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Permanent link to archive for Saturday, August 25, 2001. Saturday, August 25, 2001

Paul Boutin is blogging from Burning Man!

LA Times op-ed: "Then we have Microsoft. No choice, no spice, no soul, no pleasure."

Eric Raymond: "If we were still in a boom time, we might still have the luxury of perfect doctrinal purity." Ugh.

WSJ: PC sales continue to fall. "For the first time in 15 years, world-wide personal-computer sales will likely be lower this year than last."

Ruben Daniels has an XML-RPC client for JavaScript.

Andreas Bolka has an XML-RPC to POP gateway.

Women in our industry 

JabberCon was great, but like all geek conferences, the male-female ratio was about 50-to-1. On the drive to Keystone I had an idea. There must be conferences where the ratio is reversed. So let's pair conferences? A librarian conference at the same facility as a developer conference. They'd get better software and we'd get more users and kinder feedback? I really like making software for librarians. I wish they knew.

Megnut read the piece I had here earlier, and provides a fantastic demo of the attitude Doris Lessing talked about in her Guardian interview.

I've put my essay back online so you can read it. I agree with Meg that there should be more women in the leadership of our industry (that's what my essay was about) but work with us, don't dismiss our pov just because we're men. You can't win by becoming the pigs you despise.

I've had a lot of talks about this with friends who are powerful women in our industry, notably Sylvia Paul, who founded Gracenet. Women are great organizers. You'll never see a Gracenet for men in high tech. We stink at promoting our gender and supporting each other. But some of us do appreciate the big picture and are tired of life on the low road. Let's work for win-wins. Sylvia knows I mean it. Meg, if you've really been reading my site, you know it too.

Allchin, Gillmor and Fahrni 

I'm having lunch with Microsoft's Jim Allchin on Tuesday. Dan Gillmor was invited too, but can't make it because he's beginning a round-the-world trip today. Have a great trip Dan. He promises to update us from the road.

So, what will we talk about on Tuesday. You can help there. I had a phone talk with a Microsoft PR guy yesterday to prep for the meeting. I said I'm looking for win-wins. I was opposed to breaking up Microsoft for a long time, but they didn't show any will for self-restraint, and I didn't see any way for independent developers to win with Microsoft. But nothing's that simple. I appreciate Microsoft. While the open source bluster was wrecking my market, Microsoft invested in us, by helping create SOAP. They were friendly to us when others left us for dead. I don't forget this.

I also spoke with Dan yesterday. He said he was very excited about what's going on between Jabber and Blogger with XML-RPC. I can work with that, for sure. At least the conversation is off Microsoft for a few minutes. I like that. Now, of course it immediately swung to Microsoft, as all conversations in the software industry quickly do. I asked Dan to consider approaching them from a different angle, and I'm going to ask all of you to do that as well.

Remember that it's a 45K person company. Read Breaking Windows. You can see that there are a lot of threads inside Microsoft. They don't all march in lock-step to the will of Bill. When Dan condemns Microsoft, he's disempowering those at Microsoft who want the company to change, who remember what a fast-growing software ecology looks like, and understand how stifled the market is by Microsoft's dominance.

I got a great email yesterday from Rob Fahrni, who works at Microsoft on Visio. We exchanged a little email after he helped me by Visio-izing my hand-drawn block diagram. Here's what he said. "What you guys are doing reminds me of the early days at Visio. Back when we just slammed code and got stuff done! I'm really excited about this stuff. I'm trying to steal time at night to work on a C++ implementation to post to Blogger, and now Manila! Thanks for creating XML-RPC, it's way slick!"

So don't tell me Microsoft is evil because my friend Rob works there. Now, so do other people who have no appreciation for the kind of joyful creativity that only free developers can practice. I want to help Rob if I can, and others at Microsoft, those who remain, with bright eyes, who think that creativity happens outside the confines of Microsoft.

So I asked Dan to state his terms for approval of Microsoft. What would they have to do in order for you to become a fan, instead of a constant critic? Then I realized I should do what I asked Dan to do. State my terms. So here I go again.

To the leadership at Microsoft, here's what I want from you. First, go talk to Rob. Ask him why he's excited. Let that guide you -- what can you do to grow the software industry today? Right now, imho, the best thing you can do is pull out of areas that you control exclusively and let the market do its job.

Offer choice everywhere you don't. We know you know how to do APIs. Make the identity server in XP subject to user choice. Give developers an API and give the user choice. This makes the UI a little more complex, but it will foster growth, and as the largest entity in the software industry, growth at this level is necessary to your growth and survival. The ecosystem is horribly out of balance. To restore balance, you must get out of the way.

Decouple the evolution of the browser from the operating system and the apps. This is where you got nailed by the Appeals Court. Eight judges say you screwed up, and this developer says you screwed up too. In the past you've made the mistake of dissing both developers and judges. Now it's caught up with you. But it's not such a bad deal, now you're so big, you don't need the protection that tied monopolies give you. You don't even have to be the best to win, just good enough.

Most people don't realize this, but Microsoft isn't as smart as it used to be. The average Softie today doesn't remember what it was like to win through competition. They're more adept at dealing with internal politics than they are at understanding ecosystems and fostering network effects. I may have a unique view into this because I live in the ecosystem, I've never worked at a company big enough to create the kind of internal noise that a 45K person company can, and I've somewhat successfully navigated the politics at Microsoft, as an outsider. Today's Microsoft reminds me more of Apple of the late 80s than it does of Microsoft of the late 80s. It also has a lot of the IBM of the early 80s. To the leadership at Microsoft, you need us to figure out where to go next. Your overhead is stifling to itself. Let's get it to stop stifling those who don't work at Microsoft.

And drop the patents, it's OK to trade them with other BigCo's, can't stop that, but don't accelerate the war. You'll be blamed for that. The threat that Mundie made to the open source developers is unseemly for a company of Microsoft's size and stature.

Net-net, Microsoft has made a total mess of its relationship with independent developers. The gaffe in OpenSourceLand is only the latest outrage. The fight with Java developers over WORA, the locked trunk that killed the HTML developer world was another. Depriving other platforms of air supply may be a good short term tactic, but if you want the trust of developers, stop the threats, treat us like a market, give us what we want, and help us drive markets. We've been through this so many times before. Stop and think, and ask if you believe that a super-BigCo can create all the growth you need, and if you really think it through, you'll realize that it can't.


Last update: Saturday, August 25, 2001 at 11:04 PM Eastern.

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