May 28, 2004

ServerSide.com kicks JBoss over bogus posts

Author: Chris Preimesberger

JBoss Inc. will get no more opportunity to criticize and otherwise slap around its competitors on TheServerSide.com, after the site's parent company charged Friday that JBoss employees were posting inflammatory messages in its community forum under "anonymous and bogus names."

The Middleware Company, which owns and operates the Java-oriented TheServerSide site, Friday said that it has severed all business ties to Atlanta-based JBoss, maker of a popular free enterprise-Java application server.

JBoss, whose branding line is "Professional Open Source," is a TSS customer which runs banner-size ads on TheServerSide.com and other sites. It is a rare occurance for a publishing company of any kind to cut off a major advertiser in a situation like this.

The conflict between the two companies is a long-running one which resulted in Friday's announcement. TMC accused JBoss and its high-visibility President/CEO, Marc Fleury, of posting targeted messages using faked TSS membership accounts to promote JBoss products and services and criticize its competitors. TheServerSide.com purports itself to be a non-biased, balanced news site covering server-related topics and products and says it does not condone those kinds of messages on its site.

"According to sources and published reports, the so-called 'professional open-source' company's employees, including CEO Fleury, posted messages to popular Java sites such as TheServerSide and JavaLobby under anonymous or bogus names," TSS said in a statement.

"We attempted to diplomatically work through our differences that arose from recent events," the company said. "However, the instability and unprofessional conduct from JBoss Inc. CEO Marc Fleury eroded our optimism for reaching resolution. We regret the inconvenience this may cause JBoss, Inc.

"As a company that stewards communities and performs research, we must balance the needs of vendors and individuals who make up the ecosystem we serve. We will continue news coverage and editorial in a neutral manner on technology, events and vendors. We will aggressively address any attempts to lower the value of our communities.

"The Middleware Company ... apologize(s) to any individual or organization that may have been impacted by recent events."

Fleury himself posted a response to this on May 21 in a blog on the JBoss site. Fleury did not deny outright that he had participated in the posts objected to by TSS. The text of his message is as follows:

"You may have heard about recent charges in online forums that some JBoss employees, including me, were personally involved in anonymous postings on developer sites. The practice, known as 'astroturfing.' is wildly popular on sites like Slashdot that actually let you post as 'anonymous coward.' JBoss has the reputation as an 'in-your-face,' straight up, tell-it-like-it-is company. I personally don't need a mask to speak my mind, and one thing I can't stand is two-faced hypocrisy. This has made us many friends and a few critics.

"As you may know, the open source community would not be what it is today -- a real challenge to traditional software models -- without the strong opinions and outspoken voices of the developers. I myself am among these voices. But we do not always see eye-to-eye on the evolution of the open source movement. Some prefer subsidized open source, whereby they work corporate jobs and contribute/moonlight on the side. Many others, including us at JBoss, prefer the 'Professional Open Source' model, whereby it is our job to work on open source and free software all day long, all the time. We all passionately believe in the standalone potential of professional open source. JBoss' growing traction in the enterprise market, our expansion of products and services beyond the original JBoss Application Server and our recent funding from VCs have intensified scrutiny on our community and company, for good and bad.

"... As a company we are growing rapidly to meet the expert professional services needs of our customers and partners. We want to be role models for open source developers around the world. To do so, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our visibility and success puts our customers and partners in a situation where you expect and demand that employees of JBoss Inc. hold themselves to that higher standard. Let's put the professional back in professional open source. 'Astroturfing' is hereby banned at JBoss, starting with me."

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