Or: why I hardly cover GNU/Linux news (with original articles) anymore
Summary : In an effort to trip each other up and in order to become the ‘industry standard’, Canonical and Red Hat hurt each other and alienate the media (what’s left of it)
T ECHRIGHTS , with the exception of the daily links, does not cover GNU/Linux matters all that often. Not anymore . There’s a reason for this and it’s not just the growing role of software patents in the destruction/elimination of software freedom.
I wouldn’t be the first person to state that the GNU/Linux world can be harsh and brutal. People have free speech, which is absolutely fine (I’m a big opposer of censorship and self-censorship). But what happens when people cross the line of common sense and begin to personally attack writers and pundits? What happens when they do this on behalf of big and wealthy corporations? A lot of the abuse I received from the Mono crowd over the years (unimaginable abuse, comparing me even to a criminal) is ever more fascinating now that those very same people are Microsoft employees .
“A lot of the abuse I received from the Mono crowd over the years (unimaginable abuse, comparing me even to a criminal) is ever more fascinating now that those very same people are Microsoft employees .” I recently encountered or was the eyewitness of truly shameful attacks on Phoronix , both from developers and from sites like Reddit, which effectively blacklisted Phoronix , calling it “blogspam”. Reddit is full of censorship for those who don’t know it yet (our daily links have many articles about its political censorship too), but it’s rather unbelievable if not cynical when they block the whole of Phoronix (recently the subject of renewed debate over there and maybe a reversal/overturning of the ban, for the first time in a very long time).
The point I am trying to get across here is that it’s not easy to cover GNU/Linux news because there’s always someone, somewhere who isn’t happy. Thick skin is required. I hardly cover GNU/Linux matters (compared to past years), though it’s not because I’m offended or put off by personal attacks; it’s because I don’t always feel appreciated for the investigative work which I do. I generally snub any PR person or company spokesperson. I don’t trust them. I try to come up with an independent point of view; so do some journalists like Sam Varghese, who have earned nothing for that other than scorn and abuse.
I am not alone in this. Not many people are willing to speak out about it, perhaps fearing backlash. Consider Canonical with their disgusting blacklists of journalists who are not sucking up to Canonical and swallowing every ounce of Kool-Aid from Canonical, as pointed out not just by yours truly but also other bloggers/journalists (both privately and publicly, with those who do so privately fearing that these blacklists would treat them even more maliciously if they dared to rant).
“I try to come up with an independent point of view; so do some journalists like Sam Varghese, who have earned nothing for that other than scorn and abuse.” Red Hat is not much better by the way. The giant Linux firm is alienating people who often/always write out of passion, not for profit (financial gain) or for glory. Red Hat has a massive PR operation now (publicly and behind the scenes) and it’s not something which is pleasant to see because it reminds me of how Microsoft games the media , often bordering the unethical. When companies hire patent lawyers they tend to bring a lot of their (the latter’s) self-serving anti-etiquette and the same thing happens when companies hire PR people. Mass-mailing people is just one of their professional ‘skills’ and — at risk of saying something politically-incorrect — these tend to be women, preferably attractive women (this gives more impact to their work, along various different aspects beyond the scope of this post).
The other day I noticed a certain flamewar brewing between Red Hat and Canonical. They try to keep it on ‘low fire’, but it’s impossible to ignore the bigger picture.
openSUSE’s Twitter account, for example, wrote: “Of course kudos also go to http://flatpak.org . But canonical at least trying to behave and collaborate deserves respect” (that’s a polite way of saying that Fedora/Red Hat does not collaborate or does not deserve respect). Prior to that openSUSE mentioned Swapnil Bhartiya and said: “Kudos to @Canonical for working with other distributions on a new method of packaging applications #linux #respect https://twitter.com/swapnilbhartiya/status/743555291535519744″
“I soon learned of Fedora employees bashing the media wherever they could because some sites wrote about Canonical’s Snap initiative being an actual competitor to their Flatpak universal binary package.” OpenSUSE is trying not to take sides. They first retweeted Swapnil’s tweet saying “Kudos to Canonical for working with other distributions.” And then they say “Also kudos to http://flatpak.org” (as if someone from Fedora got in touch). In another tweet or a bunch of them we see what indicates that there is strong rivalry between Canonical and Red Hat. It makes us bloggers/journalists feel like collateral damage (or ‘tools’), and unlike these people who push us around, we don’t receive huge salaries for our work. For me, reporting is a purely voluntary activity with no financial gain. I decided to ask around and find out what the heck was going on, having seen how Red Hat strong-armed some distributions into embracing the “Red Hat way” — to the point where Canonical had to abandon some of their own projects.
I soon learned of Fedora employees bashing the media wherever they could because some sites wrote about Canonical’s Snap initiative being an actual competitor to their Flatpak universal binary package.
As a reminder for those who are not paying close enough attention, Flatpak is loosely connected to Systemd, probably Red Hat’s most controversial ‘lock-in’ at the moment. On the other hand, Canonical is trying to push its own ‘standards’, which it can probably do given its dominant position on the desktop (and almost on the server as well).
“Red Hat was apparently so pissed off by the whole thing that one Fedora employee (i.e. Red Hat) started chastising reporters.” One interesting fact I have learned is that several days ago Canonical basically spoon-fed some sites a so-called ‘scoop’, in order to ‘generate’ some coverage for Snaps. Not so atypical or unexpected from Canonical, but there we go…
Red Hat was apparently so pissed off by the whole thing that one Fedora employee (i.e. Red Hat) started chastising reporters. That employee was James Hogarth. He baselessly started accusing Softpedia on the
fedora-devel mailing list , claiming that Softpedia said, to quote, “Canonical state that they have been working with Fedora developers…” (this was not said at all). There’s this reply from Michael Catanzaro of the GNOME Project. At that time, he took James Hogarth’s words for granted, assuming that Softpedia claimed something it didn’t. Here is a later response from him :
Just for the record… the Softpedia article doesn’t actually say “Canonical state that they have been working with Fedora developers to make this the universal packaging format.” It does say they’ve been “working for some time with developers from various major GNU/Linux distributions” and that “the Snap package format is working natively on popular GNU/Linux operating systems like […] Fedora […],” so it’s clear why there was confusion, but it doesn’t say that they’ve been working with Fedora specifically.
Later on Hogarth cited his colleague, Adam Williamson , with a rather offensive piece (“Canonical propaganda department”), adding “AdamW responds to the Canonical Snappy PR piece.”
“But either way, accusing publications of saying something they did not say is unfair, and it reflects badly on the community as a whole .” Michael Hall from Canonical said on Reddit that they talked with some Fedora people at some point (Michael Hall’s statement here is equally informative). But either way, accusing publications of saying something they did not say is unfair, and it reflects badly on the community as a whole .
I have a personal grudge with Canonical over how they treat media, having witnessed online friends becoming victims of theirs, but I didn’t think Red Hat would stoop down to this level as well. What we are basically witnessing here is a bunch of Red Hat (‘Fedora’) employees attacking the media over Snap/Flatpak war. They want the media to take sides and get upset that the media isn’t telling the story the way they want it to.
This isn’t some kind of epic rant from me, just an observation of something that I noticed in the past. If Softpedia folks and Phoronix (Michael Larabel) can be treated like enemies because they attempt to amicably — without controversy — cover GNU/Linux news, then what hope is there for more outspoken bloggers like myself? It’s sad as it’s not just one case; the above is symptomatic of something that has been going on for years and that’s why I don’t cover Linux issues such as Systemd. It’s almost suicidal. It’s nothing but trouble. Self-censorship ensues.
“They’ll need to learn to respect the media or earn no respect in return.” Why do journalists need to be abused for attempting to cover the news, even when they cover it correctly? There’s also this on LWN (Jimbob0i0 is James Hogarth) where, again, it’s said that Softpedia claimed something it didn’t.
Red Hat needs to respect people’s views, even when these views are not correct (in this particular case these views are correct). They’ll need to learn to respect the media or earn no respect in return. They need to work better with the media or have no media at all, except that which they pay for, e.g. their opensource.com propaganda rag (it spends much of its time just peddling a book that helps pretend Red Hat is “open”, based on the CEO’s words).
The above scenario is corrosive and harmful to the relationship between Free software developers and media. Why are they all still wondering why the GNU/Linux ecosystem is not united? Why the fragmentation? Why some many hundreds of distros? That’s why.