By now, you'll probably have read about our poll over whether Microsoft's .Net or Sun and IBM's Java would be the primary technology for new web services this year. The poll seemed to show Java in the lead, until a concerted burst of voting over Christmas swung the result in the other direction. That concerted burst turned out to be a massive slug of interest from -- yes! -- microsoft.com. We found evidence of multiple voting, scripts trying to stuff the ballot, all that sort of thing. Naughty.
So, being a news organisation and all, we wrote about this. Which prompted some correspondence from within Microsoft, most notably from one person who forwarded a fragment of an internal MS email that purported to say, "Please don't vote in this poll, it'll be a mistake".
Interesting. Was this as it seemed -- a real email from a real MS person? Or was it some MS firefighting PR person trying to spin things out of trouble? Given that MS employees aren't really supposed to talk to the press, we could land matey in trouble if we just phoned up the PR company and asked, but how else to tell?
Google. We plugged our pal's name into the behemoth search engine, and pieced together the results. They were consistent: these days, if you're a computer bod going through college and a string of programming/system jobs, you'll leave your footprints all over the place. In a few minutes, we had a good feel for our chum's career to date, whether he'd have the sort of interest in the affair that he seemed to evince, and more besides.
So, we decided, the evidence was that the voting really was by a load of over excitable MS software developers who really should have been at a Christmas party somewhere, in the face of considerable pressure from wiser heads not to bother.