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Gatesgate

In a move I deeply sympathise with, Anthony Fejes has left Nature Network because they have given Microsoft employees blogs.

However, his reason is that Microsoft is deeply unethical. Mine would be, that shit almost never works. The main reason I stopped using Microsoft software when and as I could was that there were simply better solutions, which played well with others. Microsoft’s philosophy is pure Hotel California: “once you check in, you can never leave”.

As a desktop publisher I constantly battled Microsoft’s formats to get them into publishable form. No other formats gave me as much trouble. It continues today: their implementation of XML is grotesque, and to use a Word-authored piece of text in a blog, for example, you need to strip out all the crap Word puts there. This is 180° the orientation of XML’s underlying philosophy; that material should be transparently reuseable.

It’s not, as Fejes says, Pepsigate. But it is Gatesgate.

17 Comments

  1. Michael Fugate Michael Fugate

    I get all kinds of strange looks and then questions when I tell people I don’t use any microsoft products – like what do you use?!?!
    The original windows and word were so dreadful that I still can’t figure out why any one ever used them.

  2. I certainly empathize with Anthony Fejes. My own opinion of Microsoft is rather similar, except that I never liked any version of Windows.

    I’m posting this from the linux system, which is what I normally use, though I did use solaris for a few years.

  3. Bob O'H Bob O'H

    In a move I deeply sympathise with, Anthony Fejes has left Nature Network because they have given Microsoft employees blogs.

    Just to be clear – NN gave a group blog to some editors for a computer science book (published by Microsoft), and some – but not all – of the editors also work for Microsoft. We were told about this before the blog was started, and were assured that there’s no commercial connection. The book is even available for free.

    Which is totally irrelevant to the point about the quality of MS products – the best thing I’ve seen is a book they published about Powerpoint which said “don’t do it the way PP wants you to”.

  4. Bob O'H Bob O'H

    OK, correction – all 3 editors of the book do work of MS. (oops), but other members of the editorial board for the blog work elsewhere.

  5. Karst Karst

    “Which is totally irrelevant to the point about the quality of MS products – the best thing I’ve seen is a book they published about Powerpoint which said “don’t do it the way PP wants you to”.”

    Who published which (title please) book?

    • Bob O'H Bob O'H

      Oh, Beyond Bulletpoints (ugh, that webpage makes me want to take a shower).

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Here’s where I am deeply conflicted. Gates’ father manages a foundation (the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) which funds research into diseases that do not attract pharmacy companies and medical research grants). Their disbursement equals the output of small countries. I know the guy who organises the malarial research (Gus Nossal) and he is very impressed with this (and if Gus is impressed, so should we all be).

      But then this is exactly the sort of social contribution that the robber barons did too.

  6. Thanks for the comments – I couldn’t agree with you more that Microsoft products also fail on their merits! Anyhow, I’m really not trying to make this into a big deal – and I’m really not trying to suggest there’s any scandal going on. It’s just that where ever Microsoft is (or it’s staff gathers to talk about work they do in relation to their work on Microsoft projects), I don’t want to be.
    I haven’t yet decided if I’d wait for the next bus if I see Gate’s poster on the its side, though. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  7. Susan Silberstein Susan Silberstein

    I would be happy to get on that bus. Given that I don’t dislike Gates as a person (if I should, please show your work) and am glad to see a thoughtful promotion for secularism/atheism, it is exactly the bus for me.

    I might feel like I was saying, “So there, morons who think atheists are beasts without morality. STFU!”

  8. jeb jeb

    “But then this is exactly the sort of social contribution that the robber barons did too.”

    Norman survival policy, ruthless military might, aggressive takeover followed by patronage of local elites and adoption of local culture as a means of maintianing power. Highly succesfull means of adaption, which left a large cultural legacy as a secondary effect.

    Given the choice I think I would prefer negotiating with Bill Gates rather than Robert of Sicily.

    Although a final extinction to the Baron, wither the self-serving prophecy and vision of Gates or Jobs would be nice; but I am not holding my breath.

  9. jeb jeb

    The tale of Robert of Sicily.
    http://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=2019
    Bit of 19th century mass education playing with the old identity notion that “scarce any one is such a Fool, but he does not have a sub-Fool that he can laugh at.”

  10. @Susan Silberstein
    Sorry – the comment about skipping a bus with Gates picture on the side was an attempt at dry humour, which must have failed. Frankly, I don’t have a problem with Gates personally, though I do know he had some hand in deciding the tactics employed by Microsoft. (I believe that was part of the leaked internal memos in the Halloween Documents.)

  11. lylebot lylebot

    Microsoft Research is practically a separate body from Microsoft itself. Anthony says

    Microsoft, to me at least, represents the opposite of everything I value in a company: honesty, innovation, openness and ethical values.

    I happen to agree that this describes Microsoft, but it does not describe Microsoft Research. In my field and CS in general MSR has been a boon for the research community. They fund fellowships for grad students, postdocs, and faculty. They sponsor academic conferences. Their researchers organize conferences and edit journals. They release data that can’t be acquired from anyone else. And most of all, they talk to us academics about what they’re doing. That is a marked contrast from Google, which doesn’t say anything.

    I did spend some time in MSR as a paid employee, and I have many friends and colleagues there, so this is based on my personal experience. I found the environment there to be much more like a university than a large company, and I never saw any influence on MSR from Microsoft corporate—because Bill Gates wants MSR to be independent. But take it FWIW.

  12. @lylebot – Thanks, that’s pretty much the first time that anyone has clearly spelled that out for me. Is it correct to say this is Microsoft Research is funded by, but entirely independent from Microsoft?

  13. Sorry, let me fix that…. Is it correct to say that Microsoft Research is funded by, but entirely independent from Microsoft?

  14. In fairness to Microsoft, Word is a word processor, not an XML editor. All the crap you need to strip out is there because Word needs it to reproduce the Word document in the format you chose. At least with the new XML format, you (and, more importantly, third-party programmers) can get at it with a text editor and strip out any of the crap they don’t need – unlike with the previous proprietary format. Personally, I edit all my blog posts with an ordinary text editor: it’s much easier.

    The one thing I am very annoyed with Microsoft over is the ridiculous new Office ‘ribbon’ user interface. It has changed me from a Word and Excel power-user into a clueless newbie, and reduced me to near tears on several occasions.

    If it’s real control-freakery you’re after, however, look no farther than Apple. I own an iPod and an iPhone. When I come to replace them, I will not be buying Apple products. I am totally fed up being prevented from doing what I want to do with them because ‘Steve knows best’. Why on Earth, for example, do I have to connect to Apple’s shop front-end (the malware that is iTunes) every time I want to load music I already own on to my iPod or iPhone?

    Forget Gatesgate, I’m fed up with Apple Jobsworths.

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