Erroneous media reports on FOSS: Thanks but…

The Manila Times online reported on the findings of Halalang Marangal (Halal) about the results of the May 14, 2007 elections. It’s another feather in the cap of the political and electoral reforms movement as well as that of the free and open source software (FOSS) movement.

However, I’ve got three bones to pick about that report. First, it took about three weeks for the media outfit to cover the Halal’s report that was released last July 20. Even if the news title sounded like it was  just underscoring the open source technology used in coming up with the report (by Halal), still the story itself read like it should have been told several weeks ago.

Second, the story failed to name correctly the OpenOffice spreadsheet program. The program used was actually Calc, not Impress, as what the story said. (Impress is the equivalent presentation program for Microsoft Powerpoint.)

Third and last, the story did not give a sufficient account for the open source technology used, which should have bolstered the title. I don’t think that it was only the open-source spreadsheet application (OpenOffice Calc) that was used by Halal to come up with the report. The news did not mention (or the writer had failed to ask) the database backend used. I have learned that Halal has developed a system wherein formatted text messages from field volunteers are automatically loaded to the database, which runs on MySQL. Although, I’m not sure whether data processed from the Calc were culled from the database or manually inputted.

I cannot be assured that it is only Manila Times that has committed this “permissible-for-now” disservice for FOSS. While the Manila Times’ report was a good marketing spiel for FOSS, still the lapses mean one thing: There is need for efforts, however painstaking they would be, to enlighten media about FOSS and its nitty-gritty. For we don’t expect such kind of erroneous reports  in the future.


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