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No Stopping Microsoft Haters

I feel for you, Scott Hanselman, I really do. I completely understand your wanting to address the irrational vitriol constantly directed toward Microsoft, especially by the developer community. But your blog post, "Microsoft killed my Pappy," won't alleviate anything. It just won't work. As the saying quoted by one commenter goes, "haters gonna hate."

I've got to admit, I used to vaguely dislike Microsoft. For all the usual reasons: big, monolithic, evil empire out to enrich itself through any means possible while trampling over the little guy, dictating to rather than listening to customers, and on and on.

Then I got this job and really began to look at the company. It's no more evil than any other corporate behemoth. It's doing some good things in open source development (Hanselman's bailiwick) and in many other areas. It produces first-class dev tools and listens to customers, changing things they don't like. Witness the silly ALL-CAPS fiasco for Visual Studio menus and much more important things like early access to Windows 8.1 for developers. Microsoft is a bunch of generally well-meaning people simply trying to do their job, just like you and me. As Hanselman pointed out, the company isn't nearly organized enough to be so evil.

But haters gonna hate. Of course, Hanselman is a much smarter guy than I am, and he knew that. Maybe he just got fed up with the unfairness of it all and had to address it. More likely, he wanted to slowly chip away at the issue and stir up some discussion. Which he surely did, with more than 250 comments to his post as I write this.

"I didn't work for The Man when all this [antitrust action and other things] went down, and I was as outraged as you were 20 years ago (assuming you were alive)," Hanselman said. "But now, I've been here pushing open source and the open web for over 5 years and things are VERY different."

He roused comments from a fair share of sympathizers, but, this being the Web, comments quickly deteriorated, with everybody attacking everybody. At one point, Hanselman had to step in with the comment, "Good discussion folks! Let's do keep the language clean and constructive and avoid hyperbole," after one profanity-laden post.

Readers came up with dozens and dozens of reasons to hate Microsoft, including killing off their favorite products (speaking of which: Keep Silverlight Alive!). One reader seemed to sum up the comments from that camp: "MS hate is well-deserved."

I don't think so. I think Microsoft is an easy target. Back when I vaguely disliked Microsoft, I used to work for a well-known, nationwide print/Web tech publication. After I left and began working with Microsoft technologies more, I saw a shocking pattern of bias against Microsoft at that media outlet. I couldn't believe it. One of the first things you learn in Journalism 101 is to be objective, no matter what your personal feelings (or maybe, these days, no matter how many clicks you're trying to get). That's gone out the window at that former company, and they might not even be aware of it.

I actually thought of collecting a bunch of headlines and lumping them together so the bias is readily apparent. The headlines with negative connotations must outnumber the others 10 to 1. One guy in particular has an absolute knack for taking any kind of news about Microsoft and putting a negative spin on it--even when the company does something (arguably, in my opinion) good. It's amazing. I felt like pointing this out to the editor in chief, a friend of mine, but I don't have time and anyway I quickly realized it would be useless. Haters gonna hate, and "news" organizations gonna chase clicks (yeah, me too). Everybody hates Microsoft? Feed the frenzy and watch the clicks climb in your Web site analytics tool. I can understand this attitude in opinion pieces, like this, but it's a much more insidious and dangerous practice when it seeps into so-called "objective" news articles. It demeans the company and my profession even more so.

Speaking of clicks, I garnered a few myself with an article titled "/* Microsoft should go to hell...*/: Developers Rip Microsoft in Source Code." I found it fascinating that so many developers took pains to attack Microsoft in source code comments. Who's going to read those? Hardly anyone, even after the code search tools came along. The article sparked a lively conversation on Hacker News. A much more recent post titled, "Ask HN: Why the Microsoft hate?" did even better, with 540 comments.

Over on Slashdot, a post titled, "Why Does Everyone Hate Microsoft?" garnered an incredible 1,540 comments (Hanselman's article isn't doing too badly over there either, with 721 comments just four days after publication).

I don't really know the answer to these questions, but they surely strike a nerve, with developers especially.

So please excuse my going off-topic with this deviant diatribe, data developers. Hanselman's article just exemplified something I think about every time I see Microsoft attacked in the "objective" press. But, like so many things that confound me these days, there's no stopping it.

Let's go positive! What do you LOVE about Microsoft? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 02/25/2014

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