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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."
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Microsoft PR: Looking Under The Hood

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  • 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.
  • Already slashdotted (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:27PM (#8709900)
    Google Cache [216.239.51.104]
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thanatopsis (29786) <despain.brianNO@SPAMgmail.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.
  • 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!

  • 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 =).
  • Re:web page tracking (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:35PM (#8709955)

    The program Michal 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!

    P.S. This same post is somewhere lower in the threads - and probably going lower (i.e. it's sinking with its parent) ... I'm posting again hoping this copy won't go down. :P

  • Mirror Provided (Score:4, Informative)

    by baximus (552800) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:38PM (#8709969)
    Mirror available at PlanetMirror now here [planetmirror.com].
  • Re:web page tracking (Score:3, Informative)

    by kris_lang (466170) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:45PM (#8710020)
    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.
  • by ShinyBrowncoat (692095) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:46PM (#8710025) Homepage
    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?

  • Re:Cue Lawyers! (Score:4, Informative)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:50PM (#8710044)
    There's not much they can do. Microsoft publishes these documents, and fair use allows the snippets to be posted for the purpose of criticism. They have no more right to have them removed than a novelist has to have a uncomplimentary book review removed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:If only... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bondolo (14225) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:25PM (#8710247) Homepage
    and your wish shall be granted...

    The Memory Hole [thememoryhole.org] has lots of goodies. The following was of particular personal interest:

    DOJ Attorney Diversity [thememoryhole.org]
  • by sl0ppy (454532) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:26PM (#8710249)
    or even a "publish" button, that strips out the meta-data, and optimizes the doc file.

    but that would make sense.
  • by arthurh3535 (447288) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:44PM (#8710733)
    Er, POS standing for "Point of Sales", of course. Ie., a fancy cash register.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:05AM (#8710853)
    > Er, POS standing for "Point of Sales", of course. Ie., a fancy cash register.

    You may want to look up the definition of humor....
  • Re:web page tracking (Score:3, Informative)

    by sqlrob (173498) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:11AM (#8710888)
    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 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 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.
  • Re:If only... (Score:2, Informative)

    by resprung (410576) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @02:51AM (#8711667) Homepage
    The Danish government too [computerworld.dk]

    The change tracking feature in Word is a nightmare. Which particular smart monkey thought it would be a good idea to turn it on by default?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @04:01AM (#8711972)
    A separate Add-in tool [microsoft.com] is available for removing hidden data from Office XP/2002/2003 applications.
  • Re:Pining... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mbbac (568880) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:22AM (#8713406)
    It is that simple on Mac OS X.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:11AM (#8713941)
    ...it's just being amused by seeing MS not delete the metadata before putting the Word docs up on the web.

    Making fun of someone isn't hating them - my brother/cousins/best friends and I joke with each other about lots of stuff, if you get my drift?

    JR in WV
  • by Bambi Dee (611786) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:51AM (#8714431)
    "Edit -> Changes -> Show"?

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