Several times a month while looking for updates for our Facebook and Twitter feeds, I run across articles by an unknown writer who pens a blog called The VAR Guy. He’s usually Linux and FOSS friendly, but not always. If you don’t know, VAR stands for “value-added reseller,” so sometimes he can understandably turn downright proprietary – right when you least expect it. Mostly, however, he’s pretty fair, or as fair as you can expect someone to be who would profit by getting you to sign up for long term vendor lock-in.
Now The VAR Guy has been sold. More specifically, The VAR Guy’s publisher, Nine Lives Media, which also publishes the web sites MSPmentor and Talkin’ Cloud, has been sold to Penton Media, a huge business-to-business media company. At last count, according to Wikipedia, Penton “publishes and produces 113 magazines, 96 trade shows, 145 websites and has over six million subscribers across 17 different market segments.” Their target markets run the alphabetic gamut from Agriculture to Wealth Management. Nine Lives will become part of Penton’s “Technology Group.”
If you’re thinking this won’t be good for FOSS, you’re probably right.
Obviously, this “VAR Guy” is a house writer, like some of the in-house hacks that churned out serial novels for U.S. publishers like Grosset & Dunlap back in the 30s and 40s. He has no name. He has no face. He exists as a person only in the way that corporations, according to the Supreme Court, are people. This means that if the new bosses don’t like the content of the blogs churned out by the present “VAR Guy,” they can replace him with “VAR Guy” number two, and if that doesn’t work out with number three….
I’m sure you get my drift.
Now would be the time, if the new masters with Penton want to maintain The VAR Guy’s credibility, to put a name and a face on the writer of the blog. If they want us to see the site as an actual source of opinion uninhibited by a secret agenda, like the mixing of editorial and advertising content, they need to show us some transparency and they need to do so sooner rather than later.
So far, since Tuesday’s announcement of the sale, all I’ve read is predictable PR hype from the nameless VAR Guy. On the day of the announcement, he exclaimed in his blog, “…The VAR Guy’s voice is about to grow even louder. A lot louder.” On Friday, he proclaims “our resident blogger promises to maintain his unique voice.” To me this reads: “We’re going to be exactly like we’ve always been, only better.”
As Rocky used to say to Bullwinkle: “That trick never works.”
If the new owners continue with a faceless and nameless “VAR Guy,” then the site risks becoming perceived as nothing but an infomercial for Oracle, SAP, Microsoft or whatever other potential advertiser is being pursued at the moment. In other words, The VAR Guy becomes irrelevant, except to a very narrowly defined audience.