Halloween VIII: Doing the Damage-Control Dance

Everybody remember the Gandhi quote?

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Gentlemen and ladies, this newest leaked memo from Microsoft confirms that we are advancing through GandhiCon Three.

As usual, highlights are in this color and comments are in {this color, also bracketed for the color-blind}. Also as usual, the memo is otherwise unedited and exactly as I received it, with one exception: in the text version I was sent, the last bullet item was inexplicably positioned after the sender sig "Orlando".

Some analysis follows the memo.

From: Orlando Ayala
Sent: Monday, November 25, 2002 5:22 AM
To: GMs of Subsidiaries
Cc: Mich Mathews; Mike Nash; Craig Mundie; Brad Smith (LCA); Pamela Passman (LCA); Vivek Varma; Orlando Ayala's Direct Reports
Subject: OSS and Goverment

{Probably LCA = "Law and Corporate Affairs". Passman's bio suggests this interpretation.

We need to more effectively respond to press reports regarding Governments and other major institutions considering OSS alternatives to our products. We must be prepared to respond to announcements, such as this one by the Japan Government (or prior announcements in Peru, Germany etc) quickly and with facts to counter the perception that large institutions are deploying OSS or Linux, when they are only considering or just piloting the technology. Announcements by governments are reported quickly around the world and require more coordination. In several instances, our ability to communicate effectively has been hindered by a lack of integration across groups in Redmond and the subsidiaries.

{Translation: We can expect a lot more OSS adoption announcements. This deer-caught-in-the-headlights paralysis thing has got to stop!}

What to Escalate: Any instance of government organizations and significant corporate customers who are planning to study, support or deploy OSS including Linux and Star Office that is likely to generate media attention (as differentiated from the COMPHOT alias). Any media coverage detailing the real or expected announcement of a government organization of corporate customer to study, support or deploy OSS.

{Translation: The peasantry is getting restless. Not only must we be prepared to deploy massive armadas of marketing suits to squelch "real" unrest, we must begin jumping at "expected" shadows.}

{COMPHOT would appear to be another mailing list, possibly one devoted to competitive hot spots. Isn't it interesting that it's the combined attack on the OS monopoly and office-suite monopoly that really worries them? And they're missing a trick. The real threat isn't StarOffice, which they could scuttle by taking out Sun. The real threat is OpenOffice.}

How to Escalate: Send an email immediately (same day) to the OSSI alias. This group includes members from the Security Business Unit, Server Marketing, LCA and Corporate PR who can quickly pull in additional stakeholders, influence business decisions, create and communicate PR guidance. Your mail should include the following information:

{Translation: we have a high-level damage-control group knit together with an "OSSI" mailing list that everybody in the To line knows enough about that we don't have to give its full name.}

  • Designate the subsidiary owner (s) and their 24 hour contact information
  • Explain the overall validity of claim, what is being reported, what is true/false
  • Explain how and where the organization fits within govt structure (is it a small/medium/large department, how much influence does it have on other IT decisions, are their political influences at play, is there a commitment to deploy, what are the specific details of the announcement, what are the next steps)
  • Explain likely influences, bottom line reasoning on why this is happening (i.e. security, cost, politics)
  • {Translation: They could be moving because our software's security sucks dead maggots through a straw, or because our licensing terms are highway robbery and feloniously illegal in some jurisdictions, or because some politician got a nationalistic bug up his ass. Better pray it's the last, because if it's either of the first two we are completely screwed.}

  • Explain Microsoft's presence in the account
  • Name the key contacts within the gov't
  • {Translation: Who can we suborn?}

  • Name available third parties/potential defenders
  • {Translation: Who are our paid shills and astroturfers this week?}

  • Provide detail on the writer and their media who are writing the story, i.e. are they technical, political, sensational
  • {Translation: Find out if we can shoot the messenger, dammit!}

The Commitment From Corporate:

  • Deliver, at minimum, guidance and messaging regarding any new instance within the same business day of your mail being received, including WW communication to prepare all subs
  • {WW probably equals "World Wide" here. "subs" = "subsidiaries"}

  • Follow up with additional guidance, messaging and content within a second business day, including customer and government communication tools
  • {Translation: we don't expect the stuff we gave you on the first business day to have actually helped.}

  • ecome much better in giving messaging and content proactively on OSS and Linux related issues.
  • {We'll start by learning how to type the word "become" correctly. We promise.}

  • Todd and MarkM to coordinate with SueB on Mike Nash participation in Linux business press tour
  • {Translation: We don't think enough of our big customers understand that we consider Linux a major competitive threat, so we're going to send Mike Nash on a press tour to introduce it to them.}


Orlando Ayala is the Group Vice President of Microsoft's Worldwide Sales, Marketing and Services Group. For a good indication of the sterling quality of human being we are dealing with here, read this buzzword-suffused speech. There are bios of Ayala and the recipients on the Microsoft site.

This is an unusual Halloween memorandum in that it's not particularly redolent of evil. It's a reactionary memo about trying to become less reactionary, the sort of thing that gets churned out daily by clueless corporate droids everywhere. They're tired of constantly being caught by surprise and want to do something about it.

Out here in open-source land, we genuinely enjoy helping our fellow sophonts out of plights like this one. Might we suggest that daily monitoring of the Linux User Group of Davis's Reasons to Avoid Microsoft page would be helpful?

In public, Microsoft is now focusing on the cost argument, having lost last February's argument about security when the Gartner Group told its customers to stay the hell away from IIS because it has insoluble security problems. This memorandum reveals that they're fully aware not merely of the security and cost problems, but also of the problem of revolt by sovereign governments against Microsoft hegemony. It makes especially interesting reading in combination with Halloween VII.

Which leaves us with one burning question: whatever happened to Ed Muth? He was fun to play with! He appears to have become a non-person on the Microsoft website, and there is some evidence they may have demoted him and exiled him to Australia.

(Rob Landley assisted with the preparation of this article.)

Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>