[Linux-aus] Microsft a Reality? Get Over It?? - A followup

Les Bell lesbell at lesbell.com.au
Thu Mar 6 09:21:02 UTC 2003

Just my $0.02c, since I feel the need to vent a little:

I was reading the SMH web site yesterday, and clicked on the link to a
story in their IT section. As it opened, so did a smaller window inviting
me to participate in a market research questionnaire. Since I have a
professional interest and connection with the market research business, I
clicked on the "agree" button. I was advised that the research company was
conducting a survey on behalf of a client, who would be disclosed at the
end of the survey.

I was then asked about which companies I associated with the web services
business. From that point on, the survey was all about Microsoft's .NET
product line: was my visit to their .NET site satisfactory (*what* visit?),
did I get the information I wanted, etc. The worst was to follow: I was
asked whether I agreed/disagreed with various *absolutely gushingly
positive* statements about .NET. The first was along the lines of

"Microsoft .NET is the solution for web-enabling your business"

( /think "a" solution perhaps, but not "the" solution) and subsequent
statements were the kind that only a sales-rep could possibly utter without

I am of the opinion that this was not a survey, but an attempt to place
these positive statements in the minds of hapless SMH readers - an example
of what has been called - in the US political arena - "push polling". It is
*certainly* an unethical practice, and contravenes the ethical guidelines
of the Market Research Society of Australia.

Worse was to follow: I was presented with a list of Microsoft technologies,
and asked to click the check-boxes beside those I was interested in. Since
I was not interested in any of them (and XML isn't a Microsoft technology,
anyway), I didn't select any of the check-boxes - but the survey logic
wouldn't let me proceed unless I expressed interest in *something*!

At the conclusion of the survey, I was asked to provide my name and email
address, ostensibly to take part in a draw for a $1,000 prize. What odds do
you, the reader, give that the email addresses will be passed to Microsoft
and inundated with spam for .NET? I know *I* won't - they'll get the hint
from my answer to their "What do you think .NET is?" question. However, if
those addresses are passed to Microsoft, it will be a flagrant breach of
professional ethics and I know I will *definitely* then do what I'm
currently considering - a formal complaint to the Market Research Society
of Australia. Even without the passing on of email addresses, this
questionnaire is dangerously close to the professional malpractice known as
"selling under the guise of marketing research" or "sugging".

I have already complained to the market research company concerned,
pointing out that their professional reputation is now being tarnished by
association with the low ethical standards of Microsoft. I have to believe
- since I know the company concerned - that these ethical lapses do not
occur in their usual business, and that someone - possibly at a junior
customer service level - has been railroaded into accepting these practices
at Microsoft's urging.

To summarise: you might not regard marketing people as among the most
ethical and upright people in the world of business. But even by *their*
standards, Microsoft fails the test.

I strongly urge all Linux advocates to present a professional demeanour,
and keep the debate above Microsoft's level.


--- Les Bell, CISSP

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