How to write a press release
September 5, 2007
After reviewing the forthcoming release announcement for 4.0 beta 2 spearheaded by Jos (out shortly), I feel that we really missed out by not learning from the masters of misdirection. We were able to soak in and learn from the genius that is the OOXML press release, but not this morning’s announcement for Silverlight:
“Silverlight is the only solution in the market today that enables content creators to tap into the broad ecosystem for Windows Media technologies while taking the Web’s rich interactive application experience to new levels,” said senior Microsoft VP Bob Muglia.
Bob is a long-time sufferer of Oral Diarrhea, yet I’ve never found a translation option for him on Babelfish. If only Jacob Rideout was here to get Sonnet in shape for MS press release parsing. Wade: “What’s Windows Media?” Bob: “It’s a broad ecosystem of technologies.” Wade: “I’ve heard there are no more well-defined levels left for the Web’s rich interactive application experience. Can you confirm?” Bob: “That was true until today. Now we have Silverlight.” God I pray this was penned by an intern under his name.
My honest question: What’s a “level”? What’s the next level? How do we know it really isn’t a half a level we’ve gotten? Or if MS has really outdone themselves and we’ve gained two levels of rich interactive application experiences? Is the level for the richness, the interactivity or the overall application experience? Is there something like a tcp OSI layer model I never got the memo on? Maybe a level like with the Capability Maturity Model? How can we ever pass MS if we don’t know the next levels of rich interactive application experiences? This really put Oxygen, Plasma and Webkit peeps at a disadvantage!
And how does this relate to the broad ecosystem of technologies known as Windows Media? What could possibly symbolize a comprehensive environment of diverse symbiosis better than Windows Media? Is there any way the World Wildlife Fund could use Windows Media imagery? The wikipedia entry really does a disservice; it doesn’t make it sound broad or like an ecosystem at all.
My points in this Muglia-like incoherent rambling?
- When you have very little to say in a press release, it shows. MS has been playing the “Me too” game by engaging in offering reactionary diversification to appease shareholders way too late and continues to do so from a stance of weakness (C#, Silverlight, XBox, online search, Zune, OOXML). Seriously, read that list again. They were so happy with VB and MSN that they could focus for years on flight simulators and mouse ergonomics. Their current initiatives almost exclusively focused on playing catch-up. They’re screwed; and their press releases are becoming more transparent and forgetful. They have nothing to say, they can’t mention their competitors’ dominance, and don’t provide investors/employees/enthusiasts/consumers with any reason to think they’re gaining ground (XBox360 aside). The only reason I care about Silverlight more than my cafeteria’s Mystery Meat Daily Special is that hopefully some small level of competition will prompt Adobe to get its shit together with Flash interoperability. Five years ago Adobe would have had a collective heart attack if MS entered this arena; I’m certainly not advocating underestimating the power of Mordor/Redmond, but it’s a different situation today.
- Because KDE still has a more technically inclined community, we’re lucky enough to avoid such watered down press releases. Jos is able to write with specificity on KDE 4.0 beta 2. I know lately there have been debates on how KDE 4.0 has been presented or what been promised over the last two years, but we’ve been very consistently saying: “Don’t oversell. There’s no point to over-hyping in an open community with an open source code repository. You only damage promotional credibility because people can too easily verify your claims.” And I don’t think we have. We’ve always tried to keep KDE in the news throughout this long release cycle, but I don’t think anyone has been guilty of promising something sensationalistic. My goal has been to remove some of the stigma of marketing and promotions and if we’re off-track it’s your right and duty to let us know. Maybe in the future when we have a broader and less proficient user base (a consequence of world domination) we will have to water down our announcements like this MS press release. But not today.