As most people reading here already know, I work for Microsoft as a technology evangelist. However, writing this blog, as well as whatever else I do online in the social media space is entirely my own choice, and not Microsoft’s.
Keep that in mind as you sit down, relax, and listen as I tell you a story…
Boycott Novell: “This is not a hate site”
I had a pretty interesting experience this past week.
To my surprise, with all of the good buzz that Bing has been getting since its launch, this article was a poorly-organized mess of incredible negativity and aggressiveness, even going as far as accusing Microsoft of bribery and vandalism (I’m not kidding – read the article). Naturally, it doesn’t mention anything positive about Bing whatsoever, despite the undeniable fact that literally thousands have expressed positive sentiments for Bing on both the blogosphere and on Twitter.
This was strange to me, since BN proclaims that:
This is not a hate site. This is neither a crusade nor any type of propaganda front. We have our mind set on a single goal: finding out the truth.
If you are new to this site or just happen to lurk, we encourage you to take part in the discussion. We perceive comments as discussions, not just placements for feedback and correction. We are very responsive to comments.
So naturally, in the spirit of open social media discussion, I left a comment, expressing my opinion that I felt the article was a collection of cherry-picked articles against Microsoft.
My debate with the author went on for a few rounds, and finally to my surprise, the author accuses me of being a paid astroturfer and a Microsoft shill for failing to disclose that I work for Microsoft in my comments.
Now, I have a few problems with this accusation:
- First of all, it is simply not practical to disclose who you work for or represent in every single blog comment you leave. Hardly anyone does that. Scoble doesn’t do it. Matt Cutts doesn’t do it.
- What most people do however (including myself), is to leave a URL link to their website or blog so interested people can find out more about who you are. I never comment anonymously, and I didn’t do so in this case.
- I never tried to obfuscate the fact that I worked for Microsoft. In fact, on my About page, I prominently state in the first few lines that I am a a technology evangelist working for the biggest software company in the world. If that’s not enough, on the front page of my blog is a prominent link to my public LinkedIn profile, which clearly shows that I work for Microsoft.
- The worse thing is, comments have been disabled on the post which accuses me of being an astroturfer. So much for a site which claims to “encourage you to take part in the discussion” and is “very responsive to comments”.
I can say with 100% certainty that every other blog I’ve visited and commented on before (even the slightly more fanatical blogs like TheAppleBlog), people will argue and debate with you about the points you bring up til no end, but they will never attack your character or who you work for.
That is social media. That is open discussion.
Alas, not on BN. If you read the entire comment thread, you will realize that the author (as well as some in the BN community) rather attack you for who you are, instead of debating you on your arguments. Boden Larsen, a neutral commentator, sums it up best:
Yes, [Roy Schestowitz, the site author] resorts to an ad hominem attack and then goes on to defend this strategy. In my opinion you can never win once things turn in this direction, so don’t sweat it. I’m sure that many readers here see what’s happening even if they remain silent.
Obsession and Paranoia?
The initial encounter with BN piqued my interest in the website, not so much because of the content or their accusations, but because I found it both amusing and surprising at how paranoid and obsessed the BN community really was with everything Microsoft.
Here’s a sampling of articles published after my “encounter” with them:
- I subscribed to the BN news feed. Out comes this article: Boycott Novell Has New Subscriber
- BN actually filed a complaint to the FTC! Looking forward to see what comes out of this: Microsoft Reported to the FTC for AstroTurf Marketing
- BN also published a list of all known evangelists working for Microsoft. What’s hilarious to me, is that Brian Gorbett (Microsoft Evangelist) actually commented to have his particulars updated!
- BN has no choice but to change their commenting policy, claiming themselves to be the victim from abuse and intimidation from trolls.
- David “Lefty” Schlesinger, who is a member of the Linux community and has been falsely accused by BN before, defended me on many of the comments I made on BN. Naturally, BN (remember, they are the victim) has no qualms about smearing him.
And as expected, all of the accusatory posts above have commenting disabled.
Penguin Pete is the typical type of individual that you will find hanging out at BN. Check out these two articles that he wrote (one of which was quoted as a “source” on BN). Check out these gems which I took as direct quotes from his articles (all emphasis is his):
You know who Linux’s enemy is? Oh, nobody much. Just the most powerful corporation in the known universe, founded by the richest human being in the universe.
Well, that’s what’s going on in Linux and the FOSS community. Pardon us, but we’re fighting for our freaking LIVES! And everybody else’s freedom too, even if they don’t care about it themselves much.
Who else is on their side? Because, as a highly proud member of the Technology Freedom Movement, I’ll tell you this today: You’re with us or against us.
I know, that sounds really Republican-going-to-Iraq, doesn’t it? It isn’t often that life provides us such a black-and-white situation. But that’s what makes this day so special. This thing is snowballing out of control, picking up more people from both sides every day. Watch the comments, watch the blogs, mine, yours, everybody’s. Through it all, we will have a very clear view of what color shirt everybody is wearing.
You’re with us or against us. You’re with us or against us. You’re with us or against us.
To further show his classiness, he takes an otherwise inspirational story about the principal developer for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and twists it around to show the superiority of FOSS developers:
Since one of the commenters below launched into the typical spiel about how professional coders at proprietary software companies produce superior output compared to the hobbyists of open source who are all wearing sandals, etc., blah, blah, blah…I found this amusing, assuming it isn’t a parody site (crossing fingers). Here is the principle developer for Microsoft Internet Explorer. He’s a dropout, self-educated, and has prior job experience at at McDonalds, coffee shops, and a hotdog stand – and that’s not even the most embarrassing thing he says about himself.
What was that superior difference between FOSS and proprietary software again?
Anyway, let’s go back to BN:
I asked the BN community recently what they thought about Microsoft releasing 20,000 lines of source code to Linux. Surely as advocates of Linux and open source software, they would be happy right? I mean, even Greg Kroah-Hartman, the current Linux kernel maintainer and the lead of the Linux Driver Project, thinks it’s a great move.
By now though, you can probably guess that BN folks are less than thrilled:
As we know from inerrant Microsoft, Linux is a cancer that infects everything it touches. Microsoft just touched Linux. Is Microsoft a cancer now?
Microsoft’s “contribution” was made for one reason only, and that’s to promote their virtualisation stack. Ultimately, this only benefits those who run Windows.
Are we supposed to jump up and down for joy because of this?
Finally, if you are still not convinced that BN is an anti-Microsoft hate site sans a single thread of objectivity, well… listen to what the site author, Roy Schestowitz has to say:
This site is as much “anti-Microsoft” as the United States is “anti-Madoff” and the British are “anti-Mugabe”.
Those who do the crimes deserve no favouritism.
Folks, you decide for yourself whether BN and its community are obsessed and paranoid.
Social Media FAIL?
The question I ask myself is this – If I were in Roy’s shoes and I have a personal vendetta against Microsoft, is running BN in this manner the best possible way I can execute a plan to change public perception and win sympathizers?
I think for those who have been around social media a lot, you know that social media is all about credibility. And by consistently misinterpreting facts, using untrue but sensational headlines, censoring comments, using an immature, aggressive and condescending tone, and generally being poorly-researched, I can guess that Boycott Novell doesn’t have much (if any) credibility with anyone important in technology.
But then again, it could be that the facts are not on BN’s side, which means Roy has no choice but to make a lot of noise and hope to appeal to others’ emotions instead of debating using sound arguments and facts.
In any case, as much as BN claims otherwise, it is certainly not an open community, much less one that encourages open discussion and alternate interpretations/opinions.
What does the Linux/Open Source community think?
The last thing I was really curious about was whether BN represented the views of the open source community in general, or are they just a self-contained bunch of anti-Microsoft fanatics.
To get that answer, I did a simple search on Google (I didn’t use Bing, lest others accuse Bing of censoring results ).
Here is a post from the Linux community Linsux.org:
Update: It has been brought to my attention that Linsux.org is not a Linux community (in fact, far from it). So please take the comments below for what it’s worth. My bad.
Wow. I can’t say anything else but the so over used: BoycottNovell is the cancer that’s destroying Linux community.
Damn I never thought they were so “cunning”. That’s so real planing and “FUD” from their end. This Shit-what’s-his-name-itz is one psychotic megalomaniac planner. He know exactly hot to pull the strings.
Thank god he never became a politician, or things could be totally different.
I prefer that Shit-what’s-his-name-itz remains in BN rather then try to get some other more influential place in society.
I think that boycott novell is pure garbage.
Do anyone even relies on it’s information? since it only spreads FUD and Conspiracy theory’s IMHO. I wonder myself how some articles are sometimes the most digged (on Digg).
Also this site gives bad name to the Linux comunity, giving an image that our comunity are a bunch of radicals and software “terrorists” who want to plant a Bomb on Redmond.
It’s obvious if you read the comments on the boycottnovell article regarding the codec issue, that these guys think they are better than everyone else – anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their views is, in their mind, unwelcome in Linux.
These guys are whack-jobs.
When BN tries to cross post their articles on the comp.os.linux.advocacy newsgroup, this is what the community thinks:
Roy Schestowitz is a classic narcissist and *yes* he *does* believe that he is above everyone else and that people won’t bother to check his sources and “facts”. He really does.
He has comments turned off on that story BTW. I guess even Schestowitz knows when he has screwed up really bad.
‘Boycott Novell’ is a sham laughingstock joke of a website. It’s not taken seriously by anyone except a handful of like-minded Linux dweebs. When’s the last time Novell contacted you to discuss anything? That’s what I thought.
You actually accept money to run Microsoft ads on the site – what kind of pathetic fraud does that?
I think we can conclude the story here with a personal email I received just today from a prominent member of the Linux development community who I shall not name.
Just wanted to point out that the conspiracy theorists at BoycottNovell do not represent the “community”. Just like the Unabomber did not represent “America”.
As long as you do not believe we are all wackos like those idiots, I felt it was worth pointing that out.
Update: Wow. I never expected my article to get close to 2000 page views in the few days since it was published (I know it’s not a big deal to many blogs, but for my humble blog, it is).
Anyway, here are some other reactions to my article (and to BN) from elsewhere that I found. I won’t extract any quotes here, but please feel free to see what others in the community have to say.
There is a discussion page for this article on Linux news website Lxer. The OpenSUSE forum discussion thread is here. And how can we possibly have an article about Boycott Novell without including any reactions from the Novell community?