Sys-Con goes from bad to worse, launches Ulitzer, attacks community and content creators
Updates: Since I published this post, Sys-Con published two articles aiming to defame me. Read more about the first one, titled "Turkish Fags Living in London" in which they call me a "homosexual son of a bitch", and the second one, titled "Turkish Web Designer Declares Death on Twitter" wherein they state that I am "said to be organizing an underground group to kill or bodily harm the company representatives" and wherein they compare me to the gunman who shot Pope John Paul II.
Yesterday, I got a Google Alert in my inbox informing me, based on a post that is being spammed into Google, that I was an author on something called Ulitzer. The only problem was, I had no clue what Ulitzer was and I sure as hell hadn't signed up as one of their authors. Regardless, they had created a subdomain using my name (aralbalkan.ulitzer.com, now down) and I was listed on the site as one of their authors. I called them up and asked for my name and content to be removed. To their credit they removed it almost immediately.
However, I'm not alone in this. Ulitzer proudly proclaims that they have more than 6,000 authors. Who are these authors?
Apparently David Heinemeier Hansson writes for them at http://davidheinemeierhansson.ulitzer.com/, as does Tara Hunt at http://tarahunt.ulitzer.com/ (her page looks a little quiet, I'm thinking maybe an outdated RSS URL? - Update: They removed Tara's page after I tweeted the URL to it but you can still find her name in this post.). From the Flash World, Peter Elst was one of their authors until he asked to have his name removed and Rich Tretola is still listed as an author (which must make it difficult for him to find the time to also write for InsideRIA).
Seriously, though, wtf?
Ulitzer and illusions of grandeur
So what is Ulitzer? According to the press release/blog post, "Ulitzer is designed to replace Wikipedia with Its [sic] three dimensional live content offerings and dynamic topic structure". Ah, so it's a new, open wiki project (in VRML perhaps?) to further human knowledge? How noble. Umm, no, not really. It's apparently a "media website" with "more than 1 million original stories, contributed by more than 6,000 authors."
Wow, that sounds like a real coup! How did they get "more than 6,000 authors" to contribute "more than 1 million original stories?" In short, they didn't. I'd like to know exactly how many of those authors, like me, have had their names used without their permission by Ulitzer, Inc. I'd also like to know how Ulitzer/Sys-Con defines "original".
According to Ulitzer, "Within the next five years, TIME Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American, Condé Nast Traveler, and Wikipedia will be replaced by Ulitzer."
The fact that they have the audacity to even compare themselves with Wikipedia and those other well-respected publications speaks volumes towards their general level of cluelessness. But there's more here than a mere disconnect with reality. Ulitzer, a Sys-Con company, appears to be a symptom of the Sys-Con business model which smells like it is built on a total lack of respect for authors and content creators and a disregard for any sort of journalistic integrity.
To illustrate, after I had twittered about Ulitzer yesterday, their CEO Fuat Kircaali called me up today on my mobile phone to ask me to explain why I was kicking up a fuss about Ulitzer on Twitter. Speaking to him in English (I know Turkish too but I feel more comfortable with English), I explained how several of us were pissed off because Ulitzer had used our names without permission. His response was "it's Sys-Con, Ulitzer is Sys-Con" (which, when you think of it, does make sense in an ironic way). He also told me "but we removed you" and followed it up with, "we don't need you". (Apparently, content creators are a dime a dozen according to Sys-Con and are simply a commodity to be mined.) As I went on, he interrupted me, in Turkish, to say something along the lines of "stop being a dick and talk to me in Turkish" (I can't really translate it, because if I do, it translates literally to "stop your whoring and talk to me in Turkish" which doesn't make much sense in English). Anyway, I don't take that sort of language from anyone so I promptly alerted him, in English, that our conversation was now over and hung up.
Doing some research, I realized that I shouldn't have expected anything more from Mr. Kircaali. I came across this page, strangely (and proudly?) posted by Sys-Con, in which he calls the woman he's having an email coversation with, Jame Ervin, a "bitch" and asks her "Who the fuck you think you are, lady?".
It also appears that Sys-Con is not beyond using its editorials to smear those that it doesn't like. After their email conversation, Sys-Con's Symbian Developer Journal News Desk posts a "news" article titled Jame Ervin of StoneFly a Crackpot? in which they refer to her as "this crazy woman" and insinuate that she should be fired as she "has no place in "real" corporate management".
Sys-Con: who shall we attack today?
And, to prove that they're still the same company, this morning Sys-Con posted an "article" attacking Ted Patrick. Ted is a respected member of and a long-time cornerstone of the Flash community. The "article" attacks Ted for his of-the-moment Twitter remarks on Ulitzer (Ted's Ulitzer site is still up, no doubt they didn't get round to taking it down yet: http://tedpatrick.ulitzer.com/).
In the "article", they insinuate that Ted was drunk at the time and talking for Adobe (he was talking for himself):
Because Twitter is out there under your finger tips, it makes it even more difficult to draw the line between you as the Friday night drunk private person Ted and Ted Patrick, who is in charge of Adobe's community relations.
When I first read the article this morning, it concluded with the following paragraph, emphasis mine:
I hope Ted sobered up this morning or I should say he wakes up sober when he gets out of bed, and thinks about his late night Tweeting activity of "this company needs to die" directed to one of Adobe's most important media partners among the Global tech media.
After I called them out on it on Twitter, they changed it to the following:
I hope Ted sobered up this morning or I should say he wakes up sober when he gets out of bed, and thinks about his late night Tweeting activity of "this company needs to die" directed to one of the most infulential [sic] tech media companies in North America.
Infulential [sic], indeed. I could use some far better words to describe Sys-Con right now too, Ted.
By the way, you can still see the original article if you search for it on Google (image, below, in case it changes).
What Mr. Salvatore Genovese, the author of that "article", needs to realize is that Ted is a beloved member of the Flash community as well as a valuable part of Adobe. If anything, I agree that Ted should change his Twitter handle to something else to make it clear that his words on Twitter are his own and not Adobe's. And his words yesterday were his own, not Adobe's, as anyone with half a brain and without a malicious agenda would plainly understand. If Mr. Genovese believes that his vicious vitriol will harm Ted's standing in any way at Adobe, he will be sorely disappointed because I can guarantee you that the Flash community will not put up with it.
(And I'm left wondering when Sys-Con will be publishing my own personal smear "article".)
Why are we putting up with Sys-Con?
I'm pretty sure Sys-Con isn't still around because of all the warm and fuzzy feelings it gets from the community (especially not the Flash community, that's for the sure). So how are they, and their attitude, still around?
Unfortunately, companies appear to support their business model when it fits their short-term purposes. I know Adobe did by advertising with them for the Coldfusion Developer's Journal and funding "them over and above advertising" as Ben Forta stated two years ago. In short, when it suited them, Adobe didn't see anything wrong with trading a few dollars for a seemingly independent magazine. When the dollars stopped flowing what did Sys-Con do? They abruptly changed the magazine to "Silverlight Developer's Journal". That's right, they didn't just stop publishing one magazine and start publishing another. Instead, they made a horse and pony show of relaunching a magazine about a proprietary server-side technology from one company as a magazine about a proprietary client-side technology from a different company.
What reasons did Sys-Con state for doing this?
"We have seen a rapid trend and move from ColdFusion to other emerging rich web technologies such as AJAX, Flex, and Silverlight," said Engin Sezici of SYS-CON Media.
Oh, right, people were moving from Coldfusion to AJAX, Flex, Silverlight. Reminds me of the time I moved from C++ to 3D Studio Max. I haven't looked back, really, it was better than when I moved from MySQL to Flash.
And where is journalistic integrity in all this? Probably crying its eyes out in a corner somewhere.
It's essential to understand that Sys-Con could not continue to exist without those companies that continue to sponsor it and its business model by funding their so-called "independent" magazines and conferences. It also couldn't continue to exist without people who, unaware of their practices, buy their magazines and attend their conferences. So educating the public is important here and it may just be time for those companies that sponsor Sys-Con to look beyond their short-term greed and ask themselves whether aligning their companies with an entity that doesn't appear to respect the rights of content creators is going to give the right message to their audience. Is purchasing an "independent" magazine or conference worth it? Are you listening Adobe? Microsoft?
I would love to hear of your experiences with Sys-Con and what your thoughts are on this Ulitzer mess. Please leave a comment below and let me know.
- Keith Peters: Sys-con / Ulitzer / Slime, Sys-con / Ulitzer totally lose it.
- Tim Anderson: Sys-con vs Aral Balkan in Web 2.0 war over intellectual property
And some previous articles about Sys-Con that hint that their behavior appears to be rather chronic:
- SYS-CON Media Redux: You Couldn't Make This Stuff Up
- LinuxWorld Senior Editorial Staff Resigns
- "What does ethics have anything to do with professional reporting and journalism?" (Fuat Kircaali, Sys-Con CEO) from this interview.