Point of Attack

Recently, as in last week, I learned a new Texas idiom. A senior executive at a client explained what he meant when he said that I was beating his dog. I didn't have a reference for the comment until he said that if he invited me over for a barbecue and I beat his dog that was inappropriate. "How would you like it if you invited me to your house for dinner and I beat your dog?" he asked.

I had no retort. I simply shut my mouth and listened. I found it strange considering the deliverables given to me at the start of the engagement: Prepare "as is" and "to be" event driven models as if the company deployed an Open source strategy and justify my observations.

If a process has bottlenecks and breakdowns, an analyst should determine and identify those defects. So, in discussing the matter with his committee, the problems morphed into me criticizing him and the criticism morphed a dog beating.

You have experienced this many times though you may not have explained it as beating a dog. When criticized, people use a common defense mechanism:Kill the messenger. Or criticize the person reporting problems and thereby deflect the truth of the report. Whatever you do take the attention off yourself and put it on the guy with the information to convey.

Criminal attorneys use this tactic when they go after the victim. "It wasn't my client's fault, Joe Blow provoked my client and when we bring witnesses who can verify Joe Blow's strange behavior, you will see why my client cut off his legs at the knees."

Back to the Meeting

After the screaming fit about attacking the dog, the crew settled down and preceded to attack their own shop. I didn't have to say another word. I watched the client beat his own dog.

I have also noticed another phenomenon associated with beating the dog. Touch a nerve (push a button) and the emotions sky rocket. You can read a few comments on various news sites to see the escalation points.

I once thought I wanted to become a psychologist. I spent two years in practice and gave it up. I did find two years of dealing with traumatic patients helped me when I worked in organizational behavior. I specialized at that time in post merger environments.

After handling very upset people 12 hours a day and longer for two years, people afraid they would lose their jobs seemed far less intense. I would sit down and diagram a corporate paradigm and see the breakdowns.

Does This have Something to do with Yesterday's Post

Yesterday's title was "Time to Write About Something Besides Redmond". I attempted to make a point about moving our attention from non-productive to productive behavior. The logic or subtext of the article went something like this: Over a two year period I observed indecent documentation in the Open Source community. I also made an appeal to people writing articles that touched everything Microsoft did to stop making a fuss about them and write something positive.

So, what did I see?

Here's a comment I really enjoyed:

"I won't disagree, but that's because I can't follow your reasoning. You worked real hard on a book, therefore it's time to tell others to write about something other than Microsoft? Huh?"

Instead of discussing the real issue, the commenter went after the me.

Here's some further flotsom and jetsome from the same critic

"Your opening lines show that you're not just talking about yourself. You're giving advice to other writers. (Including, I assume, the Editor in Chief of the publication whose blog you're using to plug your book?) But then you fail to take your own advice at the end of your blog entry (apply it to other authors, no?)."

We have a lot of people writing about Open Source and they think they're famous because they are prolific. So, be prolific in a productive way. Criticism of a deeply embedded vendor of software in the corporate world will attract very few, if any, friends of Linux. But, writing productively to help projects work for people wanting to use Open source Software could make a big difference.

At the moment, people who might consider an Open Future turn their noses up as if they smell something foul. They don't have the familiarity or understand terms like Abdabi, XEmacs, glibc, Xorg, bison and so forth. And, they don't have the motivation to find out.

So, point your attack where it will do some good. And that's all I have to say about that.



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Everyone wants to be right.

caveat's picture

Everyone wants to be right. Find something better to do with your time. All of you. There is no right and wrong. There is choice. We've been through this over and over. What you choose may or may not have an impact on other people. Unfortunately most individuals who post to these have a burning desire to impact others, positive or negative. Yes we can hear you, can you go away now?

Microsofts goal is to LIMIT Choice and to LOCK-IN users!

Anonymous's picture

Are you awake?

Even Novell promotes their products with the selling points of

Being able to be flexible with your hardware and software resources to react quickly to a business opportunity or urgent problem with an effective solution.


So go back to bed, or stick your head back in the sand, or take a longer trip to the state of denial, while the rest of us that understand the URGENT NATURE of manipulating the ISO
with fraud, deceit, and lies try to educate the world about a looming problem that will affect everybody that is awake and breathing for years to come.

Any questions?

Microsofts goal is to LIMIT Choice and to LOCK-IN users!

Anonymous's picture

Thank you for sharing your obsession with us. I understand the paranoid division of the NSA is looking to hire fanatics.


Anonymous's picture

Is that you Tom?

...everyone has a right to

caveat's picture

...everyone has a right to my own opinion.

Yes, Yes, Yes!

Turgut Kalfaoglu's picture

Most definitely! Why should we bicker an cuss about a greedy company with inferior products? We should instead talk about ways of improving our own software.

And we do (LJ used to too!)

Skyler V's picture

If you've ever been a part of an open source project, you'd know how much communication about "making it better" takes place.

Linux Journal used to have ALL of it's topics on how to improve an OSS install. Ever since /etc/rant (which should've been kept in /home/user) was put in the magazine we've had people like Tom here writing articles about bad things related to OSS, instead of ways of improving it.

And we do (LJ used to too!)

Anonymous's picture

???? I don't agree at all. How does Tom qualify as a basher of Open Source???? The SOB spent two years fixing code and writing documentation? /etc/rant belongs to the guy who thinks this blog belongs to him personally.

rather thin-skinned

Anonymous's picture

It's not attacking the messenger to dispute the points raised in your article, or the way in which you make them. I find that your writings are often disorganized and hard to follow, and with a fair number of spelling and grammatical errors. They read like stream-of-consciousness first drafts.

Rather than getting all prickly because readers don't jump up and down and cheer for you, you should take a look at the criticisms and try to improve both your logic and writing style.

rather thin-skinned

Anonymous's picture

??? How long have you been around. I seem to recall him getting a bill passed in Texas so Open Source could be used in the state government. It does take disorganization to work with governments. I suppose O'Reilly wishes they had never published his books with all those grammatical issues. But then, I must have a warped sense I've only read his stuff for about a decade, so what do I know?

What bill? What grammatical

Anonymous's picture

What bill? What grammatical issues? What the heck are you talking about? Speaking of disorganized.

Attack Point

Gabriel's picture

"So, point your attack where it will do some good. And that's all I have to say about that."

I think nothing else matters except for the closing line above.


Nicholas Petreley's picture

"Your opening lines show that you're not just talking about yourself. You're giving advice to other writers. (Including, I assume, the Editor in Chief of the publication whose blog you're using to plug your book?) But then you fail to take your own advice at the end of your blog entry (apply it to other authors, no?)."

You omitted the whole point of this quote. You said (in reference to Microsoft), "So what. Let them do what they do." Apply that to other authors, no?

So you don't see the value in the writings of those of us who attempt to keep Microsoft in check and accountable for its actions? So what. That's fine. I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. However, follow your own advice. Write what you feel compelled to write, and stop complaining about the way we other authors do our jobs. Otherwise you're simply being a hypocrite.


Phil Wiggins's picture

I wrote a letter to Phil Hughes many months ago. It's worth a reprint:

Please put me on your mailing list to let me know when Nicolas Petreley's /etc/rant column is removed from the Linux Journal. This column is a stain on the reputation of the Linux Journal. The content is childish and reflects badly on your brand.

Since 1998, I have been a sometime subscriber, have given gift subscriptions, and I was intending to renew my subscription. For the past number of years, I have been buying 6-10 magazines annually at the newstand. I will renew upon the removal of the /etc/rant column. I wish no malice to Mr Petreley personally, but his editorial demeanour is in such poor contrast to the esteemed Mr Marti who had such a constructive and community building leadership to his editorial direction at LJ.


/var/opinion is the Greatest!

Anonymous's picture

I always read the Linux Journal /var/opinion page first.

Anybody can write watered down politically correct text.

It takes intelligence, guts, and integrity to write the cold hard truth knowing full well you are going to be a punching bag.

The Linux Journal is lucky to have Nicholas Petreley at the helm.

Thanks for sharing your letter again.

Do you have it framed above your fireplace?

God save us from code and

Tom Burt's picture

God save us from code and documentation written by those who are currently "obsessed with Microsoft". Though I agree with you on problems related to FOSS.

Just like Cancer

Anonymous's picture

Some people are just in denial.

Have you followed any of the supporting independent news articles that are linked to boycottnovell.com ?

Read the one for 8/27/07 .

Microsoft and OOXML are CANCER.

Either deal with it every day effectively or it will kill you.

Just like Cancer

Tom Adelstein's picture

I wonder how people will deal with it everyday?

Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell division and the ability of these cells to invade other tissues, either by direct growth into adjacent tissue (invasion) or by migration of cells to distant sites (metastasis). This unregulated growth is caused by a series of acquired or inherited mutations to DNA within cells, damaging genetic information that define the cell functions and removing normal control of cell division. ..

Cancer is a medical term or a constellation or a astrology sign. It doesn't apply to people or organizations.

Cancers ultimately kill the infected person.

I think I know what you're trying to write here. I also believe you represent the people obsessed with Microsoft. I just don't know what good it does other than get journalists hits.

The Hit Parade

Anonymous's picture

Thanks to Joe Wilcox at eWEEK for:

August 27, 2007 1:23 PM
"Microsoft's Sponsored OOXML Study"

(selected text) Read the complete story at:


OOXML standards ratification is crucial to Microsoft, because:

* The file format is linchpin to the company's broader Office, Dynamics and business intelligence strategies. OOXML isn't just a format; it's the glue that will bind together products and product strategies and lock businesses into Microsoft's desktop-to-server stack.

Tom, see the words "lock businesses into" .

It is the same old Microsoft game. Rig the deck,(the ISO and Countries in this case), do the dirty deal, suppress the media, and Microsoft wins again.

By the time the public learns how they have been sold out again, and
anybody tries to fight it or reverse it, it will be too late.

The desktops and computer file systems will be contaminated.

You can't un-ring a bell and Microsoft knows that.

Technology moves faster than the law. Microsoft is a master of this game.

Do yourself a favor and go to:



and search for OOXML .

Watch these sites between now and September 2, 2007 .

Then come back and write an article about how I represent
"the people obsessed with Microsoft".

Oh, I forgot...

Anonymous's picture

Why do you think that no main stream media outlet is covering the OOXML vs. ODF battle currently under way?

The way that OOXML will infect desktops and file systems is just like the way medical cancer spreads. (I bet you are glad I straightened that out)

Search Google or Yahoo for OOXML.

Oh I forgot, we are just all obsessed with Microsoft.
(China, India, Brazil, Africa, Google, Sun, IBM, Oracle, ...)

How much Microsoft stock do you have?

You and Ron H. ...Can't we all just get along ...

The dog needs to be beaten...

Skyler V's picture

When I have clients give me their version of the "beating the dog" phrase I have to remind them how their dog is biting the legs of their guests at the party and that I'm only pointing it out to them while they're in the other room.

We all know the faults of Redmond, but do our clients (the CEO)? Sure the CIO might have some idea, but his focus on costs/benefits might turn the conversation in another direction. In that case it's a good idea to make the CIO gain your prospective so he now has two people in his presence that support YOUR change.

Skyler V

Tom Adelstein's picture

Your comments surprise me too. I've seen more aggression on the part of Red Hat than I've seen in the last two years from MS. I guess when you have already won, you don't need to bite anymore.


Anonymous's picture

Aggression from Red Hat? Tom, you're full of it. You don't have any idea what you're talking about, do you. Please list some examples, like how many standards bodies has Red Hat tried to bribe and pack with its own members? How many state governments has it interfered with? How many lies have they told on a daily basis? How many vague patent threats have they made? How many bogus lawsuits have they funded secretly?

I call bull.


A's picture

Saying that anyone is full of it was the point of the article.

You must not have much exposure to Red Hat internally. The issue has little to do with bribes, etc. Red Hat's history is publicly known. Issues about which I speak have to do with how they treat their employees, turning off their CVS, ending access to the desktop, their relations with the Channel, VARs and ISVs. Their DNA is aggressive.

Changing the rules..

Skyler V's picture

And why does Redhat fight? They are the ones left who won't sign with Microsoft. I happen to agree with them.

When Microsoft goes into "discussions" with other distros and offers to "be gentle" with them if the throw the fight, I think it's more honorable for Redhat to fight the good fight.

Microsoft hasn't won, although they had a great couple of rounds it looks like Linux is outpacing them and that is why Microsoft is now at a critical stage where they still can get distros to sign, but they know they can't keep this pace for too much longer.

Changing the rules..

Anonymous's picture

Check in with a shrink. Obsessions limit ones ability to enjoy life.

Point of Attack

Chiron613's picture

Tom, your comments made some sense, though I don't necessarily agree with all of what you said. I understand that people resort to the "ad hominem" tactic, attacking the person instead of focusing on the arguments. Happens all the time.

I want to say one thing, though. I really don't want to be nit-picking, or beating your dog. Theoretically, it should only be your words that matter, not grammatic or spelling errors. However, I found your article difficult to understand because of some of these problems. Even the words were often wrong.

Criminal lawyers don't use a tact. They use a tack. They sound similar, but have vastly different meanings. They bring *witnesses* to the stand, not wittinesses. It took me a while just to figure out we weren't discussing attempts at humor, but persons who could testify.

You have flotsam and jetsam, not "flotsom" and "jetsome". How these terms apply to a critic's comments is beyond my feeble grasp, but please, at least spell them correctly.

I encourage you to use spellcheck, which could likely have helped you avoid these problems. That might not have helped you with tack and witnesses, but it would have avoided the other two words.

Were you a poster on a newsgroup, I wouldn't have mentioned these errors. I don't expect the average person to spell correctly or get the words right. I don't get them right all the time, either.

However, I do expect that a journalist would take a moment to review his text and run it through spellcheck. I'd *really* like everyone to write like, say, Henry James, but I'd settle for clean text and good spelling.


Tom Adelstein's picture

I'm a little surprised by your comments or what you call nit-picking. I can only guess that you hit the article when I was previewing it. I figured something went wrong because I caught the spelling of jetsam before I did my final post.

But I appreciate the copy editing. Let me know if you want to do it full time eh.

Interesting thought in the first paragraph

tuesday20102001's picture

Reminds me of company politics. Sometimes people are just content with what works.