Is It Astroturfing Even When It Really Is Impartial?

Microsoft is embroiled in another “scandal”, between this and the Ferrari Fiasco it’s been a bad couple of months for ol’ MS. It’s really undeserved in my opinion.

Especially this latest Wikipedia thing, if you go back to the source that started all this hoopla (and was in fact linked on the Slashdot article), you can see that Rick Jelliffe was not paid to promote Microsoft’s worldview. In fact, reading the opening paragraph to his article sounds like a nice bunch of reasons why it would have not been in Microsoft’s interests to even contact him:

_My first computer was a Mac Plus. Loved it. My second computer was an _[_AT&T; Unix PC_]( running System V. Loved it long time. My third computer was a Sparc running Solaris or SunOS. Loved it. At work I run Linux, Open Office, Firefox, Eclipse, etc. No drama. For the last six years I have been running a little company making Java programs. Love Java. I do a little open source development, in particular with the _[_Schematron_]( program (quite like it!), but I have also contributed some code to the Flamingo/Substance project over at JavaDesktop, which provides novel looks and feels and more modern GUI components._ > >

Doug Mahugh actually posted to the Slashdot thread with the contents of his email to Jelliffe where he states that all Microsoft was interested in was to get more informed and less-one sided discussion going on. If Microsoft is going to ask a professional to take some of their time to review something and elicit their unbiased input, isn’t it only fair that the professional is compensated? If Microsoft was serious about not preapproving any of the changes and honestly wanted to simply open up a discussion they felt was being stymied, they should be applauded not condemned. Replying to the Slashdot thread took incredible courage and guts from Doug, and I applaud him for doing it. I don’t see Microsoft as evil, I think the mob is more evil then Microsoft ever could be, and in this case the mob is blowing it out of proportion. Ironically they’ve done exactly what Microsoft and Doug had hoped:

_Good to see the tone of the Open XML debate getting some broad attention and analysis. I'll leave it up to others to reach conclusions, but as always I have confidence that most people are reasonable, and will reach reasonable conclusions from the facts._ > >

Let’s turn the debate in a more general manner. What if other corporations sponsored editors to take an unbiased look at articles they felt were skewed? Would this be a problem? I don’t think so, and here’s why. If the sponsor thought the editor was unfair (or just didn’t like what they posted) they could stop paying the editor. But if the editor was no longer being paid, then they have no incentive to edit, and the sponsor looses in that the biased slant can easily come back (in fact all it takes is a revert!). Honestly, if Microsoft paid me to review something or add my view (not theirs) to a discussion, because they thought the current dialogue was onesided, I would have no stronger desire to lean in their favor. **Why would I? I’m not their employee, I’m doing them a favor by taking my time to check something out, and they’re paying me for that time. Here’s the kicker, **it’s not my full time job. And it wasn’t Rick Jelliffe’s either, he wasn’t offered a position, he was offered compensation for a favor. Nothing more. Haven’t you ever given someone a beer because they helped cut your grass?