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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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April 22, 2005

Ornstein Syndrome

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

norm ornstein.jpgNorman Ornstein has made a career out of giving good quotes. (The picture is from his agent.)

But the danger is like that identified every week by Mythbusters. Don't try this at home. We're what you call experts.

The problem is that the press defines any provocative statement as a "good quote," but those made by experts like Ornstein merely place context in the obvious. In reaching for a good quote, you can easily reopen old wounds, start new controversies, and make yourself foolish at the same time.

Exhibit A. James Governor of Red Monk decided to re-open the (rapidly closing) question of the GPL's legality in order to get into a local magazine, and to suck-up to a potential client, Fortinet.

There's nothing about this "point" on Governor's blog, and Red Monk has issued no press release, although the point is highly provocative. In fact, Governor advertises his willingness to mouth off. "Need a quick reaction to a breaking story? A detailed explanation of the signficance of a recent merger? Whatever your needs, feel free to contact us."

Fine, if you're not just going to throw bombs. And here's where I get in trouble...

I have noticed, as a blogger, that the more provocative my posts the more likely they are to be picked up and responded to.

The temptation, thus, is to be provacative for the sake of being provacative. In fact, some people are making a darned good living at this.
But the problem is that people like Maureen O'Gara either wind up exhibiting a consistent bias, wind up destroying their credibility, or both (like the guy pictured).

What Ornstein does so well is to give good quotes while maintaining credibility. He summarizes what has happened and doesn't make stuff up.

I'd like to do that, but the temptation in the blogosphere is to go for the declarative, provocative, definite (and often misleading) statement. That's the quick way to Bloggy Heaven.

It's also the quick way to Bloggy Hell.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | blogging | ethics | personal


1. Brad Hutchings on April 22, 2005 03:55 PM writes...

I don't think Gov's (his friends call him "The Guv", I'm sure) point was that the GPL was of questionable legality. No thinking person would make that point. Nor was his point that it may be unenforceable, which a lot of reasonable people believe that courts could find. His point was that it was controversial, which is pretty true at this point.

On the scene now, we have the the GPL version of Darl McBride (boo, hiss) suing every company with firewall software in their router without doing as the FSF has traditionally done, which is to negotiate the release of the code without going to court. We all know that when the FSF did this kind of thing in the past, they sucked money of the infringer in private settlements, but on the surface, things looked amicably resolved. Weite prefers to take things to court and ask questions later. Companies considering using GPL software now have to be double careful and are still open to interpretation of how their proprietary software works with GPL software (e.g. does use of a GPL font make documents subject to GPL?).

There aren't these kinds of issues with BSD variants. Much less ideology from MPL and CDDL. These kinds of licenses will be much more palatable to business than the GPL.

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