I am Stephen "Stepto" Toulouse, former head ban hammer for Xbox LIVE and 18 year Microsoft Employee. AMA.
Greetings everyone! I left Microsoft last month after 18 years there. I worked in all manner of divisions at the company at all manner of levels. My most recent job was head of policy and enforcement for the Xbox LIVE service but I also worked in product support, computer code security, public relations, and more!
A couple of notes for this AMA. I am still under a confidentiality agreement. Where questions come up against that I will try to answer as best I can (Don't worry I'm not going to just say "sorry can't talk about that bye bye").
Second, I wrote a book about my time at Microsoft called "A Microsoft Life" which you can buy from my website or on Kindle. There's also an audio version of the book featuring my friends Wil Wheaton, Paul and Storm, Mike Phirman, Major Nelson, and many more which you can buy here and 2/3'rd's proceeds go to benefit Child's Play, and the audio book comes with a PDF of the full book:
PLEASE NOTE: This is the only time I'm going to mention the book or audio book sale links in this AMA. If your question is answered by the book, I will paste in as much of the book as I feel addresses your question instead of just being a dick and linking the book for you to buy. :>
Third, there is no third except that I refuse to answer any questions about Woody Harrelson's new movie. Sorry.
Ask me anything!
EDIT: 3pmPT Man this so far has been a blast. I've been at it now for over three hours. I have to take a break to attend an event downtown but I plan to be back at 8:30pm PT (roughly five hours from now) I'll tweet when I am back and in the mean time please leave questions, I am reading every one (sorry for those unanswered yet I am trying to prioritize the best ones and the subthreads) and I will answer those left when I return.
EDIT 2: 7pmPT I'm back early! Diving into unanswered questions.
EDIT 3: 8:30PMPT ok taking another break, will check back in one more time later tonight!
EDIT 4: 11:30PMPT ok done for the night. Will check back in the morning and make one final edit answering many of the repeated questions, but I'll do it here in the main post as a catch all. Thanks everyone it was fun.
EDIT 5: Final Edit, catch all questions:
"Are you The Pro? What do you think of him?"
The enforcement team uses many gamertags, some public, some private. One time while using the gamertag "The Pro" an individual on my team was taunted pretty mercilessly for a period of over a half hour before they snapped and said some regretful things. A video was cut to make it look like they snapped for no reason, and from there the myth of "The Pro" was born. The number of people who claim to have encountered that gamertag and their horrible unfair "banning for no reason" ways is truly staggering considering after the incident we retire that tag and others for a little while. I spoke to the employee in question when it happened and they certainly regretted their tone. Since then that gamertag has taken on mythic status as hundreds of people still ping me each month claiming to have been banned by them despite the fact it's not been used for enforcement in any way for years. Welcome to the Internet, where myths are born.
"What do you think of [Insert miscreant/hacker here]?"
I don't! Like I said in the thread, over my years at Xbox people come and go in terms of miscreants. It really serves no purpose to get too wrapped up in personalities or Internet chest thumping, or with anyone ill. There's always someone out there with free time, and now it's not something I have to concern myself with anyway. So I'll stick with my advice that whenever possible people try to be excellent to each other.
"How do I get a job at Xbox?"
There's no answer to that one. linked in one of the comments below is a podcast @thevowel and I did that describes the convoluted path we took to get into the games industry. Its probably the closest thing to an answer I have.
"Can you unban me?"
Nope. Couldn't even if I wanted to. :D
Again thanks everyone for all the questions. If you have any others email me at stepto at stepto.com.