SCO, Linux and Rob Enderle: A Conclusion

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SCO, Linux and Rob Enderle: A Conclusion

If you are among the regular readers of TG Daily, then you know that Rob Enderle is a frequent contributor to our coverage of the technology industry.  

You may not always agree with his opinion as we learn from week to week when we are following our readers’ comments to Rob’s articles. Even we at TG Daily sometimes question points he makes and we occasionally get into heated discussions. But we are very well aware of his background and experience and realize that he is one most knowledgeable general analysts in Silicon Valley today and we learned over the years that there’s always a good reason why he has certain opinion.    

Often, he does not support the most popular opinion at a time, but his opinion is derived from spending a lot of time with key initiatives in Silicon Valley, which allows him to provide a very different view on current events – different from what the popular opinion often tries to make us believe. And yes, Rob makes mistakes, as we all do. In these cases, he feels the impact quite painfully, as he sometimes is criticized harshly for the opinion he voices. But some may actually be surprised to learn about Rob’s common sense nature and eagerness to learn and analyze the potential impact of a technology trend down to the last detail.  

Public exposure is nice and can boost your ego, but it isn’t always a great thing. Many people that are followed by the media occasionally get into trouble for not thinking enough about what they say in front of reporters with notebooks, voice recorders or even video cameras. Taken out of context or not, missteps can get you everything from raised eyebrows to a pink slip from your employer – or, in this case, death threats. Rob has made his experiences with that during the SCO-Linux battle and if you have been following the case, then you may recall that, early on, there was some irritation about an article Rob wrote and a keynote he gave at a SCO event back in 2004.  

I personally have not read this article, have not been at this event and never have seen the transcript. But I somewhat followed the outrage and rather inappropriate reactions from some members of the Linux community. But, with SCO having its battle lost, we felt that it was a good time to reflect on this part of the SCO story as well and we asked Rob to tell us his side of the story.    

He promptly answered our request and sent us the following in-depth story. As always, we invite you to join the discussion at the end of the article. We know about of the enthusiasm and passion that surrounds this topic, so we do ask you to read the article in its entirety before submitting a comment. As it is the case with all other comments, we will not release any comments that include insults, threats or foul language. Treat others as you expect others to treat you.


Looking back at my history with SCO

Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst, Enderle Group   

With SCO going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and likely to drop into Chapter 7, and given some of the mail and posts I’ve been getting, I agree that it is time to look back a bit at my experience with SCO. Like Dan Lyons, I was deceived. But unlike him, it wasn’t just SCO; there were the Linux loyalists who pushed me onto SCO’s side as well. Now this is a long piece, probably one of the longest I’ve ever written, and even so it leaves stuff out, so bear with me and I’ll try to keep it interesting.   

We all have personality quirks, things that just tick us off and impact the way we see the world and make certain decisions as a result. These things create the foundation for our personalities and it used to be common practice to use this information to profile competing executives and more accurately guess their future moves. In my case, abusive behavior truly angers me deeply. I have to admit it also affects how I look at Apple, because I’ve read a number of the Steve Jobs biographies and concluded he has been excessively abusive to the people he manages.       

In my past life, there have been three instances at which I should have resigned because of ethics concerns. I’m ashamed to say that I actually resigned only once because of that reason. The other two will haunt me the rest of my life. It is interesting to note that it was partially because of SCO that I resigned from Forrester Research. I am often accused of being a shill for Microsoft; something many – who know me – actually think is very funny. I have always said what I believed and I have historically been adamant to say that people who tell people just what they want to hear, or can be bribed to say what they don’t believe, are company killers. I have no desire to be like them.     

It’s been ironic that, while Microsoft is one of my clients, the company also is the only client that asked me to not have anything to do with the SCO topic. I’m an inquiry analyst and my clients like me being focused on things I am a recognized specialist in. Linux is not in that class. So, while some still claim that Microsoft pushed me to support SCO, Microsoft had nothing to do with me getting pulled into this controversy. They actually asked me to pull out.   

Let’s start with my best recollection of how I started with SCO. Realize this is my best recollection and that this has been a number of years and all of us involved may remember things differently.    

Getting pulled into SCO

Back in 2003, I was not only a senior fellow at one of the large market research firms; I also was in charge of media access, primarily because I was more active with the media than any other of the analysts) I had to make sure we could stand behind what our Open Source analyst was saying: She took the initial position that SCO’s copied code claim was a lie.     

In our business, you can call a vendor a liar but, unless you don’t want to spend a lot of quality time in court, you do need to make sure you can defend your claim by showing a reasonable amount of research. At the very least, you have to talk to the vendor you are accusing.   

Our analyst indicated that SCO wouldn’t speak to her, so I contacted them myself to see if this claim was true. They said ‘nope’ and told me that they would show us the code. She refused to meet with them and then did everything in her power to keep me from meeting with them. I actually never had this happen before in the years I had been an analyst: I carried the title of vice president and she was near entry level. Preventing the meeting should not have been possible, not even remotely. She almost was successful.   

There was a second event going on at the same time that should have been unrelated, but played into the result.  

Contributing factors   

During this time, I was asked to write my first column. I re-purposed a piece I had written before, also on request by another publication, which had taken me a great deal of time to create. Initially, I had written this article as the con-side of a debate on whether Linux was ready for the enterprise. They had a CIO doing the pro-side and our Linux analyst should have written the piece, but it was my opinion that she did not have the writing skills to do it successfully.      

It is part of the job of an experienced analyst to be able to argue both sides of a critical question. The more experienced you are, the more likely you are to get the harder of the two sides and, frankly, I like the challenge. In this case, however, we weren’t actually given the choice.     

I’m reasonably competitive, and given Linux was already going into the enterprise, I was at a massive disadvantage with the task to represent the con-side. I spent the better part of a week writing something I thought would win the discussion and apparently did such a good job that the competing CIO, who had taken the pro-side, quit and walked away from the project (granted, I could have rewritten my side to lose, but losing on purpose isn’t in my DNA). So, the initial piece was never published.      

These pro-con articles are done so that people can look at strong arguments from both sides and form their own opinions. Plus, strongly opinionated articles tend to pull massive traffic which doesn’t hurt the publications either. Though being on the con-side of things can do some ugly things to your inbound email, as I was about to discover.

When CMP asked me to do a monthly column, I took this piece and rewrote the beginning to make it an example of why you need to make measured decisions when picking any technology. I could have as easily pounded on Windows as the example I ended up using, but I really wanted to get some use out of this Linux thing I had created before. The editor I worked with thought the headline of my article was wimpy and changed it to “Why Linux Isn’t Ready for the Enterprise”.  

Read on the next page: A firestorm develops, seeing the ugly side of people and the purpose of the SCO keynote

A firestorm develops  

The article published and I met around the same time with SCO. They showed me what they claimed was copied code. As it turned out later, the code they showed me was mostly in the public domain and, as it eventually turned out, anything that was left was not theirs in the first place. (SCO actually had a relating internal memo I did not know about until years later that detailed the first part of this, the second part had to wait for the recent Novell ruling.)    

Had I been left alone, I would have simply concluded we couldn’t publish that SCO was lying about copied code because I had clearly seen it. In that case, I likely would have gone back to my day job that had nothing to do with Linux.     

But I came back and, with a couple of others, publicly verified that I had seen copied code around the same time my column hit. Within moments, the Linux faithful were literally chanting “death to Rob Enderle”.     

I had done nothing wrong. I had seen copied code and reported what I had seen and had written a column on making measured IT decisions – which was based on the example of someone who did not make a measured decision (a bad decision can be anything including Linux, which we know isn’t right for everything). By the way, that is why the CIO walked away from the earlier debate. Rather than attacking Linux technically, which I knew I could not win, I attacked her decision process which had been horribly flawed. She later conceded that, if published, there was the chance that could get her fired. In hind sight, I probably should have backed off.    

Seeing the ugly side of people

Suddenly, I was buried in death threats. People were writing my company and saying I should be fired, even fellow analysts were attacking me personally. These were folks I had known for years and suddenly I was at the center of a firestorm, simply because I had written a column that wasn’t really critical about Linux (recall the true focus was on executives that didn’t make measured decisions, and it focused on the decision process and not the quality of the code). But it appeared to be critical because of the title and my reporting on a meeting with SCO – a meeting that others should have done, but were unwilling to do.  

What was amazing to me at the time was that virtually none of these people who were attacking me had actually read that article or had any interest in checking the facts of the meeting with SCO by meeting with them themselves. But they were inflamed by things they read on sites like Groklaw, which had creatively translated my text.     

I thought I’d run into the cover up of the century. I was even told, as the senior research fellow, I was not allowed to talk about Linux anymore and I was lectured by the Head of Research on how I should have written the column who, upon actually reading it, agreed I had done everything he had just lectured me to do. He concluded that he must be thinking of another column I had written (this was my first column and there was no “other” column). I saw this as a clear ethics problem and resigned the next day, focused like a laser on the Linux supporters I then viewed as criminals. And if they were criminals, than SCO must be the victim, right? Well, that was my thought back then.  

Life changing moments   

I do not know if you have ever been through a situation like this and if you ever have felt so strongly about something that was worth a resignation.  If you have ever studied Maslow, you know that attacking someone, as I was attacked, will be a life changing experience for that person and it clearly was one for me. It peaked when I was asked to do a keynote for SCO, the only thing they ever paid me for. This was the only fire and brimstone style talk I have ever given in my life.      

The really interesting thing about that talk was that I had designed it specifically to prove that Groklaw was intentionally misleading people. Most have never actually read this speech as it was actually given. But I came up with the idea while sitting in the audience of the SCO event the day before I was to speak. I simply compared what was being said to what someone from Groklaw, who had clearly snuck into the event under false pretenses, was inaccurately reporting on their website. Intentionally falsifying something, given my own experience, really angered me and I figured I would do something about it.   

Note that I still viewed SCO as the victim (though I clearly was having trouble reconciling some of their aggressive and ill-advised behavior at that time) and – given my knowledge then – thought of folks like Groklaw as some part illegal conspiracy with secret backing. I admit that I have no idea who funds them and only care out of curiosity now, but that is what I believed at the time. By the way, I do believe that, given the funding SCO had, it was in SCO’s interest to leave the implication in place as the facts surrounding Groklaw’s funding were probably nowhere near as damaging to Groklaw as the likely false allegations SCO was making about them.   

I should, and do, apologize for saying (at least I think I did and know I thought it), they were paid by IBM, I no longer believe that.  

The real purpose of the keynote  

So, I tore up what I had intended to say and got a little sneaky. Yes, it would have been much better had I thought of this a couple of weeks earlier. Still, it accomplished what I had intended and I had intended this as a mechanism to show that Groklaw was being intentionally misleading.  I didn’t know what they would do and had no idea they would take the trouble they took. But for those that haven’t already formed an opinion, look at the evidence and form your own opinion.  Unlike Groklaw I’d actually like you to click on the links.    

It was scripted and I read the script so that I could point to the actual text and compare it to the Groklaw translation and prove my point. My brilliance was a little short of the mark because, evidently, once Groklaw figured out what I was doing, they did everything they could think of to keep people from actually reading the talk as it was written, they even had someone do a full translation so you would never see the talk as it was actually delivered. He does make some valid criticisms, for instance at one point I referred to Nuremberg and should have referred to Milgram (how many of you know who Milgram was?)     

Now, for those of you who do not immediately understand what Groklaw did, they micro-analyzed my talk so that virtually every part was taken out of context.  For instance, if someone said “I like Bill Clinton,” I could micro-analyze that by pointing out the removal of the title “President” and suggest they were belittling him, and point to the use of the familiar name “Bill” as their way even further reducing his stature while increasing their own and implying a close relationship that did not exist.  If you bought the analysis you would walk away believing something the speaker probably didn’t intend.    

This is a natural skill for attorneys, they can take things that were said and imply something else and, if they are good, and because we do not have mind readers that really work, they can often win unwinnable cases that way.    

What I was trying to show was Groklaw did this regularly, and there were very few times when anyone was pointing out there may have been another translation equally, or more, viable than the one they brought forth.  I simply thought people should be aware of this so they could be better informed.    

The talk was impassioned but, seriously, if you actually realize that all I was doing was taking a set of personal experiences, filling some space on Free Software (and you’ll note very little of the talk actually had anything to do with Linux), and ranting on people who join causes without a clue about the cause, and are nasty to boot.  In fact, in one of the posts I recall someone pointed out the talk had little to do with Linux and used that to suggest I didn’t know what I was talking about.  I didn’t intend it to be a rant on Linux, it purpose was to make a completely different point and that point was that people were intentionally being misleading. I just thought people should take what they read on Groklaw with a grain of salt.    

Today I think that is actually the case. But back then, I did not.    

For instance, notice they often refer to my excessively foul language as a reason for not actually putting down my real words. Find the foul language that is so incredibly foul it can’t be printed.  Here is a hint, look for the words “cover his a**”.    

Most of the talk was based on my personal experiences. For instance, I mention a series of experiences where my life was at risk and decry what appeared to be a common practice of death threats. They infer I was talking about guns excessively and had some kind of stress problem. Actually, I was kind of stressed out at the time. Getting death threats will do that, but I sure wasn’t armed.

The fact that they would tell you to only read their altered translation should be telling. I always believe you should check (certainly before flaming someone) whether folks were saying is, at the very least, accurate. I did get a chuckle out of the realization that they clearly violated my copyrights in what they did (they have posted the entire talk in its entirety and then changed it by adding their own words). That year was full of irony.    

My talk was simply bait, I wanted to be able to write a column pointing out that they falsified what I said and that was its sole purpose. This is the column I wrote on this topic; I have already provided links to some what they wrote earlier.  

It really wasn’t much of a talk, and it depended heavily on an impassioned delivery which, to my own surprise, I actually pulled off.  I doubt I’ll ever do something like this again.  I wrote the speech between 11 at night and 3 in the morning; in terms of writing, it was far from my best work, but I had a head of steam up and I clearly was upset with what I had seen.   

Read on the next page: Winding down on SCO. Dan Lyons, me and no apology 

Winding down on SCO  

For another year, I supported SCO for free, I honestly saw this increasingly as a free speech issue and felt someone needed to be on their side, but it was a massive time suck and it created a significant drag on my revenue. More and more, I also was having a hard time reconciling what SCO was telling me with what I knew to be true and was starting to feel that I was in the middle of a mess with bad people on both sides.

When the memo surfaced from inside SCO, indicating they had known that most of the copied code wasn’t theirs to begin with, I wrote my final column in that string. It suggested that SCO’s stockholders likely had a cause of action due to inadequate disclosure of information critical to their investments. After that column, I walked away. At that point, I have to admit, I was relieved, as I had become really tired of the whole thing. SCO was clearly out of control and I no longer believed they had the slightest chance of winning this battle.      

It also caused me to recall why I had left the legal field. In litigation, if people feel really strongly about something, they will often lie to you about it and conceal information that will eventually be uncovered – and, as a result, causing them and you to lose the case.  I really don’t like being lied to and I’ve already shared with you that I do not like losing.  SCO appeared to honestly believe they would win, but had I known all the facts, I would not have shared that belief; I did believe that their approach would fail regardless for much of that last year. 

Dan Lyons, me and no apology   

Unlike Dan Lyons, who has recently said he was tricked by SCO, I was tricked both by SCO and some Linux supporters who, unintentionally through their nasty behavior and threats, made me see them as the criminals. Nothing I had done gave these people the right to attack my livelihood, threaten my life or the lives of my family, and I still view the folks who engaged in such behavior as criminals.      

In fact, in most cases, they weren’t really mad at what I had written, but at what someone else said I had written. However, I no longer paint all Open Source advocates with the same broad brush and, strangely enough, I have always liked BSD Unix and had just, for a time, forgotten it was Open Source as well. It’s kind of amazing, what being attacked like this did to the way I viewed the world for some time. 

For most of the last two years, I avoided most SCO coverage with the exception of occasionally commenting on their declining financial health. In the end, I did what I believed was right and while I too was misled, I still believe that SCO was entitled to their day in court regardless of whether you, or I, thought they could win. That was their right and they got that.   

Looking at the result, had folks been more measured, the outcome would have likely been the same but the process would have been vastly less aggravating for all of us. Still, that aggravation got me to go out on my own and that actually worked very well for me and I may have learned some critical skills with regard to controlling my temper. Though I probably could do more work on this.   

Granted, I will likely be dealing with the character stuff for the rest of my life. I still get a kick out of going to my Wikipedia page and seeing the false profile a few folks likely had fun creating.  For instance I’m still married, have only been married once, and to my knowledge have never known a Fiona.  I use it as an example of why you can’t trust Open Source at face value and need to actually review the code yourself before blessing it. I don’t buy the “millions of eyes” claim and, in this specific case, this statement is rather worthless. On the other hand, one of my favorite products runs on Linux.     

But, while I’ve thanked some of the Open Source leaders for stepping in and getting the death threats and DOS attacks to stop, I won’t apologize. Speaking out against bad behavior is something I think more of us should do and I simply will not apologize for that.     

In closing, I once again want to thank Linus, Richard, and Bruce for speaking out against the violent behavior a few years ago.  Through their involvement, they got people to behave more reasonably. I honestly believe they saved at least one life. And that very well may have been my life.   

That’s my story to the best of my recollection. I honestly think the EU thing with Microsoft is stupid and won’t work (anyone who has tried to integrate software products after a merger, or who has worked in a multi-division software company could easily explain why). In short, if you really want to fix the problem they are trying to fix, you have to hold people on both sides of the integration issue personally accountable. Even that may not work, but pounding on one side is like trying to clap with one hand if you are trying to solve an integration problem.    

My story with Microsoft starts with how I was almost one of their early employees and how the first public report I wrote about them in 1994 was on how they were likely to slide into decline by the end of the last decade.  We’ll save that for another time. 

For good or ill, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts.  Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them.  Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The editorial staff of TG Daily may not necessarily agree with his opinion stated in this article.