SCO and the Three Stooges

As SCO’s attack against Linux collapses, with Judge Dale Kimball’s ruling on the Novell copyrights making it plainer than ever that the lawsuit was fraudulent from the word go, we’re now seeing recantations from two of SCO’s three major journalistic stooges — Dan Lyons and Rob Enderle. The third, Maureen O’Gara, has yet to be heard from.

Dan Lyons’s piece, Snowed By SCO, fails to acknowledge the real harm that he did by helping lend Forbes’s credibility to SCO’s scam. To the extent that the lawsuit slowed down Linux and open-source adoption — and thus helped perpetuate Microsoft’s monopoly lock-in — Lyons must bear a significant share of the blame. But at least he says, outright, “Mea culpa…I got it wrong. The nerds got it right.”

Would that Rob Enderle were that much of a man. His Looking back at my history with SCO is a rambling, over-long, self-absorbed non-apology full of self-justifying whines about how mean the Linux zealots were to him. Pursuit of the actual truth, it seems, was far less important than Rob Enderle’s tender and hurt feelings. The message of the article is “Bad open-source people! Look what you made me do!” He defiantly continues to fling insults at the community he wronged, and specifically refuses to apologize for having helped to perpetuate SCO’s scam.

These two articles could serve as case studies in how and how not to climb down when you find that you’ve been a patsy for fraudsters. In the process, they reveal much about the characters of their authors. Dan Lyons — complacent, gullible, too ready to buy corporate PR lines, and probably more swayed by the Microsoft spinmeisters in general than he’s yet ready to admit to himself, but basically honest. Rob Enderle — narcissistic, ill-tempered man-child with barely any concept of what integrity or honesty even means.

Maureen O’Gara, perpetrator of a hit piece on Pamela Jones of Groklaw so sleazy that her own editors found they couldn’t stomach it, has been silent. Perhaps she’s hunkered down somewhere hoping that when SCO finally goes toes-up her own role as a principal enabler of its fraud will be quickly forgotten.

I am left wondering: next time a Microsoft proxy, or Microsoft itself, goes to war with a legal or PR scam against open source, will these three be any wiser? I’d say…Lyons, probably. Enderle, fat chance — the tenor of his non-apology suggests that, as Talleyrand said of the Bourbon dynasty, he’ll have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. O’Gara, who knows?

Four days after the SCO complaint was filed in 2003, I demolished its factual contentions in the OSI Position Paper on the SCO-vs.-IBM Complaint. It should not have taken four years for the Three Stooges to notice how bogus SCO’s case was. That was, at best, incompetent of them.

More importantly, I’m left wondering if the trade press at large has learned its lesson from this mess. Yes, we hackers and geeks are passionate and rude and overzealous and routinely violate the conventions of ‘polite’ business discourse — but one good thing we almost unfailingly are is honest, not because we’re angels but because we’re too pigheadedly idealistic not to be true to our craft.

So, the next time we call bullshit on some polished corporate PR type, you journalists out there can save yourselves the embarrassment and grief now coming down on the Three Stooges by believing us to start with, rather than waiting four years to catch up.

Glynn Moody, author of the excellent book Rebel Code, wrote a blog entry weirdly parallel to this one in SCO Long, and Thanks For All The Fish. For the record, neither of us read the other’s piece before putting hand to keyboard.