It's not about getting a free laptop, it's about credibility
So apparently some people got a free laptop which was payed by AMD and Microsoft. I say: good for them, getting gifts is always nice. (no, I didn't get one, nor would I have accepted it). However a gift from a company has a side effect: there's always a catch.
Though there's some negative buzz about these free laptops and some of the laptop receivers don't understand the negative buzz. Of course there are people out there who are jealous that some blogger got a laptop and others (read: themselves) didn't get one. However the laptop receivers shouldn't focus on these folks. They should focus on another, more important, group of people: their readers. You see, once you get a gift from a company because you apparently participated in a big marketing scheme, as a reward for your part in the evangelization, and you accept that gift, you admit at the same time you're nothing but an astroturfer and your own opinion will never be worth a dime for as long as you live.
People blog for a reason: to get their opinion out in the open so others can read their opinion and use that opinion to formulate their own opinion. They don't blog because they have too much time on their hands and just like to type random text no-one will read (otherwise, why bother publishing it?). So, the core element of an opinion is that it is an opinion, and an opinion of the blogger posting it, not some fragment of a big marketing campaign. As soon as you acknowledge your opinion can be, let's be blunt here, bought, by giving you a nice gift (not a businesscard holder or a coffee cup, but say a ... laptop), you make your own blog worthless. Because, everything you have wrote, what is your opinion? And what is influenced by the shiny gift you got to make you think different?
This morning I read the post written by mr. McLaws: Microsoft Gifts and Ethics. It didn't surprise me that mr. McLaws was one of the receivers of a free laptop, after all, he worked hard to bash any negative word about Microsoft and Vista in the past year or so. However what's so sad is that McLaws doesn't get it, I mean: what he gave away by accepting the gift: credibility.
Of course, there are people who like to waste time on reading marketing goo, however I like to spend my time on a real opinion, real information, not marketing. Life's too short to waste it on reading astroturfer b*llsh*t.