Tech blogs and more traditional news outlets are reporting that Microsoft employees were actually walking out during a speech by CEO Steve Ballmer at the company's annual employee meeting on Friday. The meeting, which was held this year at Seattle's Safeco Field, was private, and employees were asked not to discuss the strategy session and product demos that occurred at the event. Which makes me wonder: How accurate are these reports?
There are exactly two sources for all the reports I've seen so far: the Mini-Microsoft blog, which is written by an anonymous Microsoft employee who's gone to great lengths to hide his or her identity, and—get this—the comments section of the Mini-Microsoft blog, where anonymous posters have provided the juiciest (if most dubious) details of this event. It's likely that many/most of these anonymous posters weren't even at the employee meeting in question. This raises some serious questions.
But not for tech bloggers and news reporters.
"People were leaving in droves," one widely reported comment noted. This comment, of course, was made by an anonymous poster who may or may not have been at the event.
"The comments speak for themselves," Fortune's Apple editor, Philip Elmer-DeWitt sagely noted after admitting there was no way to confirm any of it. He went on to quote the anonymous comments that neatly parrot his own worldview, where Apple always get its right and Microsoft never does.
The ever-trustful UK tech press performed similar hatchet jobs, with the Inquirer pulling out such anonymous comments as "Steve [Ballmer], you've lost the support of your employees." You know, because that guy could be a Microsoft employee, right?
You get the idea.
As for Mini-Microsoft, the blog is many things, but it is indeed written by a Microsoft employee. And though I'd take the comments section on that blog with a grain of salt—heck, I'd actually ignore it entirely—I do think it's wise to pay attention to the blog itself. And what's written there isn't nearly as negative as much of the comments section, though the post itself appears to have been written before the event. In fact, it's rather even-handed.
But that's hardly interesting as a news story, now is it?
UPDATE: I've now heard from two Microsoft employees who attended the employee meeting, and both tell me that no one was "leaving in droves," not because of Steve Ballmer or for any other reason. In fact, the meeting ran as did previous ones, and employees who left early did so simply to beat traffic. As they always do at these meetings.