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Crossing the Line: Deciding to Fight For Integrity

Crossing the Line: Deciding to Fight For Integrity

When it comes to promoting an opinion, an open source project, a software product or even a company, what constitutes crossing the line? Recently, on other message boards, JBoss Inc. employees were shown to have used multiple fake online personas to not only simulate community support for JBoss, but to denigrate competitors and even to attack individuals that criticized JBoss in public. The JDJ Readers' Choice Awards has become an annual ballot-stuffing initiative for many of the industry's leading vendors. On JRoller and other Java blogs, anonymous posters and fake personas push hidden agendas and hurl insults against competing interests with impunity. The line between what constitutes conventional marketing and market manipulation has been blurred, and the loser in all of this is you.

This is not professional or ethical behavior. It hurts the industry's credibility as well as the credibility of the individuals involved. It maligns products by associating them with deceit and manipulative behaviour. It creates a haze of mistrust around the resources themselves - which otherwise are valuable - and demeans the entire developer and user community.

This kind of behavior has been tolerated for too long, and now is the time to re-adjust that thin line. It is important to realize that anonymous posting, as such, is not the problem. The problem is when anonymous posting is used as a tool to lie about, deceive and harass others as a way to do business.

It is ultimately self-defeating to allow this kind of activity to persist. This type of activity can only be reined in by a community that is unwilling to tolerate it: It's time to stand up and be counted. If the notion of software ecology is to have any relevant meaning, in which different parties can coexist in a competitive yet open environment, there needs to be an understanding that these practices are not acceptable, and there is a price to pay for employing them. In ecological terms, when an organism detects an infection, it must respond immediately for its viability depends upon it. For us, as a community, this kind of behavior is the infection, and the response is to place the behavior in the light of day, where it cannot survive. This infection is particularly devastating to the open source community whose foundation is open collaboration, shared efforts and mutual benefits.

In order to ensure that the community remains intact, we should remind ourselves of what it is all about. When the Internet was first built, its primary function was to enable scientists to share the results of their research in an open forum. This idea of open collaboration is still prevalent today. By working in cooperative efforts, we have realized many gains that have moved technology forward, but the actions of a very few working for personal gain have put all of this in jeopardy.

We are fortunate to be part of a vibrant and healthy community, one worth investing in, and one whose integrity we are willing to fight for.

More Stories By Rickard Oberg

Rickard Öberg Rickard Öberg is a well-known Java thought leader from Sweden. He is a founder of Senselogic, the developers of a Java CMS based on AOP. He is also a famous blogger, an AOP-evangelist, a former jboss architect and the author of Mastering RMI.

More Stories By Cameron Purdy

Cameron Purdy is Vice President of Development at Oracle. He has over 16 years of experience growing software companies and leading product development efforts. Formerly he was Co-Founder & President of Tangosol, a startup company that specialized in enterprise Java component development software. A software visionary and an active member of the software community, he is a contributor to the Java and XML specifications, is co-author of a component-based development patent with Dr. Gleyzer.

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Most Recent Comments
Valeri Sarantchouk 06/08/04 08:46:03 PM EDT

Totally agree with Rickard and Cameron. I remember, when JBoss first appeared, it was a very interesting and unusual in its huge scope open source product. There were great expectations about how it can evolve and find its place in mind and hearts of enterprise Java developers. A couple of years later, it became obvious that out expectations failed miserably. JBoss became a company which based its business on a product build by open source community. It looked like a good product fell in hands of a bad marketing team that didn?t care about the community whatsoever; the team exploited the community without giving anything back, and on top of that devised such wicked business tactics, which will be completely unacceptable in any business area? (Since early 1990s it?s became difficult to talk about moral issues in software business ? Microsoft used many dishonest and plainly illegal ways to destroy direct competitors.) I only hope the open source community will not be infected by these examples of ill-intended behaviour. It takes time, mind and heart to understand the open source community, and it is too fragile to be used in the same way as if it was a commercial offering...

Wayne H. Lancaster 05/29/04 01:22:03 AM EDT

I HAVEN`T HEARD ANYTHING OF INTEREST FROM THE ONES WHO WILL NOT SIGN THERE NAME JUST A BUNCHE OF EXCUYES WHY THEY ARE AFRAID. TOO MANY WHIMPS AND WHINNERS.

Anonymous 05/27/04 10:41:51 AM EDT

I also agree that there are times when anonymous posting is acceptable. I work for a large company that does not allow me to publically post opinions on certain subjects. I am careful however to only post anonymous opinions on general topics which are not specific to my companies products, or our competitors.
There is another behavior I see on theserverside and other forums that I consider unacceptable. I see people who post under their real name but do not reveal their affiliation with a specific company. I have seen those people shamelessly bash competitive products with lies and half-truths while praising their companies products, and refusing to acknowedge their employer. In some cases, a simple internet search uncovered their affiliation and it backfired against their company (sorry Matt)

Another Anon 05/27/04 07:42:36 AM EDT

Look at it this way. I post some opinion - whatever it is under my real name. Suppose that opinion is "Microsoft is doing good". I''m not Cameron or Cedric or someone on the deck of cards - noone gives a s**t who I am. But suppose I go to a job interview and someone doing the interviewer happens to be a Unix loving, Microsoft hating zealot who has read my comments. Well basically, I''m screwed (especially since my name is pretty unique). This is just one of very many scenarios that influences me to post anonymously. If JBoss has harmed Mike Spielle or anyone else then I agree they should cease and desist but I hope the community will continue to support those of us who wish to participate but choose not to divulge our name.

Wayne H. Lancaster 05/27/04 01:56:01 AM EDT

I belive we should put a nuclear message in Ben`s back pocket that would end terroist.

Chris Marshall 05/26/04 01:24:00 PM EDT

It seems incredible that anyone could mistake anonymous posting of opinions with anonymous/fake/real posting of outright lies.

If on a forum I read "I use JBoss, it''s great and performs much better than WebLogic, WebSphere etc" then it matters only whether that represents the truth as experienced by the poster.

Putting the post under a fake alias like Arun Patel is meant to reinforce the reader''s impression that the statement represents truth. If you are telling the truth under a fake name, then fine; personally I don''t know why you wouldn''t use your real name but no harm done.

What was most important here were the LIES that were told, which on its own would be bad enough but which was compounded by the underhand methods entirely aimed at getting people to believe the lie.

If you read a post saying "Here in India we found JBoss to be much better than WebLogic" and it was signed Marc Fleury, it would be a dead giveaway, n''est-ce pas?

Anonymous 05/24/04 04:56:15 AM EDT

I'm going to be anonymous because I don't think my name is important to my comment.

The issue isn't about anonymity.
It's not even about pseudonyms.
The issue is that paid employees of JBoss Inc (and possibly other companies too), pretended to be something they weren't and misrepresented themselves to the community.

My company has a policy which requires me to use a pseudonym when I'm dealing in confidential areas.
e.g. If a whole heap of people with @bea.com email addresses started posting to the Apache HTTPd project mailing list, then people might start getting the idea that BEA was about to release a stand-alone webserver. BEA would probably want to keep the project under wraps for a while, so the developers would have to use pseudonyms.
That's all fine.

But when happened on TSS is certain people pretended to be (e.g.) programmers in India, who had no relationship with JBoss Inc, and then posted what amounted to advertisments for JBoss.

They lied.
They attempt to deceive the community into believing that there was large pro-jboss population, that simply didn''t exist.
They treated me, as a reader of TSS, as sucker who could be played any way they wanted.

Cameron Purdy 05/23/04 03:06:45 PM EDT

Gordon Gecko: "I'm not using my real name just to show you it's OK and maybe even healthy. Maybe it's just a necessary evil of the internet or free speech. How does one take a stand against GPL or LGPL software; fork it? As long as JBoss continues to deliver, innovate and mature and developers are willing to do proof-of-concept projects with JBoss to prove it over the hype then no harm done."

There's something interesting going on here when no one wants to defend the behavior and sign their real name, "Gordon."

Your response reads simultaneously like a defense and an advertisement. As I read through all the comments here (and in other places) I can''t seem to find a non-anonymous non-advertisement post that supports this behavior.

What conclusion should I draw from that?

I''m using my real name just to show you it''s OK and maybe even healthy.

Peace,

Cameron Purdy

Cameron Purdy 05/23/04 03:01:39 PM EDT

Dilbo: "That said, I think this is an unfair attack against the guys at JBoss."

It''s hard to say. It''s unfortunate that only JBoss employees were caught during the six months that the messages were being logged. Perhaps they were just unlucky, or perhaps the "other guys" had ways to avoid detection .. who knows.

However, to paint it as "an attack" is a bit ludicrous. The behavior is documented, and it is either wrong or it is acceptable, and if it is wrong, it needs to be pointed out. Calling _that_ an attack is very odd.

Dilbo: "JDJ and others, namely Sun, BEA, etc have DELIBERATELY kept JBoss from participating in reader polls, industry forums, and other events."

First of all, if that is true, then why aren''t you producing proof of that? Judging by the response to this current issue, basically no one (not counting those with a financial interest in it) approve of unfair flay.

Second, JBoss has received an inordinate amount of coverage in the press. (I say: Good for them.) That makes it hard for me to feel sorry for them, though. My understanding is that they are a tiny company compared to the other names you mentioned (after CDN split, they supposedly had only three paid employees,) and it makes sense that they wouldn''t be viewed on the same level.

Dilbo: "Marc has had to get JBoss moving forward by hook and by crook against this monopoly force."

Sorry, but the end does not justify the means.

Dilbo: "Marc is pushing against a very big wall in bringing us a good FREE product...that doesn''''t cost $90K a CPU!"

$90k a CPU? A lie repeated enough times does not make a truth. No application server even lists at that much.

Dilbo: "Second, Marc and others are posting under pseudo-names .."

True.

Dilbo: ".. fine, so what? I often do that and so do others. Marc is trying to present his view as an in-duh-vidual, instead of as the JBoss iconic figure. He is allowed to have an opinion as an individual and so are the others."

That is not correct. You have either ignored or purposefully twisted reality to suit your purpose, and that is unconscionable.

The behavior in question is the use of "fake name" accounts to intimidate, discredit and silence individuals that did not agree with the official JBoss party line.

That behavior is a direct attack on the fabric of a community, and cannot be tolerated. Your defense of that behavior is just as disturbing.

Dilbo: "They have a good product and they should be allowed to talk about it and refute the garbage spewed as individuals and do it as company reps, both."

They have a good product? Yet you aren''t willing to put your own name on that claim?

They are just refuting garbage? Yet they are not willing to put their own names on it?

How about when the posts were attacking individuals? Was that a good enough reason to make up fake names to post from?

I''m missing your point, I guess.

Dilbo: "Sign me, Dilbo Baggins"

Heck, sign anything you want. I''m signing my real name.

Cameron Purdy

Tom 05/22/04 07:50:06 AM EDT

At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters for a company is its integrity. If you don''t trust the executives of a company to be ethical then you don''t do business with them. End of story. I may use JBoss because its free but I won''t do business with JBoss Group because they are a company of liars.

Mauricio Gomes 05/21/04 05:00:01 PM EDT

I agree, it was a great disappointment for me.

Just one comment, the article says: "This kind of behavior has been tolerated for too long"
No, it has not (at least not by everybody).
It has happened for too long but it has never been acceptable for me or my friends. It is just a matter of integrity and this hurts the image of JBoss very badly. I may use JBoss, the product but I will not make business with JBoss group. Integrity is a fundamental.

Wing Chu 05/21/04 02:39:34 PM EDT

Rickard,

I do not see where you are coming from. To me, it looks like that you have left all the projects you have been working on before they were successful. And that probably pisses you off. The fact that you could have stayed with jBoss Group and become a millionaire occurred to you. And you became sad and angry.
I do not know the relationship you have with Marc, but something went wrong ? and I?d love to know what happened. But I will never know the ?truth? ? or may be only a biased truth if it comes from you or if it comes from Marc.
The thing is, in my opinion, Marc and you are two geniuses with a strong character. You guys brought a lot to Java, especially you. From my experience, you cannot have two strong characters in the same place ? so you both had to move on.
Mistakes are always made. Marc certainly made some, but I totally agree with Mica Cooper when he says that Marc had to fight against mammoths. He has spent so much energy in those fights, I mean, do you realize that?

Please forget about all of this. Why don?t you guys get together, sort things out, get pissed, ?things can be solved nicely that way? I think.

And obviously, I will not sign this with my real name.

Wing Chu

!=/. 05/21/04 11:13:48 AM EDT

Isn't this kind of action just called marketing? In the opensource space either the product is good or its bad. I felt that jboss 2x was bad. Jboss 3x is not to bad. What's all the fuss about? At the end of the day when we choose to go with a product, the decision should have been made through more means than little blogs and forums.

Robert McGovern 05/21/04 11:04:10 AM EDT

Regarding what JBoss is supposed to have done, for me it is wrong. There is no need to do it and just because other companies might do it doesn't mean that "you" have to. Call it silly but I would rather strive for the ideal than lower myself to the games that others play. Regardless of the harm that might have upon me.

Secondly, if a person cannot stand by their comments by using their real name then, for me generally, their thoughts have no weight and I'd go as far as saying that they shouldn't post anything at all.

Gordon Gecko 05/21/04 11:03:00 AM EDT

I''m not using my real name just to show you it's OK and maybe even healthy. Maybe it's just a necessary evil of the internet or free speech. How does one take a stand against GPL or LGPL software; fork it? As long as JBoss continues to deliver, innovate and mature and developers are willing to do proof-of-concept projects with JBoss to prove it over the hype then no harm done. Look at the big boys like Microsoft who spew FUD and bank role puppets like SCO. Look at their market share. It's not fair but that's business. I am disgusted with MS but I still use their products.

This is just another responsibiity of free speech so grow up.

Mica Cooper 05/21/04 10:53:12 AM EDT

First, I agree with the comments about being the industry in general. That said, I think this is an unfair attack against the guys at JBoss. JDJ and others, namely Sun, BEA, etc have DELIBERATELY kept JBoss from participating in reader polls, industry forums, and other events. JBoss does not spend millions in advertising like BEA and therefore does not present ad revenue. Marc has had to get JBoss moving forward by hook and by crook against this monopoly force. You have to remember that a certain monopoly was paying to steal the laptops of competitors. More than one company in Java has licens restrictions that do not even allow you to talk about their bugs...So you have to talk about them with pseudo-names. Marc is pushing against a very big wall in bringing us a good FREE product...that doesn''t cost $90K a CPU!

Second, Marc and others are posting under pseudo-names, fine, so what? I often do that and so do others. Marc is trying to present his view as an in-duh-vidual, instead of as the JBoss iconic figure. He is allowed to have an opinion as an individual and so are the others. They have a good product and they should be allowed to talk about it and refute the garbage spewed as individuals and do it as company reps, both.

Third, I read some of the comments. I didn''t see anything I would disagree with or that was ''bad''. If you haven''t read the comments, get off the bandwagon.

Sign me,
Dilbo Baggins