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To read comments to this article, go here
Just So You Know, Groklaw is Here to Stay
Tuesday, March 16 2004 @ 03:26 PM EST

I've been getting inundated with email, asking if Groklaw will be shutting down, thanks to an article in InfoWorld that identified me as the "former editor of Groklaw". That is inaccurate. I am still the editor of Groklaw, and my work with OSRM is separate from it. My contract is written so as to ensure my having time to do Groklaw. I have always done paid work in addition to Groklaw, so this isn't anything new. UPDATE: The article has been corrected. Thank you. 3/17/04

The article said that SCO didn't sound displeased to hear the news. Not that I wish to throw cold water on anyone's pleasure in Lindon or anything, but Groklaw isn't going anywhere.

The misunderstanding arose because there was a problem reaching OSRM principals in time to meet the deadline, because they were flying to California. Consequently, a lot of info wasn't available to the journalist, Robert McMillan, when he had to write to meet his deadline. He's a good guy, and such things happen. It does illustrate though, once again, that you can't believe everything you read.

There is an interview with me on Terminaali. It's in English, and it's accurate, and I talk about some future plans for Groklaw and what we are working on, in case you are interested. Here's the Finnish version.

Brenda sent me this link, to SCO stock in real-time, if you are interested in the financial side.

In the interests of not melting their server, I inquired if Terminaali.net would like it if I put their interview here on Groklaw, and they said yes. So here is the interview:

Interview with Groklaw´s Pamela Jones: The open source version of legal research

Pamela Jones, PJ, is the founder and maintainer of increasingly popular Groklaw, a research and resource site for the complex SCO controversy. Terminaali.net is pleased to have had the opportunity to interview PJ about Groklaw and community around the site.

Terminaali.net: How many new friends do you think you’ve made since you started Groklaw?

Pamela Jones: I think I have many new friends. I get hundreds of emails every day and people sometimes send me gifts too. A reader sent me some honey from his bees in Germany, and another made me a lovely necklace and another painted a watercolor. It's very touching. Also, some of the volunteers who help with Groklaw have proven to be real friends, for sure, sticking by me though thick and thin. We have about 5,000 members now, and many, many more who visit regularly and contribute anonymously, literally tens of thousands every day, almost two million hits a week now.

But of course I had friends before I was well-known. It's a great relief to be with them sometimes too. On the other hand, in a way the new friends know a side of me that some of my older friends really don't. Some of them are not interested in computers a bit, so I'd have to shut that part of me off with them. In that sense the new friends I've made through Groklaw are special to me and I really enjoy interacting by email and getting to know the readers.

TE: How about enemies? Have you got anyone special in mind?

PJ: Enemies, well, can you guess?

TE: In your opinion, what was there before Free Software and GNU/Linux community and, how did people decide to embrace free software as a personal choice?

PJ: Actually, that's backwards, I believe. It was all free and open at first. Then Bill Gates had a brainstorm, and some others, and they decided to fence it in and plant their flag on software. Now it’s swinging back, because the proprietary experiment didn't work out so well.

I have written about the appeal, to me, like this:

"It's free as in speech, as in libre, as in freedom, not free as in beer. That's Linux' real draw, not cost. People happily pay plenty for GNU/Linux distributions, especially in the enterprise. Why? It isn't just customer support. It's knowing that you can trust who wrote it not to stab you in the back. If you can't trust the company, you can't trust their code. Pure and simple.

"And do you trust SCO now? How about Sun? Microsoft? Business customers are people too. And people are sick and tired of snoopware and viruses and backdoors and all the other things you can't fix or even understand in proprietary software. Linux frees you from those worries. You can learn whatever you want, fix whatever breaks or change whatever you want to make it do something just a bit different, or hire someone to do it for you.

"People are sick of license terms that treat them like criminals, where even when you try hard to obey, you never feel free of that worry...am I allowed to do this? They love GNU/Linux because you can share with your friends and family freely, install it on as many computers as you own at home and at work. Sick of saving proof of purchase certificates under pain of a visit from the IP police and fines when they can't find that piece of paper from 1998. Sick of typing in numbers to prove they bought the software, and having software call home to validate their right to use what they bought, and companies that shove one-sided EULAs down their throats, claiming the right to monitor their hard drive for compliance. Sick of businesses that care about money for themselves first and customers a distant second. GNU/Linux opened people's eyes. It offers an escape from all of that…

"But here's, to me, the best thing about GNU/Linux. It's so pleasant to be in control of your own environment. You can design any kind of look you enjoy, pick from a seemingly endless variety of applications, and do whatever you want without fear. It's a feeling you can never have with any other OS."

To me, it's like flying your own plane, instead of sitting in economy class as a passenger wondering if the pilot got enough sleep last night or had a drink just before takeoff or if there's a bomb onboard.

TE: In his recent article Richard Stallman used an analogy to NY to point out that whether described as a community or not people are still individuals. If someone commits a crime in your hometown, you can’t blame all its citizens, not to mention when speaking about communities larger than many countries.

To complete previous question, I’d like to ask you, what in your opinion unites the free/open-source software community. What makes individuals to come together? What are the building blocks or are there any?

PJ: There are real differences that I don't minimize but at the moment, the SCO matter makes them fairly unimportant, to me. Later, if everyone wishes to go back to arguing about that, they will have that luxury. There is, however, one part of the old argument that I think we don't need to repeat: namely the value of the GPL. Stallman took a lot of abuse, but he never wavered. I think the entire world owes him a thank you for that. I couldn't have done what he did, year in and year out, being verbally attacked and humiliated and abused, his motives questioned, his personality mocked, his beliefs misrepresented. But because he was firm in his convictions, the GPL stands between us and SCO's attempted software land grab.

That of course is exactly why SCO (and MS) hates it.

TE: Are you a fan of science fiction? If so, could you please name one movie or book you especially like?

PJ: No. I have a literal mind. I tend to find most of fiction hard to get involved in, because I would rather learn something than imagine it. I know that this disappoints people, who naturally want me to enjoy what they do, and I've tried. My dad loved science fiction, but I have never really been able to do so. I'm not much of a fiction person. When I read fiction, I think more of the writer and in my mind they are my friends. I imagine talking with them, with Jane Austen or Tolstoy. I don't get caught up in the story as much as I do in the author, wondering about the person.

TE: Let’s stay in the future for awhile. Imagine yourself as a science fiction writer, and try to imagine a post-SCO, post-proprietary (software) world. How would it look and feel like?

PJ: I think it will look like Knoppix. Microsoft talks about innovation as if only a budget of their size makes it possible. But really, human creativity is worth all their millions, as long as you don't fence in the brain with "IP" laws so we can all build on each others' work and ideas.

TE: Clearly there are 2 different versions about the future of FOSS [free and open-source software] out there: the SCO’s and the one that is what people make of it. If we’d live in a reality where all the SCO’s legal desires would come true, the FOSS-loving people wouldn’t die, I think, but what would happen?

PJ: Then, personally, I think it would be time to get off the Internet and stop using computers except as required for work. MS' DRM plans are such that the Internet will become a police state. That's fine for the police, but who else wants to live like that?

TE: Would it make a good book or movie?

PJ: Of course it would. The SCO story would make a good movie. No one could make this up.

TE: Now back to the present time. How does it feel that SCO zealots are among other things targeting their comments and perhaps frustration against Groklaw?

PJ: For the past couple of days, I've been basking in the warm awareness that it means we have won the FUD battle [against disinformation], so far. Personally, it's unpleasant, because I don't know how far they will go. It's not enjoyable to be threatened or falsely accused. No normal person likes it.

TE: In a sense it must feel like kind of recognition for all the work you’ve done, since at least to me it tells Groklaw’s work has been taken seriously.

PJ: Yes, it’s recognition, and that is satisfying. I know I've made a real contribution. Sometimes I lay awake and just think about it, or I stare up at the stars and feel happy. But to be absolutely truthful with you, I never intended for Groklaw to be so popular or to have such an influence. I did absolutely nothing to make it happen. I don't even let Google spider the site since we moved to the website. It's a surprise to me, and I don't enjoy being a public person. It's not as much fun as you might imagine. I'm a private person by nature, and losing a measure of my quiet life is sad to experience. I don't mean to whine, because it is fun too. It's complex. But trust me, it's not the part I would do on purpose.

I now can't just write in silly ways, the way I used to. I have to consider that Groklaw is quoted and taken seriously, and I have to be responsible with that. It's a good development, but it's more work and less fun. And we have SCO trolls, as I call them, who attack each and every article I write, every single day. They are very unpleasant and not good writers, and I sometimes shudder to think what kind of people there are in the world; people who will do unnatural things, just for money. Some people sell out for so little.

TE: Finally, let’s make a fact box.If you meet someone who has never heard of Groklaw, how would you shortly describe what’s it all about?

PJ: It started as just me, writing to the air. I wanted to help. I couldn't think of any other way to help but to use my research and writing skills, so I just started wondering out loud, "Is that true?" or "Did it really happen that way?". Just picking up rocks and seeing what crawled out underneath and writing about it.

Now, it is a real community, an international one, of people who love this software enough to try to help it in its hour of need, legal folks, and coders, and truck drivers, and military people, and housewives and journalists... Just people, the third party in every SCO lawsuit, the people who will be affected by the lawsuits and want to do what they can to make sure the right side prevails. It's the open source version of legal research, and it works. I'm quite sure that no company could afford the thousands of volunteers who research every detail of this case. I know we have made a difference and that Groklaw is something new and creative. That is my favorite part: watching it develop and working with the natural flow from others.

TE: Please tell us something about the coming events that will most probably be discussed in Groklaw.

PJ: First, we will celebrate SCO's downfall in court, hopefully. I would like to have some kind of online party on that happy day. I haven't figured out yet exactly how to do that. It could take some time, because the law is slow in the US, but I feel confident that, barring martial law, as I always say, the outcome is sure.

Next, I have in my mind to start to cover patents and Microsoft more than we have. I am fairly clear in my thoughts on what I think they will try next. And Groklaw is working on an update of the Levenez chart [Unix history], from the perspective of copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents. We are looking to head off any future copycat SCOs and to defeat them if they are foolish enough to try something again. I expect this project will take about a year. And any new lawsuits (in America there are always more) that threaten FOSS will naturally be covered. I am sure SCO is just the beginning. I would also like to set things up so that companies that need help can contact Groklaw and we could just help them in very specific ways. I haven't got that part completely clear in my mind yet, but I see a real use for Groklaw, something that hasn't been done before in the legal world, but that the Internet makes possible.

But you're asking the same person who had no idea that Groklaw would become what it has, so maybe I'll be surprised by Groklaw's future too.


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