I've written three times so far in June 2009 -- on this site, at ebizQ and on my own investment research site -- about the increasing frequency of really bad information about enterprise software and IT floating on the Web. A line of advice that probably dates to Gutenberg is "don't believe everything you read in the newspapers." As it applies to IT and software in particular, appearing on magazine Web sites and in blog posts, that advice goes triple.
Vivek Kundra, President Obama's CIO, did not advocate open source software despite the headline on the Open Source Initiative site. The OSI blog post headline was based on an article in Federal Computer Week (FCW), since removed (as of June 15), and it was not the opinion of the FCW article's author that Kundra advocated any type of software license terms and conditions. The FCW article author agrees with me that Kundra most likely embraces the open source culture. But who wouldn't? Despite the fact that FCW deleted the article, the bad information lives on in thousands of tweets and blogoblather posts.
The headline on the VentureBeat site that said the "European Commission orders Microsoft to remove its browser" got the story backwards. That article was based on a bad source according to a VentureBeat editor and the site removed the article. And yet the headline appears hundreds of times across the Web, misinforming the casual reader. Also, as with the FCW story and all the other bad information on enterprise software out here in the ether, the article lives on in Google's cache.
But the headline "SAP Hits On-Demand SaaS Button 'To Avoid Extinction,'" that appeared on the BusinessWeek Web site was just over the top. The BusinessWeek posting was not even an article but just an abstract of an article that appeared on ChannelRegister. The orginal ChannelRegister article to which BusinessWeek pointed said nothing about extinction and very little new about SAP's decade-old SaaS strategies. In fact, the BusinessWeek posting was not even really BusinessWeek, but a BusinessWeek "in beta" property called Business Exchange that apparently lets any old blogger log in and write disparaging headlines. And to compound the diversions going on here, the Channel Register article (although accurate as best I can tell) appears to be based on reporting by ComputerWorld UK, as opposed to original reporting by Channel Register. Have you ever played the whisper game?
What's going on here? The answer is that Web sites are increasingly turning to tabloid-type screaming headlines and linking to other sites' original material to get you to click into them. More clicks mean higher ad revenues, I guess. Screaming headlines are part of the business. There's no law against them. But a line in the sand has been crossed with the BusinessWeek approach and I'm going to keep posting on the bad information that is being foisted on you -- and worse, your managers -- by headline writers and amateur journalists purposely trying to grab a clickstream with provocative statements. (Note: In the situations described above and in similar misleading-information incidents that I've tracked back, the headline was not written by the blogger or journalist that wrote the actual article.)
But I can't catch all of them, so accept nothing at face value, click through to the source rather than abstracts or opinions about the source, and proactively inform your management of bad information on the Web that might affect your budget or your work environment or your IT strategy.
SAP issued a press release on June 16 that in my opinion is an attempt to counteract the BusinessWeek posting and I comment on that press release and the facts of the situation in a companion blog post here on IT BusinessEdge.