Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The so-called Linux Community

I've read two articles recently which describe "the Linux community" in a negative light. They are both about the same topic, a reporter named O'Gara wrote a disgraceful piece which included the apparent personal contact information of a figure in the free software world (named PJ) and her mother. These articles attack "the Linux community" because they accuse the community of launching an attack against the publisher's web site as some kind of retaliation.

The problem is, of course, that I highly doubt that any member of the Linux community performed these attacks. Let's get this straight: The people who write the best software in the world are not the same people who attack web sites. The "good guys" in the community don't need to disown the "bad guys". They aren't our children to disown, any more than they are Bill Gates' children.

Let me try again. It's people like this who are attacking SYS-CON'S web site, whereas it's people like this who are the only ones who can be accurately described as the Linux community. See a difference there?

Such articles usually come with some assertion like, "Unless the Linux community stops these attacks, no one will take Linux seriously." In fact, programmers will keep writing great software, 12-year-old kids will keep attacking web sites, no one will stop using Linux because of it, and reporters will keep making silly pronouncements like these.

It should be no surprise that this silly article makes outrageous claims in order to attract readers. The author longs for the good-old-days... you know, back, when a reporter could publish an article as shameful as O'Gara's and would be "given a medal for generating readership."

This article is an interview with the CEO of SYS-CON who published the O'Gara piece. There is so much wrong with it on so many levels, but the part I want to focus on comes near the end. When the interviewer points out that some people might not want their home address and their mother's home address posed on the internet, because they've been threatened in the past, for instance, this CEO paints himself as the victim because his web site was attacked. I have no idea what some 14-year-old cracker's actions have to do with why he chose to publish this article, but I'll just quote a bit of his rant, starting with the interviewer's question.

Q: There are, in my opinion, reasons why I would feel at risk, if I were Pamela Jones. So... I am not a paranoid person. There have been questionable events in this case and Pamela Jones has received threats. And to me that's a good enough reason to be at least worried.

A: Well, there were several threats left in the story feedback column overnight against Ms. O'Gara as well. We removed those entries, but of course left up the rest, even the harshest criticisms. We decided then to pull the article from our Linux Business News Web site. Our site has been down for three days in a row, for most of the day, with multiple "denial of service" attacks. Now, we don't know who is behind this criminal activity. You shut down the Web site of a media company with multiple DoS attacks for three days, because you don't like a story you read there. I'm a proud American citizen. Where are my First Amendment rights? Where are Ms. O'Gara's? Where is the freedom of press? Where in our constitution does it say a reporter does not have the right to contact you to request an interview? How do you expect me to find these criminals and bring them to justice in the anonymous world of the Internet? We had five simultaneous DoS attacks going on against our site on Tuesday which crippled our Web site and our business for the past three days.

[The entire article is labeled: (c) 2005 Tony Mobily. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.]

Clearly this man needs more than just a lesson in who makes up the Linux and Free Software communities. He needs a lesson in basic cause and effect (that is, try answering the question). But that's all I have the energy for tonight.