IT Confidential: The Politics Of Technology - InformationWeek
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John Soat
John Soat

IT Confidential: The Politics Of Technology

What can political attack ads teach us about the tech industry?

I have to admit it, I'll be sad when the midterm elections are over. Mainly because I'm going to miss those attack ads on TV. You know the ones: "Not only did Judge John Smith donate money to terrorists, he regularly dines out with convicted cop killers, and he stores child pornography on his personal computer at home. Ask yourself: Is that really the kind of person we want as our next attorney general? (This message was paid for by the Committee To Always Re-Elect Every Single Incumbent, which is solely responsible for its content.)" Now, that's what I call unvarnished truth in advertising--no subtlety, no nuance, every rumor, half-fact, and innuendo taken to its illogical, alarmist extreme.

But wait, maybe there's a lesson here. What if technology vendors escalated their advertising campaigns to the fevered pitch favored by political action committees? Could it reinvigorate a moribund marketplace? Could it bring a sense of urgency, an imperative to technology development that it's currently lacking? Maybe. If nothing else, it might make for a more interesting industry. And it might go something like this:

>> "Did you know that SAP is a German company? Sure, we all want well-engineered ERP software code, but at what price? Ask your father or grandfather what it's like to do business with Germans. Beer at every meal, venison, polka music, Nietzsche. And that sense of humor! It's just not worth it. (This message paid for by the Oracle Is From Wine Country Committee.)"

>> "Oracle's recent accusations against SAP are false and misleading. Not so much the well-engineered part, but the veiled reference to World War II. C'mon. What we'd like to know is this: Why won't Larry Ellison tell us how he came up with the name for his company? What's the real significance of the Oracle? Do executives at the company belong to a cult? Does Larry hear voices? Does he have a thing for auto parts? We have a right to know. (This message paid for by the SAP Spells Family Values In German Committee.)"

>> "Microsoft has been urging you to stay the course with Windows Vista, not to cut and run when its new operating system arrives early next year. So why is Microsoft flip-flopping on Linux? One day it's an adversary of Linux; next day, it's Linux's best friend. Is Microsoft afraid of commitment? Microsoft needs to open its heart, its mind, and its source code to the open source movement. It's not too late. (This message paid for by the Rapidly Dwindling Friends Of Red Hat Committee.)"

>> "There's a new day dawning in America. It signals a new sense of optimism, a spirit of cooperation and reconciliation. We at Microsoft applaud this openness and resent the implication we're not committed to it. We've always encouraged our competitors to work closely with us and will continue to provide opportunities for them to share their source code and product development plans with us. Go Huskies! (I'm Bill Gates and I approved this message.)"

NOTE TO SELF: The new federal rules for electronic records take effect Dec. 1. That means my company, along with almost every other company in the United States, will be scrambling to account for all its electronic documents, to comply with the new guidelines for e-discovery in court cases. I guess that means I should eighty-six that half-completed screenplay off the company-owned PC. And I don't want to forget to delete those video files downloaded to the company server. And nix on the off-color e-mails, I guess. But IM is OK, they can't track that down--can they? Remember: Don't delete those industry tips, send them to me at (no salacious content, please), or phone 516-562-5326.

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To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page.

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