Regis: Steve Ballmer from Redmond, Wash., is the CEO of Microsoft. Behind him, cheering him on, is his Uncle Fester. Hi, Uncle Fester! OK, Steve, are you ready?

Ballmer: I’m ready, Regis! Let’s do it!

Regis: Then let’s play Who Wants to Be Taken Seriously? OK, Steve, here we go:

If your company bills itself as a provider of secure, reliable networking software, and your internal network suffers an embarrassing, potentially disastrous hacker attack, what do you do? A) Give confusing, conflicting accounts of the attack. B) Provide truthful, consistent information about it. C) Blame it all on Department of Justice intrusiveness. D) Ignore it all and talk really loudly about something else.

Ballmer: Well, let me see. My gut tells me the answer is D – that seems to be the most logical. But gee, I’m not sure. This is a tough one.

Regis: You know you have your three lifelines, Steve – 50/50, you can ask the audience or you can phone a friend.

Ballmer: I think I’ll phone a friend, Regis. I’m going to call Bill. He’s an old college buddy.

Regis: Well let’s get Bill on the line. Bill? This is Regis from Who Wants to Be Taken Seriously? Your friend Steve needs your help.

Bill: Finally!

Ballmer: Ha-ha! Bill, if your company bills itself as a provider of secure, reliable networking software, and your internal network suffers an embarrassing, potentially disastrous hacker attack, what do you do? A) Give confusing, conflicting accounts of the attack. B) Provide truthful, consistent information about it. C) Blame it all on Department of Justice intrusiveness. D) Ignore it all and talk really loudly about something else.

Bill: C) blame it on DOJ intrusiveness.

Ballmer: Are you sure, Bill? What if it happens to us and we need the FBI to help?

Bill: We have really smart people. We’d never have to ask…(Buzz!)

Regis: Oh, I’m sorry, Steve, time’s up. Well, your friend seemed fairly certain. What do you think?

Ballmer: This is so hard, Regis! I’m going to have to ask the audience. I brought along the entire Microsoft public relations department, and they should know.

Regis: OK, audience, key in your answers now. (Pause.) Wow! That’s the first time that’s ever happened! Every single member of the audience said the answer is A – You should give confusing, conflicting accounts of the attack.

Ballmer: That’s good enough for me, Regis. I’m going to go with my PR team. I’m going to say A – give confusing, conflicting accounts of the attack.

Regis: So, that is your…

Ballmer: That’s my final answer.

Regis: (Dramatic pause.) I’m sorry. The correct answer is B. You should provide truthful, consistent information.

Ballmer: Darn! I knew the answer was “Ignore it all and talk really loudly about something else!” I should have gone with my gut!

Tennant is assistant news editor at Computerworld (U.S.). Contact him at don_tennant@computerworld.com.



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