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Dear PJ: Please Don't Quit Groklaw
You're Welcome, Novell
December 26, 2010
Pamela Jones wrote "So the fundamental question facing us is, now what? Is it worth bothering to do Groklaw?" Fortunately, her answer is a resounding Yes:
"Hearing the author talk about A Secret Gift resolved the question for me. Being a decent person is always worthwhile, in all circumstances, no matter what others do or fail to do, and it's not about a reward. "
If you haven't read the article yet, she describes her disappointment at Novell's recent skanky OOXML deal with Microsoft, and feeling ill-used after all the work invested by Groklaw and its supporters in Novell vs. SCO:
"And the truth is I felt used and abused. How could Novell enter into such a deal? Then top it off with selling 882 patents to a Microsoft-organized consortium? Why do I bother, I wondered? More seriously, I asked myself should I ask you to help?...Reading the excuses from a couple of Novell employees after the news of the work agreement broke justifying the deal makes me even more furious, because there is nothing they should say except, "I'm sorry we made the community look like we sell out for money." And they are not sorry.
She makes a point that I heartily agree with:
"If there is one thing that covering the legal news for the FOSS community for nearly a decade has taught me, it's that most corporations in the IT field are a teensy bit disgusting"
What an understatement. In my experience too, though I would say more than a teensy bit. A lot more. Just to get it over with let's trot out the ritual tired excuse "but they're in business to make moneeeeeee", as though it justifies all abuses. It doesn't. Being a decent person and running a business decently and ethically should be the norm. If money is all that matters then sell illegal drugs, guns, porn, and human slaves. That's where the real profits and bottomless markets are. Children fetch premium prices in certain markets, and it's not like there's a people shortage. For that matter, why bother with selling anything? Just steal it. When money is all that matters why pretend to care about morals and ethics? At least have the guts to be honest about it. Wouldn't it be refreshing, instead of suffering through yet another tired "We have to maximize shareholder value through innovation and monetizing our sacred eye pee" nonsense speech to hear the truth? "I personally love evading regulations, buying legislators, screwing over my competitors, customers, and employees, and piling up such huge bonuses that I would need a thousand lifetimes to spend it all!"
The Truth MattersThe biggest reason for PJ to continue with Groklaw is because the truth matters. The outcome of Novell vs. SCO had consequences larger than either company, and Groklaw helped the truth to prevail. Groklaw shed light into a lot of dark mucky corners, and exposed a huge number of outright lies. Did Darl McBride ever utter a word about the case that wasn't nonsense? Would he have had more credibility without Groklaw tirelessly poking holes in every one of his whoppers? Would we have known he was little more than cannon fodder, the public buffoon face for the real movers and shakers behind the lawsuits?
There have been a number of news stories recently, in typical thoughtless herdbeast fashion, about the decline of Microsoft and how open source has won. Sorry, but it's not so. Microsoft never stopped with their dirty tricks, and the fundamental, necessary concepts of freedom, software freedom, transparency, privacy, open standards, and truth are under attack on more fronts than ever. Never ever forget that for the predators of big business it's always about money and power. Always. Never forget that for these, short-term interests always trump long-term, and that rationalizations trump rationality. Never underestimate how cheaply some people will sell out for. Never underestimate the power of justifications and willful blindness for the most heinous actions. Never forget that some people would rather lie even when the truth benefits them more. And never make the mistake of assuming that businesspeople are smart just because they run big businesses. Pushy and amoral are enough to take an ambitious person far.
We need Groklaw, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Free Software Foundation, and the Software Freedom Conservancy, and the Standards Blog, and Open Invention Network, and all of the many related groups that look out for our interests. They're more important than ever not only as activists, but as news publishers. The news industry has taken a terrible beating and we have only a tiny remnant of a truly independent tech news press. Which was never very large to begin with.
I am glad that when PJ came to the fork in the road she decided to keep Groklaw going. Don't forget to support Groklaw if you find it valuable-- type some transcripts, stick a few bucks in the PayPal jar, send PJ a compliment once in awhile. She has stood up to pressures that most people would not have endured, and they would have given up. The least we can do is stand with her.
Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "Book of Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.