So, the author of the now infamous ex-Googler email has been revealed, and Geoffrey Elliott is none too happy about the whole situation. See, he worked at Microsoft, left to start a startup, the startup got bought by Google, and he left Google to return to Microsoft. His Microsoft recruiter sent him some questions about life at Google, and in the context of a private conversation, he sent along his thoughts.
Then the recruiter violated his confidence and emailed the entire company a slightly anonymized version of the conversation.
I’ve been covering this as a Google internal culture thing at InsideGoogle, but this needs to be said from a Microsoft perspective: The recruiter who sent out this email needs to be fired. I’m sorry, but unless this was an accident, or a misinterpretation, or Geoffrey missed the part where he was told his answers would be emailed everywhere, then this was a gross violation of his privacy, and completely unprofessional.
When you take a job, you don’t expect any part of the job interview process to be posted all over the internet. Anything told to HR is expected to be held in confidence, not disseminated all over the internet. There are people at Google, friends of his, who may be very insulted knowing what Geoffrey said about their company and their workplace, and he deserved the opportunity to say it himself and on his own terms. You cannot just email the whole company and expect it to be okay.
When you email around the company, there is a certain understanding that you just risked getting fired. Well, congratulations, I think this should just about do it.
And if the recruiter is a reader of my blog, or worse, a Microsoftie I respect and have a good relationship with in the past, I apologize for what I’ve said, but I am just being honest. If you recruited me in the future, I’d expect a certain amount of privacy, and I’d be infuriated if this happened to me.
Windows Live Maps is sticking giant red pushpins at a large number of Seattle locations, creating real-life replicas of pushpins you’d expect to see in Windows Live Maps, not in the real world. The pins have been placed as a marketing push for Live Maps, directed at the Collections feature that lets you mark and comment on a number of places, and share that Collection with others. The locations with the pins have signs sending you to thepushpinproject.com, where you can view Live Maps Collections of all the participating location, and an invitation to create your own Collection.
(via Todd Bishop)
However, the gem is definitely Destroy All Invaders, pictured above. The game uses Windows Live Maps Virtual Earth API, letting you choose any location on the planet and putting your helicopter above its satellite imagery. You fly around the map, shooting down UFOs. This is a brilliant use of both Silverlight and the Windows Live Maps API, created by Andy Beaulieu. Great job, man!
For most of these, the source code is available, so if you want to create a Windows Live Maps-based Silverlight game, check out Andy’s code.
Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins writes today about PR at Sony and Microsoft’s game units, mostly talking about Sony’s utterly inept attempts to get into blogging in a non-transparent fashion a year after things started going south. Then, he gets into Microsoft as a comparison, with a backhanded compliment that criticizes as well:
Microsoft’s marketing isn’t slimy, it’s just bad. Inert. The entire platform strategy was designed to secure a leadership position in the next generation, and once they achieved it, they were paralyzed by it. I thought it was rudderless behavior until I realized that they had simply reached their destination and sort of unpacked their things. As for their blogger phalanx which encircles the web, their position as explicit partisans dilutes their message automatically. Unless you are searching for quantifiable facts like release dates or raw platform orthodoxy, their editorial content is understood to emanate from that circle of cursed megaliths in Redmond.
I don’t completely disagree with him. Microsoft’s entertainment divisions seem to have missed out on a lot of the transparency revolution going on at Microsoft, but the rest of the company has become an amazing new animal. The Xbox division seems to be copying Apple these days, remaining tight-lipped, pretending product flaws don’t exist, ignoring blogs complaining about the issue, and fixing the issue without acknowledging it exists.
Speaking as a person who was a blogger before joining Microsoft, I can safely say that the blogging “mindset” hasn’t sunk in here at the Entertainment and Devices Division in the same way as it has in other parts of Microsoft
He then goes on to explain why he, and presumably most of the other public-facing people in his division, are usually silent on these issues. They don’t want to get fired, don’t want to hurt the company, don’t want to create a PR crisis, don’t want to give away secrets.
See, the problem is these guys didn’t pay attention when Scoble was going on and on about the benefits of corporate blogging. While obviously bloggers aren’t supposed to say something stupid, most community managers would never have been hired if they didn’t know what not to say. And yes, no one expects a company to reveal its plans for the future, but they do expect it to respond to problems.
See, the purpose of corporate bloggers isn’t just PR, it isn’t just developer outreach, and it isn’t just about acting passionate. The biggest advantage of corporate PR is to avoid customer anger, by giving the customer somewhere to voice their complaints. And, when you have a PR problem, like millions of your products overheating and needing repair, a person who can escalate the obvious problem and come back with some sort of decent answer.
If things were different in the Entertainment and Devices Division, there wouldn’t be so many broken Xbox 360s. This problem, while huge in the eyes of the consumer, is tiny in the public voice of Microsoft, and its exactly the problem. If there was a public voice with some sort of accountability, that person would be required to give answers or lose his or her credibility. Without that voice, no one is pushing things as far as they are supposed to, and the customer, and the brand, suffers.
Let’s be honest here:
A lot of 360s break.
We don’t know how many, because Microsoft doesn’t say.
We don’t know what they’re doing to fix things, because Microsoft doesn’t say.
We don’t know how serious the problem is, because Microsoft doesn’t say.
We don’t know how to avoid it, because Microsoft doesn’t say.
Instead, we get extended warranties, free repairs, extra heatsinks, and outright lies or no comments on failure rates. How about some honesty instead?
(via Launchr > Digg)
Rockstar Games has released a free Grand Theft Auto IV Gamer Picture pack, with the four pics on the right. They’ve also released a free Xbox 360 Dashboard theme. You can get both on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and like I said, you won’t have to pay a thing for them. This is in addition to the second GTA IV trailer which was released a few hours ago, and you can see over here.
Micromart, a UK-based third party repair service for game consoles, has said that it will stop repairing Xbox 360s suffering from the Ring Of Death problem. Micromart says that the problem is too widespread and endemic to the Xbox 360, so they’re pulling out of repairing that problem because it is overwhelming them.
we play Xbox spoke to Micromart to ask them why theyâ€™ve decided to pull out of repairing the ring of death fault and they told us the problem is deep-seated and lies in the initial manufacturing of the console – they believe that every console manufactured prior to October last year will have the same problem with the lead free solder used with the GPU, which dries out in the heat and leads to overheating. This means thousands of consoles are out there with the same problem.
The Xbox 360 breaks down an inordinate number of times. I’ve lost two consoles in a year, though only once to the ring of death, and it seems to always have something to do with overheating and parts coming loose in the heat. Microsoft seems to have abandoned all hope of transparency in regard to it, which is the real shame. You don’t create customer loyalty by asking the customer to stick his head in the sand.
A Digital Point forums poster talks about his experience with ContentAds, Microsoft’s AdSense-like contextual advertising program, and he’s got some good things to say. He says that it “was actually pretty sweet”, but that Microsoft needs to improve filtering and reports. He also mentions that the program will have an open beta, which is interesting and exciting news, if true.
ContentAds has been testing on a very limited basis, and there were concerns it would be closed to only the largest sites, so if Microsoft plans on making it more available, that’s just gravy. Microsoft has been force-migrating advertisers onto ContentAds, so it may be looking to aggressively do something bigger with that network.
Oh, and I’d recommend jumping into the Microsoft Affiliate Network. They’ve still got just the one Windows Live OneCare free trial offer, but I’m actually surprised how popular it was to get people to download free trials of good software. I’ve already pulled in a lot of commissions from the program.
Daniel Escapa released a new PowerToy for OneNote that adds a great search and replace feature. The PowerToy adds a new button to your toolbar, and when clicking it you get this dialog:
Not only do you use it to find all occurences of a word or phrase and replace them with something else, but you get a preview window that lets you see what the changes will be before you commit to them. I’ve never seen that sort of thing anywhere, and it’s a great idea.
Netcraft reports that Microsoft.com is now running on Windows Server 2008 Beta 3. While Microsoft employees frequently dogfood pre-release software, Microsoft.com is the 12th most popular website in the world, so running it off Server 2008 is risky, unless you have complete confidence in your software, which Microsoft apparently does. Good for them.
They’re not the only ones. More than 2,600 sites are taking advantage of Windows Server 2008 while it is a free beta, and I’m guessing it’s working out for them, if they’re still doing it.
(via The Guardian)
Apple continues to post updates to its Safari browser, trying to tie up the problems that have plagued early adopters of its first Windows web browser. Safari 3.0.2 includes security fixes, problems on non-English versions of Windows (including Safari crashing when typing in text fields), font problems due to Safari’s way of displaying text, HTTP authentication making the browser crash, RSS feeds making the browser crash, conflicts with Adobe Integrated Runtime and Yahoo Widgets, crashing while using Google Reader, crashing on older processors, crashing on some video cards, and crashing on some web servers.
Microsoft shareholders, pay attention: The company will issue another quarterly dividend this September 13, 2007, of ten cents per share. You must have your shares on August 16, 2007 to be eligible. This will represent $5.39 cents Microsoft has given back to shareholders since it began issuing dividends in 2003.
Gary Price has some domain names Microsoft picked up recently. Some of the more interesting ones are DesktopOptimization.com, ExchangeYourCareer.com, and PlayByTheNewRules.com. Also, tranferred domains to Microsoft included Msnvideochat.net, Xbox360TechSupport.com, ZuneSleeve.com, InnovateOn.com, and Windowsautomater.com.
I like PlayByTheNewRules.com. It could be used for an interesting promotion. InnovateOn.com has some possibility, too.
Another sign of Sony’s sinking fortunes came out last week, when the Japanese hardware sales chart showed that the Xbox 360 was gaining on it. The 360, which has virtually no base in Japan, shot up by tripling its normal sales to a point that, while 1/8 the Nintendo Wii and 1/12 the Nintendo DS, was within spitting distance of the PS3′s sales. The Xbox 360 tripled its way to 7,583 sales for the week, while the PS3 lumbered at 9,481 sales.
While no one is saying this means the 360 is taking over Japan, it is a sure sign of Sony’s sinking fortunes. The gamers who might normally buy a PlayStation must not be interested, and are putting their dollars into a console that is cheaper, has more games, and isn’t looking like more of a failure every month.
Tim Heuer blogs about Zero Gravity, a good puzzler based in Silverlight. Your job is to guide an astronaut back to his spaceship, but you can’t afford to fly off into space, so you have to make careful use of blocks, tubes, teleporters and other elements in the environment to guide your little guy to the finish. It’d definitely fun, so open your favorite Silverlight-capable browser and try it out.
Microsoft’s Eric Anderson says that he is using a prototype Windows Media Center Extender at home, one of the version 2 (codename: Pika) variety, the first Extender that works with Windows Vista that isn’t an Xbox 360. He gives few details on the device, save that it has a media pipeline that can handle media types that previous Extenders couldn’t handle, so long as the hardware is capable. That means that his particular prototype, because it could play back DivX video, the Extender could play back DivX in Media Center.
It’ll be wonderful for Extenders to finally be able to do more, given the annoying limitations in the past. An extender that can play DivX, XviD, and maybe other types of popular video codecs without the need for workarounds or hacks is a wonderful thing, enough maybe to even get me to buy one. Of course, the real thing Microsoft should do is add the Pika software to the Xbox 360, since the 360′s current Extender technology is hopelessly difficult for the average user.
According to a year old post of Chris Lanier’s that Eric points to, the dev kit Extender, made by Sigma Designs, supports MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264), VC-1 (WMV9), MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2 (DivX/XviD), Dolby Digital, WMA/WMA Pro, MPEG-1/2 Audio, AAC and MP3.
Our partners that are building retail product choose what features (wired and/or wireless, audio outputs, etc) + formats they will support. As it happens, the prototype device I’m using does support divx – and have I mentioned just how cool it is?! You’ll just have to wait to see their press releases, but if what I’ve seen is any indication, you won’t be disappointed!
The Hotfix says that they have been told to expect the first beta of Internet Explorer 8 to ship around the same time the beta of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 does, sometime near the end of the year, or a little after SP1 ships. The IE8 beta will be released both for Windows XP and Windows Vista, although there will be differences between the versions.
Popular Science came out with its list of the 10 worst jobs in all of science, and Microsoft Security Response Center wound up grabbing sixth place, the only computer science job on the list. Describing it “Like wearing a big sign that reads ‘Hack Me’”, it says they get 100,000 emails a year, working on multiple versions in multiple languages of software products totalling billions of lines of code, and every screwup reflects enormously bad on your company and puts pressure on your job.
It’s a job I wouldn’t want to have, but the good workers doing security for the world’s operating system, they’re my heroes. Well, them and Superman. And if I was in trouble, it’s just Superman. Sorry guys.