Its loss of relevance was obvious and its censorship, notorious
Posted Apr 10, 2011 5:13 UTC (Sun) by FlorianMueller
Parent article: Groklaw shutting down in May
I'm still not 100% sure that Groklaw will really shut down soon. Groklaw's announcement could be a last-gasp effort to provoke an outpouring of support (in various ways, shapes and forms) from companies and community members.
But if it actually does, which is of course very likely, the primary reason will have been that Groklaw clearly lost relevance. It was largely a "one-hit wonder" in connection with SCO, but over the last several years I think it has just become a small echo chamber -- almost like a sectarian group that unconditionally follows a mystery-shrouded leader. Seriously, who else in the whole open source context did never reveal his or her identity to the slightest extent? There was something that the person or team hiding behind the "PJ" avatar had to hide.
With an objective, rational approach it was easy to understand that "PJ" did not strike an acceptable balance between privacy and publicity. Someone who participates in highly public debates, claims to provide more transparency about suspected connections and comes up with conspiracy theories concerning people like me (although my background is well-documented and verifiable) must also present themself at some point at a public event and explain their professional background. But a lot of people thought that their "savior" should not be called into question and not be subject to the same scrutiny "she" wanted to subject others to. I always found that absurd.
When the avatar named "PJ" received an EFF award (which "she" never personally accepted in order to continue to shroud "herself" in mystery), the number of people congratulating "her" in the related discussion thread was fairly limited. When I read discussions on other topics, I also had the impression that the number of distinct participants was small.
On the occasion of the announcement of Groklaw's shutdown (which for now is just an announcement), many people appear to think only about the good that Groklaw presumably did and tend to forget its dark side: its devious censorship ("sandboxing") of user comments designed to suppress dissent and fabricate consensus in its community in the eyes of third parties.
There are other negative things to point out as well. For example, a headline that cheers a patent aggressor on ("IBM is free to sue the pants off TurboHercules") was very shocking to see almost exactly a year ago. Equally shocking was the fact that Groklaw made a demonstrably false claim about IBM's patent pledge and didn't correct the article even after user comments highlighted the "error", which was clearly intentional as far as I could see. Groklaw quoted from an IBM statement made months before the patent pledge was announced and then claimed the related statement was made "when" IBM announced the pledge (and limited its scope). Anyone who clicked on the links could actually see the dates, but Groklaw knew that most people wouldn't do so, and wanted to mislead as many people as possible. That claim was the first statement in that article on TurboHercules.
Only the small group I mentioned will truly miss Groklaw if and when it's gone. It no longer served an important purpose. More recently, Groklaw has been all about yesterday's problems. Today, the big issues connecting open source and intellectual property are primarily about patents. Groklaw often didn't see the forest because of all the trees, or it didn't want its audience to see the forest and therefore confused people with all the trees (such as absolutely irrelevant procedural detail)and set up some artifical trees in addition, including fake trees like the IBM patent pledge limitation I mentioned above.
Today's most important IP issue in this industry relates to the major smartphones disputes, and I will continue to develop material like these battlemaps and reference lists -- stuff that Groklaw never managed to do during all those years.
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