New Year's Message: Optimism On The Cusp Of Big Changes

from the make-it-so dept

While Techdirt started back in 1997 (yikes), since 2008 I’ve had an end of the year tradition in which I use the final post of the year to reflect a bit more generally on the topic of optimism. It kicked off after I received some comments from people questioning how I didn’t go crazy after writing about all of these negative things — and I noted that I’m actually quite optimistic and happy. The frustration comes from all of the efforts to hold back the pace of progress, but I’m quite excited about all the progress that is happening. In 2009, I focused more on the power of creativity and innovation, and followed that up in 2010 by noting that innovation can help turn pessimism to optimism. In 2011, I pointed out that we could then take that innovation and optimism and finally start to make a real difference, because the power was now in our hands. That turned out to be prescient, because 2012 was a year where we started to see real change, as people spoke up and actually made a huge difference around things like SOPA and ACTA.

For this year, that trend continues in a big way. The accomplishments of the past have only resulted in continued pressure to change things for the better in the future. The story of the year, without question, is the revelations about the surveillance state (thank you Ed Snowden), a story that is still just beginning, but has already had tremendous impact around the globe and will continue to drive efforts towards real, lasting and important changes. It’s interesting to see that the infrastructure that came together around SOPA starting in 2011 is continuing to operate today on issues related to privacy and surveillance. Yes, there’s a big fight ahead, and it may not go perfectly (nothing ever does), but to suggest that change is not coming is naive in the extreme.

This kind of change is not just possible, it’s becoming probable. In the past, it was nearly impossible for the public and a loose coalition of folks nowhere near the centers of power to effect change. But that’s been altered in a big, big way over the past few years, and it’s only going to continue. It’s easy to be cynical about all of this, but we’re already seeing the beginnings of change and it will continue so long as people continue to speak out, speak up and push for basic freedoms and rights.

And, of course, we’re seeing similar things happen beyond the issue of surveillance, in other areas that we normally talk about. After years of pushing copyright law to be ever expanded, Congress has now started a (long) process towards comprehensive copyright reform, in which it’s clear they’re paying attention to what the wider public thinks, rather than just focusing on what one legacy industry thinks. Again, this is the earliest stage of this process, but just the fact that Congress is open to comprehensive reform — something most thought to be impossible just a few months ago — is a sign of how far we’ve come.

Similarly, on the issue of patent reform, Congress is poised to pass significant legislation to try to limit patent trolling. The legislation doesn’t go nearly far enough, but a year ago it was laughable to think that Congress would even take up the issue, since it had passed (basically useless) patent reform in 2011 and pretended that it had solved all of the problems. The fact that Congress was willing to go back and revisit the issue so quickly — and this time to actually look at the problems — is a sign that when people really speak out about these problems, it is possible to create change. There’s still more to be done, but things are moving forward.

Yes, there’s much to be cynical about. And there is tremendous frustration in bad laws, bad rulings, clueless policy, dumb decisions and lawsuits. But if you go back just a few years and look at where we are today, you’re being willfully blind if you haven’t seen the somewhat astounding progress. Two years ago, you’d be laughed at if you said that at the close of 2013 we’d be talking about significant reforms to surveillance, copyright and patents. Yet we’re right on the cusp of all of those things.

That’s an amazing statement of the power to create change in important ways.

We can and should be frustrated that this change happens as slowly as it does, and at the efforts to dilute or limit the change. We should be furious at the steps backwards that inevitably happen in this process. But we should be energized by the power to create change that we’ve seen over the past few years, much of it driven by large groups of people gathering together and speaking out. The amazing ability of the internet to bring together and amplify those voices and to drive home the message that these changes aren’t just desired, but necessary, should not be discounted.

2014 is going to be quite an interesting year in so many ways, and each and every one of you should pat yourselves on the back for helping to get us this far… while gearing up to continue the fight.

Once again, I want to put forth a massive thank you to everyone who is a part of the Techdirt community — whether you comment, lurk, read, share, submit stories, discuss elsewhere, tell others about us or just drop in occasionally. We even appreciate those of you who feel it’s your job to disagree with nearly everything we write. For many years we’ve pointed out what an amazing community this is. It challenges me to think through a variety of issues each and every day in new and different ways.

We’re looking forward to 2014 and additional efforts we’re making to do even more for the community here.

I’ve been writing here for over 16 years and it remains an absolute joy and pleasure every day to share this space with all of you, to learn from you and to discuss and debate with you. You continue to inspire me, each and every day, to see what we can do not just to make this a better place for the community, but to look at ways that we might, in whatever little ways we can, make this a better world for everyone. Thank you again, for being a part of this effort.

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Comments on “New Year's Message: Optimism On The Cusp Of Big Changes”

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68 Comments
jingoi says:

I’ve avoided all this type of info since I’m tired of being cynical/pessimistic, hasn’t worked yet. That means I didn’t hear any of this congress listening to the public about copyright stuff which sounds…..eh, still cynical.
So I’m going back to my self-ban on the many bs choices of congress and obummer, hopefully when I check this (and eff and torrentfreak) site 6+ months later it will be more positive, less negative news.

sophisticatedjanedoe (profile) says:

Sense of humor is the major force that keeps us sane in this world. I started noticing that all the scumbags that poison out lives… are boring, humorless ilk. Finally my gut feeling has developed into a reliable criteria: if a person has a sense of humor, I can deal with him/her, even if we don’t agree on everything. Otherwise I feel an evil cold.

Never trust a person who is always dead serious.

Champagne and cheers!

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I personally feel that the absence of a healthy sense of humor may be a form of mental retardation, myself, because a healthy sense of humor I would define as having a robust intellectual quality to it, like the sort exhibited by the best of the world’s raconteurs or even the good-natured riffing from Mystery Science Theater 3000. There’s something very aware and even prophetic about an accomplished comedian.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would thank you too, Mike.

I’ve been coming here now for years. I have never registered, nor do I intend to. I appreciate just being a nameless internet space in this day and age of trying to count every keystroke and the attempt of following every page visit, just to be able to comment anonymously.

I’ve dropped commenting at several sites that have decided that Dicqus or registering must be part of the commenting. I refuse to join that internet dataminer and the spamming problem isn’t something I invented nor play a part of. To be held incommunicado because I refuse to not to fold, spindle, or mutilate, just to say my mind is what it comes down to.

Even so, there seems to be an echoing sentiment from time to time in my comments from the community. Enough so that I do know that my occasional comment hits home and those sites that bar my presence by putting barriers in place will not gain from those comments, ever how humble or off base they are.

Here’s to hoping this year is a better year than last, not just for the technical and political sides but for each person that visits your pages, including ootb for what it’s worth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’ve dropped commenting at several sites that have decided that Dicqus or registering must be part of the commenting. I refuse to join that internet dataminer and the spamming problem isn’t something I invented nor play a part of. To be held incommunicado because I refuse to not to fold, spindle, or mutilate, just to say my mind is what it comes down to.

You think that’s bad, look at how all the major mail providers — and YouTube — are trying to force people to give them their phone numbers and real names now. And two weeks or so ago the War on Anonymity escalated yet again as a very large and rather diverse assortment of web sites all simultaneously started blocking browsing from Tor (not just commenting, but even just reading their web pages), all with suspiciously similar looking CAPTCHA pages none of which work.

I think we need to push hard for a standard to be established (perhaps by ICANN or the W3C?) that web site content that is visible to most of the public somewhere (not members-only requiring signup) be made visible to everyone, without access barriers, in a nondiscriminatory manner, and that the static content of all pages must render reasonably for viewers who have Javascript disabled, and without spurious some-of-the-time redirects of any kind (e.g. ads, popups — you can advertise alongside the content but the content must appear in any non-http-error response to the URI get request). So, a kind of net neutrality rule for sites rather than for ISPs.

Merely viewing a (public) page should never require a CAPTCHA, spoofing HTTP Referer or geographical location, giving up Tor or another anonymity tool (such as a proxy or VPN), enabling Javascript, using specific devices (or avoiding specific devices), clicking past ads that completely obscure or replace the intended page, or any other such hoop-jumping. CAPTCHA-type barriers are only reasonable for those posting content, as a way of limiting spam and other abusive posting, and none of the others are justifiable even then; and there is no excuse whatsoever for subjecting people to such obstacles just to read a page without writing or changing anything on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually I’ve given up a long term email account I had with hotmail because Microsoft who bought them out now requires a home phone number or home address or another email address. Rather than jump through those hoops, I’ve dropped the account. It’s not just Microsoft that is doing this. I joined another email provider only to have them want the same thing. I refuse to give it and just tell them I came to them because of leaving the very same request by Microsoft, only Microsoft barred the account until it got a response, which it is not going to get. This comes down to identifying you and many sites are now wanting you to log in with either your GooglePlus account or your Facebook because you are then identified. I won’t do either one. Nor do I use their services.

I from time to time find drop downs that bar your viewing the page until you activate javascript. Most of the time I will leave the site rather than do so. But occasionally I want to read the text and will use the Inspect Element to just remove it from the page and then read on ignoring their demands. When I arrive at news sites that are blank until you allow javascript I move on and close the page. If I want to know badly enough with in a few hours, it’ll turn up on a search engine other than Google.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

all with suspiciously similar looking CAPTCHA pages none of which work.

Let me guess… Cloudflare? It shows that stupid CAPTCHA page if it thinks the IP address you are coming from is attacking the sites, even if the webmaster dialed down the sensitivity to the minimum. A webmaster I know gave up on Cloudflare because of that; he does not want that interstitial, but found no way to completely prevent it, and his analytics showed it was having a real impact on his traffic.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think we need to push hard for a standard to be established (perhaps by ICANN or the W3C?) that web site content that is visible to most of the public somewhere (not members-only requiring signup) be made visible to everyone, without access barriers, in a nondiscriminatory manner, and that the static content of all pages must render reasonably for viewers who have Javascript disabled, and without spurious some-of-the-time redirects

I think it would be better to let site owners do what they want, and if lots of people don’t like it, they’ll let them know by not visiting that site. If site operators want to give up the traffic from you and other like-minded people, that should be their choice.

Logs me Knot says:

Re: Commenting anonymously

I have an anonymous email account (set up with some difficulty) that I use for such purposes. As long as the phone numbers look real, then the sites don’t care, as long as the names look real, then the sites don’t care, as long as the addresses look real then the sites don’t care.

It is just getting the right combination to get the site set up that is the problem. Hotmail is useless though for this kind of activity.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

annoyingly enough, got a new box a while back which had win8 on it, with no choice to ‘downgrade’ (read: upgrade) to win7; then, after was having some probs with SWMBO ‘puter not connecting/sharing with win8 machine, read that an update to win8.1 might fix problem…
so -RELUCTANTLY- updated win8 to win8.1 and -besides not fixing network problems which i later resolved in a different manner- it also changed -WITHOUT A CHOICE- my login so it used my idiotic ‘microsoft’ account (which i was basically TRICKED into establishing when i downloaded some MS programming s/w), instead of my original non-microsoft login…
fuckers
a quick search has not given me the info to ‘downgrade’ my login to just be a ‘plain’ login, and not have microsoft looking over my shoulder through ‘their’ account…
fuckers, i hate them all…

Anonymous Coward says:

Missing posts

I can’t see Monday’s or Tuesday’s “Daily Dirt” posts. AFAICT all of the other posts from both days show up for me (there’s a typical number of them, rather than a noticeably lower than typical number, at any rate); just not the “Daily Dirt” posts for those 2 days.

Anyone have a clue what the problem might be? I’m blocking many of the 3rd party scripts at this site (but not techdirt.com-hosted scripts) and using ABP on latest Firefox. That configuration hasn’t changed in weeks, and I saw “Daily Dirt” posts normally right up until around Christmas, which suggests that a change at techdirt’s end either right before or right after the holiday is responsible for these symptoms.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: no its censoring

I am, you’re the one trying to use a word that doesn’t accurate define what’s being done in order to make it sound worse.

Having your posts hidden(hidden, not removed) once enough of the community have clicked ‘Report’ on it due to believing it to be ‘Abusive, spam, trollish or otherwise inappropriate’, to the point where it takes a single click to reveal and read it, is not even close to having your post removed, with no ability for people to read it once it’s gone.

The first takes all of one click to undo, people can still read the comment just fine, as demonstrated by the sometimes long strings of replies to hidden/reported comments, whereas the second is permanent, once the comment is gone it’s gone for good, and no one can read it at all.

So by all means, ‘call a spade a spade’, just don’t call having comments reported and hidden ‘censorship’, as it’s not.

Just Sayin' says:

Re: Re: Re:2 no its censoring

You need to learn that some posts aren’t hidden by the community, they are NOT PUBLISHED and held for moderation before they ever make it onto the site. My comments are typically added 3 to 5 days after the fact, as punishment for calling Mike out once too often on various things.

Call a spade a spade, Mike can’t deal with the opposing view when it’s well stated, so he censors the posts by delaying them until they are not longer relevant or part of the discussion.

He’s a big man talking against censorship, but more than willing to use it in his own petty, dictatorial way.

yeah, Happy New Year Mike, hope you decide to change your stand on censorship one day – changing the world starts at home.

Just Sayin' says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Notice I wrote the post early on the 1st, and you saw it LATE on the 2nd. He isn’t totally censoring to the point of never showing the posts, he just has them sit in “pending” for 24-72 hours before releasing them, making them almost irrelevant to the discussion.

it’s like allowing free speech, but only when nearly everyone has already left the room.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 no its censoring

It is true that this is not censorship, but at the same time it cannot be denied that an individual’s opinion is being shunted into a “closet” because some unspecified number of individuals do not like what is being said.

Personally, it may be useful to reconsider the “report” function to determine if its current scope unduly, unjustly limits expression that some here may find uncomfortable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 no its censoring

That’s a conversation worth having. The techdirt community has a definite bias, so the report function limits the expression of individuals who disagree with the group. Those opinions are a valuable anti-echo-chamber component of the comments.

That said, as someone who compulsively clicks to view the hidden comments, the vast majority of the hidden comments are off-topic, incoherent, purely ad hominem, or all three at once. Further, the not-so-bad comments that get hidden are usually from a few, well-known trolls that spew so much wackiness that many people report them no matter what they write. It’s kind of hard to be too sympathetic in that case…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 no its censoring

The report button does get overused at times yes, and this can be unfortunate when it nets a reasonable comment that would otherwise help or start a good discussion on a topic, but as you note, almost all of those cases are when dealing with posters that have a long, consistent history of trollish, spammish, or ad hom filled commenting, so as unfortunate as it may be when their rare reasonable and rational posts get hidden, they really only have themselves to blame for it.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 no its censoring

if a post is “HELD FOR MODERATION” for the simple reason that Masnick does not like the person making the post, not what is said, THAT IS CENSORSHIP.. these posts are HELD FOREVER, they are never seen on TD, and that is CENSORSHIP..

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. What’s stated above is simply untrue. While some legitimate comments are caught in the spam filter (which uses a variety of different algorithms and heuristics and services to sniff out spam — catching nearly all of the 1000+ spams we get per day), we release EVERY legitimate non-spam comment, even those that disagree with what we have to say. The only ones that we may not release are when someone whose comment accidentally gets caught in the spam filter then reposts that same comment another dozen times (in those cases, we’ll just post it that once…) or when they then throw a misguided tirade claiming that we’re picking on them personally. We’re not. In fact, we have one of the most open commenting policies anywhere on the web these days.

If you’ve had legitimate comments caught in the spam filter, we apologize, but we try to be as efficient as possible about getting them on the site.

And, of course, I certainly disagree with the idea that this is censorship in any way — unless you believe that blocking spam is “censorship.” I think most rational people would disagree.

Just Sayin' says:

Re: Re: Re:5 no its censoring

Mike, you are being very dishonest here (and I doubt this comment will get posted in any timely manner).

I have two other comments in this post, both have been held now for more than 24 hours without reason – except that you have decided you don’t like my comments and as a result you censor them by delaying them until they are no longer relevant because the discussion has moved on or slid off the front page of your site.

It’s censorship, just a soft version so you have plausible deniability. I don’t spam, I don’t have links in my posts, nothing… just you blocking a dissenting voice.

Why do you do it? Can you explain? I don’t spam. I don’t use a VPN. I don’t post links, I don’t do anything like that. Yet, there you go, delaying comments by holding them for moderation for as long as it takes to make them irrelevant.

Censorship by blocking… it’s something you rally against, and then use to shut down people you don’t like. It’s a two faced way to do things, and seems to be showing someone who is incredibly petty.

Just Sayin' says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Nothing dishonest. Mike or his minions released all of my comment in this post pretty much the moment it fell off the front page of the Techdirt site, rendering it almost unimportant. Most second and third page stories don’t get very many more comments.

Basically, he’s blocking my comments until few (like yourself) read them.

Don’t let the date / time stamp fool you, that is when I wrote the post, not when it was added on the site. The actual add time for my comment above was about 14 hours after I wrote it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 no its censoring

I seem to recall someone (Rikuo?) offering to help prove that you are being “censored” with a Skype call but you weren’t interested. So instead of proving your accusations you want everyone else to disprove them. Also you suddenly seem to have found the reply button again. Or are you still blaming TOR for not using it previously?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 no its censoring

“…to the point where it takes a single click to reveal and read it, is not even close to having your post removed, with no ability for people to read it once it’s gone.”

For those, like myself, that read with javascript disabled (for security reasons), a single click does NOT reveal the post. It is, instead, effectively REMOVED.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 no its censoring

I am not talking about ‘user censorship’ that people here do in an attempt to stifle free speech.

I am talking about Mr Masnick ‘HELD FOR MODERATION (and disposal’ based on MAC address, IP address and other meta-data, this is CENSORSHIP..

So, you cannot just ‘click on it’ because YOU NEVER SEE IT, Mr Masnick likes to use his own form of censorship to stop people posting at all, its kind of sad to see Mr Masnick resort to this, considering he is all out “I hate censorship” in his outward stance.

I am sure even you can see these things are not the same.

and the ‘hidden’ posts are also censorship, it seems simply easier than having your beliefs questioned..

and again, its sad that TD and Masnick allow this on this web site.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 no its censoring

the posts I am referring to are the ones Masnick does not allow to be posted in the first place, he does this by using the IP or MAC address to CENSOR that PERSON, not the post, EVERY POST..

That’s censorship, it’s done based on META-DATA gathered by masnick on posters to TD and is used for censorship.

you can have a completely valid comment, that is not spam, but related to the issue.

But because it does not support Masnick’s opinion it never gets to be shown on the site.

By any definition that is CENSORSHIP..

This is not about ‘hidden’ posts, although that too is censorship, its about posts being blocked before they are read or posted, that never get posted.

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Re: Re:3 no its censoring

You can present dissenting views via comments here. Doing so can spark good debates and conversations. But trying to present those dissenting views by insulting the other commenters and the Techdirt writers doesn’t help your cause. Doing that on a regular basis can earn you such a poor reputation that commenters will report your posts based on your reputation rather than the content of your posts (e.g. Out of the Blue, who does manage to post something worthwhile and reasonable every so often despite having earned a reputation for coating all their posts with ad hominems and personal attacks on Mike Masnick). You can fight that reputation, but once you’ve earned it, you’ll end up fighting an uphill battle – and doing the same crap that earned you said reputation won’t help your case.

With that said: neither report-hiding posts and Techdirt’s spam filters catching posts count as censorship in any reasonable person’s mind. You can go to any open-content site and complain all the live-long day if Techdirt blocks/hides your comments. Comment hiding/blocking doesn’t stop you from speaking your mind elsewhere, Techdirt has no legal (or moral) obligation to give you a platform, and the law does not allow you to force Techdirt into giving you a platform.

I cherish the idea of dissenting views and opposing ideas. Our differences can help us understand each other better and improve our lives, even if we end up disagreeing after a healthy discussion. But we don’t get that discussion if you (and other commenters who cry “censorship”) keep attacking people, claiming yourself as a victim of censorship, and using “I’m just trying to present a dissenting view” to excuse away your own bullshit.

New Mexico Mark says:

Re: pledge not to censor comments ?? this year ?

I don’t think I’ve every responded to a flagged comment. After all, “don’t feed the trolls” is a good policy. On the other hand, your post, while misleading and slightly ad hominem, didn’t sink to the lowest levels of discourse and I wanted to sum up some of my thoughts about this policy.

1. You are confusing “censorship” with “equal promotion”. This is typical of today’s “it’s all about me” attitudes. In other words, if whatever expression you spew is not give equal value, prominence, and/or promotion with all others, you have somehow had your “rights” violated. Assuming you are an adult, it is sad to see such a childish attitude.

2. The only “POWER” you are contending with is the power given to a community to have some say-so in the dialog in which it prefers to engage. Frankly, I’d probably lean toward a more permanent solution of automatically deleting not only comments voted “off the island”, but responses to those comments as well. It would clear up a lot of clutter. Don’t like it? Find another island, build your own, or choose to engage in civil discourse. How’s that for freedom?

I must confess that Mike is actually more tolerant than I am in this area and I’ve learned some lessons on patience from observing how he manages this site and responds to some of the vitriol and ignorance posted, sometimes even responding reasonably to people who can barely form a coherent sentence. Regardless of any agendas, Mike (and many on this site) often set a standard for excellence in civil discourse.

3. You are quick to argue for unlimited free expression in any venue, yet some commenters seem to get upset when others exercise their rights to free expression in voting down their opinion, making it less visible. No doubt the irony that I and many others are responding to your “censored” comment will be completely lost on you.

Slight change of topic, but you know what would be really fun? Have each “report” vote move a comment a preset value toward the background color of the site and each “insightful” vote move the comment back toward full visibility. If/when the comment reaches background color, only the “comment flagged” and unhide option would appear unless a preset number of “insightful” votes were received subsequently. It would be cool to see some comments gradually fade away or even reappear. It would also help illustrate that this is not one person exercising their right to manage their web site, but a community exercising its freedom to lower the visibility of truly obnoxious content or participants.

Finally, shout out to Mike. Great job with this site. You have influenced my own views and my ability to engage in more informed dialog about things like IP rights, erosion of the Constitution, and some alternative takes on “everybody knows that” types of issues. If that is part of your agenda, add a +1 to the success column.

Happy New Year everyone

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: pledge not to censor comments ?? this year ?

I must confess that Mike is actually more tolerant than I am in this area and I’ve learned some lessons on patience from observing how he manages this site and responds to some of the vitriol and ignorance posted, sometimes even responding reasonably to people who can barely form a coherent sentence. Regardless of any agendas, Mike (and many on this site) often set a standard for excellence in civil discourse.

Actually, I personally think I fail at this way too often. It’s one area where I hope to continue to improve.

Finally, shout out to Mike. Great job with this site. You have influenced my own views and my ability to engage in more informed dialog about things like IP rights, erosion of the Constitution, and some alternative takes on “everybody knows that” types of issues. If that is part of your agenda, add a +1 to the success column.

Thanks.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: pledge not to censor comments ?? this year ?

Slight change of topic, but you know what would be really fun? Have each “report” vote move a comment a preset value toward the background color of the site and each “insightful” vote move the comment back toward full visibility.

I love that idea. More importantly though (to me) would be to hide all replies to a reported comment, at least in threaded mode.

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