Boycott “Boycott Novell”: a huge own goal?

October 7th, 2009 | by | fedora, freesoftware

Oct
07

It’s difficult to tell apart the different factions of the people of Judea these days. On one hand, you have the Boycott Novellers, who post large amounts of “news” heavily rewritten to support their point of view, often with personal attacks on individuals and accompanied by Perez Hilton-style silly drawings. Sad, then, to see the new entrant – Boycott Boycott Novell – apparently chase after their namesakes with a personal attack on a free software developer and, of course, accompanying silly Hiltonesque.

Somewhat hilariously, both sides mistakenly re-interpret RMS’ view on Mono to remove the subtlety of his argument, and in doing so end up making precisely the same error: his warning against the use of Mono is not based on it being “non-free”. Both sites would have you believe that he believes that, and argue their various biases from that  viewpoint. What Richard is actually saying, of course, is that in his opinion Mono represents a risky bet – one that he is not willing to take and one he advises others not to. Which is his prerogative. But he’s careful to say that it is free software, and correctly identifies possible benefits in moving Windows developers onto free platforms. It’s a delicate argument, one easily lost on others.

I expect more from the people involved in both sites, but particularly Boycott Boycott Novell, who seem to have taken the “don’t tell us what to do!” argument to the almost ridiculous extreme of “don’t give us your opinion ever!” (for certain people’s opinions, anyway). There are extremely serious points to be made about the so-called journalism of well-known activists who purport to support a community they spend most of their time attacking in one way or another, but it seems too easy to fall into the trap of my enemy’s friend is my enemy (even when the friendship is unlikely to be mutual).

Boycott Novell fails on various levels, but mainly because it spends most of its time not offering constructive criticism but delivering polemic after polemic against Microsoft and then seeking to tie parts of the community in with that, deserved or not, often with scant regard for the actual facts. But simply because they use RMS as a totem in their witch-hunt does not put the responsibility for what they write at his door, nor does it mean his views are allied with theirs even when they claim they are. The issue with Mono is many times more sophisticated than the arguments they put forward, and there will be plenty of people who weigh the balance very differently based on their perception of the risk.

If I could wish for anything for Christmas, it would be that people who see themselves as members of the free software community stop attacking others in that same community. And yes, that would go for anyone in the community. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.

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