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Mini-Microsoft Shakes Things Up 374

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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  • by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) * on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:36PM (#13610660)
    This is clearly an inside tale, but I can't help but wonder if it's some new form of marketing.

    Pretend you're a badguy insider, develop a following, and then you can mitigate rumours/leaked info/etc.

  • by thirdrock ( 460992 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:40PM (#13610674)
    Most of the guy's complaints could come straight from a Dilbert cartoon. Seems to me like someone hasn't worked for a large bureaucratic organisation before.

    On the other hand, the computer business is not an environment in which bureaucracies survive for very long. At least, not without radical change.

    Perhaps this is the chink in MS armour that it's competitors have been waiting for.
  • Re:insane (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:42PM (#13610683)
    I'm stunned that anyone could have such a love/hate relationship from the inside of a monster corporation to go to these lengths to fix it.

    You've probably never worked in an environment where you know something could be great but everyday you see incompetence and pride as the norm. This drives some of us to the breaking point. Either we give up or we fight for greater things.

    The sad thing is this is in every organisation that is sub-par. There are guys and girls who fall by the wayside everyday because fighting a bureaucracy is a form of attrition-style warfare. You have to keep on battering it and battering it and usually the organisation wins and the dissenters go home with their professional careers and private lives in ruin.

    I hope this guy stay anonymous. No good can come from him publicly outing himself, no matter how great his ideas. This is the nature of power.

  • by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:52PM (#13610747) Journal
    He is an MSFT employee. He knows way too many things only insiders would be familiar with - not even an ex-employee. But he's very careful not to reveal internals that would get him in trouble. Very clever. He's also an above-average writer, FWIW.

    It's been theorized he's (yes, he) is a mid-level guy in PSS. A few of his posts bear this out, but a few others don't. Like I said, he's very careful with what he gives away.

    Having said that... yes, this is another opportunity for the slashbots to come out of the woodwork to post their ever-hilarious "M$ is teh suxx" jokes.

    Anyway... must get some sleep.

  • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:55PM (#13610763) Homepage Journal
    Where's the proof this guy is a Microsoft employee?

    How many Microsoft employees have disputed it? Mini has stated a lot of inside information that real employees of Microsoft could easily confirm or deny, and I have never heard a viable claim that Mini isn't real. It's pretty much considered a given that Mini is real, and their comments have been validated by known insiders quite a few times.

    would they make similar comments if they worked at some other large corporation?

    Most large corporations suck, and that is precisely what Mini has been trying to say all along. Saying that HP is even more sucky says nothing, and pretty much entirely misses the whole point. In Vietnam people work in sweat shops from 6am to 11pm every day for pennies, but I'm not going to use that to validate poor working conditions here.

    I've worked at several corporations, and while a couple were pretty good, there were some terrible corporations [rbc.com] that are nothing but endless shuffles of executives building empires and covering their asses (and absolutely RAPING the financials of the company for themselves), building a world of executives, and a completely separate world of plebs. Mini's various comments makes it sound like Microsoft is evolving to this, and given Microsoft's storied past that is quite simply sad.
  • Re:insane (Score:3, Insightful)

    by untaken_name ( 660789 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:56PM (#13610764) Homepage
    Yes, he and others like him need to stay anonymous, or they are toast, but it shouldn't be that way. It is high time laws were passed to protect such bloggers' free speech rights no matter what the legal mumbo jumbo they had to sign off on to have a job says. No employment contract should be able to take away free speech.

    The workings of any publicly traded company ought to be public knowledge. We should have the right to know about companies, and not just their PR spin, before investing or when contemplating whether to sell stock. It is not good for the economy to let publicly traded firms operate in secrecy, and snooker investors

    Even if a company is not publicly traded, prospective customers deserve to know what is going on.

    Are you trolling? First, if you don't want to sign an employment contract, uh....don't sign it. People want the government to protect them from having to do hard work like reading legal documents before signing them. I mean, sure, it'd be messed up for a company to put 'must work 12 hour days 5 days a week or be fired' into a contract, and you're stupid enough to sign it, you should either work those 12s or get fired. Bollocks to 'free speech rights'. That applies to the federal government, not to private employers. If you sign a confidentiality agreement, you...agree...to...keep...things...confidential. No right to free speech is being restricted by the government here. If you don't like the agreement's terms...don't sign it. It's really not that difficult. What's next? No employment contract should take away someone's right to carry a gun to work? Seriously, people. The Bill of Rights limits what the FedGov can do, not what you can voluntarily agree to.
  • Re:insane (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aeoo ( 568706 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @10:58PM (#13610775) Journal
    What's insane is that making a criticism of the company is perceived these days as "a liability for incalculable damages".

    That's insane.

    Why is it that the damages to the company are important anyway? A company is a fictitious entity. Damages to people matter more than damges to companies, and in this case employees are important people, and they are the ones being damaged and not the other way around.
  • Shut that guy up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joseph_Daniel_Zukige ( 807773 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:05PM (#13610806) Homepage Journal
    My worst nightmare -- that someone sane starts fixing the problems at MicroSoft. How would there be any room left to compete?


    The only way to really fix Microsoft is to split it into two corporations each for every product line, and open all APIs with no anti-GPL license restrictions. And use the ill-gotten gains Gates, Balmer, et. al. have accumulated to fund start-ups to company with the baby-Softs. And open the evolution of the APIs under the control of a joint committee of the EFF and representatives of the several Linux and BSD distributions.

    It ain't gonna happen.
  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:43PM (#13610980)
    If vista comes out with all this CGMS-A and AACS compliance, then it will be too late to "please customers". They won't be able to roll it back under pain of DMCA conviction for manufacturing "circumvention devices".
  • They don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lheal ( 86013 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (9991laehl)> on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:43PM (#13610983) Journal
    The "perfect or perish" mentality just doesn't work. It doesn't work for factory workers, athletes, students, or politicians. When applied, all you get are a whole new crop of PhD's in CYA, each pointing the finger of blame at the next Doctor of Posterior Osculation.

    The MM blogger seems very down on paying attention to "process", which tells me that A) the PHBs at Microsoft are all into process and B) this guy is a frustrated, unpromoted newbie, probably hired after XP was released.

    Firing all the dead wood sounds nice, until you realize that means firing the people who wrote the cash cow.

    The It they don't get is that Open Source Software is the future. They don't want to give up the golden dream, which means hiding their source, which means using a hierarchical development model, which means bureaucracy and inferior products.

    Oh well, caveat regnum.
  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:49PM (#13610995)
    Have you even read some of the entries and comments? You might want to try reading them before commenting.

    These people are probably the loudest critics of Microsoft, and because he and most people who comment have an internal perspective, their strikes are direct and to the point too, not like the drivel that gets reiterated here.

    Marketing? How can exposing things like the company's recent trend in hiring MBA middle managers be good PR? How can saying things like the company's growth going to the single digits in the last 5 years be a marketing ploy? How can complaints about delays in projects like Longhorn, Office, etc. due to the internal bureaucracy be good in any way? There's even a mention of Office for Linux in one of the comments (though it's presented as an extreme example to drive a point home). How does this serve MSFT? Will investors go "yea, let's keep jacking up the share prices because insiders say Ballmer is a poor leader and Gates a poor software architect?"

    This guy isn't around to deal with rumors. In fact, some rumors are being upheld (or confirmed for the optimist) by what the entries and comments hit at. This guy is exposing the problems that are in the way M$ works internally. If he was going on about how everything's fine and dandy inside, and everyone's full of love and bliss, then maybe it's a marketing ploy. But I, stretching my imagination to its limits, would not able to show how exposing and ranting about problems will drive stock prices up.

    So no, sorry, the blog does not appear to have anything to do with marketing.
  • Are you sure? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KwKSilver ( 857599 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:56PM (#13611018)
    Corporate entities do have characters, be they corporations or states. New Englanders are very different from southerners in the US, and from Californians, too. The English, French, Russians, etc have different national characters. Sears has a different personality from K-Mart (or used to), and for that matter a different personality from Sears 10 years ago, at which time customers were treated as a nuisance. That is a corporate character flaw in my book. (YMMV) I took my money elsewhere till it changed.

    MS's character flaw is hubris, the "We know it all, we know what's best for everyone,.. we are above the law... we are can do no wrong... etc." attitude that they swagger around with and sneer at everyone else. (Pride goes before a fall.) I've taken my money elsewhere, not that they would notice, or care. It matters to me, though.
  • by Edmund Blackadder ( 559735 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @11:57PM (#13611022)
    You are right. And the biggest reason "perfect or perish" does not work, is that you will never get anything perfect until you make all the mistakes. When you fire the people that get something wrong you just delete a bunch of useful experience, and ensure that the next group makes the same mistake.
  • Re:insane (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aeoo ( 568706 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @12:02AM (#13611035) Journal
    People want the government to protect them from having to do hard work like reading legal documents before signing them.

    The fact that reading legal documents is hard work speaks volumes as to the amounts of ill faith inherent in them. If the contract is drawn up in good faith, there is simply no need to make it abstruse (hard to understand). A contract that does not seek to rip a person off in any way should be easy to understand even to someone with just 3 years of school.

    It is sad that we have an entire profession devoted to actually understanding correctly what the fsc*k the legal documents say. I say it's high time to say "f u" to the legal language and make it a requirement that all contracts be brief, to the point and in plain language. Maybe then people will take time to read them and sign them in good faith.

    As it stands, a person gets a 30 page packet and thinks, "Ah, this is some cr*p I have to sign if I want this job.. How bad can it be? They're not going to rip me off. I trust them and I want this job. I will sign it." It's obvious to me where the abuse is happening.
  • Re:insane (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoggoth of Maul ( 674988 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @12:27AM (#13611119) Journal
    Indeed, his anonymity is a great part of his power. So long as they can't pin him (or her) down, Microsoft may actually have to move its ass.

    As a man, he can be fired, he can be sued for breach of contract. But as a symbol, he can be everlasting.

    *cue viscerally resonant cinematic soundtrack*

    I smell a montage coming on.
  • Re:insane (Score:3, Insightful)

    by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl@e x c ite.com> on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @01:20AM (#13611330) Journal

    For many people, loss of a job (the penalty a corporation can inflict) can be as serious and life-altering as being sentenced to jail (the penalty the government can inflict). Free speech rights are meaningless unless you protect them.

    On a related note, if a corporation expects you to obey its rules 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it owes you compensation for one hundred and sixty-eight hours, per week, plus overtime of course. Otherwise, when you punch the clock, you're done. Why should your employer have control over what you blog in your off time?

    People want the government to protect them from having to do hard work like reading legal documents before signing them.

    Actually, I think what is at issue here, is that the contract at issue really isn't a choice. It's very disingenuous for you to say "uh...don't sign it..." if you don't agree with it-if you're independently wealthy enough that you don't care whether or not you lose your job, I am glad for you, but not all of us are so fortunate. Protection is requested, then, for free speech, which is clearly enshrined in the Constitution as a fundamental right. Corporate profits are not. When the two are at odds, then, the Constitution makes it very clear which must give way. Employees should have the same right to seek redress against bad acts on the part of their employer just as citizens should have the right to seek that with the government-and Constitutional rights should absolutely, never, ever, be regarded as something which may be "signed away".

  • Is it Ballmer? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Cowdog ( 154277 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @01:31AM (#13611357) Journal
    Maybe it's Ballmer.

    Reading the first post on the blog, this guy is exhuberant, talks agressively and confidently. Definitely a marketing person, maybe high level. Or hangs out with them enough to be able to ape the attitude. The user id "Who d'Punk" fits a bemused high level exec who is untouchable, and wants a forum where the rules of political correctness are relaxed.

    There are some signature turns of phrase that really stand out. I bet it's already an open secret at MS who this is, and they are probably chuckling now at how slashdot gets excited over a mystery they already know the answer to.
  • Re:insane (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @01:42AM (#13611397)
    "He just doesn't realise that microsoft has to be the way it is to generate those profit margins."

    Microsoft's profit margins are falling steadily.

    Ah, sorry,that doesn't really answer your comment. Indeed, it was Microsoft's unabashed greed and disrespect for the law that kept its profit levels as high as they have been. And probably the only way to keep them there would be even more of the same. Except it can't. The cost of flagrantly flouting the law has increased steadily, and the effects of greed have largely turned inward, to Microsoft's detriment.
  • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @06:30AM (#13612091) Homepage Journal
    "A house divided upon itself cannot stand."

    Given the amount of competitive progress that Linux has been making recently, it's more than understandable that Microsoft are experiencing some dissention in the ranks. Ballmer isn't anywhere near lucid or flexible enough to genuinely fix the company's problems, either; his tactics can be expected to consist of reassuring the press that everything is fine on the one hand, and then playing business as usual on the other.

    Microsoft's most pressing problem is that it desperately needs to get rid of the old guard. Jim Allchin being put out to pasture at the end of 2006 is a step in the right direction; it just needs to be done to a few more people there, Ballmer included.

    If at least the majority of the senior management can be persuaded to take their stock nest eggs and ride off into the proverbial sunset, then there might be some hope for the company. They are stuck in their thinking, and more than anything else, Microsoft needs a fundamental paradigm shift in virtually every area if it is going to survive. People need to realise that a very large portion of Microsoft's success has come from marketing. Technically speaking, their software has never been more than barely adequate, and that has been due to some chronic problems with their design philosophy. That design philosophy will not change while the current senior management are still at the helm.

    If it's going to happen, however, it needs to happen soon. Microsoft's release cycle is getting longer, and I suspect that if nothing has changed by around 2008-9, the company will reach a tipping point after which, long term, nothing will save it.
  • Re:insane (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @06:56AM (#13612175) Journal
    In addition to what was mentioned, namely that natural language is vague, the problem is that anything that's not clear enough _will_ be abused or mis-construed by someone.

    Let me give you an example that borders on absurd theatre: do you know why software is licensed, not sold? You may notice that when you buy a Ford car or book, you just own the car or book, you don't get "a non-tranferrable license to use it". What's different with software?

    Because while common sense would say "I bought 1 copy, I own it, I execute that 1 copy I own, same as with a book", technically it's copied to RAM to be executed. So you'd be breaking copyright law if you copied it (even to RAM) without a license to do so. That's the loophole through which the whole "license" thing was wiggled through. And which in turn opened the door to having whatever restrictions imposed upon you that the copyright owner wishes to impose.

    "Copying" in the sense that you intentionally produce a duplicate of a book or record, was extended to something which is more of a side-effect of how computers work than wilfully duplicating someone else's work. And also taken from a context where you could actually sell or distribute the copy in direct competition with the copyright holder, to something where... let's just say it's just stupid to think that you'd pull your RAM sticks out and give them to someone as a copy of Doom 3. So it misses the whole spirit and intention of copyright law (whether you aggree or disaggree with it.)

    That's the problem with things that aren't clearly defined. If it's possible to get an advantage via a verbal fallacy or mis-construing something, some interested party _will_ do it.

    E.g., let's say we signed a brief contract that just says "Moraelin aggrees to sell his old 22" colour monitor to aeoo for one hundred dollars." Simple, clear and to the point, right?

    Well, at what date? I didn't say anywhere I'd give it to you right now, or for that matter even this year.

    Does it have to work when you receive it, or can I just give you the pieces of one that I dropped while moving? If we put in the contract that it should work, by what definition of "work"? What's your recourse if it doesn't?

    Is that US dollars, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, or board-game dollars? Where should the money be delivered? (I'll probably want them deposited in my bank, and not, say, requiring me to go withdraw them personally from Elbonia's only bank;)

    And are you sure what kind of monitor you're getting? Now you may be thinking "bah, even if it's an old CRT, a 22 inch never was too bad". I might however point you at the dictionary and the fact that a monitor was also a kind of military ship. So by that contract I could send you a painted toy ship.

    And so on and so forth. And the whole legalese and those 30 page contracts are there just to leave as little room as possible for such creative interpretations.
  • Re:insane (Score:3, Insightful)

    by f()rK()_Bomb ( 612162 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @07:49AM (#13612348)
    For fucks sake! He's just some guy who works at a corporation. He's not Spartacus or Ghandi or whatever.

    Yes. But wasnt Spartacus or Ghandi also just some guy? They became symbols through their actions

  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @07:58AM (#13612385) Homepage Journal
    It's part of their annual management revolution exercise. They all do it, they hire a bunch of consultants who pretend to interview people with anonymity and those people pretend to answer honestly. Then they collect all their surveys and determine that

    a) everything is fine and management had it right all along

    b) there is little that management is prepared to change let alone pay for

    c) people need to figure out how to motivate themselves better

    d) there was another 5-7% of the workforce that needs to get cut quietly

    e) 3 or 4 key executives will collect larger fiefdoms as a result of this reorg

    f) mean employee tenure will drop another 6 months and management will spin turnover as 'recharging the organization.

  • Re:insane (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mmkkbb ( 816035 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @08:32AM (#13612530) Homepage Journal
    Right. If I remember correctly, he was a contractor, and he was still fired for posting those photos (of Mac G5s arriving at the receiving dock)
  • Re:Innuendo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by F_Scentura ( 250214 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @10:39AM (#13613593)
    Their hardware division has always made quality products, actually.

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