Thursday, February 01, 2007

Microsoft constantly under a microscope...

I found the recent controversy about Microsoft paying Rick Jeliffe, an independent writer, to correct some Wikipedia entries to be much ado about nothing.

So they paid someone to take a look at the entries and see if they're correct...that person was given complete freedom to make whatever choices he felt right in the process, and not necessarily toe the Microsoft line...so what...is it such a serious problem that everyone has to constantly criticise them ?

In Rick Jeliffe's own words...

I think I’ll accept it: FUD enrages me and MS certainly are not hiring me to add any pro-MS FUD, just to correct any errors I see. If anyone sees any examples of incorrect statements on Wikipedia or other similar forums in the next few weeks, please let me know: whether anti-OOXML or anti-ODF. In fact, I already had added some material to Wikipedia several months ago, so it is not something new, so I’ll spend a couple of days mythbusting and adding more information.

Just scanning quickly the Wikipedia entry for OOXML, I see one example straight away: The OOXML specification requires conforming implementations to accept and understand various legacy office applications .

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So that entry is simply wrong. The same myth comes up in the form “You have to implement all 6000 pages or Microsoft will sue you.” Are we idiots?

I don't understand why everyone, the Wikipedia folks included, is making such a big fuss about this topic. I mean, in Microsoft's defense, here's what their rep had to say...

Microsoft acknowledged it had approached the writer and offered to pay him for the time it would take to correct what the company was sure were inaccuracies in Wikipedia articles on an open-source document standard and a rival format put forward by Microsoft.

Catherine Brooker, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, said she believed the articles were heavily written by people at IBM Corp., which is a big supporter of the open-source standard. IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Now I'm don't care anything about who created what entry and who's updating what, but I can completely agree with the following sentiment...

Brooker said Microsoft had gotten nowhere in trying to flag the purported mistakes to Wikipedia's volunteer editors, so it sought an independent expert

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Microsoft believed that having an independent source would be key in getting the changes to stick - that is, to not have them just overruled by other Wikipedia writers.

I personally have tried to add some articles to Wikipedia (no, they're not about me or stating that I'm god's gift to mankind...although that would be a good addition) and they have been turned down by the editors...I mean, these guys are just volunteers who deem to judge everyone ! They summarily reject most articles and then flag those topics to avoid them from being updated in the future, even if it is in the public domain. I tried to update an article about science blogs to include some more collections of science blogs that were around, they were turned down by the Wikipedia editors...something that I found odd as it wasn't about anything related to me personally, or something that had an opinion - its was supposed to be just a list.

So I can understand Microsoft's frustration at not being able to fix any inaccuracies that might exist. Sometimes Wikipedia does not check to verify the credentials of the people editing their content, but when someone has been misrepresented, they cannot change the entry as they are a "concerned party".  The odd part is that the OO XML format is Microsoft's baby, and I think they should be concerned when anyone tries to put up information which is inaccurate.

A side issue is that of the problems that Microsoft faces when they try to do anything...and I mean anything - whether right or wrong...or even just doing that they do regularly, like say, releasing software. I mean, some of the biggest names in the software world were running scared to the European Union to complain about the then impending release of Vista ! Now the press is hounding them for something that shouldn't even be an issue in the first case...someone needs to let up and relax on this taking on the big corporation bit...I mean, they have shown some remarkable insights while creating interesting products from time to time - products which have made life a lot easier for users, from programmers to bloggers (by the way, they even have a Linux lab...yes, hell hasn't frozen over, it's true.) And from what I hear, post-release, Vista is looking pretty good too, but I guess it will take some time to get to know of its real capabilities and problems.

Previous related articles : 1.

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5 comments:

Ben Langhinrichs said...

I must say, I am mystified. I have made alterations in a number olf Wikipedia articles, including both OpenDocument and Office Open XML, and they have been accepted without issue. I have never had a revision "not accepted" (by which I think you mean reverted to a previous version, as there is no "acceptance").

Anonymous said...

I am surprised too...ofcourse, they let us revise the articles...besides that's what a wiki is for!!!

Sib said...

I must state that I have never tried to update Wikipedia articles about OpenDocument/OOXML and neither am I am expert in the area.

This post was not about the content of the articles, as much as it was about the fuss that was created by the media.

GreenSmile said...

I'm from massachusetts. you have to show me that application Xyz is OOXML compliant.

I keep finding out that straight forward JavaScript that I develop under FF and can run as well on Safari is broken and useless on IE, even IE7 because MS has punted or, for all I know, purposely not adheared to some piece of ECMAscript or DOM standard. Developers like me have EARNED our distaste and distrust for Microsoft as a player in a world and a market that would fall to utter useless pieces without standards

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