Microsoft hoses user data - <i>mea culpa</i>

Darn! It looks like I screwed up the Microsoft hoses user data - again!

Darn! It looks like I screwed up the Microsoft hoses user data - again! post. I'm sorry. I hate it when I do that.

While Microsoft did disable a number of early Word and other file formats, it wasn't as long a list as I thought from reading the KB article. While SP3 does block opening a number of file formats, the formats in question are older: all Word pre-6.0; PowerPoint pre-97; Excel 4.0 charts; dBASE II .dbf; Lotus and Quattro files; Corel Draw .cdr.

Textual analysis I take a text-heavy approach to the content on Storage Bits. I prefer to go to original source material, unpack the meaning and the context, and then give my take on it.

That usually works pretty well. But in this case it didn't.

What happened? I read a lot of technical documents. Most never get written about. But the Microsoft knowledge base article was an exception. Since Microsoft was the topic it also got a lot of attention from me and others

There is a lot of emotion around Microsoft. They are a big, powerful, immensely profitable and sometimes clueless corporation whose desktop monopoly is a fact of life for computer users and IT professionals.

I try to stay with the facts as best I can determine them. In this case I got confused by the KB article. That other people made the same mistake is small comfort and no excuse (see a Microsoft's David Leblanc's take here).

Lessons learned Other than resolving to analyze content from Microsoft more carefully, I'm not sure what else I would do differently. I didn't question their motives for the change, only the way it was handled.

However, I do have some suggestions for Microsoft.

  • Reducing functionality on an already purchased product is a problem. You should notify users when you limit product functionality and give them the opportunity to decline the update. Even if it is for their own good.
  • Suggesting that editing the registry or using esoteric admin tools to solve the problem is OK for the tech savvy. But what about my 85 year old neighbor Dorothy, whose computer is a lifeline to her great-grandchildren? Her late husband was an engineer, so she has files that go back quite a few years. Microsoft, you are both an enterprise and a consumer company. Own it.
  • Communication is worth spending money on. Tech writers tell me that Microsoft doesn't pay very well and, as a result, doesn't get very good tech writing. Maybe MCSEs are used to the style, but it sure didn't work for this tech-savvy consumer.

The Storage Bits take Tech is complicated and sometimes people - like I just did - get it wrong. Listening to criticism and learning from mistakes is how we all get better, even Microsoft. I hope you'll keep coming back to Storage Bits and I'll keep doing my level best to make it worth your time.

Comments welcome, as always.