Showdown in Crazytown, featuring Steve Ballmer, Congress

Find out what readers had to say in response to Cringely's comments on Windows Phone 7, politics, and plagiarism

Yes, it's time for another segment of Letters from Cringeville, in which readers spank me for my assorted sins while I smile politely and say, "Thank you, kind sirs and madames, may I have another?" Here we go.

In "Has Steve Ballmer gone bonkers?," I accused Microsoft's El Jefe of losing his marbles after declaring Windows Phone 7 "early" to the smartphone market. Reader S. S. took umbrage at the epithet, accusing me of pandering to readers in a desperate effort to garner traffic. (Pandering? Moi?)

[ Have you encountered the technology pro's six greatest enemies? Send your memorable tale to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. | Get a new tech tale delivered to your inbox every week in InfoWorld's Off the Record newsletter. ]

The headline of this article seems like something that would be on Gizmodo but they would at least write about something crazy that Mr. Ballmer has said or done. ... [Microsoft's] death has been predicted for the past 10 years and they seem to be making more money every year. Maybe one day you'll be right but right now it looks like they are doing well with making money and FINALLY starting to release good and competitive products in the consumer space.

On the other hand, highly caffeinated correspondent R. G. calls Microsoft the new IBM and Steve Ballmer the Tom Cruise of high tech:

I am super happy that Microsoft did a reasonably nice job with Windows 7 and I think they have made some real progress in parts of Bing. But so long as Microsoft continues to keep its head in the sand just like IBM did when it clung to the main frame business then [it is] destined to become a foot note in computing history..... Under Ballmer, Microsoft is quickly becoming what it was that they exploited on a few years ago... the new lumbering behemoth with more money than vision.

Meanwhile, a reader known only as Surfcook has just one word for the Microsoft CEO: "Craaazy." (Dig those vowels, dude.)

In "Online advertisers are selling you out," I asked, "Can Congress possibly pass a law on Internet privacy that doesn't simply make things worse?" Cringester D. S. has an answer for me:

I have been told that there are no stupid questions, but that is as close to one as I have ever seen. All that Congress has passed for years is gas. Haven't you smelled it? Look at our intellectual property laws. They are so broken that innovation is actually being noticeably stifled in this country. ...So can Congress restore our privacy? Not while lobbyists are allowed in Washington and not while campaign finances are merely legalized bribery.

(Speaking of broken intellectual property laws, I got a slew of great responses to my post "RIAA vs. the rest of us: The same old song," but I'm saving them for a separate installment of this blog down the road.)

In "Election 2010: Geeks go down to defeat," I noted that the last geek to run for governor before Meg Whitman was dishy 26-year-old software engineer Georgy Russell. Reader G. O. points out that former Gateway president and COO Rick Snyder was just elected governor of Michigan. When I wrote that post, I was only thinking of geeks who ran for governor of California, but point taken just the same.

Finally, I feel compelled to add an update to my item about obscure foodie journal Cooks Source and the Internet brouhaha that erupted over its dubious definition of "public domain" ("Plagiarism 101: Cooks Source and the Internet response").

After (ahem) stewing over it for a few days, the anonymous entities behind Cooks Source issued an apology (kinda/sorta) for taking food blogger Monica Gaudio's copy and reprinting it without permission. They also honored her request to donate money to the Columbia School of Journalism in lieu of author payment. As for the other 167-plus articles they lifted? It's not exactly clear, but it appears Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs is blaming her contributors for submitting materials to the mag without appropriate permissions. (And if you believe that, I have a set of stainless steel Ginsu knives I'd like to sell you.)

The statement on the Cooks Source home page is one of the oddest items I've ever read. My favorite line: "Please know that none of the statements made by either Cooks Source or Judith Griggs were made by either our staff or her" -- which, I suppose, may or may not include the document featuring that very same line.

This wasn't the "we screwed up, we understand how we screwed up, and it won't happen again" statement Cooks Source really should posted, but it's about as close as we're likely to get. May it now fade back into well-deserved obscurity.

Got any high-tech bones to pick? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This story, "Showdown in Crazytown, featuring Steve Ballmer, Congress" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.