Huh? Press kits at OSCON

by brian d foy

Press kits seem to be a godsend to a lot of journalists. They can take the text in them and put it right into their articles. No one calls them onto the carpet about it because no one wants to admit that the press releases are a bunch of crap and that no one really understands them. Let's just pretend that we know what all these things are, and that technology reporters aren't just data entry clerks for businesses.

Let's look at the ones that vendors put out in the OSCON press room. I only open their folder and read the top page. Anything beyond that is too much work. If I don't understand what they are by then, there isn't much hope for me understanding what they are trying to sell me.

Gluecode Software: "Gluecode Software(TM) is an open source application infrastructure company. The company's enterprise software solutions include business process management and enterprise portal."

I have no idea what these people do, but they said "enterprise" twice in the same sentence, and they said "open source". I've checked that second sentence a couple time because it sounds wrong: is there a missing indefinite article in front of "enterprise portal"? Did anyone proofread this before they spent the money for the four-color glossy flyer?

They don't have a product, they have a "solution", which linguist Geoffery Nunberg says companies say when they want to make us think we have a problem. When marketeers tell me they are "complete solution providers", I tell them I'm a "complete problem provider".

ObjectWeb: ObjectWeb is an open not-for-profit corsortium of leading companies from around the world who join forces to create open-source, standard-based solutions for middleware and distributed software infrastructures.

There are so many things that disturb me about this paragraph at the top of their page. It's their most important statement because it's white text on a blue rectangle. This is what they want me to see. Aside from being overly wordy (doesn't consortium mean they have already joined forces?), what is middleware? I know what it is supposed to mean, what does it really mean? What's the "solution" here? And what about these leading companies? Everyone is always a leader in their own press releases. Does anyone have the nerve to say "We're a small company that hopes to make a big difference"? Out of over 30 company logos on this page, I've only ever heard of NEC, SuSe, Red Hat, and France Telecom. None of those have particularly seemed leader-like to me, unless leading means being behind the people in front of you.

MySQL: MySQL AB develops and markets a family of superior, affordable database servers and tools.

Any questions? I thought not.

M1 Global: M1 Global's MDE Studio is an integrated model-driven development environment. Running on the Eclipse platform, MDE Studio transforms a simple UML model of an application into the majority of the implementation by executing MetaPrograms.

These sentences sound worse than they are. No, maybe they do sound as worse as they are. The page does have a side bar that defines Eclipse, UML, and MetaProgram. I started to scratch my head at "simple UML model". If it's simple, why do I need this thing? What if it is complex? Does it not work right? If I don't know about any of these things, why should I even care about you? No fear: below the folder pocket it mentions Java and Windows, so I don't even need to worry about it. Shouldn't Java things run everywhere though? It also says it minimizes modeling and maximizes code generation. Most people try to maximize modeling and reduce code generation. Better design with less code seems like a good thing, but maybe they can't sell that.

ActiveState: ActiveState Komodo is the award-winning, professional integrated development environment (IDE) for dynamic languages, providing a powerful workspace for editing, debugging, and testing your programs.

Well okay then. Besides the bluster about "award-winning" and the near meaningless-through-overuse "professional", I know what these guys are selling and what it does. It edit, debugs, and tests my programs. That seems pretty simple.

Now here's an interesting tidbit. I thought MySQL AB and ActiveState had clear statements. MySQL AB is in Seattle and ActiveState is in Vancouver, so it must be something about the water or the fresh air up there.


Jonathan Gennick
2004-07-31 05:07:59
You were too easy on MySQL
You just got done complaining about every company being a "leading" company, and yet you said nary a word about MySQL's claim to "superior". Every company claims to have "superior" products. "Leading?" "Superior?" It's the same sort of claimn. You gave MySQL a free pass on this one.
2004-07-31 10:08:33
You were too easy on MySQL
MySQL AB's sentence was clear. I understand what they are offering. They don't get a free pass: they get points for writing a sentence I can understand and tells me what they sell.