus, it takes a good 5 minutes - most of it waiting for the computer.

      Most of what is done on the Home Depot computers is run an old dos program on Windows 2k in a command prompt/terminal window. It is teh sux.

      But to answer your
  • bwahhhahaha (Score:3, Funny)

    by MajorDick (735308) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:43PM (#8710010)
    I love when people get caught saying stupid things or saying they didnt say something when they did. I have a semi-photographic memory I will call it, I can pretty much remeber any conversation verbatim, nearly perfectly for as long as a year back with less than important conversations and pretty much forever if it was of some special importance. I think its because I have this ability that it absolutley drives me NUTS when people say they didnt say something, to have trackingin word docs..too funny. Did so say that ...no I didnt.....errrr yes you did here it is......uhhh no I didnt.....wasnt me....
  • by waynegoode (758645) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:45PM (#8710021) Homepage
    This is one of many reasons why you should publish documents in PDF format. But, Microsoft can't do this--it would be admitting the problem exists.

    I guess Microsft thinks its better to ignore the problem than solve it, if the solution is not yours. What's the worst that could happen? ;)

  • by aralin (107264) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:45PM (#8710022)
    ... and not separating data and metadata. If they would rather hold their document's metadata in database separate of the document, this would never happen. Nah, why would I care? At least its fun :)
    • by ndpatel (185409) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:01PM (#8710112) Homepage
      but colloboration changes aren't metadata, just regular data that's hidden until you expose it. the redline action could conceivably be called metadata, but the point is that i can send you a flat file and you can make changes that are tracked within the file itself and then send the same flat file back to me. storing this data outside of the document would require either that i send you a document specific change db with the doc, or that you and i both maintain independent db's of file changes that we keep in sync.

      both of those solutions seem like the suck. word's colloboration feature is useful and popular because it's so simple--no extra steps+a flat file. all it seems to lack is an obtrusive "retain change information? yes/no" dialog when you save, because then people might actually remember to strip the doc before publishing it.
  • Everything described on that site is standard operating procedure for technology marketing/pr departments. Case studies, customer/analyst quotes, etc. are often drafted ahead of time and then sent to the company/analyst for approval. And of course straightforward engineer-speak ("our monopoly") is massaged into marketing-speak ("our large installed base of satisfied customers").
  • by heff (24452) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:47PM (#8710032)
    A lot of people are talking about the quote with the xx's.. this is common practice in PR, we write the quotes in the release, they sign off on them.

    Did you actually think the pr people were interviewing the ceo for a press release?

    • by uradu (10768) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:07PM (#8710489)
      > Did you actually think the pr people were interviewing the ceo for a press release?

      And did you actually think anyone reads those press releases? Given the realities of the process, a more productive use of time would be to count grains of sand at the beach with a boxing glove.
    • by Spy Hunter (317220) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:01AM (#8710826) Journal
      Did you actually think the pr people were interviewing the ceo for a press release?

      Um... yes? The entire point of this practice is to decieve people into thinking that the CEO/VP/whoever actually said that stuff (even if they did sign off on it personally, after reading it personally, which is probably not how it happens, it's still not the same as saying it). Now that I'm aware of it, I won't be fooled anymore, but people who don't work in PR are not aware that PR people do this.

  • There is no spoon. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenneth Stephen (1950) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:52PM (#8710051) Journal

    While it is certainly possible to ascribe less than pure motives to all the instances documented in the story, if one applies Occam's razor, one can come up with a simpler but not as interesting explanation : this is the way big business works. In a multi-national corporation, different people collaborate. They have different personalities, and some are more antagonistic than others. Some people are asked to produce marketing materials and others are asked to review them for factual accuracy. Ultimately, before a document is published, several reviewers will go through it, and it would be shocking if edits were not made.

    For example, the first example talks about changing the "deploying" to "evaluating". What exactly is damning about this? Perhaps when the marketing material was written, Aventis had plans to deploy and this got changed later. Or maybe, there are some reasons why Aventis, even though it is actually deploying, may not actually want their names used as a reference for the tablet PC. There are a million and one innocuous (sp?) reasons why the change was made, but yeah, they arent as fascinating as the interpretation made on the site.

    Another example - the Robbie Bach / Sandy Duncan mixup. Organizational chains are quite tangled in large corporations and can change quite frequently. The author might simply not have had the right information on who was actually in charge - especially if both were Senior Vice Presidents and connected with XBox.

  • by Ricin (236107) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:58PM (#8710092)
    One can dabble about form, tone, and words for weeks, but when it comes down to it, what matters if you have something viable to say.

    If not, that's where PR breaks down, (see Dubya) .. its presumed you have good things to say, then it'll work or at least not backlash. Please keep in mind this is MBA level stuff.

    That's also why PR for damage control after something went wrong is wasted money from the start. It always breaks down. But they'll spend it anyway. The lesser of sciences tend to have the strongest dogma's. And this PR/MBA stuff is certainly a disgrace to science to be ranked with it.

    This stuff looks more like a wannabee's homework though. Funny to read I must say.
  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:06PM (#8710137)
    All Microsoft DOC files at Microsoft.com [google.com]

    Over 22,000 word files on their site. Assuming they are all still there, that is a lot of cleaning up to do. I wonder what else people will find.

    Perhaps more Microsoft employees should Check this link out [microsoft.com]
  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:13PM (#8710176)
    Now there is a reason why Word is better. I can't see any of the old versions of the file using OpenOffice.org.
  • by mikeophile (647318) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:15PM (#8710183)
    The hiding of mistakes in otherwise corrected files.

    Does anyone else see the potential humor factor in sending the people memos with deliberately corrected info?

    It's a whole new realm of sarcasm.

  • by sg3000 (87992) * <sg_public@mac . c om> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:18PM (#8710201)
    > Call me paranoid, but all those "xxx, Chief Information
    > Officer/Vice President at Avensis" quotes make it look as if
    > they were fabricated prior to even figuring out who to talk to
    > at the company

    Everyone knows Microsoft deserves bashing for what they do, but this isn't one of those times. I've had to do my share of edits to press releases, and it's not unusual for the quote associated with an executive is written by a PR person. All big companies do this.

  • by LenE (29922) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:56PM (#8710407) Homepage
    In May of 1995, I was shocked and surprised to read in Byte Magazine about how Penn State University had saved so much money and had such a massive increase in reliability by switching all of their network resources over to Windows NT. I was so surprised, because I read about it while waiting for a computer in the most advanced student lab at the time, and I saw not hide nor hair of Windows NT.

    The Byte article quoted CAC higher-ups about how NT greatly improved security, file and print serving, and that all student labs had switched over wholesale. At this time, the file serving was handled by a Banyan Vines network, and printing being spooled by old Mac SE/30's.

    By that fall, Windows NT was finally introduced to the labs, and the nightmare of having 100% BSOD boxes and useless labs had begun. When I graduated in the fall of 1996, printing was still handled by Macs, but usually PowerMac 6100's by that point. NT had lost all credibility at Penn State, and Microsoft had used them to hoodwink many large organizations with a totally fallacious article in Byte.

    -- Len
  • by poena.dare (306891) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:59PM (#8710441)
    I can just see this in the political arena:

    Kerry: The Republic leadership are fascist motherf^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H out of touch with their genitals^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H the American people.

    Bush: Kerry is a drunken^H^H^H^H^H^H^H vacillating liberal who likes crack whores^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H will raise taxes.

    Nader: I am still committed to causing confusion^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H providing an alternative in the political process.

    I just sent a suggestion to Google that they should index deleted and revised text in Word documents. Wouldn't that be fun?

  • Inside Look (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:09PM (#8710504)
    From the article
    "Call me paranoid, but all those "xxx, Chief Information Officer/Vice President at Avensis" quotes make it look as if they were fabricated prior to even figuring out who to talk to at the company, not to mention determining what his/her name would be.

    MS did a draft press release regarding a product we produced using MS technology and they quoted my boss in it. I happen to know that he signed off on the quotes and didn't actually write any of them.

    I guess I really am sort of scared of MS because I clicked the Log Out button before posting this. That said, I guess if the CEO signs off on it it's no different that celebs using Ghostwriters.
  • by Shadowlore (10860) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:00AM (#8710821) Journal
    The point was not whether xxx, CIO was used. The point was that Microsofts response to the problem illustrated here has been "it isn't a problem download and use our tools", while they themselves do not.

    This illustrates the underlying problem. Features such as this that require seperate tools to sanitize them will tend to not produced sanitized documents.

    The author of the article said that the result of this "exposure" demonstrates a likely need for inline filtering in mail and web publishing systems to correct this MS oversight and stubbornness.

    Had many of you read the ... oh wait I'm on slashdot nevermind.

    [Post version 2.0]
  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:26AM (#8710970)
    I detest MS both for its business practices and products, but this is one instance in which bashing them is just plain ignorant.

    I looked at the all the samples in the first page of the story, and I have to say that I didn't see anything that didn't look like normal editing decisions being made by writers and editors in the PR business. I was a newspaper journalist for years and I'm a political consultant now. I've received and written tons of news releases over the years. Unless there is some horrid "smoking gun" hidden on one of the interior pages, there is nothing sinister or unusual in the least about what the guy found.

    What I saw looked more like examples from a PR writing textbook about how things are changed to reflect an editor's preferences to soften a story or to change its focus. Quotes are almost ALWAYS written by PR people and then approved by the person being quoted. In some cases, the quote is used as is. In others, the person will say that he prefers to say something different. The quotes as written give everyone an idea of the TYPE of quote needed for a certain spot in order to fall into line with the rest of the piece.

    Ultimately, this is no different than anything else which is written and then changed along the way. New information comes along. There are differences in opinion about how something should be "spun." Editors use judgment about what will work best. A ton of things happen, but that is normal.

    As I said, I can't stand MS and I think the company is blatantly dishonest in many of its practices, but these seem to be reasonably innocent examples of PR people attempting to do their jobs. If you understand how PR works, you will know that there is nothing unusual here.
  • by sakusha (441986) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:44AM (#8711081)
    I note that Bill Gates is one of the largest single shareholders in Home Depot, if not THE largest. Is there any surprise here that Home Depot is bending over backwards to accommodate their big stockholder?
    But I'm more interested in Aventis Pharmaceuticals. Gates is shifting all his personal wealth into Big Pharma stocks. I haven't been able to find out if he's an investor in Aventis, but he's a huge investor in their direct competitors. I can just see the pitch MS made, they'll offer Aventis a tech testbed platform, and if they don't go for it, they'll offer it to one of Bill's cronys, and Aventis will have difficulty with MS support in the future.
  • by westendgirl (680185) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:51AM (#8711130) Homepage
    I'm a marketer. This is how news releases are written:

    Once I know I need to write a news release, I work out a plan. This includes goals, target audiences, media tools, means of measurement, key messages and key sources. If I need to involve external sources (the people I quote), I ask those companies for their consent to write a release. Depending on the relationship, they may send me the quotes *or* I might write quotes for them and have them approve them later.

    It's often the last minute before the other company's senior execs, marketing staff, PR agency, lawyers, clients, or other stakeholders decide who they'll let me quote. They may have long debates over whether they want their quote attributed to the CEO, VP, client, Martian Sales Director, General Manager for Neptune, etc. It all depends on how they want to position their own quotes. And that's assuming they even wrote them. Whenenver I've had to deal with Microsoft, they've taken a week or more to approve a news release.

    Virtually the same scenario takes place at my end. Various stakeholders provide input, and both the quotes and the sources (e.g. CIO) can change.

    In my experience, anyone who ends up being quoted has to sign off on the quote. There are review processes. It's not like those people weren't involved.

    When a CEO or other exec has a "real" interview with the press, the CEO reads from notes and statements that a marketer wrote. Before the interview starts, a marketer goes over all the notes and helps suggest possible questions and answers. The marketer sits in on the interview and (if cameras aren't present or it's over the phone) may help the exec piece together answers. Everything is heavily scripted. Eventually, the execs know the words by heart, or pretty close.

    You can compare this process to the one used for professional speech writing, memos, letters, ghostwritten articles, and briefing notes. In fact, when I was just a co-op student, I was writing briefing notes, "question period responses", and other materials for the Canadian Minister of Immigration. Whether in a corporate or goverment environment, spokespersons rarely speak off the cuff. Except for Dan Quayle.

    And, while I'm sure some people are horrified by the process, it has many advantages. Messages are consistent. Speakers/sources are handpicked for credibility, ability to talk, and relevance. All the messages have been pre-screened by legal teams, reducing risk. It's less likely that the exec will over-commit us, say something incorrect about a feature/benefit, or go off-topic. And the investment in marketing is maximized. And that's good for the company.

  • by wiresquire (457486) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:58AM (#8711470) Journal
    I just tried one of the linked docs [microsoft.com] in Open Office.

    Edit/Changes/Show
    What do you know?
    OpenOffice filters are pretty good.

    I guess it's another case that security by obscurity doesn't work?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @02:10AM (#8711518)
    Having worked keeping everything running for a small PR business, let me share some insights into press releases.

    Everyone in the company reads and reviews them (except me, of course, for good reason). Quotes are written with a place holder for a name ("XXX" was what I saw most often), just as place holders are used for dates. The release goes back and forth to the client company as many times as it takes to get it signed off on, and somewhere along the line the quote gets attributed (but probably gets heavily edited before then).

    The only thing surprising about these is how little editing there is. MS must be cranking them out.

    On the converse, every now and then I would hear a statement like "I've got an hour to write a press release, and no idea what it's about." This was said in such a way that I assume it translates to "I've got all night and a case of jolt to finish this problem."

    I once made the mistake of proclaiming that there was probably one sentence of content in each press release. This was laughed at, and I was told there was less.

    If I ever start a major OSS project, I'm going to call in a favor to get professional press releases written by my ex-coworkers. If I have the money they are even going out on the wire (or at least one of them).

    nnooiissee
  • by mwood (25379) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:34AM (#8713547)
    The bit about not using their own tools is just one more datum pointing to the notion that Microsoft has grown so quickly that, in many respects, nobody is in charge. Like, Microsoft Installer came out in 1999 or so, and five years later look at all the Microsoft products that still don't use it, or which use it in ways which negate its advantages. (Honorable mention: the Office team understands and uses MSI very well.)

    For an outfit that's so much into domination and control, you'd think it would be a foregone conclusion that all publications would go through a formal release process that includes cleaning out all the leftovers which are not normally visible. But either no one is in charge of designing such processes, or whoever is really really goofed.

    I suppose it could be an extension of the whole reactionary movement that grew up in PC-land: formal processes are the sort of thing IBM would do, so they're obviously wrong -- after all, look at how quickly IBM lost all their money and went out of business. (Oh, waitaminute....)
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @03:44PM (#8717638)
    is the link that goes to the Office admin software that supports actually removing Office or parts therof.

    Notice the name of the program: ORK.EXE

    Who at MS is now working on ELF.EXE - Eliminate Linux Forever?

The most delightful day after the one on which you buy a cottage in the country is the one on which you resell it. -- J. Brecheux

Working...