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Intel Employee Caught Running OLPC News Site 193

An anonymous reader noted yet another story about credibility and disclosure on-line. An OLPC news site highly critical of the project was run by an Intel employee who actually is working on a project that competes with the OLPC. Oh, and the site failed to disclose this pretty serious bit of bias. The article talks about the most extreme interpretation ("Intel secretly bankrolls blog that disses competitor") but even the less extreme version ("insider badmouths competitors anonymously at night") is pretty fishy. Just more reasons to never believe anything on-line, including me I guess.
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Intel Employee Caught Running OLPC News Site

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  • by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @11:55AM (#22014796) Homepage Journal
    How many times is this going to happen before corporations realize front organizations don't work on the Internet?
    • Re:astroturf (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ubrgeek ( 679399 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:07PM (#22014922)
      > How many times is this going to happen before corporations realize front organizations don't work on the Internet?

      It'll happen about the same time people get tired of porn. That is to say, never. For every article that comes out revealing this sort of thing, how many aren't identified? Obviously it's impossible to say. So it will keep going on.
    • Re:astroturf (Score:4, Insightful)

      by camperslo ( 704715 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:08PM (#22015574)
      How many times is this going to happen before corporations realize front organizations don't work on the Internet?

      Although these things certainly can bring negative backlash when discovered, part of the problem is that these things do sometimes work. Perhaps we should be asking every website to provide a street address, phone number, and ownership report. That would be very difficult to enforce since some would simply host elsewhere. Perhaps a good start would be to require any site advertising on radio or television to provide that information in the ads. (The text size for ads that maybe be shown on secondary SD DTV channels needs to be bumped up too. Many of those channels seem blurrier than NTSC to me, although part of the problem is use of analog satellite sources)

      With elections coming in many areas, I would not be surprised to find a number of front organizations providing misinformation online. I've already seen several of the "forward this to your friends" mudslinging emails around. The combination of semi-anonymous and dirt cheap makes these abuses too easy.

      It is a bit surprising to see this sort of thing from a company that's doing pretty well with their product lineup. Perhaps it is more about fighting pressure on prices than about getting the business for low cost machines?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *

        Just more reasons to never believe anything on-line

        Not at all, but it is a reason to require more transparency for people who put up websites which disparage a product, company or candidate.

        Perhaps we should be asking every website to provide a street address, phone number, and ownership report

        Some of the most successful online communities have been those that require their members to use real names. There is good reason for certain types of speech to be anonymous of course, especially when criticizing a

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          What kind of idiot would make an even slightly controversial argument knowing it'll be attached to the name on top of their résumé? We say "in vino, veritas," because we know people who are thinking clearly won't say what they truly believe []. With anonymity they can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stonecypher ( 118140 )
      What are you talking about? 95% of the people reading that blog still think it's legit. Besides, you'd never know whether internet fronts worked or not, as the only ones you'd ever find out about were the few that failed. From that sample set, of course you think they all fail. What you're forgetting is that by definition the ones that succeed will forever be ghost to you.

      For every one on the floor, there are ten in the walls. Slashdot is actually owned by Hormel Foods. You didn't think about spam tha
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        What are you talking about? 95% of the people reading that blog still think it's legit.

        Yeah but how many people read that blog in the first place? If even 1% of the people who are familiar with OLPC at all hear that an Intel employee is the one secretly behind a well-known blog criticizing it, the PR hit would overwhelm any gain for Intel even if 100% of the actual blog readers remained ignorant.
    • by Goaway ( 82658 )
      Who says it doesn't work? How many times has the exact same kind of stuff been posted on Slashdot? Every thread about the XO is full of it.
      • How many times has the exact same kind of stuff been posted on Slashdot?

        There's plenty of paid posting happening here.

        It shoudn't be a surprise to anyone if Intel has jumped on that particular bandwagon and has employees or contractors "correcting" information on Slashdot.

        • by Goaway ( 82658 )
          You do start to wonder when every story about the Wii has some guy talking about how he bought a Wii but now he's grown tired of it.
    • by griffjon ( 14945 )
      old, stale, dealt-with astroturf?

      The Silicon Valley Sleuth article is a year old this month, based off of Chris's blog post from 2006, was explained in the comments at olpcnews here (quick summary for you non-RTFA-types; he worked at a non-profit organization that partnered with tech firms to bridge the digital divide, and yes, one of them was intel; it's as much having on-the-ground experience with ICT projects as anything else): []
      • good catch
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pallmall1 ( 882819 )
        The fact remains that OLPCNews has not been forthcoming with disclosing the connection between Intel and the blog founder. Burying the association between Intel in obscure link trails that first lead off-site, and then back onsite to a post in a comment [] section is hardly full disclosure of the fact that Wayan Vota, the founder of the OLPCNews blog was not just "an employee" of Geekcorps, he was the Director.

        Here's a quick summary of Geekcorps -- IESC Geekcorps, a $10.5 million portfolio of technology-fo []
    • by alexandre van de san ( 864525 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @09:18PM (#22020424)

      I write of OLPC News. I am not Wayan Vota, but have known him form some months now as we exchange constant emails about subjects. This is a case of real bad reporting on slashdot.

      1- Wayan Vota is NOT an 'Intel Employee'. Ok, in some point his company did business with intel, but to call him a paid blogger by intel is a long conspiracy stride by an uninformed net echochamber. He is getting married today, and I think this is not the wedding gift he was expecting.

      2 - OLPCnews is not "anti-olpc" or "pro-intel". You have clearly never read o line of that blog. Some headlines:
      "Classmate PC: Intel's Two Hour-Long Joke" []
      "Intel Can't Take the (Low) Heat & Power of OLPC XO" []
      "Halloween Horror Story: Nigeria Buys Windows XP Classmates" []
      I challenge anyone to find a post truly complimenting Intel for it's classmate. There are posts criticizing OLPC, but mainly criticizing some negroponte's statements, some of the foundations failures or something that was left unaswered, after all we are an independent news source. But never a post was written against the fundamental idea of one laptop per child and most posts on the XO are clearly praising it.

      3 - there is no number 3. Unfortunatley, althought I write for the blog in question [] my low /. ratings won't allow me to be heard here.

      Alexandre van de sande []

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        one last thing: the chsir blizzard blog post is from december 2006. Oooooold news that keeps coming back..
      • I stand corrected on my first reading of the situation.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
        Well perhaps more care should have been made in the selection of the title and in the presentation of the website. Most people would immediately take it as an OLPC promoting web site, rather than a critical attacking web site with strong self promotional targets.

        It would strongly appear the writer choose the title and designed the site for maximum self promotional goals and to generate as much controversy as possible ie. a self promoting shit stirrer []

    • Just because occasionally one of those is found out doesn't mean they aren't working. For every one that's found out, there may be many more that aren't found out.

      And don't forget astroturfing in posts. And where do you draw the line anyway? I'm pretty sure that Microsoft and Apple employees, for example, post on Slashdot, say bad things about Linux, and say good things about their own company's products. Is that astroturfing or merely corporate group-think?
  • And say that this blog never really had that big of a following. I just scanned the front page, and it didn't seem like it was any worse than a lot of the biased crap that I've seen on TheRegister. The conflict of interest angle is certainly a black mark on them, but I think it makes them look more desperate than anything else. Personally, I think this just smacks of the sort of crap that Saddam's information minister pulled denying that U.S. forces were gaining ground in Iraq.

    If Intel were smart, they'd st
    • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:03PM (#22016218) Homepage

      this blog never really had that big of a following
      If it doesn't have much of a following its probably due to the obvious bias of the site. I don't recall the first time I read olpc news and how I got there but it was obvious from the start that it wasn't really an olpc news site but rather was simply an attack site spreading the same disinformation we see posted to message boards.

      The olpc news blog attacked the educational objectives of the project from the start, not by critically assessing the years of research and study that went into the plan rather, by completely ignoring not just the research and study but even the advertised objectives and methods written in plain english on the web site. How many times does it have to be explained to these people that its not a laptop project dumping laptops on starving third world children, its about the educational concept of constructionism [].

      It even continues to this day where he posts "news" that there is no news showing that the kids who have so far received laptops are learning when again if he has been following the real news, you know, journalists and reporters actually out in the field finding out for themselves, the educational benefits are beginning to demonstrate themselves in small ways just as they did in the research.

      And even if the blog is not closely followed, this guy is being interviewed and quoted all over the radio, even by NPR, as a source for OLPC news. That would be news about OLPC, not the website olpcnews which is a misnomer. Its disgraceful. Even though I stopped reading the guys web site I still had to listen to his crap on the radio when ever the OLPC project comes up in the real news.

      Even though there is an obvious conflict of interest, and his site seems to be very biased, I can still see the possibility that he was just creating a blog about something he was interested in. I don't believe that the XO and Classmate were originally competing products as the target kids and communities for the OLPC educational program were outside the realm of Intel's existing educational assistance programs. The problem is that marketing PR, and in the case of Microsoft politics concerning open source software, drove them to "compete" in the OLPC "market" when in fact there is no market, its a charitable non-profit cause. As things were getting ugly in the media between Intel and OLPC he really should have disclosed the conflict of interest that arose.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      The Eee is by Asus, not Intel. I guess you mean the Classmate.

      In either case, the PC is not exactly the best one to run Engineering/Math or even a compiler on. The Eee is intended for browsing, light word-processing, etc. The Classmate is intended for use by grade school kids.
  • So...... what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goldspider ( 445116 ) <> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:08PM (#22014954) Homepage
    The headline says "caught" as if this person was doing something illegal or unethical. Please explain.
    • Re:So...... what? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:33PM (#22015216)
      Failing to reveal such a blatant conflict of interest is unethical. Glad I could help.
      • Conflict of interest? This is as much of a conflict of interest as a RedHat employee saying bad things about Microsoft. I do not think it means what you think it means.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Conflict of interest? This is as much of a conflict of interest as a RedHat employee saying bad things about Microsoft.

          Yes, its exactly that kind of conflict of interest: if a site that purported to be a "Windows News" site, that was highly critical of Windows, didn't disclose that one of its primary writers was a RedHat employee, that would also be an unethical conflict of interest. When you hold yourself out as a news source on a subject, and have personal financial interests that are indicative of a nat

        • If that RedHat employee runs the blog "", using the logo colours of Microsoft, and gives the impression of being "stern but fair" in their (manifold) criticism, then I'd say you have a point.

          I haven't read often but I thought it was VERY well written. It took me over 15 minutes to get a nagging feeling that something was very wrong with what I read (and I hadn't heard of the site before, I found it while googling for OLPC; sounded more appropriate than "laptop.or

          • P.S. it seems is still available, I just checked to see if it was a RedHat-run covert operation ;-)
            You mean it was [] available. And still is for the low low price of $666!

            I kid, I kid.

  • The real story (Score:5, Informative)

    by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:08PM (#22014956) Journal
    Okay, after being forced to dive into the sources by lousy reporting, here is the story:

    Christopher Blizzard has posted to his blog [] that Wayan Vota, a main writer for OLPC news is the director of Geekcorps. That Wayan Vota writes for OLPC news is not a secret (his name is on every post). And a Google search for "Wayan Vota" [] turns up the Geekcorps result as its third hit.

    Now, on Geekcorps' website, of one their technology partners [] is listed as Intel.

    I don't know about you, but that's enough to convince me that the black helicopters are involved! What a conspiracy.

    BTW, is this the Digg effect? I notice more and more looney conspiracy stories over there all the time. Maybe it's spreading.
    • They really do happen. we have all seen outrageous things like this happen with MS and Intel before. More likely than not, this has funding by Intel and MS. Afterall, he runs no commercials on his site (i.e. it makes no money), and yet he is buying ads elsewhere. So what is his angle on it? Think it is just a free service that he is doing? I seriously doubt it.

      This is just another OSS vs SCO/MS/Sun type angle being able to OLPC vs OLPCNEW/Intel. I would also not be surprised to see MS in this, but that ha
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by robteix ( 581906 )
        You're right! He's blogging for free on the web! It's obviously a conspiracy.
        • I see you are currently modded funny and thus hope that you are joking. The crux of the matter is that the site is not a revenue source for the authors yet they are purchasing advertising for the site. Combine this with the fact that one of the primary authors also happens to work on a competing project for a large corporation and did not disclose this on the site seems to imply that there is something more to the site than simply being someone's personal blog.
        • He's paying extra to get advertising space for his blog on Google. []
          What does that say about your theory?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Dunno about anyone else, and I'm not explicitly defending this guy, but many webhosts give away Google AdWords vouchers for free - in the past year Ive personally used about $200 worth of adwords placements without paying a penny.
        • by Locutus ( 9039 )
          he's a marketing man and he is Director of which he likely sees OLPC as a competitor.
          There is no conspiracy here, he's doing his job as a marketeer and chose to do so by negative 'campaign' tactics against the competition. He could have gone the other way created a site pushing positive attributes of his business and business partners but did not. he chose the tactics Intel themselves are using around the world to stop the OLPC project.


          • hmmm. Geek corp is supposedly a non-profit that

            "promotes economic growth in the developing world by sending highly skilled technology volunteers to teach communities how to use innovative and affordable information and communication technologies to solve development problems."
            Exactly WHY and HOW does Geekcorp see OLPC as a competitor?
            • by Locutus ( 9039 )
              who said Geekcorp sees OLPC as a competitor? where did that come from?

              I suspect that if you got that from my previous comment, it would be a waste of time attempting to answer whimsical and unrelated questions.

              • who said Geekcorp sees OLPC as a competitor? where did that come from?

                Who? Um, you did. Do you not remember writing this?

                he's a marketing man and he is Director of which he likely sees OLPC as a competitor.

                Not sure what other meaning that could have.

                I suspect that if you got that from my previous comment, it would be a waste of time attempting to answer whimsical and unrelated questions.

                Yes, how whimsical.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WaZiX ( 766733 )

      Okay, after being forced to dive into the sources by lousy reporting, here is the story:
      Now, on Geekcorps' website, of one their technology partners [] is listed as Intel.
      Funny how you failed to mention that Geekcorp is not just a technology partner, but that Geekcorp is working with Intel to develop a
      competing product.
    • Re:The real story (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:36PM (#22015832)
      I've not seen where either he states he's an Intel employee or is listed as such. But, as was mentioned, is where he's involved and that is listed as being created(whois) in 1999 with the goal of adding wireless infrastructure and Via computers to poor and rural areas of the world. Kinda sounds like where the OLPC is also going and if this is looked at as a BUSINESS, it is competition. If it's looked at as charity and with a desire to better the lives of others, OLPC would look like a partner. Vota seems to be looking at this as competition. was created(whois) in Aug 2006 and is registered to Wayan Vota.

      Oh, Mr Vota also owns was created(whois) in March 2000 and nowhere on this site does it say he is an Intel Employee. It does say that he's pretty much a marketing and sales guy.

      IMO, after looking at Mr Vota's background and skill set, he's not someone to trust as a reporter, blogger, or speaker for a site with a name( which sounds like it is a common site for general news on the OLPC project. His background shows that the OLPC, in his eyes, is a competitive project to his and his employer( if he does work for Intel ).

      Regardless of there being the ability for readers to dig all this up and figure it out, he is/was deceiving the public and his readers in a marketing effort to disparage the OLPC project. Vota, it's time for a name change buddy. And OLPC should claim the domain name because it was deceptively leveraging the OLPC name for competitive purposes. IMO. Let him purchase since it isn't used yet.

      • Your coding style is leaking into your prose. Your parenthetical phrases look like function calls. :-)

        employer( if he does work for Intel )

        I prefer a space between function name and the open (.
        I have a similar problem. Sometimes if find 'jjjkkk' (and other vi commands) in my Word docs.

    • Your post is bit misleading. The negative blogger is not just a technology partner with Intel, he's apparently a technology partner with the group in Intel that is OLPC's main competitor, which you knew since you read the Blizzard blog. Here's the relevant excerpt:

      ...You said that in your capacity as director of Geekcorps. One of Geekcorps' technology partners is the "Intel Emerging Markets Group". You may remember one of Intel's products for emerging markets.... the Classmate PC, which runs Windows.

  • Believe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Udo Schmitz ( 738216 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:10PM (#22014980) Journal
    "never believe anything on-line"? As opposed to believing anything that is printed on dead trees? Just apply the same rule to the internet as to books or newspapers: Use your own brain.
    • Thomas Jefferson -
      Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.
      Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.
  • Distortion ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by foobsr ( 693224 ) * on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:15PM (#22015022) Homepage Journal
    TFA: "It turns out that one of the site's authors works on an Intel project that is competing with the OLPC. Oops."

    TFS: "An OLPC news site highly critical of the project was run by an Intel employee who actually is working on a project that competes with the OLPC."

    TFS: "Just more reasons to never believe anything on-line, including me I guess."


  • by UberOogie ( 464002 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:15PM (#22015026)
    Wayan seems to be replying to every article about this.

    His argument seems to be:
    It is a coincidence that he is working on a competing product to the OLPC.
    It is a coincidence that he started a "personal" project slandering his business rival and getting Google links to the OLPC.
    It is simply standard procedure that he is buying negative Google ads to promote his personal site. (You know, the way you buy Google Ads all the time for your personal projects.)

    His screeching denials are more damning than anything else.

  • From the original article:

    The OLPC News website in the past months has build up a reputation for sharply criticizing the $100 laptop project headed up by Nicholas Negroponte.

    Please, please, please stop calling it "the $100 laptop." With the current prices for anything less than a million units roughly twice that figure, it's hideously inaccurate.

    When they get it down to $100 and stop charging wildly different prices based on order quantity (a scam since all the tooling is done, and they won't be pla

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hedu ( 1215514 )
      When they get it down to $100 and stop charging wildly different prices based on order quantity (a scam since all the tooling is done, and they won't be placing individual orders with their manufacturers), you can call it the $100 laptop.

      The tooling may be done, but it still has to be paid for. Charging different prices for different order quantities just makes those who place larger orders contribute less per unit to the cost of tooling. A common practice in any field of manufacturing.
    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      come on now, continuing to call it the "$100 laptop" is a way to make light of its failure. And THAT is the goal of this guy and this site. He knows this already. He's a freak'n marketing specialist after all. He's probably going to get a job at Microsoft for all this since it is just the kind of business practice they like to employ.

      His days of using the name, Wayan Vota, in public forums are probably numbered. Time for an alias IMO.

    • by griffjon ( 14945 )
      Hey, to be fair, the linked articles and blogs are all from 2006/early 2007, when everyone was still calling it that.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:30PM (#22015178) Journal
    He's working on his own version for his employer. He presumably thinks it's better. That would explain why he's working on this project. It would be great if more people who were critical of products created a better version.

    It's only a blog. It's not pretending not to have a bias. It's a blog. They're all biassed.

    He's allowed to say what he likes. He was critical of the OLPC when Intel were amongst its proponents, so it seems pretty likely that this is his personal opinion. as such it would have been a bad idea to mention his affiliation with Intel since that may have suggested it was the company's views rather than his own.
    • by Cato ( 8296 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:24PM (#22015708)
      Sure, it's not pretending 'not to have a bias' apart from the bold-italic part at the top of every page that goes:

      'Your independent source for news, information, commentary, and discussion of One Laptop Per Child's "$100 laptop" computer, the OLPC Children's Machine XO, developed by MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte.'

      See the 2nd word there? Sure he can say what he likes, but he needs to disclose this blatant conflict of interest, which renders him very biased indeed.

    • It's only a blog. It's not pretending not to have a bias.

      Not disclosing a personal financial interest in a competing project when holding yourself out as a news source focussed on a particular project is precisely "pretending not to have bias".

      He's allowed to say what he likes.

      No one is saying he is not allowed to say what he likes. What people are saying is that he has an ethical obligation to disclose the conflict of interest if he holds himself out as a news source (whether the form is as a blog or oth

  • by filbranden ( 1168407 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:31PM (#22015188)

    Looks like the case [] of the fake Open Document Foundation, that had nothing to do with ODF itself, and was just spreading FUD (probably trying to get money from Microsoft, in that case).

    On the good side, these "schemes" tend to be found and revealed really quickly these days.

    • On the good side, these "schemes" tend to be found and revealed really quickly these days.

      On the bad side, damage has still been done. There are generally going to be more people who hear the initial message than hear of the source being debunked.

  • The B1G1 program gave US purchasers the same green & white one that impoversished children were getting because there was no way to make an alternative color. Yet the picture clearly shows an all-red OLPC at a trade show. Non-green/white plastic does exist after all and , wonder that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The red and yellow machines were prototypes. Models beginning with the letter C are green and white, as are the MP (mass production) machines. More here: []
  • Has it been proven that he maintained that site under bosses orders or at least during work time? Just because an Intel employee runs an adult site doesn't justify a headline "Intel supports porn".
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Oh but Intel does support porn. I bet over half of the porn sites out there are running on Intel hardware! Intel is actually the mack daddy of porn supporters if you think about it in this way.
  • And (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joe Jay Bee ( 1151309 ) * <> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @12:50PM (#22015382)
    Slashdot, with its numerous Microsoft bashing and Linux praising articles, is owned by OSTG (or SourceForge, whatever it's called) which has everything to gain from, er, the promotion of Linux and F/OSS.

    So, where's the full disclosure on this, hum?

  • by mfh ( 56 )
    Just to let you know, in case you haven't figured it out... Intel doesn't need to badmouth the competition. Intel employees are some of the biggest zealots available on the market and HR at Intel hires based on how much of a zealot a person can be for their brand. Brand loyalty is the number one trait that Intel HR is looking for in a potential employee, above and beyond skill level. If you have ever had a conversation with an Intel rep you will know exactly what I'm talking about. They store up a bunch of
    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      It does seem like they are more bent destroying the competition instead of making profits by out competing. That one sales rep in Peru was all but handed a contract but instead of quoting on what was asked, she went after the previous, and already signed, OLPC contract. That's right, instead of making a sale, she tried to deny the OLPC the sale.

      That goes way beyond brand loyalty IMO. The fact that Wayan Vota is a marketing person and how he's already tied to a project( ) shows that he too is n
  • never believe anything on-line

    Offline isn't much better, either. When I have to choose between offline and online, I think online is actually better.

  • by fang2415 ( 987165 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:55PM (#22016100) Journal

    Just in case anybody's wondering why Vota hasn't posted anything to explain this... I think he might be a little busy at the moment, since he's getting married today [].

    Not that that affects any conflict of interest either way, but he is a private citizen who's been running the blog in his spare time for at least a year. Sucks for him that this hits Slashdot today.

    For my part, I've been reading olpcnews for a while and I think it's a serious stretch to call it "highly critical" of OLPC. Vota seems to love OLPC in general and has started a forum for Give-One-Get-One donors (like himself) to post hacks, guides, and help for the machines. He's pretty critical of Negroponte, but it seems that that's mostly because he (reasonably) believes that Negroponte's utopian rhetoric harms the project.

    I'm not sure I've seen him weigh in strongly either way on Intel, but he's certainly very against seeing Windows on the OLPC [], and has posted articles from other authors [] that are quite critical of Intel. So IMO: pro-Intel bias, maybe. Anti-OLPC bias, no way.

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:15PM (#22016356) Homepage Journal
    As a real journalist, I can tell you from first-hand experience that in the more credible publications, (a) if a journalist was getting anything of value from a company (money, travel and accommodations, etc.) he would not be allowed to write about that company. (b) If an expert were writing something about his specialty, and he was getting something of value from a company as a consultant or something (which is legitimate), that expert would have to disclose his financial arrangements to the readers.

    You can see these disclosures in scientific journals all the time. I just signed a disclosure form myself, in which I affirmed that I had no financial interests in the story I was writing about.

    I admit there are a lot of astroturf publications in which an advertiser can buy a story, sometimes written by a PR firm, without disclosure, but I think most people who read those publications realize what's going on and give them the credibility that's appropriate.

    I think the biggest concern is, what happens if you get sued for libel? The American libel laws tend to favor journalists who are writing about public figures, which means almost anybody who is in the news. If I make a mistake, as long as I was acting in good faith, they can't get damages against me.

    To win a case against a journalist, a public figure has to prove malice. Malice is a specific legal term which is different from the everyday meaning of the term, but one example of malice would be writing defamatory charges against a competitor.

    The worst case I can think of offhand was a TV producer for one of the major networks, who left TV and went into public relations. One of her clients was a bank, which was competing with Safra. The ex-producer got the bright idea of faxing unfavorable stories about Safra to newspapers and magazines, most of them in underdeveloped countries. The stories were anti-Semitic and contained false, defamatory statements about Safra.

    When she was working in journalism, she was used to keeping her sources confidential, but in public relations, there's no such confidentiality, especially when people get sued for libel, and lawyers start taking depositions. She was so stupid that she didn't realize that her fax machine was sending her own phone number at the top of the fax and could easily be traced back to her. So she and her banking client got caught. (But they would have caught her anyway, because when lawyers sue somebody for libel, they can force the defendants, or anyone connected with the case, to disclose lots of information.)

    Safra sued them, and the bank finally settled for several million dollars, which Safra contributed to charity, as I recall.

    But the point is, if you're a journalist, you're operating by one set of rules. If you're getting paid by a company, and acting in their interest, you're operating by another set of rules. If you don't disclose your financial interests in the matters you write about, you're skating on thin ice, and opening yourself to libel. You're also dragging your client into liability for big (multi-million dollar) damages. If they sue you, all the facts will come out.

    I expect that Intel will decide that they don't want to be associated with Wayan any more.
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:17PM (#22016386) Homepage Journal

    I work for a major engineering company. My views do not necessarily represent the views of my employer, and I wish it to remain this way.

    So, if I personally felt that my employer's project was superior to a competitor's, should I be forced to disclose my employer? What if I felt my employer was following the wrong marketing strategy? Should I disclose then?

    The problem, as I see it, is if I disclose my employer, people will associate my opinions with my employer. Or worse, if I am critical of some new technology, will assume that my employer is also critical of said technology. Either situation can damage the reputation and possibly the business prospects of my employer. In light of such, if people knew who employed me, I would be less likely to state my opinion, for fear of the negative repercussions.

    Unfortunately, all too many people are willing to discredit others based on their affiliations and associations rather than the strength or weaknesses of their arguments. The problem, as I see it, is that everyone seems to want an unbiased source, rather than dealing with the fact that this is almost impossible in the real world, and rather than evaluating the bias of the debater, we should be debating the merit of his arguments. Sadly, because so many are concerned with the authority and credentials of the presenter, those of us who actually have authority on technical issues are loathe to discuss them in public. I would rather have my arguments evaluated in light of their strengths and weaknesses than whom has chosen to employ me.

    And for this reason, I chose not to divulge my employer. I want my arguments evaluated on their merits, without respect for my authority in the field. Too many people have adopted the practice of taking a position in a debate based not upon the merits of the arguments, but rather, the authority of the presenter. I expect people to think; I'm not here to make up your mind for you.

    • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:34PM (#22016570)
      Not disclosing any conflict of interests that you may have, and then later getting found out that the conflicts were not disclosed is far more damaging to your reputation than disclosing them up front. There are any number of cases where not disclosing these conflicts is actually illegal; for example if you are a stock analyst, judge, lobbyist or politician.

      People are not as dumb as you might think. If you disclose the potential conflict a reasonable person can evaluate what the potential issues are; if not there is always the question regarding what axe you are grinding. If you disclose a reasonable person would at least feel that he is being told what the viewpoint of the person is.

      Senator George Mitchell once said when being evaluated for a position as a special envoy to Ireland to negotiate a settlement between the IRA and British government that the conflicts of interest that you have to worry about are the undisclosed ones.

      The fact is that there is no such thing as a completely unbiased observer. The best thing is to know the biases so you can evaluate the work in the correct context.
      • I think the bigger issue is that I can't talk about the relative costs and benefits of any technology if my employer is known. Even if said technology is completely unrelated to my actual professional work, I can imagine the criticisms now:

        • "Engineer X, who works at [big name company] says technology Y is garbage. Obviously, [big name company] won't be interested in partnering with [company pushing technology Y]", or
        • "Engineer X, who works for [big name company] says technology Y is fantastic. [Company
  • by thatseattleguy ( 897282 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:20PM (#22016432) Homepage
    I frequent that site []. I actually find most of Wayan Vota's postings about the OLPC to be neutral or positive (with other contributors all over the map).

    Jeesh, go visit right now. The lead article's titled "10,000 Give One Get One XO Laptops Going to OLPC Mongolia". Hardly the stuff of astroturfing.

    You really want _negative_? Go visit their forums (same site) and read the posts from the hundreds of "Give One Get One" donors who've been out $423.95 for over two months now and still have no XO laptops to show for it, due to OLPC's incompetency and inability to manage the program. _That's_ negative stuff.

    Full disclosure: I'm one of those unfortunate donors.


  • by Gordo_1 ( 256312 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:42PM (#22016668)
    for a while now. Does anyone realize the linked article is A YEAR OLD? It was written Jan 2, 2007. Subsequently, you can see a little back and forth with the accused (Wayan Vota) in the comments section through Jan 4, 2007. Then no one comments on the damn thing for *AN ENTIRE YEAR*. Then someone makes a comment on Jan 4, 2008, and the accusations fly again. Jan 12, 2008? Slashdot picks it up as if it's news. Problem is, Wayan quit Geekcorps a long time ago, so the article is no longer valid except that at one point in the past, there was an undisclosed conflict interest that no longer exists. At its height, you could say this was a bit shady and Wayan has most certainly continued to be an open critic of OLPC, but come on now, can we at least check the year before posting out-of-date crap like this in the future?
    • It was a delayed Y2K error.
    • by Rayban ( 13436 )
      Yeah - I remember when this came out last year. It was a bit more relevant then, as OLPC news was posting some critical stuff that didn't have much merit. I'd chalk it up to the project being in its early stages rather than malice, however.

      Today, I'd say that OLPC news is a pretty good news aggregator for a lot of the political OLPC information that you won't see anywhere else. Opening a support forum for OLPC is a great idea, though it should be hosted by OLPC themselves - oh well.
  • by MaryLouJepsen ( 1218164 ) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @03:12PM (#22017038) Homepage
    All Intel employees have to carry a blue badge. It's the only way to get into Intel buildings. I know: I used to work there.

    I also took money from Intel in 2004: they paid my salary for the entire year. Then, when my division was closed, I joined with Nicholas Negroponte to start OLPC. Calling Wayan an Intel employee is like calling me one.

    OLPCnews is a great forum for commentary on the OLPC project, they are sometimes critical of OLPC, and like all of us sometimes get things wrong, but they are mostly amazed by and very supportive of OLPC. OLPCnews is certainly helping build the OLPC community that has expanded as a result of OLPC's "Give One, Get One" program.

    I think Wayan is doing a terrific job.

    - Mary Lou Jepsen

    (former Chief Technology Officer of OLPC)

  • I think it is time for legislation to require a separation of work and home. What you do outside of work should be your own business not up to your employer to decide.
  • "There is no doubt that if it was just competing on hardware, OLPC wins every time," Vota said. But when ministers of education ask about the service and support solution, OLPC doesn't have an answer, he said. "Intel has an answer. Microsoft has an answer."

    On another front, Vota said that the "Give 1, Get 1" program's distribution is " totally messed up." []

    "Interestingly enough, I don't think OLPC has made Intel an enemy," Vota said. "I t

    • by griffjon ( 14945 )
      Have you been following the distribution problems of G1G1? I ordered mine right before xmas and the best estimate of delivery I can get from them is "Early 2008"
  • "An anonymous reader noted"

    "Just more reasons to never believe anything on-line, including me I guess."

    Maybe especially you, I guess.
  • Is there a law that requires it? If not, quit whining. Shouldn't believe anything you read anyway.
  • Unfair (Score:2, Informative)

    by Czmyt ( 689032 )
    I am a frequent reader of the OLPC News site and it seems to me that Wayan Vota loves the OLPC project, loves the XO hardware, and is NOT some Intel-funded slimeball whose purpose is to disparage the OLPC project. What is Wayan's biggest disagreement with Mr. Negroponte? He thinks that kids need more help to learn how to use their laptops than is envisoned by Mr. Negroponte. So do I! My first thought upon running the XO software was, "Where's the freakin' F1 key or the question-mark help icon?" Do I ne

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