The conspiracy theorists didn’t have to exercise a boatload of imagination to picture the invisible hand of Microsoft wielding the axe that cut short Daniel Geer’s tenure at @stake.
After all, Geer had written and presented a paper suggesting the computing world was rendering itself genetically weak by creating the technological equivalent of a monoculture. A lack of diversity could spell continued information security woes, Geer said, and possibly doom. Think Ireland when the potato famine struck, he said, or the south when the cotton weevil came chomping through Dixie.
So when Geer got the heave-ho, observers nodded knowingly and winked suggestively. But this isn’t about Microsoft flexing a muscle up in Washington state and a guy in Boston popping off the tech map. All of that is a tempest in a teapot, and amid the froth and foam, the substance of the issues Geer raised was swept away.
Agree To Disagree
There are plenty of smart people who think Geer’s thesis is flawed, but there are also many who have expressed similar fears about the world’s reliance on the Microsoft operating system — a concern that has grown as the number of flaws and vulnerabilities in Windows seems to grow unabated.
Either way, @Stake’s decision to push Geer under the proverbial bus is a puzzle. The company should be sending him a royalty check for all the free publicity it is getting out of this story. Moreover, its explanation that the “values and opinions of the report are not in line” with the company line should alarm its customers.
They say the smartest people keep close advisers at hand who disagree with them. Apparently, @Stake doesn’t buy into that philosophy. Color outside the lines, bark up the wrong tree, and you’re on the street. Why not allow Geer to have his say and then focus the resources of the company on setting the record straight and proving him wrong?
After all, the argument would be pretty lopsided, because many people who might have agreed with Geer before the hammer fell have jumped into the bushes. Geer now says he searched for academics and others to support his thesis, and although people often agreed with his message, many were weary of signing their name. Is it because they fear the long arm of Microsoft?
Hardly. Microsoft is big and strong, but it’s not the bogeyman.
More likely, those other researchers knew the idea that the nation’s computer infrastructure is inherently flawed and vulnerable is a third rail they’d rather let someone else be first to touch.
Geer did, and he got fried. Hopefully, others are standing on the sidelines, silently rooting for him as he does the postmortem publicity tour and crossing their fingers that he’s not right — or at least that his worst fears aren’t realized.
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