New Year's Message: Make The World A Better Place

from the it-can-always-get-better dept

It's tricky to figure out how to start this post this year, of all years. As long-time readers are aware, ever since 2008, my final post of the year was a reflection on optimism. It started, in 2008, in the midst of a few fights to create a better internet at the time, in which two separate people had expressed to me what they believed to be a contradiction: I am unfailingly optimistic about the potential for innovation to make the world better, and yet I often appeared (to them, at least), to be so angry about the state of the world and the efforts various people were involved in to impede the internet. And thus started the tradition of writing a post about how important it was to stay happy and optimistic, even in the face of so many challenges to that optimism. Whatever anger or frustration people sense from me has never been in opposition to that optimism, but directed at how that optimistic vision may be delayed or limited by short-sighted thinking. If you'd like to look over the history of these posts, here's the full list:

Of course, 2020 has been a different kind of year by pretty much any measure imaginable. You already know that we're still in the midst of a massive pandemic that has taken the lives of nearly 2 million people worldwide, and 350,000 in the US alone. All of our lives have been changed in the last nine or ten months. At the same time, one of the key issues we talk about and advocate for here on Techdirt — keeping an open internet thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Act — has been under attack (as began in earnest last year) to the point that today, as I write this, it is front page news, with both the outgoing President and the President-elect saying complete and utter nonsense about it, and the Senate Majority Leader basically using the open internet as a key poison pill in his effort to deny Americans the relief they so desperately need.

Needless to say, it's been an exhausting (and frustrating and stressful) year all around.

And that doesn't even mention that over the summer we had to take all ads off our site, after Google's ad moderators found our stories (including about Google, Section 230, and content moderation) "dangerous and derogatory." That has represented a financial hit for us that we are still dealing with. And that doesn't even touch on a few other projects that we had lined up that all were (hopefully temporarily) put on hold due to the pandemic, or how many of us have experienced personal tragedies this year, outside of work, that don't even warrant a mention here. I know that it's been probably the most difficult year of most people's lives.

But, again, the point of this final post of the year is to the good things, the opportunities, and the reasons to remain optimistic, even in the midst of so many challenges. And, there is much to be optimistic about. Obviously, the COVID-19 vaccines were created in truly astounding, record-breaking time, in part due to the combination of new technologies and innovations and open information sharing (we'll have another post on that soon...). While many of us will be waiting months until we can get the vaccine, we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, and we're getting there thanks to the promise of innovation.

We've also discovered just how much technology, the internet, and innovation have been able to help so many people make it through the pandemic. The ability of so much of the economy to shift, practically overnight, to a work-from-home setting thanks to the internet and a variety of technologies is quite astounding. Obviously there are many jobs that couldn't make the shift, and many companies -- often small businesses -- that have struggled to make it through, but it is hard to overstate just how important the open internet has been to making the impact of the pandemic significantly less bad for a huge number of people. Even for people who don't work from home, things like online shopping, telemedicine, video conferencing and more have made it possible for people to remain widely in contact with the outside world, without putting themselves and others at risk.

This is incredible. And it should be celebrated. Imagine just how much worse the pandemic would have been without the modern internet.

It has also given us some opportunities to branch out and experiment in new ways. While we had been running various live events and experiments, the pandemic gave us a chance to figure out how to convert our event games to an online format -- allowing us to run our election disinformation simulation game multiple times over the summer and fall, and then to create the Copia Gaming Hour as a place to experiment with more gaming concepts and ideas. It also resulted in us running an amazing online brainstorming game with the World Economic Forum just a few weeks ago (I'll have more on that in a future post as well).

We've also found some other interesting ways to experiment with new technologies, including Coil and the web monetization protocol, which I think is one of the most interesting new innovations online these days. As always, we'd certainly appreciate any support you can give us. Techdirt remains one of the only remaining truly independent media properties out there. Nearly everyone else is owned by some giant company. And having to lose ads for half a year hasn't been great. And while we've been excited to see new media models, such as Substack, show up for independent creators, much of that relies on a paywall, which is something we're not interested in doing ourselves. I know it's been a tough year for everyone, but if you're able to, please consider supporting Techdirt.

And, of course, we're not even close to done experimenting. We've been working on a wide range of interesting things behind the scenes to improve this site and the experience for users -- some of which are pretty close to being rolled out (and which I think many of our long term community members will find very exciting too). We've also got some other, slightly longer-term projects cooking, and I'm excited to be digging in on all of those.

I'm less excited about the fact that heading into the new year we're still going to be spending way too much time fighting back against bad policy ideas. Section 230 is still going to be under attack, even after the new administration takes over (Section 230, like copyright, remains an area where there is bipartisan horribleness). Speaking of copyright, that's back on the docket as well, with Senator Tillis's absolutely insane ideas regarding copyright reform. But it will be important that we fight to move things in the right direction.

I know that lots of people have been looking forward to the end of 2020 because, well, just look around. Of course, I've also seen a few people note that many looked forward to the end of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019... and the following year was often, in many ways, even worse. It is absolutely true that "things can always get worse." And we should be concerned that even with things looking up in some ways, we're still not out of this mess. Things can get worse. But, the optimism is that they can also get better. And I've dedicated my life to trying to help people understand how it can be better, and to encourage them to help fight to make it better.

So as we move into 2021, I hope that you're all ready to fight to help bring about this better, more optimistic world. We sure could use it.

Finally, my final paragraph of the final post every year is dedicated to again thanking all of you for making this worthwhile. It really is the community of folks here that makes Techdirt what it is. It's the interactions and the discussions and the debates held on Techdirt and across the wider internet that make all this worth doing. It challenges us, makes us think, and always pushes us to continue to be better ourselves. So thank you, once again, for making Techdirt such a special and wonderful place where we can share and discuss all of these ideas. I look forward to what you'll have to say in 2021.

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–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: 2020, 2021, covid, innovation, new year's, optimism, technology


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 31 Dec 2020 @ 7:59am

    A Grim Year

    This year has been grim for me. I lost two relatives of mine, two family friends of mine, and a chiptune musician friend of mine. While they didn't die due to COVID-19, the worldwide clogging of the hospitals with COVID-19 patients meant that they couldn't get the care they needed.

    On the other side, I miss going out to the movie theaters (to wit, the Alamo Drafthouse), live shows, and other in-person meetings (not to mention taking vacations to places such as Japan!). That being said, even though I'm spending more money on things like video games and video streaming services, I'm actually saving more money because I'm making and eating food at home instead of eating out at restaurants. I work from home now, and it had no effect on my paycheck.

    I realize I'm one of the lucky ones…the extremely lucky ones.

    I just hope I can get the vaccine…

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2020 @ 9:09am

    Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

    “Cheer up. Brian. You know what they say…

    Some things in life are bad... [YouTube / Monty Python]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2020 @ 9:39am

    Same to you.

    Always be optimistic...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2020 @ 9:52am

    It will be a lot easier to become optimistic after January 21. That will be my New Year. Until then, my main concern is that Trump, who cannot under any circumstances allow himself to lose control of the justice department and intelligence community, and having exhausted all legal means of remaining in power, will start using any illegal, last resort, desperation tactics he can, and quite possibly with the help of the hostile nation state that put him there. I hope I'm wrong, but until then I'll be on the alert for a major catastrophe that will just happen to give him the justification he needs to seize power and cancel the transition.

    Happy New Year!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Flakbait (profile), 31 Dec 2020 @ 9:55am

    Thanks!

    I likely won’t have much to say again this year, just as I haven’t in the past. But I look forward to the next year. Thank you for having the site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Crafty Coyote, 31 Dec 2020 @ 10:28am

    Happy New Year. If you had a forum for personal victories and successes, I'd keep you up to date on how my life is going but things should generally improve

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 31 Dec 2020 @ 11:06am

    Spreading lights in the darkness

    While 2020 undoubtedly showed the rotten and corrupt core of many for all to see it also allowed the good if not heroic character of many others to shine.

    Countless people have and continue to make personal sacrifices if not put their lives on the line in order to keep things going and work to make it improve, from people working in grocery stores ensuring that people can still eat, doctors and nurses treating the sick in downright hellish conditions, researchers working to get a vaccine out as quickly as possible, or even 'just' those that were willing to restrict their lives in order to protect themselves and those around them, so very many people have seen the near insurmountable mountain that has been 2020 rise before them and have responded with a firm 'Challenge Accepted'.

    2020 has been a hellscape in many ways, from a virus killing people on a rate usually only seen in wars to people who's first response to that has been 'how can I use that death toll to benefit myself?', but if anything that just serves to highlight just how many people have risen to the occasion and done what they could to not just keep things where they are but make them better, and if you're looking for hope for 2021 and onward, well, that's quite the source.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Logged of account, 31 Dec 2020 @ 11:09am

    We *WILL* get through this!

    It's been a difficult year, for some more than others. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. - The vaccines have been developed. - There has been a massive increase of use (and appreciation for) technology, the Internet, etc.. - From what I hear, 2020 was a huge year in terms of hardware. - Apparently the PS5 is amazing, and I look forward to eventually getting one...when I get through the list of PS3 and PS4 games in my backlog. (Ahhhhhh!! Too many books, films, games! Not enough time!) - With fewer people outside, there has been a decline in pollution and a surge of wildlife. A very Happy New Year to Mike, Techdirt, and the rest of the community!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2020 @ 11:51am

    Thank you Mike, and everyone else at Techdirt; regulars, occasional contributors, and guests alike. Also thank you to the commentariat. You all make every day a little better, and keep me informed on many things i would barely hear about elsewhere if lucky, as well as providing a lot of thought and analysis to digest.

    Really, thank you all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 31 Dec 2020 @ 11:55am

    There are alternatives

    (Section 230, like copyright, remains an area where there is bipartisan horribleness)

    These are not the only areas of "bipartisan horribleness," and Techdirt does a great job of bringing many of the other areas to light. If anyone does the New Year Resolution thing, might I suggest resolving to discontinue supporting those "bi-partisans" who have contributed to the horribleness for so long and instead begin supporting alternatives that might make some of the horribleness go away?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 31 Dec 2020 @ 12:32pm

    For all the tales

    ITs always the interesting things that tend to make life More interesting.
    The boring life, you may entertain yourself, but nothing as wild as nature and idiots can.
    When so few can Cause such an uproar of confusion, pain and More ignorance in time. Not 1 piece at a time, but dumping the Whole of Oz, page by page, assorted randomly among us. Only to have us try to unravel and rebind all the subjects of Oz.

    https://oz.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_Oz_books

    And with a list of characters and Confusion abound, do we add to the confusion and disorientation's?
    How many actors are we subject to.

    https://oz.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_non-canonical_Oz_books

    For all the story we know, Someone has hidden the pages, the Covers and the Chapters lists. Would it be easier to add a Shredder, and re-edit each and all to make a Concordance of words randomly selected. Or should we create a Bonfire and Roaster Marshmallows, and forget the past and what Had been created.
    For all the radicals of the past we declare that If' you are not a patriot, you are a terrorist. Said long ago by even the British, of us. Isnt a game of 2 handed cards abit boring? When we could have a Whole poker table of opinions and concerns? With only 2 sides, a dealer and a player, there isnt much to discuss and Never to debate, as the dealer always wins. Soon it will be Solitaire with a few missing cards along the way, and Never to win a hand.
    Would rather a Table full of friends and, Maybe a few foes, to have a lively conversation and debate while the dealer passes out the hands.

    Good Day and happy new year, may the next 365 last long then the previous, as boredom for al that lack of entertainment trails on and on, at least we dont suffer what has befallen us from the past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DocGerbil100, 31 Dec 2020 @ 4:39pm

    This year's end, it's definitely good to hear a voice that isn't simply doom-laden - thank you for that, TD.

    Happy new year, guys! Let's hope it's better than the last one. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 31 Dec 2020 @ 8:57pm

    Things I learned in 2020

    1) A huge number of white evangelical Christians feel their personal rights are more important than the lives of others. Love thy neighbor has an addendum; As long as I don't have to wear a mask.
    2) The far left and far right both see each other as the root of all evil. Perhaps they are correct.
    3) The Democrats will seek to undo everything Trump has done, even (perhaps especially), the things that will benefit the masses. They are no better than the Republicans.
    4) A lot of bigoted, racist people live in our country and came crawling out for the election.
    5) The president of the US can say whatever he wants and a huge number of ignorant people will believe him.
    6) I am ashamed of many of my fellow countrypeople. (I will defend their right to be assholes, however)
    7) I could really use a vacation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 1 Jan 2021 @ 1:20am

      Re: Things I learned in 2020

      "3) The Democrats will seek to undo everything Trump has done, even (perhaps especially), the things that will benefit the masses"

      I'll need a citation on that one...

      Well, the "benefit the masses" thing, at least, because I can't think of any Trump action that would actually do that. The majority of the things Trump has done need to be reversed, for the sake of everyone.

      "7) I could really use a vacation."

      As do we all. Here's to January 1st 2022 being a time where we are all going "hey, remember 2020? What a shitshow that was!" rather than "remember travel and meeting people?".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bloof (profile), 1 Jan 2021 @ 3:10am

      Re: Things I learned in 2020

      The far left are not a force in American politics, they're a joke rather than the root of any sort of evil. You will never in your lifetime see policies advocated for solely Nazbols and Tankies enacted in American politics. They only get raised by the right who want to paint the other side as being as bad to scaremonger, smear and distract from the latest horrendous act they're planning, or by centrists who want to handwring and pretend they're above it all and just want to treat both sides equally, while doing nothing as the far right cement their grip on power.

      Don't blame me, I voted for kodos!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Jan 2021 @ 9:57am

      I could really use a vacation.

      Honestly, with as much time as I spend around here, I could use a vacation from commenting here for a while. 🤣

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 1 Jan 2021 @ 10:09am

        Re:

        You didn't just comment here, you wrote an article here (as well as a follow-up thereto)!

        How many TechDirt commenters can lay claim to that?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 2 Jan 2021 @ 10:12am

      Re: Things I learned in 2020

      A huge number of white evangelical Christians feel their personal rights are more important than the lives of others.

      Depends on the rights. These are, by and large, the same people who wanted to shred the Bill of Rights after 9/11.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 1 Jan 2021 @ 11:50am

    2020 Vision

    To all who work at, or with TechDirt.

    Thank you for your perseverance and determination all these years.
    Yours may indeed be the last voice of reason we are able to hear, if things go south; or maybe I should say, farther south.

    Keep up the excellent work people.

    We may not be able to pull our asses out of the fire that's coming, but at least you guys can all say; "We tried."

    Thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Drew Wilson, 1 Jan 2021 @ 1:01pm

    "Techdirt remains one of the only remaining truly independent media properties out there. Nearly everyone else is owned by some giant company. And having to lose ads for half a year hasn't been great."

    I know the feeling. Ever since Slyck and ZeroPaid went offline, I wound up being the only staffer from either site to keep pushing forward where they left off. It's been a battle to stay alive and keep writing news ever since.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 2 Jan 2021 @ 11:12am

    What I've learned so far in 2021

    That I can look back at last year with 2020 hindsight.....

    And I agree with the others: Thanks, Mike! :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 5 Jan 2021 @ 4:51am

    GUESS WHAT!?

    WITH BIDEN AND PELOSI IN OFFICE THE USA IS SHAFTED AND THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE A BETTER PLACE. BUT IF YOU THINK YOU WEREN"T SHAFTED WITH THEM IN OFFICE, YOU ARE A MORON!

    Why were people looking forward to the end of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019?

    BECAUSE THE COPYRIGHT INDUSTRY GOT MORE DRACONIAN, THE MOVIE INDUSTRY GOT SHITTY WITH "WOKE" POLITICAL BS RUINING ALL THE BEST ACTION AND SCIENCE FICTION FILMS.

    DEMOCRATS CONTINUED TO SCREW YOU. AND YOU SUCKERS WHO VOTED FOR THEM BELIEVED THEY WERE ON YOUR SIDE TO MAKE THE COUNTRY BETTER, HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA

    SUCKERS! YOU GOT $600 CHECKS! WHILE THEY PAY THEMSELVES $40k RAISES TO THEIR ALREADY BLOATED PAY, AND MORE SH*T THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH COVID, LIKE MORE DRACONIAN COPYRIGHT LAW(NOBODY VOTED FOR), AND FOREIGN AID BS PET PROJECTS(NOT GOING TO AMERICANS).

    SO BE HAPPY! YOU GOT THE CORRUPT POLITICIANS YOU WANTED IN OFFICE!

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!

    2021 IS GOING TO SHOW YOU HOW MUCH MORE CORRUPT DEMS AND THIER STATES CAN AND WILL BE.

    SUCKERS! YOU ARE ALL SUCKERS!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 5:15am

      Re: GUESS WHAT!?

      Well, that's certainly the level of factual accuracy, maturity and intelligence I've come to expect from a Trump supporter, at least.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 10:53pm

      Re: GUESS WHAT!?

      Now how did you guys put it when Trump won in 2016? I think it went like "Fuck your feelings"?

      Your boy had four years to put Hilary in jail and build the wall. He not only failed to deliver, he got his boys arrested so bad he had to personally bail them out.

      Your boy lost. Bigly. Get over yourself and fuck off.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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