back to article Tech hacks should admit taking corporate coin, but don't start a witch hunt

Judge Alsup has required Google and Oracle to divulge a list of their paid shills - the bloggers and journos they've paid to comment on their copyright court showdown. This sets a major precedent, the consequences of which could echo throughout tech journalism. While there is a lot of blitting in the back buffers over this, I …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In my experience all you have to do to be considered a Microsoft shill is tell someone who uses Linux or UNIX how to do something that they can do in Linux/UNIX with Windows. That, or correct a misunderstanding of some element of the OS.

    Also, if you tell an Android user how to do something with iPhone or WP, you're also a shill. It's rare for people to be accused of being Linux shills, probably because of the dispersed nature of the OS, but you do occasionally see people being accused of being Google shills, usually because they talk about Android, rather than Google itself.

    1. LarsG

      Re: Hmm...

      An honest article that tells us all to beware of the product review, and never rely on just one. It becomes apparent who is being paid by whom when you read reviews from several different reviewers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: considering a Microsoft shill ...

      Microsoft-funded Google-smearing

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: considering a Microsoft shill ...

        @AC 1818 - four things:

        1) I don't think your source is entirely reliable, what with it being the Pirate Party.

        2) I don't think their overhearing of a snippit of a conversation really stands up as de-facto proof.

        3) MS have more to loose from this sort of behavior, than they have to gain (that said, I don't think they're entirely whiter-than-white).

        4) If you think Google don't do similar things, you've got another think coming.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Orlowski couldn't keep a straight face when he was your first pick to write this article, eh, El Reg?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      I like Orlowski-bashing as much as the next commentard. But I have never once doubted his integrity, and down-voted you for daring to suggest it.

      1. Dave's Jubblies



        Are you for real? If I missed the implied /s there, then I apologise, but the tone of your post implies you are actaully serious...!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Dave's Jubblies
      Thumb Up



      Was a tea-spitting moment.

      Thank you sir, and a new keyboard please!

    4. MrF

      Hear, hear!

      Had exactly the same thought within seconds of checking the byline.

  3. NinjasFTW


    I find your statement "To be fair, Müller has been more than forthcoming on the subject of his associations with both Oracle and Microsoft as well as various financial institutions" to be genrous to Florian at the least.

    From his own admission he was talking with Oracle well before the trial started and then when in a sheer coincidence starts working for them right when the trial starts and for the 'long term'. Now maybe that is just the way it went (Roulette odds for 00 maybe!) but considering the sheer vitrioul that came out of his blog in the lead up to and during the trial I find that highly suspicious.

    Especially when it came out that he was flat out wrong about most of what he was spouting. If I was Oracle and he truly was independent of it all, I would be seriously considering rethinking hiring a consultant who was so wrong about things.....

    1. fishman

      Re: Florian

      Florian wasn't just flat out wrong - he was wrong by many orders of magnitude. And this wasn't the first time he was way off.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: Florian

        Yes, Florian has a longer history of being wrong than being listened to by a lazy bunch of journos. Florian didn't come into disrepute with many of us because of his associations, it was the consistent bullshit in his writing, dating back to when he was still pretending to be a friend of open source.

        The accompanying bias was impossible to miss, be it for SCO, Microsoft or Oracle. Or the perpetual attack on Android. When he came clean about Oracle most were already certain he was working with them, based on what he was saying. Hardly coming clean, more covering his arse, probably remembering the savaging he got in the SCO affair where he was outed.

        If he'd admitted the various relationships upfront journos would perhaps have been less willing to swallow any old crap he fed them. Instead he did the damage first.

        Journalists are lazy, Florian is just the latest to benefit from that. At least Rob Enderle is nearly forgotten after playing the same game all the way through SCO, with his constant and pathetic anti-Apple chanting now falling on deaf ears.

    2. BlueGreen

      Re: Florian

      Allow me to repost something that wasn't allowed through last time (posted around 20/04/2012):


      Until <> it was unclear to me who paid him. He did not disclose it even when requested. Therefore his moral position was as unclear as the motivation for his POV (paid shill? unpaid honest enthusiast?).

      By choosing not to disclose payment yet to push a paid opinion; why, there's your corruption.

      I've also been spammed by him in his role as a 'software rights' supporter. It was certainly not made clear then that payment to himself were involved.

      yes, he's [deleted].


      [deleted] cos under libel laws the reg can't afford to publish that post with the last line. I was told by removing the last line it would be ok, so, if you're wondering, moderator, Drew Cullen said so.

      As to his impressive CV, if I were a bulshitter I could big up my CV real bad (I don't because I don't need to). An amoral person can can build an amazing track record if you don't look to closely (swept MS's floors and happened to be asked by job bloggs programmer where the kitchen is -> you're an instant consultant. After all, you've been consulted. I've seen this kind of thing).

    3. Ru

      Re: Florian

      I always though that Florian was a Troll rather than a Shill. That'll teach me to make assumptions; never attribute to malice what can easily be attributed to a paycheque.

      1. Tom 13

        @Ru: Florian is the rarest* of breeds

        He's a troll who collects a paycheck for it. A shill can be bought off by a higher bidder, a troll can't.

        *This isn't necessarily desirable, like for instance a case of smallpox in the wild.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not really an issue

    Most tech journos aren't influential enough that it matters whether or not they are shills.

  5. Rampant Spaniel

    I have to admit that overall el reg doesn't seem to be biased, individual writers tend to have strongly held opinions but overall it balances out unlike some newspapers or even worse fox 'news'.

    I think the level of dissassociation between writers and advertisers helps, talking stink about a product might not get you their next release in the post (how is el reg's relationship with apple these days :-) ), but overall you can be pretty fair and still make your money.

    A friend is a motorsport journo, very talented writer, he got taken by a car manufacturer to another country to play about with their rally team. He got lots of treats and freebies, time in the car and an all expenses, all you can drink, junket. His next piece about that companies car did tend to suggest some bias, I'm not sure it entirely reflected the content of our personal discussions. When I called him on it he said that it was more that he genuinely liked the company better, he got to see their energy / how much fun they were and where they were going. He didn't lie in the review, I think perhaps they just got the benefit of the doubt. All the beer you can handle and your own rally driver for an hour probably helped somewhat.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    I can think of one solution

    Full disclosure at every level.

    Publications should disclose their payment/advertising sources. Writers should disclose any deals they have in place, just like research articles. Let the readers then decide who is a paid shill or not.

    Don't think the Florian Muellers of this world are the biggest problem, he keeps his writing to his own blog and the real media quotes him because they want to.

    More worrying are articles such as this where authors do get paid to write articles for other publications and intentionally hide their affiliation. (yes, Google doing evil things - surprise surprise) Fortunately in this case they were caught, but I'm left wondering how many others slip through.

    There should be a law against this, but I guess it's more covenient for everyone that there isn't.

    I'm looking forward to tomorrows' list, it's at least a step in the right direction.

    1. MrF
      Paris Hilton

      "Because they want to"? The 'real media' (Ha!) quote Muller...

      ...purely because they're lazy thinkers who avoid actual reading/research to the point they are completely lost unless their source(s) are kind enough to provide topic sentences and the occasional tl;dr summary.

      Paris because it's always her doing yet never her fault.

  7. David Hall 1

    Foss patents

    To be honest I was extremely surprised about the comments re Florien Muller.

    I've read his blog for several years and always found him to be pretty bang on the money. Given that he makes money from his consulting work; rather than his journalism; I would imagine that it's more important for him than most bloggers to be accurate in his analysis since that's how (and he is clear about this) he picks up his consulting jobs.

    I'm also a long time register reader and haven't failed to spot that you are much more friendly when your big advertisers (Rackspace for example) have an epic fail than you are with other companies with whom you have no commercial relationship.

    I've also never seen a Reg article with a 'Rackspace (or insert other advertiser name) pay my wages' disclaimer (which is always what you see with Mr Muller).

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Foss patents

      "you are much more friendly when your big advertisers have an epic fail"

      I think Microsoft et al would struggle to agree.


    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Foss patents

      David Hall 1,

      The Register are pretty upfront about who pays them. They plaster big pictures of them, and their products, all over the website.

      They're called adverts...

      1. Fatman

        Re: They're called adverts...


        I don't seem to find those adverts;' oh, now I remember why, I use Firefox with Ad Block Plus.

        It is really nice not to have to endure all of that shit.

        1. Mephistro

          Re: They're called adverts...

          " I use Firefox with Ad Block Plus."

          You're probably older and wiser than me, but blocking the revenue sources of internet sites you like and would like to survive and improve doesn't seem a very sensible course of action. I follow ElReg and read much of its content, and I like the place, Bearing with some adds seems a little price to be paid for keeping the site.

          And if we close their revenue stream we wouldn't have the right to protest if they had to find alternate one.

          I use AdBlock too, but only with sites that I don't trust or I don't visit often.

          And thanks to Trevor for the article. Heady stuff!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: They're called adverts...

            "Bearing with some adds seems a little price to be paid for keeping the site."

            Do you BUY anything because of the ads ?

            If you don't what's the problem with blocking them ?

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: They're called adverts...

              To our anonymous friend,

              The Register get paid for hosting the ads. They may also get extra cash if people click through and make a purchase at the other site. But a lot of the stuff they advertise aren't impulse buys, it mostly seems to be brand awareness stuff. So I'd imagine they just get paid on page impressions. I would imagine they're not paid for ads not served.

              I like reading the Register. They get paid because of advertising. I want them to continue to produce the site. Therefore I would be stupid to block their adverts.

              There's no harm in letting the ads appear on my screen. If they take the piss, and start running those ads that zoom down and take over the whole page again, I'll consider using adblock. Or if I ever get a drive-by download nasty from one of them.

              life is a series of compromises. Unless you want to be a total arsehole about things, so that no-one wants to know you, you need to accommodate people's reasonable needs and desires. Equally, they need to do the same for you. By that we get a civilised society. It is not unreasonable for journalists to want to eat. Which means they need to get paid. I would like journalist to continue to do their jobs, which means that I, and those that agree with me, need to find a way for society to pay them. In the UK that means we buy some papers, we fund the BBC and we see some adverts. If we stop doing these things, then we will eventually be thrown back onto the resources of bloggers, press releases and random postings on the internet. We will regret it, if this happens.

              So just put up with some adverts (that you don't even have to look at) and stop whining.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: They're called adverts...

                If they can guarantee that I won't ever get a drive-by-download virus from an ad network that's not under their control then I'll disable adblock+ on their site. (the fact that I've also black-holed most of the ad networks means that while they'll hand me the URL, the IP adress that I try to hit will be

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They're called adverts...

          @Fatman - How do you think the staff at the Reg get paid? I'll tell you, it's through advertising, so personally I wouldn't crow about the fact that you stiff them out of money.

          Things cost, you know? And if having a few little adverts pop up around my content is the cost, then I'm happy.

    3. MrF

      "which is always what you see with Mr Muller" Oh, sure, you see that admission...

      ...exactly once, entombed somewhere near paragraph four of his first blog-entry in a 27-part series.

      Muller's take on full disclosure should be given pride of place in the OED entry for 'disingenuous'.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Foss patents

      @David Hall 1 - I've read his blog for several years and always found him to be pretty bang on the money"

      Given that Mueller has been wrong on every significant patent case in the last decade, I can read this sentence a couple of ways. The first and obvious way, is that you are easily gulled. The second and potentially more amusing way, is that you're having fun with words and are pointing out that Mueller's opinions precisely align with the source of the money .. So which is it ?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Engage PR containment mode

    Cool story...

    but let's cut to the chase, which El Reg-ers will be on Alsup's list?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Engage PR containment mode

      If it's not too late, I'm available to be a 6-digit paid blogger if either Oracle or Apple wish to contact me. El Reg, I'll pay a 10% commission upon payment if they contact you for my address.

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: Engage PR containment mode

        I think it'd be worth quite a bit more if Apple contacts El Reg...

      2. IHateWearingATie

        Re: Engage PR containment mode

        Too right - I'd shill for North Korea if they paid me enough. I'd get rid of the grubby feeling by showering in warm Dom Perignon.

        Ethics - I've heard of them.

        1. MrF

          Well said. For the right price, I'd...

          ...give Hitler the broadsheet version of a tongue-bath. Just let me know when the check clears.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Engage PR containment mode

          "Ethics - I've heard of them."


          Isn't that the place near Dagenham, where the be-stiletto'd ones wander in eternal torment?

  9. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

    Full disclosure

    It's also important to understand the nature of IT hacks, no press dinner or beer session would be complete without some journos telling vendors how to run their firms, a small % of which actually gets used.

    It's just this side of impossible to make a living as a pure freelance IT journo and most have sidelines, indeed the fact that I've written code for many firms you've heard of and have done IT to banks make some of my stuff more credible (or not; you choose).

    Also if you're a specialist in (say) firewalls or C++, there simply aren't enough paid articles to be written.

    Although the Reg is a mighty organ, the openly published sector is small compared to in-house publishing, marketing, etc. All big vendors of most types of stuff churn out piles of glossies and usually pay rather better per word or time than journalism, this being so common, I doubt if any long time writer hasn't done at least some. (I did some for IBM).

    So many like me have a day jobs and this is where grey areas get murky.

    As an IT director, I got so much personal grief from Oracle when they helped get my boss sacked then went after me, that I can't ethically ever take a commission to write about them. But whose ethics apply here ?

    I don't like Java, never have, even when it was a Sun product and have made far more from MS based products than any other, does that make me a shill ? If I told you I got paid some years ago to teach some cruel & unusual programming at M$ years back, would you change your mind ?

    Even if my NDAs allowed me to list who I've done stuff for, would you honestly bother to read it all ?

    1. BlueGreen

      Re: Full disclosure

      > Even if my NDAs allowed me to list who I've done stuff for, would you honestly bother to read it all ?

      Yes, if I needed to eg. if on reading one of your articles I found the skanky smell of shilling drifting up my nozzles. Then I could check. Definitely, yes.

      Not suggesting I have found your writing sucky-up, you dont write to please -- not sure you know how, just as well you weren't born a servant in a medieval court, your life would be as long as your neck -- just saying I'd want the info available and I'd use it.

      BTW good article Trevor.

  10. Kleykenb


    There's money to be had from being a professional troll? No way! I'm shocked!

    I may have to revisit all this fear and uncertainty and start being more trusting.

    Fact of the matter is that a "professional" journalist tends to gets away with misinformation if he has 2 independant sources but a consumer needs at least a dozen if he wants to avoid investing in yet another lemon.

  11. Arthur 1

    Does this include...

    The astroturfing asshats that we have to suffer through in comment sections?

    1. JimC

      Re: Does this include...

      My own experience, based partly on a lot of experience of the human race, and partly on the number of times I've been accused of being a shill or astroturfer because I have dared to disagree with some hard-of-thinking types firmly help opinion is that there are a rather fewer Astroturfers about than people would like to think.

      My experience is that it doesn't matter how bizarre or outre the emotional position, someone somewhere will hold it as a matter of revealed truth. Hell, you only have to look at the net to know it. Its also my experience that those who are not paid to hold an opinion are a lot more aggressive in broadcasting it than those who have been paid...

      And may I be the first to quote Wolfe on the thread...

      You cannot hope to bribe or twist,

      thank God! the British journalist.

      But, seeing what the man will do

      unbribed, there's no occasion to.

      1. Mephistro
        Thumb Up

        Re: Does this include...


  12. vDesktop

    Wish I was a shill :)

    Sometimes I wish I was somebodies shill, although I doubt I would be able to find many who would agree with me let alone pay me.

    All the time I spend writing about tech just because I really like to, might be nice to get paid every once in a while.

  13. The Dark Lord

    Getting to the point

    Takes a long time for this piece to make the key point:

    > Source aggregation and - where possible - hands-on testing is still vital for all of us who work in IT.

    "Source aggregation" (not just reading things in one place and believing/disbelieving them) is the core of intelligent reading. No one journalist, not even one outlet (sorry El Reg) can be exclusively trusted.

    Too few people do their own diligence these days. Far easier to allow themselves to have their minds made up for them.

  14. Tom 35

    Just look at Game mags

    Game that crashes every 5 minutes, until the 200MB patch comes out 2 months after release, then it only crashes every time you try to save...

    4.5 out of 5!

    Full page ad for game in the middle of the "review".

    1. Mephistro

      Re: Just look at Game mags

      I was about to remember the name of that game, but I got an arrow in my knee.

  15. a cynic writes...

    I can't be the only one...

    ...who's been around long enough to remember the Reg PR Tariff *?

    * ahem:

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: I can't be the only one...

      Ah, all time Reg gold. It's still chuckled at in the office from time to time.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are so many shills in the PC Biz it's a bad joke

    The clowns that sing the praises of defective PC products is so long and embarrassing that almost anyone with a clue can recognise a shill when they read a review or comment.

  17. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter


    Games reviews seem to be a particularly harsh area for reviews.

    The games companies won't send out review copies to sites/mags who say nasty things and the readers demand hot new reviews and don't seem to care how soft they are.

    IMO, if you have a scale in %, some should be 10%, yet most games reviews gush.

    It's easy to blame the hacks, but ultimately if you take your subscription or page views away, the site/mag dies.

    We need to site the Murdoch papers here, slagged off by many and hugely popular even when it was widely known they were doing seriously criminal things to vulnerable people, not just celebs.

    How much are the readers of the News of the World and the Sun to blame for the paper they pay for ?

    Ever wondered if the appalling queues at airports aren't somehow connected to Daily Mail persecution of anyone not 5 generations British ?

    Is the appalling treatment of coloured kids by social services in any way down to the way the Guardian panders to their bizarre ethnic views ?

    Of course some shilling and general badness is hard to detect, but let's be clear here, no business that isn't a government enforced monopoly can survive if the consumers of its output reject the quality of its output.

    Or put another way, you won't ever have a better press than its readership, you want a better press, then take your business away from the crap end.

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