EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

07.30.08

Joe Barr, Linux.com Editor – My Obituary

Posted in Deception, FUD, Microsoft at 4:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Guest post by Mark Kent

I find the lack of morals displayed by the trolls and by so many “business” people to be deeply disturbing. The willingness to lie in order to make money is appalling. Who doesn’t despise disingenuous people?

One interesting thing I’ve found in my career when coming across such people is that they assume that everyone else is as crooked as they are, so that anyone taking any position on anything must, by definition, be pushing an convenient viewpoint rather than a well-researched and understood assessment of the facts as they are presently understood.

A particular upshot of this is that ignorance of facts begins to become an advantage, at least to the spinners and liars, since they have yet less reason to apply any value system against their dishonest spiel.

“We rely very much on journalists to help us sift through the muddier waters of the river of truth, and Joe Barr was one of the best.”The “mad scientist” as an amoral and dangerous character has often been the focus of daemonisation in literature and the popular press, yet it is the genuine scientist who is typically best-placed to assess facts in a rational and dispassionate way. Why don’t politicians like this? Well, because it means that the scientists will not necessarily uphold the position the politicians are taking. Why is this bad? Well, probably, because lots of companies have spent large sums of money securing the support of politicians for their wares in some way or other, and politicians fear scientists more than almost anyone, because they are clearly learned and are considered to be fiercely independent of political influence. Should a scientist stand up in public and say, for example, that global warming is a problem, and it’s likely that burning oil is contributing to that problem, then politicians and companies need to think fast indeed in order to address the distinct possibility that the scientist will be listened to.

Much the same applies in this technology and computing world. If an apparently learned person speaks out to say that, for example, Windows is not very secure, and Linux is more secure, then it’s highly likely that the learned person might just be listened to. Particularly if there be a lot of evidence to support that position, for example, counts of the number of viable viruses and exploits in the wild for each system, or the number of each system currently compromised in some way.

One way of reducing the impact of that learned person is to invent other knowledgeable folk (Bartko et al) and use them to pollute the river of information with suitable disinformation. If enough people contribute enough pollution to the river of truth, then the impact of the learned people will surely be diluted in the minds of the interested by not so knowledgeable observers. We rely very much on journalists to help us sift through the muddier waters of the river of truth, and Joe Barr was one of the best.

In the linux advocacy HOWTO, it suggests that good advocates will avoid hyperbolae in discussions, and ideally avoid any kind of unsupported opinion, and stick only to facts. Whilst this is an admirable goal, it suffers a singular drawback, which is that there is no real definition of a “fact”. There is, however, scientific method, which aims to establish provable models by trying to disprove them. Any model which withstands such testing gains credence amongst the scientific community, and will be adopted, at least until a better model is found. The whole approach is dependent on some key pre-conditions, however. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, in order to attempt to disprove a “current” theory, it’s usually necessary to have a good grasp on all of its antecendants, and how they were disproven. The upshot here is that it can take many years of learning before an averagely competent scientist can begin to criticise the models of others, let alone propose one of their own. Thus, there is an ever widening gap between these day to day practitioners of scientific thinking, and the normal, non-scientifically trained public.

“Joe did an excellent job of this, both through his “dweebspeak” primer, and by exercising his very broad knowledge of computing languages and machines.”That gap, the one between the scientific thinkers and the non-scientific general public, is the one which is occupied by marketing and sales activities, by propaganda machines, by trolls and by liars. Is the propagation of arguments by scientific method ever going to be able to clean the polluted river of truth? Without educating the public in general, it seems unlikely. The tactic of out and out lying is hard to deal with. Unless you’ve sworn some kind of oath, like in a court of law, say, then being dishonest is not generally considered to be illegal, even when it’s being done deliberately in order to relieve people of money. By ensuring that the dishonesty is hard to track back to the originators, by, say, employing “advocates” in different geographies, or using Usenet in order to plant anonymous insults, then the usual laws against dishonest trading can be avoided. The gap, however, can also be filled by good journalism. For every press release and marketing or sales pitch, we can have a good journalist or commentator, explaining the issues in a form which is valid and yet more accessible to those without the detailed training. Joe did an excellent job of this, both through his “dweebspeak” primer, and by exercising his very broad knowledge of computing languages and machines. His CLI for Noobies book is another excellent example of how he was able to bridge the gap.

It’s rather sad to reflect that the laws being enacted as a part of the current round of globalisation seem to be almost 100% aimed at furthering the financial gain of existing global players, with almost no consideration for the rights of small businesses, consumers, citizens, education, charity, poverty and so on. Patent laws are being reviewed, but only in order to extend the number of things which can be patented, and the scope of those patents in terms of objects, time periods and so on. The push by “media” companies to force ISPs to police the activities of internet users is an interesting first step towards making the ISPs some kind of semi-independent state, but without any kind of independent or quasi-independent legal system, political system, police force, advocates and so on. To date, I think such states only exist within aircraft and ships which sail or fly through international waters or air-space, where the captain of the vessel in question is the undisputed authority in all respects.

We don’t expect expert witnesses to be necessarily available on ships or aircraft, however, we do very much expect them to be available in our normal judicial process. There is no room at all for expert witnesses, however, in the proposals from the ISPs. The judge, jury and executioner is the media company. If that company decides that they suspect a user of doing something illegal, then that, in their view, is enough to start a process which in fairly short order can result in an ISP disconnecting a paying customer who may have done nothing wrong at all.

Why does this relate to trolling on usenet? Quite simply because both are based around assertions being made for pure financial gain, with no expectation of or requirement for supporting evidence. Whilst I do not condone copyright violation, I equally do not condone media companies being given control by proxy of ISP accounts of the general public, nor do I condone the establishment of ISP’s networks as jurisdictionally independent entities, like ships or aircraft. There is a clear and strong moral requirement for time and effort to be expended in the search of the truth, in terms of the scientific establishment of a series of statements which best fit the available evidence, through the debate by independent parties and assessed by an independent audience.

When all that has failed, then our final recourse is for an independent press. For journalists to seek out the failings in the system and to expose those failings to the public at large, combining their knowledge of technology, scientific method, legal debate and the practicalities of marketing. This is precisely what Joe Barr did, many many times over, in between his perhaps more mundane but more idealistic work of editing the learned debates and articles about the linux community and its works. His best known was the Barkto affair, and he will always be remembered for that work.

He will be missed by all of us.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

4 Comments

  1. me said,

    July 30, 2008 at 5:58 am

    Gravatar

    Good article. Hyperbolae should be hyperbole.

  2. Mark Kent said,

    July 30, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Gravatar

    me: thanks & well spotted!

    Ta,

    Mark K.

  3. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 30, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Gravatar

    Thanks, Mark. Joe will be missed. That the trolls go in for character assassination (ad hominem) only means he wrote well and covered important, relevant topics in a timely manner.

    He was a rare breed, but more of his kind are needed today. Maybe some can step out of retirement for a few hours per week and step up to the plate and deal M$ &co’s “saturate, diffuse and confuse” campaign against computer knowledge.

  4. Mark Kent said,

    August 1, 2008 at 3:11 am

    Gravatar

    Needs sunlight: as you say, the trolling was a notable symptom of both the methods of trolls, and his effectiveness at identifying and addressing germane issues.

    Do journalists really retire? I thought they migrated to opinion columns :-)

    Ta,

    Mark

What Else is New


  1. GitHub is All About Control

    GitHub is not a platform for sharing and collaboration but social control and manipulation of the Free software community



  2. 2019 in Review: Worst Year Ever for Software Freedom

    A look back (and ahead) as the year's end fast approaches, marking the end of a mostly bad year



  3. Links 15/12/2019: Hacker-Friendly Hardware Success Stories and Mozilla Woes

    Links for the day



  4. European Patents Losing Their Appeal, Lustre and Glamour

    Years of assaults on EPO staff — including EPO judges — have taken their toll and the quality of patents is nothing like it used to be



  5. Software Freedom and The U.S. Constitution

    “We need to stand for the freedom to not use the software — we need to enjoy that freedom without giving up the rest of the existing Free software ecosystem.”



  6. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, December 14, 2019

    IRC logs for Saturday, December 14, 2019



  7. Links 15/12/2019: Wine 5.0 RC1 Released, KDE Frameworks 5.65.0, Qubes OS 4.0.2 RC3

    Links for the day



  8. It Matters a Lot What You Call the System

    Why the best name for the best operating system would be "GNU", not "Linux" (media has twisted the words so as to marginalise GNU and its politics/philosophy)



  9. Only the EPO Goes as Far as Bribing Publishers (the Media) to Promote Software Patents and Publish Fictional Stories

    The world’s patent offices are growing tired of granting software patents which courts later toss out (because these patents are not valid); not only does the EPO advocate such patents — typically using a bundle of buzzwords — it’s also bribing the media to help



  10. EU Needs to Show That It Cares About SMEs and Not 'European Champions' That Are Actually Foreign Monopolies

    Judging by the EU’s nearly blind and unconditional support for the management of the EPO — no matter how abusive and corrupt it has gotten — one has to wonder if the ex-EU official in charge of the EPO reveals a profound democracy deficit as well as growing dangers to Europe’s businesses — the productive firms to which patent maximalism often represents far more risk than opportunity



  11. Guest Article: The Free Software Movement Should Come Out From the Box

    "From now onwards we have to think from a user’s rights perspective and mobilise users of Free software. They should know what rights they ought to get."



  12. IRC Proceedings: Friday, December 13, 2019

    IRC logs for Friday, December 13, 2019



  13. Links 13/12/2019: QEMU 4.2.0, GNU Guile 2.9.7

    Links for the day



  14. Links 13/12/2019: Zorin OS 15.1, Vim 8.2

    Links for the day



  15. Linux Foundation Has Outsourced All the Licence Compliance Stuff to Microsoft, a Serial GPL Violator

    OpenChain Specification/OpenChain Project and Automated Compliance Tooling (ACT) are yet more examples -- the latest of many -- of the Linux Foundation being outsourced to Microsoft, not only for code but also documentation and hosting



  16. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, December 12, 2019

    IRC logs for Thursday, December 12, 2019



  17. Copyleft: Keeping Code Free

    Now that news about "Linux" is dominated by promotion of proprietary software we ought to remember what perpetrators of such a strategy seek to eliminate



  18. Plans That Worked, Plans That Failed

    "I am still looking for good news, but the more good I try to find, the more nastiness I uncover. This is by far, Free software's worst year ever. 2019 Sucks!"



  19. Links 12/12/2019: KDE Applications 19.12, Qt Creator 4.11, New VirtualBox

    Links for the day



  20. Brand Dilution in Action

    Microsoft's proprietary software which spies on people and businesses is getting a "free ride" on the "Linux" brand; and nobody seems to care, nobody seems to notice how perverse that it



  21. At the EPO Money -- Not Quality -- is King

    Financiers are ruining quality



  22. The EPO's Strategic Failure 2023

    Potemkin social dialogue



  23. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, December 11, 2019

    IRC logs for Wednesday, December 11, 2019



  24. EPO Promoting Software Patents in Countries Where These Are Illegal

    The EPO's vision of 'unitary' software patents (patents on algorithms in countries that disallow such patents, as per their national laws) won't materialise, but in the meantime a lot of Invalid Patents (IPs) are granted in the form of European Patents (EPs) and this is wrong



  25. We Support GNU and the FSF But Remain Sceptical and Occasionally Worry About an RMS-less FSF

    Richard Stallman (RMS) is not in charge of the FSF anymore (it's Stallman who created the FSF) and there's risk the decisions will be made by people who don't share Stallman's ethics or the FSF's spirit



  26. Links 11/12/2019: Huawei Lobbied by Microsoft (Because of GNU/Linux) and Microsoft Still Googlebombs Linux to Promote 'Teams'

    Links for the day



  27. Links 11/12/2019: Edge Native Working Group, CrossOver 19.0 Released

    Links for the day



  28. Instead of Fixing Bug #1 Canonical/Ubuntu Contributes to Making the Bug Even More Severe (WSL/EEE)

    Following one seminal report about Canonical financially contributing to Microsoft's EEE efforts — celebrated openly by GNU/Linux opponentsclosing bug #1 Ubuntu basically decided not that it was fixed but that it would no longer attempt to fix it (“wontfix”)



  29. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

    IRC logs for Tuesday, December 10, 2019



  30. Today's Example of Microsoft's Faked 'Love'

    “On 7 September 2017, users began noticing a message that stated “Skype for Business is now Microsoft Teams”. This was confirmed on 25 September 2017, at Microsoft’s annual Ignite conference,” according to Wikipedia


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts