As the hoopla wanes for JBoss over anonymous and pseudonymous postings to various Web sites, one of the key players in the drama has come to the open-source companys defense.
JBoss Inc. and its flamboyant leader, Marc Fleury, were taking heat in the Java and open-source communities earlier this week—and in the weeks leading up to it—for allegedly posting fake messages around the Internet promoting JBoss and its business model and blasting competitors.
According to sources and published reports, the so-called “professional open-source” companys employees, including CEO Fleury, posted messages to popular Java sites such as TheServerSide and JavaLobby under anonymous or bogus names.
One source said that when an IP address that had been used by more than one poster to TheServerSide and JavaLobby was checked, it turned out that the address appeared to be that of Marc Fleury.
But in response to a query from eWEEK, Salil Deshpande, CEO of The Middleware Company Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., which runs TheServerSide communities, essentially called for a truce.
“Posting messages anonymously is a part of life on the Web,” Deshpande said. “There is a big difference, though, between posting as Bugs Bunny or Anonymous Coward, and posting as someone posing as a legitimate practitioner in a field offering opinions or endorsing products or technology.
“In the former case, the person clearly wants to be anonymous and is open about that, while in the second case the person is attempting to manipulate the communitys opinion. TheServerSide communities is not the only place that this may have been happening, and JBoss is not the only organization that should be scrutinized.
“Practices such as authors posting glowing reviews for their own books on Amazon.com do occur,” Deshpande said. “Over the past few years, TheServerSide Communities [which include TheServerSide.com, TheServerSide.NET and MiddlewareRESEARCH.com] have grown into a wonderful place for serious middleware practitioners, and we felt that we could preserve the quality of the community by discouraging these posers.
“Despite the concern that this practice is potentially widespread, it is curious, but disappointing, that this has resulted in a witch hunt specifically directed at only at JBoss Inc.,” he said.
“Other organizations could learn from this, too. JBoss becomes an easy and colorful target, not only because they take flamboyant and controversial positions but also because there is a vocal subculture that dislikes JBoss and occasionally thrives on conspiracy theories.”
In an interview earlier this week, Fleury said he had no comment on the issue. “Not really, I dont really have anything to say,” he said. “Everything I said is what I think. Its really a non-issue. Besides, we cant expect to continue to be successful and have people cheer us on all along the way.”
Meanwhile, sources said JBoss had threatened legal action against TheServerSide, claiming its systems had been hacked and accusing TheServerSide of providing potential hackers with JBoss employees IP addresses.
But Deshpande said, “That information is false. JBoss has not threatened legal action against us.”
The tactic of anonymously attacking competitors or artificially fomenting tides of support for or against a cause, also loosely known and “astroturfing,” is not new, although some view it as unscrupulous.
Despite the flurry of disdain for the alleged acts of bogus posting, it seems that Fleury needs no pseudonym or anonymity to promote his company and his brand of open source, or even to disparage his competitors.
At the recent ServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas, sponsored by The Middleware Company, Fleury dressed up as the villain Joker from the “Batman” comic and delivered a talk extolling JBoss expertise and belittling the competition.
Openly slamming some of JBoss primary competition during his talk, Fleury said: “We had some B players that we replaced with A players and our vision of professional open source.”
Fleurys comments were met with a smattering of boos from the crowd. But they were obviously aimed at Core Developers Network LLC (CDN), a Bloomington, Minn., company started by two former JBoss employees—the so-called “B players” Fleury referred to.
And Dain Sundstrom, a CDN partner and former JBoss employee, was in the audience.