I was originally going to entitle this "Microsoft Bashing" but elected to change the title and you’ll see why shortly, I hope.
I just returned from the CSIT Symposium in New York which was a spectacular event. As you might imagine, a single day in New York would be an expensive but three days goes above and beyond that. We were at Columbia and New York Universities and the Lincoln Centre. Busing was certainly necessary for moving the conference around and I have a new found appreciation for bus drivers. You’ve never seen skill until you’ve seen negotiations of the narrow streets of Greenwich Village.
For a conference of this size to be funded by registrations alone would have made the cost prohibitive for those on educators’ salaries and so corporate sponsors have stepped up to help out. The Anita Borg Institute, Google, Microsoft Research, and Duke University have generously helped out to support computer science teachers in their quest for learning. You’d think that people would be eternally grateful.
I don’t know anyone formally at Microsoft except for Alfred Thompson and so I wanted to make an effort to corner him and say thanks. That’s no small task; Alfred is a very popular fellow but I did manage to have a quiet moment with him at the Lincoln Centre to express my appreciation. I also wanted to make a couple of comments as well. Throughout the conference, there were numerous cheap little shots taken that would not have bothered me normally but I guess I was a little more on edge. One that immediately comes to mind was a presenter that had forgotten to include a link in his presentation and suggested to the audience that we Google it — then made a silly joke and say, no go and Bing it all the while looking at the folks from Microsoft. What? Like Microsoft employees don’t take advantage of all of the tools that are available? Or, in a couple of presentations, the line "without wanting to offend Microsoft…". It just wasn’t comfortable and I didn’t see any humour in it at all. After all, if you’re foolish enough to try and run 10 year old software on a modern computer, you are asking for problems.
But, it wasn’t just Microsoft. In my quest to get the most from my experience in New York, I hiked to a couple of Apple Stores to look around and check in with FourSquare because I’ll be running into Andy Forgrave this upcoming week and I’d be in trouble if I didn’t. What I didn’t expect was the comments, public and private, from going to this type of store. Huh?
I also got the "Macs just work" lecture but Windows is constantly pushing updates. Oh yeah? Have you seen what needs to be in place for upgrade to OS X 10.7?
I just find it odd that in 2011 we still are having these sorts of conversations and suggesting that there is humour in there somewhere. Computer companies are caught in a delicate position of trying to provide something that’s open and friendly, all the while fighting off those that would write malware or poorly crafted software. A case in point just this morning at about 4am, was a piece of software that would’t allow my computer to go to sleep immediately. Do I step up on a soapbox and make silly comments for something that is actually my making by installing third party software?
We were privileged to be able to attend the Imagine Cup Finals. I would have thought that the event would have been open to the public but it wasn’t. It was only through this partnership that we were able to attend as guests as Microsoft. I wasn’t quite expecting the silly responses. Alfred indicated that he just ignores it after a while. That’s really not the point; the comments shouldn’t have arisen in the first place.
I just hope that they don’t spill over into classrooms.
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