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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 26/10/2005 I'm not sure what the opposite to a cub reporter is — presumably Great Bear — but whatever the term is, Colin Barker is your man. He has the unflappability born of years of experience: if Steve Ballmer ripped off all his clothes and swung from a chandelier chanting "I AM THE WALRUS GOD!

Wednesday 26/10/2005

I'm not sure what the opposite to a cub reporter is — presumably Great Bear — but whatever the term is, Colin Barker is your man. He has the unflappability born of years of experience: if Steve Ballmer ripped off all his clothes and swung from a chandelier chanting "I AM THE WALRUS GOD!", Colin's only reaction would be to ask whether the walrus would be available in 64-bit as well as 32.

But he was very disgruntled today. "I don't expect much from Microsoft," he said. "and I'm not normally disappointed. But this took the biscuit."

"Nice biscuits?" I asked.

"No biscuits. No nothing"

He'd been invited to Microsoft's London office to speak to some American types about enterprise software, strategy and so on. So he'd turned up on time, well-prepared for the interview and ready for action, and was shown to a windowless office in the basement. And that was that — no back-up material, no "anything you'd like?", not even the offer of a cup of tea. He sat there and watched the two Americans glug their way through cans of Coke and thought "it would be nice to have been asked." At the end of it, he was shown the door and that was that.

And the software? CRM — customer relationship management. It's all about making people feel loved, supported and wanted. Colin felt like he'd be summoned to take dictation.

I've never been comfortable with formal relationships, seeing them as depersonalising. In the pub a few evenings back, I asked a senior chap from elsewhere in our company how he thought our MD perceived us. "A basket of kittens", said my correspondent — which while demeaning to us, him and kittens is not the least truthful idea I've heard this week. And the relationship between PR and hack is even more open to ambiguity and tangled motivation: yes, they're nice to us more than we deserve, but then human relationships are rarely purely dependent on a precise calculus of worth.

Still, the offer of a cup of tea is pretty much the lowest acceptable sign of respect.

There's not much further to go — perhaps being thrown into a stinking dungeon, shackled to the wall and having PowerPoint shone directly into your eyes? For many people who work in the Thames Valley, that wouldn't even be a break from routine. There are even some who might find this an attractive theme for a club night.

Colin is not one of them. Next time, eh?