[ This page must be viewed with a browser that is capable
of rendering visually distinct output for
underline attributes. Some text-based browsers (links)
may not handle this
properly, and so you are advised to switch to graphics. ]
UPDATE (03/04/2004): The tool used to prepare
data for this article is now available
Liked the article? How about a book of mine?
This is not an exciting story: I happened to be browsing aimlessly through case studies and other publications released by Microsoft as a part of their "Get the facts" initiative. At one point, I stumbled upon a Word file I wanted to read - and as soon as I ran it through wvWare, I noticed there is a good deal of amusing change tracking information still recorded within the document. Naturally, publishing documents with "collaboration" data is not unheard of in the corporate world, but the fact Microsoft had became a victim of their own technology, and had failed to run their own tools against these publications makes it more entertaining.
A pointless idea came to my mind that instant: why not run a gentle web spider against all Microsoft sites in English, specifically looking for other instances of tracking data not removed from documents? I coded a bunch of scripts and let them run through the night, fetching approximately 10,000 unique documents; over 10% was identified as containing change tracking records. I decided to collect only those with deleted text still present, yielding a crop of over 5% of all documents. Quite impressive. Below, you will find a brief (and rest assured, incomplete) list of the most entertaining samples I've run into, along with some speculation (and only speculation) as to the reasons we see them.
NOTE: Although some of the findings discussed here may be moderately embarassing for the company in question, I am not trying to make Microsoft look bad, and I do not think they are particularly evil. It's just quite entertaining to have a peek under the hood. I believe the analysis posted here meets the fair use criteria and does not disclose trade secrets - because it is a critical review of short excerpts of publicly available resources and data accessible with a click of a button in Microsoft Word - but I am not willing to dispute it too vigoriously if I receive a cease-and-desist letter. As such, enjoy it while it lasts.
I've reviewed hundreds of documents, with recorded changes ranging from very minor (spelling, changed dates, slight reformatting, rewording to avoid being sued) to some very heavy editing in research papers; I have also spotted several "multiple use" delete-and-rewrite documents for financial briefs, customer briefs and so forth, and noticed that a great number of documents retain bogus titles from previous uses (I suppose the "template" mechanism is not particularly popular in the company) - but this is not particularly exciting. Most hillarious edits I stumbled upon are closely related to "hot" topics - new technology salespitch (XBox, Tablet PC), Linux-vs-Windows war and so forth. So let us begin:
The first interesting document is a Tablet PC deployment case study for Aventis, a pharmaceutical company (resulting of a merger of Rhone-Poulenc and Hoechst):
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/tabletpclaunch/docs/aventisCS.doc (Anika Lehde, Melanie Higgs, Mary Riordan Schactler)
It would appear to me that a very enthusiastic case study, suggesting that Aventis will be deploying Pocket PC and using it in new, exciting applications, replacing traditional notebook computers, had been initially drawn by someone at Microsoft, and then sent in for review; Aventis, however, cooled them down quite a bit, stating that they simply tested it (as opposed to starting a deployment), and that they see some "potential" lesser applications for the platform, not necessarily in drug trials, as Microsoft suggests, and perhaps in addition to notebooks, not instead of them.
But this is just where the story begins - the note gets more interesting as you read on... just look at some of the text deleted in whole (emphasis mine):
Being an awful prick, I must say that all those "xxx, Chief Information Officer/Vice President at Aventis" quotes make it look as if they were fabricated prior to even figuring out who to talk to at the company, not to mention determining what his/her name would be. The author could forget that guy's name when writing down taped conversations, of course, but not being able to tell CIO from VP makes that scenario somewhat less plausible. Naturally, the story could be quite different - but I can't think of a sane explanation, other than this serves as a good evidence those "case studies" are produced in bulk, eventually reviewed by the other party, and just as convincing as stock photography. Arguably, making up quotes and just sending them in for approval is not all that uncommon in the world of PR - but making up endorsements and testimonials is not honest, either, and it is not good to be caught doing it.
The rest of this case study is also fairly entertaining (with "more than 60" becoming "hundreds" at one point, one wonders), but it's time to move ahead...
Below is a fairly funny Xbox launch announcement for Europe:
http://www.microsoft.com/italy/stampa/filedoc/CESXboxReleaseLegalEuroversion.doc (Dave Bennett, Kerstine Johnson)
"Xbox is on track for an awesome European launch in |
Naturally, it would be pushing it too far to claim any PR trickery here, it simply appears that Sandy Duncan is a clone of Robbie Bach - and copy-and-paste public relations had nothing to do with this.
Back in 2001, in a largely uninspiring article for CIO Magazine, Scott Berinato had suggested twelve easy steps to run a Microsoft-free company. Microsoft, for some reason, considered this to be a problem, felt compelled to address these claims.
Microsoft's response is, however, much more entertaining than the original article - and mostly because of what did not make it to the final version. The author experienced a sudden adrenaline rush, followed by an urge to launch several ad hominem attacks at poor Scott; someone carefully edited them out later on:
http://download.microsoft.com/download/3/4/9/349c2166-4d53-43f6-b1fd-970090e23216/PARTNER/MSFreeShop.doc (Nasirah Chaudhry)
We agree that a CIO should stay abreast of the latest and greatest technologies available. However, based on real world customer feedback and market share data, most CIOs are still deciding that commercial software is a more powerful, cost-effective solution than open source software. |
Some really silly arguments were also mercifully put to sleep:
Finally, Microsoft is an enduring company |
Scribbled on the margin: overall, as some Slashdot readers pointed out, the main problem showing up in the above text is that the PR article development cycle at Microsoft seems to start with a "modestly" competent person writing an overhyped fantasy claims, and then others, more competent folks editing out most outrageous statements - which is a dangerous game, compared to starting with a balanced material and trying to highlight the good stuff. But I digress...
Finally, as the document nears its ending, some language smoothed out; to make Microsoft look like an innocent family shop instead of a domiant and fairly aggressive market force, just change a couple of words to sound a bit less possessive:
If customer demand truly dictated Berinato's suggested replacements, then the open source products he lists would have predominant |
What has been proven is that Microsoft
That's better, being a monopolist you might want to avoid sounding too possessive. But that is not where the story ends - the article contains a surprise bounty - at some point, a detailed customer information had been included, just to be later deleted (presumably because the data was either "not public" to start with, or because their customers requested it to be removed):
Home Depot: evaluated both, chose Windows for |
Metro C&C (major German retailer): evaluated both, chose Windows for
JB Were Holding (Australian brokerage firm): evaluated both
Ameritrade: After several months of schedule slips trying to implement Linux, the Ameritrade CIO resigned. Within a month, the new CIO deployed Ameritrade's most strategic apps, their Stream Quotes Servers, on
And from this excellent write-up on the use of .NET in the banking industry, we learn that:
http://www.microsoft.com/business/downloads/finance/siaconf.doc (Jeremy Lehman, Scott Barton)
The bank set high goals on expected future message throughput. Extreme Logic created a test harness using the bank's trade order management systems to test messages resulting from over a million daily trades. The Biztalk Server solution met the requirements. |
Well... one may wonder what made the bank give up, but it is not for us to judge.
Yet another paper from Microsoft discusses the security advantages of Internet Information Services (IIS).
(Doug Stumberger, Jennifer Angier, Mary Alice Colvin, Katrina Dianeti, Kippi Lundgren)
Well, I suppose they did not get the permission after all.
I think it is good to stop here. There are many other examples (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, eGov), and many things you might want to search on your own. The point is, if you come up with an intuitive technology, you must next find a way to curb its use :-)
When was the last time you have checked your company's website or mail for this? Maybe it's time to do it again... Cheers!
You are a visitior number 17210072.