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Bye bye Microsoft, and thanks for all the fish

March 9th, 2007 by Zack Whittaker

Some people have questioned me over the last week or so asking, “are you leaving Microsoft” and all this. Let’s get something straight first… I was never Microsoft’s b***h and never will be. I’ve worked with the Windows Live guys now for little less than a year starting off on Messenger and Spaces and moving on to web safety. Web safety (or rather as it’s now known as family safety as it’s more appropriate) means an awful lot to me. I’ve got a young goddaughter and a much older sister who uses the Internet and to be fair, there are all kinds of weirdo’s out there who would love to bury their faces into a young’un and it makes me sick to the core. Being a younger gentleman, I have added advantages of being young and having that special perspective which a lot of other people have. I started really young – most people could never say they’ve worked with some of the amazing people I have by the age of 15, and now I’m 18 and have met even more influential people, it makes me glad I started testing in the first place.

The Windows Live division, more specifically the family safety section is undergoing a major restructuring backend with people being shifted around from place to place, even if they’ve been doing that job for a good length of time. Family safety is really important to Microsoft but from my perspective, it’s being put off more and more because people are being shifted around. Someone I’ve done work for, Jo who worked on the family safety products for some time, isn’t working on it anymore; that really saddens me as I know she loved doing it. From what I understand, a big head of citizenship (of which the family safety comes under the hood of) has been replaced which will mean it’ll take months to find someone else let alone the time to bring them up to speed with what’s going on.
There aren’t the resources available, nor is there enough money to really push forward with some of these great ideas which have been bounced around internally.

Because of this, people have already reported that the Windows Live OneCare Family Safety product won’t be around until the summertime. The product is pretty much nearly done and I suspect one of the reasons why it’s not moving forward is because of the lack of resources and people. There are some interdependencies here and there however, like needing to interact with other products and ensuring that other teams are on track so that the Family Safety product can move forward. We’re talking about Microsoft, one of the biggest and most wealthy organisations in the world, and there isn’t the money to do these things, to protect the kids online from the things they should never have to experience. I’ve had a whole wave of ideas which could seriously improve the family safety side of things within products and existing solutions, but because of the lack of money and people being busy with hiring new leads of citizenship, these ideas are all pending for a good 6 months.

Now maybe it’s because I’m young and stupid and naïve, but can the kids of this world wait another 6 months? These threats are getting more intense every day and its Microsoft’s products which are central to these because they’re so popular with the users. It’s not Microsoft’s fault that these services are being exploited; it’s their fault for being so popular, which is hardly a bad thing. This is why I focused on Microsoft for the web safety – because they have the products and the services which are being used and that could be improved and secured for the younger generation.
One thing I can be super proud of – is that I’ve greatly contributed to improving the Windows Live OneCare Family Safety filter with the help of Jo, and that’s something which I’m proud of. Some of the people I’ve worked with – my God, just brilliant.

I’ve had a “mentor” being Philippa, and without doubt the best “boss” I’ve ever had. Cristiano, Dev, Andy, Jo, to name a few – it’s been a good stretch. But for the time being, I’ve only really got to say this as I wrap it up. I’m not leaving Microsoft as I was never really part of it in terms of a paid full time position. For the time being, I’m stepping back for some time, letting things mull over, I’ll still do the odd bit here and there no doubt but it’s time to focus on me and me only. I need to get past these next few months and finish my further education, and head on to higher education at university starting this September/October. Who knows what’ll happen next… I guess I’ll just have to take things in my stride and let things happen as and when they do.

Posted in Daily Life, Microsoft, Online Safety, Windows Live | 3 Comments »


This entry was posted on Friday, March 9th, 2007 at 5:08 pm and is filed under Daily Life, Microsoft, Online Safety, Windows Live. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


3 Responses

  1. Lukas Beeler Says:

    I have to say, i’m a bit irritated by this post. I can understand the frustration with a product not being given the attention you think it deserveres, but it feels to me like you’re overdramatizing this with the classical “won’t somebody please think of the children”.

    I’m about the same age as you (22), and i have had unmonitored, unrestricted internet access since i was about 12. I don’t think that hurt me, or anyone else.

    It’s important for todays children to learn to live with a world full of deceit, lies and backstabbing. Preventing them to see reality with a filter doesn’t solve anything, it just creates new problems.

    Additionally, i fact i always like to repeat in such discussions is a simple one: “You can’t get raped over the internet”.

    All you can do is send someone text, sound, pictures. These may be irritating, but they can’t hurt anyone. The internet is a safe place for a kid, and always will be.

    As long as kid knows reality, and knows what it’s dealing with – yes, that means that a kid needs at least rudimentary sex ed before you can let it create an awful MySpace oder MSN spaces page.

    So, enough of the incoherent contra-rant, i wish you best of luck with your future projects.

  2. DCMatt04 Says:

    I’m sorry Lukas, but I have to disagree here. You can “get raped over the internet.” Just look at that “To Catch a Predator” show. Kids are being contacted every day by sex offenders online. Sure not every kid ends up being a rape victim, but I think the show is proof enough that the worst is possible. Kids don’t understand the dangers of the internet and that it can be used as a tool for sick people to prey on an ignorant or lonely child looking for attention. It’s fortunate that you were never contacted as a kid while unmonitored online, but it’s kind of naive to think that every other child would be as lucky. I don’t necessarily agree that it is solely Microsoft’s responsibility to keep people safe online either. As far as children go, I think its the responsibility of the parents. I’m the same age as you guy, and when we were kids, social networks didn’t exist or at least were not nearly as popular as today. We weren’t monitored because the dangers weren’t known. I think parents today are also unaware of the new “social network craze” and the impending dangers. There are a lot of companies out there that are trying to educate parents on internet safety, because that’s the most affective approach at this point. I know Quest Foundation and NCMEC have started sites like http://www.netsmartz411.org/ which are trying to help educate parents on dangers and ways to try and keep their kids safer online. It’s a problem that unfortunately will always exist on the internet, so the only place I see possible progress being made is in the home.

  3. otilie Says:

    Great site and interesting articles. Keep up the good work.