Found the definition in a Microsoft internal document (page 54, to be precise) submitted in 2000 as evidence in a class-action lawsuit against the mighty software giant,
“A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select panelists, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only ‘independent ISVs’ on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed -just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the ‘real world.’ Sounds marvelously independent doesn’t it? In fact, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the ‘independent’ panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.”
I’ve been to a few “stacked panels” before (but didn’t even realize it!), and always left with a bad taste in my mouth. The views and perspectives were terribly lopsided, biased, and generally not helpful unless I was an advocate of that viewpoint. So why bother singing to your own choir?
As a professional panel moderator, I cringe at the additional “wisdom” in the memo:
“Finding a moderator is key to setting up a stacked panel. The best sources of pliable moderators are:
Yet another reason you would want to hire a neutral, outside professional panel moderator!
Guess this stacking panel strategy made sense for Microsoft – Techrights is suggesting that Microsoft is still engaging in stacking the panel discussion. So from this point forward, don’t say I didn’t warn you!