October 2nd, 2004

rock shadow

Gates' visit to Berkeley

So Bill came and went. I'd write up a detailed explanation of what happened, but Joe Hall has already done a better job than I probably could, and Ping has a good summary too. I'll sum it up as predictably propagandized, as all such public appearances tend to be. We handed out about 800 flyers to the crowd in the hour or so before the event, and talked to two Microsoft PR folks (friendly guys, but they seemed to be focused on smoothing ruffled feathers) and the press for an hour or so afterward. The two points we kept trying to make to them was that if Microsoft really wants to change its image, two things it could do was to stop making false or inflammatory statements (like Bill's claim that the GPL prevented commercialization), and to follow their words with actions (like what Cory Doctorow said in his DRM speech at Microsoft Research last June). Anyway, we also set up a blog, so you can make comments on the questions that were on the flyer.

I ran into the Dean the day before the event. I took a class that he co-taught last fall, so he recognized me and I mentioned that I was going to the Gates talk. He asked me if I had any "hard" questions to ask Bill. He went on to describe a few that he wanted to ask (and did), but explained that he didn't want to make them "too hard." I mentioned the Waterloo C# issue, and he said, "Oh, but that was the Waterloo faculty who initiated the offer, not Microsoft!" I said that's not what I had heard, but then he talked a bit more about what he wanted to say and then had to go, so I didn't get to talk about any of the other questions we had. Ah well; one of the event staff gave him a flyer the next morning (though he didn't incorporate any of it into his own cue cards). In general, the event staff were very friendly and a few said they were glad we were there. Right before we went in, I saw one older woman holding up an anti-Microsoft sign by the Bears Lair entrance across from Zellerbach, but otherwise there was no other dissent that I saw.

Also, I'm proud of Ping for his statement.

So far I've gotten one positive blog post as a result of the event and one negative (and rather irrational and hateful) one, both on other posts since I'm writing this one a day late. Interestingly, the negative one exhibits the same sort of irrationality that I sometimes see liberals say toward conservatives, and one that I don't like coming from either side. It's just as worthless to call Bush stupid as it is to tell me that I and others like me should be "shipped to some deserted island" - both are examples of a personal attack fallacy, and neither change minds or add useful information to a particular argument.