Is Microsoft Buying the Community?

I love the blogosphere – specially for technical information and news.  My guess is that probably 75% of my “reading” comes from blogs and the rest from magazines such as MSDN, aspnetPRO, Visual studio Magazine, etc…  (plug: my article just made the cover story on asp.netPRO)

As a .net developer, I read these blogs:

  1. Scott Hanselman – very ALT, check his tool list
  2. Phil Haack – Great MVC content and a cool last name ๐Ÿ™‚
  3. Scott Gutherie – the alpha dog and must-read blog
  4. Rob ConeryMVC storefront series kicks ass
  5. Matt Berseth – the best looking demos and loves jQuery

There are a lot more but these are the ones at the top of my stack.  You can see all the dev feeds I subscribe to over here.

My point is that a lot of people read the above blogs and are influenced by them.  The problem is that many of these bloggers were not affiliated with Microsoft and some actually were very critical of Microsoft, but now they work there (Matt doesn’t).  To be honest, for the most part, they all seem objective and to an extent critical of Microsoft.  But how long will that last?

It’s ok for me to say something negative about the IE team, because I don’t work for Microsoft.  But if I work down the hall from the entire, that will make for a very uncomfortable elevator ride.  So, I might be inclined to tone down my criticism or even entirely eliminate it (and that is not a good thing).

I am really glad to have the likes of Rob Conery and Scott Hanselman working for Microsoft and helping the company innovate.  But it just seems that lately Microsoft has been hiring a lot of the dissidents.  So if you want to work for Microsoft, create a blog and start criticizing.  Don’t get me wrong though, these guys are very talented (VERY), so you have to have something of value to say.

I got a job offer from Microsoft several years ago and as much as I would have loved to work for them, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t do it because it required moving to Redmond.  Several of the guys mentioned above don’t even live in Redmond – Rob Conery lives in Hawaii (how lucky) and Scott lives in Oregon.  This just tells you that Microsoft is bending backwards to acquire these alpha geeks.

So, who will be hired next?  Ayende RahienJeff Atwood from Coding Horror?  Is this a good strategy on Microsoft’s side?

And if you guys are reading this post, I would like to hear your opinion.  How will you stay objective?  Will you still call out Microsoft publicly?  Or are you going to be on the defensive and be a mouthpiece for the mothership?

Off topic: Why the hell are 109 THOUSANDS people reading coding horror???

Fine Print: I am a huge Microsoft fan but have been disappointed by the lack of recent innovation (except for mvc)


0 thoughts on “Is Microsoft Buying the Community?

  1. >>>And if you guys are reading this post, I would like to hear your opinion. How will you stay objective? Will you still call out Microsoft publicly? Or are you going to be on the defensive and be a mouthpiece for the mothership<<<Well, right off the bat I can tell you that I took a 50% paycut to go to Microsoft. I think Scott took more than that. The only reason either of us took this job (Phil too) is because we can make more of a difference there, rather than outside the gates, yelling into the wind.In terms of “how I stay objective” – I think the question (and many of your other questions) is “are you a shill or not. can a company buy you and your opinion”. I've been asked this question a lot and if it weren't Microsoft, I'd be wondering WTF people are thinking asking it , and where they get their nerve.But I've had to learn to mellow. A lot. Being associated with Microsoft means that I am now to blame for a lot of yours (and others) problems. I get to answer questions like “did you sell your soul or what?” and “how are you going to keep Microsoft out of your pants?”The only think I've found is to not answer those questions – merely point out that in “the real world” you'd probably never ask this of anyone in normal conversation with the assumption that people generally don't compromise their principles. Generally.In terms of “calling out Microsoft” – the best part of my job is that I can now raise a ruckus internally ๐Ÿ™‚ which I do regularly (ask Phil). Not only is it tolerated – it's also welcomed. Which leads me to something else that makes me giggle from time to time: no one has been fired from Microsoft for airing their opinions (Dare Obasanjo springs to mind). You can't say that about a lot of other popular tech companies.Oops – did I just say something positive? Perhaps I am a mouthpiece! Yikes and here I was thinking that I had some substance and wasn't a prostitute for sale…


    • I am not sure if you are angry or not – hard to tell. I hope you are not :)… >>>Well, right off the bat I can tell you that I took a 50% paycut to go to Microsoft.<<<Ouch… you need a raise :)>>>I've been asked this question a lot and if it weren't Microsoft, I'd be wondering WTF people are thinking asking it , and where they get their nerve.<<<Thanks for the Internet, I can hide behind my computer and say anything I want ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously though, I thought they were legitimate questions. Your work and that of others at Microsoft affects my daily life (and that of millions), which makes working at Microsoft different than any other company. Time for a cliche: “With power comes responsibility”>>>people generally don't compromise their principles<<<This is not really about me questioning your integrity or that of the other guys. It's about me wondering if this is a good strategy on Microsoft's part. If they hire every dissident then there won't be any.Imagine if the Bush/Clinton/Obama administration hired every critic ๐Ÿ™‚ Sure there will be less criticism which might lead us to think that things are good. When in reality things might be getting worse. The only hope is that these critics would be able to voice there criticism from the inside where it would have more of an impact. This is exactly what you said, so I was glad to hear that. (**note to self: get better analogies).>>>Being associated with Microsoft means that I am now to blame for a lot of yours (and others) problems<<<I lost my internet connection this morning. I blame you.I hope you understand my point and that this is not meant to insult any of you guys. I am actually a big fan and I am getting tired of Google and Apple coming up with all the cool stuff. I actually considered switching to Ruby on Rails, but I have 10+ years invested into Microsoft and .NET, plus the fact that MVC kicks ass.


  2. Great question – I was hired from the community in early 2002. I don't think that it's a question of hiring dissenters – it's more of finding the best people (whether they agree or not) and bringing them on. I came on and was passionate about some things (like data) and the attitude was “if you think it's broken – it's your job now to fix it”. Awesome attitude.I may sound like I'm shilling , but as I said to some friends at a conference – MSFT is still the only big company I'd work for (sold mine, worked elsewhere, took a pay cut to come here) – they treat it much like lots of small companies and you have a lot of freedom. Not true of many others.Oh – and on the “people working from outside Redmond” thing – Lisa Brummel, the VP of HR has made it a goal to allow more flexible working conditions – and this is a benefit of that.


  3. On the other hand, being a dissident on the inside can make us more effective agents of change, hopefully. Look at how MVC includes the OSS MoQ framework with its unit tests. The unit test project dialog with MVC. We influenced those decisions.The thing is, if Obama hired every critic, it would make his campaign better. Think about the alternative, if he only hired people who agreed with him, he'd be George Bush! ;)Certainly not good to only hire yes-men, right?The assumption you're making is that being hired makes us suddenly lose our voice. I would hope I wasn't such a pushover. The reality is, though, that we now see both sides of every issue in a way we couldn't see before on the outside. But that doesn't mean we're not critical.You should see how many people here use Google as their main search engine, use Gmail, use IPods and IPhones. There are those at MS who think we should stop using the competition. Then there are those (myself included) who think, we should just make our products better so that I *want* to stop.Also, there are still millions of harsh critics of MS left in the world. There's no way MS can hire them all. There will always be plenty of them, and that's a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • I am surprised you are saying a lot of people are using Google, ipod, firefox, etc… I was having lunch an MS employee a few months ago and he said something about Microsoft blocking Firefox on its internal network… There were also these news in the past about MS employees had to buy black headphones to hide their ipods :)But maybe that's old news and MS has changed its ways…It is also my personal philosophy that if you make your products better you won't have to force people to use them.


  4. >>> Is this a good strategy on Microsoftโ€™s side? <<<

    Of course it is.
    If Microsoft wants to buy those guys (which I don't is going to work since they're not this kind of people) then it's a good strategy.
    If Microsoft wants to get better and please the community then it's definitely a good strategy.

    The whole point of criticizing a company like Microsoft is for its products to get better and for us – the community – to get what we want (which is those products) and if hiring those people would do this, then that's the way is going to be. It's not like we like to criticize, it's just we want things to get done the way we like it.

    Do I think Microsoft is buying the community? No.
    Is it buying the competition? That's another topic (but yes).


  5. All the people you mention are “white-hat” criticizers. They're motivated by passion for software and the outward rancor towards certain MS products is an expression of that. Then you have an entire class of copycats who try to pull of the same spiel, but they don't have half the intelligence or motivation of what you call the “A” geeks.Of this second type, Microsoft hires relatively few. So I would say that no, for most people, criticizing Microsoft is exactly the wrong way to go about getting a job there. If you're the type of blogger they would want to hire regardless, then it probably doesn't much matter.


  6. These were some really good comments and I was kind of impressed/flattered that all these alpha geeks are reading my blog. I feel like I am in the company of giants :)These are all the comments I received so far and I didn't have to reject anything. So thank you all for being professional and staying on message.


  7. Hey Emad – Congrats on the asp.netPRO cover. I know that takes a lot of work.>> How will I stay objective?Its obviously a bit different for me, I'm not on the payroll. But even so, my incentive is to stay objective. If the next release of ASP.NET sucks sure MSFT is impacted, but so is me and my business. MSFT can afford to make big bets and lose, I can't. So when I get the opportunity to play with CTP bits or have an opportunity to review the feature set for an upcoming release – I do it. And I blog it to make sure other people are thinking about it too.


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