Monday, July 20, 2009

Timeline of the David Schlesinger/Mark Fink/BoycottNovell episode


February 20

"Mark Fink" posts a comment to (BN):

I hope all the M$ and Novell employees die in a fire and then burn eternally in hell. That’s what every last one of them deserves.

Schestowitz replies to him saying those are not nice thoughts and so on. There are other comments by him prior to and after that date, some with replies by Schestowitz.

February 21

Fink then appears on the Ubuntu desktop-devel mailing list, claiming he is in the process of writing a Tomboy replacement and linking to BN as "evidence" that it must be done. Quote:

I've already gotten it so you can type stuff in a text field, so it already almost has all the functionality you need in a note taking program.

The first reply to him is that he should use something else (the original StickyNotes) if he doesn't like Tomboy. He answers with this:

Then sticky notes needs to replace Tomboy as the official GNOME notes program because it is stupid to allow MONO into GNOME. MONO programs CANNOT be allowed to be in GNOME! This only helps M$ destroy Linux!
Don't you see!? You are just helping Microvell poison Linux so that they can control it and/or attack it with patents. Anyone who doesn't see this is a retard.

He is of course asked to keep it civil but he does not reply again. The rest of the comments in that thread are predictable given the tone and the fact that it was posted to a developer mailing list.

March 1

Fink posts another comment to BN about something or other, and this time Schestowitz asks him to maintain a page on his wiki. It's important to note that this exchange comes before even the Shuttleworth codec incident, so it is not being used to indicate collusion, rather just awareness of the name.

June 8

Fink posts his groundbreaking message making deals with M$ [sic] to ubuntu-devel-discuss, quoting allegations made in BN - an article in which Mark Shuttleworth actually bothered to post to correct what he perceived were misconceptions (I would have used another term) about a multimedia codec licensing deal with Microsoft for the Ubuntu distributions.

June 12

Schestowitz, posting on an FSDaily thread, acknowledges Fink's existence outside of the replies he had made on BN to him, and mentions him in the context of the codec "discussion" with Shuttleworth.

June 15

The ubuntu-news digest mentions the episode. As far as I can tell that was the end of that. "Fink" then proceeds to disappear.


June 7

"Mark Fink" reappears almost exactly one year later and posts a message titled shameful censoring of mono opposition to the ubuntu-devel-discuss mailing list, again quoting Schestowitz' allegations and using the same talking points. Predictably, a flame war erupts. David Schlesinger is one of the people that confronts Fink over his attitude and approach.

June 11

In the article Does Ubuntu Forums Threaten to Ban Opposition to Mono? (actually published on June 1st), Schlesinger posts a few comments regarding Fink and the mailing list. Schestowitz' collaborators attack as usual, and Schestowitz is forced to back them down. Still, the conversation remains civil. Schlesinger then suggests to Schestowitz that a post explicitly disassociating him and BN from Fink would be in order, and Schestowitz agrees. He then asks if he should "contact the troublemaker" to which Schlesinger replies that it's up to Schestowitz, since Fink is his problem (this last bit is important as we go into July 11-12 below). Schestowitz does indeed contact Fink by email.

Schestowitz then publishes Manners, a rather generic-sounding "clarification" that seemingly tries to tie the ubuntu-devel/Fink issue with some other problems. He does not mention Fink, Ubuntu or Schlesinger, who again posted a few messages in the comments section of that article and was quickly accused of being a "troll" by the BN collaborators.

June 12

Schestowitz publishes Smears against Boycott Novell, in response to a Mono article by Jo Shields that wasn't flattering to him and also mentioned the ubuntu-devel episode. Again, neither the Ubuntu mailing list nor Schlesinger are mentioned. Schlesinger indicates in a comment there that he will write a post on his blog laying out his side of the story. Again he is attacked by Schestowitz' collaborators, even suggesting that he had instigated the whole thing.

Later that same day, Schestowitz publishes the more specific "Mark Fink" Has Nothing to Do With Us, finally referring to him by name but omitting any mention of Schlesinger and again conflating the issue with other unrelated stuff. Comments on this post are disabled.

Between the posting of these two articles, Schlesinger confronted Schestowitz via email with the email proof he had obtained from Fink. This is however not possible to verify independently, but it appears that at the very least Schlesinger gave Schestowitz a chance to explain his behavior.

June 13

Schlesinger publishes When Zeal Becomes Zealotry: A Tawdry Tale, recounting Fink's attempts at getting him fired from his job because of the discussion on the Ubuntu mailing list, and includes evidence that seems to incriminate Schestowitz in Fink's activities. This evidence is obtained when Fink emails Schlesinger, apparently scared at the repercussions of what he did. Part of that exchange includes a PGP-signed email that Schestowitz sent to Fink:

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.

Schestowitz comments on Schlesinger's blog but is unable or unwilling to explain away the signed email. At one point he mentions that he had a hard time telling Fink off because Fink had compared him to Richard Stallman. Schlesinger posts a link to his article in a comment to BN, to which Schestowitz replies. His comment includes the following:

If there is anything else I can do to discourage that person from trolling the mailing lists and harassing you, let me know. There is not so much I can do. I was never in touch with him until you asked me to, at which point I grabbed the E-mail address from the mailing lists.

Contrast the two statements. Also, Schlesinger never requested that Schestowitz contact Fink. It was Schestowitz that offered to do that on June 11.

June 27

Richard Stallman publishes Why free software shouldn't depend on Mono or C# on the FSF website, establishing their official position on the issue.

June 30

Ubuntu publishes their position on Mono and software written with it, effectively killing any hope Schestowitz might have had about the distro not shipping the framework or applications written with it.

July 2

Dave Neary of GNOME publishes an article stating why he disagrees with Stallman's position on C#. There are many other blog posts from those two weeks that talk about the Mono issue, for and against.

July 3

The Gran Canaria Desktop Summit (hosting both GUADEC and Akademy) opens.

July 5

Stallman gives his keynote speech at the Desktop Summit. He gives his usual speech but also talks about Mono and C#.

That same day Schlesinger publishes A Good GCDS Beginning (with significant disappointment) post on his blog in which me mentions what he perceived to be negative sexist comments by Stallman during the keynote.

July 6

Peter Galli announces that Microsoft will apply the Community Promise to the ECMA 334 and ECMA 335 specifications. Miguel de Icaza mirrors the announcement on his blog that same day.

July 8

David Schlesinger publishes Emailing Richard Stallman, an email exchange with Stallman over the perceived sexist remarks he had made at the conference. An anonymous comment is posted there that same day which reads "Stallman speaks of the risks of the Mono risks and a week later this Monosoft [sic] sycophant resorts to attacking the messenger." This seems to be the first attempt to tie the Mono issue with the conference fiasco. Other comments seem to follow the same line of thought, including the artful "monotards" one by Khaled Hosny, who seems to have followed a link or reference from somewhere else judging from his i've-reached-my-conclusion tone.

July 10

Schestowitz publishes Revisionism with Stereotypes, mostly in response to an article by Bruce Byfield (A journalist that is constantly attacked in BN). In the article, Byfield mentions the role of Schestowitz' blog in negatively influencing the Mono debate, and references the aforementioned Joe Shield's article on LinuxToday, which in turn leads to Byfield's mention of the Fink fiasco. Schlesinger also comments a few times on that post. We're still largely civil.

Also around July 10 (it might have been earlier) two new memes (to call them something) emerge from (I think) the GNOME community. The first one is a statement related to Mono. The second is related to Stallman's talk. Some people take up both of them, which appears to again conflate the two issues.

July 11-12

Within the same post referenced above, and at this point given the evidence he had in hand, Schlesinger was probably already convinced of Schestowitz' collusion with Mark Fink, and he made that clear in a comment. This is where the conversation goes from civil to hostile on both sides. Shortly thereafter, Schestowitz posts a fragment of a bizarre conversation from his IRC channel with William Hill (a.k.a. "twitter") which essentially reduced Schlesinger to an evil Microsoft-sponsored troll out to do very bad things to Roy Schestowitz and free software in general. He prefaces it with this:

From what I can gather, you’re trying to set up and trip up people whom you don’t like (such as RMS) and you might be using fake names to pretext.

It's unclear where the "fake names" thing came from; I assume Schestowitz was accusing him of nymshifting. That garners a response from Shane Coyle -- the founder of BoycottNovell and owner of the domain name -- remarking that Schestowitz and Hill are, quote, "nuts". Schestowitz then pedals back, claiming he actually disagrees with the comment he had just made.

The whole post is just bizarre, again, but here's one of the salient pieces:

<schestowitz> How ‘dare’ RMS say the truth about Mono?
<schestowitz> See what the Microsoft fans do?
<schestowitz> That “Lefty” guy is hardly a Linux guy
<schestowitz> IIRC he uses a Mac and he worked for Apple
<schestowitz> Just shows you how Trojanning works

It appears that at this point in Schestowitz' mind, Schlesinger was not criticizing Stallman because of sexist remarks -- he was attacking him for saying that C# and Mono are bad, and he had an ulterior motive associated with Microsoft.

This of course incenses Schlesinger, who demands that Schestowitz retract his claims. Schestowitz compounds the problem by saying it was actually Schlesinger that asked him to "help" with Fink, which is of course not true (see June 12). Schestowitz backpedals again on that point.

July 13

Still within the same discussion referenced above, Schestowitz quite suddenly agrees to post an apology to Schlesinger, titled Correction: About Schlesinger, ‘Fink’, Etc. He is forced to correct it a few hours later and add a specifically-worded retraction about his claims that Schlesinger's criticism of Stallman had anything to do with Mono, C#, patents or anything else. Comments there are also disabled. It's important to note that Schlesinger had originally demanded that the apology post remain on the BN front page for at least a week, but due to the rather high posting volume, the article quickly drops off view.

Later that day, Schestowitz publishes Is Mono's Latest Strategy to Vilify Richard Stallman? effectively tying the Grand Canarias issue and "...a vocal/aggressive minority that seems to be spreading Microsoft inside GNU/Linux". The Microsoft bit here of course refers to Mono. The post is not unusual for BN, but regardless of the quoting of his friends' sympathetic views on the topic, it's not difficult to understand why it was posted or what the intention was:

Mono people understand that their attempts to marry Microsoft and Linux are backfiring now that the SFLC and FSF speak out, so Plan B is seemingly to discredit Stallman in person to make his technical assessments go away or be dishonoured.


Jason at the Mono Nono Web site correctly predicted that Stallman would suffer the wrath of Microsoft fans for merely daring to reject Mono. By the way, this is not a reference to one particular person because many blogs independently find an opportunity to pile criticisms on Stallman, for whatever reason or statement that he ever made (there is more than one, but the timing and motive are unlikely to be coincidental).

Bold emphasis mine. Another flame war develops here. At this point Schlesinger is overtly attacked by Schestowitz' collaborators, including the usual sleuthing about his life and work, references to his employers, what computer he uses, etc.

Also on July 13, Matt Zimerman, Canonical's CTO for Ubuntu, publishes Backlash: feminism considered harmful. This echoes the points made by Schlesinger. Throughout that week many people that were at GUADEC and some that were not publish their views on the Stallman remarks. Some are sympathetic to Stallman, like Dave Neary, in the sense that they don't consider him to be sexist, but at the same time decry the attempted association with the Mono issue.

[Looking at the comments on these blogs it seems that about the same number of people agree that the remarks were inappropriate than not. Indeed, Stallman has given that exact same talk many times before. A good portion of the comments seem again to try to conflate the Mono issue, and the rest are just the usual internet idiots reinforcing the urgent need for strict birth control. So it's of course valid to conclude that Schlesinger's view of the remarks is simply his opinion, shared by some members of the community and not by others. The claim that the "attacks" on Stallman are tied to his view on C# and Mono is the contentious point here]

July 14

Schestowitz publishes Another Angle on Personal Attacks from Mono. His idea of associating the two issues seems well cemented at this point.

July 15

Another article published on BN again conflates the GUADEC and Mono issues:

[...] Richard Stallman too, on behalf of the FSF, says that Microsoft’s “community promise” is inadequate, only to find himself smeared as a result of such statements.

July 16

On the article referenced above on July 14, Schlesinger posts a link to his blog explaining why the two issues have nothing to do with each other as far as he's concerned:

I’ve written a blog posting on the pernicious notion that the distress with Stallman’s comments is “really about Mono”. It’s gotten that stupid.

One of Schestowitz' collaborators replies with:

No, David, your blog has always been that stupid but now it’s nasty too. You’ve had some kind of Linsux type gripe with BN for more than a year and your behavior here over the last month or so beggars description. Your libelous attack on RMS is transparently designed to offend people you don’t like.

To clarify, "Linsux" seems to be a community of BSD users. For whatever reason they've decided to make Schestowitz their whipping dummy. Not the first time this has happened to him. The IRC logs published in BN show their activities. I don't condone or condemn what they did, but it's important to note the clever attempt to tie-in with that.

July 17

On yet another post that seems to stomp a horse-shaped patch in the ground, Schestowitz accuses Schlesinger (at this point, who else?) of "quote mining" to discredit Stallman and obliquely calls him a "Microsoft apologist". Another massive flamewar, another series of attacks on Schlesinger, legal threats, etc. At this point the conversation is well beyond confrontational, descending into the outright hostile. Unfortunately Schlesinger allows himself to fall for the good cop/bad cop routine with Schestowitz' collaborators.

July 18

Schestowitz' coup de grĂ¢ce to this episode is published the next day: David Schlesinger "Uses the Little Spat as an Example of Zealotry". Possibly unhinged by Schlesinger's repeated legal threats about having been libeled, Schestowitz decides to publish one Penguin Pete's rather sophomoric (read: insulting) take on the Stallman episode, Schlesinger and so on. Interestingly, a few days later in his IRC channel he says "Pete is one to be taken with caution". In light of this I suppose Pete could be catalogued as a "useful idiot", to use his terminology. In a final display of pettiness, the comments on that post are disabled.


[2009-08-06] Updated the first link to the GNOME mailing list thread "Fink" started about the Tomboy replacement. The previous link was a mirror and did not show the entire thread correctly.

1 comment:

Eldon said...

The amount of scheming, colluding, personal attacks and paranoia displayed in this tale makes the commercial, proprietary folks seem like angels. 99% of the time they're legitimately trying to advance and protect their businesses with no ill-will towards a person, movement or philosophy at all.

Their actions allow for many interpretations as is the nature of competition but what they are accused of appears to be what the accusers are really guilty of if you ask me.

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