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Summing Up Groklaw 2003
Wednesday, December 31 2003 @ 07:10 PM EST

Groklaw has had quite a year. Groklaw won its first award this year, O'Reilly's OSDir.com Editor's Choice Award for Best News Website. And Clay Shirky named Groklaw "the MVP of the SCO Wars". Groklaw's birth in May is mentioned in LWN.net's 2003 Timeline as a significant event: "Groklaw launches and becomes the definitive site for SCO case coverage."

And Groklaw was referenced in a footnote in IBM's Reply Memorandum in Support of its Second Motion to Compel Discovery, which Judge Wells had before her when she ruled in IBM's favor earlier this month. Obviously, I'm not saying we made that happen, of course, but I'm just mentioning that Groklaw is now a part of computer history, because of that footnote. And I believe we did help.

It has been a good year. I know I've never done any work I've enjoyed more. There is an interview with me on Linux Planet by Jacqueline Emigh, if you are interested in why I do this and how I fell in love with GNU/Linux software and things like that.

My favorite article about Groklaw in 2003 was by Rupert Goodwins on ZDNET.uk:

"Groklaw is a sterling example of Internet interdisciplinary cooperation between experts and concerned parties. The discussions are impassioned but controlled, and documenting arguments is the order of the day. Heavily spiced with links and excerpts from many sources, the rule is -- if you don't understand, ask. If you know something of import, tell.

"When this whole sorry affair is over and BB King can get on with writing the Ballard Of Black Dog McBride, Groklaw will stand as a monument to how a community under threat can gather its resources and calmly set about restoring sanity in a hurricane of bluster. If anyone can find a way to bottle this, it may even all have been worth it."

I was looking for something that would sum up this year on Groklaw, and I think it's this paragraph, from an article on Groklaw on October 30:

"The GPL is their downfall. It's almost amusing watching them get all tangled up in its terms. They can't satisfy their greed and abide by the GPL at the same time. Poor SCO. Poor Microsoft. They will have to write their own software, and they can't. They write it, but it isn't as good. They can't match our software because they won't use our method. The open source/free method of developing software results in better, more stable, more secure code, and it's developed blazingly fast in comparision to their pokey ways. They want the results, but they're so terrified of the open process, they won't use it. The apparent solution they have come up with is to steal GPL code. Maybe they think if they can get it put in the public domain, not that they can, then maybe Windows software will finally become secure, once it's running on Linux, like Apple runs on BSD."

And no year would be complete without UserFriendly, so here are a couple I liked on SCO: first, a suggestion for what the Novell-SuSE new distro should be called, and one more for good measure.

This seems like a good time to publicly say thank you to Ibiblio for hosting Groklaw. Ibiblio hosts a great many sites, including Project Gutenberg, some research sites like Documenting the American South, and several Linux sites. Ibibilio is a "collaboration of the Center for the Public Domain and the University of North Carolina". They call themselves "The Public's Library and Digital Archive." In my opinion, Ibiblio is a national treasure.

And I also want to say thanks to the Groklaw family. Groklaw wouldn't be Groklaw without you, and the world has noticed your contribution. As Shirky phrased it:

"This is the end of two-party law, where plaintiff and defendant duke it out in an arms race of $350/hr laywers and 'Take that' counter-motions.

"Instead, we have a third party, Groklaw, acting as a proxy for millions of Linux users, affecting the public perception of the case (and the outcome SCO wants has to do with its stock price, not redress in the courts.) Groklaw may also be affecting the case in the courts, by helping IBM with a distributed discovery effort that they, IBM, could never accomplish on their own, no matter how may lawyers they throw at it.

"There are two ways to change the amount of leverage you have. The obvious one is to put more force on the lever, and this is what SCO thought they were doing -- engaging IBM in a teeter-totter battle that would make it cheaper for IBM to simply buy SCO than to fight it out in the courts.

"The other way to get more leverage is to move the fulcrum. Groklaw has moved the fulcrum of this battle considerably closer to SCO, making it easier for IBM to exert leverage, and harder for SCO to. I can't predict how the current conflict will end, but the pattern Groklaw has established, of acting on behalf of the people who will be adversely affected by a two-party legal battle, has already been vindicated, even if SCO avoids bankruptcy."

Thank you for your tips, the articles you bring to my attention, the comments, the suggestions, your wonderful research, the articles you have contributed and contributed to. The answers to your questions about patents for Dan Ravicher are available here [sub reqd].

I want to say a huge thank you to MathFox, Groklaw's webmaster, for his untiring and very skillful help, which he does entirely as a volunteer and without one word of complaint all year, through all the changes from blog to website to bigger website, and through all the slashdottings...Thank you, MathFox. No one but me knows all you have done and how much your skillfulness has helped to form Groklaw's tone. You help make Groklaw a pleasant place to be.

And a thank you to John Crowley for designing our charming new logo, which he also did as a volunteer. He is working on some ideas on design for next year and some ways to make it easier for Groklaw to grow and still be manageable. And a thanks to Clay Graham for helping Groklaw transition from blog to website, so Groklaw could grow. A special thanks to my core team of experts and advisers, for keeping me from making as many mistakes as I otherwise surely would have.

Yes, it's been a wonderful year. We have proven that no one person or small group is as smart as all of us working together and that the open method really does work in the legal arena too. We'll tell our grandchildren about what we started some day, I think, and they'll be proud of us.

I mentioned the Documenting the American South project because I have an idea for a group project for Groklaw to tackle that I think might just work. I'll tell you all about it next year.


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