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8/19/2005
07:29 PM
Rob Enderle
Rob Enderle
Commentary
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Opinion: Learning From SCO's Mistakes

SCO's self-destructive streak, says Rob Enderle, is an extreme example of the damage denial, arrogance, and wishful thinking can inflict on a company. It's a lesson, he says, that a lot of other firms, including some of SCO's most bitter foes, would do well to take to heart.

Punishing Unpopular Points Of View

My involvement with Linux started nearly two years ago, when I started writing a column dealing with the subject. In that first column, I wrote about the importance of making careful, measured decisions when adopting Linux (or any other new technology, for that matter).

We all know that there's no such thing as a perfect product; it's always possible to make a mistake and to choose the wrong product for a particular task. In this case, the example I discussed involved a CIO who decided to use Linux but, when asked how she had justified the decision, replied with a fuzzy, almost religious explanation. The CIO's subsequent reaction to the prospect that her comments would be published -- she believed her boss would fire her if he read them -- only served to prove my point about the importance of measured decision-making.

This is not to say that Linux wasn't the right product: It very well might have been. Without a sound decision-making process, however, there is no way to know for sure. Nor is there any way to defend your decision -- and your job -- if something goes wrong.

Upon reading excerpted copies of that column, the Linux community went to war: I received massive amounts of mail containing threats against me and my company, including some from former co-workers whom I had considered friends.

I know a number of other analysts and reporters who have seen the ugly side of the Linux community. In June, I reported one of the worst such cases, involving a writer who published a post on Groklaw stating his opinion that a particular aspect of SCO's case against IBM might pose a real threat to Linux. The writer subsequently received notes threatening to kill him and to kidnap his young daughter, all for the crime of disagreeing with the prevailing opinion about SCO's legal claims. Overreaction, in this case, would be quite an understatement.

When power corrupts a person, an organization, or a business, the free flow of information is usually the first victim. This is probably the failure that caused the SCO problem in the first place, and the same kind of problems have made Linux and open-source software far less attractive than then they otherwise would be. As long as many open-source initiatives avoid the use of solid, business oriented, justifications and interpersonal behavior the effort will continue to lag its potential.

Fair Deal: We Learn, SCO Pays

Regardless of what happens now with SCO we shouldn't forget these lessons. Do question information you disagree with, but keep things in perspective the other person might, in fact, be right. Test your assumptions and avoid, like the plague, self serving predetermined research. And remember it isn't what you have the right (power) to do, it is doing the right (correct) thing that remains important.

Rob Enderle is an analyst specializing in emerging personal technologies. He heads the Enderle Group and has been an IT analyst since 1994. He spends his free time building computers and playing with personal technology prototypes. He can be reached at renderle@enderlegroup.com.

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