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This is Journalism???

Uluwatu Monkey
Monkey see, monkey do



Novell has a new announcement about SLERT, which is its real-time operating system. It's trying to steal Red Hat's thunder, using Red Hat's own work. It seems likely that Novell is paying for benchmarks that favour it; however, to read the accompanying full report one needs to register (Novell is not listed among sponsors of the benchmarking company).



But anyway, this post is not about Novell as a real-time Linux leech or about its ability to pay for so-called studies (with or without proper disclosure). We have some prior examples of both. This post is about a problem that was highlighted a fortnight ago. It's about news which is covered only in Novell's own words.

The gist of it all is that coverage in news sites goes like this: grab a press release, change a word here and there, change layout and voila! Here's a new 'article' (just like the publisher/marketing department desires). This leads to infectious dissemination of disinformation, which if repeated often enough might as well become truth in the minds of people. It drives away 'dissenters' who are courageous enough to challenge flawed consensus.

We hereby present the evidence we have and leave it for readers to make personal judgment, mostly based on the opening paragraphs (although the remainder is equally compelling as evidence).

Here is the press release about it. It opens with:

Novell today announced that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC€®), SUSE€® Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server. These impressive results for Novell were significantly better than similar benchmark tests performed by STAC on other Linux* and UNIX* operating systems. Novell was able to achieve simultaneously high throughput rates and extremely low latencies because of close collaboration with its technology partners – HP, Intel€® and Voltaire. Customers using the solution from Novell and its partners which produced these record-breaking results will be able to compete more effectively in their markets.


Here is some very junk 'journalism', which is a slight edit of the press release. It comes from CIOL (India).

Novell announced that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC), SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server.

These impressive results for Novell were significantly better than similar benchmark tests performed by STAC on other Linux and UNIX operating systems. Novell was able to achieve simultaneously high throughput rates and extremely low latencies because of close collaboration with its technology partners - HP, Intel(R) and Voltaire. Customers using the solution from Novell and its partners which produced these record-breaking results will be able to compete more effectively in their markets.


Compare this to the press release.

Here is another one, this time from Trading Markets.

Novell, a company that delivers the Linux platform and a portfolio of integrated IT management software, announced that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC), SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server.


Wall Street & Technology published this thing:

Novell said that in independent tests performed by the Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC), SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time delivered the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server.


The author is said to be "Leslie Kramer", so the reader would think that it's original. It's also published here in FinanceTech. Compare it to the press release.

No wonder people just parrot what they see in the press. Maybe they can cite 5 'independent' sources like the ones above to claim that this is corroborated and investigative journalism, as opposed to just the borrowing of Novell's own mouth. So much blind acceptance and obedience in the press prevails, even when Novell lies in its press releases (the financial department is dishonest as well [1, 2, 3, 4]). It's very sad, but moreover it's dangerous.

Another one that's similar to the press release:

Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC) has benchmarked Novell’s Suse Linux Enterprise Real Time at the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS), as well as the highest RMDS throughput for a two-socket server. Novell says it was able to achieve simultaneously high throughput rates and extremely low latencies because of close collaboration with its technology partners – HP, Intel and Voltaire.


LinuxDevices did a fairly decent job in comparison, but it still reads like the press release.

The Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC) has benchmarked Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time (SLERT) delivering record-breaking performance, says Novell. SLERT results showed "the lowest mean and maximum latencies ever recorded at high rates with the Reuters Market Data System (RMDS)," claims the company.


The Register was probably the only exception. It takes a broader and insightful view on this subject.

The two key commercial Linux distributors, Red Hat and Novell, have both announced real-time variants of their respective distros: Red Hat Enterprise MRG (pronounced "merge" and short for messaging, real-time, and grid) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time (or SLERT for short). Novell got into the real-time game first of these two companies, with the first SLERT 10 release launched in September 2006 with partner and long-time real-time operating system provider Concurrent Computer.


So, the prize goes to Timothy Prickett Morgan, who actually understands the technical stuff that he writes about. He offers news and analysis in context, not shameless self-promotion from Novell.

Only 1-3 out of 8 'articles' are not an echoing of Novell's press release. That's a very bad ratio, so 'signal' will be washed away by PR 'noise'.

Why do people trust 'the press' again? Because it's funded by companies like Microsoft and billionaires like Bill Gates? The example above just happens to be the latest, but this is very typical. Perhaps we should point this out more frequently in the future.

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