The first thing we do, let's kill all the journalists.
--Wm. Shakespeare (revised, Sk. duBaud)
After a brief but potent reminder of my mortality this morning, I was cast into a deep funk about my profession that lasted all the way through my breakfast cigar. What, after all, am I doing with the one life I have to live? Euphemistically put, journalism! Even euphemized, it's the most hated "ism" of the times, its practitioners the moral equivalents of pickpockets and congressmen. What have we wrought on the republic when even a simple advertisement can no longer be read with a straight face?
Meanwhile, Microsoft, in the midst of being trust-busted from every side, has been paying solicitous attention to the press. News.com's own Dan Goodin--Dang to his friends--was the recipient of his very own Microsoft subpoena, and Redmond has dispatched an additional small army of legal plumbers to stop the leaks.
The latest on the Microsoft leak-pluggers involves Caldera's anti-Microsoft antitrust case (to be in business these days you gotta have one). To review, Caldera accused Microsoft of sabotaging its DR-DOS software; Microsoft denied wrongdoing and has accused Caldera of being in contempt of court for leaking info under court seal; Caldera has denied wrongdoing.
The latest in Microsoft's hunt for news sources is a sealed motion claiming that Wendy Goldman Rohm's recently released book The Microsoft File: The Secret Case Against Bill Gates--a book Microsoft has described as "fiction"--contains numerous leaked and confidential Microsoft documents and information. In what some are calling an effort to stall Caldera vs. Microsoft, Redmond is accusing Caldera of leaking that info.
"Caldera was not the source of the leaks," Goldman Rohm wrote to a Skinformant. "While I can not name sources, and usually would not comment on sources at all, I can not stand by while Microsoft falsely accuses Caldera of leaking information that it clearly did not leak to me. I can say that information throughout my articles and my book came from Microsoft sources and others."
If Microsoft doesn't kill all the journalists (in the Shakespearean sense), perhaps we'll all just do away with each other--right, Wendy? Rumor has it that the author is rattling her legal saber at the so-august-it-disgusts Wall Street Journal for an "ism" perhaps even more dreaded than journalism: plagiarism! Journal scribe John Wilke ran a story earlier this summer reporting the existence of email exchanged between Microsoft engineers discussing the placement of a bug in Windows 3.1 that would cause the software to crash when it ran on DR DOS. Goldman Rohm reports the email in her book, and a week or two before the book hit the stands, Wilke beat her to the punch with a report on it.
Apparently, Wendy thinks Wilke got an advance copy of the book and lifted the story. But two independent Skinformants--one from Caldera and one from Microsoft--report that Wilke had asked for comment about the email months before his story ran. Goldman Rohm would do well to take some advice my 12-year-old son Vermel gave me recently: "Check yourself," he warned as I prepared to send an unusually vituperative letter to the editor of Cigar Afficionado, "before you wreck yourself."
Speaking of the press, the tech news industry is expanding its horizons by venturing into computer crime, or at least misbehavior. You'll recall that a few months ago, CMP was caught dabbling in cracking. ZD just one-upped them by advising its readers how to be professional bandwidth hogs.
In a neat little how-to feature, ZD notes that "to minimize the load on their hardware, ISPs want to open the bandwidth for other users when you've been inactive for a certain period of time. Here you'll find many ways to maintain a connection."
ISPs gave ZD an earful in response.
"The tactics you are encouraging our users to employ are in fact theft of service," wrote one ISP owner to a ZD bulletin board. "You've shown people how to make use of a keep-alive device. You've also described at least one product that can be used for harvesting email addresses off the Web (gee...what can these be used for? SPAM maybe?). Please tell us where Ziff Davis gets off on pulling this crap and encouraging it's readers to steal services from their ISP."
"This would be the equivalent of a dining magazine having a big article on 'How to bring plastic baggies to a buffet restaurant and smuggle the food home without being noticed,'" opined one user. One post summed up reader sentiment: "You people have to be the most idiotic bunch of morons I've ever known."
ZD posted this dispatch from the dog house:
"Based on your feedback, we've added a note to the story encouraging readers to only use these tips if they need to maintain a live connection to their ISP to stay on top of urgent business. Used indiscriminately, they sap bandwidth and slow Internet access for everyone."
That quasi-repentance inspired another round of outraged responses. From a journalistic perspective, it may be a debacle--but at least it's turning some pages.
ZD isn't the only Web site with outraged users. eToys users are up in arms, or are at least scratching their heads, at the company's marketing efforts at children. Listed for ages 9 and above is Mattel's Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, in which "men challenge women in the ultimate battle of understanding the sexes. Each player asks and secretly answers provocative questions about men and women as other players try to figure out his or her response. Guess correctly and advance your game piece, guess incorrectly and gain shocking insight into the minds of your friends and partners...if you want to."
Shocking indeed! But I shouldn't be shocked, I suppose--nine-year-olds ain't what they used to be.
Speaking of pornography, a reader wrote in about last week's item about the star-studded shindig in Cupertino's "Flynt Center." "The correct spelling is FLINT," the reader wrote. "Let's not bring in the Porno King here!"
You people don't miss a trick. Now that you know I read your mail, why don't you send me a rumor?