On blogs and leaks and news

Earlier this week Apple held an event to announce the new lineup of iPods, an event which has been breathlessly anticipated in years past.  This year, reaction was lukewarm, and the stock price dropped 4% immediately after the event.  This year, unlike years past when nothing was known about what would be announced until Steve Jobs took the stage, every announcement had been “leaked”, or “reported”, or “blogged” days or weeks in advance.

Other recent news has been reported on well before the “fact” recently, too.  Bloggers were checking shipping invoices to determine new iPhone shipments from China, announcements both large and small are relegated to afterthoughts, and mainstream news outlets turned rapidly to bloggers to get a better handle on breaking news.

We’ve had our share of finds here at LiveSide, too.  Some would call them leaks, and although we’re not going to go into details, we don’t look at them that way at all. 99% of what we report on LiveSide is the result of dedication, hard work, poring through hundreds of blogs and hundreds of web addresses, establishing a network of fellow enthusiasts, the kind of stuff that would be right at home in any investigative journalist’s office.  At times we’ve found what is supposedly “unreleased” information far too easily.  Again without getting into details, much of what we post is just sitting there, if you know where to look or care enough to dig a bit.

We did recently received our first takedown notice, known as a “dmca”, something we’re not too proud of, but we don’t have the resources or the inclination to fight it, even though we feel we could.  We recognize we walk pretty close to the line sometimes, and sometimes we make mistakes.  We also realize that Microsoft at times can’t be too happy with us, even though we’ve been supportive of Windows Live from day one.

However there is a larger picture, and a larger truth is becoming clear.  Whether it’s Windows Live Wave 3, or Apple iPods, or whatever next big thing comes up, the truth will find a way.  Apple and Jobs have in the past made quite a splash with their secret-up-to-the-last-minute announcements, and hey that looked pretty good to Microsoft.  However it’s the wrong path to follow, and always has been.  Apple was built on a premise of keeping everything behind closed doors, and yet even they can’t keep a secret.  Microsoft, an international company with a large network of partners and vendors, simply does not have an infrastructure in place to lock every door and shut every window, nor should they.  The increasingly tech savvy world has an increasing appetite for tech news, and an unregulated, unmanaged, and totally free blogging “press” is going to greater and greater lengths to provide it to them (for a good example of both investigative journalism and enthusiasm from users, check out Chris’s posts on home-beta.live.com, and the comments).

The question Microsoft needs to be asking is not how to shut up enthusiast sites but how to open up the company.  Microsoft is quick to point out the problems it had talking too early about Longhorn/Vista as an excuse to shut down open communications.  But the problem with communicating about Longhorn wasn’t that Jim Allchin talked too much, it was that Microsoft was unfocused, disconnected from its customers, and too slow and cumbersome to react to what it was hearing.

Instead of open and honest communication, we have Windows Live Wire (last post 8/24 – only 20 posts ytd), a bunch of dead blogs from Windows Live teams, and most glaring of all, The Space Craft, with a last post on 8/5 and only 16 posts all year, from a team that makes blog software.  There’s no doubt that there is, if not a “gag order”, then a strong “gag suggestion”.  But soon the veil will be lifted, and Microsoft wants everyone to flock to PDC and ooh and ahh about all the Windows 7 and Windows Live goodness.  As Steve Jobs found out this week, it doesn’t work that way. 

So we’re going to keep doing what we do, which is to find out as much as we can about Windows Live, and bring it to our readers.  We’re an enthusiasts blog, and we’re enthusiastic about the possibilities of Windows Live.  We’re also highly critical of a locked behind closed doors strategy that hasn’t worked, isn’t working now, and in the long run will only be detrimental to what is getting to be a pretty cool set of social software, meant at its very core to be shared.