Lazy Journalism on C|Net

I've often heard the saying that journalists are always right unless it is an area you know something about. Ever since I started working on technology and writing articles I have been stunned by what seems like a lack of technical background in the people behind reporting technology issues. This is understandable given that computer technology and software are broad topics. However there is a difference between being a guru about a particular technology and performing due diligence or doing even a modicum of fact finding. This brings me to my rant today.

Regular readers will remember that I specifically noted the lack of journalistic presence at XML 2002 which was the first public unveiling of the XML features in "Office 11". So imagine my surprise on reading an article on C|Net about the XML features in the next version of Office. Reading the article is an enlightening journey into how to write an article about a technology product without doing any research beyond obtaining soundbites from a representative of the "IT public" and a competitor. The primary premise of the article is that Microsoft Office's XML functionality is proprietary and closed due to not "disclosing the underlying XML dialect".

There are two major things wrong with this article which a minute amount of research on the author's part would have turned up.
  1. The primary pitch of Office 11 which has been detailed via white papers and screenshots, technical articles and press releases is that the primary goal of the XML features in "Office 11" is to support customer defined schemas (i.e. customer defined XML dialects) not one specific XML dialect.

  2. Providing a schema (whether XSD, RELAX NG, DTD or whatever) is not that interesting for an XML format since it only describes structure not semantics. The following blog posts highlight emphasize this point much better than I can

Given that the author of the article decided to focus on making a mountain out of a mole hill in a manner which telegraphs fundamental ignorance about the technology he was writing about I only have one thing to say
<tim-bray-quote> This story is just silly and technically illiterate </tim-bray-quote>


MoneyBags Arguments in Technical Discussions

Saw an interesting post on the Joel on Software forums entitled Mr. MoneyBags. The author is basically bemoaning the behavior of people who counter technical arguments in online discussions with "I make 6 figures or I have P.hD, so there". I've always considered such statements to not only be without merit but extremely childish. The interesting thing about the discussion thread isn't the original post but the amount of people who actually defended the practice and are under the mistaken conception that there is significant correlation between ability and pay in the software industry. That is such a crock of shit. I especially like the person who quoted Ecclesiastes
"...the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

-- Ecclesiastes 9:11
I've known people who were making six figures a a couple of months ago and who make close to that now. I don't consider them any more technically capable than a number of people I know pulling $50,000 to $70,0000. I especially don't consider a P.hD, which is primarily a measure of how much ass you can kiss, a label that imbues the holder with Papal Infallibility when it comes to arguing about software. This is not to say that people who are P.hDs aren't smart but actually leaning on the side that they are not significantly smarter than their experienced yet non-doctorate slinging brethren. I look at myself as an example, the only reason I'm not in a P.hD program (despite pressure from the folks *chuckle*) is that I'm not interested in spending three or four more years in school not getting paid and living off of my folks. Especially since I can't see much difference between what I'd be researching in school versus what I'd work on in corporate America besides who owns whatever patents I'd end up generating. :)