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Dancing on and defending Microsoft's dirty laundry

A Microsoft recruiter's blog about her workplace frustrations has triggered a heated exchange between two of the tech world's more prominent bloggers.

The original blog, which I , prompted a withering analysis of Microsoft by software developer and blogger Joel Spolsky. Spolsky, who maintains the Joel on Software blog and founded a small company called Fog Creek Software,
wrote on Wednesday:

"The best recruiting department in the world can't make people want to work at a company that's moribund, that can't figure out how to ship a compelling upgrade to their flagship OS, or update their flagship database server more than once every five years, that has added tens of thousands of technical workers who aren't adding any dollars to the bottom line, and that constantly annoys twenty year veterans by playing Furniture Police games over what office furniture they are and aren't allowed to have. Summer interns at Fog Creek have better chairs, monitors, and computers than the most senior Microsoft programmers."

Spolsky's dig seemed to get under the skin of Robert Scoble, Microsoft technical evangelist and arguably the best-known blogger at the software giant. In a posting Thursday entitled "Joel dances on our dirty laundry and I respond," Scoble offered a veritable laundry list of cool things about his company, as well as some counterpunches directed at Spolsky.

"Let's visit David Ornstein's office (I just filmed him recently). Now, look at his computers. He has a nice big monitor, just like Joel's interns have, but he has a Tablet PC too. Do you give your employees one of those? I didn't see any when I visited your offices recently. Oh, I guess you don't want your employees to go and work on code somewhere else other than in your office. But, remove that for a second, do your employees work with a projector like he, and quite a few other employees do?

"Do you have any hardware toys like our hardware division has? Or our research division has?...

"Did the Prime Minister of Indochina visit your offices a few weeks ago? How about Hillary Clinton? She signed my Tablet PC when she visited. Yesterday Scott Stanzel, former Bush-Cheney Press Secretary spoke here."

Near the end of his blog, Scoble raises an important point about Microsoft's willingness to air its problems in the first place. He argues--and I agree--that the company's regarding employee blogs is a credit to Microsoft and probably will serve it in the end:

"By the way, while you're dancing on our dirty laundry, note that we allow our employees to share their dirty laundry. Hint: every company has dirty laundry. Every company is screwed up in some way. Even Apple. Even Google. Even, gasp, your company. None of us are perfect. But our company lets us talk about all the ways we aren't perfect and work to fix those things. How about at your company? Will those interns be able to blog about the things they don't like about your company? So that we can dance on your dirty laundry?"

Some comments to Scoble's blog poked fun at him for getting so worked up. But in his own blog entry today, Spolsky seemed to seek to bury the blog hatchet, as it were. He repeated his point that "recruiting has to be done at the Bill and Steve level," but he also wrote:

"Folks, give Robert Scoble a break. Folks over at Microsoft are feeling a little defensive these days, and he just wanted to point out that Microsoft can still be a great place to work. Apparently Hillary Clinton, the President of Indochina, had lunch with Malcolm Gladwell there, where they signed his super tablet computer. Rock on."