Robert Scoble, Naked Conversations and Exposed PCs

Robert Scoble's departure from Microsoft is getting major-news treatment from the mainstream media this morning:

Mr. Scoble's blog, called Scobleizer, is widely seen as helping to humanise Microsoft and shift its stance from arrogant and aloof to one that is more inclusive and accepting of criticism. It also commented on broader changes in the net world and how they affected the company.

Scoble began his blog around the time he left UserLand Software and deserves credit for using an employee blog launched in obscurity to route around Microsoft's PR firewall and elevate himself into one of the company's best-known names. But now that the Scobleizer has become the Defenestrator, I wonder how much impact his blog really had on Redmond.

Though he's been touted as a direct channel between the user/developer community and Microsoft, Scoble was heavy on ain't-it-cool and light on criticism. Considering my recent experience with a compromised PC, I was curious how much he's said about the company's biggest problem: the long-running inability to make Windows secure, no matter how many times they launch new initiatives to address the issue.

The answer: very little.

Shortly before New Year's Day, Russian crackers began taking over fully patched Windows systems by exploiting a huge security hole in Windows MetaFile (WMF) graphics. All it took to become compromised was to display a graphic, which could occur automatically when a web page was opened, e-mail attachment was indexed or thumbnail images were prepared in a folder. After an exploit for this hole was widely publicized, Microsoft took more than a week to release a patch, even though outside security experts thought it was serious enough to pull all-nighters over the holidays on unofficial fixes:

To the best of my knowledge, over the past 5 years, this rag-tag group of volunteers hasn't asked for your trust: we've earned it. Now we're going to expend some of that hard-earned trust:

This is a bad situation that will only get worse. The very best response that our collective wisdom can create is contained in this advice -- unregister shimgvw.dll and use the unofficial patch.

This was a disaster on multiple levels, beginning with Microsoft's reckless decision to permit executable code in a graphics file format. That's a security nightmare, as the company should have learned six years ago when it permitted executable code in e-mail.

Looking over Scoble's naked conversation during that crisis, he did what software companies always do when they've left users exposed: Pretend it was an act of God, release a patch and cover your ass. If he thought it was a bad idea to put code in graphics or let days pass without a patch, Scoble didn't test his company's acceptance of criticism. His final word on the matter was to quote his brother:

Microsoft is more responsive than people want to give them credit for.


Robert's biggest contribution to Microsoft definately wasn't making Windows a secure PC. It was more that he has made Microsoft the biggest blogging company in the world in terms of the number of employees maintaining public blogs. Back in 2001-02, Microsoft was detached from the core development community. Detached is nice word for hated. Now, Microsoft is no more hated than Google. Quite a transition.

The "Defenestrator". Good one, Rogers. I've always liked the word defenestration--"a throwing of a person or thing out of a window". Your trope was very appropriate.

It puts me in mind of that Tale from the White Hart: 'The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch'.

If only an "act of God" would defenestrate Bill Gates through one of the windows of his $50 million dollar house. I imagine God would permit him a 'soft' landing, though, because He has more mercy than Bill Gates.


Tis true Scoble couldn't take Microsoft to task often and certainly NOT on something that already had the attention of Bill Gates... who assumed the holes could be pulled by better programming. He always assumed any problem just needed a "catch up" programming effort.

Scoble blogging harshly won't patch the "big wad of software" that has become the MS OS and Vista will likely have similar issues. I feel your pain over experience some PC hell in the family but the smartest comapnies in the world have just moved away from MS'es OS'es where they are too close to vulnerabilities and the less smart companies will pay dearly for staying the course while MS figures out how to stop the hemoraging of a leaky dyke... so to speak. That would have been a nice Scoble headline:

"Bill, customers are getting flooded due to our our leaky dyke. Plug it or move the villages? All the villages?"

Abandon the dyke business guys. It's got structural flaws and too many liabilities.

I wish Scoble well with the start-up and KNOW he'll be a lot mroe reckless since his company is in a crowded sector and will have 12-18 months to find some path to profitability. Blogging skills will continue to be important for Robert... as an exit strategy, if need be.

When I followed your link to the PC Doctor-- WMF Exploit and read:

"Even if you don't view an affected WMF file you can still become infected if you have a drive indexing program such as Google Desktop installed. This is because some of these programs run the code during the indexing of the file."

It made me glad I uninstalled Google Desktop a long time ago.

Sounds like this is a good deal for Scoble and family, and I wish them well.

Will this impact on Microsoft? Not a bit. I would say that Mini-Microsoft had more impact on MS than Scoble. If MS wants to attract better will, it needs to stop with the bug tuesday releases (as you've detailed), and it needs to consider releasing all of its development tools and frameworks to the developers for free. No other major tech company charges for tools like MS does. Even Oracle gives its databases away for free for developers.

The issue though is how will Podtech survive. I think it's too small and vulnerable, with not enough intitial funding to be able to afford Scoble. Has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with establishing the viability of the company itself. Now it's become The Company where Scoble works. If I were the founder, I wouldn't be so gleeful.

Now, will weblogging survive. Not with any credibility. This story had way too much 'air space'. It only supports the assumption that webloggers are vain, and inward looking. The professionals must be feeling rather smug about now. No wonder they gave the story play.

Fuel on the fire.


The person formerly known as Bb


Just as I thought.

Hmm ... "It only supports the assumption that webloggers are vain, and inward looking." - and this is different from the ordinary media vanity and narcissism, how? :-)

Remember, pundits love to punditize about punditry and the ups/downs of other pundits.

The major negative factor I see from all the coverage, is increasing the gold-rush/lottery-hype aspect of chasing after the comparatively few top influential slots.

A real naked conversation is so diferent from that pap. I see Microsoft as the Henry the VIII of the tech world. Who will the next chosen queen be?

Ah but Seth, weblogging promised to be more than the usual.

I agree with you, but always have, about the dangers associated by putting so much attention on so few people.

Consider all the hype associated with Scoble and Om Malik basically doing little more than switch jobs. A company like PubSub is tanking, which has more to say about the vulnerability of this environment, and has been discussed in several 'important' weblogs--but not a word in

To be honest, I don't think we can trust those who say they speak truth, because in actuality it's all marketing.

(But before this is seen as my usual diatribe against marketing, I accidentally discovered a wonderfully charming weblog called the Bird Chick, whereby the weblogger is a spokesperson for a binocular company just by doing what she loves--birding, talking about birding, and spending time with her rabbit, Cinammon.)

Rex's account won't be reinstated. There's a limit to how much personal abuse I'm going to take, and he's passed it.

Posted by rcade at

Ahahahahaha, I am glad you admit total and abject defeat Rcoward......When I first came to the retort and saw urinal cakes of the President, I vowed to defeat you and expose your 'ideals' as lies and fabrications......

As of now, I HAVE DONE SO! ........I have evolved the Drudge retort, remade it in my likeness, not yours.....I have exposed your hypocracy and made you become what you profess to loath.......A ultra sensitive censor, rushing from one post to the other trying to delete them before they are read....

In Rcades world calling the President of the United States a cocksuckers is A-ok, but celebrating the death of Zarchawi is reason enough for dismissal.......

That view point is mentally ill....

You cry about how much 'abuse' I have heaped on you........waaaa, poor baby, no wonder you don't blog with the rest of the masses, YOU COULDN'T HANDLE IT....I take 100 times more abuse on the Retort then you ever have, yet I laugh at it, while you ban and cry.....

You don't understand, I am woven into the very fabric of the Retort....I have taken your blog and made it mine, I have taken your false ideals and subverted them to my own pleasure.....After 2 and 1/2 years my victory over you is complete.....


What is this? A male avatar of Ann Coulter visits Workbench?

Congratulations, Rex. Your nefarious multi-year plan to aggravate a server admin has finally come to fruition.

I love this guy Rex, I hope he becomes a regular on the Workbench site!!! That would rock.

Rex sounds like he's breaking down. He should seek counseling. Somebody would have to do some heavy lifting for his case history data, though.

Bill Gates is stepping down in 2008 from day to day operations. I wonder will Microsoft still be the great company it is when he is gone and wheather the stock will fall any ? Even still it is funny to me that scoobe is taking off to runa video blog company.

Thank You Admin

What's the saying? Figures don't lie but liars figure?


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