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"Pundits", Loss of Credibility, and Betrayal of Trust

Apr 04, 2000, 05:48 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jay Fink)

[ The opinions expressed by authors on Linux Today are their own. They speak only for themselves and not for Linux Today. ]

By Jay Fink, diverge.org/jf

Of all the things most valuable in today's "online world," credibility is perhaps the most important. It is a shame that credibility seems to have fallen by the wayside to make way for hit-clocking catch phrases and topics. Linux has unfortunately become a victim of this practice as the "technology pundits" embed "Linux," "Open Source," "GNU," and "Free Software" in their documents.

I do not intend, however, to assault Linux, FreeBSD or any other Free Software. Instead I would look toward the pundits, or rather technology pundits, a phrase that simply amazes me. How exactly does one become a technology pundit? What does technology encompass? Does it mean that these pundits know everything about nanotechnology and one-click shopping? What is a pundit?

I believe the definition the technology pundits would refer us to is "an expert in a given field." That does not seem to fit. Technology is a pretty wide field; is there a college that offers a pundit program?

So what exactly is happening here? I will tell you what: magazine writers, as they have always done, are becoming the equivalent of ambulance-chasing lawyers. They are lapping up the buzz words like a dog drinking antifreeze. The effect on their credibility is not too different from antifreeze on a canine's health.

Many Free Software users and advocates simply ignore the rantings of hit grabbers and, while that seems okay, there is an underlying problem: how many programmers, administrators, engineers and hackers make the big decisions in corporations? I would chance to say there are more people who know next to nothing about technology making the big decisions than those who do understand technology. For these people, what the technology pundit says is truth.

Pundits are in effect making a bad situation worse, making the uninformed misinformed.

In addition to screwing up things in general, technology pundits suddenly get pop star syndrome at some point in their careers. Most of these so-called experts in all things started out on the right foot. They were experts in a given field and wrote ABOUT THAT FIELD. Suddenly, however, now that they are famous, their opinions about everything technical are accepted as fact.

Not only is that self-delusional, but it equates people who may have once been great technical writers to the local rag featuring an alien marrying Elvis (and not the vi clone!).

In my personal opinion the biggest problem with all of these folks is their lack of credibility; some of them even come right out and say they have no credibility. With the loss of credibility comes a betrayal of trust to the intelligent readership. In essence, it sets everyone back.

So what about me? Well, I have never written about anything I do not know about, until now. I mean, for all I know, they could know everything about Software Engineering, Market Trends and Physics, right?

Right.

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