Another big sloppy wet kiss for the Borg

Check it out here. The New York Times runs a piece on Microsoft’s cloud computing effort today and it reads like a friggin two-page advertisement for the Beastmaster. Reading about all the wonderful things that the Microsoft Live service is going to do and how seamlessly it’s going to synch up with Windows Vista, well, you’d almost believe that this system is really going to work. But I mean, come on. You know it’s not going to work. It’s a classic Borg-style hodge-podge clusterfuck, with pieces that all have different user interfaces and different pulldown menus and all sorts of configuration hassles. Only now instead of just messing up your desktop they’ve messed up a bunch of servers and back-end systems too, so what used to be just a soul-destroying experience managing a Windows PC now gets magnified by, oh, the size of the Internet. Lord!

Trust me on this. Nothing in Windows Live will work the way they say it will. And when you complain they’ll tell you the problem isn’t with Windows Live, that the system works fine, that people are loving it, that the acceptance has been amazing, better than they projected, subscriber rates are the fastest they’ve ever seen, and if you’ve got problems it must be because you’re doing something wrong or maybe it’s the version of Windows you’re using and have you installed the latest Service Pack and maybe you should connect in with your computer so the Borgtards can verify that the software on your PC is legal and authorized and paid-for because probably you’re a software pirate or you’ve installed the software on too many PCs and you need to buy a new copy of Vista.

Or maybe you’ll just go online trying to find help so you can fix things yourself. And when you do you’ll find some brain-dead “knowledge base” with mind-numbing instructions that turn out, even after you’ve read them, not to make any sense, because the people who wrote the FAQs were describing an earlier version of the software, or simply weren’t paying attention, or were as pissed off and confused as you are after realizing that in fact the software actually doesn’t fucking work, or worse yet, they were just bored and underpaid and decided it would be fun to fuck with your head by giving you instructions that nobody can understand. Maybe they have competitions to see who can be the most inscrutable. I don’t know.

One thing I do know is how the Borg develops software. Imagine a hundred separate teams of Keebler elves all smoking crack and then being told to sit down in different parts of the world, without being able to communicate with each other, and dream up new cookie flavors, and you’ve got an idea how the Borg created Windows Live. Then a bunch of generic, soulless, humorless lab-produced MBA replicants (photo) who don’t know anything about technology and only went to Microsoft because they didn’t get offers from Procter and Gamble are put into a conference room and told to create some marketing plan for this pile of dog shit. Dream up a slogan and a name and some advertisements that will mislead people into thinking that Windows Live is all one big wonderful suite of software that was developed from the ground up to work as an organic whole, even though the pieces are all being rolled out at different times in different locations on different websites.

Then, mirabile dictu, as they say in ancient Greek, up pops a story in New York Times a few days ahead of release telling you exactly what Microsoft is going to tell you later in the week, so that when you hear it then, for the second time, it almost sounds true. You get it? The deal with the Borg (and with us, for that matter) is that if you want to be first with the story, then you have to write exactly what we tell you. The power of this as a communications tool, of course, is that then we get to set the agenda. Whoever goes first does the biggest story and gets the most space because he can brag to his editor that he’s got an “exclusive.” So we promise an exclusive and we eat up all of that precious real estate on the front page of the business section, and then when the rest of the mediatards sit down to write their stories later in the week most of them will be too busy to do any real reporting so they’ll just repeat what they read in the first guy’s story.

But even by the extremely low standards of the New York Times this one is pretty mind-blowing. I mean there are puff pieces, and then there are puff pieces, and then there are stories like this one, where afterward the guy whose name goes on the story feels like he’s got to shower a few times with lye soap before he can get enough of the Beastmaster’s stink off him to go back into the office and look at his colleagues, and even then he knows that some prick (probably Brad Stone) is going to come over and tell him that he’s still got a little bit of Bill’s jizz in his hair. Thing is, Markoff is a friend of mine. I like him. I’ll even actually sometimes exchange fake IMs with him (not me, personally, but Katie Cotton pretending to be me). He’s a good guy. He’s a hard-working, diligent, tough-nosed investigative journalist. So I know his byline is on this story, but seriously, what I want to know is, who actually wrote this? Katie Cotton says it was Frank Shaw, the Beastmaster’s head PR guy. Katie used some linguistic analysis tool to compare Frank’s writing on his blog to the writing in this story and says the similarities just leap out at you. Well, Frank Shaw, nice work. Really. You’re one of the greats. (Photo by Michel Felch, courtesy of Microsoft.)