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As of Today, It's Mark Webbink's Groklaw 2.0 - Updated
Monday, May 16 2011 @ 07:30 AM EDT

I announced in April that as of today, I wouldn't be writing any more articles for Groklaw. I intended to finish the Comes v. Microsoft exhibits as text and perfect some of our other collections and then I would retire from Groklaw, knowing as I did that the research we have done together will remain useful no matter what happens in the future.

I was immediately bombarded with messages asking me to keep the community going or to tell you where to assemble elsewhere. A lot of you asked me to at least keep News Picks going. Groklaw is all of us, not just me, and I have always taken your input as seriously as you would expect me to. So I thought about it, and I realized you are right. I would be irresponsible not to try to leave Groklaw in someone's hands who could keep things going. The community is what makes Groklaw of real value, and it's a FOSS community resource that we built together. Our prior art searching, for example, turned out to be truly useful, and in one case it won the case.

So I thought about who would be the right person. Now that the battlefield has shifted from SCO attacking Linux to Microsoft using patents against it and from servers to mobiles, I realized that Groklaw needs a lawyer at the helm. So I asked Mark Webbink if he would take on this role, and I'm thrilled to tell you that he has accepted. He is the new editor of Groklaw as of today. Mark was General Counsel at Red Hat, as you know, and he is on the board of the Software Freedom Law Center. He is also a law professor, which as I'll explain is a vital piece of what he has planned. Mark is a visiting professor at New York Law School where he runs the Center for Patent Innovations, oversees the Peer To Patent project run with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has been active in seeking reform of the U.S. patent system, and teaches patent licensing. In addition, Mark is a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law where he teaches intellectual property (patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret) licensing. Mark has access to law students at those law schools and many others. In addition, Mark has remained interested and involved in free and open source software and related intellectual property issues and he is the author of the chapter on U.S. technology law included in a soon to be released book on free and open source software law.

I know he will make Groklaw the place to go to when you want to understand the law and all things FOSS.

I know, of course, that you'll miss me. Vice versa. But the truth is, I'll be around, just not burdened with the daily chores of writing articles. I need time for other things, and some time to relax. I'll continue to contribute to News Picks, for example. I just won't be the only one. I've worked so hard on a daily basis for eight years, pretty much in emergency mode, that I want time to live a more normal life. Mark might ask me to write an article here and there, but that's up to him, but I'll be here helping with the transition and I'm sure I'll be commenting and interacting with you that way.

Mark understood Groklaw very early on. If you recall, he let us publish some of his articles. I trust him. I like his vision for Groklaw very much. What he has in mind to do is to include his law students, asking them to write articles for Groklaw too, for credit. So you won't lose out on anything, as far as learning the legal process. In fact, it'll be better, because Mark is a lawyer, so he knows many things I don't.

The hope is that other law professors -- and professors of computer science -- will include their students in this new Groklaw, what I call Groklaw 2.0. The more the merrier.

But, but… Groklaw won't be funny any more, I hear some of you say. In fact, I've gotten so much truly sweet email, telling me how much you enjoyed my writing. I appreciate it so much. Thank you all for taking the time to tell me such lovely things.

But I'll explain to you my thinking. Do you remember, you old timers here, how at the beginning, Groklaw was all geeks? We goofed around and humor was the main tone. Lots of puns and poetry and geek jokes and parody press releases. It was my favorite time with Groklaw, actually. I never before or after felt so much part of a community that totally grokked me.

But when you guys showed up, over time you patiently taught me everything I needed to know to write effectively about SCO's claims. You even had to teach me how to do HTML and how to make an image smaller, the most basic things. And I taught you what I knew about the legal process and found materials by lawyers to explain the law to you. And it was magic. Together we changed the course of events, I believe. So much so that others showed up in huge numbers. It wasn't just us geeks any more. It was a wide variety of new people, and they totally didn't grasp the humor. Remember when they'd post sincere comments telling us that what we'd written wasn't exactly correct, when what they were correcting was either sarcasm or a parody?

I finally realized that for their benefit, we had to change and tone it down. Remember? And we did. Because what we wanted was for the new readers to feel comfortable. We wanted executives and judges and journalists and everyone to feel at home. Why? Because our goal was to be effective. There is little point in communicating if it's not received well.

So we changed, in order to be effective. Now it's time to change again and welcome new troops to the community. Here's why. My analysis is that I'm just not the right person to take the lead now. I've always hated patent law, and I still do. I think it's degrading for plaintiffs and unfair to defendants, and I think software and patents need to get a divorce. One day they might. I live in hope.

But I'm a pragmatist. Right now, the battle is all about patents. Every day there's a new patent infringement case filed, it seems, mostly about Android. The recent news about Facebook's smear campaign against Google might make your brain connect some dots about all the anti-Google and anti-Red-Hat litigation too. So there will be more of this, I assume. SCO were like the Keystone Kops. But Microsoft isn't funny.

That being so, what is needed is someone who knows what it all means, what will be most effective, how to hunt for precisely the most useful prior art, for example. I'm not that person, and I realize it. You know how I always wrote that the only legal advice I ever give people is, Ask your lawyer? Well, I gave myself that advice, and I took it. I'm sure this is the right decision.

Please give Mark your full understanding and cooperation. It's about being effective. And now you will always have a lawyer on board who can explain the law to you. Keep in mind, he's a lawyer, but he's not your lawyer for your individual issues and cases. Don't burden him please with questions about those kinds of things. But show him the same patience you showed me and explain the tech to him when he needs your input.

Doing Groklaw was an unbelievable thrill for me. I want him to feel that same satisfaction, and just like I couldn't do it without you, he can't either. The whole point of Groklaw from the earliest days was and is to put the legal and the technical community together, so they could work meaningfully together, with the hope that the group knowledge will be educational for everyone, and that as a result court decisions will be based more on reality, technical and legal. When we work together, there isn't a law firm anywhere that can match the depth of research we can collectively produce.

You can still email me any time, by the way. Because I originally thought I'd just stop today, and now there has to be a transition period, we are still working on setting up everything, so thank you for your patience while we work out the details.

So. It's now Groklaw 2.0, with Mark Webbink and a cast of thousands.

Rob Weir did a very charming post on his blog saying goodbye to Groklaw, with flowers, when he thought it was the end, and it's CC-licensed, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, so I'd like to end with it because it's for you and about you guys too, but for the full effect, you need to visit his blog:

*************************

PJ, Goodbye and Good Luck

There was a time when daggers were drawn on Linux and its demise was plotted in dark detail. At that hour stepped out a shieldmaiden with a blog, and that blog was Groklaw. Eight years later, we hear the news that Groklaw will cease new postings after May 16th. My sadness in hearing this news is more than equaled by my gratitude to PJ and her community of researchers and commentators, for their enormous effort and unparalleled achievement over these years. The world is a better place because of PJ. Who can hope to say better?

As a retrospective of a different kind, I’ve taken the titles from every Groklaw article since its start and created a “word cloud” from them, using Wordle. This shows, at a glance, the issues that have dominated the attention of Groklaw over the years.

*******************************

Update: Ruth Suehle of OpenSource.com has an interview with me here that you might enjoy to read. She asked me some interesting questions.

And here's an interview on Heise, by Richard Hillesley, Groklaw - "the blog that made a difference".

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols adds a bit more in yet another interview.


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