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New blog post: Why "Don't be evil" is good advice for corporate survival these days
One of my regulars, contemplating the increasingly pathetic series of clusterfucks that have passed for exciting new products at Microsoft, wonders why a company with all its advantages – more money t...
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Fabian Neumann's profile photoNeeraj Bhope's profile photoDaniel Lemire's profile photoNicolas Saunier's profile photo
9 comments
 
Well put. Your observation that sustainability and ethical behavior are connected in both directions also aligns with Assange's observation that making conspiracy harder and more expensive is a winning strategy.
 
Warning, +Michael Bernstein: if you pursue this kind of analysis with sufficient rigor and honesty, you will become a - gasp - libertarian.
 
IMHO, secrecy and software patents are homologs.
 
I made the same argument when people were advocating for torture as a valid investigative method.  After a point actual, factual investigation is smothered by crude brutes adhering to doctrinal belief that if they just apply more pain they can get the answer they want to hear.
 
Heh. In some ways, I am a libertarian. Well, a left-libertarian or classical liberal anyway.

In general, though, I tend to observe that while, all else being equal, some of something may be a good idea (deregulation, a limited-time copyright monopoly etc.), it does not therefore follow that more is necessarily better.

So, for example, I am mostly in the libertarian camp on individual civil liberties. I even think that the corporate veil of limiting shareholder liability was, on the balance, a useful innovation. However, I do not think that granting equivalent human rights to corporations comprised of fungible humans is a good idea, even if the effect is to further expand the freedoms of the individuals who happen to be sitting at the top of the corporation.
 
+Porter Woodward, that's not a doctrinal belief, it's true. They do get the answer they want to hear. It is just that what they want to hear may bear no relation to the facts.
 
+Michael Bernstein true - although it adheres to their version of the "truth" - which as you rightly point out may bear no relation to facts.
 
+Porter Woodward +Michael Bernstein That's the true reason torture isn't used in most places, outside of the treaties. The data gathered this way is too often useless. And it's not like USA had apropriately trained and experienced torturers ;)
 
+Eric Raymond I agree with what you've said, but simply think Microsoft and other big businesses get trapped in their own system and their need to adhere to it.

Microsoft, I think, was meant to be a monopoly. That was its business model. It wasn't made to be the best technically, nor was it designed to change. And trapping customers in their need to upgrade meant Microsoft and Windows could attract developers wanting to make money.

The thing is that there are businesses like Google that take a very different path supporting voluntary collaboration by supporting free and open source software. Microsoft can't compete with that because Google actually wants to win that way. They want to put the effort and money in to be the most popular, and I'm afraid the same can't be said in the same way about a company like Canonical.

And that's the gloomy news. As long as the system and the people in it are self-sustaining in their coping ways, the world could continue hobbling along with the same problems just in different forms. And that's an unfortunate symptom of resisting natural ways: nature masters and punishes you instead for resisting yourself.

I think the wages of secrecy are just as you say because life demands life. It needs intimacy. Secrecy is a lie by omission and a hiding from the truth and reality. It's a forfeiture and not one that Microsoft seems to be using to its advantage. They believe too much in their ways and have become their own victims. In the words of Elvira Hancock-Montana (Tony Montana's wife in Scarface) "Lesson number two: Don't get high on your own supply. Of course, not everyone follows the rules, hmm?" Instead of using secrecy as an external technique, it has become, as you said, an obsession. In the words of Yoda, "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny." Microsoft was/is based on an obsession with money through control. They chose to make that obsession their path instead of seeing it as a very important aspect of their path, to grow strong in the world.

Evil may be inefficient overall, but within a world of uninitiated idiots, especially short-term, it's very profitable. And it's no longer about right and wrong but about making money. Microsoft did not do this alone. It had the financial support of all its customers, which probably go into the billions. It had the support of developers who wanted to make money writing code for the most popular operating system.

But perhaps most importantly, Microsoft wanted to win. They found a way and fought tooth and nail for that edge, possibly calculating what their "mistakes" would cost them versus what it would profit them.

If "good" were truly fulfilled, we'd be responsible for our freedom and let those who insist on being unhappy drop away. All things would be flexible and we'd all choose whatever makes us happy, harming no-one. That would be very efficient because we'd be directly connected to ourselves and our happiness and simply do what we want to get what we want, bullshit hassles not included.

Microsoft may be trapped in its own misery, but it has trapped many others with them and that is often how business works ~ through obligation. Really, that's how every business works on some level because the system has become the religion and rules instead of the arena for creativity. Then again, creative people don't need permission. They're doing what they do without having to consult the rules for guidance and advice.

I'm much more concerned about the fate of Canonical because I see it as the most fervent company for becoming popular and making Linux popular. I'm just not sure they want it enough.

I have to admit, though, that I first got the idea of how business and even the world works from How To Become A Hacker:

"Authoritarians thrive on censorship and secrecy. And they distrust voluntary cooperation and information-sharing — they only like ‘cooperation’ that they control."

I think perhaps it is hypocrisy and self-deception that are inefficient, the root of all the evil we acquire from childhood on. And I think Microsoft is eating its own dogfood in more ways than one ;-)
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