Burningbird Dive-Bombs Bill Gates Story

Personal blog: Sour Duck

Microsoft teamBill Gates has announced he will be stepping down at Microsoft and handing the reins over to Ray Ozzie, the new Microsoft chief software architect.

But who cares about that when Shelley Powers stirs from her Kraken-like slumber and thunders to the surface over at TechCrunch?

Powers, a prominent blogger whose writings at Burningbird attracted a diverse array of bloggers, recently announced the closure of her blog. But she is still online, and her response to Marshall Kirkpatrick's TechCrunch post, along with its ensuing debate, is far more interesting than the news itself.

Her first comment points to the lack of diversity:

"So? This is a big story?

If Gates had been replaced by a black and a woman, I would have sat up, took notice. Maybe even been inspired. But it's one pudgy, middle aged white guy replaced by two other pudgy, middle aged white guys.

I mean look at them…does anyone think anything will be any different at Microsoft?"

While the author of the post, Kirkpatrick, seems to appreciate Powers' comment and tries to engage her in discussion, commenter Ryan Gahl is not so diplomatic:

"Shelley, WTF does that have to do with anything? Total reverse sexism/racism, and total BS.

So if Ozzie was a black woman, you're saying that would automatically mean things would change (whatever the F that means). And because Ozzie is white and male, nothing will change, like, automatically, just because he's white and male?

And then you gotta love your last comment… "I mean look at them…" are you seriously trying to advocate some kind of equality stance and then back up your argument by saying "look at them"… ok I'm looking, now what? Do I know the guy? No.

Finally, what, exactly, in your opinion should change at Microsoft?"

Shelley responds:

"Ryan, a few less white men in charge. A few less of the same old, same old.

Diversity. Equality. Why is this so impossible within the tech community? Why is this so unbelievable. Let's face it — there's not a person in this thread who believes the tech community will ever diversify. Most probably don't even see that it's a problem.

How can the company grow, when it keeps building the same damn box to constrain itself, again and again.

Nothing will change. Not a thing. What shift to the web? The web… that's just tech. It's not even new tech anymore.

Marshall, you think integrating Groove into Office, that shift from desktop to web, is going to revolutionize the company? Tell me: how many people have even heard of Groove before Ozzie was hired at MS?

What needs to change at Microsoft Ryan? What you mean after firing Ballmer? After increasing diversity of the company in upper management and among the engineers? After actually giving the development software away for free, like every other company, instead of ripping off the developers? In addition to actually releasing critical bug releases in a more timely manner, other than bug Tuesday? Did I mention the diversity thing?

I will say that I admire Bill Gates, joining his wife, Melinda, focusing on the foundation work. I could wish that some of their work was reflected more in the upper management at Microsoft. Regardless, I have a feeling whatever soul the company had at the top just left."

Another reader, Varun Mathur, comments:

"Shelley… you are unnecessarily bitter.

Geeks aren't ruled by race, color, language, religion, sex, etc. The color of your skin has nothing to do with how well you can code. Tech community should not diversify just for the heck of it…but purely on merit.

Bill Gates has been a visionary, business-oriented geek..a fantastic combination, and Ray Ozzie is a fantastic replacement. I would have been disappointed if some pure corporate type had taken over the reins. Ballmer's aggressiveness, enthusiasm and shrewdness have taken Microsoft to where it is today, and I'm glad that he is still around."

While Hope Leman remarks:

"Shelley: If you are going to be sexist and racist, please be so grammatically. It should be, 'fewer white men in charge.' Men are countable nouns.

And part of the problem with women in the Web 2.0 world is that they don't seem to be driven to blog on tech matters and shy away from the expletives that are de rigueur in softwaredom. Also, if you want to get ahead in that world, probably isn't too shrewd to whine about white middle-aged men who do tend to sign off on most of the hiring decisions.

Shelley, I think most people would say that the software industry places a premium on talent and is as diverse as banking or medicine or the average university English department and is considerably more diverse than the library profession (mine).

Anyway, what is hard to take about Gates is his posturing as the friend of the downtrodden of the developing world. What really keeps poor countries poor? Um, expensive software for one thing.

But Ryan, as a smallish, fortyish woman, I can say that the photo of the Microsoft top leadership did look pretty male. One in four of the leadership could be a token woman. I mean, sheesh. It's just stinky PR, that's all. Women buy software too and we do notice these things.

And Don who appointed Bono to speak for Africans? I would think they have some underemployed rock singers and economists of their own."

Do you think Shelley rises again to respond…? You can bet your sweet ashy phoenix she does!

Read the whole thing over at TechCrunch, and jump in the comments thread if you can add to the discussion.

I'll leave the last word to Ms. Powers, though:

"Interesting comments. Perhaps change shouldn't start with Microsoft. Perhaps it should start with publications, like TechCrunch."

Photo credit: TechCrunch, showing from left to right, Bill Gates, Craig Mundie, Ray Ozzie, Steve Ballmer.

Related links:

Shelley Powers, Burningbird, "Last of the ’bird"
Marshall Kirkpatrick, TechCrunch, "Ray Ozzie to replace Gates as Chief Software architect"

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