Wild & Whacky Web of Deceit Uncovered at InfoWorld


InfoWorld wishes it took the blue pill instead of the red one.

Kudos to Larry Dignan at ZDNet for uncovering an apparent longtime fraud at InfoWorld magazine.

But talk about a bad headline: “Why We Don’t Trust Devil Mountain Software (and neither should you).” Who has heard of Devil Mountain Software?  And, frankly, who cares?

The story here is that a veteran InfoWorld columnist and blogger, Randall C. Kennedy, violated journalism ethics and perpetuated a longtime deceit in creating a fictional CTO named Craig Barth for a software company, Devil Mountain, that he owns. Kennedy wrote a blog for InfoWorld about Microsoft Windows for years while Devil Mountain provided analysis and products for Windows.

As ZDNet notes: “Devil Mountain Software has been a thorn in the side of Microsoft for years and is adept at garnering headlines.”

And those headlines mainly come from Kennedy himself.  Not only did Kennedy quote his own fictional creation and cite information from his own “secret” company in his own InfoWorld writings, but he actually let his alter-ego be interviewed and quoted by fellow reporters – allegedly without their knowledge of who he is.

That’s the real story and it has all the makings of a made-for TV Sunday night movie.

As a result of Dignan’s investigation, InfoWorld Editor-in-Chief Eric Knorr wrote today that the publication had severed ties with Kennedy.  Knorr gave readers a carefully worded apology for what he called “a serious breach of trust” by Kennedy.

Here’s part of Knorr’s statement:

“On Friday, Feb. 19, we discovered that one of our contributors, Randall C. Kennedy, had been misrepresenting himself to other media organizations as Craig Barth, CTO of Devil Mountain Software (aka exo.performance.network), in interviews for a number of stories regarding Windows and other Microsoft software topics. Devil Mountain Software is a business Kennedy established that specializes in the analysis of Windows performance data. There is no Craig Barth, and Kennedy has stated that this fabrication was a misguided effort to separate himself (or more accurately, his InfoWorld blogger persona) from his Devil Mountain Software business.”

But there is a lot unsaid in Knorr’s post – and a lot of unanswered questions.

For example, Kennedy claims he quit while InfoWorld was desperately trying to figure out what to do about the ZDNet report.  In other words, he wasn’t fired or let go by InfoWorld.  In fact, Kennedy says that InfoWorld knew about and was complicit in his deception.

“IDG knew,” Kennedy wrote in the comments section of the ZDNet story.  “Galen Gruman, Executive Editor of InfoWorld knew. As did Eric Knorr. And several others.”

These are extremely serious charges and Knorr should immediately address them.  Did he really know?  If so, for how long?  And who else knew at InfoWorld?  And what about the other reporters, editors, and bloggers?  Are these kinds of deceptions common practice at InfoWorld?

There’s an awful lot of missing pieces here.  Kennedy is currently on a blogging and commenting rampage trying to defend his indefensible actions and attacking his former employers.  He actually believes his only violation was using a pen name and that the ZDNet story is a result of a smear campaign by Microsoft.  Again from the ZDNets comments:

“Other than using a pen name, what did I misrepresent? My company? It exists, has real clients and is profitable. My research? It’s based on the largest collection of Windows telemetry data in the world outside of Microsoft. Would you people please get down off your high horses, remove your blinders and realize this was a “hit piece” order by MS (Microsoft)?”

Amazing.

This is quite a blow for InfoWorld, a respected technology trade publication that has been around since 1979.  What do you think of this story?  And what should InfoWorld do next?

UPDATE: Eric Knorr’s statement on what he knew and when from the comments section of his blog: “I stand by the statement I made yesterday. We did not know Kennedy was falsifying his identity as “Craig Barth” until Friday, when he confessed to us. This subterfuge was not acceptable to us.”  I think he needs to elaborate a bit more about how they found out and why Kennedy insists they knew all along.

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