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Microsoft The Internet

Mini-Microsoft Shakes Things Up 374

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the corporations-never-like-to-look-in-the-mirror dept.
Henry V .009 writes "BusinessWeek calls him Microsoft's Deep Throat. Although Steve Ballmer denies reading the blog, there are plenty at Microsoft who do. Mini-Microsoft says he wants to "slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine." The user comment section of the site is the real gold: thousands of comments from Microsoft employees who tend to have a dim view about the company's recent evolution. And Microsoft may even be responding to all the internal criticism."
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Mini-Microsoft Shakes Things Up

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  • Blog is down.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @09:37PM (#13610662)

    Try the Google cache [216.239.59.104]

    Posted AC to avoid accusations of karma whoring..

  • Re:insane (Score:1, Informative)

    by whiteranger99x (235024) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @09:39PM (#13610669) Journal
    I wouldn't be at all surprised. If i recall correct, didn't a MS employee get fired because he posted photos of them receiving Macs on his blog?
  • Re:insane (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @09:43PM (#13610688)
    No they fired him for posting campus photos which is explicitly against MS policy. The Macs were just a side note.
  • by apparently (756613) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @09:50PM (#13610729)
    One would think that the author of the BusinessWeek article linked in the summary [businessweek.com] would've
    1) seen the man's credentials
    2) been able to spot a fake

    when meeting the blogger in person.
  • by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @09:52PM (#13610743)
    Many Microsoft employees have never worked anywhere else. They were plucked out of college and have worked for MS ever since. So it would be reasonable to think that their view of corporate life would be a little bit skewed.

    As for your signature, Windows can't use UNC paths as a path to be 'cd'd to. You can copy from a UNC path, but not 'cd' to it. To navigate a network drive, you need to "net use * (UNC)" it. It will give you a valid drive (like x:) to which you can cd to. Not the most painless approach, but it works, for some definitions of "works".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:28PM (#13610927)
    Tomlin was harpooning the phone company with the Ernestine character at least as far back as the late 60's on Laugh-In.

    Google turned up this trivia...

    Ernestine the Telephone Operator

    "One ringy-dingy. Two ringy-dingys. A gracious good morning to you. Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?"

    Mr. Sorensen calls Ernestine Ms. Tomlin's most popular character. I believe it. Among the trivia to be learned from Lily Tomlin is that Ms. Tomlin says that Ernestine plays with her bra strap so much because lonely people often touch themselves. We also learn that Ernestine loves the power she has as an employee of the phone company. (No surprise there!) Furthermore, we learn that Ms. Tomlin once turned down $500,000 to have Ernestine perform in commercials for AT&T.

    Some Ernestine one-liners include:

            * To an irate customer: "You are not talking with just anyone's fool. I am a high school graduate."

            * To the noteworthy adversary Gore Vidal: "Mr. Veedle, you owe us a balance of $23.64. When may we expect payment? É Pardon? When what freezes over? É I don't see why you're kicking up such a ruckus when according to our files your present bank balance, plus stocks, securities, and other holdings, amounts to exactly ... Pardon? Privileged information? Oh! (snort, snort) Mr. Veedle, that's so cute! No, no, no, youÕre dealing with the telephone company. We are not subject to city, state, or federal legislation. We are omnipotent."

            * To J. Edgar Hoover: Ernestine told him that he didn't need to have agents "skulking around tapping wires. You can get all the information you want from us."
  • Re:insane (Score:4, Informative)

    by uncoveror (570620) <.moc.rorevocnu. .ta. .retsambew.> on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:35PM (#13610952) Homepage
    Nice try but WRONG! BZZZZ!

    Network associates, the makers of McAfee Viruscan, put a line in their EULA that essentially said you couldn't publish a review of the software without their permission. [arstechnica.com] It didn't hold up in court because it violated the first amendment. Network Associates are not the government, and could not force anyone to give up their first amendment rights through contract. That provision was unenforceable, and many things in contracts are unenforceable. A lot of the crap in employment agreements is legalese nonsense that it would take a team of lawyers to interpret, and then they wouldn't all agree what it means. No one can give informed consent to something they do not understand. All they really understand is that if you don't sign, you don't have a job so enjoy living under a bridge when you lose your house! That is not far from holding a gun to your head, and saying, "sign this". An agreement under duress is no agreement at all.

  • by toby (759) * on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:11PM (#13611070) Homepage Journal
    In one of the articles on the blog, Minimsft says [blogspot.com] quite plainly:
    As for my boss firing me, he's cool as long as I add a disclaimer (done - yes, I had a mini-coming-out party Friday) and while I can write about policy violation if I go and manifest that into reality then I will find myself badge-less in Redmond.

    We don't have to wait for Woodward or Bernstein to die, or anything.

  • Re:insane (Score:5, Informative)

    by Graymalkin (13732) * on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:41PM (#13611171)
    You need to go back and do some fact checking. The Network Associates case was ruled such because the wording of their EULA was deceptive. Their case suggested that Network World Fusion broke the law by violating a clause of the EULA. Under scrutiny the clause proved to be untenable legally and the judge told NA to get lost. That however has nothing in the slightest to do with non-disclosure agreements.

    Signing an NDA is binding. If you go and post confidential information to your blog or someone else's blog and the NDA you signed specifically prohibits that, your employer not only has grounds to fire you but also sue you. If your signature is on a document that says "I won't talk about x, y, and z" and then a blog posting or e-mail is presented showing you talked about x, y, or z the judge is likely to rule in your employers favor. If your NDA says you will cut off your right ear if you talk about x, y, or z that clause of the NDA will likely be found unenforceable and you'll be able to keep your ear.

    This differs entirely from situations where talking about x, y, or z benefits the public interest. If product X was made out of dolphin skin by child slaves in San Diego there's a public interest in that information. If you were sued by your employer over releasing that information it probably wouldn't be difficult to show that your whistleblowing served the public interest. Whistleblowing is protected when there is a viable public interest in the disclosed information. Clauses in an NDA or any other contract which require you to break the law (manage slave lavorers in San Diego) are unenforceable. Your employment contract can't require you to be a heroin mule for instance.

    What you don't seem to understand is the first amendment only applies to government. It does not extend to private organizations or property. The government can't tell you that you can't post specs on as yet unreleased product Y but a contract can. You don't have a right to any particular job, if an employment contract is required to work there and you're unwilling to sign it you're not going to have that job.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @12:37AM (#13611377)
    The guy has never revealed trade secrets, so there's no legal recourse. Worst case, he could be covered as a whistle blower and be legally protected.

    You have got to be joking. He would not be covered by a "whistle blower" law in any way. He is not blowing the whistle on crime and corruption, just on incompetence. His employment could and would be terminated, with no legal recourse available to him.
  • Nope. (Score:3, Informative)

    by belmolis (702863) <billposer@@@alum...mit...edu> on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @12:42AM (#13611398) Homepage

    The First Amendment applies in the first instance to the federal government ("Congress shall make no law...") and by virtue of the 14th Amendment, to the states. It does not apply to private parties. Its only relevance to private parties is that contracts contrary to public policy are not enforceable, and the First Amendment is one piece of evidence bearing on public policy regarding freedom of speech. In fairly extreme cases, you can expect a court to void a contract on public policy freedom of speech grounds, but it has to be something really extreme, such as an employment contract forbidding the employee to speak about topics having nothing whatever to do with the company. It is very clear that contractual restrictions on speech, such as NDAs, are considered valid by the courts.

    In the Network Associates case, the Attorney General of New York (Eliot Spitzer, running for Governor), sued Network Associates for fraud and deception. He argued that the specific wording of the restriction on reviews could falsely lead the consumer to believe that the restriction was not imposed by Network Associates but by state or federal law. He also argued that because the clause was in some documents and not others (see the opinion if you want the details), it was not endorceable as a matter of contract law, and that for Network Associates to represent that it was constituted a deceptive practice. The court accepted these arguments. The First Amendment was not the basis for the ruling.

    You can read Judge Shafer's opinion here [state.ny.us].

  • Re:insane (Score:2, Informative)

    by Korgan (101803) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @12:49AM (#13611420) Homepage

    Confidentiality can be used to cloak all sorts of things. I believe individuals should have some privacy, but proceedings in public companies should not be private.

    The confidentiality of some internal process is not as important to me as how each individual person is treated. If people are abused even a little bit, then to me that trumps enourmous amounts of confidentiality expectations.

    Thats just wrong. Proceedings in public companies should be forced public. Thats like saying that someone living in a trailer isn't entitled to privacy because they don't own the land under it. The owner of the land is entitled to see everything that happens inside the trailer. I don't know about you, but I'd rather not watch trailer trash shower in public. That is kind of whats happening with Microsoft now.

    Personally, I don't care how people are treated inside a company. Everyone has the choice to work there or not. If they don't like the way they're being treated, they can just leave. Or they can do like the mini-microsoft blogger has done and speak out about it and try to draw attention to it.

    Pay attention -- if you treat people well, things naturally remain quiet. But treat people poorly, and then even a contract won't help to keep shit confidential. The moral of the story is -- just do not be an ass to people, it's not really profitable. I'm not saying "be good". Just saying "do not be an ass".

    Wrong. A contract is an agreement with legal bindings. It may not stop some people from spilling their guts, but it allows a company a way to retaliate if it needs to. Contracts signed by an individual with another individual or company trump many (not all) personal rights or liberties. You are effectively agreeing to a particular course of behaviour for the duration of the contract in return for something. In this case, employment. Freedom of speech doesn't mean a thing once you sign an NDA. That NDA trumps your freedom to discuss the covered topic with people outside the agreement.

    Microsoft is an obnoxious company who has utter disregard for the wider community. These internal troubles simply reflect what's outside, as far as I can see. If the company treats clients like shit, why would it treat their own employees like gold?

    As just as I agree that Microsoft is an obnoxious company with no regard for anyone outside its own buildings, I think you need to step back and reassess your comments in the context of any small company. Say a 100 employee ma'n'pa shop down the street. Why should they be afforded any more rights than a much bigger company?

    Microsoft is in a bad spot now. Everyone knows that. Balmer seems to be in denial, or just plain ignorant, but for the most plart everyone has seen it coming from a long way off. You're right. They have treated many of their customers pretty poorly. But it didn't take much to see that the company was top heavy.

    The mini-microsoft blog is the opinion of a few people that happen to work inside Microsoft. It doesn't represent the 60,000 or so world wide, but it does represent a fair number of the developers or those 'on the shop floor'. What I don't agree with is how public it has become. Using blogger may have been a good way to stop Microsoft management from closing it, or tracing the authors, but wouldn't something like this have been better inside the organisation as a way of generating internal discussion?

    Not to mention the irony of using Google to host the blog in the first place. ;-) I mean, sure text.net (a .net asp blog tool, not an address) would have been enough? :-)

  • Re:insane (Score:3, Informative)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @04:11AM (#13611896) Homepage
    If product X was made out of dolphin skin by child slaves in San Diego there's a public interest in that information.

    Not to mention product Y, made out of child skin by dolphin slaves. And I won't even get into the details of product Z.

    What you don't seem to understand is the first amendment only applies to government. It does not extend to private organizations or property. The government can't tell you that you can't post specs on as yet unreleased product Y but a contract can.

    Actually, the government can tell you not to discuss anything they want, especially the specs on as yet unreleased products, and they don't need a contract to do it. And the punishment for disclosing the government's secrets can make a civil suit look trivial.

    Not all speech is free of criminal prosecution either. Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, inciting a riot, threatening someone's life, and all sorts of otherwise malicious speech is illegal as well. The most that can be said of free speech is that you're free to say whatever you want, just like I'm "free" to steal a car, but that doesn't mean you're not liable for the consequences of what you say.
  • Re:insane (Score:3, Informative)

    by FurryFeet (562847) <joudanx.yahoo@com> on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:53AM (#13613733)
    Network Associates are not the government, and could not force anyone to give up their first amendment rights through contract.

    You got this all wrong. It is the government who can't make you give up your free speech. Anyone else can, as long as you agreed to the contract.

    In other words, if you signed an NDA, YOU gave up your rights. No use complaining about that.

  • Re:insane (Score:3, Informative)

    by That's Unpossible! (722232) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @10:46AM (#13614159)
    Network Associates are not the government, and could not force anyone to give up their first amendment rights

    Wow, you're so close but have got it dead wrong.

    Network Associates is not the government, and therefore, the 1st amendment doesn't apply to them! The 1st amendment tells THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT they can't abridge those freedoms. This is because you can't escape the federal government if you want to live in America.

    All they really understand is that if you don't sign, you don't have a job so enjoy living under a bridge when you lose your house! That is not far from holding a gun to your head, and saying, "sign this". An agreement under duress is no agreement at all.

    Ummm, no, taking a voluntary job is not at all like having a gun held to your head. You can find another job.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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