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Fake Daniel Lyons


He's been outed not once but twice and he's not exactly loved.

'Why am I not surprised?' wrote Pamela Jones when she learned the identity of Fake Steve Jobs. 'Maybe we should be since this is the man who wrote about the evils of anonymous blogging in Attack of the Blogs where he said blogs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel, and invective.'


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Neither Pamela Jones nor Daniel Eran Dilger nor James Turner nor Dana Blankenhorn nor Adario Strange nor seemingly anyone has a single kind word to say about Daniel Lyons aka the real fake Steve Jobs.

Pamela Jones

Pamela Jones thinks Lyons may have been a Redmond shill.

'I don't know if Fake Steve got paid by Microsoft', speculates Pamela, 'but if he did then someone at Microsoft knew who he was. Even if they merely used him to test market the ad phrase.'

Pamela bases her theory on a Valleywag post.

'Soon they'll trot him out to make some speech about whatever new slogan IBM is cooking up for the year ahead. 'People Ready'? Nope. Taken. 'On Demand'? Er, tried that. 'Open Your Source and Bend Over'? Nice.'

The above blogliminal was launched in January already, which points to FSJ being used as a very oblique and discreet testbed by Microsoft marketing. Obviously 'People Ready' slipped in like a vaselined gerbil so it was time to disseminate it wider with the help of the usual A list bloggers.

If you read FSJ and filter out the funnies you'll see the topics are pretty much what Microsoft's pushing at any given time. It doesn't take a genius to work out what's going on here.

Pamela now cites the New York Times.

Lyons clearly used the Fake Steve persona to further some of his own interests and positions. For example, articles in other business publications and their journalists were a frequent target of criticism from Fake Steve, while Forbes got off comparatively easy.

Fake Steve also had it in for the devout fans of the open source operating system Linux, calling them 'freetards'. Lyons has written several articles for Forbes in which he has been critical of the cult-like aura around the free software movement and its founder Richard Stallman.

'I mention it because he has a book deal now (it has been my observation that folks who do Microsoft's bidding somehow do get money) and that means he's probably worth suing if anyone thinks it's worth doing', comments Pamela. 'And Forbes - they certainly pushed the blog. They still are. They are sponsoring the blog now.'

Still she's not finished.

'When Lyons wrote the article 'Is Linux for Losers?' in December of 2005 where he probably without intending to highlighted Theo de Raadt's intense jealousy of Linus a comment was left on a blog saying this about it: 'I really can't believe Lyons isn't under investigation for stock manipulation.'

'I don't know anything about stocks so I can't comment. Just reporting what I'm finding. Some brainiac probably will now take a look at his role in the SCO saga and try to match things up to figure out if there is a pattern.'

'One thing I think is likely: this has put SCO in an impossible position as far as being able to claim that IBM used anybody for anything.'

Adario Strange

Film director, radio personality, newspaper editor, and Wired blogger Adario Strange doesn't like Lyons either.

'About a month ago I went on a blog rant criticising the hypocrisy of Fake Steve Jobs questioning the ethics of tech bloggers Mike Arrington and Om Malik from behind the mask of anonymity', writes Adario at Wired. 'At the time, some felt I was being a bit harsh and wanted Fake Steve to be left alone to continue to take witty pot shots anonymously. Today we know, thanks to The New York Times reporter Brad Stone, that Fake Steve is none other than Forbes journalist Daniel Lyons.'

'For the moment, let's put aside the fact that a Forbes journalist calling independent bloggers like Arrington and Malik on the carpet regarding ethics while blogging anonymously is like Bill Gates criticising Twitter's Evan Williams regarding open software standards.'

'Instead let's take a look two years into the past when Lyons penned an article titled 'Attack of the Blogs'. The article became famous due to its attack on the practice of blogging and anonymous blogging in particular. Lyons wrote 'the combination of massive reach and legal invulnerability makes corporate character assassination easy to carry out. Dry treatises on patent law and trade policy don't drive traffic (or ad sales) for bloggers and hosts; blood sport does'.

'That Lyons turned around and decided to profit (he has a book deal connected to the site's content) from the very thing he castigated so recently earns him a new nickname: Fake Daniel Lyons.'

Daniel Eran Dilger

The author of Roughly Drafted feels the same way.

'What Lyons really needs to address', says Daniel Eran, 'is why he spent years marginalising 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.'

'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.'

'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.'

James Turner

The editor of the Blackbear blog has his own story to tell.

'Got a call from Dan Lyons at Forbes this afternoon, nosing about the whole Maureen story', wrote Turner. 'I've been in the business long enough to tell the slant a story is probably going to take from the questions asks, and answered VERY carefully. Still, I know that a reporter can make anyone look like anything they want through selective use of quotes, so I'm going to summarise what I said to him here for the record.'

'1. He asked if I approved of the Linux community launching DOS attacks against Sys-Con (Maureen O'Gara's employer).'

'2. He asked if it was OK for PJ to remain anonymous while attacking others.'

'3. He said he had talked to Fuat and Fuat wasn't going to keep to the policy of not publishing O'Gara.'

'4. He tried to come at a few different angles as to why Maureen would be within her rights to write the piece on PJ.'

'5. He wanted to know if it was right for the editors to pressure Fuat to drop Maureen.'

'6. He wanted to know if it was right to pressure advertisers to drop someone.'

'So we'll see how the article comes out. I suspect it'll end up being a pro-SCO pro-O'Gara piece given what I've seen of past coverage from Forbes but all you can do is try to minimise the damage with good quotes.'

When it became known O'Gara had attempted to out Pamela Jones fans of Pamela's and members of the open source community went berserk on O'Gara's employer's website. Eventually O'Gara was let go as was the website's editor in chief.

The ugliest part of this sordid affair was that O'Gara and Lyons acted deliberately upon discovering someone had issued a death threat against Pamela. The rhetoric Lyons used was unequivocal. From 'Who is Pamela Jones?' published 14 November 2005.

Who is Pamela Jones?

The blog mob loves to spout off about First Amendment freedom, except when it seeks to deprive foes of the same. And so it was that bloggers came to the defense of one of their own - a mystery woman named Pamela Jones - and succeeded in having a story about her retracted and getting its author all but fired.

Jones has become a star in the blog-riddled Linux software movement. Her blog, Groklaw, sprang up in 2003 to cover a Linux-related lawsuit that software firm SCOGroup had filed against IBM. It cranks out lengthy articles, and it archives every document filed in the case.

Jones describes herself as a journalist, yet her blog is unabashedly pro-IBM, insisting from the start that SCO's claims are groundless. She won't discuss her background or reveal where she lives or even confirm that Pamela Jones is her real name. Her website is registered through a proxy service in Arizona that shields her identity. PJ (her nickname) lists no phone number and won't say how she funds her operation.

SCO executives call Groklaw a 'mouthpiece' for IBM, though IBM says it isn't involved with Jones in any way. Last year Jones' blog published an IBM legal document two days before the court made it public, a sign that it likely was leaked by lawyers involved in the case. IBM's outside lawyers in the case won't comment.

In February an intrepid reporter, Maureen O'Gara, decided to uncloak the mystery after she found a phone number Jones had left with staff at the federal courthouse in Nevada where a related SCO suit was filed. O'Gara traced the number to an apartment in Hartsdale NY, 10 miles from IBM headquarters in Armonk. O'Gara spoke to the building superintendent and later found Jones' mother in Connecticut, but she never got hold of the shy blogger herself.

When O'Gara's story about her quest appeared in Linux Business News, an online magazine, indignant bloggers went on the attack. They said the story was unethical and demanded that the site take it down. (So much for free speech.) When the site's publisher Sys-Con Media refused, anonymous callers bombarded employees with obscene phone calls and e-mails. They also badgered Sys-Con's advertisers to get them to pull ads from Sys-Con sites. Hackers shut down Sys-Con's website for four days, robbing it of $200,000 in ad revenue.

So Sys-Con caved in, yanking the story and agreeing to forgo articles written by O'Gara. 'What are my options? We have criminal people who were taking us hostage, trying to destroy my business', says Sys-Con Chief Fuat Kircaali.

Jones responded by penning a pious 'thank you' to her defenders. 'My faith in the human race is restored', she wrote. 'It means so much to me to know that there is still a line, an ethical line, and some things we agree we ought never to do to a fellow human.'

Maureen O'Gara remains banned from publishing articles on Sys-Con's 16 sites. And Pamela Jones remains shrouded in mystery.

Fighting Back

A quick followup by Lyons published the same day.

You can't stop bloggers from launching an allout attack on you or your business if that's what they decide to do - but you can defend yourself. Here's how.

MONITOR THE BLOGOSPHERE. Put your own people on this or hire a watchdog (Cymfony, Intelliseek or Biz360, among others). Spot blog smears early, before they can spread, and stamp them out by publishing the truth.

START YOUR OWN BLOG. Hire a blogger to do a company blog or encourage your employees to write their own, adding your voice to the mix.

Stalked

Maureen O'Gara's since removed account of how she stalked Pamela Jones preserved at Slashdot.

A few weeks ago I went looking for the elusive harridan who supposedly writes the Groklaw blog about the SCO v IBM suit.

The now famous opinion shaping open source leader Pamela Jones aka PJ doesn't give conventional face to face interviews. Never has near as anyone knows. All communication is virtual. Only one person in the world has ever claimed to have met her - in the pressroom at LinuxWorld in Boston complete with a Pamela Jones badge - and described her as a fortyish reddish blonde who giggled a lot.

Pamela Jones is a 61 year old Jehovahs Witness who lives in a shabby genteel garden apartment in desperate need of an interior decorator on a heavily trafficked commercial road at 304 North Central Avenue in Hartsdale New York. Hartsdale is in Westchester and Westchester is IBM territory.

See - even though Groklaw treats cell phones like they were Kleenex and changes its unpublished numbers regularly, one number it left with a journalist led to this flat and - wouldn't you know it but - some calls from there had been placed to the courts in Utah and to the Canopy Group so obviously this just isn't any Pamela Jones.

Pamela has lived in apartment 1A for 10 years at least according to the super who says he's watched people move in, have children, and the children marry and move away.

Now this isn't your usual anonymous New York apartment. It's practically a self-contained village where the super goes for the old ladies' groceries when there's snow on the ground and people know each other's business.

But the super didn't know much about Pamela except that she had a computer, worked at home (maybe sometimes) for a lawyer, was 'paranoid' - his word - and 'sensitive to smells'.

He remembered how he was cleaning paintbrushes one day and she came running down the stairs screaming 'fire'.

She was also missing and had been for weeks.

Nobody there knew where she was.

She had up and disappeared one day and the super was worried about her. He said her son had dropped by and he didn't know where she was and that some strange man that 'nobody knew' as the super described him had tried to get into her apartment while she was gone - the Medeco lock she had had installed on her door - something nobody else in the complex seemed to feel a need for - was more expensive than the door. But as it happened, the super said, she had just sent in her rent in an envelope postmarked Connecticut.

Like an episode out of 'Where in the World is Carmen San Diego' the trail led to 10 Bittersweet Trail in Norwalk Connecticut, 24 miles away. Sure enough - parked in the driveway was Pamela's car just as the super had described it, a dark gray '90s Japanese number with a bunch of Jehovahs Witness pamphlets tossed on the backseat.

The woman at the house, Barbara Jones Sharnik, told a disjointed story. She didn't know Pamela, Pamela hated her, Pamela wasn't there, Pamela left her car there because it got bumped, Pamela left her car there because she left town, and so on.

Afterwards Barbara called the cops and then the cops called the number we left with her and the cops said that she was Pamela's mother and that Pamela was on the run and had shacked up with her mother because she had gotten 'threatening mail' weeks before and that she had just gotten spooked again because 'people were getting hurt around [my] stories' and had lighted out for Canada.

Odd - the subject of my stories - or any stories - never came up during our brief interview. I was just looking for Pamela.

That left Pamela's son Nicolas Richards who as it happens had been in the software business in Manhattan until - why my goodness - things seem to have come a cropper right around the time Groklaw came into existence.

Nick and his ma were apparently involved together in Medabiliti Inc, an ISV, because one Pamela Jones with a Westchester phone number (914 761-7423) and a Medabiliti email (pjones@medabiliti.com) was down as the director of public affairs on a Medabiliti press release dated April 14 2003.

Nick as it happens has written under his own byline on a Groklaw sister site GrokDoc, giving advice on technical writing. Nick and his wife Andrea live in fancier digs than his ma on East 76th Street off First Avenue, a neighborhood where apartments go for a couple of million bucks.

Now according to one of Pamela's neighbors and fellow Jehovahs Witness: being a Jehovahs Witness is pretty much a fulltime job in and of itself. Witnesses also don't usually get involved in worldly affairs.

So is this story spooked 61 year old Jehovahs Witness with religious tracts in her backseat also the 90 hour a week writer of the voluminous PJ diatribes or is she a victim of identity theft?

TO BE CONTINUED...

Who Loves Fake Steve?

It's rather clear Daniel Lyons didn't choose his fake identity out of any affection for the Cupertino company, its CEO, or its products - which must come as a disappointment for the Apple zealots who've followed the blog for so long.

It's also more than coincidental that Lyons manages to get himself 'outed' just in time for his book release and that his publisher Forbes seem to have already - on such short notice - arrived at a strategy for if and how the blog will continue.

Fake Steve Jobs was loved; Daniel Lyons is not; the question is whether anyone will care about them anymore.

Those who've followed Lyons' career - or been victimised by it - surely won't.

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