I was out of town for the weekend and so wasn’t able to watch the unfolding of the geek storm that Nick Bradbury unleashed the other day with his blog post about an ancient and long-forgotten bug in Windows.
Microsoft leapt into action to address the problem and for that they should be commended (overlooking, of course, the issue of how long the bug hadn’t been addressed ) but much more interesting has been peoples’ reaction to it all.
Charles Wright (of The Age newspaper in Melbourne) says that “The thing about the Web is that it seriously amplifies the sound of squeaking wheels”, Andrew Herron thinks that it’s a sign that “Microsoft are picking themselves up and actually responding quickly to user feedback” while Nick himself notes that Microsoft developers are indeed human
I think it goes a bit deeper than that.
Microsoft’s developers have always been human and I’m sure that they do the best job that they can with the resources they have available, under the constraints that are placed upon them. Just the same as many other people do for whatever job they are in. They get upset if people start bad-mouthing or complaining about their work. Just as any of us would.
But what we have now that we didn’t before is a means for Us to communicate directly with Them. Whether it be programmers like Nick and myself talking to the people who write Windows or you, the users of Awasu, talking directly with me, this is a channel of communication that simply didn’t exist before.
Well, that’s not quite true. It did, but you had to go through so many layers that the message got completely lost by the time it reached the other end. To get a bug report to Microsoft developers, you would have to go through their various support departments, get a ticket raised in their fault database, then survive the triage process Windows product managers go through deciding which bugs get fixed and which don’t, by which time the original problem has been reduced to a ticket number and a brief, anonymous description in a database record.
Compare that to what happened the other day. Microsoft developers are subscribed to Nick’s feed, perhaps because they use his software or maybe they know him personally and wake up one morning to see that he’s criticizing their work. Thing is, their reaction was probably something along the lines of “Jeez, that sucks but actually he’s right. We should’ve fixed this one. I’d better look into it.” No support teams involved. No formal bug review process. Just a couple of guys who care about the work that they do talking to each other. Human indeed.
It’s not very Web 2.0 but disintermediation is the name of the game here. When we can have the two people involved in a Windows bug talking directly to each other, when people can buy and sell directly with each other on eBay, when people can bypass the banks and transfer money directly to each other using PayPal, when people can produce their own videos and music and post it on the web for anyone and everyone to download, why exactly do we need the middle-man, controlling who gets to see what, who gets to publish, all the while taking a huge chunk of the money for the privilege of limiting what we can do?
This is why the big media companies are running scared about technology today, why they’re trying to force DRM into every new gadget being built and all new content being produced, because they know no-one in their right mind would pay their exorbitant prices for most of the crap they’re peddling if they had a choice. We don’t need them.
Some people think that blogging (i.e writing about your cat) is a waste of time but nothing could be further from the truth. We’re changing the world, people! And as Earl Mardle wryly pointed out, the revolution probably won’t be televised. You’ll download it as a torrent.