I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when people imply that when I make arguments, I’m speaking on behalf of Microsoft. Anyone who knows me knows that my opinions are my own. (This blog sez so too but no one ever seems to reads that.) What I most appreciate about my employer is that they allow me to speak my mind, even when we disagree. This is what it means to have freedom as a researcher and it’s one of the reasons that I love love love Microsoft Research. I never ever speak on behalf of Microsoft but I have zero clue of why people desperately want to perpetuate this myth. This is what makes me want to cry.
What makes me want to laugh is the irony of folks thinking I speak on behalf of Microsoft when I am critiquing an industry-wide practice that is most prominent because of Google’s recent implementation. Yes, I work for Microsoft. But I used to work for Google on social products. Many of my friends – and my brother – work for Google. I also used to work for Bradley Horowitz (one of the folks in charge of Google Plus) when we were both at Yahoo! and I adore him to pieces. I have nothing but respect for the challenges involved in building products, but I also have no qualms about highlighting problematic corporate logic. My arguments are not coming from a point of hatred towards any company or individual, but stemming from a determination to speak up for those who are voiceless in many of these discussions and to provide a different perspective with which to understand the issues.
I write and critique decisions in the tech industry when I feel as though those decisions have unintended consequences for those being affected. I’m particularly passionate when what’s at stake has implications for equality. I recognize and respect the libertarian ethos that persists in the Valley, but I think that it’s critical that privileged folks understand the cultural logic of those who are not that privileged. And, as someone who has an obscene amount of privilege at this stage in the game, I’m committed to using my stature to draw attention to issues that affect people who are marginalized. And when I get pissed off about something, I rant. And that can be both good and bad. But I’ve found that my rants often make people think. That’s what motivates me to keep ranting.
Sometimes, what I say pisses people off. Sometimes, it sounds like I’m dissing particular products or people. Usually, though, I’m critiquing assumptions that persist in the tech industry and the policies that unfold because of those assumptions. And I recognize that those who don’t know me have a bad tendency to misinterpret what I’m saying. I struggle every time I write to do my darndest to be understandable to as many people as I can. And when I’m most visible, folks often think I’m saying the darndest things. But even though I don’t correct everyone, that doesn’t mean that it’s not frustrating to be taken out of context so frequently.
And so it goes… and so it goes..
“Oh, how I miss substituting the conclusion to confrontation with a kiss.”