Friday, 28 September 2007

When "Sorry" is the hardest word to say

Well, Rob's explanation has arrived, and what a story it is (you'll need to scroll down to get to Rob's bit). I'd recommend reading it fully before you read the remainder of this piece.

Finished? Good.

Unlike Dan Lyons, Rob isn't content to merely let people know that he was wrong, but would also like people to know that it isn't his fault, those nasty SCO and Linux people made him do it.

Oh dear.

Blame the victim for the crime Rob? Surely not.

And yes Rob, Linux and the Open Source movement have been the victims in this. Whilst you are right that code copying can happen (and that the best we can hope for is to remove it when it is proven to exist) that doesn't excuse what you wrote over the years, neither does blaming Groklaw. They were right about SCO and you were wrong.

It is nice that you point out that a good analyst needs to be able to look at both sides of a story, it's just a shame that it has taken you so long to do so with this one. Even when people were screaming at you that you were wrong - and providing proof of it - you stuck your head down, sang "la la la la I can't hear you" and went on writing pro SCO / anti Open Source rubbish. And that is exactly what a lot of it was. You didn't understand what you were writing about but still you went on.

That isn't to say that things weren't done against you that shouldn't have been. Angry emails happen. Unfortunately you'll find that there is a certain element in computing that gets very vocal about their choice being the right one. This isn't something new that has only started with the Open Source movement. Windows and Apple has their own set of vocal idiots.

In fact, going back twenty five years we had the same level of vocal fireworks about the early 8-bit computers (Commodore 64 vs Amstrad CPC vs Sinclair Spectrum). Those days of schoolyard arguments (and violence too sometimes - those Chinese burns leave painful memories) are thankfully behind us now, but the new generation are here and they want to shout about their cause celebre - most of these idiots are under 20 (in fact, most are under 16) and are too young to have learnt restraint.

Unfortunately for each batch that learn the error of their ways and grow up there is another set waiting in the wings to replace them. Sadly if you can't cope with this then you'll probably want to turn off your computer right now and try something else. May I respectfully suggest gardening as a more genteel alternative?

Now onto the actual quotes from the piece, with my comments on them. Please bear in mind that this is my personal opinion - feel free to disagree. Also please note that the quotes are taken out of context (although that is true of all quotes if you think about it). If you want to know exactly what Rob says, follow the link at the top of the story.

"(I) focused like a laser on the Linux supporters I then viewed as criminals. And if they were criminals, than SCO must be the victim, right? Well, that was my thought back then. "

And there is the crux of the problem. After writing his first article on Linux and Open Source (and being blasted for it) he decided that it was all the fault of those horrible Open Source people. Giving away software? How dare they! Thieves and murderers, the lot of them.

Now on to the (in)famous SCO Keynote speech.

"The really interesting thing about that talk was that I had designed it specifically to prove that Groklaw was intentionally misleading people. Most have never actually read this speech as it was actually given. But I came up with the idea while sitting in the audience of the SCO event the day before I was to speak. I simply compared what was being said to what someone from Groklaw, who had clearly snuck into the event under false pretenses, was inaccurately reporting on their website. Intentionally falsifying something, given my own experience, really angered me and I figured I would do something about it."

Now here is the thing. The script apparently differs slightly from what Rob actually said. Groklaw's transcript was taken from what was said - Rob's was taken from his script. According to reports he was certainly most agitated when he made his speech. Is it possible that he may have got a bit carried away during his own private Nuremburg rally? Unfortunately unless someone has still got a recording of what was said, then we may never know for sure how misreported Rob was.

Now as well as Linux being the criminals - Groklaw were also in Straight Shootin' Rob's sights. After all - if SCO are the victims and Groklaw are against them, then Groklaw must also be criminals too, right? That's Enderle logic that is.

"(I) thought of folks like Groklaw as some part illegal conspiracy with secret backing. I admit that I have no idea who funds them and only care out of curiosity now, but that is what I believed at the time. By the way, I do believe that, given the funding SCO had, it was in SCO’s interest to leave the implication in place as the facts surrounding Groklaw’s funding were probably nowhere near as damaging to Groklaw as the likely false allegations SCO was making about them.

I should, and do, apologize for saying (at least I think I did and know I thought it), they were paid by IBM, I no longer believe that. "

Well, I suppose half an apology is better than none at all.

"It really wasn’t much of a talk, and it depended heavily on an impassioned delivery which, to my own surprise, I actually pulled off. I doubt I’ll ever do something like this again."

And we should be most grateful if you didn't Rob. Really.

"Unlike Dan Lyons, who has recently said he was tricked by SCO, I was tricked both by SCO and some Linux supporters who, unintentionally through their nasty behavior and threats, made me see them as the criminals. Nothing I had done gave these people the right to attack my livelihood, threaten my life or the lives of my family, and I still view the folks who engaged in such behavior as criminals."

OK, let's try and make a distinction here between those who were nasty about you, and those who threatened you. Disagreeing with you (even vocally so) doesn't make someone a criminal. Threats of violence are different. Genuine death threats (and threats of violence) shouldn't be tolerated. I'd hope you contacted the authorities regarding this so that these idiots can be dealt with.

At this point it is true that we probably do need to close the door on a lot of this and move on. A lot of things have been said over the years that have angered people on both sides. Unfortunately when one side (SCO and Rob) has already decided that the other (Linux and Open Source) are criminals then it makes meaningful dialog and balanced reporting very difficult.

SCO had no interest in honesty. This was obvious from the start, blatantly so. If you get so wound up in things that you couldn't see that then, well, more fool you I suppose.

I don't think Rob is an evil person. Neither do I think he is in the pay of Microsoft (at least - not regarding what he has written regarding SCO). I do think that he is extremely stubborn and refuses to back down. Whilst this can be admirable when you are in the right - it can be extremely destructive and annoying when you are wrong. I can only hope that Rob moves on from this and learns from the experience.

In fairness, I'll leave the last word to Rob, this is taken from the comments after the piece.

"My involvement had nothing to do with software it had to do with stopping behavior that I have tried to fight all of my life. In a post 911, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City world people who espouse violence to settle disputes, particularly trivial little things like who owns what software, need to be identified and stopped. I simply won’t apologize for believing that.

In the end there are likely two kinds of people, those that defend the rights of others and those that feel that only their own rights matter. In looking back at all of these posts, which group do you think most of these folks belong to? Which group do you belong to?"

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