The offer you can't refuse

The offer you can't refuse

Summary: Some of you may have noticed that I've started blogging for ZDNet. As of next Wednesday, I'll have my own blog section, so expect to see more of me.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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John Carroll Some of you may have noticed that I've started blogging for ZDNet. As of next Wednesday, I'll have my own blog section, so expect to see more of me. For those who come to ZDNet regularly for news, though, this is not the first time the name "John Carroll" has been applied to commentary that is far longer than it's supposed to be (as this one is).

I've been participating in ZDNet Talkbacks for a long time. Just to put into perspective how long, I made my first post in late 1997 or early 1998. Back then, Talkbacks were a bit more free-form. There weren't hierarchical response trees, much less titles, so people engaged in an argument had to prefix their responses with "To So and So" to keep a thread going. Email addresses were also displayed for all the world to see, which is why the address I used then is now my permanent spam email address.

I started writing articles for ZDNet when they introduced "Talkback Central" sometime in 2000. ZDNet dangled a call for articles written by Talkback participants. It was unpaid, but the attraction was that it would be listed alongside other articles on ZDNet. Being the opinionated SOB that I am, I bit, and posted my first article for ZDNet (which seems rather primitive from a writing standpoint, but practice makes perfect, I guess). Well, some people get addicted to jogging, others to video games, and others to heroin. I got addicted to writing, and I bit the ZDNet writing lure more than 50 times over the past four years, continuing after Talkback Central disappeared.

My opinions have always been more "pro-Microsoft" than is typical of readers of ZDNet (or rather, those moved to post to Talkbacks). Perhaps it's due to my economics background and the self-taught nature of my computer education, or perhaps I'm just ornery. Either way, it's a fact that I prefer programming for Microsoft technology, and that is clearly reflected in the opinions I espouse on ZDNet.

I've also had an interest in film and media. The company that drew me to Switzerland in May of 2000 was involved in "Interactive Television." I filmed and edited two documentaries while in Switzerland, and was the director of photography, editor, foley artist, and music editor / creator (among other roles) for a film produced in Limerick, Ireland.

Now, imagine that a) you enjoy programming, b) you prefer programming with Microsoft technology, and c) you have a strong interest in video media, when Microsoft suddenly offers you a position helping LA-based content creators and telcos to integrate with the IPTV platform. IPTV is, essentially, a solution for broadband networking companies to offer cable services over that same broadband network.

Kind of hard to turn down, don't you think? Well, maybe not for those with an instinctive hatred for everything Microsoft, but I'm not afflicted with that disease. I accepted their offer, and as of May 23, I will be a card-carrying Microsoft employee.

How will that affect what I write on ZDNet? IPTV is a beta product, and so there will be limitations on what I can say about it (if anything). On the other hand, IPTV is deep in left field relative to the topics I tend to discuss. So, I don't think it will affect much.

Remember though, that I will not be an official spokesperson for Microsoft. Granted, a Microsoft blogger on ZDNet is a bit like finding a Cassowary wandering around downtown Los Angeles. That doesn't make the Cassowary a business executive. Likewise, my placement on ZDNet does not make my posts the gospel according to Bill Gates.

Will I be biased? I've been programming professionally for more than 11 years. During that time, I've used a wide variety of computing technology, and had opinions on all of them. I found that I preferred programming with Microsoft technology. So, if by "bias" you mean I will rely on 11 years of computing experience to guide my opinion, then yes, I will be biased.

Bias does not imply lack of reason. It just means that you have weighed the alternatives and come to your own subjective conclusions. People with opinions are better sources of information than those who lack them. Who do you think is a better source of information, some milquetoast generalist who feigns disinterest or an enthusiast whose affection for his favored technology drives him to understand all he can about it?

I prefer Microsoft solutions, and now I'm a Microsoft employee. My preferences, however, don't imply lack of reasons for those preferences, reasons that even a dyed-in-the-wool penguinista might find useful.

So, fasten your seatbelts, here we go...

Topic: Microsoft

John Carroll

About John Carroll

John Carroll has delivered his opinion on ZDNet since the last millennium. Since May 2008, he is no longer a Microsoft employee. He is currently working at a unified messaging-related startup.

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30 comments
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  • About bias

    I'll be straight-forward, I tend not to look at who wrote an article unless I find something wrong with it or it comes across with a particularly strong bias. And very often I see your name as the writer. Now, I don't see bias as particularly bad, except if you claim to represent yourself as impartial (Fox News for example). You have stated clearly where your interests lay so I don't have a problem with it myself. As long as you don't present yourself as something you are not. I doubt most of the considerate people will have a problem, either.

    Now to state my own bias in interests of fairness. I'm a gamer and wouldbe developer, so I use windows. I've a great deal of respect for the Open source community. And I think that even their fanatics have a point. Microsoft does things that could be viewed as 'evil'. At the very least disingenuous. But that has become the nature of corporations in the world. Microsoft does not deserve trust. There is no such thing as the benefit of the doubt, when you are trying to take money from my pocket. It is their job to prove the value of their product, not the value of their marketing team.

    Anyways, good luck with the gig.
    Zinoron
    • In the eye of the beholder

      [i]I'll be straight-forward, I tend not to look at who wrote an article unless I find something wrong with it or it comes across with a particularly strong bias. And very often I see your name as the writer.[/i]

      Perception of bias often depends on one's own opinions, and the fact that I might not agree with them will make the presumption of bias more likely.

      What is bias, exactly? I would say it is opinions that make you more likely to research areas along your interests and less likely to find the stuff that might run counter to it. I tend to read more books on free trade, and less Chomsky (though that's an extreme example).

      That's why I always read with interest statements made by the leading lights of open source, or the Dana Blankenhorn's of ZDNet. Are they biased, hell yes, but as noted, that means they tend to do research into areas I might not, because I, too, am biased. I have opinions, and that tends to guide the areas I apply my effort.

      Thanks for the good wishes. I feel like I'm merging onto the highway after spending the past years on easy-going side roads. Should be interesting.
      John Carroll
      • Courage

        At least you're the ONLY one here to publicly STATE that you work for M$. Except maybe for the site owner . . .
        Roger Ramjet
        • Don't be paranoid

          I didn't work for Microsoft for the past 5 years, and I still have the same opinions I do now. People at ZDNet don't work for Microsoft, either.

          Some people will just disagree with you, and it's NOT because they are paid to do so. Honest.
          John Carroll
          • Rock and a hard place

            Whether you like it or not (agree or not) your future articles and opinions will reflect nothing more than the PR value of a Microsoft spokesperson. ZDNet, also, should understand the fact.
            You will have to identify yourself as a MS employee each time you write an article, or someone else will do it for you, or you become nothing more than an 'independent', paid reporter like ones Bush administration employs.
            You will have to tow the official MS line, unless you want to look for another line of work real soon. You may think you article is so off-the-beat that it has nothing to do with MS until your receive an e-mail from Bill to retract your story and opinions.
            On the whole - I'd say start concentrating on your new job and forget about writing.
            Thanks for your past contributions, good luck, and perhaps we'll hear from you under a new alias.
            olngrumpy
  • A good UNIX friend of mine

    went over to the "dark side" a few years back. He ended up writing SFU - Windows services for Unix. Anything that allows M$ to better interoperate with *NIX is good. And this gets to the crux of my dislike for Windoze - M$ refuses to work nice with others. Instead of working to "weave" itself into the computer "fabric", M$ wants it all - and creates hurdles for everyone else.

    IPTV sounds interesting - like another M$ try at a set top box (4 times now, including "webTV"). If you put DRM in it, and require monthly payments to M$ - then its a non-starter, but as long as you're getting paid - what the heck!
    Roger Ramjet
    • IPTV

      [i]IPTV sounds interesting - like another M$ try at a set top box (4 times now, including "webTV").[/i]

      Microsoft always keeps trying. They had a bunch of slow starts with PocketPC and now dominate in units shipped. They also have a lot more industry buy-in this time around, given the number of telcos trying out IPTV.

      I'm looking forward to it, to say the least. Should be quite exciting.
      John Carroll
      • PocketPC

        "They had a bunch of slow starts with PocketPC and now dominate in units shipped."

        Yeah, after paying off Steve Jobs to MURDER the Newton. Heck, Palm was just a software vendor to the Newton, and THEY were able to make a dynamite handheld.

        IPTV DOES fit into the WiMAX steamroller scenario. The one box that the entire living room is keyed into will be VERY important! M$ better get it right - people are MORE picky about their TV then their OS . . .
        Roger Ramjet
        • Links?

          [i]Yeah, after paying off Steve Jobs to MURDER the Newton. Heck, Palm was just a software vendor to the Newton, and THEY were able to make a dynamite handheld.[/i]

          Any links to support that claim? I have a hard time believing Jobs would kill off the Newton to satisfy Microsoft, but I could see poor sales causing it...which was the real reason, IMO.
          John Carroll
        • Not the WiMAX again :)

          Roger,

          I swear you have to be working for Intel or something to bring up WiMAX in each and every post that you write, regardless or relevance. I mean if one took your word on WiMAX at face value, one would believe it would solve world hunger :).
          george_ou
      • It's the telcos who are your customers anyway

        Of course that'll mean you'll have tougher customers to satisfy than your average desktop user.

        Honestly as long as it works I could care less what my vendors use for software or hardware. So if my provider decides to use your product, that's on them. Any other possible solution they would use would have DRM of some sort anyway, so it's not like one would be able to download every and any movie they can and share it on bittorrent. And they would be providing the hardware (and software), so it's not like I'd have to deal with it. So hey, as long as you can satisfy the telcos' tough demands, go for it. Sounds like an interesting challenge.
        Michael Kelly
  • Good luck...

    as for the bias of your opinion pieces...well, I will just keep my opinion to myself :)
    Patrick Jones
  • Glad you're getting your own soapbox.

    You're right more often than most providers of their opinions here.

    The only place we've disagreed broadly is about the role of government. I tend to see chances to game the market where you see the dead hand of regulation. Try to see the customers as more vulnerable on those issues, please.

    So I'm looking forward to your opening essay on open source's deleterious impact on employment. Start with the easy ones, right?!
    Anton Philidor
    • Perhaps an interesting time ahead.

      If John C. does that opinion piece, I've already 26 paragraphs of considered rebuttal written. And yes, Anton, they are easy to combat. Not to divert too much from John's moment of introduction, but could you explain that difference you perceive? "chances to game the market" and all?

      Just curious.
      John Le'Brecage
      • As you can see, John C...

        ...the engines of dispute are being wrestled into position. As the paragraphs roll off your platen, I expect you'll see visions of people yanking cords and hear the roar of throttles.

        26 paragraphs? Each with a logical flaw to be devastated. Eventually, the original and the cratered, smoking ruin of your argument will be declared a park, where posters of the future will wander awestruck, murmuring, "They were giants in those days."
        Anton Philidor
        • The giants are just as dead...

          ... as those they slew. More likely, should any of the battle survive, historians will looks back at our arguments about proprietary vs FOSS economies, Free vs limited culture, Free vs limited markets, responsible vs unfettered speech and think us all, every single one, rather quaint and irrelevant.

          And since I'm in a quaint and irrelevant mood, could you please answer my clarifying question. John C might understand what you mean, but this John is mystified. I'm not going to argue what you present, I'd just appreciate a bit of exposition; if you've a moment to write it.
          John Le'Brecage
    • Markets and Government

      I do see some role for government to "game" the market, such as with health care, or even incentives to get a new technology off the ground. Too often, though, governments attempts to engineer a market into existence (as they did with telecommunications post-AT&T) fails, because government CAN'T do that well. It's like me trying to plan purchases for all the households in a 12 block radius. I won't do it as well as they would.

      Anyway, no matter. I don't expect everyone to agree with everything I see, and we seem to agree on broad swathes of things. On the other hand, I rarely agree with Mr. Le'Brecage. Not that that doesn't make him interesting to talk to, though responding to him can make my fingers hurt.
      John Carroll
      • To "game" the market is to cheat, ...

        ... primarily by misleading. Enron's use of special purpose entities gamed the stock market, and they weren't even illegal until the 3% private equity shares were protected against loss.
        I'm using "game" instead of anything implying a crime because, as with Enron, too many cheats aren't crimes.

        What government can do is investigate, determine, and punish, as with some of the things Spitzer has discovered. (Not that he's interested in punishing the major players.)

        Government can also set ground rules necessary to equalize power between buyer and seller, as when farmers could bring their crops to market only by railroad. The prices taking advantage of the farmer were outrageous. And legal, until laws were passed and effective enforcement implemented.

        I do not appreciate the products of any company so much that I trust them. And only government can verify and restrict to protect the public.


        Anyway, let the debates begin.
        Anton Philidor
  • We sing the theme from "all in the Family" to the tune of "Family Guy"?

    My how time wounds all heels and heals all wounds? I'd forgotten that ancient lack of threading, though ZD-Net Australia still uses that ancient forum software. Man-oh, did you and I have fun in those days? Some of those debates were epic. You and I competed to see which of us could make the longest, most eclectic and most intricate post, or put another way: who could open the biggest can of worms. Of all the unpaid opinionated braggarts on ZD-Net, you and I have had the longest lifespan.

    How much our backgrounds have interlaced over the many years has always amazed me. My background is also self-taught, but I learned by experimenting with the languages, OS, and equipment around me - at first on timeshare systems and then on home-built hardware. My interest in video started with stop-motion animation of 16mm film and culminated in the founding of the student television station at my (second) alma mater. My current client hired me to program OpenGL processing effects for a GNU/Linux-based DVD mastering system.

    You chose your Operating Platform, as you admit, for reasons of what you learned first. I've come full crircle through several OP: first UNIX, then CP/M, OS-9000, DOS, Win-16, AmigOS, and then back to Unix and now GNU/Linux. You ask the question; whom would I trust - a generalist or a specialist?

    Well, now my bias shows. I'd trust a generalist unless I had a specialist need. To paraphrase Heinlein, "I deplore this modern overspecialization."

    The generalist can draw on experience from other platforms. He's not locked into the thinking of any one platform and can freely borrow ideas from any. He may use terms that a specialist cannot identify, because he doesn't speak manualspeak or vendorspeak, but rather speaks principles. He may not know how any one system provides a facility but he knows how to provide that facility. He markets only his own talent and not a vendors products.

    Here's an example drawn from our past: a specialist application developer needs an HTML parser built into, or provided by, his operating platform. He would be up the proverbial creek if he had to choose one from alternatives or worse yet, from his perspective, start from scratch and write one. The specialist knows only one place to look for solutions, what he has in front of him, what he knows intimately. He insists that the platform needs to have that facility for the 10% of applications that really require it, rather than having it installed only on those systems that need the support.

    As an MIS once unpopularly observed, "If it cannot be done in COBOL; the computer cannot do it." He was the epitome of a COBOL specialist. He could not see anything outside of the facilities and prospects offered by his chosen platform. He could not see the power offered by other languages and other platforms. He was locked into a modalism or in a 60's parlance: he had drunk the Kool-Aid.

    A generalist, by contrast, does not require an HTML parsing facility to be embedded with his operating platform. If there is one; he can utilize it, but if not; he can write one in a scant 50 lines of lex and yacc (flex and bison for the GNUs) to achieve the same purpose on one platform and compile the output for his desired platform. The generalist knows he can pluck the necessary code from a Python, PERL, Pascal or C implementation within the license restrictions. The generalist knows not only his own toolkit, but the strengths of other toolkits and because of this knowledge he can do comparative analysis of the strength of different solutions and because of this knowledge he can offer his client optimal solutions.

    The generalist knows there is much more to his PC than what is. It's not that he hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid, but rather that he's sampled so many different flavours, potencies, and potentialities that he dreams further than the specialist. He advocates from a position of authority because he knows the weaknesses and the strengths of the competition.

    As a Microsoft specialist, you've now put yourself in the ideal position as a technologist, though not perhaps as a writer. You've now a company line to espouse and an unwavering faith in a single viewpoint to support. As a specialist perhaps you're comfortable operating that way. As a generalist, I never could be. My ethics and integrity are more important than the company line. Too many compromises make not for trust, but for suspiscion.
    John Le'Brecage
    • Well put.

      I must agree. And for me it is more important to be informed rather than advocated to. To understand both positives and negatives of a particular whatever. In the end its all about making better choices.
      Zinoron