Last week I had announced in the LXer forums that I would be a contributing author to Linux Advocates. That was followed by a post on the site announcing that I would be joining their team. I was honestly excited about this. I felt that writing for Linux Advocates would add credibility to my stories and bring me back some of the wider audience I had when I wrote for O'Reilly Media. The additional exposure would help me market my consulting business which brings Linux and FOSS solutions to businesses and organizations looking to reduce IT costs and enhance the reliability, stability and security of their IT infrastructure.
Today it became clear that I wouldn't be writing for Linux Advocates after all. I've learned a lot in the past week and I've come to the conclusion that this is for the best.
First, a number of prominent writers and developers in the Linux community tried to get me to reconsider. The big issue for them was what they saw as heavy handed moderation by Dietrich Schmitz, including banning a number of them from the site entirely. I've argued that website owners have the right to moderate and control the content on their sites. I've made clear that such editorial control is most definitely not censorship as some have claimed. The dispute between Mr. Schmitz and those who felt they were unfairly treated, including several former Linux Advocates writers, spilled over into five different threads in the LXer forums and several Google+ pages and included a great deal of rather heated language.
After reading all the comments back and forth I decided to go ahead as planned and I began an article on systemd to be published as my first post for Linux Advocates. Unfortunately little things like earning a living plus one day where I was a bit under the weather got in the way of my finishing the article until today. Following instructions sent to me by Mr. Schmitz I added myself as a contributor to the site. So far, so good.
Only then did I really read and digest everything else Mr. Schmitz wanted me to do, like setup an account in his personal domain so that I could have a Linux Advocates e-mail address. He also wanted me to install a Zemanta plugin for Chrome. I have deliberately chosen not to use Chrome (an article about that soon) and wasn't happy about that at all. I went to install the Zemanta plugin for Firefox instead and was presented with a Microsoft-style End User License Agreement (EULA). As many in the open source community would expect, that set off all sorts of red flags for me.
In the seven years since my identity was stolen and used for criminal purposes I've become increasingly paranoid about data security. I already feel I've left way too much information about myself out on the net. I'm very concerned about what companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft do when they collect data about me. I'm very concerned about who they might sell or give that data to. Suddenly, I found myself reading a license agreement for a proprietary piece of software that explicitly had terms relating to collecting and retaining data.
I felt deeply uncomfortable and didn't go through with the installation. It's one thing to be forced to use proprietary software to service a client or do work required by an employer. It's quite another for someone who is getting my labor at no cost and benefiting from it to demand I install something on my own system. I first asked if Zemanta was mandatory and then wrote a follow-up e-mail making clear that I wasn't about to install it.
Mr. Schmitz' response was direct and to the point. If I can't accommodate how he chooses to run his site then I should go elsewhere. Once again, he was getting writing from me on a voluntary basis on a website were he is currently begging for money to make ends meet. This is a Linux advocacy site. You'd think he'd be the one to accommodate an aversion to proprietary tools that aren't in any way necessary for him to publish my writing. I guess not.
So.. no, sorry, Mr. Schmitz, I won't be accommodating you. I'll find ways to bring traffic to my blog which don't require sacrificing my security, privacy or principles. I still have other outlets who would like me to write for them as well. I wish Dietrich Schmitz all the best with his website. I just won't be a part of it.