[Linux-aus] [Osia-discuss] Re: If you could ask Microsoft a question, what would it be?

Jiri Baum jiri at baum.com.au
Sun Jan 13 08:11:42 UTC 2008


> > When engaging an opponent who is cunning
> > it behooves one to proceed with caution.

Jeff Waugh:
> OK: Let's wear floaties! Seriously, it's a few Microsoft people at a LUG.
> It is not national television. About the worst that could happen is that
> some press dude comes along and says "Wow, those freetards sure treated
> Microsoft badly". I don't think most LUG leaders would let that happen
> anyway.

Yeah, that's one of the most likely outcomes, neutral or very slightly 

The other likely outcome is also neutral or very slightly negative for us - 
namely, they come in, dodge any hard questions and walk out again amicably, 
giving us nothing and gaining some minor measure of goodwill for themselves.

Given the limited harm from the most likely outcomes, I'm not particularly up 
in arms against this and may even come to watch. However, I would be remiss 
not to point out that the upsides are even more limited and very unlikely.

> > Which begets the question, is this session is likely to achieve anything
> > useful? I cannot see it.

> Practically? No. But there are plenty of impractical and possibly pointless
> things you can (and should) do in order to build a bridge. The culture and
> politics of disengagement is ugly and foolish.

Unfortunately so.

> > If so, perhaps professionals should be asking the questions and follow-up
> > questions, not random geeks.

> Oh. Real nice. To both the professionals *and* geeks who go to LUG events.

The professionals (journalists, negotiators, lawyers) spend years learning and 
honing their skills, just as we spend years improving ours. We're likely to 
do about as well conducting a potentially hostile interview as a lawyer or 
journalist writing a subtle piece of code - not very well at all.

In addition, if the speakers are taking questions directly from the floor, 
they are effectively the moderator of the discussion and thereby in control. 
This seems to be common at LUG meetings and works reasonably well for the 
kinds of talks we usually have. It is not suitable for this one.

> > Otherwise, we're likely to get the kind of answers that say nothing, at
> > best, and re-frame the debate in Microsoft's terms or otherwise mislead,
> > at worst.

> ... and yet they're still at a LUG meeting. So, fat load of good it will do
> for them anyway. Seriously... Microsoft is going to successfully re-frame
> the debate in their terms at a *LUG* meeting? 


Well, they would be re-framing the debate everywhere they can, over a period 
of months, but that's no reason to give them an additional forum to do so.

Like all misdirection, the best re-framing is imperceptible at the time; 
simply a choice of one turn of phrase rather than another on the part of the 
speaker (who in turn takes it from the "on-message" memo from marketing). 
Even if the person asking the question picks up on it, they're likely to be 
brushed off with a "next question". In the body of a talk, picking up framing 
issues is likely to be brushed off as quibbling and/or disruptive.

> Maybe your LUG is less unruly and more polite than mine.

Well, being unruly and impolite goes back to your point 1 - "Wow, those 
freetards sure treated Microsoft badly". That might avoid any re-framing or 
other misdirection by preventing them from speaking at all, but if we're 
going to do that, it would seem better to just reject them outright.

> > BTW, since you mention OOXML in particular and standards in general, last
> > I heard OOXML is still being merrily railroaded through the ISO and
> > Microsoft is explicitly refusing to commit to following it, even if it
> > does pass. I don't think any question we ask would change any aspect of
> > that situation.

> So why have that expectation or benchmark at all?

I don't have that expectation. I'm merely pointing out that neither should 
anyone else. By extension, I'm arguing that if no-one can think of anything 
positive that could come out of this, we should avoid it.

If there is, in fact, a possible positive outcome, let's make sure that it 

Jiri Baum <jiri at baum.com.au>                   http://www.baum.com.au/~jiri

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