One of the more interesting people I've talked with in the last two years is a figment of his own imagination.
"Craig Barth", the chief technology officer of Florida-based Devil Mountain Software, a company that makes and markets Windows performance metrics software, is, I have discovered, nobody. He doesn't exist.
Barth is, in fact, a nom de plume , which is a fancy, French way of saying "alias". The real man behind the curtain is Randall C. Kennedy, a popular, sometimes outrageous blogger for and frequent contributor to Infoworld, a publication that like Techworld is part of IDG. Kennedy's connection to InfoWorld was severed on Friday .
The two, Barth and Kennedy, are one and the same. The problem was that I didn't know that. The problem was that Kennedy didn't tell me he was Barth, that I didn't figure out Barth was he, and that together, they were Devil Mountain.
Devil Mountain's data, derived from a network of PCs whose owners have voluntarily downloaded and installed a stripped version of the software the company has sold to financial service firms, Wall Street traders and government agencies, has provided some interesting insights into PC use and behaviour: Internet Explorer is more popular than most believed, or most recently, that Windows 7 machines are twice as likely as XP systems to run low of memory.
Barth's data was unique: Microsoft rarely divulges details of the telemetric monitoring it does on Windows PCs. Microsoft declined to comment or to make someone from their Windows or telemetry teams available for an interview, for example, to respond to the memory claims.
I have spoken with the man I knew as Barth between 15 and 20 times since December 2007. There was a phone number and a man behind the phone number. The guy seemed to know his technical stuff.
But on Friday, after I confronted Barth with evidence that linked him to Kennedy - I didn't yet know they were one and the same - he assured me that although the two had worked together in the past, and in fact, now worked together at Devil Mountain, any allegations that he and Kennedy were the same person were ridiculous. Two hours later, I received an email from Kennedy, who I'd emailed separately.
"Time to level with you," Kennedy wrote. "The individual Craig Barth doesn't exist. It's a pseudonym I created a decade ago while writing news copy for Windows NT Magazine . I resurrected it a few years back in an effort to separate my sometimes controversial editorial contributions to InfoWorld from the hard research content I was developing as part of Devil Mountain Software.