Subject: Re: the .NET battle ends
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 15:04:15 +0900

>>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <Ben_Tilly@trepp.com> writes:

    Ben> However what I dislike about him is his willingness to be
    Ben> dishonest in this cause.  By being dishonest I mean that he
    Ben> lies, and encourages those around him to lie, whenever he
    Ben> thinks that advances Microsoft's position.

That's the American way, in practice.  Look at Clinton, and more
important, look at the degree to which he retained and still retains
support among Americans despite being caught red-handed in some pretty
big lies.

    Ben> He doesn't present either the facts as he thinks them to be
    Ben> or his position honestly.  Instead he presents the position
    Ben> that he thinks will advance his cause.

The same can be said about rms.  rms being our leading advocate, that
does not put us in good light.  Admittedly, rms is not in Gates's
league, but as stated your words apply to him, too.  Once you qualify
them to let rms off the hook (as I believe he deserves), however,
you'll find it hard to condemn Gates in as forceful terms.

Gates is extreme among his current peers, granted.  Historically,
however, he is not.  He's in the same league with the 19th century
robber barons but he does not exceed them.

I'm not saying you don't have excellent reason for disliking Gates and
his practices.  I am saying you're going to find it hard to convince
large numbers of non-technical (either computer or anti-trust) people
that he's such a demon.

    Ben> While the boundaries are unclear, few companies are as
    Ben> aggressive about pushing boundaries as Microsoft is.

Precisely _because_ in this case the boundaries are more unclear than
in most.  It makes a lot more sense to push boundaries if you think
you have a good chance of swaying a court, than if there is already a
pile of case law that says you can't do these things, in so many words.

My point is not that Microsoft is "just like every other company".
They're not.  Bill Gates is a robber baron in the classic 19th century
mold.  Look at how the transcontinental railroads got built, by
getting the U.S. government to grant unnecessary and excessive
monopolies (and handing over government land for a song, to boot);
it's not a story for the squeamish.  Or U.S. Steel.  Or the Tobacco
Trust (and _they_ are at least in the same class with Gates when it
comes to lying in court and failing to comply, even today).  Same
league, though, and I'm not even sure Gates would come out as the
batting champ in it.

My point is that although Gates's behavior is extreme, I doubt we're
going to have a lot of luck making non-technical people understand how
extreme it is.  Especially when our loudest voices are people like rms
and Tom Lord, who do want to abolish intellectual property entirely
(rms de jure and Tom de facto), giving credibility to Microsoft's
wilder claims.  And the next loudest group is claiming the world will
end if Microsoft gets its way.

We need to get out of our very local mindset and find arguments that
will appeal to a lot more people.  Or we need to recognize that we are
a relatively small segment of society, most of whom will certainly not
be affected as adversely as we are, and few of whom will believe our
wilder stories about how adversely they will be affected.  Which
implies recognizing that we are a special interest and acting
accordingly.

    Ben> (*) If you can learn about people from their opinions about
    Ben> others, what do my opinions say about me?

I've been trying to tell you.... :-)

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