Microsoft: Coming to a Linux User Group near You? (Part Two)

Posted by PaulFerris on Feb 23, 2005 6:51 AM EDT
LXer; By Paul (FeriCyde) Ferris
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This is just a summary of responses to the questions from last week:
  1. "In general, how do you react to outsiders that offer to present at your Linux User Group (LUG)?"
  2. "What about commercial interests presenting to your LUG?"
  3. "What would you do if a Microsoft employee showed up at your LUG?"
  4. "If you allowed a Microsoft employee to present, just what kind of topics would you allow?

It doesn't have to be like this.
All we have to do is make sure we keep talking...
--Pink Floyd Keep talking
(italics are mine)

This is the follow-up to last weeks article, which asked some rather simple questions about what to do if Microsoft shows up at your Linux User Group (LUG), asking to present. A side comment: I'd be extremely surprised if a lot of Microsoft employees didn't presently attend LUGs in stealth mode.

No big surprise here, the responses spanned a wide spectrum ranging from "don't let them set foot" to "as long as they don't turn it into a big powerpoint circus". Microsoft employees take note: each LUG has its own policy. If you're going to attempt this, you probably need to float the question by each LUG steering committee first. It's not like there's any kind of centralized control. You should also take note that this is tactical information from me, not some kind of authoritarian voice speaking.

There is not LUG authority, in other words. Unlike a large corporation, numerous opinions and rules are the norm. I don't want to get all preachy here and compare it to Democracy, but -- well, too late there I guess.

That said, some really good advice came out of our conversations here on LXer and elsewhere. I'll do my best to summarize, and those that feel I've missed the mark can feel free to flame me in the talkbacks here. Not that I need to give anyone any prodding in that area, DinoTrac.

As this went to press, the usual problem with my writing reared its ugly head. I began to think of things not to say to a Microsoft representative that presents at your LUG. Since this article is more aimed at the serious side of the equation, those of you that have a good sense of humor, some serious self control, and who wish to waste a few minutes on a cheap laugh can read What Not to Say if Microsoft Shows Up at Your LUG (Part Zero). My apologies, but it's been my experience that laughter is the best way to disarm the unreasonable side of conversation. It usually works, but there are notable exceptions to every rule. *Cough* Dean Pannell *Cough*.

Some suggestions about expectations and perceptions :

  • The optimal Microsoft LUG visitor would be someone smart, reasonable and who has a sense of humor.

  • Another type of visitor to the LUG (non-Microsoft employee) might be someone who's simply selling Microsoft products and wants to understand this Linux thing. These people are likely treated very well by Microsoft, and for these reasons be extremely loyal.

  • Some people expressed the opinion that good Microsoft technical people have to be evil by definition, as they would know for sure that the products are bad. While I take some issue with this, I'd caution that any viewpoint that doesn't allow for the potential good of another human being is likely a bad one.

  • Treat either kind with respect and expect it in return.

Some commonly agreed upon suggestions on the LUG side of the equation :

  • It's a LUG. The topic is Linux. Or is it? This is fundamental. Is your LUG about Linux (the Kernel?) or Free Software/Open Source -- a subset of which is GNU/Linux? It should be apparent with focus points like this; What the topic is not.

  • The topic is not: how to migrate your current software to proprietary Microsoft (or anything else) solutions -- that seemed pretty universal.

  • An observation: Please don't use powerpoint if you can help it. Be more focused on the technology and not the marketing (remember, these are most likely technical people you're speaking to).
  • Like anyone new to the group, the best you can hope for is to be more of a listener than a talker -- allow more time for questions than for presentation.

Other (negative) comments :

  • Given all of the negative feelings about Microsoft, there was a definite sentiment that they wouldn't be welcome in any way at some LUGs.

  • Barring that, some expressed the sentiments that no one would want to attend but the people that are loud-mouthed Microsoft-bashers.
To the questions from the original article and doing the best to summarize the answers I decided to document the extremes here. In reality, as you might expect, the answers lie somewhere in between these extremes. Please don't accuse me of copping out here -- literally, the answers were between these spectrums and in a fairly even balance.

Summarizing the extremes here, as best I can:

  1. "In general, how do you react to outsiders that offer to present at your Linux User Group (LUG)?"
    • With enthusiasm if it's a topic relating to Free Software/Open Source in a neutral to positive fashion.
    • Possibly with a complete rejection up front.
  2. "What about commercial interests presenting to your LUG?"
    • This depends upon the vendor and the above sentiments.
    • Infomercials are not allowed.
  3. "What would you do if a Microsoft employee showed up at your LUG?"
    • See the answers to the first question.
    • With paint-ball guns and dunking booths...
  4. "If you allowed a Microsoft employee to present, just what kind of topics would you allow?
    • Technically focused topics that work in harmony with Free Software/Open Source solutions.
    • N/A
So there you have it, the answers, summarized as best I can, ranging the spectrum of choices. It should be obvious to anyone that the diversity of the opinions are fairly spread across a wide range of responses.

To the Microsoft guy: This is how it works: get to know the people at the LUG, carefully gauge which sides of the fence they are on, and if you think the people are more of the mentality of the first type in the response area, introduce yourself politely -- best of luck!

But if you want to keep attending, and the people seem on the more hostile end of the spectrum the options are more limited. Advice: Either keep your employer's name to yourself or be prepared to face some hostile conversation.

» Read more about: Story Type: LXer Features; Groups: LXer, Microsoft

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"What would you do... salparadise 3 2,194 Feb 23, 2005 6:08 PM
Oh the defamation, Oh the libel, Oh the liable to say... dinotrac 2 2,070 Feb 23, 2005 12:04 PM

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