computing women

Computing Women – This morning, our local NPR station carried a story about the lack of women in computing. Two authors of the book Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing were on, as were two female computer professionals. The thing I found most interesting was the apparent disconnect between the book’s authors (both academics) and the women who worked in the industry (both on the panel and calling in). One of the book authors talked about how computing needed to be presented to women as a “socially responsible” and “nurturing” career path. The callers seemed to dispute the low numbers of women in computing that the authors implied, suggesting that perhaps college enrollment in IT programs is not necessarily a good predictor of the demographics who actually enter the industry (nobody disputes that enrollment of females in CS degree programs is low). A number of callers said that they found opportunities for advancement to be good, and the pay attractive for women compared to other fields. And in fact, a recent IEEE survey seems to show that women in the highest-paying computer jobs may actually make more money than men.

One strange angle was the idea that women stay away from computers because the culture seems unappealing. Presumably, computer culture is a glorification of geeky, nerdy young men with attitudes, and girls don’t want to be around nerds. I think this argument is flawed, though, and could easily be reversed. For example, what about the guy who thinks twice about going to an engineering college when he discovers it has a male:female ratio of 7:1? What law of nature says that girls are the only ones who make schooling decisions based on cultural and social considerations? I have to admit, though, it is strange that so few women pursue computer science degrees. What gives?

wolves at the door

Wolves at the Door – Interesting, this Defense Intelligence Agency testimony of one year ago has been prophetic. Relevant to the upcoming WEF meeting, “Others, either unable or unwilling to share in the benefits of globalization, will face deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation. These conditions will create fertile ground for political, ethnic, ideological, and religious extremism. For many of those ‘left behind,’ the US will be viewed as a primary source of their troubles and a primary target of their frustration.”

Iran doesn’t like being called a terrorist nation.

Why is it so popular for anyone with an opinion to title their opinion “an open letter to Bill Gates”?

More controversy with Microsoft’s named accounts list. Said a solution provider who requested anonymity, “These accounts are now coming back at Microsoft angry because they feel they didn’t make the ‘cut’ and therefore aren’t as important to Microsoft as those who did.”


Feh! – OK, so I watched the hearing today, and I am even more convinced that Mike Tyson is getting handed a bum deal. First, the blame for the most recent brawl surely rests on Lewis’s shoulders. Lewis changed his mind about having a stand-down, without telling Tyson. Then Lewis’s bodyguard started things, and Tyson responded only to the bodyguard, while Lewis made things worse by attacking Tyson.

And watching the hearing was like something from a communist inquest. Ayoub was off the charts bizarre; lecturing Tyson about human nature, “be a good human, not a bad animal. sit boy, sit!”. Then she really got wacky by trying to identify with him; “we all have had problems in our lives, and I know it is tough to get through them, but I know you can do it Mike.” The other line was her urging Tyson to “be a professional in the ring; not an animal.” No doubt she prefers the dred-wearing, poetry-quoting, pseudo-intellectual style of Lewis, a virtual renaissance man (if you believe any of his claims about how proficient he is in subjects other than boxing). Of course, maybe Lewis’s “warrior-poet” persona is just the sort of good showmanship that makes fights exciting, just like Tyson’s “uncontrollable animal” persona. It was pretty obvious that Ayoub lives a sheltered life and had nothing to contribute to Tyson’s understanding of the world except her unbridled enthusiasm for making a “project” out of the “poor savage beast”. The main “problem” in Mike’s life is that Las Vegas has such a wacked-out boxing commission with apparently no rules or standards for the people that sit on it.

I think that Tyson should sue the state of Nevada for damage to his career. There is no objectively defensible reason that those commission members can offer for voting against him (they should have been punishing that effete redcoat instead of fabricating charges against the strongest American fighter ever). I simply do not see how the incident created by Lewis can be enough to turn their decision from certain approval to a 4-1 rejection with the horrible punishment of being lectured by a self-righteous Ayoub. And the rest of the so-called reasons were pretty weak, as well. I have always thought these commissions were a dumb idea anyway. Now we have a five-person kangaroo court with no rules robbing a first-class fighter of his career without any sort of due-process. That’s got to be some sort of violation of Tyson’s civil rights.

OK, before I get flamed — I know Tyson is not the most savory character, and maybe he shouldn’t go so far as to attempt dismantling the system of boxing commissions. But I hope that no other states follow the precedent set by Nevada. I think it’s unfair to let Lewis cower behind these flimsy allegations (I mean, the only proven fault of Tyson seems to be the incident of hitting Botha after the bell — and the idea of penalizing someone $25 million dollars for something as common as hitting after the bell — that’s just wrong).


Animal – I just watched the video of the Mike Tyson brawl, and I don’t see what the big deal is. It sure looks to me like Lewis’s bodyguard started things.

Well, the .NET frameworks SDK, command-line compilers and tools are now available for free download. For people who also want a free IDE, SharpDevelop looks pretty good.

As far as being able to run .NET code on platforms other than Windows, today the news was that Mono project has ditched GPL and Intel and HP have joined the project as contributors. I don’t know what other people think, but I think this is awesome news. Miguel and Ximian are very effective and pragmatic.

GotDotNet just released a simple in-browser WSDL browser, it is pretty easy to use. I just picked a few services from and pasted the WSDL URL into this form; it was just a few clicks to fully-working code that calls the web services.

Well, get your plane tickets to NYC if you want to hang out with all the cool kids and engage in “rage against the system”. This thursday begins the WEF, and it is a lot cheaper for wanna-be insurgents to carpool to NYC than fly to Davos, Switzerland, where the event is usually held. Rand corporation has an interesting book (complete contents are online) about the topic of Netwar. I am skeptical about their claims that these ideas are new (for example, the French resistance in WWII was organized in decentralized “cells”; one of which Albert Camus was a member) but it is still interesting reading. And if you are one of the kids grabbing your black ski mask to take with you on the road trip to NYC, it is even more fun to think of yourself as the vanguard of a new movement in civil disorder, like the Zapatistas in the Rand report.

goldberg’s bias

Goldberg’s Bias – It took me about three hours to read through Goldberg’s Book on Media Bias. Dan Rather single-handedly brought the phrase “anti-government hate groups” into common usage, by using that phrase to refer to regional militias while covering the Oklahoma City bombing. And in case you didn’t know, these regional militias are neither about “hate” or “overthrowing government”. Dan Rather could be forgiven for being ignorant, but I couldn’t respect him after seeing the vigor and raw hatred with which he attacked a population he obviously knew nothing about. Goldberg’s book spends way too much time offering proof to support the conclusion that Rather is a viscerally biased reactionary. It’s almost as if he is trying to convince a jury. Goldberg also spends a great deal of time stumping for some of his own pet ideas that he feels did not get enough attention in mainstream media. It’s an enlightening read, but the book fails to discuss what would have been the most interesting topic: suppose that Goldberg’s bosses at CBS had reacted differently (even just paying lip-service to get him to shut up) after he published his initial criticism in WSJ in 1996; would things be different today? I suspect that Goldberg would still be a complicit partner in the propagation of bias, “tryin’ to change the system from within”, if he had been handled differently.


KingLast Sunday’s post was an attempt to document some of my reasons for having a contrarian opinion about “the China threat”. It’s the first time I have collected my thoughts on the topic in one place, and I appreciate the excuse that external criticism gives me to arrange and refine my point of view. So the previous response should in no way be viewed as a flame of Tom Wiebe.

Here are some other facts about Tibet Autonomous Zone prior to liberation by the Chinese: The Tibetan religious royalty openly practiced slavery. About 5% of the population were slaves, and the rest of the country were feudal serfs. The Dalai Lama was a Nazi sympathizer. Again, these issues don’t prove that the Dalai Lama is a bad person, or that Tibetan Buddhism is bad — they just make me question the wisdom of supporting the political regime that they represent. I find it hard to understand how anyone would support the right of the “God King” to continue to have slaves and opress the population. This seems like a classic case of why we keep church and state separate. Another odd fact; on January 1, 2000, Larry King called the Dalai Lama a Muslim. It took Larry quite awhile to figure out that his holiness was not actually a Muslim.

Doc Searls liked the move Amelie. The movie was laden with every caricature of stereotypical France that the director could come up with (and got slammed by some French critics for this), but I think this was deliberate, and it turned out very nice. There were many scenes that were clearly intended to poke fun at scenes from hollywood blockbusters, but the most interesting thing for me was the use of some new storytelling techniques, perhaps borrowed from computer multimedia games. One example was the scene where Amelie takes the key surreptitiously and hides it in her pocket. Normally, a movie would zoom in on the hands as the protaganist makes the switch, but in this case you could never see the transfer take place. You assumed that Amelie had pocketed the key, but you hadn’t seen it for sure. This just feels “right” — if the camera had allowed you to zoom in and see the transfer take place, how do you know that someone down the hall hadn’t also spied the same thing? But just so you know for sure, the screen shows a little glowing overlay outlining where the key sits in her pocket as she walks by. Just a visual hint, only temporary, and it’s clear to the mind that the glowing bit exists only to help the viewer and is not actually a part of the world being represented. In my opinion, this is a far superior technique. There were a number of other places that the movie communicated through innovative visual cues that you would normally not see in a movie. I compare it to the first action movies that began to use the slow-motion rotating camera angle footage of fight scenes. Old kung-fu movies had been incorporating slow-motion and floating for at least 20 years, but some time around “Blade”, the first visuals like those used in Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive appeared. These are the same style of visuals used heavily in The Matrix and Crouching Tiger. So if “The Matrix” typifies the movie techniques that borrow from fighting arcade games, I think Amelie will be the first example of a movie that borrows from non-first-person role-playing game conventions.

china defense

China Defense – Today, when I heard about the botched attempt by the U.S. to bug the Chinese President’s personal aircraft (come on, how many freekin’ bugs did they need, anyway?), I remembered that I owe Tom Wiebe a response to his critique of my previous pro-China piece. First, today’s finding should reinforce what I was saying before about China’s motives in going with Red Flag and being supportive of the Microsoft joint venture. Two days ago I said that it was “responsible” for the Chinese to be paranoid about things that came from foreign interests. Now you can see why. On the other hand, I don’t think the “boys will be boys” brush-off that the incident has been given by the pundits is going to cut it. This is a serious breach of trust, and if I were Boeing, I would be suing the government. At the same time as our government was fabricating charges against Wen Ho Lee (he was Taiwanese for God’s sake!) and pretending that anyone with slanted eyes is a spy (remember all of the news articles about how Chinese students were all spies, because presumably Chinese people are all zombies who are controlled by the communist party like an ant-hill is controlled by the queen), they were busy compromising all trust that independent American organizations have spent so much effort building up in China. The press is making noise like “this and the spyplane incident are just the way countries operate; no big deal.” But this isn’t how China operates. When has China ever sent spy planes over our soil? When was the last time China got caught planting way-to-many bugs in Air Force One? It’s not business as usual — it is stupid escalation in preparation for war against an enemy who is not even an enemy.

Well, I am sure the “boys with bugs” have some internal justification for screwing over the mutual trust between our countries’ businesses, but I doubt it has much to do with reality. The wealth of reports I pointed to previously all tell a similar story about China’s pleasant demeanor. Interestingly, none of them make a big deal out of the issue that Tom mentions. Even the United Nations has failed to bring up the Tibet “issue” since 1965, while Israel gets regularly lambasted. One must wonder, then, what is it that the oh-so-enlightened guy at the vegan health food store and the Wiccan with the “Free Tibet” bumper sticker know that the U.N. and our military planners don’t? The fact is, Tibet has been a part of China since before the USA even existed. For a period of time, the people of Tibet were impoverished and opressed by an autocratic religious cult that did not recognize the difference between “church” and “state”, but they have been liberated for many years and are again enjoying prosperity. I am not aware of any world government except the government of college-town sophisticates which does not recognize the Tibet Autonomous Zone as being legitimately ruled by China. Here are some facts:

Religion is not outlawed in China. In fact, even Tibetan buddhism is respected, and some of the largest religious buildings in Beijing are Tibetan. As my previous post and today’s events should make clear, the Chinese government is firmly opposed to anything that tries to usurp governmental powers, and any religious group that attempts to form political movement (and worse yet, dissent) will be crushed. The claim to power for the Dalai Lama is rooted entirely in religious belief. Any government or nation that is based entirely on the tenets of one religion is not going to be a government that represents the people. Democracy is no doubt an important characteristic of a nation, but secularism is just as essential. Tibet had neither. The government structure was more autocratic and secretive than even the Pope, and the basis of the alleged “nation” was clearly religious. How can the world tolerate such a government, let alone attempt to prop it up? And how can people who claim to be so enlightened convince themselves that it is acceptable to put the reins of a government in the hands of autocratic religious cult leaders? It defies common sense. And keep in mind that China has never persecuted buddhism (or any other religion for that matter); China simply forbids political religion. China is one of the most diverse multi-ethnic and multi-religious nations in the world — they do this by being ruthlessly efficient in their separation of church and state. I have taken lessons from two Tibetan Rinpoches and meditated at the temple here in Seattle, so I’m not trying to de-humanize the plight that some of these individuals have endured. They are wonderful people, and no doubt inspired by a love of humanity. However, admiring someone’s sincere motives and deeds does not automatically mean they are always right. And when someone says that it would be a “good thing” to let the Dalai Lama rule a country, I think that person has been so stunned by the Lama’s sweet countenance that they have temporarily lost their brain. Saying, “Dalai Lama is a nice human” does not mean “China has no right to rule Tibet”. And I can say from personal experience that the Tibetan diapora is a very political movement, so they shouldn’t be surprised that the Chinese government would rather they stay abroad.

And despite the much-publicized incident of a Tibetan “child buddha” being detained by the Chinese, the lives of the normal Tibetan people have improved dramatically since the liberation by the PLA. Tibet is undergoing rapid modernization (which is no doubt considered a crime by some people) and people participate in their local political processes. Admittedly, the political process is not “democracy”, but being able to join the party or various local councils is still an improvement over waiting to find out who would become the “child buddha” and wield supreme power.

Interesting insight can come from reading the declarations of the “Tibetan Government in Exile”. For example, in one document, they announce that they are no longer going to adhere to an agreement they reached. The first thing to notice is their insistence on associating themselves with democracy, citing “Tibetan Democracy Day” in the first paragraph. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that an organization run by someone who demands to be called “His Holiness” and has never done anything in a democratic manner would decide to paint themselves as “democratic”? Even more disturbing is the way that this short document spends so much time dwelling on the subject of “ethnic purity”. They bemoan the fact that people of other ethnic groups are moving into Tibet and diluting the purity of their race. Freedom of movement seems to be a hallmark of any democracy, so one wonders what kind of democracy these people are hoping to install? Maybe a democracy that doesn’t allow people of various “undesirable” ethnic groups to live there? Maybe an “apartheid” system where only people who were members of the Lama’s religion get to vote? What would His Holiness have done if he had installed his “democracy” and discovered that there was a diverse ethnic population? Perhaps engage in a little “cleansing”? How can these college-town sophisticates with their dreds and birkenstocks support a religious cult that is also based on maintaining ethnic purity of one ethnic group? It boggles the mind. One quote that I found very perceptive though, was this: “However, judging from the official statements and the experience of our recent contacts with the Chinese government, it is clear that the present leadership lacks a sincere commitment to find a solution to the issue.” Maybe there is no commitment to find a solution to “the issue” because it isn’t even an issue for the Chinese! I mean, the government in exile has an “issue”, but the people of Tibet are pretty happy, and the government of China is just running the country like they do every day. And not even the U.N. is fretting over “the issue” anymore. It gets kind of lonely getting people to negotioate “the issue” when you are the only one who has a problem.

Another post from just two days ago shows how strident the political rhetoric of this religious group can be. The correspondent admits that he has never in his life seen Tibet, then claims that “I hear that in Tibet it is difficult to find trustworthy friends. Every other person may be a spy for the Chinese.” So in a place where his ethnic group is the minority, even his own ethnic group are half working for the enemy. Strange to find opressed people so willing to work with the opressor. Next, he leaps from the concept that Tibet is a pacifist place to declaring “It is time we worked together for the independence of Tibet and for a safe and secure border for India.” If they are pacifists, how do they hope to provide security to India’s border. And furthermore, India’s border with China seems to be rather stable right now (although India still occupies some territory that was originally granted to China, most observers feel that China would rather that territory be administered by India anyway). Vajpayee is probably sitting in his office right now thinking, “Crap, with all this talk of economic growth and Pakistan threat, I missed the real threat. Heck, China might march right down here and depose my own secular self! I need some warriors to help defend me; I need FREE TIBET!”.

I’ll mention in closing another one of the popular China-bashing themes — that of human rights. The press gave very little treatment to the fact that the United States was recently voted off the United Nation human rights commitee, and China is a member. Of course, most would admit that running over students with tanks is abusive (as was shooting down students at Kent State), so it would be dumb to argue that China has a flawless human rights record. But, as the “boys with bugs” case should demonstrate, we should always try to hide that plank in our own eye before we start advertising our sliver-removal service. It is interesting that China has about 300,000 people in prison and a population of 1.2 billion, while America has 3 million people in prison and a population of 300 million. We have a population that is just 1/4th the size, but a criminal justice system that is ten times as large. Or, in perspective, our criminal justice system is 40 times more likely to lock up someone than China’s. And it’s not like our prisons are the most humane places. In fact, the prison situation in America is something that is unprecedented in the history of civilized nations — never before has a nation locked up so many of it’s own, and I think that qualifies as a “human rights concern”. No, this doesn’t justify abuses elsewhere, but the point is that the world is evolving and everyone is trying to figure things out. Pretending that America has got it all figured out (better than China) is arrogant and premature. As China’s economic situation improves, we already see improvements in human rights (while our prison population exploded during the “largest legal creation of wealth in the history of mankind”, as we so fondly called our bubble). There is no doubt that poverty causes human suffering, and human suffering causes people to do bad things. But if we are to condemn China for the suffering that their people felt when impoverished, would we then put the Dalai Lama on trial for the intense poverty the Tibetans endured under religious rule? Is Mao a savior for having the foresight to deliver Tibet from the opressive human-rights abuse known as poverty?

Perhaps another example closer to Tom’s heart would be the plight of the Hong Kong expatriates who left Hong Kong just before the Chinese resumed control of the port. Many of the wealthy ethnic Chinese wanted to move their money and persons somewhere they felt would be less risky. Many of them ended up in Tom’s area: West Vancouver, enjoying Canada’s liberal Visa policies while storing their money in tax havens outside of Canada. Not long after this mass migration started to wind down, though, the B.C. government decided to pass a new law permitting them to tax residents based on holdings outside of Canada. In other words, the rules changed, and all of the wealth that the refugees thought they had protected was no longer protected. The most interesting thing about the law (to me) was that somehow it didn’t apply to the Bronfman family money. The provision was not overtly targeting the new immigrants, but that was the effective result.

There are no obvious answers, and that’s the lesson. Answers like “China is an agressive human-rights abuser” and “Free Tibet!” are just too simple. It’s easy to make simple assertions like these when the people we’re talking about are on the other side of the ocean, but they are humans too — 1.2 billion humans who aren’t any different than the rest of us. Is it really reasonable to think that they are all wired backwards (or worse yet, they are stupid thralls of some evil dictator and lack the free will and initiative that we have to participate in their political processes with good motives)? It’s just not logical, and I don’t think Americans have the luxury of ignorance any more. We can think deeper than that.

long knives

Long Knives – The HP saga just gets more insane. One HP board member writes a letter explaining why he voted against the rest of the board, so the rest of the board writes a letter calling him a senile kook. Paraphrased, “he’s a musician and academic who knows nothing about business.” Of course, that’s not what they said when they nominated him for the board positions. Shareholders have got to be wondering who else on the board was misrepresented when being nominated. Apparently board members are considered competent based on how well they unanimously agree with the rest of the board. I’m sure shareholders are also wondering how it is “in the interests of the shareholders” to spend shareholders’ money on television commercials lobbying to convince them to vote a certain way. Do shareholders get to vote about whether or not they would like to spend their own money being told how to vote? I’m sure I don’t know the whole story, but it seems pretty cutthroat.


China – Speculation about the Chinese government’s reasons for recently endorsing Red Flag Linux have, IMO, missed the point. They aren’t interested in Red Flag because it is Linux; they’re interested in Red Flag because it is Chinese, and completely under control of Chinese. The Chinese leadership is notorious for being extremely wary of having any critical pieces of infrastructure be owned or controlled by foreign interests.

News is that Microsoft has taken a minority stake in a new joint-venture in Beijing, called Zhongguancun Software. Zhongguancun district of Beijing is where many of the famous institutes are located, including the Chinese Sciences Academy. It’s quite close to MSR Beijing. Read the Zhang Qi quote; it’s pretty obvious that the Chinese are not opposed to intellectual property rights. They’re just worried about intellectual property rights that belong to foreign interests. A joint venture like this allows software to be created which has intellectual property rights that belong to Chinese companies, and is therefore more trustworthy to the national leadership. China doesn’t want to be bludgeoned with the economic warfare instruments of the west, and at the same time, China wants to grow the national capabilities to produce intellectual property and reduce reliance on foreign suppliers. This is what Red Flag is about, and also what Zhongguancun Software is about. It’s just good policy for a nation which intends to become the “other” superpower.

Talking about ascendent China always stirs up the paranoid debate these days. One of the funniest I have seen recently is the talk of how “China Controls the Panama Canal” now. Presumably since Hong Kong megacorp Hutchinson Whampoa holds a number of contracts to operate the canals, and since Hong Kong is now part of China, this translates into “China can cut off America’s shipping bridge between Atlantic and Pacific at any time!” The funny part was how much steam this theory got before someone actually checked and found that less than 1% of the stock in Whampoa is owned by Chinese.

The People’s Daily tries to respond to each U.S. elected official who engages in alarmist rhetoric. Maybe they should just point people to the numerous studies commissioned for the Pentagon which all say pretty much the same thing: China isn’t an offensive threat. As this USAF study says, “The fundamental guideline of the military strategy of the Chinese PeopleÂ’s Liberation Army is the active defense. Since the establishment of the PeopleÂ’s Republic of China in 1949, no matter how the world situation changed, ChinaÂ’s military strategy always remained defensive in nature. China has not occupied a single square inch of foreign soil, nor has it possessed any overseas military base. Furthermore, China has not retained any military presence beyond its own territory. Instead, even though parts of Chinese territory are still occupied by its neighbors, China has shown great restraint and patience as it calls for peaceful solutions to the territorial disputes left by history.” They built a wall around the country to keep people out — that whould be indication enough that they aren’t very interested in visiting their neighbors. Also somewhat funny are the apocalyptic predictions that China will go-a-conquering when they run out of resources to feed their supposedly massively-growing population. Lack of local resources could certainly explain why England, Japan, and other island nations were imperialistic. But China isn’t an island, and this is why China was such an attractive target for the Japanese who invaded multiple times after running out of room on their own little islands.

The military reports all seem to agree that China’s future military growth will be to serve as a theatre deterrent, so that no non-Chinese powers can make military moves in the Asia-Pacific theatre without first considering China’s national interests. That includes the United States and Japan, in particular, but is consistent with how China views their relationship with the world. They don’t want anyone being able to unilaterally exercise military or economic power against another nation. Especially in their own back yard, they want to make sure that their interests are not vulnerable to the whims of western nations. After all, it was in the interest of western “spheres of influence” that so many Chinese were encouraged to become opium addicts in the 19th century, which led to the decay of the empire and set the conditions for the rise of modern China. This is very recent history for China — they aren’t demanding reparations, they just want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Taking this in context with the rational analysis of our own military, it is really hard to see any justification for the histrionics some of the pundits go into. China is just doing what any responsible nation has an obligation to do. Perhaps the best overview of China’s current military goals and strategies is this report delivered to congress by the Department of Defense.


Serious – I reported a while ago that Brian Valentine has been assigned to head up efforts to improve security across all Microsoft products and the rest of the industry. Brian is famous internally for being a “hammer guy”. That is, he is the 50,000 pound daisycutter bomb that gets dropped when you absolutely cannot afford to miss. It’s understandable, though, that some people externally might not have realized the significance of this assignment and what it says about the company’s seriousness in wanting to make a difference. But now that Bill Gates memo on the topic has leaked, it should be really clear how serious this issue is for Microsoft. The cynics and haters will spin this a million different ways, but at the end of the day, this is a perfect example of why Microsoft is so strong and why most Microsoft employees don’t shop at for office decorations. Instead of promising the impossible, and instead of playing three billy goats gruff (“his security flaws are much bigger than mine, Mr. Troll”), Gates and Valentine are promising simply to make security be the top priority. And the promise has teeth; this reorientation is already being felt throughout the company. Nobody in the company has to feel conflicted about whether or not they should trade-off security for some other objective; the priorities are clear. This is the right thing to do, and more importantly, the right way to do it. And needless to say, Microsoft’s focus on this will have impact far across the industry. If that is not what good leadership is about, I don’t know what is.

OK, I have to comment on this Dann Sheridan comment about Microsoft and services. He says “Can Microsoft deliver 24×7 services? HELL NO! They are a software company, not an operations company. Bill, leave it to the carriers, ISPs, and managed hosting companies. Buy one if you have to, but don’t absorb it. Operations guys can’t survive in a software company and vice versa.” I think that Dann is making an important point, that the traditional culture of shrink-wrapped software places is different from the culture of places like telcos. Software coders are often cowboys, “code like hell with your hair on fire”, non-conformists, and so on. Keeping a service running requires people who are reliable, very cautious about making changes, process-oriented, and so on. However, I think he is being a bit unfair to Microsoft. First, I don’t necessarily see evidence that anyone he mentions is particularly good at maintaining a 24×7 service. I have yet to see cable television or an ISP (DSL, Cable, or otherwise) who provides anything close to 24×7. Next, he is ignoring the fact that Microsoft already runs a number of services that are huge in scale. MSN is an example of a service that competes with (and sometimes beats) AOL and Yahoo in terms of volume. The MSN services and Windows Update services are some of the largest services out there, period — no managed hosting company is managing anything of that scale. The operations teams at Windows Update and MSN are some of the most experienced and disciplined in the world. Asheron’s Call is a different sort of service that is wildly successful and a steady revenue stream for Microsoft. Of course, for an organization that has always been dominated by shrinkwrap people, there is always a danger that people with operational skills will be overlooked for compensation and responsibility increases in favor of people who the top management find easier to understand. But the MSN group have a pretty good vision of who it is that keeps them running, and the other managers aren’t stupid. And to demonstrate the point that operations and software guys are not always incompatible, consider Google. Google has got to be one of the most successful software-based services out there, in the sense that it is profitable, people use it because the functionality is good, and it requires tremendous operational expertise to keep it working. And I am sure you can think of other examples besides google.

In any case, I am not arguing that outsourcing operations is a bad idea — Dann presents options that could be very sensible. I just think it’s incorrect to assume that Microsoft defacto can’t or shouldn’t own operations when outsourcing is available.