quick thoughts on novell, blogs as journalism, etc.

On patents and public slander(?) of distros:

  • Urgh. I have some beef with Novell’s agreement with Microsoft, but I tried to make all my posts on the subject constructive and fact-based. (If I failed, let me know.) Unecessarily and/or unjustly demonizing one of our largest contributors is damaging and counterproductive- it makes the people within Novell who should be on the community’s side defensive and angry, when that is the last thing the broader community needs. It is bad enough when it is clearly nutty hyperbole, but worse when it is just an outright misstatement of fact. Do I think Novell’s support of OOXML is very bad for ODF long-term? Absolutely, as it lends OOXML a legitimacy it didn’t previously have. But is it a fork? Is it actively malicious to provide a feature that customers will absolutely be demanding, whether we like it or not? Of coure not. Out of a sense of fairness, Groklaw should retract the assertion and apologize- air quotes around “fork” aren’t enough.
  • It is a shame that Groklaw’s credibility is now impaired- despite embarassing themselves here, they are still asking a lot of important questions, like what happens after the five year deal is up. A software patent contract expert I spoke to at the patent conference I was at last month said that they’d never previously seen a patent deal which wasn’t for the life of the patents involved, so asking about the five year term is completely fair. Hopefully Novell’s justified distaste for Groklaw won’t prevent them from anwering this question in their FAQ, and hopefully Groklaw will put down the egregious conspiracy theories and focus instead on the substantive issues like this one where they can do some constructive good.
  • Relatedly, after I asked ‘where is Ubuntu’s patent policy‘, someone who I respect a lot pointed out that as a journalist, I had a responsibility to ask Ubuntu first instead of blogging the question publicly. I don’t think of myself as a journalist, so I’m not sure I agree that I have obligation as a journalist per se. But clearly I have an audience, and that power probably brings responsibility. So his point has definitely made me think. Groklaw silliness about a ‘fork’, which could easily have been avoided, brought home the point- I’ll certainly think more before making such assertions in the future.
  • That post is now the first google hit for ‘ubuntu patents’ and many variations thereof. I’m glad Mark apparently thought the issue was important enough to address in IRC, and I’m sorry that I’ve been too busy with exams to actually attend the IRC session. Hopefully Canonical will post something that clarifies the situation so that my post drops off Google’s radar in favor of something that is more official, less speculative, and less ambiguous.


  • Exams are scaring me deeply, so I’ve been mostly awol from everything. I think this post is the longest I’ve done anything that isn’t exams in about a week.
  • I got some bad news about my personal long-term plans today- I had an interview that I thought at the time didn’t go well, and, well, today I got the confirmation that it didn’t go well, I guess. Ah well- yet more incentive to kick ass on exams.
  • So I’m sort of in a crappy mood. Else I’d likely write more on the blog thing, particularly on a diarist’s journalist-like responsbilities.


  • Big congrats to Nat on the VARbusiness award– we’ve had our differences, but Nat’s energy and creative brilliance are really special and deserve to be recognized. If my next boss has 1/10th of his energy and charisma, and if I can learn to have 1/100th of it, I’ll be a happy man. (After some reflection last year, I’m trying hard to be more optimistic and constructive about everything in life, and Nat is nearly 100% the reason why. Quite literally inspirational.)

10 thoughts on “quick thoughts on novell, blogs as journalism, etc.”

  1. (And no matter how good it is, and no matter how right she is (she may well be) she still loses credibility for the false allegations in the earlier article.)

  2. I’ve started to skim it… oy. Is it bad that Novell is trying to circumvent the intent of the GPL? Certainly. Is it part of some giant conspiracy, playing footsie with SCO? I… sigh. I’d try to pick it apart point by point, but there isn’t much substance there- all one can do is state the obvious- Novell found an honest loophole, used it, has sued no one, and has contributed millions of dollars worth of code to the community; SCO wove a web of lies, created legal theories that should get some people disbarred, sued both users and contributors, and created nothing of value itself. Are Novell’s actions potentially tactically damaging to all of us? Yes, I think so. Are they in violation of the spirit of the GPL? Definitely. Despite those things, if you can’t tell the difference between Novell and SCO, you need to have your head examined.

    (And no, I didn’t finish the whole thing, because about a page in, I decided I had better things to do with my life, like sleep. Sorry, PJ, but you’ve lost credibility, and that is really hard to get back.)

  3. Luis, you’re not a journalist, and as a blogger you absolutely don’t have an obligation to call Ubuntu before you ask a question about their patent policy. Blogs have much more robust feedback mechanisms that traditional journalistic endeavors. For one thing, anyone from Ubuntu is welcome to post a comment below your post explaining Ubuntu’s patent policy. For another, you can (and I assume–would) post an update to the original post if it were discovered that Ubuntu has a patent policy you missed.

    Moreover, you made it abundantly clear that you’d done no fact checking: “that I can find”, “as far as I can tell”, “Am I overlooking something?” No reasonable person would interpret that as you reporting as fact that Ubuntu has no patent policy.

  4. Nat rocks and is well desiring of many awards!

    But was that VARbusiness article written about a parallel universe?

    Nat and Ximian essential for the successes of GNOME — definitely. But that article makes it sound like he have done it all with himself with a “Buddhist mind-cleansing”.

    “Friedman is the man behind SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10, the first practical graphical interface and integrated application for the popular open-source operating system”

    Oh right, VAR, Value Added Resellers, maybe that is a parallel universe, a universe of middle people and sales pitches?

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