June 12, 2009

HADOPI: 3 Strikes Law Gets Its Own Strike

Filed under: Chilling Effects, Internet, censorship, copyright, law — wseltzer @ 3:13 pm

The French Constitutional Court Wednesday struck down the provisions of the HADOPI “graduated sanction” law that would have required Internet service providers to cut off subscribers access (while continuing to take their payments) after repeat warnings of copyright infringement.

The Court’s ruling recognizes the importance of Internet access and the necessity of due process — before access is cut off:

12. Whereas under Article 11 of the Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789: “The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: every citizen may therefore speak, write and print freely, except to respond to the abuse of this freedom in cases determined by law” that in the current state of communications and given the widespread development of communication services to the public online and the importance of these services for participation in democratic life and to the expression of ideas and opinions, this right includes freedom to access these [Internet] services;

See more at La Quadrature du Net.

Although French legislators say they will revise the law to leave its graduated warnings, the stripping of its automatic termination provisions is an important recognition that copyright cannot trump democratic communication.

UPDATE: While preparing for my SouthEast LinuxFest talk, it occurred to me that this is a good example of the power of generative demonstration: The hundreds of thousands of users participating in democratic communications via the Internet are all part of the wave that helped the Constitutional Court to see the Internet as a critical medium for speech and its access as a core human right. Five years ago, this decision would be unlikely, five years from now, it will seem inevitable.

June 9, 2009

Don’t believe the anti-hype: Twitter succeeds by leaving room for failure

Filed under: Internet, code, innovation — wseltzer @ 11:57 am

Don’t believe the anti-hype around Twitter.

Twitter hype punctured by study, reports the BBC on a recent Harvard B school finding: The median user has written only one tweet, and “the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets.” As though it sealed Twitter’s fate, the BBC adds:

Research by Nielsen also suggests that many people give the service a try, but rarely or never return.

Earlier this year, the firm found that more than 60% of US Twitter users failed to return the following month.

“The Harvard data says very, very few people tweet and the Nielsen data says very, very few people listen consistently,” Mr Heil told BBC News

Rather than taking the study as a condemnation, though, I’d suggest that the fact Twitter works despite the large number of “unproductive” users is a sign of success.

More power to the Twitter team for creating a tool that allows so many people to try it so easily that the seemingly small percentage who get value out of it can find and continue using it. We should be celebrating what happens when infrastructure is cheap enough that we can accept that 60% just throw it away (even assuming all those non-tweeters aren’t using the service to listen). Rather than trying to force users to its model, Twitter has usually adapted to the customs its users have developed — and has responded to feedback when it breaks some of those conventions (see #fixreplies).

I’d go further and say a platform is only successful if it allows for failure and “unproductive” uses. If we were forced to justify our photo collection by its first picture or our word processors against the number of poorly-argued misspelled first drafts we’ve written, would we ever get to round 10, where something good emerges? Making failure cheap makes success possible.

[I like the free network service Identi.ca and cross-tweet there. I credit the Twitter team with recognizing the value in openness along many other important dimensions.]

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