12.12.08

This is Journalism???

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Marketing, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat at 4:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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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8 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    December 13, 2008 at 11:42 am

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    The technical press are generally a pack of whores, and cheap diseased whores at that. ZDNet is no better than The Register in this regard. Handling UK press for Wikimedia, I’m glad we’re mainstream now because, for all their defects, mainstream media reporters have generally heard of journalism and attempt to practice it.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 11:47 am

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    Earlier today in The Register, I caught Tim Anderson advertising Microsoft again (he got his Vista 7 laptop, as you may recall).

  3. Shane Coyle said,

    December 13, 2008 at 11:58 am

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    Slightly OT, but slightly on, there was an article recently about a pharmaceutical company, Wyeth, being investigated by U.S. Senator Grassley for a “Pays for Praise” campaign that featured ghostwritten articles which they then paid doctors and researchers to lend their names to.

    Sounds similar to some of the media manipulating practices we’ve all heard Microsoft be accused of, many of which Roy has chronicled here.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 12:02 pm

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    Good new find. I saw something similar in Technocrat one year ago. I also documented a Microsoft example just days ago! :-)

  5. pcolon said,

    December 13, 2008 at 1:42 pm

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    @D.Gerard: Personally I think the corporations are the biggest whores; the tech writers (analysts) are the bottom feeders, either way they’re sellouts. Currently what seems to be reported is a small ‘soundbite’ followed by the journalist’s OP-ED, which is longer than the soundbite.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Gravatar

    It gets worse than just ‘lazy’ journalists. Corporations have hounds in “reporter” clothing. For example, see the role of Dan Lyons in this summary page.

  7. mike said,

    December 13, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Gravatar

    In todays ‘instant news’ world, everyone – even long-running ‘quality’ news providers are clamouring for quantity over quality – quality costs money. If a user hits refresh and there is no new story they might go visit another site instead …

    Various ‘newswire’ services are more and more being used directly as a supplemental news source. As a result, a media influencer only needs to get their stories fed in at one spot and it can pollute the whole world. That’s on-top of the fact that some publications are really just running on fumes and so any content will do – even press releases, so they’ll publish them without much thought, or even as an advertiser favour. If the news was more mainstream we’d probably even see fake video news come along too – as the pharmaceutical industry does. http://www.prwatch.org is always a disturbing read about how easily the pr machine corrupts public discourse and undermines democracy.

    I notice that the press release is written less as a press release than normal – e.g. missing out the city/state guff they normally start with. It makes the job of using the press release even easier.

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Gravatar

    Marketing is a powerful machinery with a turnaround of about one trillion dollars a year (that’s 1/5 of the cost of any product we buy), if I recall correctly. This means that we, as customers, pay for (fund) the brainwash we are subjected to.

    Sometimes saying the truth means that marketing is contradicted, so one must accept reluctance to see things from another perspective. Realising that the world is round too was shocking at one stage of human civilisation. People would be tortured for challenging what was incorrect consensus.

    The word “propaganda” was used very routinely before the second world war, which gave it a bad connotation. Nothing has really changed since then other than terminology because we are more sensitive to such things which serve corporate power and even national power (almost the same thing in a corpocracy).

    “If thought can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt thought.”

    George Orwell

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