Daniel Lyons: Fake Steve Jobs and the SCO Shill Who Hated Linux
August 7th, 2007
Daniel Eran Dilger
After months of tongue in cheek blogging as an even more wildly eccentric and brutally forthright version of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Daniel Lyons of Forbes Magazine was outed by Brad Stone of the New York Times as the real Fake Steve Jobs. What Stone didn’t reveal was Lyons’ far more scandalous past as a shill for the bottom feeding SCO Group and its outrageous attack on Linux and open source.
The Secrets We Tell.
Bloggers lined up to cry about the unmasking of the FSJ, a secret they all seemed to prefer not to know the truth about. Engadget’s Ryan Block, who earlier interviewed Lyons without revealing his identity, described the FSJ revelation as “anticlimactic” and said it was disappointing that “the mystery’s been solved.”
Of course, it was also disappointing–but certainly non anticlimactic–for Apple investors that Block chose to publish clearly false information about the delay of the iPhone and Leopard back in May, lopping $4 billion of the company’s market cap.
Block is proud to reveal any hint of “super secret” information he can about Apple and other companies, making it somewhat odd that he weeps for the secrets of others being revealed, secrets he chose to keep. Who decides what should be kept secret and shouldn’t be?
Don’t Want To Know? We Don’t Want To Tell You!
After writing a blog blurb about the speculation into FSJ’s identity, Mike Schramm of The U. A. Weblog heard from a lot of readers that said they didn’t want to know who FSJ was, and they didn’t want anyone else to know either.
“I’ve changed my mind, and decided to agree with those who wanted FSJ to stay FSJ,” Schramm later wrote. “We’ve heard your opinions. We’ve talked it over as a staff, and we’ve agreed: FSJ is much more fun as FSJ himself, not some writer pretending to be him. And so we’re pledging, to you, not to write any more speculation, ever, about FSJ’s identity. You’re exactly right–it’s much more fun having him anonymous, for both him and us.”
Those same sentiments were echoed by other rumor sites with a reverential devotion to hiding the secret of FSJ that rivaled that of the “Fake Creatures of Which We Do Not Speak” in M. Night Shyamalan’s the Village. These same sites often have no problem breaking a non disclosure agreement, proving that bleeding crocodile tears are indeed thicker than water.
The Decency of Civilized Humans.
Before being outed, FSJ himself began complaining about invasions of privacy by those trying to determine his real identity, saying that those activities “definitely fall outside the boundaries of what most decent civilized human beings consider to be appropriate behavior.”
“To whatever bit of pond scum is doing this stuff, let me say this: This was fun, up to a point. You’ve gone past that point. Stop.”
Expecting Nick Denton of Valleywag to suddenly give up the trail of a such a hot story as unmasking FSJ was a bit absurd, but in the end it turned to be the very decent New York Times that printed the scoop on Lyons first. FSJ has since mused that Denton is still looking.
Apart from his oddly embittered rant about being found out, FSJ managed to keep his readers entertained with consistent and regular postings that were more often that not wryly comical, a very difficult thing to do. Writing in character, Lyons created an entire vocabulary of pet names, such as calling Linux users freetards and commonly referring to Google CEO Eric Schmidt as Squirrel Boy.
A Truth and a Fiction, Each Stranger than Each Other.
FSJ referenced a few of my articles, including the recent posting “Roughly Drafted explains the vast right-wing conspiracy against Apple,” which linked to “Troy Wolverton, Neil Cavuto, and Apple Stock Scandal.” Oddly enough, my article also happened to make a circular reference to the then yet hidden identity of FSJ.
“The best part is, we don’t even have to pay this guy,” Lyons wrote as FSJ. “Fair enough. Daniel Eran Dilger, we bow to your genius.” Touché, FSJ.
Like nearly all caricatures, FSJ was more of an original creation of satire than an accurate replica of the real Steve Jobs, who rather unfortunately doesn’t actually pay me anything.
Keeping the myth alive and fresh was a major accomplishment; Lyons certainly did a good job keeping the long running joke going.
The Dark Side of Daniel Lyons.
After revealing FSJ as an editor at Forbes, Stone reported that Lyons chuckled at the prospect of being “called to account for some of Fake Steve’s stinging, personal posts.” However, the real indiscretions that should worry Lyons date back before his entertaining mock screeds as a fictionalized, over the top vegan CEO.
What Lyons really needs to address is why he spent years marginalizing Linux and supporting Darl McBride’s reinvention of The SCO Group from being a long forgotten vendor of an aging version of commercial Unix to becoming a litigious pile of money grubbing investors and lawyers who sought to make a quick buck in one of the world’s most shamelessly baseless litigation campaigns of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the software industry.
In the middle of 2003, after the SCO Group filed its billion dollar nuisance lawsuit against IBM and sent out 1500 letters to major companies warning them that any use of Linux might expose them to legal problems of their own, Lyons wrote for Forbes that SCO would likely win its case and that Linux vendors users were all delusional and ignorant for attempting to fight back in court.
“Like many religious folk,” Lyons wrote, “the Linux-loving crunchies in the open-source movement are a) convinced of their own righteousness, and b) sure the whole world, including judges, will agree.”
The Anti-Blog Blogger.
Lyons not only maintained a prominent pro-SCO, anti-reality blog that rivaled Rob Enderle in its contempt of all things open, but also regularly delivered scathing attacks upon the hero of Groklaw, Pamela Jones, and her crusade to expose the garbage SCO’s lawyers were throwing around.
Lyons’ pro-SCO blogging even ended up being entered by SCO as testimony in its case against IBM. Even worse, Lyons defended Mauren O’Gara after she stooped to publishing the home address and contact information of Jones, who was hiding from death threats after her information helped to expose SCO’s shenanigans.
Lyons also spread his blog rage against… blogs in general, particularly anonymous writers, making his own sappy indignation as FSJ a bit hard to swallow. His front page story “Attack of the Blogs” of the November 14, 2005 issue of Forbes breathlessly asked, “They destroy brands and wreck lives. Is there any way to fight back?”
More on all of that business later, but how was it that the obviously sharp Lyons chose to side with and promote the case of the parasites of SCO in their transparent assault against Linux?
Past Performance Not a Guarantee of Future Results.
The reason Lyons himself gave for betting on SCO against Linux was that the company that became SCO had earlier wrestled money out of Microsoft.
“In 1996,” Lyons explained in his What SCO Wants article, “SCO’s predecessor company, Caldera, bought the rights to a decrepit version of the DOS operating system and used it to sue Microsoft, eventually shaking a settlement out of the Redmond, Wash., software giant.”
Since Caldera acquired and then became SCO, Lyons decided the same thing would happen again, except this time the loser would be Linux. This seemed even more likely because in 2002, SCO had picked up a litigious new CEO in the form of McBride; his entire claim to fame was largely based upon suing his former employer, purportedly for millions of dollars.
Lyons thought that if Caldera had already won big money from Microsoft, its new incarnation as SCO–led by a complete shyster of a new executive–would have no problem pillaging the big pocketed companies that had thrown their support behind Linux, starting with IBM. But Lyons was wrong; he didn’t know certain things about the history of computing, and what he thought he knew was a gross oversimplification of reality.
That mistake resulted in years of blogging up SCO as a shining star and blogging down Linux and any who might defend its case as crazy religious radicals. He was wrong, and his documented history of tenacious attacks on defenders of open source mar his newly discovered identity and reputation as the writer of a witty spoof blog.
Coming up: why Lyons was so wrong. The tangled history of operating system development involving Microsoft, Apple, Novell, IBM, and Linux. [SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1970s]