Who is Pamela Jones aka PJ? That was the question that was bothering many people not that long ago, me among them.
Back, way back, this company called Caldera sued IBM for a cool Billion U.S. Dollars. This was back when the U.S. Dollar was still worth something, and was mighty impressive on a couple of fronts.
- The monetary value
- The target – you don’t go elephant hunting with a peashooter
- The alleged piety of the main players at Caldera
Caldera played the religious card heavily. It seemed like in almost every article you read there was a mention of the minor fact that Darl McBride was supposedly a devout Mormon (remember, this was just after the successful 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics which left a lot of people with a justifiably good impression of Mormons).
A lot of people were very confused about what exactly was happening in May of 2003. I was one of them. One of the few sites I had found that had decent technical write ups with good documentation was Automation Access.
Automation Access is a tech company in La Crescenta, California, which specializes in providing support for Small and Medium sized businesses. I’ve never meet Andrew Grygus, but I’d gained a lot of respect for him from reading his technical articles. The man knows his stuff. And like me, he’s a bit of a curmudgeon 🙂
So when Caldera (which I knew as a Linux company – I’d bought a copy of Open Linux 2.2 at Office Depot – still have it) changed it’s name to The SCO Group and sued IBM, I checked the Automation Access Issues Index to see if Andrew had written anything on the case, and found the article, SCO – Death Without Dignity written May 19, 2003.
And this is how I found Groklaw, back when Pamela Jones, most often shortened to PJ, was running it as a blog over at Radio Userland (it’s still there – here is the first post on Radio Userland, which was curiously enough an article in praise of David Boies, who’s law firm The SCO Group later hired for their shakedown game)
Others of course found it in other ways. The Geek telegraph was running overtime through much of 2003.
Why Is Pamela Jones Important?
There are a lot of talents in Geekdom. Many of us have held multiple job positions. I’ve done sales, programming, analysis, business development, lobbying, writing, hardware development, and a variety of other things. One thing that none of us had done was legal research. In that PJ was unique.
Her background as a paralegal meant that she knew about little details like Pacer, and could tell us about them. And things like how to ask for courthouse filings. She knew there were local court rules. We didn’t even know there were local courts. She knew about the need for lawyers to be admitted to the local courts to practice. The sort of details that if you hadn’t some experience with the legal system, you just wouldn’t know.
And let’s face it. Most of us had little experience with the legal system. Sure, at one time or another most of us had hired lawyers for one reason or another. Real estate. Wills. Business setup. But in most cases we hadn’t had to deal with the courts. Most legal issues never go near a court.
Consider buying a house. You talk to the real estate agent, take the offer to your lawyer, who reads it over, and may make some suggestions. It goes back to the agent, who forwards it to the sellers lawyer, who reads it, and makes suggestions to the seller. If everyone agrees, it gets signed, and the house is sold. The court is never involved, unless it’s found later that there was a misrepresentation (the seller didn’t own the property for example).
For most of us, they only time we’d ever been in court was to fight a traffic ticket.
A $1 Billion dollar lawsuit is a bit more serious that a $100.00 speeding ticket. Just a bit. There were things that we’d never heard of. Just what is this discovery anyways – another Space Shuttle?
Yes, we were truly that clueless.
PJ educated us. It took a ton of patience and tact to do so, because we were:
- Had a short attention span
- Did I mention we were impatient?
Think of it as herding cats for eight years. Cats afflicted with a severe case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And some of what passes for Geek humor is pretty strange. Poor girl. She must have gone nearly nuts trying to make sense out of some of what was said…
But we learned a lot. And all of it is now archived for future use, a treasure trove of immense proportions. I’ve read every article, and I find myself going back regularly and using the search function to look up things that happened, to check exactly what was said at the time. Because the information there is hugely important to our future.
So Why Are The Usual Suspects Criticizing Her?
Jealousy I suspect is one reason. PJ was never scared to admit when she didn’t know the answer. I don’t know how many times she wrote ‘I’ve spotted something in this court filing that I don’t understand, here it is, maybe you can tell me what it means…’ or something similar.
Contrast that with my sparring partner Florian ‘The Sky is Falling’ Müller (who can’t even spell his own name correctly – he spells it Florian Mueller). He’s always willing to give you the 100% benefit of his non-existent expertise. Out of all of the articles he has written on the Fosspatents blog which have made predictions I cannot remember a single one which was correct.
Or take Rob Enderle, who once told me in email that he knew that Linux programmers had ‘stolen Unix code’ and put it into Linux (sorry, I no longer have that email, the account went dead when we moved and our ISP messed up the transfer of our broadband connection). How many times has Rob been right in his predictions?
Or Maureen O’Gara who kept writing the most fascinating accounts of how The SCO Group was bound for victory, only to watch them sink like a stone. We now know from her deposition which was entered as evidence in court that she was being fed false information from inside the company. Some of her articles were demonstrably based on that information, which is why she got it so wrong. Rather than following the facts, she trusted the people, and it turned out that the people involved at The SCO Group weren’t very trustworthy.
Another reason has to do with PJ’s legacy. A lot of people have a lot of money tied up in companies like Microsoft. Many of you know that I’ve predicted Microsoft’s filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the fall of 2014. One of the reasons I made the prediction is the Network Effect.
Most people think that the Network Effect favors Microsoft, the industry leader, with a huge market presence. This is incorrect. What the Network Effect actually favors is an open market using open systems, using open standards, where Free Software Darwinism can drive innovation at faster and faster speeds.
PJ’s backing of the Gnu General Public License, the Free Software Foundation, the Creative Commons, and other forms of openness is dangerous to those who have their money invested in legacy businesses like Microsoft. It may also be dangerous to Apple, I think that it’s quite possible that Apple may peak within the next five years, and unless it adopts Steve Wozniak’s suggestions, may begin to fail.
In short, by being honest, and telling the truth as she saw it, Pamela Jones annoyed some rich and powerful people. Rich and powerful people don’t like being annoyed. They have a tendency to strike back.
Unlike me, Pamela doesn’t like fighting. I can’t blame her for this. Each of us is different. We all have our strengths. We all have our weaknesses. Pamela’s strengths are her unflinching honesty, her knowledge of legal procedure, and her enthusiasm for the law. That she doesn’t like brawling I can easily forgive.
Wednesday April 13, 2011