Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Open Letter to Any Company

I wish to recommend to you a very talented individual who would be a great asset to you. You have never tried to hire him, because he has no work experience or practical knowledge whatsoever in the field he claims to be an expert in.

Nonetheless, the person at hand would be a valuable addition to any sanitation department, a bureaucracy that favors quantity over quality, or your "HTML programming" department, as well as to your relationship with developers (assuming you treat them like the Spanish Inquisition treated non-believers). In turn, it would also unburden the Open Source community from the need to explain to him that it does not really stand for personal attacks, insults, half-truths, fabrications, hypocrisy, industrialized spam, or mockery of people who have actually made tangible contributions to the advancement of software freedom.

So please, if you have vacancies left at the moment, especially in the Waste Management area, I urge you to hire a man called Roy "BoycottBoy" Schestowitz. You will regret this, but we don't really give a shit anymore.


   All of us.

PS — this is not satire or a cheap shot; it's serious and it's possible.  §


[BoycottNovell] is now bigger than Groklaw


Monday, November 16, 2009

Just another day at BoycottNovell

Can't sleep, MicroClown will
eat me

Summary: Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft, Mushroom, Mushroom... Snake! Microsoft, Microsoft...

An analysis and visualization of 24 hours (roughly) worth of activity flowing forth from the proprietor of Items are listed in reverse (newer to older) chronological order as they appear in feeds, Google Groups, etc.

...easy/Like Sunday morning...

Blog ¶

I'd assume each of these consume between thirty or forty minutes, on average. The size in bytes was calculated by simply pasting the text into an editor and counting the characters, so it's relevant only in the aggregate sense, I suppose. If the post includes a clever quote by Stallman for example (or an evil one by Bill Gates) it still takes time to select it, paste it, etc. Most posts also have the usual completely unrelated image at the top, so that needs to be selected and so on.

#18 is the daily "links" post [1], and must take a significant amount of time due to the way links are classified. #20 technically does not count as content, obviously, but as parallel time spent on IRC (see further below). #23 is just embedding (although again, everything takes time).

It's possible obviously that some of these were drafted previous to the day they were published, but time is time, regardless of which day it happens to be wasted invested in.

 TitleLink Size (bytes)
1Patents Roundup: More Resources In Re Bilski11/16/bilski-case-resources/News, blogs, and video about the Bilski case3,571
2Microsoft Sued Again for Patent Violation, Settles with Former Softie, as Before11/16/swpat-msft-sued-by-former-employee/Another Microsoft lawsuit starts; another case of Microsoft settling after being sued by former employees for patent violations1,502
3Revisionism from Microsoft's Partner, Likewise11/16/server-room-revisionism/An example of disinformation about history being spread by those to whom open, royalty-free standards are a foe4,377
4Xbox 360 (Live) Users Banned, Buyers Flee11/16/microsoft-customers-permanently-banned/Almost one million customers of Microsoft are permanently banned and sales of Xbox 360 drop considerably4,577
5Windows, Cisco Do Not Support Vista 7 [sic]11/16/microsoft-cisco-vista-7-support/Not just Cisco but Microsoft Windows Mobile too is proving to be problematic for Vista 7 [sic] users1,425
6Microsoft DRM Cracked Within Hours11/16/windows-marketplace-crack/Windows Marketplace has its copy protection mechanism broken almost immediately; future of Windows Mobile seems grim1,538
7Confirmed: Vista 7 [sic] Fails to Sell PCs, Mostly Replaces Vista11/16/most-expensive-service-pack-ever/Vista 7 [sic] turns out to be the most expensive service pack ever; Sales do not proceed as hoped and planned, reveal reports from the mainstream press3,718
8Microsoft Won't Secure Firefox/Chrome Users, Shows More Negligence11/16/microsoft-onecare-activex/ActiveX required by Microsoft's OneCare; investigation into Vista 7 [sic] vulnerabilities a case of "too little, too late" 4,149
9Microsoft's Use of Bribes for Search, Only 4% of Microsoft/Razorfish Clients Used Microsoft Search11/16/microsoft-search-disaster/Microsoft's attempt to just buy market share meets barriers; Highly damaging truths about Razorfish customers are revealed3,160
10GNU/Linux, Google, and Apple Transform Microsoft; Seattle Mayor's Office May Ditch Windows11/16/msft-market-losses-persist/How Microsoft is trying to reinvent itself in the face of new reality; losses persist regardless2,494
11Microsoft Pays comScore More Money, Gets Bogus Endorsements11/16/award-and-outcome-comscore/Award and outcome - new case study courtesy of Microsoft and comScore3,723
12More Marshall Projects (MoU), This Time in China11/16/cht-exclusion-of-competition/The Marshall Law of Microsoft comes to CHT, more attempts at exclusion of competition are noted1,812
13OpenSUSE 11.2 is Open to Microsoft Lawsuits Because of Mono11/16/opensuse-non-ms-ecma-parts/OpenSUSE 11.2 (GNOME) has Mono installed by default, including non-ECMA parts like Winforms932
14Bill, Nathan, Steve, and Other Con Artists11/16/elitist-critique/People's assorted perspectives on Nathan Myhrvold, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs1,616
15Reader's Article: Corporate Media Ownership Shifts11/16/corporate-media-ownership-shifts/Media channels that Microsoft is associated with to get acquired by Microsoft's partner, Comcast3,560
16Why Are Critics of Criminal Activity Portrayed as "Bad Guys"?11/16/love-thy-criminals/Analysis of a culture where those who believe in the law are being discouraged and daemonised3,990
17Survey: Vista 7 [sic] Disliked by Sub-notebooks Buyers, GNU/Linux Emerges as a Winner11/16/customers-reject-vista-7/As expected, customers reject Vista 7 [sic] Starter Edition and Microsoft is restructuring for coming change3,631
18Links 16/11/2009: New HPC Figures, ZevenOS 2.0 Released11/16/new-hpc-figures/ (n/a)
19Power of GNU/Linux in One's Hand (Video)11/16/pyacceleremoter/An accelerometer-based remote controller for mplayer on GNU/Linux machines.(n/a)
20IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: November 16th, 200911/16/irc-log-16112009/ (n/a)
21What Microsoft Does to GNU/Linux in Russian Schools11/16/russia-linux-retaliation/As Russia prepares to move to GNU/Linux Microsoft is sitting on its veins [6]1,662
22Apple is Too Hot, Microsoft Can Leave the Internet Flat11/16/marvels-of-proprietary-software/A reminder of the marvels of shiny proprietary software and hardware1,105
23Eben Moglen (SFLC) Explains Genesis of Intellectual Monopoly11/16/genesis-of-patents/Eben Moglen gives a talk titled "Patents at a Crossroads: Bilski and Beyond"(n/a)
24Microsoft Exposes .NET Patent Trap to More Potential Copyright Issues11/16/mono-more-vulnerable/.NET leaves Mono vulnerable to more allegations of plagiarism and the patent issues stay standing1,530
25Microsoft Colludes Against Google11/16/microsoft-assured-damage/Microsoft goes for a sort of mutually-assured destruction as a weapon against Google - a tactic which by no means helps anyone but itself (surfers, Google, and authors to suffer from Microsoft bribes for publishers)1,419

[Update] An additional 2 articles were published after I pushed this out at 8:00 PM PST, bringing the grand total to 25. More than 1 full post per hour. Some of the text below has been updated to reflect that.

Usenet ¶

Individual messages posted to COLA. Note these are technically from November 15th, but a 20-40 post volume for a single day is quite common in any case, and the crapflood for the 16th had not started yet when I wrote this.

I figure each of these take about 10 minutes each, on average — including the amount of time needed to actually extract the links and quotes from wherever he gets them. There doesn't seem to be much automation, even considering many of these simply parrot what's posted in the blog.

1Sub-notebooks Owners Hate Vista 7 [sic]msg/9b4563d6205a17ed
2Microsoft's Advertising So Terrible That Even Microsoft Employees Overwhelmingly Reject Itmsg/35050243c682ae83
3Microsoft 'Resolves' Flaws Using Lawyers, Intimidationmsg/9278204d291b1752
4Microsoft's Patent Troll a "Fool" Masquerading as Something Elsemsg/77ecbf95f97d7811
5NVIDIA on Intel's Crimes, Otellini as a Criminalmsg/b182430186c8d3cc
6Microsoft Windows Possibly Ditched by Seattlemsg/d7c932d5c1281237
7Phones, Cisco Products Do Not Support Vista 7 [sic]msg/ccaf878f523bafe5
8Vista 7 [sic] Disaster: Fails to Sell More PCs — Even Worse Than Vistamsg/0e4431bdcf26ad9d
9Microsoft Lied About Vista 7 [sic] 'Security'msg/60b6fa9bc20938b3
10Microsoft Moves to India, Executive Pay Brokenmsg/7d26ba8c6f3be9a5
11Microsoft Assaults Almost 1 Millions of Its Customersmsg/ee716f7d61d44fe1
12Loads of Bilski Coverage: Software Patents Still at Risk in the USmsg/fe0ce7cb073b31e8
13Microsoft's Xbox Sinks to 4th Place Even in Very Own Home Groundmsg/6c04aae68788aa4d
14Microsoft Sued for Patent Violations Again, Settlesmsg/f5611b2ddbf5592a
15Attacks on Legal Sharing Harms Artistsmsg/ef9689023ab50100
16Google Still Struggles to Resurrect Orphaned Worksmsg/aac24c7ef77debd5
17ACTA Exposed, Now Under Attack by Politiciansmsg/44f5d6fb1e20e091
18Windows Marketplace Crackedmsg/9f9703698ad54c20
19Hope Reborn for Monopoly-Free Media Standardsmsg/4e7523a4e0b3c94b
20Proprietary Software Skype Thrown Out for Being "Garbage"msg/ba46cb41be50ba0f
21Apache's Ethos and How Trolls Are Kept Outmsg/48944ef96095aec6
22Mozilla Thunderbird 3 in (P)review, Firefox 3.6 Got Fastermsg/6a9cdb40e7d4e611
23Openness Grows in Norway and German Authoritiesmsg/c972ae51d49be9c3
24MySQL a Real Threat to Microsoft's with 46% Market Share in Emerging Marketsmsg/36001484124da98e
25OLPC Reaches Decent Numbers with GNU/Linuxmsg/79e170de0fed2e5f
26CrunchPad GNU/Linux Tablet Arriving Soonmsg/477885bdd961b299
27Embedded Market Goes with Linuxmsg/9196b145f117ab9e
28FreeNAS Picks ZFS, OpenBSD Goes "Live"msg/6938c7b59433eab9
29Latest KDE4 for Ubuntu is Already Here, Linux Mint Helena Almost Heremsg/50423bafa24ec390
30Ubuntu GNU/Linux 9.10 Karmic Koala is "Better Than Ever"msg/fd1954f37c253b1e
31Talks Brewing About Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6msg/5ac100179b0a2c36
32Mandriva One 2010 Receives Another Great Reviewmsg/5d56c9ed4cce4799
33A Look at Compiz-Fusion in Gentoo and Puppy Linuxmsg/1ac276c15304e534
34The Power of GwenView and New Concept for Software Management in GNU/Linuxmsg/2ba7a04bd722f5df
35Another Top Game Comes to GNU/Linux, Windows Games Run Fine Alsomsg/eabe46355dcda129
36Cisco Uses GNU/Linux Server to Challenges Titansmsg/0366b290d95d5902
37Smart Man Chooses to Bank with GNU/Linuxmsg/a5c97e4eb74d2d2d
38Wayland Display Server for Linux Examinedmsg/ee0060cc3b218267

Twitter/ ¶

Individual 'tweets' posted to Twitter and I assume the mirroring of posts is automated to a certain extent, but it still takes time to make the "news" fit into the 140-character limit, so let's give these about 5 minutes each, maybe. Again, there is a lot of repetition here. I've omitted "retweets" and replies from this list, and these are also from November 15th to match the Usenet ones to a certain extent.

1#Microsoft Imitates #Google Revenue Model on the Desktop: Adverts Come to #Vista7 Desktops
2#Microsoft Breaks the #Law , Teaches World That 'Evil' #GPL is 'Viral'
3Smart Man Chooses to Bank with #GNU #Linux
4#Wayland Display Server for #Linux Examined
5#Cisco Uses #GNU #Linux Server to Challenges Titans
6Another Top #Game Comes to #GNU #Linux
7New Concept for Software Management in #GNU #Linux
8A Look at #CompizFusion in #Gentoo and #Puppy #Linux
9Talks Brewing About #RedHat Enterprise #Linux 6
10#Mandriva One 2010 Receives Another Great Review
11#Ubuntu #GNU #Linux 9.10 #KarmicKoala is "Better Than Ever"
12#Linux #Mint Helena Almost Here
13#Embedded Market Goes with #Linux
14#OLPC Reaches Decent Numbers with #GNU #Linux
15#CrunchPad #GNU #Linux #Tablet Arriving Soon
16FreeNAS Picks ZFS, OpenBSD Goes "Live" #bsd
17#MySQL a Real Threat to Microsoft's with 46% Market Share in Emerging Markets
18#Mozilla #Thunderbird 3 in (P)review, #Firefox 3.6 Got Faster
19Openness Grows in #Norway and #German Authorities
20#Apache's Ethos and How Trolls Are Kept Out
21Hope Reborn for Monopoly-Free Media Standards
22Proprietary Software #Skype Thrown Out for Being "Garbage"
23#ACTA Exposed, Now Under Attack by Politicians
24#Google Still Struggles to Resurrect Orphaned Works
25Attacks on Legal Sharing Harms Artists
26#Microsoft Sued for #Patent Violations Again, Settles
27Survey: #Vista7 Disliked by Sub-notebooks Buyers, #GNU #Linux Emerges as a Winner
28Why Are Critics of Criminal Activity Portrayed as 'Bad Guys'?
29Reader's Article: Corporate Media Ownership Shifts
30Bill, Nathan, Steve, and Other Con Artists
31#OpenSUSE 11.2 is Open to #Microsoft Lawsuits Because of #Mono
32More Marshall Projects (MoU), This Time in China
33#Microsoft Pays #comScore More Money, Gets Bogus Endorsements


Schestowitz was active on his IRC channel for most of that 24 hour period (almost 17 hours). This is useful only as a measure of time, really. He also has another IRC channel called #boycottnovell-social [5] which uses Freenode resources (evidently) but is apparently used to deal with more private topics that are not supposed to be logged. People other than his inner cadre don't seem to be allowed to use it, so it's impossible to determine how much time was spent there. [4]

He posts comments fairly continuously until 11:59 PM when the log gets cut off. After that, he published five more articles.

The remains of the day ¶

Now, consider all the other stuff one does during the day, like reading email, talking on the phone with your significant other, doing tech support for family members, cleaning up the house, taking a crap, fixing the leaky faucet in the kitchen, raking the leaves in the back yard, chatting with friends online, updating your gothy MySpace page, watching TV, changing the oil on the truck, etc. With the possible exception of taking a crap (which is of the utmost importance), I don't know how much of that I would get done, if any.

The output volume summarized here is a bit high, but it's not far from the median. I'm not exaggerating — simply counting the number of unread items in Google Reader, and only counting posts to BoycottNovell, Schestowitz can literally out-blog the whole of Planet GNOME on any given day. And that does not include Usenet or microblogging.

The level of activity seems to have risen in the past few months, probably because the spamming interaction with social media web sites has tapered off a bit from its previous highs (as of November 2009) during the last three years:









Whether or not other activity can be attributed to Schestowitz — directly or indirectly — that's a lot of time. A veritable crapload of time. One has to wonder just how long a 27-year old's savings [2] last, even considering such profitable ventures as working at Burger King. [3] But that's another issue. He also recently celebrated (if that's the correct term) his 3- year reign of error, as well as his 8,000th post to go along with that. Yay.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow will be exactly the same more or less. Groundhog Day.

So... how was your Sunday?  §


Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.
– Roger W. Babson

Obsessiveness [is] a must

Notes ¶

  1. ^ This is possibly the only truly consistently useful thing on that blog.
  2. ^ IRC Log (2008-09-03)
    «As long as my savings in the bank last and I enjoy this hobby, I intend to continue. I can get around to things like family later on»
  3. ^ (2009-01-25) "Blog entry".
    «I worked at Burger King for a year (as a teenager)»
  4. ^ If someone wants to go into that channel and log it, that would be great. Technically since they're using Freenode they have to follow the organization's guidelines and can't simple exclude people. The only reason someone could be prevented from logging into a registered channel is lack of nick registration, and the only reason for being kicked from one is repeated disruption. We're talking important shit in here doesn't cut it. If that's a problem then I suppose they can host their own IRC server.
  5. ^ (2009-03-23) "What’s New at Boycott Novell | Boycott Novell".
  6. ^ "On its veins"???
Monday, October 26, 2009

BoycottNovell minion nymshifts again after embarassing episode

Summary: Notorious Slashdot troll and nymshifter creates yet another sockpuppet account in BoycottNovell and gets down to work for Roy Schestowitz

It was brought to my attention over the weekend that a new mysterious and rather vigorous commenter on BoycottNovell was doing the "perception management" rounds. Intrigued, I ran a few of his posts through one of my Slashdot acquaintances that have a more intimate knowledge of his posting patterns and what do you know, it seems we have a good match.

And he asked him, "What is thy name?" And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion: for we are many."

Background, of course ¶

For those who are not familiar with this unique phenomena, William Hill started out doing some rather nasty [1] "advocacy" on Slashdot many years ago using the handle "twitter" (no relation to the microblogging service). Eventually the community got fed up with him, sending his two main accounts (as in you know, you gotta have two accounts) down to the karma doldrums, which he promptly blamed on "M$" and black helicopters. His response was to organize a 16+ sockpuppet shilling feast, at which he failed completely, becoming the funniest meme since "FIRST POST" on Taco's turf, and even transcending Slashdot itself. [2] Eventually laughed out of there (and a few other places, including the Baton Rouge LUG for posting things like these), Hill then skidded — perhaps predictably — right into the only place where he could pour his grief out and find a few like-minded extremists like him, and he's been there ever since, helping Schestowitz out with perception[3] management.

He still posts to Slashdot occasionally (and trolls anonymously too), even re-activating one of the sockpuppet accounts he supposedly promised he would never use again.

Schestowitz' response to this gift from heaven was to alternatively denounce and defend and praise him, possibly unwilling to completely sever a relationship that perhaps has its advantages. [4]

One has to wonder what propels people like Hill into spiraling down this kind of self-destructive vicious cycle. Hill is apparently so far gone that he believes Microsoft threatens his life, he thinks riding on the same train as Microsoft employees must be "sickening", that people in Seattle are "confrontational" (because, you know, that's where Microsoft is at), recounts how he went into an Apple store to demand they make "GNU/Linux" run on their hardware, calls 11-year old kids "paytards" because they happen to use Microsoft software... Is this FOSS advocacy? Is this the kind of person the FSF wants out there making their points for them? I mean, seriously?

It's irritating that M$ perpetuates the "on line predator" myth after studies have conclusively show it's bullshit except for bullying, which M$ knows all about.

And this jewel:

... "all non-free software, regardless of quality, is immoral"

Hill is disliked even among Schestowitz' friends, some of whom he has repeatedly attacked for not being "pure" enough. [5] And when his shenanigans come up, he tends to get defensive — hilariously even whining when they suggest that perhaps his OCD-like use of the "M$" thing is counter-productive at best and possibly the reason his submissions to Slashdot are rarely accepted, and have to be edited when they are. In response to that Hill claims the Slashdot editors are "tamed", of all things. [6] He has "ignored" so many people so many times (isn't that funny?) there that eventually he'll end up talking to himself and Schestowitz.

All this predictably came to a head last October 15th, when during the course of a FLOSS Weekly program where Jono Bacon interviewed Schestowitz, the matter of massive spamming on behalf of BoycottNovell came up, along with poor twitter:

"... a guy with 16 accounts that used to troll Slashdot and hangs out on your IRC channel"

Four days later Hill comes into Schestowitz' IRC channel and lets it rip:

Hi, jono ... I saw where you called me a spammer ... Fuck you.

The rest of that conversation is bizarre at best. To quote a comment here:

Fascinating. "twitter" goes apeshit and demands an apology from Jono for Jono's not having accused him of what he already admitted to. The mind boggles.

In reality though, I believe (and this is just my opinion of course) that Hill was essentially engaging in damage control vis-a-vis being associated with Schestowitz. Eventually I suppose these things do come back to bite you in the ass.

And getting to the point ¶

So anyway, someone alerted me to this brand-new but seemingly well-informed poster on BoycottNovell that goes by the handle your_friend. According to my secret contact [7], the probability that Hill is behind those posts is very high. Quoting (with permission, thanks!) from the response to my email, which referred to comments I copied from here as well as this one:

    From: [edited]<[edited]>
    To: Verofakto Blog <>
    Subject: Re: Second opinion needed
    Date: Sat, 24 Oct 2009 23:33:13 -0800

    [my snippage]

    There's no science to this, really, though maybe I just think it's easy
    because [edited] also made it look easy. The "cadence" of people's comments
    rarely change. That pattern of Halting. Phraeses. Separated. By. Periods. is
    easy enough to spot, and if you add the usual hyperbole claims [snip]
    Key phrases like "intentional waste", "non-free software", "name calling",
    "big dumb companies", "malicious" and 
    consistent misspellings like "coppies", "dissasters" [snip] and the constant 
    butchering of it's/its are usually dead givaways as long as they show up 
    consistently. That's how all his [Slashdot] sockpuppets were identified.


    Here's one:

    "It is a toy at best and a malicious spy at it's worst."

    [comment is on the first link]

    It's/its as usual. You would need ideally a few more posts but I'm
    pretty sure that's [him]. Again, it's the *totality* of the thing :)


    ROFL, but you'll know for sure when he slips up and actually types "M$" inst
    ead of "Microsoft". He used to do that with new socks and eventually he
    would give it up. I think he feels personally diminished somehow whenever he 
    uses the correct name.

More importantly, if that is indeed him, he is now engaged in arguing with people who are defending themselves from attacks by Schestowitz, a pattern that has been seen many times before.

I loathe nymshifters! ¶

The question here, I think, would be whether or not this is being done with some kind of blessing by Schestowitz. I find it hard to believe that he would pay so much attention to certain accounts that are troublesome to him and must be monitored and eliminated, yet he would manage to completely miss this new and mysterious one. Is there an agreement whereby Hill adopts yet another identity now that he's managed to insult pretty much everyone in sight and embarrass Schestowitz? And if that's the case then why is he even allowed to post?

I'm not counting on Schestowitz to respond to this of course, that's not the point. But perhaps someone among his crowd of regulars can bring up the topic and ask if, since he has the IP address and email for that account, Hill, twitter and your_friend are the same person. I could even go into a formal corpus comparison between Hill's known accounts and this fresh new identity if need be.

Because, after all, Schestowitz has claimed time and time again that these "nymshifters" have damaged him beyond repair... wouldn't it make sense to apply the same moral standards to his crew?  §


I loathe people who have multiple accounts. It's cheating.

Nymshifters are not worth attention

Notes ¶

  1. ^ See also this. There are thousands more like those.
  2. ^ See this or this for example. There are a few more on that SockDisclosure article.
  3. ^ Comment by "Will Hill", look at the URL he used.
  4. ^ Not only in the sticky Uriah Heep sense, but collaboration-wise as well: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]. Here for example we see some of his wisdom quoted, as here and here. Schestowitz even delegates some of the clever GIMP'ing to his pal.
  5. ^ It's a long and boring read, but see the threads here, here, here, here, here and many, many others. The overriding theme in all these is if you suggest that GNU/Linux and free software and Richard Stallman are anything other than perfect, you must be employed by Microsoft and you should burn.
  6. ^ In an amusing twist, Schestowitz quotes Hill's musings on IRC liberally in this article, yet also manages to replace all the instances of "M$" with "Microsoft". Should one assume then that Schestowitz has also been tamed?
  7. ^ God, I'm so funny (see crossed-out text there).
Saturday, October 17, 2009

FLOSS Weekly interviews Roy Schestowitz: The Transcript

Summary: aaahhhh... ummmm... eeeeehhh... ummmm.... uh.... aaaahhh... sniff


This is an unofficial, fragmented, selectively quoted and smarmy transcript of Jono Bacon and Leo Laporte's FLOSS Weekly interview with Roy Schestowitz, proprietor of BoycottNovell. With some fact checking thrown in.

Note that the times below are for the MP3-format podcast, not the video.

And off we go ¶

03:54  Leo Laporte: "[Schestowitz] is not on video because he doesn't have a webcam... have we known we would have sent him a camera but he probably would have rejected it because it probably came from some closed source thing"
As this was recorded after the interview, Schestowitz didn't hear it in real time... but it's funny because it's true.
04:10  LL: "... you don't sound very British .. are you an expat?" Roy Schestowitz: (some unintelligible thing about education) "it's a personal story" LL: "My deepest apologies" (laughs)
Schestowitz is actually German [1]. Not sure what the big secret is supposed to be.
09:20  RS: "...people are tied to these illusions... in the case of Novell they want to say /we're an exciting company, good results/, ummm they want people to recite this"
I have a juicy post lined up about the illusions that Schestowitz ties to Novell.
09:59  Jono Bacon: "...[negativity about BN] do you think it's a personal bias/an axe to grind?" RS: "I think there is the possibility of misinterpretation ... employees of certain companies who try to poison against the site ... it's just me and myself [sic]"
Another (large) post coming up about how this negativity is freely mapped to "certain companies". I also have to chuckle at the "me and myself" part. Schestowitz fancies himself the leader of a community because there are five people logged into his IRC channel and uses the Royal We to refer to himself, but when the going gets tough he starts channeling De La Soul
10:46  "'s easier to attack the person"
Miguel de Icaza, Nat Friedman, Bruce Byfield, Matt Asay [2], Ted Haeger, Jeff Waugh (and Waugh's wife), Thom Holwerda, Shane O'Neill, Tim O'Reilly, Jo Shields [3], Bryan Lunduke (from the Linux Action Show) [4], Greg Kroah-Hartman, Matt Zimmerman, Window Snyder, Albert Zonneveld, a random Wikipedia user... they all should have called in and said hi.
11:07  JB: " people have a grudge against you or the project?" RS follows with a completely unhinged monologue that answered nothing.
17:40  JB questions RS about Shane Coyle leaving BoycottNovell, and RS goes into the old story about a "misunderstanding"
Coyle didn't leave because of a misunderstanding, he left because of things like these, these and these and these. To suggest otherwise is nothing more than clever spin.
26:27  RS says Novell has 4,000 employees but only a few hundred work on Linux, JB says "surely you have the same objection to IBM" RS answers with "I don't attack developers", JB brings up the attacks on de Icaza and his GIMPE'd image holding a windows box (among many), RS starts to mumble a bit more.
28:53  JB argues that Novell is probably not as evil as RS paints them, they hire FOSS developers, they invest real money producing real software, great software is being produced with Mono, etc. RS: "I think you're steering towards the issues that are more convenient for you to talk about"
Getting a bit uppity here now, because he's getting cornered.
30:55  JB: "...give me a specific example of how Microsoft is advancing their interests" RS: "their patches are beneficial to Windows" (duh) JB: "does it matter?"
Here Schestowitz actually says "GNU/Linux", and it sounds extremely weird.
35:07  RS says "SuSE", in case anyone wondered if he's German or not.
36:10  JB: " thousand tweets in three months" RS: "...misconception that people think I focus on the negative"
Schestowitz brings up that claim (which he uses constantly) about his daily grind being "80% GNU/Linux advocacy". I suspect he's conveniently measuring volume of linkage he puts out vs. the time investment.
36:43  JB: "...are you spammers?"
38:00  JB: "... a guy with 16 accounts that used to troll Slashdot and hangs out on your IRC channel"
The valued partnership that keeps on giving. I LOL'ed.
38:41  RS: "'s difficult to denounce people who are trying to help" re: spamming on his behalf.
Yeah, "it's difficult to attack someone who puts you alongside RMS" [5]
39:00  RS: "...I don't choose my friends, I don't actually invite people..."
Nope, never happened
39:38  JB: "can you see that many people are doing this (spamming BoycottNovell content), do you see how people might draw a link to you?"
Naaah, it's all just a coincidence.
40:20  RS: "[people are] posting a link to [his blog], they must [not] be associated with the website"
Except that it's not just one link, it's thousands and thousands.
42:19  JB: "do you feel you have a responsibility to tell these spammers to stop?"
Schestowitz mentions he denounced Fink, which would be all well and good except for the "I like what you did" part.
48:50  After discussing spam, RS petulantly asks what JB thinks he should do about it, JB says maybe he should write a post specifically saying he has nothing to do with them.
Yeah, I can see that happening.
50:13  JB makes the point that there's an overbearing sense of negativity towards RS out there, so why do it? "...surely your life is unpleasant?" RS: "That's more of a convenient delusion you're trying to pass here"
Oh my.
50:31  "... the attacks come from Microsoft"
I wish Jono had had more time and stopped here to ask "Oh really? Can you provide factual proof of that?" That would have been an awesome three hours.
52:20  re: why he does what he does "[I was picking flowers in a field one day] and I started being attacked so I decided to explore these things ... looking into the PR agencies that are associated with Microsoft ... certain connections in government ... companies are not happy because they are criticized"
As time goes by I think Schestowitz is starting to sound more and more like a 9/11 truther.
54:28  JB says OK, "..[but] a lot of the people who criticize you are part of the FOSS community"
Obviously fully cornered now, RS then goes into a complete non-answer for three minutes, and discusses how he changed the front page of his website to avoid giving the "wrong impression" or something like that.
55:34  "...people who are associated with certain companies who are seeding information" ... "technical evangelists" ... "discrediting the website as a source of information" ... "I'm fine with that because i understand why it happens"
Translation: The abuse I get is only proof that I'm right. And it's all Microsoft's fault.
56:30  JB: "do you not think that BoycottNovell is damaging to FOSS, based on all this negative feedback?" Another three minutes of mumbling non-answers.
58:18  JB again: " haven't answered my question" RS: "[damaging to] free software... no, it might be damaging to other movements"
Yes, the Open Source movement. [6]
59:28  RS: "...the reason you approached me for this was because you disagree ... it's not as though you're presenting a very objective look [sic] here"
Oh dear god.
60:10  JB: "yes, I disagree [with BoycottNovell], I think it's damaging, but that doesn't mean I can't give you a platform, because you deserve to have that platform to put your message across"
60:35  RS: "...the questions the way they were posed tell one side of the story ... as long as the conversation is being guided by one side"
The meaning of the word "conversation" is apparently lost on our hero.
61:53  LL: "This is your chance to say whatever you want to say..." RS: "I don't have anything prepared" LL: "...OK, I just want to make sure that you feel that you've been heard"
He didn't have anything prepared, for great justice.

Ambush at high noon ¶

Iz Annoyed

Predictably enough, once in the familiar warm safety of his IRC channel and surrounded by his psychofans sycophants friends, Schestowitz declares the whole experience overrated and a disaster. It's always someone else's fault, he didn't prepare (even though he had almost two weeks advance notice). His institutional negativity is a false allegation, it's all the evil doings of Microsoft and Novell employees, who "ridicule" him. He starts pulling out his self-referential non sequiturs which will surely help everyone understand him better, if only we could just take the time to read them.

We have. They don't.

Schestowitz then gets slightly hysterical (in that same log) and plows into Jono Bacon, claiming he was "incited" with "libel from detractors" and so on. It's the same old story.

Some people (e.g., his friends) were quick to offer up the usual excuses about how Schestowitz should be cut some slack because he has made enemies detractors in USENET, a phenomenon he tends to project back to Microsoft without offering any factual proof. I have a hard time believing that Schestowitz was naive enough to think that he was being invited to FLOSS Weekly because of his vast and tangible contributions to free software, the bulk of which I lack the time and space to properly address here. I think he expected to be treated like the celebrity he thinks he is, with the proper deference afforded to him by his cadre. Unfortunately reality is a bit different from the bubble he lives in. Even then, apparently he knew what he was there for:

Hey guys ... As expected, jono aligned accusations against me

He knows it's all a conspiracy:

Where the boradcaster and hosts are all aligned against the guest. I know Leo is a fan of Miguel; he said so.

This debacle is just coincidence, really:

By making the guest uncomfortable they make it harder for him/her to speak clearly and make coherent arguments ... shows I get invited to are always like that

I wonder why they're always like that. Like Jono said during the interview, are you sure you're right and the people who criticize you are wrong? And also, just how many "shows" has he done? I count exactly two (see below).

What possible preconception could Jono Bacon have had about the BoycottBoys, after all? On this log Jono has a back and forth with Schestowitz' best friend, where he's actually accused of working for Novell (not making this up here). Here's a taste of what goes on in there:

<twitter>the "rights holder" in mono [Microsoft] is not interested in dealing, and you can see the pile of corpses from those who tried before
<jono>twitter, pile of corpses? dude, this is not From Dusk Till Dawn

Then twitter subsequently posts a comment here claiming he was "attacked". Is it any wonder that Bruce Byfield called it a den of paranoia?

Finally, Schestowitz posts a copy of the video, with the expected editorial cleverness:

That's me interrogated by Jono Bacon ... I was very uncomfortable on this show, and it probably shows. I knew it would be rather hostile.

If he knew that it would be a "hostile interrogation", why in the world would he even agree to it at all?

One last note here. Most people who heard the interview will probably wonder why Schestowitz sounded so weird. It's not the accent but rather that mumbling style of his. He heads this off at the pass by saying he sounded terrible, that he is "a lot more coherent in person". Really? This is also a coincidence then?  §


Those who oppose us are usually the very same people whose interests they know are harmful to the advancement of Freedom

Revisions ¶

  • [2009-10-18] Corrected the first item in the transcript and added a mention about the postscript, per comments (thanks!). Minor grammar fixes.
  • [2009-10-25] Reworded a paragraph, per a BoycottBoy below. His constant flattering attention is always welcome, even if it makes him throw up a little in his mouth.

Notes ¶

  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Asay idiot is again attacking Linux", "Novell stooge", "useful idiot", "Apple tool". Just a sampling. I can keep this up all night, really.
  3. ^ Another tiny but representative sample.
  4. ^ See this, this and this jewel: "Lund is a Microsoft shill"
  5. ^
  6. ^ One of Schestowitz' goals is to erradicate the impurity that is "open source" (as opposed to Free Software). See some of the quotes here. One of his favorite targets is Linus Torvalds.
Friday, September 4, 2009

Common behavioral symptoms of autism and/or Asperger’s syndrome

I just thought this is amazingly on the money. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it probably doesn’t matter anyway, so just ignore this.

  • a difficulty conceptualizing the other person's perspective and priorities
  • limited skills in persuasion
  • a tendency to be confrontational and rigid
  • reluctance to change a decision and admit a mistake
  • an aversion to being interrupted
  • a compulsion for completion
  • a tendency to punish rather than praise
  • a tendency to avoid demands
  • a lack of knowledge of alternative strategies [1]


  • superficially perfect expressive language
  • formal pedantic language
  • odd prosody, peculiar voice characteristics [2]

Then add obsessive compulsion and clinical topical fixation to the above? I’m just sayin’, is all.

Anyway, next real post hopefully coming up over the weekend.


  • Atwood, Tony (1998). The complete guide to Asperger's syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006. ISBN:1843104954.


[1] Atwood, pp. 119-120
[2] ibid pp. 36

Further reading

Monday, August 31, 2009

The BoycottNovell spam operation takes a blow

Apparently this morning the AstralKnight account was deleted from Reddit, probably for TOS violations, dealing a severe blow to the so-called perception management operation run by or on behalf of Roy Schestowitz. A spirited discussion about the perp a few days earlier might have been the catalyst for this.

Now all Reddit needs to do is nuke the NastyMicrosoft account.

Karma’s a bitch.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An analysis of the BoycottNovell spam problem on Digg, Reddit, Mixx and other social news web sites

Summary: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

The following accounts on Digg, Reddit, Mixx, Propeller, Twitter and many other websites are dedicated almost exclusively to spreading content published by Roy Schestowitz through his BoycottNovell (BN) blog as well as Usenet. They are all operated by the same person:

  • CyberPhoenix
  • AstralKnight
  • DiamondWakizashi
  • BoycottMicrosoft
  • BoycottWindows
  • NastyMicrosoft

Continue reading below for evidence and additional details.

[Update] As of mid-September 2009 or so, activity from all these accounts seems to have ceased. Occasional monitoring of some of the targeted web sites has not turned up additional aliases engaging in the same behavior. If I may be so bold, it looks like this worked as expected =)

And he asked him, "What is thy name?" And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion: for we are many."

Aliases ¶

This person has many "nyms" or aliases, so we could call him CyberAstralNastyBoycottPhoenixKnight, but for brevity we'll just refer to him [1] as SpamBoy.

We'll begin with the first and oldest known alias and work our way up from there.

CyberPhoenix ¶

The CyberPhoenix alias has been active, as far as I can tell, since mid-2007. His activity can be traced initially to Digg, where he submitted hundreds and hundreds of articles over the span of a few months. Here are a few examples:

As you can see, there's a bit of a... uh, pattern there.

This account was deleted on 2008-10-05, probably for TOS violations. [2] This Digg aggregator/analysis tool shows that the account did indeed exist, how many stories were pushed to the front page with it and the date it was deleted.

At around the same time, SpamBoy targeted Mixx, where he's managed to avoid banning so far. Using the Mixx activity history on his account, we can see that his first submission was to an Inquirer story on November 26, 2007. Since there are 20 submissions per page plus 18 on page 177: 176 x 20 + 18 = 3,538

So for the last 21 months, SpamBoy has submitted an average of 168 articles per month to Mixx, or just over 5 per day. That does not include his parallel submissions to Digg at the time, at least until his account was deleted, and it does not include other activity that we'll get to in a bit. I should point out that not all of the Mixx submissions point to Schestowitz' material of course, but most of them do one way or another (he has a few interesting ones there).

The current modus operandi on Mixx seems to be to submit stories that point to a domain called "tweetme", which in turn point to the Digg submissions of the BoycottWindows alias (see below), which then point to his (now suspended) BoycottMicrosoft blog on, which finally end up linking to BN. For example, this submission goes to this tweetme page, and then to this Digg page which in turn links to — although again that blog no longer exists (we do have a screenshot of it though, see the section for that alias below). Of course not all of his Mixx spam is so convoluted. Many submissions go directly to the dead Opera blog, while some link directly to BN.

I'm not sure if this is a retarded attempt at obfuscation or some sort of social web extension/mashup voodoo or what, but at least he ensures maximum coverage I suppose.

On Reddit, a CyberPhoenix account has been active for about a year. Although the activity tabs of the profile are empty, using Google to search Reddit yields a comment in this story. Quote:

ASUS needs to replace the Abusive Monopolist tainted Xandros pseudo-Linux with a REAL Linux distro.

(permalink) (screenshot)

On Reddit it's possible to delete one's own comments and submissions (even an account). The comment is obviously gone from the profile but it remains in the story, so I guess that might be a glitch of some sort. There are probably more that Google can't find, including many submissions as well:

Note the third link was recently re-submitted with the AstralKnight account. Funny that, eh?

On other sites

On Slashdot: (comments)
Propeller: (seems inactive, not sure if it's the same person)
There is also a Twitter account, but that's definitely not SpamBoy.

AstralKnight ¶

The AstralKnight alias appeared around January of 2009 almost simultaneously on Digg, Twitter, Reddit and Propeller. The Digg account (dead link obviously) was used extensively as well, and also probably deleted for TOS violations on 2009-05-25. Below are some of his submissions:

[Update] This account was deleted or blocked for TOS violations by Reddit on 2009-08-31. The wording below was modified to reflect that.

On Reddit, the account was active for about 5 months. Again using the history feature we see that he submitted just over 1,000 stories (last page here). This account was interesting because it was used almost exclusively to submit posts made by Roy Schestowitz to the USENET group comp.os.linux.advocacy, or COLA. Since Schestowitz' submissions to COLA can be described without equivocation as a veritable crapflood (that's just a two-hour period of a single day), our friend SpamBoy (the subject of this article, not the other one) had his work cut out for him, volume-wise.

Additionally, with the AstralKnight account SpamBoy perfected (or perhaps continued) his technique of pasting idiotic prefab comments as responses to people who complained about his flamebait. Literally hundreds of times over. Ready? Click here(dead link now, click here for a screenshot of Google cache). Now compare to his comments on Mixx. On Digg he did the same thing. For example, see the first comment here, and compare to, say, this or this. Or just look at this screenshot, taken before the account was deleted.

The other thing that SpamBoy did with the AstralKnight alias on Digg and Reddit was to "spin" whatever Schestowitz had posted on a given day by linking to the principal source of the article on BN. For example, the first link in the group above is just a regurgitation of this. That way he could at least keep up the appearance of not linking directly to BN. Of course that takes time and effort, so he eventually gave up on it.

There's also a Twitter account with this alias. Apparently the only thing he's been doing with that the past few weeks is post links to his submissions page on Reddit with the text " The latest news about Microsoft crimes and quality open source alternatives ". I suppose the 140-char limit eventually got to him.

Then we have Propeller, where SpamBoy has operated an account for about 5 months, with more that 350 submissions at this point (none of which seem to have been voted up). These submissions point almost exclusively links to his Reddit submissions, which in turn as we already saw are links to Schestowitz' USENET posts.

And finally, he also has an account on OSNews, created quite recently. Apparently he pissed people off to the point that his comments were deleted.

On other sites

Slashdot: (no activity)
Mixx: (yes, another Mixx account)

DiamondWakizashi ¶

This is an alias that SpamBoy uses only to post comments to BN. Usually something along the lines of "Novell is Microsoft's bitch" and brainy stuff like that. It's easy to tie this alias to the rest. If the writing style isn't a dead giveaway, he also makes the classic nymshifter mistake of linking to content created with his other aliases — in this case his suspended blog on Another? Here he is linking to something "funny" he spammed Reddit with not 24 hours before.

BoycottMicrosoft ¶

Apparently not satisfied with his righteous work so far, SpamBoy decided to get even more creative. This account was created around the beginning of June 2009 on as a sort of nexus for some of the others. It was very active, but (un)fortunately it's now been suspended, likely also for TOS violations. The link between this alias and the others is easy to establish. For example, the CyberPhoenix profile on Mixx has his home page set to that (screenshot), in addition obviously to linking to it repeatedly in his submissions (this being the first one). We already saw DiamondWakizashi link to it as well. Here is AstralKnight linking to it as well (screenshot). Of course you're probably wondering what it is that BoycottMicrosoft did on his Opera blog. Up until a week or so the Google cache of that page was available, but unfortunately it's gone now (probably because the Opera server was returning a 404 on the page). Fortunately I managed to snag a screenshot. For just $9.95 (plus shipping and handling) you get a Windows logo doctored to look like a swastika and plenty of links to BN.

BoycottWindows ¶

Created as a sort of add-on to the BoycottMicrosoft one, on Digg, Twitter and Reddit (now deleted, also for TOS violations). It was used exclusively to submit links to the now defunct Opera blog, which in turn as we mentioned linked to BN. He uses the same clever swastika logo there and everything. All of his tweets point to his Digg submissions.

The Reddit account was deleted after complaints were filed, but it's still possible to find articles submitted (also includes a comment) with it — of course all linking to the Opera blog. Interestingly, a Reddit user might have been responsible for the suspension of the Opera blog. This is a screenshot of the Google cache view of the original page showing his activity. Here is an example of the kind of multi-section spamming for which he was banned. But a simple thing like a ban does not stop a man on an important mission like this one, so there's more.

NastyMicrosoft ¶

This one is just a flat-out spam machine on Digg, Twitter and Reddit. It does nothing but link to BN and vote up submissions by BoycottWindows on Digg. As can be seen in this screenshot, the account is essentially the same as BoycottWindows. I'm surprised it hasn't been deleted as well. The pattern of copypasta replies can be seen here (screenshot).

I think SpamBoy just got tired of pretending he was doing anything other than promoting BN (especially the idiotic obfuscation he tried to pull off with his Opera blog and Twitter) and decided to create another alias to save himself some time.

komrad ¶

An account on FSDaily that is dedicated almost exclusively to posting links to BN. Of all the users on that website, komrad has the best karma in town. But since he does not link to other accounts or post comments, there is no evidence of this being tied to SpamBoy, other than the fact that coincidence is usually not that elastic. How many devoted fans with OCD can Schestowitz possibly, after all? There's also a Twitter account, but that's just one of those scummy "make millions licking envelopes from home" spammers. Then again, maybe there isn't that much of a difference between the two.

Still, the komrad account is rather old, so I might be more inclined to believe that this is one of his more established collaborators instead.

Other sightings ¶

Some potential dopplegangers spotted around the 'net doing the usual diligent perception management work.

  • A rather interesting account called No More Microsoft Software Ever! (aww) that was brought to my attention seems to be pushing the stock BoycottBoy talking points on the ZDNet forums with uncharacteristic zeal. See for example the thread attached to this article. Looking at some of those posts I think we might have a winner. If not SpamBoy himself, this guy definitely gives off a lot of BN minion mojo. Curiously, an individual message posted with this account that I had previously linked to from here was deleted.

Reactions to SpamBoy ¶

It's not hard to imagine that SpamBoy's activities are generally described as spam (right!). But it's just not the spam itself. It's the idiotic way he goes about his business that tends to rub people the wrong way. Other than his canned responses, he uses phrases like "low-quality garbageware", "Novell is Microsoft's bitch .....LOL!!!", "Abusive monopolist", etc. It's like reading something written by an incoherent mental ward escapee that has to use a limited vocabulary and a collection of canned text paragraphs in order to communicate. Couple that with the pattern of accusing anyone that complains about his spamming of being "astroturfers" [12] and you start getting the idea.

On Digg the response was basically limited to people berating him in the comments, but Reddit is a bit more democratic, so there have been several well-received complaints about his spamming, at least one of which possibly resulted in the deletion of the BoycottWindows account and/or the BoycottMicrosoft blog on Opera:

That's a lot of grief. Someone even got desperate enough to request a GreaseMonkey script to filter the spam (assuming one is using Firefox):

Finally, the complaint that probably ended up causing the removal of the account:

Even over at Mixx people noticed what was going on and linked to this page:

Those who complain about all this are dismissed as being "the usual haters". And they might all even work for Microsoft, of course.

Those who think SpamBoy is being "abused" because he "tells the truth" and so on are usually not aware of the extent of his spamming, or are "advocates" (I use that term loosely) who believe it is their God-given right to crap all over everything and disrupt any community or newsgroup if it furthers their righteous battle against the evil empire.

Gaming culture? ¶

Something that stands out with the first three of SpamBoy's aliases is their apparent association with the gaming culture, something that I figured out rather quickly simply by looking at Google search results. CyberPhoenix has to do with some card game called Yu-Gi-Oh!, AstralKnight seems to be related to either something called Tohou Project or a Nintendo game called BomberMan 64 and DiamondWakizashi might be out of something called "Naruto". [3] Besides the obvious lack of originality of course, this perhaps indicates that SpamBoy might be one of those angry acne-ravaged teenagers that live with their parents and have way too much time on their hands. Then again, I might have this all wrong. So it was interesting to find this I guess, although that doesn't seem to be in character.

Motivation ¶

It would be fair to argue that since not absolutely all of his endless submissions to social bookmarking sites point to something Roy Schestowitz writes, promotion of his apparent advocacy role model and authority figure isn't his primary motivation. However, the sheer volume of links to either BN or COLA posts by Schestowitz pretty much dwarfs everything else. By far. So it might be helpful to think about it this way. In order to be SpamBoy, you need to:

  1. Be a rather enthusiastic FOSS enthusiast.
  2. Hate Microsoft. I don't mean figuratively, but literally.
  3. Be positively enthralled by anything and everything Roy Schestowitz writes.
  4. Have a massive amount of free time on your hands.
  5. Possess a near-limitless reservoir of stamina to keep this crap up for at least two years (so far).

You can easily go 2 for 5 here most of the time. Maybe 3 for 5. But 5 for 5? That's special. Really special. Still, it's not just a matter of declaring SpamBoy a shill. His principal objective might not be the promotion of a specific person or website. It might very well be that he has simply picked one (with a high level of daily output) specifically to carry out his saturation assault on the web in the name of freedom or whatever. And given the available evidence so far, it would also be misleading to just claim that he is in cahoots with Schestowitz, although he's the single obvious beneficiary of SpamBoy's activities. [9] But we'll examine that in more detail below.

Identity ¶

So who the hell is this person? Let's run through some possibilities.

Someone who is trying to discredit Schestowitz and/or BN ¶

Given the negative reception SpamBoy has almost everywhere, I suppose we have to take this into account. Entertained primarily by him and his collaborators, obviously. I could possibly buy this is if the alleged attack wasn't so exhaustive and CyberPhoenix had not preceded the other aliases, because he started out actually not linking to BN. An ineffective and obnoxious advocate perhaps, but one nonetheless. The level of effort and time that would have to be put into this is beyond comprehension — and there are many other less complicated and less expensive ways to discredit people, especially someone like Schestowitz.

Some unknown dude that just appeared out of nowhere ¶

I suppose this is possible but unlikely because SpamBoy seems to be at least slightly familiar with FOSS advocacy, even if he happens to completely slaughter it by way of his methods and the material he tends to promote. It's also unlikely that someone would suddenly meet the 5 point criteria mentioned in the Motivation section above.

Roy Schestowitz in drag ¶

I doubt this, but I had to include it because it's been a constant accusation from people who have run into SpamBoy on his various target sites. I don't have a particularly high opinion of Schestowitz, but I think this would be too gutter — even for him. It would also mean that he's actually fabricating time out of thin air, considering the volume of activity he engages in under his own name every day.

One of his cadre (the BoycottBoys) ¶

Also unlikely since there would be some indication of this somewhere, because as a group they don't tend to be particularly bright. [5] Also, none of them (with a single possible exception [6]) seem to match an informal corpus analysis of SpamBoy's work. Unless there's a member of the club I still haven't had the pleasure of spotting.

There is some indication that SpamBoy might be at the very least logged into Schestowitz' IRC channel. See for example the reaction time to this, although I'm not sure about the GMT offset of the IRC log's timestamps.

The '7' guy from comp.os.linux.advocacy ¶

If you've ever had the misfortune of spending any amount of time on this newsgroup, you have probably run into this person. He literally goes by the handle '7'. Now, COLA is not exactly the most interesting collection of human beings on the internet [7], but '7' is among the worst by far. Of special interest here is the habit of replying with prefab tripe to just about every comment. For example:

Or this as well. And I'm not the first person to notice it.

There are also some similarities from a corpus perspective. I mentioned the use of repeated interstitial CAPS for emphasis and the pattern of using !!! to end sentences. The way his comments are structured also indicates a possible match.

Another coincidence is the fact that besides Schestowitz' posts to COLA, AstralKnight also spams Reddit with a lot of idiotic comments by '7' there. For example:

You'd think he would post links to comments by people other than '7' and Schestowitz, but no, that's not the case as far as I can tell.

That said, I would be less than honest if I didn't mention that if we entertain the idea that he is indeed SpamBoy, his corpus outside of COLA posts that is not comprised exclusively of trollish canned templates does not seem to match this person's alleged meatspace identity. There are comments made early in the life of the AstralKnight account on Reddit and many of his Mixx submissions that simply don't fit with the stuff a middle-aged Brit would be concerned with, like gun control or Zionism. This also breaks down with the gaming angle mentioned before to a certain extent, although I suppose it's possible to be a failed inventor and a fan of Japanese children's games (one of my co-workers is a respected Java architect and book author with published CS and engineering papers, yet he spends large amounts of time playing military-style shooter games online when he's at home).

So is SpamBoy the same person as '7'? I think there's a high probability of that being the case, but so far it's impossible to prove, and it will likely be less so once this is published. Still, if someone has some evidence that would tie him to these aliases, I'll be more than happy to revisit this. His "outing" on COLA might be incorrect, for example. [8]

Mark Fink ¶

The Mark Fink fiasco prompted some people to theorize that the person behind that alias was also SpamBoy. There are many similarities between 'Fink' and '7' once we compare their posts to Ubuntu mailing lists and COLA (respectively). Not enough to completely nail it, but enough to generate suspicion.

There is one curious factoid that might be interesting though. If we look at the FinkGate timeline, there is a one year gap (almost to the day) between the two appearances 'Fink' made on the Ubuntu mailing lists. SpamBoy's original CyberPhoenix Digg account was deleted on October of 2008, and although he seems to have been active on Mixx the whole time, it's interesting that 'Fink' made his second appearance a few months after SpamBoy redoubled his spamming efforts with the AstralKnight alias. Coincidence?

Of course it's possible that Fink is '7' but has no relation whatsoever with SpamBoy. Or that SpamBoy is Fink but has nothing to do with '7'. The possibilities are endless when there are so many personalities.

Sometimes the scraps of available evidence are more interesting insofar as what they don't show.

Collusion? ¶

Regardless of SpamBoy's identity, the elephant in the room here is obviously the fact that his main online activity involves disseminating everything Roy Schestowitz publishes. It is also a fact that Schestowitz is quite aware of his activities going back to the end of 2007. [4] So it's more than fair that we examine the possibility that SpamBoy might be working with/for him in some fashion. I already mentioned the possibility that SpamBoy is just evangelizing in his own slimy way and simply happened to pick Schestowitz as his primary content provider. The question to ask here is whether or not there is any type of collusion. [10]

I'm not the kind of person who automatically assumes the worst, even in cases where the worst might be the thing I would enjoy seeing happen. I've already made it clear that I don't believe SpamBoy is associated directly with BN. A few weeks ago I received a private message through Reddit with a link to one of Schestowitz' IRC logs. As you can see there, Schestowitz removes AstralKnight's Twitter subscription [11] from his IRC channel after noting that his tweets are "stupid".

When I initially saw this I thought that was a good move, since having SpamBoy's infantile mutterings all over his logs was detrimental at best. Along with previous evidence of him being aware of SpamBoy but denying any knowledge or association with him, this helped reinforce my belief that SpamBoy was indeed working completely on his own without any contact whatsoever.

But then something crawled up my frontal lobe and made me do a second take on that conversation. That looks forced. I read that a few times and all I saw was this:

"Hey there everybody I'm disavowing this guy.... ready? OK here I go... HIGH FIVE, I just banned him! Did everyone see that? I totally just did!"

There are obviously two ways to interpret this. Either he's just being honest and just wants to disassociate himself from SpamBoy, or he wants something he can point to and say " see, I have nothing to do with this dude, I even called him stupid ".

Why make such a big show out of that? I have a hard time believing that Schestowitz did not recognize the "micoshaft windummy!!!" style of his friend '7' from COLA, which is what those tweets pointed at. Yet he still called them "stupid". Why not just remove the thing from his Twitter script and be done with it?

Further, I have an even harder time believing that SpamBoy would have continued his worship of Schestowitz after being called "stupid" — yet to this day he is still spamming the internet with Schestowitz' effluvia.

So I kept thinking about the style of "damage control" he used during FinkGate. After Fink craps all over the ubuntu-devel mailing list, insults half the regulars there by claiming they worked for "M$" and/or Novell, and actually contacted someone's boss to try to have them fired because of their alleged support for Mono, this is what Roy Schestowitz said to him:

I liked what you do, but try to distance yourself from the site to give it credibility. Make it look like a personal gripe while the site keeps it polite.

In light of this, the alleged booting of AstralKnight's tweets from his IRC channel with such fanfare takes on a different light, in my opinion. If he had just removed the subscription from the script without announcing it to the world, I wouldn't have ended up putting two and two together. I'm not a cynical person, but this just smells a tad rotten.

Now, I'm not implying that Schestowitz unleashed SpamBoy on the internet. But what I do suspect is that he knows exactly who SpamBoy is, and he has no problem with what's being done (essentially) in his name, as long as he gets a bigger audience in the end. After all, he is obsessed with his traffic figures, how many GB his blog serves every month and how long it will take him to be "bigger than Groklaw". [13]

Let's look at some more interesting bits. Despite claiming (repeatedly, actually) that he doesn't know who AstralKnight is, Schestowitz seems to think poor SpamBoy is just a misunderstood soul:

look at the abuse AstralKnight gets [...] The shills want him down

Remember he is not talking about the CyberPhoenix alias here, which I suppose he can be forgiven for encouraging since at that time SpamBoy had not yet started his reign of terror. No, this is the Digg account that did nothing but submit links to his articles, cleverly spinned versions thereof, or his posts to COLA.

Here for example he says he doesn't know who AstralKnight is again, yet as that guy on IRC correctly points out, Schestowitz had been consistently voting up SpamBoy's Digg submissions — that second one in fact just a day after he removed his tweets from the IRC logs. Maybe it's because it just happens to link to a comment of his in COLA. And then there are things like these:

The submitter gets abused by the usual bunch [...] Seems like Microsoft's agents perhaps. They do have some, but I am not sure which ones

SpamBoy is abused by Microsoft agents, of course. We just don't know which ones.

Conclusion ¶

All in all, I think we have a case of what Schestowitz likes to call useful idiots. He's not necessarily sponsoring the spam shitstorm, but he doesn't seem to have too much trouble with it, either. He could have contacted SpamBoy through Reddit for example (they have a private message thing) and asked him to tone it down at least. And I think SpamBoy would have obliged him. But again, he's expendable (can't be directly tied to him) and too useful to just let go.

It's sad, in a way. I think Roy Schestowitz really does mean well. But his quest of becoming the next Pamela Jones/Groklaw and creating a real community around his work has failed miserably, and instead he finds himself surrounded by a scary cadre of weirdos, spammers, nymshifters and abrasive idiots with dubious IQs who tend to do more harm than good to his cause. And if he is indeed giving them the nod — if not outright encouraging them — then he's partly responsible for their actions. At the very least those actions ultimately reflect negatively on him, whether he likes it or not.

Moar? ¶

Any additional information that could be relevant to this article would be highly appreciated. Please contact me if you have anything that you think could be useful.  §


Digg is also seriously [fucked] because it's gamed pretty badly.

I usually report any suspicious submission as spam, at least as soon I spot a distinct and objectionable pattern. When the same person always posts to the same domain, for instance, that's a red flag.

Revisions ¶

  • [2009-09-01] Additional Reddit discussion links; account deleted from Reddit (yay), a few more links and tweaks.
  • [2009-09-16] Some cleanup, moar quotes, correction of the ZDNet link.
  • [2009-09-18] Added a quote, testing out some new styles.
  • [2009-10-04] Noted SpamBoy's sudden disappearance; some formatting changes.
  • [2009-10-17] Noted cessation of spamming activity, fixed some typos.

Notes ¶

  1. ^ I cannot bring myself to believe this could be a woman.
  2. ^ Although it's possible for an account owner to request deletion from the Digg support folks, there is already an established pattern of deleted accounts in other social sites, so it's not hard to imagine Digg simply nuked him.
  3. ^ As is probably evident by now, I'm too old for this shit.
  4. ^ Schestowitz was accused repeatedly of operating the CyberPhoenix account on Digg as far as I can tell. This was also mentioned by a person who helped me gather information for this article and who was active on Digg at the time. I don't believe that to be true. Also, that comment predates the spam shitstorm unleashed on other sites during 2008 with the other SpamBoy aliases. I'm merely using it to show that Schestowitz has been aware of this person in some way or another for a while, as well as the fact that he was linking to his blog from more than one site. He's even grateful about his "compliments" and so on.
  5. ^ More specifically, they seem to suffer from something called liar's remorse. Look it up, it's an interesting read. People who do dishonest things in the name of a cause they consider to be worthwhile often have a subconscious desire to get caught, and they make "mistakes" towards that end. Some also use that when they end up being discovered as a sort of excuse. " Ha ha, I wasn't really serious about this ".
  6. ^ "Chips B Malroy" was a close enough match to warrant a second look.
  7. ^ And I'm referring both to the wacky "advocates" and the people who like to bait them. Seriously, that place is just scary. COLA used to be a bit better back in the day. Sometimes threads would be crossposted to so I was peripherally aware of what went on there, and in general the people there used to be actual advocates that seemed to sport IQs higher than the average sea slug. Alas, the quality seems to have taken a massive dive at some point in the past few years. Schestowitz' 24/7 crapflooding obviously has not helped with that.
  8. ^ In this particular subject though, I'd tend to trust these guys. They are good at that. '7's reaction to that post also seems to confirm its validity.
  9. ^ Gain does not need to be financial in order to qualify as such.
  10. ^ I contacted Schestowitz with a request for comment and a few questions about SpamBoy's activities, but predictably I received no reply. Here is a copy of the email I sent him.
  11. ^ I understand this is a sort of script that takes posts made by certain people on Twitter and echoes them to IRC. They are visible in most of his recent logs. His regulars need to request to be added to the list of Twitter accounts it monitors.
  12. ^ This is a big thing with the BoycottBoys as well. Anyone who does not think exactly like them is "the enemy".
  13. ^ See the "does anyone have any scandals I can use" and "bigger than Groklaw" quotes here.