Open Source Software Up the Stack

Dennis Byron

The anatomy of a Microbashing comment from the OSS fringe

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Here is an example of the cookie-cutter Microbashing from the open source software (OSS) fringe that I mentioned in a post on March 23. I thought it was a new thing but I have since found out that Microbashing has been going on for years. I am way behind the times, as I am with the move from rock to rap music. (Rock to rap: My parents complained that they could not hear the lyrics in “our music;� now my children as parents are complaining that they can hear the lyrics in their “kids’ music.�)

I received the following comment in response to my commentary on the ISO OOXML vote and the reality of the so-called international Open Standards (always upper case) movement. But this comment is typical of blogoblathering on all kinds of subjects related to Microsoft, be it about EU fines, or Vista, or SCO, or you name it.

"What a load of self-serving nonsense. Do you work for Microsoft by any chance?
"Your paper example is fallacious. The standard used to make the paper I store my information on is irrelevant, yes. But the format in which electronic information is made available is very relevant - especially when that format is owned and controlled by a proprietary vendor who can choose to make changes to it at any time simply to force users to spend money on an upgrade. Thanks but no thanks.
"And then there is the technical case for OOXML, or rather, the lack thereof: http://www.odfalliance.org/resources/The%20Technical%20Case%20Against%20OOXML.pdf
"Catch a wake up; you might learn something.
"brian"

At least Brian’s post is one I can publish because it is not full of expletives. The ones with expletives—or references to Nazism—I call Microhate.

Let's dissect the Microbashing blogpost formula. All Microbashing blog posts are like the form letters that perhaps one of your friends has suggested you send your congressperson (or PM or Delegate or whatever politicians are called outside the U.S.)

1. All Microbashing starts by accusing people of "working for Microsoft." If Brian had read my research, he would realize that I am one of Microsoft’s major critics. I work for myself. The particular post he is commenting criticizes the so-called International Open Standards (always in Upper Case) movement and has nothing to do with Microsoft. But Microbashing never lets logic get in its way. It also does not bother Microbashers that Sutor works for IBM, Schwartz works for Sun, DiBona works for Google, Tiemann works for Red Hat, and so forth. There aren’t many of us virgins out here on the boulevard.

2. The second act of every Microbash play begins with the debating trick of stating something as if it is patently obvious and not in need of proof, a rule of nature. Typically it is the breathless canard that someone is forcing them or someone else to buy Microsoft products. Where is that happening? I do major statistically significant information technology (IT) market research. I would love to dive into this phenomena. Except that I cannot find any instances of it. Please send me an email Brian (or anyone) at dennis@ebizq.net telling me when and how Bill Gates held a gun to your head and made you buy a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) product. I will investigate it in the impartial manner I use in all my research and publish the results. (Consider this the Bill Gates Held a Gun to My Head challenge.)

3. Next in every Microbash rant comes the reference to IBM (NYSE: IBM) or Sun (NASDAQ:JAVA) or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) propaganda. In this case it is a reference to a document on the web site of a consortia funded by--guess who?--IBM, Sun, Red Hat (NYSE:RHAT), Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), all the guys that gain more market share if they can restrict government purchasing of document software. What they cannot achieve in the marketplace, they attempt to achieve through government edict. IBM and Sun tried to railroad such a policy through the bureaucracy here in Massachusetts a few years ago but received such an immediate howl of protest from the legislature, state records repository personnel and the disabled that their in-house IT guy was run out of town on a rail (he was run out for alleged T&E improprieties actually but I always wanted to use that old cliché, “run out of town on a rail�). In fairness, I am pretty sure that writers like Brian do not know they are being manipulated by Sun and IBM.

4. Finally (or sometimes for openers) is the ad-hominem attack. I was not sure what "Catch a wake up" means but I assumed it was along the lines of "your mother wears army boots." So I asked Brian and he tells me it simply means “wake up and smell the coffee.� Kudos to Brian for his civility; typically Microbashers accuse me of being on drugs or some such thing (which people of my generation don’t actually think of as an insult to be honest; we think of it as a fond memory of youth).

What causes these people to get so riled up about Microsoft? Since open source software terms and conditions have been so prevalent for more than 10 years, there is no reason that they would ever have to see a piece of Microsoft software.

(By the way, I think the paper analogy is perfect because paper size is also a document format standard on which ISO wastes thousands of man years. But I won't argue with Brian about that. It is the only legitimate non-personal-attack, non-Microsoft-attack, non-IBM-propaganda sentence in his comment. I have “published� his comment on the ebizQ site where he made it but if he would really like to have a discussion about the International Open Standards movement—which is what I am talking about—try it again without the Microbashing. Use PDF as an example if you cannot write about the standards subject in the abstract.)

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Microsoft has been tried and found guilty of (among other things) forcing its products on markets by illegal practices. Are you then a shill, or just ignorant?

Rebuttal from Dennis: This is another typical comment (of the ones I can publish because they do not include expletives or Nazi analogies) from people that have been stirred up by the propagandists in the open source software (OSS) fringe. Read wikipedia and get your facts straight Ralph before you call someone else ignorant.

He (assuming he is a he) reads the post (assuming he reads it) and then still puts in three of the four typical ingredients of a form-letter Microbashing comment or post:
-- States facts that are not correct--I'm sure Microsoft has been found guilty of something somewhere (as have IBM, H-P, AT&T, BP, Renault, and any other large corporation)But the most well known tying charges against Microsoft (what I assume Ralph is referring to) were settled out of court before they went through the legal process. In particular, the U.S. DOJ chargers were overturned on appeal because of the unethical conduct of the judge among other things. I used to work for the only IT company that I am aware of that let a similar tying charge go to the Supreme Court and the process itself eventually put the company out of business (which is why compaines such as IBM, Microsoft and so forth settle up--government interference is just a cost of doing business). Similarly, the EU case did not go through the full process although legal analysts were hoping it would in order to reign in the EU bureaucrats
-- Attacks me because he does not know all of the facts or they are inconvenient
-- Accuses me of shilling for Microsoft
-- the one thing Ralph leaves out is a reference to some IBM, Red Hat, or Google propoganda (or a link to one of their front groups like badvista.org or noooxml.org)

Dennis Byron’s blog on open source software: A longtime market research analyst follows what “the movement� means to business integration—in applications, infrastructure, as services, as architecture and as functionality.

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