MJ Ray has some interesting thoughts on the recent discussion of BoycottNovell’s lash out at people criticising RMS’ GCDS keynote. For the sake of being open, my reaction to RMS’ speech (which I didn’t see) was that it sounded pretty distasteful: I don’t think there was any sexist intent, but the choice of words was pretty poor.

I think a key problem with BoycottNovell is that it left the lands of “corporate judo” a long time ago: motivating people to spend (or not) their money is one thing (to be applauded – it’s a basic tenet of capitalism, after all), and telling people why they shouldn’t buy a certain company’s products empowers them to make better choices. Rallying against individuals rather than the corporation, though, rather crosses that line.

Too much of what that site does is essentially dividing the free software world into “pro-Microsoft” and “anti-Microsoft”, and calling out the people unfortunate enough to make it into the first category as trolls, shills and/or liars: as an easy example, the guy who edits the ODF standard fell foul of not being anti-Microsoft enough, so they post speculation about his links. It seems even the person who started BN no longer wants to have anything to do with it (can’t directly link, but just search for “you guys are nuts”), having seen the latest hatchet-job on a member of the Ubuntu community.

You can do similar things by looking up their views on virtually any prominent GNOME developer, or people employed by Novell, too. Everything gets categorised, along with people outside the community like journalists, and the whole thing has a whiff of McCartyite witch-hunt about it. If it was calm, considered and reasoned, I doubt people would have a problem with it – but in practice it’s the literal mud-against-the-wall experiment. The “pasting logos/words/phrases on top of photos of people” has a real Perez Hilton-quality about it, and I don’t think that’s a compliment.

Realistically, BN is now such a large body of articles that most of the harmful ones are mired in the dross of repetitive repost, and do little direct damage themselves. However, I doubt that much consumer judo can be laid at their door, and I would bet a fair proportion of people who are in a position to purchase large amounts from Novell are never going to bother wading through that site. Whether or not you agree with their intentions, from the point of view of being effective it’s pretty clear they’ve lost.