Sorry to Annoy You

I built my first website in the mid 90’s. It was a single page containing a list of local dial-up BBSs, with mine, Electric Avenue, at the top of the list. (Ponder the awesomeness of that business model – advertising a dial-up BBS on a web page. Ugh.) Before building it I sought out the worst sites on the internet. I needed to learn what to avoid, and realized that the first rule of designing a web site was “don’t annoy people.” Yesterday, for the first time ever, I intentionally broke that rule.

If you visited then, you found every click on every link brought you to the same page, the Stop Sopa page. You simply couldn’t go anywhere else on the site. It was designed to frustrate you, annoy you and piss you off.

I did it knowing most of you would be smartenized enough to direct your anger where it belonged – not at me, but at the legislators who are trying to break the internet. And with the thousands of other sites participating, it’s likely you’d be annoyed more than once that day.

The BBS I was advertising on my first website consisted of 21 modems blinking in my office. They were connected to a couple of computers that provided chat rooms, message boards, games and CDs full of files to download. The internet was available when I built it and I knew more and more people would be getting on it, but I wasn’t worried. It was useful, but complicated and clumsy. I figured people would use it for research while relying on local BBSs for socializing and keeping in touch with friends.

I built it, they came. At its peak 200 people were paying six to ten dollars a month to play and hang out. It was the catalyst for a couple of marriages and a couple of divorces. There were meets – parties – every weekend. Lots of people were getting laid. Profitability was in sight.

Then Netscape happened. Browsers went from a curiosity to the preferred way to use the internet in just a few months. The ASCII graphic interface of Electric Avenue was no match for spinning flaming logos and links that would zip you from place to place with one click. Just as the BBS was about to become profitable people started leaving. Pretty soon I could no longer afford the phone bills and I had to shut it down. The internet killed my business.

As I was disconnecting CD drives and putting modems and digiboards on e-bay it never even occurred to me that the best response would be to break the internet.  But that’s exactly what the RIAA and the MPAA intend to do. They are going to protect their ones and zeros and their tired old broken business models by breaking the internet.  Their income is more important then our ability to share and create.

Congress weasels, who have received tens of millions of dollars from the entertainment industry, are eager to pass SOPA and PIPA, even though the language of the bills proves they don’t understand how the internet works. Intense pressure from people who do has resulted in them pulling back a bit, just a bit, on SOPA, but that’s all theatrics designed to fool the unsmartenized. These bills are still alive and still a very real threat.

One of my congress weasels, Kirsten Gillibrand, is a co-sponsor of PIPA. Despite receiving thousands of calls and e-mails, she’s still committed to the bill. She claims she wants to “fix” it, while every thinking person who isn’t owned by the entertainment industry wants to see it killed, completely. Nearly 400 comments on her Facebook page are unanimous, but that’s unimportant to her. It doesn’t compare to the nearly two million dollars she’s received from the entertainment industry.

I’m sure a few links on this site point to content that would, under the ambiguous wording of these laws, make me a copyright infringer. A simple complaint could get this place shut down before I had time to respond, and fighting it would require more resources than I have. Twelve years worth of articles and recordings would disappear in a heartbeat. Thousands of hours of work creating that content would be flushed down the drain. The Facts would vanish from the internet. The Quick Hitts Podcast would be gone. The old Hittman Chronicle would disappear. This blog would be history.

It could happen to any one of your favorite internet sites. I will happen to a lot of them, perhaps most of them, unless you add your voice to the clamor and make so much noise your congress weasels won’t be able to ignore it.

Are you doing anything important right now, as you’re reading this? Didn’t think so. Take a half hour, right now, and do something about this. Find your weasels e-mail and phone numbers, and use them. Then, tomorrow, do it again. Make it a goal to do it at least three times a week until these bills are dead.

And then, stay alert. If we manage to get these bills killed, new ones will be created in the next session of congress. And if those fail, in the congress after that. This is not a single battle. This is a skirmish in a war between well-funded special interests and all of the rest of us.

Additional Smartenization:

How these bills would break the internet

A quick way to contact the weasels


2 Comment(s)

  1. Thank you for taking a stand, Dave. I have read your site on and off for the past 7 years and I have enjoyed it very much and it is good to see you protecting your work by opposing those sleazy pieces of legislation.

    Harley | Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

  2. I have emailed, twittered, facebooked, called and generally annoyed my idiot in Congress as well. He is also a co-sponsor, and is never going to change his vote despite the comments and will of his constituents. He is a Republican that rode into office on the promise of smaller government and he is breaking that promise. He is a liar and a thief.

    It’s not just the Internet that’s going to be broken.

    Joy | Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

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