Over the last week or so the OS/2 community has been embroiled in a scandal of sorts. Certainly not a terribly large one by any account: no one was killed, no one embezzled any money, there were no death threats (that we know of, anyway), and no one took compromising photos of anyone for the purposes of extortion. This was essentially no more complicated than a simple power struggle: one side won, one side lost. The result, however, is a bunch of confused OS/2 advocates and a situation that leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
But that's not what I want to talk about. At least, not directly.
What I want to talk about is that nebulous concept called "the press" and how it affects small, tightly-knit communities like the OS/2 home and SOHO market. Specifically, I want to tell you how the press, when it's doing its job right, will make you very, very angry.
When I read the first announcement on 32 Bits Online (a news publication not affiliated with OS/2 e-Zine! in any capacity), I was furious. Not at being "scooped", mind you (though in some respect I suppose I was a bit embarrassed about that).
No, I was furious as an OS/2 user. I was filled with indignant rage when I saw the announcement that magazine's publisher had posted on Usenet newsgroups talking about how 32 Bits Online had exclusive information on why Warpstock was cancelled. I was even angrier when 32 Bits Online reported that the Warpstock Steering Committee was in shambles and disorganized, a complete wreck. I was infuriated when a self-styled "former OS/2 user" wrote an op/ed piece claiming that Warpstock '98 was dead and would never get off the ground.
At the same time, I found myself wanting to put the whole mess behind me. I wanted (and still want) Warpstock to happen. I've already bought my platinum pass and look forward to seeing a lot of you (all of you!) there, to be able to place faces with signatures and meet the people behind the web sites. So anything that seemed to endanger this event, especially negative press, I wanted to go away. I wanted it buried by any means necessary.
I was wrong. Completely wrong.
Ignoring conflict within the OS/2 community creates a skewed and unrealistic picture of the world we live in. OS/2 users are, by and large, intelligent, stubborn, independent, and have big egos. These are personality traits that are necessary for people who are being ignored by a company that wishes we would just go away. Unfortunately, this also means we constantly step on each other's toes, bruise egos, and start wars and revolutions. Unless we realize this and are willing to work around it, the OS/2 community will ultimately go away.
The successes of the OS/2 community are something to be proud of. While large computer chains refused to stock OS/2 software, the OS/2 ISVs and software resellers created a digital market. Despite IBMs best efforts, there are still forums for OS/2 users to get help, find out what's new in our community and hear about the latest cool software available on the market. Despite a general lack of enthusiasm from outside the community, there was enough enthusiasm from within to make Warpstock '97 a success, and there is still, despite recent problems, enough enthusiasm from within the community to make Warpstock '98 a success as well.
But despite our successes, we still need to be aware of our problems. Without knowing where the friction is and what works badly, how can we be expected to avoid these problems in the future? As the saying goes, "he who doesn't learn from the past is doomed to repeat it."
We should all be willing to admit that not everyone in our community gets along. Allegedly, the Warpstock Steering Committee and the Chicago Organizing Committee could not get along because neither side was willing to relinquish power they saw as "rightfully" theirs. There will probably always be cliques within this community. Those cliques must be identified and those cliques must learn to work together, or OS/2 will never be any more than what it is today. And recognizing and studying the disagreements, the infighting, and the unpleasantness that sometimes happens between people as they try to make something happen, while not particularly fun or encouraging, is a necessary part of understanding how to make an organization better.
It is difficult when you advocate a product (or an ideology) and you are faced with news that makes the product (or ideology) look bad. Many people would have the same reaction I did, wanting to brush the bad news away and try to focus on only the good things, or focus on how to recover from the bad situation. This would, however, be inappropriate for a media source that reports news. The recent Warpstock turbulence affected the OS/2 community. It was news, and as a source of news, 32 Bits Online is to be commended for informing its OS/2 readers about it. OS/2 e-Zine! 's news service, WarpCast also reported on much of the happenings as they unfolded, and I have been told that Warp City did as well. It would have been irresponsible for any source that considers itself to be a news service to have ignored this topic.
However, I have some problems with the way 32 Bits Online reported this news. I was frustrated by their apparent glee over the entire Warpstock fiasco. I was troubled by their one-sided reporting on the Warpstock split, first when they implied that Warpstock was cancelled, then when they refused to get the whole story. It seemed to me that no attempt was made by 32 Bits Online to contact any member of the Warpstock Steering Committee. Only oblique references were made to the WSC's announcements after the Chicago Organizing Committee had resigned, yet repeated negative reports were made regarding Warpstock's status and much space was dedicated to the Chicago Committee's statements. Certainly the Chicago Committee's input was important, but if they have stepped down, the fate of Warpstock rests with the WSC -- why ignore their announcements?
Finally, I was unhappy with 32 Bits Online's decision to publish other people's private email and wondered at their arrogance in doing so (they published email exchanges from a private Warpstock organizational mailing list and my sources tell me that the WSC did not grant permission for its portion of these messages to be reprinted). From what I understand of copyright law, this is illegal in the United States -- and any other country that has signed the Berne Copyright Convention (which is most industrialized nations).
Obviously, as a Contributing Editor to OS/2 e-Zine! and as a moderator of WarpCast I can not be considered unbiased, but I feel that more diligence should have been shown by Medullas Publishing Company (the company that produces 32 Bits Online). There are at least two sides to every story; the Warpstock "scandal" has reaffirmed this fact. Medullas should have attempted to present both those sides.
But, despite my initial reaction, I am not sorry that they reported this story. It was news, they are a news agency, they ran it. Now we need to decide what we're going to do with it.
As I stated above, I will be going to Warpstock '98. And since the Warpstock Steering Committee has confirmed that the event will be held in Chicago, it looks like I'll be attending it in "the windy city". And, if rumours are true, it looks like I'll be seeing quite a few of you there -- supposedly a great number of people and companies have already committed to attending Warpstock this year.
Are there problems? Definitely. Were mistakes made by both sides in the "scandal"? Probably. Can we all learn to deal with these problems and forge ahead? I believe we can.
I'll see you in Chicago.
Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Richmond, VA area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.
|Copyright © 1998 - Falcon Networking||ISSN 1203-5696|