The 95 Theses of Geek Activism

I don’t usually repost things that I find elsewhere on the web in my blog here, but in this case I’m making an exception. I am happily, and in the spirit of the theses themselves, reprinting this from the Science Addiction blog.  I don’t agree with all of them, but they’re all important points.
The 95 Theses of Geek Activism:

  1. Reclaim the term ‘hacker’. If you tinker with electronics, you are a hacker. If you use things in more ways than intended by the manufacturer, you are a hacker. If you build things out of strange, unexpected parts, you are a hacker. Reclaim the term.
  2. Violating a license agreement is not theft.
  3. All corporations are not on your side.
  4. Keep in touch with everyone you can vote for and make sure you know where they stand on the issues you care about.
  5. More importantly, make sure they know where you stand on the issues you care about.
  6. Everything will enter the public domain some day- even Mickey Mouse.
  7. Read the original 95 theses. Yes, they are irrelevant to these causes. Yes, they are religious, and yes, they are 500 years old. But they do demonstrate how stating your beliefs clearly, effectively and publicly to challenge the status quo can change the world. Of course,
  8. Use TOR for privacy and anonymity.
  9. Trusted computers must not be trusted.
  10. Democrats may seem to be on your side, but keep an eye on them. They may only be the lesser of two evils.
  11. Republicans may seem to be the enemy, but that is only because they are in power now. The true enemy is a lack of accountability.
  12. Read Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
  13. Why do I have to jump through hoops just to get video off my own home movie DVDs?
  14. Know the DMCA so you know what you are up against.
  15. The true enemy is the line: “If you haven’t done anything wrong, what do you fear?” The problem with that line, as Schneier has said, is that it assumes that the desire for privacy implies wrong-doing.
  16. Proprietary data formats must never store public information.
  17. Some corporations are on your side- find them and reward them.
  18. No one has ever told me where I could play my 45 RPMs. Why are my MP3s any different?
  19. The analog hole is not a hole. The world is analog.
  20. If you are in the US, let your Senator know what you feel.
  21. Treating your customers like criminals- or potential criminals- will turn customers away.
  22. This bears repeating, treating paying customers as potential criminals is a losing strategy.
  23. Some corporations may seem to be on your side, but are not.
  24. Fair use is a good thing.
  25. Use multiple operating systems regularly so you truly understand interoperability.
  26. Write to your local newspaper- they can shape the opinions of the people do not understand the issues we care about.
  27. Do not follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation, participate in it.
  28. Read of Thoreau’s words on civil disobedience.
  29. Data mining will not stop terror.
  30. Express your opinion in public.
  31. Blog.
  32. The GPL is not gospel, but it comes close.
  33. Use multiple MP3/music players so you truly understand interoperability.
  34. If you are in the US, let your house representative know how you feel.
  35. Those in favor of suspending some liberties for security, answer this: “Who watches the watchers?”
  36. Except for extreme cases, the government should not be in the business of parenting our children.
  37. When arguing with people who disagree, be polite, but not condescending.
  38. RFID is just a technology- its existence does not make us more secure.
  39. Now and in the future, presence of encryption implies nothing. In fact, whatever it does imply is none of your business. Without any other probable cause, the user must not bear the burden of explaining reasons for use of encryption.
  40. Flame wars help the other side.
  41. New technologies to promote and develop media will prosper because of computers and the Internet, not inspite of it.
  42. Security is a trade-off- what are you willing to give up?
  43. Calling Microsoft evil buys you nothing- it only polarizes the argument.
  44. Holding Google to its “Don’t do evil” mantra buys us a lot.
  45. Read of Gandhi’s actions in civil disobedience. Discover Satyagraha.
  46. Use Creative Commons.
  47. Understand the difference between civil disobedience and breaking the law.
  48. Can’t find anything to watch on network TV? Watch Democracy TV.
  49. Frame the argument in terms of the average person, not the edge-case geek. These problems affect geeks first, but will affect everyone in the future.
  50. Privacy, civil liberties and civil rights are a slippery slope. The reason we continuously fight for them is not that we all seek a utopian society where doves fly free- in fact, I seek a perpetual ‘tug-of-war’ where the rope gradually slips in the direction of my beliefs.
  51. Users do not want the permission to use digital media; they want to own digital media. This means using them as they choose, where they choose, in the device of their choice without fear of litigation or sudden inactivity. These users are customers- treat them with respect.
  52. Support the free, public domain archives of information.
  53. Undermine censorship by publishing information censored in oppressive countries.
  54. And then, there is the 12-step plan for the games industry.
  55. Corporations and producers of digital media must trust their own consumers. Sales will reward trust.
  56. Breaking the law because you disagree with the current law is not the way to solve the problem in a democratic society.
  57. ID cards do not make us more secure.
  58. Voicing your views in a Slashdot comment thread is good, in your own blog is better, but in places that non-geeks frequent is best.
  59. DRM does not work because the customer/user has the key, cipher and ciphertext in the player. (thanks Cory Doctorow)
  60. Bloggers have rights– be aware of them.
  61. Find out why electronic voting machines are regulated less than casino gaming machines.
  62. Find out about Spimes– they are in your future if things go well.
  63. Have a global perspective in ideas of geek civil liberties, intellectual property rights and so forth. Do you like your country’s policies in this respect? Can you help people from another country?
  64. Geek activism is not all about extreme positions. There is a gradient- find your position on it.
  65. Read the PATRIOT ACT– know what you are really up against.
  66. In the US, put a few technologists in power in Washington. Abroad, do the same for your own seat of government.
  67. Write to mainstream media- they have more mindshare than they are given credit for.
  68. Read what your founding fathers said before taking someone’s word for it. Quote the founding fathers back at them- there were so many of them, and they said and wrote so much, that you will find a quote for each situation. Try this one for starters, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Benjamin Franklin. Read more Bejamin Franklin. Read more cool quotes
  69. Read more.
  70. Mixed tapes are legal. Time-shifting TV is legal. Regardless of the media.
  71. Decide what is offensive for yourself- don’t let the government decide it for you. If you do not, pretty soon, you may only see one side of every argument.
  72. Music purchases should not be governed by determining which seller has the most clout among the player manufacturers.
  73. We do not lock the door to our bedrooms or bathrooms because we have something to hide. We do not secure our networks, conversations, emails and files because we have something to hide.
  74. Make sure that if a vendor locks you in, you lock them out.
  75. 80% of games are not rated M.
  76. You may agree with Richard Stallman, but make sure you understand the opposing point of view.
  77. An email tax to certify that it is “legitimate” is an awful idea.
  78. Know your rights and be prepared to defend them.
  79. Open source is not free.
  80. Free is open source.
  81. The ESRB game rating system exists for a reason- so that parents can be parents and the government can get on with more important stuff.
  82. Do not allow corporations to get away with assisting oppressive regimes. Let your voice be heard.
  83. Linux is no longer a philosophy– it is a good piece of software. Use it if it fits your needs.
  84. There are reasons based in mathematics that establish the NSA wiretaps and other similar brute data mining ideas do not work.
  85. Multiple nag screens that warn us of possible insecurity do not make us more secure.
  86. More information available to the most number of people is a good thing.
  87. There are DRM free alternatives for music you can play anywhere.
  88. Vote.
  89. Free as in free lunch is good. Free as in a free people is even better. For software and for everything else.
  90. Quoting Schneier’s blog: Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest—or just blackmail—with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies—whoever they happen to be at the time.
  91. Read our modern geek philosophers- read Bruce Perens, Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling and even Richard Stallman. Read Schneier to find practical reasons why stupid security mechanisms are stupid. Read them even if you disagree with them- it will help frame your point of view.
  92. DRM only keeps an honest user honest.
  93. You have the right to anonymity on the internet.
  94. Be proud of being a geek, a gamer, a privacy advocate, promoter of free speech and an innovator without fear of litigation, of government or restrictions on liberties- a geek activist.
  95. Most of all- have fun.

And now on a whiny note

This has been a bad week.

No, scratch that.  It’s been a bad month.  Ever since we returned from Ireland, it seems that I’ve spent more time under the influence of my asthma than not.  The perpetual heat wave we’ve been experiencing in my neck of the woods (temps over 100 for almost two weeks continually now, with no lowering in sight) and the accompanying air quality has certainly not helped.  And I’ve heard tell that because of the extremely wet winter, the pollen counts in our area are skyrocketing, making my allergies act up, which causes my asthma to flare up.  My best bet has been to stay at home with the air conditioner on (because the A/C also cleans up the air a bit in addition to cooling it down), and right next to my nebulizer and all my other meds.  I’m able to work from home, fortunately, but I’m going a little stir crazy, not being able to go to the office.  My doctor has said that since all the tests for anything unusual have come back negative, there really isn’t anything to do but grin and bear it and take my medications regularly as long as my peak flows aren’t in the red.  There’s a new drug that we can try, but because it’s incredibly expensive ($15,000 per year), it’s not very likely that my insurance will cover it.

It’s all kind of bringing me down.

So this little ball of blues, encouraged by the persistent asthma, bubbled up from my psyche and started hunting around for something to focus on.  I’m already feeling sorry for myself because of the asthma (I keep reminding myself that at least I have lungs), so the meandering ball of blues had to find something else to glom onto.  Inevitably, it settled on my confidence as a writer and insinuated itself in there, a termite in the wooden structure of an imagination already overworked trying to make this analogy fit.

I feel like a wannabe.  Not as much a wannabe as someone who says that they want to be a writer but has never actually generated any words, but a wannabe nonetheless.  It does me no good to remind myself that I have five publication credits (three of them even for money).  I haven’t sold anything this year (of course, I still have six active submissions at markets I haven’t heard from yet), so the doubt is unavoidable.  And, honestly, it’s more about the quality of what I write; I look at the stories I already have published and go, “What the hell was that editor thinking?!!?”  The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster feels like nonsensical dreck, “Ghouls” feels like a cheap Dashiel Hammet ripoff with Lovecraft pastiche thrown in for pretentiousness’s sake, and none of the other ideas I have feel workable to me.

Of course, I did submit a story to a new market I heard about today anyway.  Objectively I know it’s a good story since it’s been picked up twice before, but the feelings haven’t diminished.  I guess I feel like a fraud and a wannabe more than a real writer.  A poseur.  A fake.  A phoney.  Holden Caufield would sneer at me.
I’m pressing on anyway.  When I’m done working today I’ll churn out a few words in both of my works in progress, because I know these feelings are transient and inaccurate, but still.  You know how it is, don’t you?