Her nom de blog is Ethlite the Pole Dancing Philosopher, but in the halls of Cupertino, she appears to be Helen Hung Ma, an Apple software engineer tied to the disastrous MobileMe launch. And unfortunately for her, an unwise early morning post on her personal blog, since whisked down, is about the only glimpse we have of what went wrong.
Hung Ma hints that MobileMe’s launch problems were totally avoidable, but Apple’s corporate culture ostracizes potential problem labelers as cynical, hyper-critical mavericks. “Not team players,” in other words.
Even with 100% hindsight, knowing exactly what caused the failure, if I had raised that issue before launch, there was no way I could have convinced anyone of the full seriousness of the problem. At best I would just be seen as merely doing my job, but more likely I would have been seen as a naysayer who isn’t “fully on board” and instead trying to slow everyone down with overblown hypothetical edge cases.
Hung Ma then goes on to claim that this is not a specific dig at Apple, but rather an indictment of “corporate culture” as a whole. I’m unconvinced: Apple is different from most companies in that it is headed by a galvanic, steel-willed prophet / despot, whose visions mercilessly drive the entire company. It is easy to imagine Apple, as a culture, being too soft willed to challenge him with the devastating consequences of what Jobs might consider to be mundane technical details when his mind is made up about something.
Although “Ethlite” never specifically names Apple or MobileMe in her post, Dan Lyons’ deep Apple sources confirm to him that she is indeed a MobileMe engineer talking about the launch, and Camillo Miller’s excellent detective work has nailed down her identity even further. Further credence that she’s speaking about MobileMe and Apple is the speed in which her blog was purged from the Internet, along with most Google caches of the page. Either Apple went into overdrive to keep this from leaking out, or Hung Ma rightfully panicked once the stream hit the surface of the swimming pool.
Elthlite, Apple and MobileMe: the Missing Post [Apple Lounge]