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Penguin Payola: More On "Purchased" Reviews 42

David Hume writes: "Upside Today has an article entitled Penguin Payola which also does a good job of surrounding the recent complaining by Tucows and ZD-Net that Linux reviews are bought instead of earned. Upside Today reaches the same concusion as Penguinista regarding Reality On The "Purchased" Linux Reviews."
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Penguin Payola: More on "Purchased" Reviews

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  • From the second page of the Penguin Payola article..

    "We want to open up the environment so that the next John Carmack can
    get his game to market," says Gildred, alluding to the id Software
    co-founder who got his start writing the industry-shaking freeware
    game "Doom." "We want to make it easy for new developers to get onto
    our platform and get new games out."

    While industry-shaking, Doom wasn't freeware, it was shareware. Not only that, but Doom was far from id's (and Carmack's) first game. Commander Keen was the first for id (with Carmack), and a little game called Wolfenstein 3d comes to mind too.

    I dunno, just bothers me almost as much as confusing copyright, trademark, and patents.

  • I have a couple of LART's you can borrow...
  • If they didn't, we'd be seeing flame after flame about how they weren't covering all the relevant news. Think about it. If they didn't post these stories, you'd just hear some submitter bitching about how /. is just full of linux zealots who just want to spread more accolades about the wondrous operating system. I don't think they have any choice in this matter.

    Unfortunately, the linux zealots seem to be bitching about the links being nothing but FUD anyway. So they really can't win in this matter.
  • ...Is this really worth 3 /. stories?

    Maybe Slashdot has somehow been getting free software out of this.
  • I also get free software all the time, but I usually have to ask for it. I write for a french Linux magazine, and I usually ask for distributions to the different Linux companies, like Redhat, Mandrake, SuSe, etc.

    I made a really bad review of SuSe for PPC, and it was crap (it still is), wrote it, and didn't get a word about this bad review from SuSe.

    I use Debian, but have been using Redhat-alike for years, so I don't give a shit about a distributor telling me what I should say about its software. And if somebody's trying to buy my review, I would point it out in the next issue, and they go down to hell.

    That's it, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. You got this in my country.
  • Is it just me or has this practice been going on for quite some time? Various things often entice journalists (and often entire magazines) to ally themselves with one particular company or software product, whether those things be free software, personal beliefs, or sometimes, boatloads of money and endorsements.

    I find it a bit shady, though, that most of the "journalists" reporting on this don't even cite their sources, not to mention that they're reporting off of each other's stories, at this point. I'm not surprised that ZDNet picked up on this and spun it in the way that they did (since they've taken so much criticism and abuse from the Linux community in general), but for other sites to "continue" their story and research with very few direct quotes or names mentioned is ridiculous. When are the press-reading public going to realise that EVERY press agency and worker always inputs their own bias into every piece of work that they produce?

    Like I said, this is a practice that's been going on probably since the first journalists. Who can honestly be objective about a subject that they have opinion about?

  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Sunday July 16, 2000 @10:30PM (#928973)
    I have been given several free copies of Linux products, all of which were given to me at trade shows.

    In retrospect, I now know this was an evil plot to indoctrinate me into the hellish world of free software.

    In the past, I read these really cool (and totally objective) internet news and PC magazines that told me the truth about how great microsoft was, how stable the PC platform was, and how sending them hundreds of dollars a year for software was good for me and America.

    It's terrible the way these free software people have warped my fragile little mind.

    There oughta be a law.

  • who cares if it hurts the consumer. there are hundreds of REAL LIFE problems like suicide, drug use, poverty, war, AIDS, and mental illness.

    You forgot Britney Spears.

  • "Upside Today reaches the same concusion as Penguinista regarding Reality On The "Purchased" Linux Reviews."

    They make fun of the idea at the beginning, but then the article goes on to cite REAL journalistic (or research) flaws in other publications. So Upside's position seems to be "it doesn't happen, and even if it did everybody is doing it". That's not an answer.

    In any case, I don't read software reviews, especially for Linux. Here's what I do with a software review:

    1) Read the description fo the software
    2) Check license as listed in review
    3) If license is not free (libre AND gratis) or desc is not interesting, turn the page
    4) If the license IS free and the desc is interesting, download the software and try it myself.
  • >most Chinese/ East European contributors to Linux >(like the people working on Chinese versions of >Linux) believe or even heard of libertarianism? I live in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria) and there lots of peaple here who have heard of libertarianiasm! I'm not aware about the situation in China.
    BTW freedom is the thing that highly centralized systems like communism are most afraid of. Freedom ruins them very fast and effectively
    I don't know what ERS said about Chinese but if he really stated that it would be bad if Chinese used made Linux their official OS - well millions of new Linux users is good but on the other hand if they are forced to do this it's very very bad - Everyone must be able to make his choise!(even if we don't like his choise)
    Most probably you have not lived in a country where your rights are higly retricted but it's awful. What if you were forced to use Windows :( The idea of the [open/free] software is to give everyone freedom!
  • So Linux companies are just like other software companies and give away software to reviewers. Big whoop. Not only do reviewers get free software, but so do a lot of tech managers, computer store store employees, user group members, and in fact just about anyone the software publisher thinks that they can sell more softare by giving a copy to.

    Remember, people - the effective cost of a single software package, in box, is almost zero. This makes giving it away in large quantities a reasonable deal for the vendor. Microsoft even gives away enormous amounts of their stuff. I'm writing this whilst sitting in my my computer room at home - looking at the bookshelves I'd reckon that almost half the boxes I see there were free or extremely low-cost (like under $50 for a full retail copy of expensive software).

    People get free copies of software for reasons other than reviewing. Influence is important, too. I wrote a handful of user group newsletter reviews, one review years back for Linux Journal, and a few other odds and ends, but that only accounts for a fraction of my free boxes of software. I got others sent to me at random when I ran a user group (a NetWare one), others when I worked for resellers, still more when I was running IT at a graphics shop, and more as a "thank you" for beta testing code. It's a routine, common suck-up for software publishers.

    The only reason some people are paying attention to free copies of software all of a sudden is because of the proliferation of websites that present opinions and reviews. It's not news. And maybe a handful of people who do reviews for a handful of websites are influenced by getting free software - a tiny number, if it's true at all. Guess what. The same phenomenon will happen in the Windows and Mac worlds, too. It's not just a Linux thing. There's a lot of small enthusiast sites there that get free review stuff, too. Overall, the good stuff gets raves, and the crap gets slammed. Same as it ever was.

    C'mon, folks. This is rapidly ceasing to be either News For Nerds or Stuff That Matters.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • I can't recall this aspect being discussed too much in these past few threads... Does anyone think that perhaps sometimes reviews are lame NOT because someone got a free CD in the mail, but because the reviewer doesn't actually know much about what to write about?

    Someone reviewing a shiny new copy of RH6.2 might very well say 'gosh, neat package, loads nice, etc.', whilst ignoring the fact that 6.2 STILL doesn't include a bug fix for a particular problem pointed out in 5.2. (Not sure if this is true or not - just trying to illustrate the point)

    Personally, I wouldn't feel qualified to write in-depth reviews of most packages. If I felt the need to publish something, I would state up front the limitations of my previous experience in that particular field ("I've not used a spreadsheet before, but Excel seems pretty cool!"). Letting the readers know about my background would help them understand how relevant my opinions/experiences will be to someone with their background.
  • Are people still actually upset about this? We all know it is a bunch of crap. So what if Mandrake (or any OS vendor for that matter, Linux, Unix. Mac, Be or Windows) sent free evaluation copies of there software. It should not change the opinion of the journalist. If he/she was a good honest journalist then he/she would be fair and truthful no matter what!
  • by Cy Guy ( 56083 ) on Monday July 17, 2000 @04:32AM (#928980) Homepage Journal
    Back in April, MandrakeSoft issued a press release [] saying that they had the most downloaded ISO distribution from TUCOWS. They referenced what was aparently a regular download stats page on TUCOWS [] that the reader would assume is updated on a monthly basis. However, TUCOWS has never updated this page. To me that indicates they created the page at Mandrake's request, or perhaps to court ad revenue from Mandrake.

    If TUCOWS is truly unbiased, then they should either archive this page, and/or update it with the most current download statistics.

    Also (and I apoligize if this was already addressed in one of the other SlashDot threads on this topic, this is the first I've read) Mandrake is distributed by MacMillan, and this may be a much more common practice in the book publishing industry. There are so many books published each year, that it is unusual to find reviews indicating a particular book is flawed. Except for works by authors who have previously had top ten bestsellers, it seems flawed books typically don't get reviewed. MacMillan may have assumed that if a review was going to be published it would be primarily complementary.

  • I agree, just read this:

    Chad Simonds, webmaster for Tucows Linux, gets credit for kicking off this week's most interesting flamefest with his article bemoaning the lack of objectivity in most online software reviews.

    Doesn't this quote say it all about what this potentially damaging controversy has turned into? A large flameflest without much concrete evidence that has already consumed three Slashdot articles and probably generated thousands of dollars in banner counts.

    The general consensus seems to be that seasoned Linux users aren't getting burnt by this controversy at all, because most would have enough experience to determine any biases by the reviewed before going out to buy a box set. Only the writers and the forums are burning their credibility with this one by continuing to milk all they can from this controversy.

    Perhaps all reviewers should at least make the recommendation that first-timers to a new distribution purchase a GPL CD of a distribution before making that hefty box-set purchase so that all controversy can subside once and for all. I also advise that if you are seeking to purchase a box set, look up distribution-neutral reviews of the free enclosed commercial products, because they all nearly work the same regardless of your distribution. This practice will stamp out biased reviews once and for all.

  • by Roblimo ( 357 ) on Sunday July 16, 2000 @08:04PM (#928982) Homepage Journal
    ...and offers of more. Most of it is for Windows software I don't need or want, and that I'm not going to review.

    I happen to like Mandrake. It is my favorite Linux distribution. I just installed it on a laptop today, glitch-free. And I *bought* the copy I installed out of my own pocket because I wanted to have the actual boxed set, with the books, just once.

    Usually, like any other person competent enough to write a Linux software or distribution review, I download what I need.

    News has been slow this summer. But this slow?

    - Robin

    PS - the opinions in this post are mine alone. Slashdot and Andover/VA editors are individuals and do not always think alike. :)
  • by Hrunting ( 2191 ) on Sunday July 16, 2000 @08:12PM (#928983) Homepage
    Has someone given the Slashdot editors a pay incentive for beating this dead horse?! Personally, it seems from most of the responses to the very first article that slashdot's readers were pretty much along the lines of, "Well, duh, of course it happens. That's how the real world works, dummy!" So then we get a follow-up article, and then another follow-up article. Wee. So we get to hear the same useless gripes about how that's how corporations work and we're all fools to think that even Linux, the Luke Skywalker of open-source software, can't be brought to the Dark Side.

    If I had a big stick, I'd personally fwap a few Slashdot editors. They set up this wonderful tool called 'Slashback' which is probably the most favorably reviewed thing to come out of Slashdot since v1.0 of Slash was released and then they don't use it!

    Note: This review of Slashdot editorial practices did not garner the author any free software from either Slashdot or Microsoft. The author still obtains all free software through traditional warez channels.
  • I really do not know who to listen to anymore! ZDTV is sponsored by macmillan who distributes Mandrake, and ZDNN is the ones complaining? What are they off their rocker? Why was this even brought up anyway? I read the ZDNN article and it seemed to defend mandrake (big surprise). Oy vay... whats next?

  • The article pointed out that one thing, they have nothing better to write about.

    It's not like they are flying the reviewers to Redmond to help in writing a review.

    This happens in the movie and book reviews too.

    Even so, giving out a few $20 CD should not really influence someone's opinion much.

    Would you believe a review that did not have any anything bad to say about a software package?

  • by ZikZak ( 153813 ) on Sunday July 16, 2000 @08:51PM (#928986)
    My dearest moderators:

    There is not much point in moderating up one of roblimo's posts in the hopes of getting favorable treatment through brown-nosing, as the staff generally don't moderate (just bitchslap). The staff also probably don't make a habit out of checking the moderation logs and rewarding people with buckets of karma.

    So, Robin chimed into the discussion. It's nice to think that the staff actually reads some of stuff posted here.

    Was it an "Interesting" comment? Um... no. As a matter of fact, that last sentence in another person's post probably would've resulted in a "Troll" moderation.

    The comment offered no real insight into the issue at hand, yet the moderators still felt the need to jam not just their noses, but practically their entire heads into Robin's ass.

    Step into the bathroom.
    Look in the mirror.
    You will see the face of a moron.

    Eagerly awaiting my -1(Flamebait).

  • Maybe Mandrake called the reviewer because they were disappointed they didn't get the glowing bullshit MS products usually get from Jesse "Find out why the next generation of MS shit will make ME stick my head up my ass" Berst.

    Seriously, though, is anyone really that influenced by some dead trees, some shiny plastic, nice pictures, and tech support? Maybe that would buy off Berst, but I'd like to think most people have slightly more integrity.

    I think it's much more likely that any pro-Linux bias is due simply to the huge amount of hype and energy surrounding Linux. When you combine something new that just happens to be half-decent with the moral/technical/economical superiority zealotry in the Linux camp, you get powerful hype (don't get me wrong, a good chunk of that hype is deserved, either on the basis of what Linux is or what it can be).
  • by Kris_J ( 10111 ) on Sunday July 16, 2000 @10:48PM (#928988) Homepage Journal
    ...once you've got financial committments.

    If you don't need to live off your reviews then you can say whatever you want, but a bad review burns bridges - at least with the more petty companies. Burn too many and you run out of people that will talk to you. This is independant of the truthfulness of your work.

    I gained some appreciateion of Mike Moore's "The Awful Truth" after a 60 Minutes special. Apparently he's running out of channels that will play his show...

  • Still gets his airtime on C4 in the UK...

    But then, this is the channel that shows "The Mark Thomas Comedy Product", which once got the head of the Indonesian military to admit to torturing people on camera, amongst other things.

    MTCP is the bizness.
  • This is an outrage! We shouldn't tolerate software reviewers getting product for free.

    These software reviewers damn well better go to cheapbytes and pay the entire $1.99 for their *nix just like the rest of us 56kbps slobs! Otherwise it's just not fair!

  • So quit whoring yourself out. Or can't you find work at a company whose corporate culture is more compatible with your values or professional ideals?

    "Just don't do it!"


  • Judging from your post, you seem like a sarcastic user. I'll tell you why that classifies you as a "lower" member of the IT industry, and not truly "advanced".

    Hmmmm... I didn't see "sarcastic user" on the scale. Must be the new 6 category.
  • Let me get this straight. Giving free copies to the reporters (lots of free copies, even) is BUYING a good review? What are we supposed to give them? Crippled review copies? This is, after all, free software.. (or at least, Mandrake is free, as in beer).

    And tell me.. isn't the fact that it's free a very realistic feature of the software? I mean.. with Win2k pro + office2k pro running you well over a thousand bucks.....
  • Wrong. Free only means that the press can get their hands on it and run it through its paces. It is almost expected that if you are an up and coming software developer you will submit your wares to the reviewers like ZDNET and the likes. If you don't its corporate suicide. If your product stinks and they give it a bad review then you probably don't belong in the business anyway. I don't see anything wrong with giving out free software to the press and software evaluators, it is unbiased evaluation and advertising.

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    NPS Internet Solutions, LLC []
  • Okay, I'm really tired of rehashed stories about linux making it to the front page. ESPECIALLY this one.

    Linux is free, right? Pick your definition of free, since different distributions are a little different in their T&C than others. Still, in any case, you can get linux without paying for it. This is really handy if you want to evaluate it. Considering that you can get linux for nothing (Or, if you have a slow link, for a buck or two from cheapbytes [], anyone who relies on reviews is a unix poser anyway and I can't bring myself to care if they end up with a lame distribution. Run it yourself! Read /.! Get over it!

    To recap: This is how it's done. It's how the record industry works, it's how the windows software market works (which is why Microsoft has its finger on so many publications) and it should come as no surprise that it's how linux is handled. It's called marketing. Move on.

  • So? You ask.. the point?

    I have free software. Free ISPs. Everyone who works at a computer store knows the universal truth is that you talk to the vendor reps and they will give you all the free stuff you could ever want. Why? They want you to talk it up. They want you to sell their product. Free DSL, hardware, software, whatever! Just talk their product! It's not that hard to understand, and it's certainly not unethical or illegal to solicit advertising in this manner.

  • Hmmmmm, how many times have you read a favorable review in a PC mag for a product. And then find an (expensive) full page ad for that product in the same issue? Everybody "buys" reviews - but most readers are smart enough to know whats going on.
  • First: Du!!!
    Second: There is a dark side to open source... this aint it....
    Third: Three posts? Are we doing a running dialog here?

    I think this may have hit Slashdot where it hurts...

    Slashdot may be doing a running dialog becouse they want to get out each responce and retort...
    I guess Slashdot needs a "old forum" feature where folowups get the OLD forum instead if a new one and then the conversation can continue where it left off...

    Anyway this ones a daily becouse Slashdot wants to folow all the comments outthere in medialand...

    I do hope that Slashdot reserves itself a tad....

    I mean maybe Meow could post a rant on the topic and get Slashdotted :)
    I think not.....
  • by Booker ( 6173 ) on Sunday July 16, 2000 @07:39PM (#929000) Homepage
    ...Is this really worth 3 /. stories?

    I mean, some guy complains that good reviews are given in exchange for free software. Problem is, that software was free to begin with! So the whole accusation doesn't make much sense.

    ZDNet picks it up to be sensational. Go figure.

    And then, /. reports on the situation. 3 times!
  • by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Sunday July 16, 2000 @07:51PM (#929001) Homepage
    It isn't news that somebody is giving out free Free Software.

    What would be news is if Microsoft or Sun gave out Free copies to reviewers, instead of free ones.

    Of course, if they did that, they might not get such favorable reviews. But then, it would be just that more newsworthy, wouldn't it?
  • by pb ( 1020 )
    Free stuff doesn't sway Linux reviewers; Film at 11:

    I'm so engrossed!

    Could we get some more Princess Di coverage around here, too?! I heard she died!!!
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • Hey, how many of you have been to a tradeshow?! I mean if you've worked one you know that when someone from ZDTV comes around, or someone from any press comes around... out comes the press kit and a *free* copy of software/hardware! Why? Free press is the best marketing! So, its sort of a payoff, but there really isn't a guaruntee that the reviewer is going to use, review, or even like your product! This marketing tactic could blow up with a bad review! So, just because something is free doesn't mean that a reviewer is going to write something favorable. These guys get free stuff every booth they walk to. They're inundated with free stuff! (and them writing an unfavorable review is not going to keep the free stuff from coming to their door)

    kick some CAD []
  • Am I the only one confused by all of this? Isn't this just a re-hash of news reported by other people? What's new here that Upside found out by themselves? Nothing. What is there to comment about? Nothing.
  • Its not just the computer Industry this applies to. I work in the music industry and get loads of free CD's every week to review on a weekly TV show, however I don't always give a good review. You still get honest journalists out there.
  • Of course Linux reviews aren't payed for. I listened to many reviewers before I purchased Slackware 7.0, and as a new user, I have yet to find myself being dissapointed. As you can see by the article here [] Most of the problems that people have with Linux stem from the user, not the software... Linux reviews don't need to be payed for. The software speaks for itself.
  • Bah...

    Payed off reviews? Mandrake is free? Why bitch and complain if something *IS* free and your not forced to use it, but it is an alterantive...

    That may be a non-intellectual way to put it, but that sums it up completely.

  • Now hear this: All Linux-related product reviews are fixed. The Linux Cabal, led by Red Hat and VA (parent of Slashdot, they're the ones targeting the satellites on you - don't forget your tinfoil hat!), fresh from their huge stock market gains (oops, they've all lost their shirts), are conspiring to make sure you never hear anything bad about Linux or Linux-related products! So run out and support the good, kind-hearted honest folk at Microsoft (home of the Mindcraft benchmark) and your favourite multibillion-dollar proprietary software houses.

    Or maybe they really are fixed. Who cares anyway? Only suits read software reviews in trade rags, and only idiots put any faith in them. At the end of the day, does it make one bit of difference to anyone? NO! The idiotic suits who base their purchasing decisions on reviews are always going to end up with crap, because, well, they're idiots. People who use Free software for various reasons, including but not limited to issues of freedom and quality, but don't spend their lives talking about it, aren't affected either. They use the same software in the same ways they always have. The only people who care are the self-proclaimed "Open Source Evangelists" who seem bound and determined to piss off everyone within earshot by harping on how much better Linux is than [whatever]. These people know nothing about technology, nor about business. They cannot write a line of code, nor can they run a successful enterprise. They are mindless drones caught up in the whirlpool of excitement that the magic word "Linux" generates today.

    In a few years, when all this calms down, Linux will be just another option for business types, and it'll be the same software with the same license the geeks have always used. The loudmouthed advocates will have to spend their time on other things. God forbid, Slashdot might not even be profitable any more.

    We don't care. Review is fixed, review isn't fixed. You want to know how something works? The only way you'll ever know is to evaluate it in the context of your specific application. No thinking human gives a rat's ass what any reviewer writes, or what motivates him or her to write it. Get a fucking life.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.