Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Tales From Behind Microsoft's Firewall 247

Posted by Zonk
from the strange-but-true dept.
lizzyben writes "CIOinsight.com is hosting an interview with Robert Scoble on life after Microsoft. 'By blogging for the world's largest software company, Scoble changed the way companies communicate with the world and became an industry celebrity in the process.' He talks about MS culture, senior management and the benefits of blogging from inside the belly of the software beast." More from the article: "We used blog-search engines to find anyone who wrote the word 'Microsoft' on their blog. Even if they had no readers and were just ranting, 'I hate Microsoft,' I could see that and link to it, or I could participate in their comments, or send them an e-mail saying, 'What's going on?' And that told those people that someone was listening to their rants, that this is a different world than the one in which no one listens. It was an invaluable focus group that Microsoft didn't have to pay for."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Tales From Behind Microsoft's Firewall

Comments Filter:
  • by Wizzerd911 (1003980) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:44AM (#16292493)
    If I was behind a Microsoft firewall, I'd just feel insecure ;)
  • Short list (Score:3, Funny)

    by MECC (8478) * on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:46AM (#16292505)
    "We used blog-search engines to find anyone who wrote the word 'Microsoft' on their blog. Even if they had no readers and were just ranting, 'I hate Microsoft,' I could see that and link to it"

    That's sure to be a short list

    What are "CIO" and "Insight" doing in the same word anyway? Are they leveraging an optimized something or another?

    • by russ1337 (938915)
      >>> "We used blog-search engines to find anyone who wrote the word 'Microsoft' on their blog. Even if they had no readers and were just ranting, 'I hate Microsoft,' I could see that and link to it,"

      I bet they had an awful lot of links to slashdot posts then...
  • by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:47AM (#16292529) Homepage Journal
    Robert,

    You may have responded to some rants on how Microsoft products work (or don't), and that is all fine and dandy, as it was appreciated. However, the problems are *still* there. I still get the little hardware wizard that wants to help me when I plug in a new mouse, or Windows will still notify me that there is either a new network found or that my computer is at a security risk because of virus subscription expiration in the middle of a Powerpoint presentation!

    It's stuff like that (and much more) that are driving people to alternatives

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MECC (8478) *
      So what you're saying is that you'd rather that MS actually fix something rather than use a blogger or bloggers to pretend to listen.

      That's just plain crazy talk.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kenja (541830)
      and if Microsoft didn't warn you people would complaine about that.

      "Microsoft didn't tell me my Antivirus protection had expired, just because I had a power point slide open!"

      There is no way to make everyone happy, so you provide the best protection you can and try to make the least number of people pissed. To me, a better question would be "why did you let your antivirus expire?".
      • by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:01PM (#16292725) Homepage Journal
        and if Microsoft didn't warn you people would complaine(sic) about that.

        Actually, no.... I would not.

        How unprofessional is it in the middle of a presentation to have something like that happen? In the movies, they call it interruption of suspension of disbelief. In business and science, it's called absurd.

        There is no way to make everyone happy, so you provide the best protection you can and try to make the least number of people pissed. To me, a better question would be "why did you let your antivirus expire?".

        That is a cop out that lazy people trot out when they do not want to do the real work required to think about how people actually interact with their computers. Actually, there *is* a better way and Apple computer has showed us.

        • There are so many different ways of handling system messages.

          #1. An icon on the task bar that changes appearance to indicate you have system messages.

          #2. A list of messages pops up when you log on.

          #3. A list of messages pops up when you come out of a period of inactivity.

          Your "check engine" light does not take over the windshield of your car, does it? Why should a less important message on your computer take over the monitor?
          • So then, what's the automotive equivelant of the BSOD?
            Just curious :-)
            • by jackbird (721605)
              Throwing your timing belt.
            • by Pharmboy (216950)
              So then, what's the automotive equivelant of the BSOD?

              I thing the term you are looking for is "stall". Fortunately, at the moment your car stalls, the windshield doesn't turn opaque blue and print out:

              "Your car has performed an illegal operation at module:alternator and was halted to protect your cargo. Please restart."
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drsmithy (35869)

          How unprofessional is it in the middle of a presentation to have something like that happen?

          How is the computer supposed to know what you're doing ?

          Before you answer, you might want to ponder the unintentional consequences of allowing such a warning to be programmatically suppressed.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BWJones (18351) *
            Somebody else has already said it, but I'll add this addendum. Unless it is critical functionality (like an eminent battery shutdown), there is no warning that should *ever* interrupt a Powerpoint presentation while it is in full screen mode, *ever*.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Cro Magnon (467622)
        Why can't MS notify you about that when you first boot instead of at some unpredictable time when the whole world might be watching?

        To me, a better question would be "why did you let your antivirus expire?".


        Perhaps because Symantic is one of the very few companies that suck worse than MS!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tim C (15259)
          Why can't MS notify you about that when you first boot instead of at some unpredictable time when the whole world might be watching?

          Well, the very few times it's happened to me, it *has* been when I first logged in. More specifically though, I'd imagine that it happens when the AV software notifies the security centre that it needs to be updated, which is likely to be whenever it feels like it.

          I'd be wary of pinning all the blame for this one on MS; it's entirely possible that it's the av software that's na
        • by AceCaseOR (594637)
          So, perhaps a better question is - Why are you using an anti-virus program that can expire?
        • by boingo82 (932244)
          Probably because many people never shut their machine down, so unless it crashes there *is* no first boot. I know, I know, Windows sux0rs BSOD etc etc, but my XP PC easily stays up for 3 weeks at a time, which would be a long time to go with no virus protection.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        and if Microsoft didn't warn you people would complaine about that.

        "Microsoft didn't tell me my Antivirus protection had expired, just because I had a power point slide open!"

        There is no way to make everyone happy, so you provide the best protection you can and try to make the least number of people
        pissed. To me, a better question would be "why did you let your antivirus expire?".

        Exactly! People bitch if MS doesn't pop up a notification and people will bitch if MS does pop up a notification. MS t

        • Exactly! People bitch if MS doesn't pop up a notification and people will bitch if MS does pop up a notification. MS tries
          to make everyone happy by making everything customizable (IE: local/group policies for everything under the sun it seems).....
          however, the extra code to accomodate the configurable options adds to bloat. So people will bitch about the bloat and the
          higher machine requirements.

          You will never be able to make everyone happy. Particularly certain linux crowds that will complain over any littl
      • by MECC (8478) *
        "so you provide the best protection you can and try to make the least number of people pissed"

        Its doubtful they're even doing that. They could at least try to make it more configurable. That, of course, would make it look more complex, and frighten the hopelessly dumbed-down masses. They've painted themselves into a corner, and don't seem to have either the ability or percieved need to get out of it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537)
        I think the important thing here (in this particular issue) is the way in which Windows lets certain things steal focus. This has long been a known problem in Windows, of things stealing focus in stupid ways and at stupid times.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jedi Alec (258881)
          you mean the little option that's been in TweakUI for the past 11 years or so, "prevent application from stealing focus"?
    • Perception is all that matters to Microsoft. They don't have to fix their product, they just have to fix people's perception of it. If someone rants about their problems on a blog and out of the blue someone from MS makes a conciliatory comment, probably the first damn comment they ever got on their blog, now Windows has gone from "That piece of shit OS written by that greedy callous company" to "that loveable, quirky OS written by that friendly company that cares enough about me to post on my blog!" Proble
    • "my computer is at a security risk because of virus subscription expiration in the middle of a Powerpoint presentation! "

      Did you know you can turn those warnings off under the MS Security Center?? I don't think that is a MS issue, it is fully user configurable. (If they set the default to not warn you, everyone would once again bitch about the lax MS security. Either way they can't really make everyone happy.)
  • Too much work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) *

    "We used blog-search engines to find anyone who wrote the word 'Microsoft' on their blog. Even if they had no readers and were just ranting, 'I hate Microsoft,' I could see that and link to it, or I could participate in their comments, or send them an e-mail saying, 'What's going on?' And that told those people that someone was listening to their rants, that this is a different world than the one in which no one listens. It was an invaluable focus group that Microsoft didn't have to pay for."

    Why didn't

    • Re:Too much work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by justkarl (775856) * on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:58AM (#16292669) Homepage
      Face it: even the most virulent criticism of MS here would contain enough useful information that if Gates & Co. actually paid attention, they'd find innumerable ideas for improving their wares. And all for free.

      Criticism != constant flames. They'd have to sort through hours of "Micr0$0f7 suxx, lam3r!!!" in order to get any useful information. Not terribly dissimilar from regular Slashdot users.
      • Re:Too much work (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Yvanhoe (564877) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:10PM (#16292867) Journal
        They'd have to sort through hours of "Micr0$0f7 suxx, lam3r!!!" in order to get any useful information. Not terribly dissimilar from regular Slashdot users.

        But quite dissimilar from the +5 moderated posts. Slashdot has this unique automoderation feature that one seems interested in copying. Flames on /. take the shape of a lot of nested posts with, occasionally, one intelligent argument being shown at +5.

        Really, the signal/noise ratio is very high here compared to other forums.

        I don't linke the "we are the core of the technology world" meme, though...
      • Step 1: Buy Apple.
        Step 2: Don't change anything at Apple, except to tell them to license their OS to other manufacturers.
        Step 3: Plan the transition from XP to OS X.
        • You forgot:
          Step 0 : Rob bank to afford Apple hardware
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jackbird (721605)
          They tried that. It nearly killed them. Not to mention that Microsoft's OEM contracts and ability to threaten to pull Office for Mac would squash a current attempt dead.

          Apple appears to have a pretty good strategy at the moment of taking over all the fun things that talk to your computer one by one until Microsoft is completely surrounded.

      • Not if they read comments at 3-5. Yes a few rants slip through but I find the moderation system weeds out most of them. Unless I'm moderating I read everything at 3+, maybe 2 if it's a topic I'm particularly interested in or it's a fresh story with few comments.

        Rants or criticism, whatever you want to call them, comments modded 5 about Microsoft most likely give a pretty good feel about how savvy users and developers are feeling about them or a given product of theirs.
      • by sootman (158191)
        They'd have to sort through hours of "Micr0$0f7 suxx, lam3r!!!" in order to get any useful information.

        No, they wouldn't, because million of slashdotters perform the filtering for free. All they have to do is browse at +5. I read lots of MS stories here and I never see plain-vanilla "Micr0$0f7 suxx, lam3r!!!" comments.

        However, getting rid of the Borg icon would be good. :-)
    • by Goblez (928516)
      This was my exact thought.

      Why do I get the feeling that small, discrete blogs are being found and attended to, but something major where there is a user base of skill and regular usage of their products that aren't being paid attention to, or (gasp) heeded at all.

      Or do they read /. all the time, and just keep it on the download so we don't become full of M$ loving?

      • by Goblez (928516)
        Down Low, sorry, sometimes the geek in my fingers overrides the person typing. ;)
      • We keep it on the down-low, not the download ;-) There are actually quite a few MS employees I know who read Slashdot. I comment on here on a semi-regular basis, but you'll never see my musings unless you're reading comments in developer-related articles.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by nine-times (778537)

      Maybe he does read Slashdot?

      looks around nervously

      Maybe he's reading right now.

    • by Petronius (515525)
      Google$ "I hate Microsoft"
      Results 1 - 10 of about 87,200 for "I hate Microsoft". (0.37 seconds)

      There's some reading for you.
  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @11:52AM (#16292599) Homepage Journal

    Actually, I beg to differ on the characterization that the world's blog is being considered like a big focus group. When a real focus group pans a product idea, the maker doesn't try to rationalize the current design, the maker drops it or improves it and starts over. Blog writers are howling into the wind, and it doesn't matter if they are heard or not: Microsoft will just go on doing what Microsoft wants to do, because they're big enough and the market is big enough that they feel they can ignore the whiners.

    • And this differs from the Vista beta testers exactly how?
      • Because a focus group focuses on one group. Vista beta testers are all over the place on user characteristics.
      • by Speare (84249)
        Beta testers are ALSO not a focus group. If they report a flaw, the team triages that report. The maker decides if they want to file the burr off the edge, or record the flaw for future improvements, or ignore the complaint. If they report that they don't like something, the chances that their opinion will be heard is vanishingly small.
        • I think you misunderstood. You were saying "Microsoft is gonna do what Microsoft is gonna do, not matter what the bloggers say"; and I was saying the same is true for the beta testers - Microsoft is still gonna do whatever they want.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by R2.0 (532027)
      Not necessarily. Companies can ignore focus groups just like any other data.

      One case is the last version of the Chevy Caprice. It was a new curvy design, and they brought in some focus groups. Response was favorable, but for 1 detail - the rear wheelwells were not rounded but "skirted", in a throwback to an earlier design aesthetic. The focus groups pretty consistently said that detail made the car look heavy in the rear, giving it a "fat ass". The chief designer ignored this data, insisting that his d
  • "We used blog-search engines to find anyone who wrote the word 'Microsoft' on their blog. Even if they had no readers and were just ranting, 'I hate Microsoft,' I could see that and link to it, or I could participate in their comments, or send them an e-mail saying, 'What's going on?'
    Is anyone else thinking 'gee, maybe contacting people who are writing that they hate Microsoft aren't exactly feeling BETTER that they got contacted about it too?' Just remember, Big Brother IS watching and is scouring the net for you - whew, I'm glad they cleared that up to make me feel better!
    • Right of reply (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mccalli (323026)
      It's published on a blog, not squirreled away in some secret diary or whatever. Microsoft also say they're using blog search engines - well then, that implies the blog they found is actively pinging those search engines.

      It's hardly a surprise to learn that deliberately publicised information is being found and read - that's the whole point, surely? I remember reading a comment from the BBC News web team a while ago saying pretty much the same thing - people were saying it was scary when the Beeb team rep
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by M00NIE (605235)

        I hear your point and it's well taken, but I have to admit - this is chiefly why I won't use blogs and other publically available and searchable mediums to write my thoughts about ANYTHING.

        If I indicated I hated the President of United States in a blog somewhere, I would be equally annoyed, offended and paranoid about some advocate of the President contacting me to sell me on whether he's a good President or not. Interestingly enough, I don't see other companies or organizations doing that, much less tou

  • Spare me, Robert (Score:5, Informative)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:08PM (#16292837) Homepage Journal
    I have one of the "I hate Microsoft" [msversus.org] web sites he linked to. I used to read Scoble's blog and comment on it occasionally before he become famous. As soon as his blog started to get any traction he stopped posting anything intelligent. He became a pure evangelist who claimed Microsoft should listen to the haters, then bashed anything critical of Microsoft. And in the end, not much if anything changed. Microsoft used him to try to improve their image. And having this fake power Scoble became full of himself. He's a tool. Microsoft still ignores critics.
    • If you don't think MS has changed then you simply haven't followed them. Vista as a release, product and beta program is vastly different and superior to any other Microsoft OS. I mean public builds, public scrutiny, nearly a quarter million beta testers and release and release of consistent updates. You can't really beat that and that is lessons learned from listening and observing.

      Same goes for the Xbox side of the house. THey listen, they get on blogs and they deliver. Checkout Majornelson.com for so
      • by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @04:11PM (#16296865) Homepage Journal
        Vista as a release, product and beta program is vastly different and superior to any other Microsoft OS. I mean public builds, public scrutiny, nearly a quarter million beta testers and release and release of consistent updates.

        That's identical to XP and 2000, just with more beta testers. There's really no change at all with Vista's testing and public scrutiny. As for a vastly different OS, they made vastly different OSs with 95 and NT, so this really isn't anything new either.

        Microsoft was forced to release the Xbox in a different way than they are used to. It was a completely new and different market and they were the underdog. It had nothing to do with public feedback or demands from users. They pushed into a market the only way possible. And they're still losing ($).

        Microsoft has not changed at all. They've had the same business model for over 25 years. They've had only two departments (currently only 2 products) ever turn a profit. They've been eating up competitor companies for two decades. They put out more PR people to interact on forums so their customers feel better but the results are the same. Bug rates haven't drastically dropped and after their major security initiative a few years ago nothing is more secure. Read the blogs of Microsoft employees to see how management still doesn't listen. Both internally and externally nothing has significantly changed.
  • by tommasz (36259) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:09PM (#16292841)
    ...I never quite understood Scoble's impact or why so many people considered his tenure at Microsoft so important. I can't think of a single Microsoft product that has significantly changed as a result of his interceding on some poor user's behalf. It was more like a grand, and public, experiment in listening to the users. Considering they let him leave and especially since they haven't replaced him, it says they've heard enough.
  • Easy one... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Chaffar (670874)
    Just spell it Micro$oft, M$ Windoze, or /\/\1Cr0$oF7 5\/XXo|Rz.
    No rant is complete without a gross deformation of Miyoursoft's name.
  • I could see that and link to it, or I could participate in their comments, or send them an e-mail saying, 'What's going on?' And that told those people that someone was listening to their rants, that this is a different world than the one in which no one listens.

    More like, they search all the blogs like /. and mod down anyone who critizes Microsoft or calls their products proprietary pieces of shit.

  • Microsoft has followed "Know your enemy, even if they don't know it yet" fo the last 20 years. Anyone who has ever been on a technology edge knows that. In '95 the OLE evangelists got a hold of me because I was making OpenDoc demos. "Here's a bunch of free stuff, why not come over to the other side?" Not the first time it happened to me either. Or others. Apple had a long history of mentoring budding Microsoft employees - and technologies. Anyone remember "Brand X" from WWDC '95? Quickdraw3D? Pippi
  • by VGR (467274) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @05:25PM (#16297865)
    I frequently hear that "Microsoft pays attention to the user." There is a lot of evidence, including this article, to support it. Microsoft products are constantly trying to give the users what they want.

    The problem is, Microsoft has always tried to appease users instead of trying to help them.

    The difference is expertise. Users know what they need to do, but they're mostly not software engineers or UI designers, so they aren't able to say exactly how their needs should be met. Even if they have some idea of what they want, they're very unlikely to be informed of the implications of what they're asking for.

    A good UI designer has that expertise. He knows how to meet the user's needs. He doesn't just do whatever the user wants; he examines their complaint, realizes what the real need is, and programs an intelligent, usable solution. Then that solution is rigorously tested to ensure it is actually better than the situation it was aiming to solve.

    Microsoft doesn't have this expertise. For all their supposedly brilliant minds, I see no evidence of their recognizing any principles of good software design. Instead, they just appease users by doing exactly what the user tells them to do, regardless of the consequences. Even if the addition makes things worse. They don't help the user; they pander to the user.

    The user says, "There are too many items in these menus." Microsoft responds with "personalized menus." They addressed the complaint but they didn't help the situation at all. The real solution would be to better organize the menus. Any programmer can look at the menus of, say, Word, and intuit a better arrangement.

    The user says, "There are too many icons in my system tray." Microsoft responds with a button that collapses the tray. This is a band-aid solution, which doesn't address the real problem: too many programs staying resident for no reason. The real solution would have been implementing a software certification program (they already have one for drivers, supposedly) that frowns on or utterly fails software which employs undesirable practices like cluttering up the system tray.

    The user says, "There are too many things in the Programs menu." Microsoft responds by telling vendors to install programs under submenus which bear the vendor name. It's a horrendous solution. It's the last way anyone would choose to organize anything. No one organizes their books by publisher. Hardly anyone remembers the publisher of most of their books. And indeed, few people remember the publisher of their software.

    The user says, "It takes too long to log in." Microsoft responds by showing the desktop before it is "ready"; you can move the mouse, and you can bring up some menus, but they will be forcibly unposted in a few seconds, and attempts to start applications are no faster than they would be if you waited for all the startup items to finish.

    The user says, "Windows isn't intuitive, I should be able to know right away how to do things." Microsoft responds with Bob.

    There are dozens more examples. The point is that I see Microsoft listening to users, but it is as if Microsoft has no experience with designing usable software, even after all these years. It could well be a case of management paralysis. I don't know the cause, but the symptoms are pretty consistent.

What hath Bob wrought?

Working...