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March 6, 2012
Dan Gillmor Goes Big, Goes Free, Goes Public
Yesterday, Dan Gillmor
dropped what I consider to be a fascinating opening salvo of an announcement via his Google+ stream. Gillmor is open-sourcing his life as much as feasible, and crowd-sourcing his next project, tentatively titled "Permission Taken"
First, a bit of background. Gillmor has been working in various aspects of journalism for 25+ years. I first started reading him in the late 90s when he was working at the Merc and its online site siliconvalley.com. He's been a businessman, teacher, and investor in the digital media space for approximately as long as that space has existed within the US media landscape. Gillmor has never been passive - he was one of the first "establishment" media figures to realize that personal passion counted for something extra in the digital media space and he does projects he believes in.
Right now, what he believes is that we (the media-consuming public) need to make better choices. More informed choices. More active choices. In an effort to spur that he is both walking the walk, and creating the Permission Taken project, a project dedicated to "help[ing] you make your own decisions" on technology, privacy, and rights.
The project currently exists as a public Google doc - anyone can read it and comment either anonymously or if they have a Google account they can log in and be named. It reads a lot like an early-stage book proposal and it's clear there's a ton of work to do. Of course there will be at least one accompanying Web site, but there's also the possibility that Gillmor will take this crowdsourcing thing seriously and farm out pieces of this to others who would build micro-sites or related sites to extend beyond what can be contained in any one book/site.
The topic itself is centrally important to Copyfighters. Gillmor is quite up-front about the fact that using Google and gdocs represents a compromise. He describes how he's unplugged himself from the "church of Apple" in order to get some more freedom and control, but that no ideal solution exists. Each choice is some sort of trade-off and the project's purpose is not to steer a purist agenda but rather to make conscious trade-offs and guide other less-technical folk in making similar decisions.
It's a hard row to hoe. I've been vocal on Google+ (feel free to read my own stream and circle me there if you wish) about how I would like Google to stop racing Facebook to the bottom of the privacy-invading cesspit. Like Gillmor I think Google-flavor evil is less bad than Apple-flavor evil or Facebook-flavor evil but neither of us is blind to the fact that all these companies act in evil ways sometimes. Mottos notwithstanding, all of them are public companies with legal obligations to make as much money as possible and that's what they do.
In that spirit then, I'd encourage my readers here to join in the discussion Gillmor is opening, to follow the project as it unfolds, and let's see what comes of it.
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