Microsoft, we have to talk…

Well-functioning infrastructures tend to become invisible. Working remotely (even more so) adds a very sensitive twist to this premise, as it makes apparent how much we are dependent on, and even exposed to crucial everyday IT infrastructures. Our collective struggles with the limitations, misalignments or even ecosystem wars encoded in their use do not only affect our work-life and productivity (and mental sanity?) but also highlight serious ethical, conceptual issues underlying them. 

Jennifer Edmond’s satirical take on this state of affairs below gives us a massively relatable insight of how vendor lock-in feels in a work setting that is already locked enough. What are our options to realign information management systems with our own workflows and not the other way around? How to take into account that many of us have wide collaborative networks, and thus we can’t just stay by one platform or one brand chosen by our institutions? Where are our collective investments in developing competitive but public alternatives, or do we really need to sacrifice community control and transparency on the altar of reliability and stable performance? 

Read, relate, think, enjoy. 

Microsoft, we have to talk…

I know this may hurt you, but I think we need to talk about having an open relationship.  You see, I know you think Outlook should be everything in an email and calendar ‘solution’ that I might ever need.  But, well, I guess it’s me, but some of my friends are Google calendars, and I really need to be able to hang out with them as well.  I know you don’t like this, but it’s true, and I just can’t deal with your judgemental attitude anymore.  How so judgemental, you ask? Well, when you send me an invitation to a Teams meeting, and don’t let me copy the link into my calendar, then delete the invitation as soon as I accept it, making it impossible to ever find the meeting: that kind of thing.  What kind of mind games are you trying to play, anyway?  Yes, I know my boss loves you and thinks we should be together, but your controlling attitude just doesn’t help me do what I need to do.  Sure, I believe you that your cloud solution for saving my documents is truly something to keep my files warm through many a cold winter night, but seriously, if this is true, do you have to hide the option to save documents to my local drive to convince me of this?   Your possessiveness is really starting to seem pathological: sometimes I do have to copy and paste an email address out of Outlook into a website or other email programme (yes, OK, I still have my Gmail account, I admit it!).  It’s not infidelity, it’s not my fault that they choose to contact me without you being on copy or (horrors!) ask me to fill out a web form!  So punishing me by making me wade through three levels of information I didn’t want : I don’t need to chat with them on some unknown mystery platform you have dreamed up, or find out their registered institutional postal address, phone number, blood type or favourite ice cream flavour, I just need to COPY THEIR EMAIL ADDRESS!

So, I haven’t told you this before, but some of my Ddigital Hhumanities friends (yes, the ones you don’t like) and I have been talking a lot lately about tactical conceptualisations of research infrastructure, you know, those inefficient loser ways of working where we use some really funky ugly tools that look like a Geocities website alongside some of your slick beauties.  They believe, and I am starting to agree with them, that a lot of people have workflows that include tools they gravitate toward not just because they are leather jacket-wearing rebels, but because those workflow components meet a need, whether they can describe it or not, that you simply can’t.  And I feel this way too.  Look, a Google slides deck is just a safer option when I am presenting in a room I have never seen before; I love your Powerpoint features, but seriously, if you change my fonts or spacing one more time between platforms I am seriously going to recompile your face.  

You weren’t always like this – what happened?  I remember a time when things were simpler: you, me, Word, Powerpoint, Excel.  There was a lot we didn’t have, but weren’t we happy like that?  Then something changed – you changed.  I can say exactly when, but I knew it when you took over Skype and decided to hide ‘start conversation’ under a menu called ‘File.’  I remember asking myself then: is that really all I am to you, and my connections to friends and family: Files?  And by the way, the whole thing with Skype for Business is just embarrassing.  It’s not Skype, it doesn’t even make much sense, please get past this,  for yourself even if it is too late for us.

I really want us to stay friends, I hope you do too.  I will always have a place for you in my life, I mean it when I say I can’t imagine working without Microsoft Word or Excel (though please, stop throwing it in my face how many more features I would have if I didn’t use a Mac, and do not to even open the topic of Access: seriously, do you have to be so blatant about how much more fun you have with the Windows users in your life?. But in return, can you just accept that you don’t meet all of my needs?  It’s getting a bit old to be cut-and-pasting behind your back?

And while we are at it, can you and all of your buddies just get over yourselves with the default audio notifications? Blloop, Bling, Fring, Moop … I have NO idea who is trying to tell me what, it’s like being in a room full of two-year olds sometimes, and when it starts to bleed through on Zoom calls (yes I use Zoom, that’s where my friends are hanging out, not Teams, so there, I said it!), well let’s just say, if I had time to root out those notification permissions, I would cancel them like Justin Bieber with a ‘I kill kittens’ T-shirt.  Kay?  

Cite this article as: Jennifer Edmond, "Microsoft, we have to talk…," in DARIAH Open, 18/11/2020, https://dariahopen.hypotheses.org/?p=940.

Introduction: Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra. Image credits: Portrait: Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities, CC-BY, 4.0. Work station on the go: Jennifer Edmond, CC-BY, 4.0. Cover image: Pixabay, CC0.


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