Creative Commons License

The Corporation and the Community

Monday, July 12, 2010 at 06:54 AM EDT

Ran across an interesting story on Slashdot this weekend: ScienceBlogs.com, a high-profile and respectable collection of scientific blogs, is in a bit of a kerfuffle after including a paid "nutrition" blog from PepsiCo.

In response, some bloggers have left the site, others are on hiatus, and some call the whole thing an overreaction. The PepsiCo blog has since been cancelled with an apology of sorts.

You can basically read the comments in the apology thread to get a flavor for that community reaction -- just about all viewpoints are represented, but I think overall the response is negative and people feel like they were "betrayed" or "sold out".

From Them to Us

While I'm casually interested in things scientific, I don't have any special interest in ScienceBlogs.com, PepsiCo or any given blogger in their network.

What I do find e-specially e-interesting is how other communities handle the same situations the FLOSS community faces -- in this case how rarely the same response to corporate spin is raised in the FLOSS arenospheremunity .

There's always been an (ever-growing) tension between Free Software and Open Source, largely driven along business lines, a tension that seems to be reaching maturity with the recent "Open Core" spin patrol. In almost every case - I only say "almost" to be kind, in practice I know of no counter-examples -- anti-Free Software talk is driven by business interests.

Understanding does not lead to acceptance

Now, I'm not opposed to companies trying to get their spin out there, but that doesn't mean I pretend that it's anything other than what it is: PR spin with only the most tenuous connection to "truth".

For example, when Novell spreads around that good old-fashioned "IP peace of mind" FUD in ad campaign after ad campaign, I understand it's "just business" for Novell (and Microsoft). Being understandable doesn't make something acceptable, though. I understand why SirsiDynix feels the need to lie about Open Source, doesn't mean I accept it.

In a similar vein, consider this observation from a ScienceBlog.com commentor:

This whole thing was pretty disappointing to me as a long-time Sb reader. Using Sb's hard-earned reputation to give a stamp of legitimacy to a corporate blog really undermines Sb and the bloggers here.

This is exactly what proprietary software companies attempt to do when they sponsor FLOSS conferences: it is an attempt to hijack another organization's reputation to give a stamp of legitimacy to themselves.

My Question

Why does one community so quickly recognize and speak out on this behavior, where another does not?