Sensationalism takes a choke-hold

Oh dear. I used to like reading Groklaw and admired it for its accuracy and straight-down-the-line reporting. Recently though, I have felt it has become too much of a pulpit, and this post is just sensationalist clutching at straws. Now take the story over to Slashdot and it seems the headline is more important than the content. How can Slashdot reference the Groklaw story as the point of reference for the news story when the Groklaw article spends most of its time poking fun at Novell rather than finding the heart and soul of the story? I really hope PJ reverts back to the good ‘ol days of Groklaw and brings some balance and premise to the reporting.

From what I can see, this is exactly the kind of interop that the Novell guys were promising between Linux and Windows, and according to Nat Friedman in the OpenSuSE/Microsoft deal IRC discussion, these interop technologies would be made Open Source anyway. Its hardly a fork as the work is being submitted to go upstream. So whats the problem? If the claim of a fork is that they have patched OpenOffice.org and included extra stuff before it is shipped upstream, well, this is fairly normal for a lot of distributions. The problem here is that PJ and the Slashdot author knew that the word fork would grab attention. They were right, it certainly grabbed mine.

It seems the cool thing right now is to bash our friends at Novell left, right and centre for every decision they are making post-MS deal. One bad decision does not a bad company make. Novell have contributed some amazing free software to the world and have made great efforts with working with the community. I am sick and tired of the continued wave of sensationalist bullshit that has infected the Open Source and Linux media and blogger community, and I hope some of these people can get a healthy dose of realism, and get it soon. In my book it is not good journalism, not good reporting, and not good for the free software community.

  • Brian

    Hear hear! I am glad somebody with some weight in the free software world said it. The thing that happens when we get half of a story and run off half cocked, is that we only use a quarter of our brains. I say “we” because Groklaw can be seen as a representation of the free software community due to their role with the SCO debacle.

    We (free software users and advocates) do not have a single voice unlike Microsoft or Oracle. I do not believe this is bad, quite the contrary, I believe our collective voice is better. But when a very sensationalist opinion piece is produced on a site that is traditionally a news outlet, it is damaging. Not only from a PR perspective but more importantly, in my opinion, from a morale perspective. I also find this quite funny considering the huge part Novell plays in the development of OOo.

  • http://blog.wolkje.net/?p=128 Martin Sturm » Blog Archive » Novell forking OpenOffice.org.. err.. not

    [...] On Slashdot and Groklaw, there is a news item about forking of OpenOffice.org by Novell. When reading an article, there is no prove for an actual fork, an as is pointed out by Jono Bacon, it seems that Groklaw is just using a sensational heading. As Andries Brouwer points out, the news at Groklaw is probably inspired by the disklike of Microsoft by PF. [...]

  • http://www.DonAssad.com Josef Assad

    Well.

    While I agree entirely that PJ should be ashamed of the sensationalism, and that she clearly needs to understand open source mechanics better, I still think that there are serious issues with Novell.

    Directly to the point, the OpenXML licensing terms are still problematic. The covenant not to sue covers the current standard only, which effectively gives Microsoft a veto over standard evolution and extension.

    Further, if you are implementing the standard and you participate in a patent infringement suit against MS pertaining to any of their specs which are covered by their open specification promise (http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/default.mspx#E6) then the covenant falls. Which means MS would have given itself a bit of nice ammunition if one of the covered standards turns out to infringe on someone else’s IP.

    I don’t consider MS evil, but they do have shareholders and none of their actions should be interpreted outside the context of potential earnings.

  • Glanz

    …”I also find this quite funny considering the huge part Novell plays in the development of OOo.”

    Well, I bet that “large part”that Novell plays in the development will now be controlled by Microsoft and become the foot in the door for litigation against Linux by MS.What you mean was “I also find this quite funny considering the huge part Novell HAS PLAYED in the development of OOo.” What’s to prevent all that “development” from being owned and patented by MS? The GPL2? One thousand MS lawyers will make mince meat of any GPL licence.

  • jono

    Glanz – sorry, but many of your points here are pure FUD:

    “Well, I bet that “large part”that Novell plays in the development will now be controlled by Microsoft and become the foot in the door for litigation against Linux by MS.”

    Do you honestly think that Microsoft will control Novell’s work on OpenOffice.org? Before Novell, the Ximian guys were working on it, and I am pretty sure that Michael Meeks works to an agenda he is happy with and would not bend to being controlled Microsoft. In any case, I don’t believe for a second Novell would stand for absolute Microsoft control of their contributions to OpenOffice.org. I think your point is short-sighted and in no way representative – a partnership does not equate to control.

    “What’s to prevent all that “development” from being owned and patented by MS?”

    Don’t be crazy. The development will be owned by Novell and contributed to the wider community. I am not suggesting there won’t be legal action in the future, but this is why the support for OpenXML is being done as a plug-in. It is exactly the same approach the Mono guys have taken it seems, which makes sense.

    “The GPL2? One thousand MS lawyers will make mince meat of any GPL licence.”

    This is yet another spurious comment with no real back-up. Just because they employ a lot of lawyers does not mean that they can “make mince meat of any GPL license”. Firstly it takes a legitimate legal issue with the license and secondly, the coalition of business dependent on the license would be sure to help defend it. I am positive that if MS made a serious legal complaint with the GPL2, IBM, Novell and others would work together to defend it.

    It is easy to come out with conspiracies about everything, lets just get some context. :)

  • http://nrrd.de/dasbuch/ housetier

    So let’s cut Novell some slack, then. But let’s also cut Groklaw some slack for not cutting Novell some slack.

    I think the community is strong enough to survive any form of real and perceived sensationalism. It has survived slasdot so far.

  • http://pecisk.blogspot.com Peteris Krisjanis

    Damn, Jono, you hit a nail and said everything what I wanted to say about this all “FUD”. Sad that PJ has got a little bit too fanatic about GPLv3 and all that stuff, but Novell/Microsoft deal totally drove me off her cause. Yes, it her right to express her view, but somehow I expected more balanced POV, because picture she paints definitely can’t be right.

    And I think most of community avoids main question – why we fear Microsoft so much now? It is somehow different than from few years ago, when Firefox started to gain mind share? Yes, they are big, but so do we. Why we are so frightened? Maybe someone in community tries to FUD a part of community to be frightened?

    I think there is a wolf in sheep’s clothing somewhere, seriously. It all feels so orchestrated…

  • welcome to the circus where I fool around

    If anyone is stupid enough to be optimistic about a convicted monopoly, especially with Corel/Microsoft in mind, then obviously people haven’t learned from history.

  • Glanz

    You are probably (and hopefully) right. I was just considering a possible series of “plugins”, all closed source and immune to examination, and later litigation by MS to prevent or harass normal development of certain applications via the “creating deliberate inoperability” card, (inoperability sabotage) something of which they themselves have been accused. No free Linux project has the means to face endless restraining orders and continuous litigation from ambulance chasing MS lawyers with unlimited funding.

    I simply do not trust or believe anything Microsoft, and now, Novell says. Ballmer seems to believe he has the right to comment and spread further FUD about Linux because of this “deal.” Which means, in cold hard reality, that Ballmer is speaking for Novell and SuSE deveoppers whether they like it or not.

    It is my personal belief that Microsoft cannot be trusted in anything… History has shown this. No way would I remotely consider using any form of SuSE now.

  • Elroy

    @Glanz: A rather far fetched conclusion thet Microsoft now speaks for Novell and Novell can’t be trusted, like Microsoft, because they entered into an agreement with them.

    Let’s take it one step further. Most companies have agreements with microsoft of some sort or the other. Should we trust no-one then?

    Realistically, Miscrosoft has been giving it’s own spin to this agreement. They’re using it to spread FUD, no doubt to split the open source community. Surprisingly they’re getting help from Groklaw :shock:

    Many of the statements they’ve made are not backed up by the parts of the agreement that are now public. Also Novell has time and again said what the deal means according to their view. From what is publicly know Novell’s explanation of this deal fits what we’ve seen. Microsofts spin does not. How is it then that you claim Microsoft speaks for Novell and Novell can’t be trusted.

    The way I see it is: Novell can be trusted to look after it’s bussiness interests. It’s what their stockholders expect/demand. Their interest is more and more reliant on F/OSS, so they will support the community if only out of neccesity.

    Microsoft being a bussines too with stockholders even. Can be expected to do the same. Microsoft has no interest in a strong F/OSS movement, as long as there is one and they are marginally cooperating with them they can say some nice things in their various lawsuits concerning unfair competition. So expect Microsoft to do the minimal amount of cooperating, while using the as much as possible to further their own dominant position.

    Right now FUD server MS so the produce FUD. Instead of helping MS spread the FUD, perhaps the bright people at Groklaw coud look into those agreement objectively for a change and see how much of MS’s claims are actually backed up by the agreement. And Novell can be trusted/distrusted as much as they could before this deal.

    And I too would be very careful beore entering into an agreement with Microsoft. But unlike some small companies, Novell has some very good lawyers that will have taken a good look at the agreement before signing it. So I expect Novell to fare a little better than the average comapny dealing with MS in the past.

    I use both Linux and Windows an OOo on both. I like Linux better because of the stability and security which for me is way better than Windows. But prefer to play my games on Windows because it’s less hassle. Using Linux because you dont trust MS seems to me an odd reason. Using Linux because you dont trust Microsoft to release decent secure software seems a much better one.

  • jono

    housetie – sure, we can put up with sensationalism, but it is harming our community. I just hope my blog post will be read by a few people who will think about posting facts instead of assumptions.

    welcome – sure, they have a pretty screwed up past, I am not denying that. Bu that does not justify inaccurate assumed reporting. If MS have done something wrong, I would much rather see a report hammering them on the facts.

    Glanz – “Ballmer seems to believe he has the right to comment and spread further FUD about Linux because of this “deal.””

    The definition of FUD is assumed, unsubstantive claims about a particular vendor or system, and you have spread such FUD about Microsoft and Novell in your comments today. I am not denying that Microsoft spread lots of FUD, but you are doing your fair share here today – FUD is bad, no matter where or who it comes from. I don’t mind if you object to Novell or Microsoft, just spread facts instead of assumptions and unsubstantive claims.

  • http://pecisk.blogspot.com Peteris Krisjanis

    welcome to the circus where I fool around: I simply don’t buy Corel/Microsoft sentiment. Corel created VERY MEDICORE distro (everyone who would claim that it was bound to win is clearly out of his mind, or living in fantasy world) and run itself into serious problems finansially, of course, independently of any Linux dealings (in fact, it was another dot com victim). Microsoft offered investment, which by now is already gone and Corel is living company again.

    And you haven’t learned from history to sometimes not to learn from history.

  • Glanz

    Just a clarification: I am not saying that Microsoft could win such litigation in the technically legal sense of the word, but I am saying that they would “win” by attrition, and they have done hundreds of times in the past.

  • http://pecisk.blogspot.com Peteris Krisjanis

    Glanz: tell me at least two such times when Microsoft have been “teh winner” using such techniques?

    Really?

  • Glanz

    Pete

    Your education is not my job. All I have to say is “read”… If you cannot find anything on the subject of MS instigated frivolous litigation, you need a new search engine or a good professor. Try replacing MSN search with Google.

  • http://pecisk.blogspot.com Peteris Krisjanis

    Glanz: I thought you know thousand cases. I just wanted to see do you really know at least one.

    You don’t, it seems to me. You just spread FUD, like Microsoft does. In fact, Microsoft is winning, because you are so afraid of it, that you want others to be too.

    No offense, but that is simply childish.

  • Nathan DBB

    Microsoft funded the investment group that funded the SCO lawsuits. That is not a conspiracy theory, it is a conspiracy fact. Now, Microsoft is trying to FUD/FUK free software, and Novell is helping.

    The FUK is that Microsoft can go to court and site Novell paying them as something that legitimizes their claim that free software should have to pay for their stupid software patents. The FUD is that you have to buy your Linux from Novell or MS can come after you.

  • http://pecisk.blogspot.com Peteris Krisjanis

    You don’t understand much from patents, do you?

    I am not a lawyer myself, but… How this deal gives Microsoft to legitimize their claim that free software should have to pay for their stupid software patents? How this invalidate OIN and IBM software patent portfolio, which, obviously, is at our side? And how this makes worse claim that there can be such violations in Linux and surrounding software code?

    FUD is maybe that you should buy Novell distribution and support (hmmm, in fact, lot of companies presented protection as their product after all SCO fiasco start to begun serious, this is how whole OIN started), but FUD is also that Microsoft now have legit claims, and we should all boo Novell now and see them as evils.

    About Microsoft financing SCO – I am not so sure, who seek which money and which made decision to finance SCO, there is not enough information on that. I think that it was whole McBride plan at the beginning and Microsoft only saw a opportunity to mess with us. Yes, it is a crime. But this deal is something totally different, because Novell say that there is no violations (and they somehow very legit to say that, after all investments and lawyer consulations), so there is no violations, point.

  • moz

    While I think PJ went a bit over the top with the fork article, I do agree with the underlying concerns.

    The Microsoft/Novell deal should have absolutely NO bearing on support for OOXML being added to OpenOffice.org. If it does, then Microsoft has lied since they state that OOXML is freely implementable.

    My concern about this deal is that it will a one-way deal of Novell implementing Microsoft methods and Microsoft doing nothing but lip service. The OOXML converter on source forge is a good example of this. I can see Novell developers listed there, but are there any from Microsoft? If not, then why not?

    I still don’t understand what I as a customer have gained. I see nothing that could not have been provided unilaterally by Novell via a general IP indemnification.

  • http://boycottnovell.com/2006/12/06/nvoell-damage/ Boycott Novell » PJ Explains Novell’s Damage

    [...] This comes amid some criticism which suggests that Groklaw has gone too radical. [...]

  • http://reverendted.wordpress.com/2006/12/12/forking-openofficeorg/ Forking OpenOffice.org « Open Source Advocacy with Reverend Ted

    [...] As many of my readers know, the community manager for Ubuntu, Jono Bacon, is a good friend of mine. One thing I love about Jono is that he’s a level-headed thinker–especially on issues that can stoke the flames of passion among the free software community. His recent post “Sensationalism takes a choke-hold” shows that clearly as he pleads for some sanity in response to a poorly researched Groklaw article about Novell “forking” OpenOffice.org. [...]

  • http://www.jonobacon.org/?p=843 jonobacon@home » Features vs. Freedom

    [...] My opinion on this is simple. I believe that people should simply practise what they preach. If your opinion is “no compromise”, then there should be no compromise. You don’t get to choose what is more ethically acceptable here, this is the point of “no compromise”. From the outset I have always stated that I believe in free software, but I do acknowledge that I sometimes use non-free software – as many of you know, my studio is currently non-free until we all feel the big Jokosher love. I have explicitly not taken a “no compromise” position because I know I could not maintain a “no compromise” lifestyle. As I made clear in a previous entry, I think sensationalism is an enemy in the free software world, but unfortunately much of the discussion about features vs. freedom seems to boil down to very vocal outbursts by the holier-than-thou brigade who often step beyond sage fact and fall into headlines and rhetoric to grab Planet readers while they eat their breakfast. [...]

  • http://www.novell.com/coolblogs/?p=692 NOVELL: Cool Blogs » Blog Archive » Forking OpenOffice.org

    [...] December 12th, 2006 by Ted Haeger (No Ratings Yet)  Loading … As many of my readers know, the community manager for Ubuntu, Jono Bacon, is a good friend of mine. One thing I love about Jono is that he’s a level-headed thinker–especially on issues that can stoke the flames of passion among the free software community. His recent post “Sensationalism takes a choke-hold” shows that clearly as he pleads for some sanity in response to a poorly researched Groklaw article about Novell “forking” OpenOffice.org. Now one of my favorite Linux-enthusiast journalists, Steven Vaughan-Nichols, weighs in on the matter, as well. Perhaps I can add some fact-check on the matter while strengthening Jono’s orginal point about falling for the diviside-and-conquer tactic that is playing out in the community. There are some who claim that Microsoft entered into the Novell deal as a divide-and-conquer strategy. To wit, recently the founder of Ubuntu and leader of Ubuntu’s backing company Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth used an openSUSE mailing list to recruit openSUSE community of hackers over to Ubuntu. This mis-step was quickly identified by many members of the openSUSE and free software community(ies) as divisive, and possibly playing right into Micrsoft’s hands. (Please note, I use this event as a way to illuminate the issue, not to project any ill feelings toward Mr. Shuttleworth, as much of the backlash could easily be argued to have been equally overblown. For your consideration, I link to a rather well-balanced summary article about the issue.) The point is that some of the loud protests against the Novell-Microsoft agreement (and, no, I do not overlook the agreement itself) have created a rift in the community where facts are unimportant, and conspiracy claims are king. Somewhere, a monkeyboy is smiling. To Groklaw’s claim that, “There will be a Novell edition of OpenOffice.org and it will support Microsoft OpenXML,” I submit this fact: [...]