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Boycott Novell: Champion of freedom or den of paranoia?

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Few sites about free software attract more controversy than Boycott Novell. Founded in 2006 in response to the first Microsoft-Novell deal, as its name suggests, the site has evolved more recently into a site for commentary and investigation of any subject that might be a threat to free software. To its regular readers, this subject matter makes Boycott Novell -- like Groklaw, its apparent inspiration -- a defender of the community. But to others, especially those who have been the subject of its articles, the site is full of illogical arguments and undeserved attacks, and an embarrassment that only brings the community into disrepute.

Although founded by Shane Coyle, Boycott Novell is best known for the writings of Roy Schestowitz, a seemingly tireless poster who frequently writes half a dozen or more articles a day for the site, and posts numerous comments elsewhere across the Internet. For many people, Schestowitz is the public face of the site, and the criticisms -- ranging from the reasoned to the obscenely vicious -- are as likely to be directed at him as the site itself.

Boycott Novell, Schestowitz says, "is an accumulation of resources, many of which are external, that together explain the [Microsoft-Novell] deal in what we consider a more realistic light" than what was being said in the media. "It was immediately evident that the press favoured the words of a pair of companies which colluded against a non-commercial entity [the free software movement]. Their wealth alone established trust, so backlash came from isolated voices, but rarely from the mainstream press."

Describing himself as "an avid SUSE user for years," Schestowitz says he and Coyle are two of the community developers "hurt" by the deal. At first, Schestowitz says, he argued his view of the deal in openSUSE mailing lists, but finding his perspective was not being accepted, "I decided to share my understanding of the deal and shed light on the things which the press simply ignored." With this decision, Boycott Novell soon skyrocketed in popularity, and began its evolution into the center of controversy that it has become today.

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