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10.31.19

Purism’s Problems Purely Boil Down to Trust and False Promises

Posted in FSF, GNOME, GNU/Linux, Hardware, KDE, Rumour at 1:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

PureOS sounds promising, just like OpenMoko, but we all want (and likely expect) to see results

Business silhouette

Summary: A promising, potentially exciting, freedom-respecting set of products would be easier to talk about than actually deliver; we take a look at what goes on at Purism

THIS is a particularly difficult subject for me to write about, having spent a number of years cheering for Librem (in its various forms or form factors) and by extension its parent company, Purism, whose goals I believe to be well-intentioned. They’re a sort of privacy-first, freedom-at-the-forefront company (freedom as in Software Freedom as well as hardware freedom — to the limited extent presently possible).

Lately I have been reading negative things about Purism. I also received messages and mail about it. I am committed to Software Freedom, but I am also deeply committed to truth, so let’s put right there on the table the knowns, unknowns, and what’s in desperate need of verification. Because transparency is needed for true trust; otherwise it’s fantasy. Here in Techrights we’re as transparent as possible with IRC logs that serve to reveal operations (behind the scenes too). We’re balancing privacy and transparency, e.g. in the name of source protection. We redact some things, usually to protect identities only. But those who lurk in IRC (or read our logs) can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

“Many companies operate at a loss and/or have massive debt. They don’t like to talk about those things.”Purism is different. The company isn’t always upfront. Sometimes it’s not even honest and some would say “misleading”. I’d like to believe they’re not intentionally misleading people, but over the past month there was more evidence to that effect. Are they dishonest for “the greater good”? I don’t know. Some companies pretend to do better than they really do, hoping for a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy effect — inertia built atop an illusion. I get that. I don’t respect that, but I totally get that. It’s quite common and many large companies — including Microsoft — do this. Many companies operate at a loss and/or have massive debt. They don’t like to talk about those things. It might scare away those who subsidise/invest in them. Sometimes they’re bank(er)s, sometimes they’re so-called ‘angels’, sometimes they’re the public or prospective buyers who raise funds for projects/products.

One person asked me yesterday: “Have you heard anything about Purism? Or Librem? Being a complete and utter failure/scam?”

“Well,” she said, “from what I heard…”

She shared some discussions about this and even new memes. Moments ago someone pointed out to me this recent article that I had read days ago. It’s titled “The Sad Saga of Purism and the Librem 5″ and there are 3 parts to it.

“Their laptop campaign had over 65% return rate, I heard closer to 70%.”
      –Anonymous
“And no comments from @purism to that,” I was told, so “seems like a really sad story to me.”

Going back to that first person, “2 years ago,” she said, “over 1.5 million — I heard close to 2.5… was raised.”

“But they cannot deliver on the units,” she added.

“Their laptop campaign had over 65% return rate, I heard closer to 70%.”

“When employees went to San Diego to the fulfillment center, they noted all the concerns – return rate, quality, etc. They wanted to work with Weaver for improvement. He would not meet F2F from what I heard but online. During that session, he went around to see what concerns people had. Quickly, 5 were fired. Another quit within a week or so.”

But apparently it gets yet worse. This is the part which is mostly speculative. “From what I heard,” she said, “Purism money is now going to Forbes and social media campaigns without the transparency of what is really happening. Phoronix is one of their media outlets.”

I can believe the part about Forbes, knowing how they’re manipulated. But I’m not sure about Phoronix.

“Media manipulation is possible,” I responded, “but I won’t vouch for it. Michael Larabel isn’t perfect, I often wonder what he does with hardware shipped to him (among other things), but there’s no evidence they pay him or are in cahoots, so that seems unfair. Please dig further with your contacts. Eventually I will write about this.”

“When employees went to San Diego to the fulfillment center, they noted all the concerns – return rate, quality, etc.”
      –Anonymous
For the sake of accuracy let’s just assume — at least for now — that Phoronix covers Purism stuff because Phoronix readers care about it. That seems a lot more plausible to me

“As we already are pretty certain,” she said, that “Forbes takes money – I mean, just even looking at the content Forbes puts out about certain tech is telling. Phoronix was a question, but is looking more and more like a media outlet that takes money too based on the Purism story.”

Phoronix recently did a story that’s actually an interview with Purism folks. But nothing suggested that it was promotional. Nothing that I could see.

“I believe Purism is starting other services/campaigns in hopes to raise enough to fulfill those previous orders,” she continued, “but it didn’t work out… (social media, tablet)

“That’s all the info I have on this.”

From what I can gather, Purism is struggling. Also, at this stage, workers are leaving (or get fired). This is not good.

Is there something malicious going on? Probably not, but people who fund-raised for this company are being left in the dark and it’s not fair to them.

The subject line of the above message was, “purism – where’s the hw?” [hardware] which to me says it all.

To me at least. There’s a story behind it. It’s an old story.

Half a decade (probably less) ago they said they’d ship a review unit for me to write about (just on loan, for me to pass on to the next person once done). I’d never buy their overpriced laptops, but they wanted me to assess. It’s them who suggested this to me; they had approached me. But it soon became apparent that they were inconsistent, unorganised, and unprofessional.

Did they ever ship?

No.

Never.

Just wasted my time.

Again and again.

Then the person was removed. The person who spoke to me. The one who approached me. The one who wasted my time.

Always excuses. Hardly any apologies.

“From what I heard Purism money is now going to Forbes and social media campaigns without the transparency of what is really happening.”
      –Anonymous
I posted online about that (at the time). Repeatedly even. It was a sort of warning. They seemed a tad suspicious to me. Trust was eroded and ever since then I never looked at them the same way. But the press carried on, then the FSF (endorsement), not to mention fund-raising for Librem 5.

At one point they said they’d connect me for an interview (to publish on my site) with the founder of Qubes OS. Did that ever happen? No.

You bet! Another round of false promises; a total waste of time.

So, in summary I view them as bad on communications, big on promises, never delivering anything. Anything. Later they make up a bunch of excuses.

And going back to the question, “where’s the hw?”

I wondered that many years ago, almost 5 years ago. I’ve lost count.

The dreams they put forth are dreams. KDE, GNOME…. on a small device. Nice, but will that be delivered? I heard they scattered around some units recently. Then I heard about technical issues. Now I hear about staff leaving.

Deep inside I hope they succeed, but I remain sceptical based on my personal experience.

Purism needs to speak out and be frank about what’s happening. I’ve been nothing but courteous towards them (I didn’t even name the person who let me down; maybe she quit, maybe she got fired), but courtesy should be a two-way street/bridge. The very fact that a project about “freedom” does not even offer “openness” is not compatible with the spirit upon which it managed to raise millions of dollars in funds, thanks in part to endorsements/promotions from FSF, GNOME, KDE and so on. Not to mention volunteer writers like myself who have mentioned them over a thousand times over the years.

Moments ago figosdev told me: “ive always been neutral/curious about these guys, particularly with the fsf endorsement. im very curious what oliva thinks.

“I believe Purism is starting other services/campaigns in hopes to raise enough to fulfill those previous orders…”
      –Anonymous
“but with all thats happened to people trying to create real freedom lately, is it possible this is another attack, rather than a real revelation? (i dont know how i can prove im neutral, this is just my reaction.)”

Tom Grz wrote: “I’ve always been suspicious, primarily because their products are high-priced, and if they really wanted to make a difference they should move down the population curve. Also, the president is a jerk.”

Some memes do target the president’s personality; I don’t know him personally. There’s a link there to a talk from him. “Todd Weaver has more to say about himself than the advertised subject matter,” Grz added later.

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