March 6, 2006


happy happy.jpg

Yesterday I posted how I was having trouble with my wifi.

Within a couple of hours I had received a personal e-mail from a Microsoft employee in Texas, a certain Keith Combs. Turns out my post had made it on to the internal Microsoft message boards, and was being passed around.

He called me up last night via Skype, and guided me through everything...

Once we had eliminated all the other possibilities, it turns out there was a problem with the router, which was easily fixed by resetting it and adjusting a few settings on the Tablet.

Et Voila! I'm happy to say, my Tablet PC's wifi now works fine.

I am so happy. Thanks, Keith! Well done, Microsoft!

It wasn't "just talk". Yes, Robert, I am indeed thrilled.

[AFTERTHOUGHT:] Yes, it was a very very different outcome than what Jeff Jarvis experienced with Dell. Or what if I had run into a problem with Apple? Relatively senior Apple employees in another country interrupting their weekend for some frustrated blogger? How likely would that have been?

We live in interesting times.

Posted by hugh macleod at March 6, 2006 9:43 AM | TrackBack

Being a cynic doesn't suit me, but I can't help thinking that if someone who wasn't on the Technorati Top 100 had a similar complaint, the response wouldn't be as expedient. Of course, hopefully Microsoft will prove me wrong! :)

But yeah, Apple would be no better (or worse) in this regard, as they seem rather standoffish against the blogosphere.

Looking forward to some of those color cartoons.. :)

Posted by: Peter Cooper at March 6, 2006 11:18 AM

Point taken. Still, if you have this problem, Robert Scoble suggests phoning him. His number is on his blog sidebar. Let me know how you get on.

There's more than one way to skin a rabbit ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at March 6, 2006 11:35 AM

Maybe Apple support could have handled the call and it never would have come to disgruntled blogging to inspire action?

*prepares to duck flames*

That aside, no I don't think Apple would respond to blog posts. Maybe you'd have a few passionate alpha geeks answer the call as you got more frustrated but you'd never get a call from Apple.

This whole wifi experience of yours sums up my feelings about Microsoft: still as frustrating as ever but there are signs of change and underneath it all are still good, hard-working, talented people.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 11:42 AM

With Apple this issue should not have happened in the first place. Apple wireless tends to work out of the box.

And as Peter says, how likely do you think it is MS would have escalated this if it wouldn't have been you? And just for how long do you think Scoble will be willing to be the tech support guy for frustrated bloggers.

Posted by: Andreas at March 6, 2006 12:03 PM

Andreas, you're missing the point. This experiment was cultural, not to do with the product in question. Besides, the Apple Tablet PC doesn't work right out of the box, because it doesn't actually exist yet.

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at March 6, 2006 12:06 PM

And if it was a router problem, it would presumably have affected an Apple machine in the same way it affected a Windows machine....

This is a lot like IT Support that I really hate. He Who Shouts Loudest Gets it Fixed First.
When i was in IT Support, people seemed to thik that if they just complained loud enough, regardless of what their problem was, how severe it was, and how how a priority it was compared to what else we might have to resolve, they would get sorted.
And the problem was, the management involved often let it happen. So some silly middle manager somewhere would get his printer fixed so he could print out his email, while a server somewhere is ignored for a while longer, putting other, more critical tasks at risk.

A-List blogger shouts, it's all over MS' internal system. If I shout on my blog, hah, I'd probably be flamed for moaning and told to Google the problem if I managed a response at all.

Posted by: Adrian Lee at March 6, 2006 12:52 PM

Adrian, all "A-Listology" aside, the point I'm making is cultural.

jeff Jarvis has way more links and trafic than me. When he ranted about Dell, nothing happened for weeks.

I start a rant, and MS get with the program the very same day.

The way I see it, Microsoft's problems/challenges have more to do with culture than tech. And by allowing cultural disruption to happen spontaneously, allows for teir culture to change.

Will they be totally successful? Who knows. But it's interesting watching them have a go.

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at March 6, 2006 1:44 PM

I think it's great they called you, but like all marketing (BOCTAOE), it's a lie. MS never called me on a weekend, but I've spent several calling them. All my Apple wireless stuff worked out of the box - I could care less who makes it, I just need it to work. The PC stuff never (did I say never? I meant NEVER) did.

That being said, I do think the "Cultural Experiment" side of this is interesting. It's kinda like you got a virtual schwag bag from MS for being a celeb at the Academy Awards, and you could do it in your PJ's! Well done, Hugh.

Posted by: Stace at March 6, 2006 1:46 PM

After helping Hugh (you're welcome), I was reflecting what happened and why. I learned a few things. I learned to put myself in the shoes of other people and to not make assumptions about their motives. I learned that Hugh is a really funny and thoughtful guy. I learned that I have a "The Computer Guy" attitude (SNL) sometimes and need to check that at the door.

What ended up being interesting to me may not be interesting to you. I wondered how this could have been solved with software. It ended up being mostly a hardware issue at the router, but how do you make EVERYTHING sooo plug and play that it either works out of the box or tells you what it isn't working, in terms ANYONE can understand? The solution can't be a closed certified standard. That doesn't invite choice and lower cost. Correct?

This is only one of the problems our companies are trying to solve.

Oh, and I also found out Hugh is a Texas Longhorn. Since he's on the other side of the pond now, he probably misses long necks, BBQ, margaritas or Tex Mex. Has he done any redneck cartoons?

Posted by: Keith Combs at March 6, 2006 2:34 PM

Good going, Hugh.

Let's hope other companies stand up and take notice.

Posted by: Mike at March 6, 2006 3:22 PM


I've helped hundreds of bloggers in my three years at Microsoft. You usually don't hear about them, but they do happen.

How do we listen?

Easy. I use Technorati. I search on "Microsoft." Anyone who writes the word "Microsoft" on their blog comes into my folder. I try to help each and every one with a problem.

I'm not always successful, but I do read each and every one and try to help each and every one.

I tell companies "you better pay attention to the blogger with only five readers."


Cause someone you never heard about can get on the front page of the New York Times within 48 hours with his/her product complaint. I've seen it happen.

Do you love your products? If so, you'll answer every blogger's questions.

Posted by: Robert Scoble at March 6, 2006 3:44 PM

Well, I know for a fact that Apple employees read my blog and if I were having a problem that I or my Mac-using friends couldn't fix (unlikely) they *would* help me out.

As far as Peter Cooper's comment about Apple being 'standoffish' about the blogosphere... Well, I'd have to disagree, Apple are making things *extremely* easy for podcasters and vloggers. I recently attended an 'invite only' Podcasting and Vodcasting "masterclass" at their Corporate Office in London. I was only one of a smattering of bloggers, the rest were from the marketing depts of companies and educational establishments.

They talked us through the Apple software one could use for podcasting and vodcasting (iSite, Quicktime Pro, Garageband, Soundtrack Pro, iTunes) as well as introducing us to Non-Apple software and hardware that they said is better for certain jobs than anything Apple has. *That* is why I like them. They don't feel there is any need to 'stay on message'.

Posted by: gia at March 6, 2006 3:56 PM

As difficult as it is being a dyed-in-the-wool mac user living 10 minutes from the Redmond campus, and as much displeasure I have with the Dell machine I'm forced to use at work, it's the attitudes of people like Scoble that make me think the culture at MS is actually changing. Would your experiment have worked 5 years ago? Not bloody likely. 2 years ago? Doubtful. This time last year? Debatable.

The times, they are a'changin'.

Posted by: Scotty at March 6, 2006 4:06 PM

I concur with Scotty.

Posted by: hugh macleod at March 6, 2006 4:08 PM

When I got my first (and only) Apple the wifi DIDN'T work out of the box.

And over the 18 months I owned it, I could never get it working with the office NT network.

And I had to reinstall the OS 3 times in the first year. I did get help from Apple forum users, but not much that worked. One by one they dropped off the scale until one last, kindly, lonely Mac enthusiast remained, until I returned to the PC (gratefully) 18 months later.

I would have greater confidence if I thought Mac was 'finished', but you know that every 18 months your previous OS is going to be obsolete. No computer is perfect.

Posted by: Andrew Denny at March 6, 2006 4:36 PM

Gia, this isn't a Microsoft vs Apple argument I'm making. Or even MS vs Dell.

I'm more interested in the "cultural" implications of all this, regardless of the company.

Culture vs Tech. The debate continues...

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at March 6, 2006 5:56 PM

Does this mean you apologize for blaming Microsoft in your original post and ranting about the company?

Posted by: Al at March 6, 2006 6:29 PM

Hugh--I'm with Al on this one :)

You've seriously misinformed a lot of people--you did make this to be an apple vs microsoft.

Now, that's fine and dandy, but now that you have the fan-boys (myself included?) up in arms, you can't just say, "woah there fellas--this ain't microsoft vs apple!"

Attn to everyone in appleland--"Apple wi-fi usually works out of the box"--that is kind of the point, right? this is one guy's problem. One guy. Usually implies it sometimes happens in appleland, too--so that's not really a critique of ms.

SECOND point--MS does not create this router. IF the router was faulty, I fail to see how you can blame ms. This is no different than buying a linksys for your mac and having a problem--something lots of people do.

Maybe Hugh bought a 15 dollar router. Maybe he should have bought a nice 80 dollar one and not had this problem.

As much as I say you can't get away with a little comment, you're right--this isn't ms vs apple, this is culture vs tech! This is a problem that could, and does, happen with all technologies.

It's great to say one is perfect or better, but the reality is that this could've happened to anyone--and Hugh shouldn't be expected to diagnose the problem of the router on his own.

1. It should work out of the box, as much as possible
2. People need a centralised tech support

You can't expect MS to handle calls on 3rd party hardware they don't recommend all day long, right? So, you need someone who can do that--we all need that someone :)

Posted by: David Streever at March 6, 2006 6:46 PM

Hugh, soon after I started blogging I got a call from a lady who was having trouble finding a number for her local DHL office. I wrote about it and within minutes I had DHL people (several) emailing or leaving info in my comments. I thought wow, this is amazing, you never know who is listening or lurking :-)

Posted by: Tom Foremski at March 6, 2006 6:59 PM

Gia: I think the attitude that people have picked up on is that many Apple employees are told "do not blog." My brother-in-law works there and verifies that. At Microsoft we say, instead, "be smart."

Posted by: Robert Scoble at March 6, 2006 7:55 PM's NOT about apple vs mac. Hugh, I completely agree that the point is cultural. that is THE point. And it doesn't matter what wouldn't have hypothetically occurred 5 years ago. what matters is it's happening NOW. And it's a very, very good sign.

Posted by: erica at March 6, 2006 9:57 PM

Interesting times indeed, but until everyone who posts a similar problem on their blog receives the same treatment then I'm sorry but it is not a cultural change. Not everyone has the relationship with Scoble that you do.

And to be boring, Apple wi-fi works straight out of the box - I've never heard of anyone for whom that has not been the experience. Moreover, the social network of Apple users is astonishingly helpful vis a vis advice (the writers of best-selling "idiot guide" style books respond to emails in hours)

Posted by: john at March 6, 2006 10:31 PM

Wow, an A-list blogger can make Microsoft jump to attention. It's like hearing about Paris Hilton being given a free Prada handbag.

This is not a fucking revolution.

Posted by: Whatever at March 6, 2006 10:36 PM

and my toshiba porteges till has all its problems. its feeling very lonely now Hugh is sorted....

Posted by: Geoff at March 6, 2006 10:53 PM

Agreed it's the cultue not the tech that's interesting - Apple Culture vs MS Culture.

Who'd have put money on MS having a Scoble rather than Apple? It's the subversion of our expectations of how these two companies would respond to the onset of blogging that's equally fascinating.

Posted by: Alex Bellinger at March 7, 2006 1:16 AM

"It's the subversion of our expectations"...


Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at March 7, 2006 1:36 AM

Having worked for 2 seperate design companies, I wish I had the luck you guys have! ALL of our apples have had problems, several with wi-fi, and even more with "bizarre" hard drive failures that Apple refused to support. ("It sounds like an airplane, taking off, and files are dissapearing? Hmmm. Trash preferences. Trash the user account. Restart. Create new user account. What? It still sounds like an airplane? It is brand new? Sorry. *Click*")

Posted by: David Streever at March 7, 2006 1:57 AM

If you ever have problems again, you can e-mail me. Granted, I have no experience with any of this, but I like getting e-mails.

And I'm reasonably sure that if you're having problems with your wifi you won't be able to e-mail me.

Posted by: LP at March 7, 2006 5:54 AM

Perhaps Apple don't need a Scoble - it would be interesting to get an insider's view on that.

Posted by: john at March 7, 2006 11:16 AM

Nice one Hugh - good to see you got someone at MSFT who was prepared to help you to the point of figuring it was a NON-MSFT issue and still solve it. that's different.

As an aside bCentral UK is the ONLY vendor website that turns up when you do a Yahoo! 'UK SME' news search and which produces useful, current SME news that can be lobbed into your web presence.

That's subversive 'cos no-one asked them to do it, they just do. And I've since popped into our wee SME experiment despite not being a fan of the Borg - why? 'cos they've done something useful for others to share. For free.

Posted by: Dennis Howlett at March 7, 2006 1:34 PM

You know what, after your original entry I was seriously (OK, semi-seriously) considering writing a short essay entitled "Hugh is a dick", explaining/asking why non-Microsofties don't (want to) get it.

Now having read about the router being the problem, I almost have the urge to say "bloody hell, I could've told you so!". I won't, however, but will *sigh* instead. Like we say in South Africa: Eish Baba!

(Disclaimer: I didn't read all the comments, I'm too lazy/overladen with work)

Posted by: Martin at March 7, 2006 7:21 PM

dont think it was just the router... keith would know better than me, though.

Posted by: Hugh MacLeod at March 7, 2006 8:02 PM

WHATEVER: I answer phone calls from everyone, not just the "A list". I search Technorati for anyone who mentions my name or my company's name. I don't filter on just the "A list."

It's easy to listen to bloggers.

Why aren't you?

Posted by: Robert Scoble at March 8, 2006 1:34 AM

John: >>Not everyone has the relationship with Scoble that you do.

Actually that's not true. Everyone who blogs gets the same attention from me that Hugh does. I know you find that hard to believe, but it's true. It's just that Hugh and I have more to talk about than just computers when he calls.

Posted by: Robert Scoble at March 8, 2006 1:37 AM

John: >> Perhaps Apple don't need a Scoble...

I'd agree that Apple doesn't need a Scoble, as they have an angelic rep so they feel no need to blog about anything as a means to put a "human face" on the company.

But the fact is that Microsoft does have a Scoble, and (in part due to his influence) has one of the largest (and maybe *the* largest) blogging communities of any corp. Apple's blogging community is pretty much nonexistent as far as I can tell (and I use both Windows and Mac). As a result, I can identify dozens of Microsoft employees by name and only a few Apple ones (all of which are upper-executives).

Posted by: Molly C at March 8, 2006 10:54 PM

After reading these posts, why do I get the feeling that Apple fans are actually pissed that this problem was resolved so quickly? LOL

Posted by: Molly C at March 8, 2006 10:55 PM

It's not a company thing, it's a people thing. The level of support you will receive depends on who you get to speak to and what you need support on. Apple is pretty good at supporting the home users but faills on Enterprise while Dell pisses on their home users but treats their Enterprise users like royalty.

I worked for 6 years of my life on various telephone support centers.

Posted by: Gerard at March 10, 2006 8:17 AM

Good point, Gerard...

P.S. I love it when Apple users get snippy.

Posted by: hugh macleod at March 11, 2006 2:22 PM


Good now thats done and we all can take a deep breath.

I hate all this Apple - Microsoft bantering when it really is 6 or 1/2 dozen.

Posted by: Tom at March 12, 2006 9:27 PM

Mercury retrograde. Itís that time every few months where gadgets go kaput. (Youíll notice a rise in these incidents, even in the blogosphere.)

Posted by: Jack Yan at March 13, 2006 9:58 PM