It's personally and professional dicey to dump on the competition, I know. But come on. This is ridiculous. Let's watch the "story" unfold to find out why.

On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, Kevin McLaughlin of ChannelWeb published a provocatively titled article, Source: Microsoft To Release XP SP3 Next Week, in which he claimed that Microsoft would deliver Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) on Monday, March 24, 2008 (yesterday). It didn't happen, but that's sort of beside the point. As I wrote in Short Takes on Friday (March 21), this article was complete baloney for a different reason:

Dubious Report: Windows XP SP3 to Ship As Early As Next Week
Reporters look back fondly on such predecessors as Woodward and Bernstein and their decades-long protected source "Deep Throat," citing them as models of behavior to be admired. But my, how the mighty have fallen. In today's Internet-based world, the Fourth Estate is more like an embarrassingly unkempt outhouse where no story is too shoddy not to publish, even if the unnamed sources are, in this case, not even identifiable people to the reporter in question. Case in point: CRN published a story this week stating that, "according to at least one source," Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) would ship Monday, March 24. And you know, that could very well happen: As anyone who's used recent pre-release and release candidate (RC) builds will tell you, XP SP3 is in great shape. But it's CRN's source that I take offense with. First of all, it's not "at least one source," it's exactly one source. And that source is, I swear, "the file description notes" of a pirated file found using "BitTorrent search engine Mininova." In the notes for this file, it's claimed that "Microsoft will release the final version of XP SP3 on March 24." So who wrote these notes? It's a software pirate who also wrote such witticisms as "I was there when the black hawks came and wiped out the villages-(serial in the NFO) Dirka Dirka!!" in the same notes. There's also a cute ASCII art version of a burning heart. It's worth noting, too, that this "source" isn't even positive that this is the final build: The source adds a cautionary note at the end of the same file description note: "If [this build] does indeed be the final rtm build [sic], then you are set with this image." So there you go. Straight from the source. Or at least one of them.

No, I wasn't amused. I found the whole thing to be pretty unprofessional and certainly not warranting an entire story. (But then, this is typical in my industry. There are entire articles on the Web right now about "Microsoft providing free support for Windows Vista SP1" as if that were unique to this event and, thus, an indication of the quality of Windows Vista. It's neither: Microsoft always provides free support for OS service packs. End of story, at least if you have common sense.)

Case closed, right?

Nope. This week, Mr. McLaughlin is back with a new story about XP SP3. And this is just rich: He's actually taking Microsoft to task for "stoking the fires of XP SP3 anticipation." You know, as if his baloney little non-story from last week wasn't designed to do just that, facts be damned. Here's what he writes (the emphasis is in mine; I'm trying to highlight the hypocrisy):

Microsoft Stokes The Fires Of XP SP3 Anticipation

In the latest sign that it may be about to release Windows XP service pack 3, Microsoft has published a document on its Download Center that outlines the features and functionality users can expect in the update, as well as its file size.

The curiously-timed document, which was published Friday, doesn't explore much new ground, and basically reiterates that XP SP3 simplifies XP deployments.

Microsoft, as it has coyly stated on numerous occasions, plans to release XP SP3 through Windows Update and the Download Center sometime during the first half of the year.

Folks, when you follow up last week's baloney with this week's missive, you can only arrive at one conclusion: This isn't just bad journalism, it's not even journalism at all. It's part of the never-ending creep of sensationalistic baloney into this tiny, niche corner of the journalistic world. It's inventing stories in order to get blogs to link to your site. It's disgusting.

And one more thing. That "curiously-timed document" that "was published Friday"? It wasn't published on Friday. It was published last year when Microsoft shipped XP SP3 RC1. I have a copy of it on my server in a folder dated December 4, 2007, but it may very well have appeared before that.

Shark. Jumped.