Monday, April 18, 2005

Sweet Treats Sweet Words

At the kick-off party last night, a bunch of us bloggers chatted about the whole issue of whether the absolutely terrific treatment we're getting from Microsoft will mean we write nice things about the MSN Search database.

Do sweet treats buy sweet words?

Or more bluntly, can our opinion be bought?

Surely we can start with disclosure, that yes, they are putting us up in a gorgeous hotel, the W in Seattle. Yes, a wonderful fruit basket with wine and cheese and salmon and chocolate truffles miraclously found it's way to my room. Yes, a really awesome Timbuk2 black nylon computer bag stuffed full of software including the latest Windows XP, Office Professional Edition and Halo Combat Evolved PC version and two tee shirts and a black Adidas windbreaker with an MSN Search Champs v.2 bright logo sewn in, all of this is now in my possession.

So there. And more disclosure. Long before I came here, I've been using Windows since ... golly, I can't even remember how long. That I use Firefox lately because when I use Internet Explorer I'm buried in a mountain of popup ads and junk. This may have everything to do with me not upgrading Windows because (not Microsoft's fault) whenever I upgrade anything -- software, hardware, cell phone -- it always seems to lead to disaster, so I avoid it at all costs. And I have been a Windows user in almost every "real" job I've had in the last 20 or so years. That I use it because it works and because it is ubiquitous. That I have many blogger and non-blogger friends who are religiously Apple-loving and you would never talk them out of their powerbooks and ibooks and all the rest. I've just never been into the Mac. I have an iPod and love it, yes.

All this said, will what I write about my experience in Redmond be twisted by a box of Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon and a package of gold and brown Seattle Chocolates Truffles, Expresso flavor?

The truth is, I don't know. You'll have to wait and find out.

Will I tell them honestly how I feel about their products -- yes, I can be blunt. More interestingly, will I share all my criticisms publicly? They run that risk by inviting me. Mostly, I don't share really negative stuff about a product unless I am absolutely at my wit's end, completely frustrated with shockingly poor service or lousy quality of a product.

Once again, I have had many software people let me try their stuff and comment on it. As a blogger I always decide what I feel comfortable sharing publicly -- negative and positive -- and have to make that call every day, whether I'm talking about Diet Coke, Target's Issac Mizrahi fashion line, Motorola phones, or new software apps.