This morning I was looking at the usual awesome performance of RHT stock and glanced at the business article under the headlines section. Despite the article title being about another company, Red Hat must have been mentioned, so I gave it a look.
In reading it, a number of inaccuracies and old school misconceptions leapt off the page at me (ouch!). Unlike many modern online news and magazine outlets, there was no way to respond to the article, either in a comments section or to the author. In the tradition of pundits everywhere, I’ll use my own bully pulpit to ask …
Have people not heard of Wikipedia? Five minutes research there would have debunked most of the mistakes this author made. The assumptions and tone made it sound as if he just asked a few people in the cubicles around him, “What’s the story with this Java stuff anyway? What is open source?” Unfortunately, the author, Eugene Bukoveczky, admirably free lances from Nova Scotia between bouts of wood chopping and bicycle riding (sounds like my kind of dude!), so he cannot blame his office mates.
Here’s a quick list of the inaccuracies, in the author’s own words, with the comments I would have put on his own article page if Investopedia (oh irony!) allowed them.
- ‘(S)o-called “open source” Linux software’ — When writers use the term “so-called” and then wrap the so-called term in quotes, it’s a way of double-insulating themselves from something that they don’t understand and fear will taint them by association. Yeah, all that in the first sentence of the article. FAIL by fear and lack of understandiing.
- “… Linux, a freebie operating system produced by legions of spare-time code junkies fueled by lashings of hot coffee, Red Bull, Jolt Cola or some other stimulant to tweak the creative juices” — We suppose at one time that was a semi-accurate description of Linux coding, but it’s been over fifteen years since actual Linux companies arose and began paying actual programmers actual money to do actually amazing work. If you look at who actually contributes to the Linux kernel these days, you’ll see many familiar names that are i) public companies, and ii) doing quite well for some time. Understanding that seems within the purview of an investment writer. Beyond that, most features of Linux that are crucial to success, from the file system to the graphical display, are coded by professionals doing real professional work … professionally. Not sure about all the caffeine, but I can personally assure Eugene that I’ve met many developers, they are plenty creative to start with and caffeine is not what really drives them. Finally, it’s a small point but an important one — Linux is not free-as-in-freebie, it is free-as-in-freedom. The same kinds of freedoms that allow someone to call themselves an investment journalist without ever having to understand what they are writing about. Again, all discoverable with reading a few Wikipedia articles. FAIL by lack of clue and basic research skills.
- “Corporations get to profit from their efforts by giving away a cleaned-up package of this code, and making money from supplying service and maintenance contracts to their users.” — While the second half is roughly correct where it applies to just one or two open source business models, the first part is just silly. Open source software companies are not typically freeloading on the backs of poor community members. Those corporations are contributing in the actual open source project, the code is already cleaned-up by the time it comes to QA efforts. Any bug fixes from there go back to the upstream (rather, they should, if one follows an actual open source business model), so everyone gets the “cleaned-up … code”, not just the customers. FAIL by misunderstanding what an open source business model actually is.
- “Linux has managed to capture about a 23% market share of the server market.” — Another assertion without reference or meaning. Which server market? Looking at the latest Netcraft count of just web servers, open source clearly dominates, with Linux a sizeable portion. Animation studios, such as Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks? 95% of their servers are Linux. No “dominant” Microsoft servers there. FAIL by assumption and misunderstanding generic data.
- “Sun has championed Java, the programming language preferred by most Linux users …” — While I’m sure “most Linux users” would disagree, and there is plenty of data to show what languages are preferred, that is not the true irony of this sentence. The irony is, Java is the programming language preferred by enterprise and corporate developers who are not working on open source at all. FAIL by misunderstanding enterprise market.
- “The move (Oracle acquiring Sun) has also being interpreted as the first step in a much needed consolidation process for the entire Linux market.” Assertion without reference, and his inability to understand and analyze accurately makes this a very dubious statement. “Much needed”? Says who? FAIL by assumption.
Much failure all around. I am now stupider for reading the article, and hope my own writing effort has raised my intelligence score back up a point or two.