Category Archives: Read This

Please welcome back from its slumber

When my third kid was born, went into hibernation. The new stuff at home plus the burden of battling spamalots online made it impossible to continue. But after kind prodding and lots of very kind help, wakes from … Continue reading

Posted in Good news, News, Read This | 640 Comments

Announcing the hibernation of (from the blogs-deserve-a-sabbatical-too department)

So my blog turns seven today. On August 20, 2002, while hiding north of San Francisco working on the Eldred appeal, I penned my first (wildly and embarrassingly defensive) missive to Dave. Some 1753 entries later, I’m letting the blog rest. This will be the last post in this frame. Who knows what the future will bring, but in the near term, it won’t bring more in
The reasons are many.
First, as I peer over the abyss of child number 3 (expected in a couple weeks), I can’t begin to imagine how I would be able to allocate the time to give this space the attention it needs. I’ve already fretted about my failure to give this community the time it deserves in REMIX. Things will only get worse.
Second, even if I could, I’m entering a stage of my work when the ratio of speaking to reading/listening/thinking is changing significantly. I’ve just taken up my role as director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. As announced, this means the launch of a 5 year research project on institutional corruption. While I expect that project will have a critical cyber-presence, I don’t want its life to be framed by this blog. The mission, the understanding, the community is different.
Third, even if I could, and even if the work I was doing meant I should, there’s an increasingly technical burden to maintaining a blog that I don’t have the cycles to support. Some very good friends — Theo Armour and M. David Peterson — have been volunteering time to do the mechanics of site maintenance. That has gotten overwhelming. Theo estimates that 1/3 of the 30,000 comments that were posted to the blog over these 7 years were fraudsters. He’s been working endlessly to remove them. At one point late last year, Google kicked me off their index because too many illegal casino sites were linking from the bowels of my server. I know some will respond with the equivalent of “you should have put bars on your windows and double bolted locks on your front door.” Maybe. Or maybe had legislatures devoted 1/10th the energy devoted to the copyright wars to addressing this muck, it might be easier for free speech to be free.
This isn’t an announcement of my disappearance. I’m still trying to understand twitter. My channel at will remain. As will the podcast, updated as I speak. I will continue to guest blog at Huffington Post. And as enters a new stage, I hope to be doing more there. But this community, this space, this board will now rest.
Thank you to the endless list of people who have helped make this place as it is, or was. Theo and M. David especially. Marc Perkel for his free hosting at for so many years. And thank you especially to the inhabitants of this space, especially the fantastic commentators and loyal backbenchers (Three Blind Mice, you have to reveal yourself now and let me buy you a beer). I have enjoyed this wildly more than I have not (again, I whine in REMIX about the not). And I have been very proud to be responsible for certain bits of content — especially the guest blogging by the interesting and famous (Howard Dean was a favorite, and I will always be proud that I got Judge Posner to experiment with blogging, leading to his wonderful blog with Gary Becker).
Comments on this post will remain open for a week. And then comments on all posts will be locked.
Thank you to everyone, again. Continue reading

Posted in eye, Read This | 280 Comments

Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur": BRILLIANT!

Tomorrow is the official on-sale date for Andrew Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur,” but the book is already getting lots of attention. Keen, a writer, and failed Internet entrepreneur, spends 200 pages attacking the rise of the “amateur” and the harm — economic, social, cultural and political — these amateurs will cause. Without “standards,” without “taste,” without “institutions” to “filter” good from bad, true from false, the Internet, Keen argues, is destined to destroy us.
There’s much in the book that even we amateur-o-philes should think about. How can we build trust into the structures of knowledge the Internet is enabling (Wikipedia, blogs, etc.)? How can make sure the contribution adds to understanding rather than confuses it? These are hard questions. And as is true of Wikipedia at each moment of every day — there is more work to be done.
But what is puzzling about this book is that it purports to be a book attacking the sloppiness, error and ignorance of the Internet, yet it itself is shot through with sloppiness, error and ignorance. It tells us that without institutions, and standards, to signal what we can trust (like the institution (Doubleday) that decided to print his book), we won’t know what’s true and what’s false. But the book itself is riddled with falsity — from simple errors of fact, to gross misreadings of arguments, to the most basic errors of economics.
So how could it be that a book criticizing the Internet — because the product of a standardless process where nothing is “vetted for accuracy” (as he says of Wikipedia) — could itself be so mistaken, when it, presumably, has been “vetted for accuracy” and was only selected for publication because it passed the high standards of truth imposed by its publisher — Doubleday?
And then it hit me: Keen is our generation’s greatest self-parodist. His book is not a criticism of the Internet. Like the article in Nature comparing Wikipedia and Britannica, the real argument of Keen’s book is that traditional media and publishing is just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Here’s a book — Keen’s — that has passed through all the rigor of modern American publishing, yet which is perhaps as reliable as your average blog post: No doubt interesting, sometimes well written, lots of times ridiculously over the top — but also riddled with errors. Keen’s obvious point is to show those with a blind faith in the traditional system that it can be just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Indeed, one might say even worse, since the Internet doesn’t primp itself with the pretense that its words are promised to be true.
So lighten up on poor Mr. Keen, folks. He is an ally. His work will help us all understand the limits in accuracy, taste, judgment, and understanding shot through all of our systems of knowledge. The lesson he teaches is one we should all learn — to read and think critically, whether reading the product of the “monkeys” (as Keen likens contributors to the Internet to be) or books published by presses such as Doubleday.
I’ve outlined some of these errors in the Extended Entry below. I’ve also placed that enumeration on a wiki, and I invite everyone to help construct the The Keen Reader — listing and demonstrating the errors in his book, so others can see quite clearly just how brilliant a self-parody this book is. Continue reading

Posted in Read This | 63 Comments

An Inconvenient Truth


On Wednesday, May 24, in select theaters in New York and LA, a film by Davis Guggenheim about Al Gore’s global warming slide-show will open. I have seen the slide-show. It is — by far — the most extraordinary lecture I have ever seen anyone give about anything. And I’ve now seen the film, An Inconvenient Truth, twice.

I will rarely ask favors of those who read here. But this is one. No issue is as important. I doubt you will ever see an argument as compelling. And though this is a beautiful and pasisonate film, it is, in the end, an argument that gets built upon the ethic that guides at least some conversation in places like this — facts, reason and a bit of persuasion.

I push for you see this because of the peculiar economics of theaters. Unlike blog posts, that are equally as available always, whether or not this film gets seen is a function of what happens in the next four weeks. If many see it, then many more will have the opportunity. So if there is a time to see it, it is early and often.

You’ll see me credited at the end. I gave some advice re fair use (you can’t believe the insanity filmmakers live with). And some might notice that Guggenheim is on the board of Creative Commons. But none of that is behind this recommendation: Even if you want to reject the argument, understand it first. This is a perfect opportunity to understand it.

There’s an overly professional website associated with the film at ClimateCrisis.Net. You can pledge (no, I don’t know whose idea this was) to come, and take others. Tere’s a list of places the film will be showing. And there’s a blog.

Please. If there were an obvious way to put everything else aside and work on this, I would. Meanwhile, please see the film. Continue reading

Posted in Read This | 32 Comments

GuestBlog: this week’s guest – Tim Wu


I’m happy to announce that Tim Wu, one of the authors of a new and related book, Who Controls the Internet?, will guest blog (again) this week. This is also the last week of class at Stanford, so I’ll be back in a real sense next week.

The book is a great extension and critical development of some of Code-related ideas. It has an especially terrifying and extensive discussion of control in China, and is beautifully and simply written (with pictures, too!) Another must read for those in this space.

Welcome back, Tim. Continue reading

Posted in Read This | 5 Comments

On this day, 10 years ago

On February 8, 1996, Congress enacted the 1996 Telecom Act, which included the Communications Decency Act. After the President signed both laws, John Perry Barlow, at Davos, issued his “Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.”

The Supreme Court struck the core of the CDA within 16 months. The Telecom Act is still being litigated, and Congress is now talking about trashing it.

But John Perry’s Declaration is still a great read. Continue reading

Posted in Read This | 9 Comments

Very good “fair use” opinion re Google’s cache

A district court in Nevada has rejected the claim that Google’s cache violates copyright law. The opinion is grounded both on “fair use” and implied license. The “fair use” part of the opinion is fantastic. But interestingly, the “implied license” part of the opinion weakens any such claim in the context of Google Book Search. Continue reading

Posted in Read This | 75 Comments

The state of cyberlaw, 2005

Legal Affairs has a fantastic collection of essays about various cyberspace related legal issues by some of my favorite writers about the subject. Zittrain’s piece outlines the beginning of his soon to be completed book. It shall be called Z-theory. Goldsmith and Wu give a short precis of their soon to be released book, Who Controls the Internet. And Julian Dibbell has an extremely funny story about sleuthing the tax consequences from the virtual economy.

Strongly recommended reading. Continue reading

Posted in Read This | 3 Comments