Daily Archives: December 28, 2006

Microsoft giveth (for review), and the blogosphere taketh away.

On the first day, Microsoft giveth . . .

“No good deed goes unpunished” is how my latest e-mail from Aaron Coldiron started. It seems that the reaction in the blogosphere to some bloggers being treated to a new Ferrari laptop pre-loaded with Windows Vista Ultimate and Office 2007 has caused Microsoft to rethink what they want the future of the laptops to be. Marshall got the same e-mail that I did from Aaron.

To be honest I kinda feel for the marketing folks at Microsoft. They have this product that they have worked on for over four years, and then sit down and decide out they want to market it. Of course they have all the usual channels like TV advertisements, technical events and launch parties but since Windows XP and Windows Vista something magical has occured – the citizen media was born where individuals like you and I get to publish our own opinions. They sat down and thought lets get some fully baked kit out for them to review – in fact, lets work with one of our hardware partners (AMD) to see if we can give away the machines.

So – they set their plan in motion and they go out and find bloggers to seed the kit with, some people are likely to give positive reviews, whilst others not so positive, they are bloggers, their individual reactions are difficult to predict as is (as we have seen) the reaction of their readers.

Bloggers being bloggers blog about this new kit arriving on their door step, in fact most even disclose where it is from (even though they don’t have to – they aren’t journalists, disclosure is a good idea, even for bloggers). As far as I can tell, after that some folks started pointing figures at the bloggers suggesting that they had been compromised. The news explodes all over the blogosphere and suddenly the marketing folks at Microsoft are thinking “what just happened”. As far as I can tell, a few things seem to be going on:

  • People are ascribing journalist ethics to bloggers (Dan Warne).
  • People are thinking that getting a laptop is going to move the dial.

To be honest, I am beyond caring. I’m going to do the review at two levels, from a user level which I am hoping that my wife will help me with and also from a software developer level. After that (probably end of January/beginning of February) I will take the laptop away from my wife and give it away on my blog somehow – Microsoft has requested those that received a laptop to do this to help avoid any more unpleasantness.

To be honest its not what I wanted to to, I was excited to be able to give my wife a new laptop that I would envy (which I would also happen to be able to test 64-bit builds of my software out on).

. . . on the second day the blogosphere taketh away.

Anyway, I think CrunchGear said it best when:

The real problem here is that there are hundreds — even thousands — of BLOLGGGERS who feel they they, too, should receive free laptops. Back when it was just PC World and PC Mag fighting over red hot back-up software at PC Expo, the PR world was a simpler place. Now, when Marshall gets a laptop, JoesHardwareGearSiteAndAmazonSplogBlog.org wants one as well and will get all pissy and ethical when they don’t get the access they so richly deserve.

And with that, this is my last post on the topic (the digg bubble seems to be curving over now anyway). In the coming weeks I’ll be posting the reviews from the software end.

 

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Can a free laptop move the dial?

So I log in this morning and open up my e-mail to see what kind of blogstorm this free/gift/review Acer Ferrari laptop from Microsoft and AMD has caused. It seems that the blogosphere is interested in the news and that opinions vary widely between in implying that I’ve been bought as a blogger to congratulations on a great score.

Some of the choice comments that I got on my blog so far:

  • a.hoc: If you keep it you’ll never be viewed as someone who is capable of having an unbiased opinion. Cout me in as one of many who won’t be returning to your blog. Unsubscribed.
  • fred: notgartner blog: bought and paid for
  • allison: Have you figured out why you only got a 1000 and others got a 5000? [reply: Not sure Allison, although I think it might be something to do with my dainty fingers :P]
  • Callie: the entire blogosphere is aware of all the other bloggers who’ve received this same gift, and that’s what it is – aka, a bribe.

First off, thanks to all that seem to be interested and passionate enough about this to respond. Some of the comments seem a bit harsh or misdirected at best, but I will address that in a moment. There has also been a fairly large number of trackbacks to other peoples blogs, I’ve categorised them (mostly for myself):

That is a lot of feedback in under 24-hours, especially for a B-list (if even) blogger like myself. In fact the whole affair has caused a spike in my blogs traffic:

But what can I say to those that imply that I’ve been bought because its something that doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

Moving the Dial

The idea of a bribe is to effectively change the behavior of someone by giving them something they want, like money, lovin’, or as proposed in this case, a gadget. But before you can go around suggesting that I’ve been bribed to say good things about Vista, Acer or AMD you first need to determine that my behavior has changed – did Microsoft move the dial?

Because I don’t know all of the people that suggested that I had been bought (a.hoc, fred, Callie) I am not sure how long they have been reading my blog or whether they know much about me, but here are some facts:

  1. I am a software developer that has been working with Microsoft’s .NET platform pretty much exclusively since the year 2000.
  2. I co-founded the Melbourne .NET User Group (although I have since moved interstate and it is run by others now as the Victoria .NET Special Interest Group).
  3. I have represented Australia to the International .NET Association.
  4. I have been awarded as a member of the Microsoft MVP program for five consecutive years (or is it more) – full disclosure, MVPs get access to a MSDN Premium subscription for free.
  5. I have been a member of the ASPInsiders group since inception.
  6. I work as a Senior Consultant for a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner called Readify which does a lot of work for Microsoft and Microsoft Consulting Services.
  7. I’ve spoken at a number of major Microsoft technical events, in particular TechEd Australia 2004, 2005 and 2006.
  8. I am a co-organiser of Code Camp Oz, a Microsoft-centric community event held in Australia each year (third year coming up).
  9. Most recently I was a guest editor on TechTalkBlogs which was started by Microsoft’s very own Frank Arrigo.
  10. During November I toured Australia (six cities) presenting at the partner-orientated Ready Summit where I presented in UI, security and data enhancements in Vista.

That is a fair bit of Microsoft centric activity right there so to argue that Microsoft could move the dial on the tone of my blogging is simply laughable, I am already a fan of their technology, and if you are coming to my blog expecting me to encourage people to avoid Microsoft products you are probably barking up the wrong tree.

I write my blog for me, and to be honest I am still amused that anyone would bother downloading the content that I write, I guess its for my technical observations and the other stuff that I dig up. I doubt it is for my unbiased writing style :)

What is happening to the laptop?

Well, to be honest I’ve been running Vista on and off for the past three years (back when it was called Longhorn) and pretty much non-stop for the past six to nine months, so there isn’t much in the platform that I don’t already know about (although as a developer I am always finding new APIs to tinker with). That is why I started out with a mostly hardware orientated review because I thought I could definately do it justice (it is new hardware territory for me).

Next I am going to give the laptop to my wife who has hardly used Vista at all and has actually being resisting until it came out of BETA. This will be her first laptop and her first time running Vista and my plan is to somehow capture her feedback as a “Vista-newbie”. Some of the things that I thought would be a good outcome was:

  1. Nicola starts a blog and journals her experiences there.
  2. Nicola guest writes on my blog and journals her experiences here.
  3. Nicola and I do some screencasts together playing with Vista.
  4. What do you think?

All of this is part of my goal of getting my wife blogging, so far I’ve been unsuccessful but to be honest, given the reactions of some people on this blog you can hardly blame her for being a little bit gun shy.

Summary

I am not even sure if this whole thing would have been noticed if folks like Robert Scoble didn’t blog about it, but I think even he is swinging around to the idea that this is a pretty good marketing ploy. As he points out I think one of the key issues is disclosure, and in my case I did disclose that I was sent the laptop for free from Microsoft – and even in this post I’ve disclosed more about myself that some of my new subscribers didn’t know about (regular subscribers would know most of the above about me anyway).

Ironically I posted up this piece the day before the laptop arrived about marketeers earning mindshare rather than buying it. On the surface this might look like a circumstance where my advice wasn’t heeded, however, I actually believe that this is a perfect example of how the blogosphere can actually “arrive early”. In this case I think that the Vanishing Point Game is more newsworthy than a few geek bloggers getting laptops.

Finally, this blog is about me and who I am, it is not about what I am trying to sell (or what others are trying to sell). It reflects my thoughts, interests and passions, I am not a journalist so don’t try to hold me to a set of standards which I have not signed on to uphold.