The Strange Case of the Disappearing Open Source Vendors
Subject:   Direct Microsoft Lobbying Probably Not a Factor
Date:   2002-07-13 11:27:33
From:   timoreilly
After hearing privately by email from lots of people working with open source in government, I think I've come around to the view expressed by Paul Robichaux. Paul argues that the speakers who had trouble because of speaking at our conference were most likely affected by government bureaucrats who don't like their employees speaking out without permission from their superiors, rather than by direct Microsoft lobbying. As Paul put it, the mandate is "shut up and get back to work."

Here are snippets from some of the comments I received:

  • "Thanks, but I probably shouldn't have anything posted without pre-pub review (one of the little silly rules we have)."

  • You can use my comments, but "I do need to see it first so I don't run afoul of our PAO." (On my query, "what the **** is a PAO?, I got the answer, "My public affairs officer. She makes sure I won't say something that embarrasses the Army."

  • "If you want any kind of statement or information from the Census, I am happy to work with my Public Information office to provide you with something that works for everyone."

In short, as one person put it: "The Cluetrain notwithstanding, most organizations greatly disapprove of their employees making position statements that have not been given executive approval." If this is true in corporate America, it seems to be doubly true in government offices. (ClueTrain Manifesto here.)

While I do think that the FUD in the de Tocqueville Institution report should have Microsoft hanging their heads in shame, and this type of lobbying may make bureaucrats more likely to want to keep a low profile, it does sound like there was likely no direct lobbying regarding the speakers whom I mentioned cancelling their talks at the Open Source Conference.