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


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


  1. me said,

    July 30, 2008 at 5:58 am


    Good article. Hyperbolae should be hyperbole.

  2. Mark Kent said,

    July 30, 2008 at 6:49 am


    me: thanks & well spotted!


    Mark K.

  3. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 30, 2008 at 1:01 pm


    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


    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 :-)



What Else is New

  1. Even the EPO Central Staff Committee is Unhappy With EPO Management

    The questions asked by the Central Staff Committee shared for the public to see that not only a single union is concerned about the management's behaviour

  2. The Broken Window Economics of Patent Trolls Are Already Coming to Europe

    The plague which is widely known as patent trolls (non-practicing entities that prey on practicing companies) is being spread to Europe, owing in part to misguided policies and patent maximalists

  3. Debunking the EPO's Latest Marketing Nonsense From Les Échos and More on Benoît Battistelli's Nastygram to French Politician

    Our detailed remarks about French brainwash from the EPO's media partner (with Benoît Battistelli extensively quoted) and the concerns increasingly raised by French politicians, who urge for national or even continental intervention

  4. The Sun King Delusion: The Views of Techrights Are Just a Mirror of EPO Staff Unions

    Tackling some emerging spin we have seen coming from Battistelli's private letters -- spin which strives to project the views of Techrights onto staff unions and why it's very hypocritical a form of spin

  5. Links /11/2015: Webconverger 33.1, Netrunner 17 Released

    Links for the day

  6. United They Stand: FFPE-EPO Supports Suspended Staff Representatives From SUEPO

    An obscure union from the Dutch side of things at the EPO is expressing support for the suspended colleagues from SUEPO (more German than Dutch)

  7. Censoring WIPR Article About Censorship by EPO

    A testament to how terrified journalists have become when it comes to EPO coverage, to the point of deleting entire paragraphs

  8. Censorship at the EPO Escalates: Now We Have Threats to Sue Publishers

    Having already blocked Techrights, the EPO's management proceeds to further suppressions of speech, impeding its staff's access to independently-distributed information (neither ordinary staff nor management)

  9. Response to Bogus Accusations That EPO Staff Protests Are Really an Attempt to Derail UPC

    Common myths about staff protests in the European Patent Office (EPO) debunked, with some additional background and general perspective on recent events, the unitary patent (UPC) and so on

  10. New Heise Article Makes It Clear That 'Nazi'-Themed Accusations Against the Suspended Board Judge Were Insufficiently Substantiated

    The personal attacks on a judge who was illegally suspended (a so-called 'house ban') increasingly look like the management's own campaign of defamation, mostly intended to marginalise and punish a judge who spoke about serious charges against VP4 (Željko Topić)

  11. Links 24/11/2015: Asus Chromebit CS10, Second Linux 4.4 RC

    Links for the day

  12. European Central Bank Staff Committee Adds to Growing Pressure on Abusive EPO Management

    The staff representatives of the European Central Bank E-mail their colleagues -- with European Central Bank managers' approval -- regarding the European Patent Office and its attacks on staff unions

  13. Gross Violation of Workers' Rights in EPO: Denial of Christmas Vacation/Leave for Slower Workers

    A look at an E-mail from within the EPO which shows how Christmas is used to squeeze staff, urging them to work even faster (despite speed gains) or lose their Christmas leave

  14. The Bogus Narrative Floated by EPO Management: Our Judges and Examiners Are Armed and Violent

    A look at the union-busting and protest-crushing moves from high-level EPO managers, who are trying to convince politicians that they do so in an effort to stop terrorists and neo-Nazis

  15. Support SUEPO or End Up Like They and Some of the Boards Did

    SUEPO, the fast-growing staff union of the EPO, increasingly needs the support and protection offered by action and participation from staff

  16. NRC Handelsblad (Dutch Evening Newspaper) Speaks About EPO's Refusal to Accept Court Orders From The Hague

    Article explains the depths of the issues inside the EPO and the unacceptable immunity that management at the EPO continues to exploit, shaming or discrediting the very notion of the rule of law in Europe

  17. HeBS Digital and Black Duck Press Releases Treated Like Articles, Used to Muddy the FOSS Waters

    Free/Open Source software (FOSS) is under attack again, and it's the proprietary software lobby that's responsible for that

  18. EPO President Battistelli Now Intimidates Even National Delegations

    Report about an embarrassing incident implicating Benoît Battistelli and some angry comments cast over the witch-hunting of a judge, using all sorts of questionable tactics

  19. A Look at the Latest Gross Deletionism at the EPO's 'Media Partner', French Newspaper Les Échos

    The EPO's bogus 'journal of record, which Team Battistelli likes to cite in order to bolster its warped version of events at the EPO while maintaining a close secret relationship with the publisher, keeps censoring its own reporters (spiked paragraphs, silently self-censored or censored after publications)

  20. Rumour About Efforts to Dismiss a Board Judge by Intimidating Boards of Appeal

    Comment found online accuses the Administrative Council of pressuring, by threats, Directorate-General 3 to dismiss a judge who is silently accused (with selective 'leaks' to the media, reportedly orchestrated by EPO managers) but not even proven guilty

  21. President Battistelli Now Pressures/Threatens Politicians Who 'Dare' to Complain About Abuses and Unacceptable Conditions at the EPO

    Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, a French politician, unleashes an angry letter from Benoît Battistelli and reveals just to what lengths the EPO's Team Battistelli is willing to go in order to crush political backlash

  22. EPO: It's Like a Family Business - Part IV

    Some more background information about Elodie Bergot and Gilles Requena, who are married whilst also sharing positions of power at the EPO (and also strong connections/ties with the EPO's President, Mr. Battistelli); Rumours afloat at the EPO -- some with ever-increasing circulation too -- are worth noting

  23. Translation of Thomas Magenheim-Hörmann's Article in the German Media, Urging European Politicians to Intervene in EPO Chaos and Lawlessness

    Frankfurt-based media presents an opinion piece written by a Munich-based economic correspondent, Thomas Magenheim-Hörmann

  24. German Press Says Broken EPO Lets President Severely Punish Staff Not Even Guilty of Any Wrongdoing

    Juve publishes an article which attempts to be 'balanced' (meaning it believes everything that EPO officials say) but at the same time reveals unacceptable practices that go in inside the EPO

  25. German Media Reveals That Out-of-Control EPO Management is Even Threatening and Abusing Lawyers Now

    The EPO's longstanding fight against justice escalates to an unprecedented war on lawyers themselves; “After this latest move,” says a German newspaper, “even lawyers are starting to feel threatened by the Office.”

  26. Washington Post Only Entertains Debate About Patent Trolls (But Not Patent Scope) Whilst US Lawyers Trick the System to Patent Software

    The Bezos-owned Washington Post continues to help those who wish to eliminate patent trolls (which bother Amazon amongst other large conglomerates) but remains void of any coverage about patent scope, including software patents that patent lawyers work so hard to defend

  27. It Pays (Off) to 'Bribe' the Media: Watch How Les Échos Covers EPO Matters and Self-Censors

    French newspaper Les Échos is self-censoring yet again and it is framing the EPO scandals as the fault of employees, not the fault of abusive managers who are working with Les Échos as a so-called 'media partner' (the EPO management is French-dominated)

  28. 'Leaked' PDF Shows How EPO Management Tried to Crush Judge Who 'Dared' to Criticise EPO Management

    The EPO's management continues to chill potential critics and is now making an example of a board's judge, despite having no such authority over him

  29. Links 21/11/2015: Community Appreciation Day, Jolla's Problems

    Links for the day

  30. EPO: It's Like a Family Business - Part III

    A look at how the EPO's management (Željko Topić in particular) defended the unprecedented promotion of Ms Bergot (wife of the president's close assistant), even in the face of outcry from EPO staffwarning


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