I'm Sorry It's Come To This

Thursday December 15, 2011
If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.
- Tao Te Ching ch. 59,
as translated by S. Mitchell

I usually try not to get too political in my public persona – on blogs, twitter, IRC, mailing lists et cetera – and that's a conscious choice.

I work on open source software.  I have for the last ten years.  I am lucky enough to have founded a project of my own, but in open source, leaders are more beholden to their followers than vice versa.  I depend on people showing up to effectively work for me, for free, on a regular basis.  So, I try to avoid politics not because I don't have strong convictions (anyone who knows me personally can tell you that I certainly do) but because I don't want someone to avoid showing up and helping do some good in the world in one area, just because we might disagree in another.

This is a benefit of living in a free and democratic society: we have ways to dispute issues that we have strong feelings about, so we can cooperate on some things without having to agree on everything.  It's rarely perfect but we can usually get some good stuff done, with rough consensus and running code.

Today though, there's a political issue which I can't ignore.  The purpose of Twisted (the open source project which I founded) is to facilitate the transfer of information across the Internet.  A new law, SOPA, is threatening to radically alter the legal infrastructure of the Internet in the United States, granting sweeping new powers to copyright cartels and fundamentally restricting the legal right to transfer any information, and to build tools that transfer it.  Twisted is designed to make it easy to implement new protocols, to easily experiment with improvements to systems like the Domain Name System.  SOPA might well make those potential improvements, and with only a little paranoid fantasizing, Twisted itself, illegal.

It's my view that this law is a blatantly unconstitutional restriction on free speech.  It will kill job creation, at a time when our nation can scarce afford another blow to its economy.  It will create the infrastructure to suppress political dissent, similar to the infrastructure in China and Syria, at a time when our corrupt political system needs dissent more than ever.  It is the wrong thing at the wrong time.

This bill is being discussed in the house today.  If you're in the US, call your representative right now.

(As always, I don't speak for anyone but myself; no one else has reviewed or endorsed these remarks.)