The blogger who was fired by Microsoft

Michael Hanscom, author of the weblog eclecticism, got fired for what is — in my opinion, anyway — a harmless post on his blog.

Michael was a full-time temp working at the MSCopy, the print shop at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. MSCopy shares a building with the Shipping and Receiving department. Last Thursday, while passing by shipping and receiving, Michael saw something that he thought was amusing: a truck offloading a delivery of brand new Apple Power Macintosh G5 computers. He took a photo and posted it in a blog entry titled Even Microsoft wants G5s.

Microsoft fired him last Monday:

…as of about 2pm today, I once again joined the ranks of the unemployed.

It seems that my post is seen by Microsoft Security as being a security violation. The picture itself might have been permissible, but because I also mentioned that I worked at the MSCopy print shop, and which building it was in, it pushed me over the line. Merely removing the post was also not an option — I offered, and my manager said that he had asked the same thing — but the only option afforded me was to collect any personal belongings I had at my workstation and be escorted out the door. They were at least kind enough to let me be escorted out by one of my co-workers, rather than sending security over to usher me out, but the end result is the same.

More frustrating for me is that, having read stories here and there on the ‘net about people who had for one reason or another lost their jobs due to something on their weblogs, I thought that I had done what I could to avoid that possibility. To my mind, it’s an innocuous post. The presence of Macs on the Microsoft campus isn’t a secret (for everything from graphic design work to the Mac Business Unit), and when I took the picture, I made sure to stand with my back to the building so that nothing other than the computers and the truck would be shown — no building features, no security measures, and no Microsoft personnel. However, it obviously wasn’t enough.

Michael writes in his latest post:

A few people have inquired about how I’m doing financially. I have to admit — things are a little dicey here. Rent is due in a week, and while I’ll be able to dip into some emergency money to get me through this round, I will need to have stable income by the time November 5th rolls around or I’ll be in very dire straits.

November 5th is my birthday, so I’m going to celebrate it Japanese-style and give him a present: I’m going to send him US$20 via PayPal. If you’ve got even a couple of bucks lying fallow in your PayPal account, perhaps you might want to send him a little (there’s a PayPal button on his “About” page) just so he can make the rent.

Okay, time to mount my high horse.

First off, Microsoft Security — a phrase so oxymoronic that you really should be laughing your heads off right now — have some explaining to do. How does a photo showing the delivery ordinary off-the-shelf computers being delivered in broad daylight in a publically-accessible area threatens Microsoft? They should worry more about preventing dashing and clever accordion-playing geeks from using lame confidence man tricks to get past locked doors..

So what if they’re taking deliveries of G5s? When last I checked, they still developed software for the Macs, and even if they didn’t, there’s nothing wrong with doing research on the competition. If the article posting offended or worried them so much, they could’ve taken the diplomatic route and simply asked Michael to remove the posting.

Finally, even they must be aware of their reputation. Even the most starry-eyed rah-rah rookies at The Beast of Redmond (during my last trip there, I met some new hires, and they saw themselves as a kind of software X-Men, fighting to save a world that hates and fears them) know that many people outside the company see them as a greedy juggernaut with no qualms about killing their competition with Borgia-like ruthlessness. They must have considered — even for a moment — how the tech world would perceive the firing once word got out.

Just what is it with those Microsofties?

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