Years ago a company called SCO filed a lawsuit againt IBM for "stealing" code from "their" Unix and placing it into Linux. It was big news then, but most people haven't cared for years. Of course all of this was just a sham of the SCO management. It's been shown for some time that actually nobody stole anything for Linux, and in any case SCO didn't even own Unix in the first place. Recently SCO finally filed for bankruptcy, putting at least some kind of end to their misery.
The lawsuit actually gave birth to one interesting Internet phenomenon, GrokLaw and it's paralegal blogger Pamela Jones. In the beginning much of the mainstream press actually thought SCO must have some basis for their claims, and some of them continued to believe so even if SCO's claims were quickly shown to be false on GrokLaw, or other sites like LWN and Slashdot.
Then there were the "professional analysts" who for some reason saw it as their obligation to defend SCO no matter what the facts said. This week two of these figures - who became somewhat famous in the GrokLaw crowd - came out with some kind of conclusions commenting their own actions throughout the case. First, Daniel Lyons wrote a public apology, or a mea culpa as he calls it as a Catholic. Today Rob Enderle wrote something that is definitively not an apology, and not a very good excuse either. (I've linked to the LWN coverage of these articles, so you can read the actual articles through links on LWN, but also benefit from the commentary of the LWN readership.)
Now, I didn't really care much about the SCO case from the beginning even. I sometimes visited GrokLaw just for entertainment purposes, kind of like watching some lawyer TV show, but that was the extent of it. And I don't really care which analysts made fools out of themselves by writing commentary based on one sides press releases.
The thing that is interesting about these public apologies is that the authors had to write them. I don't think they'd necessarily done so in a world without the Internet. So you wrote some stupid opinions in a newspaper, who cares, move on with your life. But on the Internet it is different. You made a public fool out of yourself, even in the face of people who were trying to advice you differently. (And in Rob Enderle's case, against the advice of one of your own employees.) The SCO management were shown to be liars and crooks - and the Open Source community exposed them. Yet you decided (for whatever reason) to take the side of these crooks, even if there was plenty of information available that you shouldn't. And all of this is out in the open, not just your mistake but also your stubborness to fight all of the people commenting on your stupid articles. And so you can't really just pretend it didn't happen, at least not if you are planning on having an online life after this. And so you have to admit straight up you have been an idiot and ask for pardon and hope that maybe one day somebody will listen to you again.
In the Open Source community you are thoroughly scrutinized through and held accountable for your work. It seems the same is beginning to apply to journalism?
Who knows, maybe soon even politicians will have to take some responsibility for their words and actions?