Originally Published: Thursday, 10 August 2000 Author: Stephen F.
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Journalism: Key Ingredient to FUDge

Now, perhaps I'm a conspiracy theorist, but if ZDNet has so few good things to say about Linux, and neither do any of their respondants, then there is something wrong at ZDNet. They spread more Linux FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) than even Microsoft. Perhaps Microsoft has bought the copyrights to FUD, and ZDNet has an exclusive license to distribute it.

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Many computer nerds have photographic memories, and won't have any problem recalling the fiasco originating at Tucows, and quickly spreading to ZDNet that Linux reviews are bought, rather than earned.

I recently saw another column at ZDNet regarding the long overdue and much anticipated Linux 2.4 kernel. I can safely say that although this article is hardly neutral toward the situation, it looks as though the author, Ms. Mary Jo Foley, has made some kind of attempt at objectivity.

It outlines some strengths of the new kernel to be, as well as some flaws. Actually, it flushes the flaws down my throat. It begins by saying that as major distribution vendors are shifting to the next major versions of their distributions, the new 2.4 kernel is all but ready. Therefore, either these companies will ship beta code, or an old kernel that will be outdated within three months or so. They also failed to mention that the user can upgrade his kernel at will, when it's released.

The column complains that it's taken quite some time for Linux 2.4 to arrive, and rightly so; this long a wait is excruciating. While more features are being added, we are living with what we have. This has some upsides, as well. I wouldn't have upgraded to 2.4 if it only featured 64 bit filesystems and other nifty extras. My disks can *very* comfortably fit one partition.

This power is nice for many, and I would probably use it if it were built-in. But I realized something else the page didn't point out: Since a three month test cycle was a bit slim, that fewer features would be implemented.

The reason for this is that for three months new features won't be added and debugged. So development freezes, and debugging commences. Then, after the three months have passed, development continues- but now has lost three months.

It's a good thing that more features have delayed the 2.4 kernel. If it hadn't recieved these extra nifties, then I would be one user to not upgrade it. As it happens, there are more features in the new kernel that I can use. So I'm going to upgrade it.

My gripe with this essay was not that it was necessarily anti-linux. After all, your friends will tell you what you're doing wrong. Your enemies would *much* rather watch your shortcomings played out over and over. What struck me was that many, many of the comments had a slant.

One commentor noted that he thought that only Microsoft let out beta code to be tested by regular users. It simply doesn't make sense to not allow the people who are going to use it to actually find out if it works before it ships. On commentor, who identified himself as a System Administrator, (who uses Linux) said that Linux shouldn't have one person in charge of the kernel, saying that if Linux should ever reach ten billion desktops, that nobody could stop Linus from demanding royalties. He asserted that if Linus sits on his butt all day, then nothing gets done.

I notice that "All Talkback messages submitted to ZDNet are reviewed by an editor before posting, and may be edited." To say this in one word: moderated.

Now, perhaps I'm a conspiracy theorist, but if ZDNet has so few good things to say about Linux, and neither do any of their respondants, then there is something wrong at ZDNet. They spread more Linux FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) than even Microsoft. Perhaps Microsoft has bought the copyrights to FUD, and ZDNet has an exclusive license to distribute it.

In any case, it's very interesting that while most of the civilized world is noticing the power of Linux, ZDNet is the only company that I can name that consistently, with very few exceptions, can post benchmarks of Windows (tm) and Linux in which Linux comes up short.

Some comments were actually defensive, and did a decent job with their words. But none were very descriptive. One comment added that the kernel is something that the user can upgrade; one said that Linus is not "The keeper of the flame as the article suggested," and that it could go on without him. There are a lot of comments to sort through, and those took some digging. Some were outright hostile; "At least Microsoft isn't the only OS that ships late," and the like.

I hesitate to point fingers, but if ZDNet monitors all postings, and reserves the right to edit them, then they are necessarily at fault for any innaccuracies that exist. They say very plainly that they may edit your contribution, and perhaps they are; but if they are, then it's not in a manner that leads to greater truth in journalism.

I wonder if anybody can actually provide unbiased journalism. To be without bias for computers means you must be ignorant (therefore unqualified), or educated (therefore with preferences). Is bias in journalism all that bad? Probably not; I don't come to Linux.com to find out how Windows and Linux are equals. I didn't write this with the intention of showing equal preference to Windows. But I would hope that all software was rated based on its merits; regardless of who manufactures it. As far as many ZDNet authors are concerned, if it doesn't have the Windows Logo on it, then its ability is somehow impeded.

I suggest that they be allowed to say what they will; it is, after all, bad practice to get all your news from one source. They have as much a right to free speech as I, or anybody else.

I won't point to ZD and scream about how biased their journalists are; I will instead simply say that since ZD controls all content on their website, that they are *completely* responsible for every last error, ommission, and fabrication to be found there. I leave it to the rest of the world to decide on its own just how many of these faults there are.

-msibn is tired of seeing other pots calling this kettle black. He also doesn't want to move to California, but will be doing so shortly anyway.





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