August 20, 2009  ·  Lessig

So my blog turns seven today. On August 20, 2002, while hiding north of San Francisco working on the Eldred appeal, I penned my first (wildly and embarrassingly defensive) missive to Dave. Some 1753 entries later, I’m letting the blog rest. This will be the last post in this frame. Who knows what the future will bring, but in the near term, it won’t bring more in lessig.org/blog.

The reasons are many.

First, as I peer over the abyss of child number 3 (expected in a couple weeks), I can’t begin to imagine how I would be able to allocate the time to give this space the attention it needs. I’ve already fretted about my failure to give this community the time it deserves in REMIX. Things will only get worse.

Second, even if I could, I’m entering a stage of my work when the ratio of speaking to reading/listening/thinking is changing significantly. I’ve just taken up my role as director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. As announced, this means the launch of a 5 year research project on institutional corruption. While I expect that project will have a critical cyber-presence, I don’t want its life to be framed by this blog. The mission, the understanding, the community is different.

Third, even if I could, and even if the work I was doing meant I should, there’s an increasingly technical burden to maintaining a blog that I don’t have the cycles to support. Some very good friends — Theo Armour and M. David Peterson — have been volunteering time to do the mechanics of site maintenance. That has gotten overwhelming. Theo estimates that 1/3 of the 30,000 comments that were posted to the blog over these 7 years were fraudsters. He’s been working endlessly to remove them. At one point late last year, Google kicked me off their index because too many illegal casino sites were linking from the bowels of my server. I know some will respond with the equivalent of “you should have put bars on your windows and double bolted locks on your front door.” Maybe. Or maybe had legislatures devoted 1/10th the energy devoted to the copyright wars to addressing this muck, it might be easier for free speech to be free.

This isn’t an announcement of my disappearance. I’m still trying to understand twitter. My channel at blip.tv will remain. As will the podcast, updated as I speak. I will continue to guest blog at Huffington Post. And as Change-Congress.org enters a new stage, I hope to be doing more there. But this community, this space, this board will now rest.

Thank you to the endless list of people who have helped make this place as it is, or was. Theo and M. David especially. Marc Perkel for his free hosting at ctyme.com for so many years. And thank you especially to the inhabitants of this space, especially the fantastic commentators and loyal backbenchers (Three Blind Mice, you have to reveal yourself now and let me buy you a beer). I have enjoyed this wildly more than I have not (again, I whine in REMIX about the not). And I have been very proud to be responsible for certain bits of content — especially the guest blogging by the interesting and famous (Howard Dean was a favorite, and I will always be proud that I got Judge Posner to experiment with blogging, leading to his wonderful blog with Gary Becker).

Comments on this post will remain open for a week. And then comments on all posts will be locked.

Thank you to everyone, again.

December 12, 2008  ·  Lessig

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It is with a complicated mix of excitement and sadness that I make the following announcement.

As some of you remember, just over a year ago I reported that I was shifting my academic (and activist) work from free culture related issues to (what I called) “corruption.” At Stanford, a year ago, I outlined what this work would be: To focus on the many institutions in public life that depend upon trust to succeed, but which are jeopardizing that trust through an improper dependence on money. Read the New York Times Editorial of last week. Or think of medical researchers receiving money from drug companies whose drugs they review; legal academics receiving money to provide public policy advice from the very institutions affected by that advice; or Congress filled with Members focused obsessively on how to raise money to secure their (or their party’s) tenure. In all these cases, dependency on money in these ways tends to weaken public trust. Or so was my hypothesis when I launched on this project.

But how I would pursue this work has been a constant challenge. I started immediately to devour the books recommended to me by colleagues and on my wiki. I attended conferences and gave talks about the subject. I began a series of interviews with insiders. And with the help of Joe Trippi, I launched Change Congress, which was designed to focus these issues in the context of American politics.

Throughout this process, however, I have felt that the work would require something more. That the project I had described was bigger than a project that I, one academic, could pursue effectively. This wasn’t an issue that would be fixed with a book. Or even with five books. It is instead a problem that required a new focus by many people, across disciplines, learning or relearning something important about how trust was built.

About six months ago, I was asked to consider locating this research at a very well established ethics center at Harvard University. Launched more than two decades ago, the Safra Center was first committed to building a program on ethics that would inspire similar programs at universities across the country. But the suggestion was made that after more than two decades of enormous success, it may make sense for the Center to consider focusing at least part of its work on a single problem. No one was certain this made sense, but I was asked to sketch a proposal that wouldn’t necessarily displace the current work of the Center, but which would become a primary focus of the Center, and complement its mission.

I did that, mapping a five year project that would draw together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to focus on this increasingly important problem of improper dependence. Harvard liked the proposal. In November, the Provost of Harvard University invited me to become the director of the Safra Center. Last week, I accepted the offer. In the summer, I will begin an appointment at the Harvard Law School, while directing the Safra Center.

This was a very difficult decision to make. Stanford is an extraordinary law school, and I have loved my time here. The students are brilliant, yet balanced. The faculty is brilliant, yet surprisingly humble. The Dean has an amazing vision of the future of legal education, and is redefining the law school in ways that I completely support. I am endlessly proud of the Center for Internet and Society and the Fair Use Project. I have the very best assistant in the world (and she promised at least 5 more years if I stayed). I have written four of my five books while here. I’m almost finished with my 6th, the book I am sure I will be most proud of. This is a place that has given an enormous amount to me, and from which I have benefited greatly.

On a personal level, too, this was a difficult decision. California has become our home. My wife is strongly attached to everything Californian; we both have very close friends here; I hadn’t ever imagined raising my kids in anything but the social and political environment of San Francisco. I still find it hard to imagine that I won’t, if not now, sometime. And the enormous beauty of the environment here still takes my breath away. A year into my time at Stanford, I was certain I would never leave. After a blissful weekend with my family last week, it still hasn’t registered that I will be leaving.

But in the end, it was impossible for me to be committed to the project while turning down this opportunity. It is not just the institution, nor the (partial) freedom from teaching. It is the chance to frame a large-scale project devoted to a large, important and complex problem. Once we saw it like this, my wife and I decided that returning to this old home was the right thing to do. And so in June, we will pack up the car for a cross country trek, back to Harvard.

Of course, I have no objective cause to complain. Harvard too is an extraordinary law school. As anyone who knows me knows, some of my closest friends in the world are at Harvard, including the Dean (or at least until Obama steals them all away). Harvard has grown and changed in wonderful ways over the past eight years. It will be an enormously exciting place to teach and learn.

But I regret deeply doing anything that is hurtful to those I respect and like. Worse, I hate doing anything that can be misunderstood. When Dean Sullivan recruited me, she said Stanford was paradise. I thought that was just a slogan. It isn’t. I consider the 8 years I have had here to be the most important and invigorating in my career. And I will miss everything about this place.

Some things won’t change. I will continue to work with Joe Trippi to build Change Congress. And I will continue to explore how best to incorporate this space (the Net) into this research. But I will do all of this, and my work, in the context of Harvard’s Safra Center and its Law School, and of old friendships, revived.

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May 1, 2008  ·  Lessig

After thinking through the 37 helpful comments posted to my post about comment policy, I’ve decided to start slowly as proposed. That means:

I have adopted a policy of deleting personal attacks on others. That means any comment that is directed against someone other than me, which is uncivil and attacking something other than the substance of what that person has written as a comment on my blog will be removed if (1) a request is made by anyone to a2lessig@pobox.com, and (2) the volunteer I’ve selected agrees the policy has been violated.

I like some of the other suggestions, including incorporating the slashdot system. As things develop, I may move to something more.

Thanks to all for the help.

April 9, 2008  ·  Lessig

So I’d like to propose a policy change for comments at lessig.org/blog.

So far, my policy has been to delete comment spam only. I have not deleted any other type of comment, including (especially) comments critical of me or others.

I’d like to change that. I’d like to adopt a policy of deleting personal attacks on others. That means any comment that is directed against someone other than me, which is uncivil and attacking something other than the substance of what that person has written as a comment on my blog.

This change has been encouraged by many people, but prompted by one case in particular, where there’s apparently a stalker who is faking his/her ID (poorly, as I can see they all come from a common set of IP addresses), and attacking someone who left a couple comments on my blog. That’s not the sort of place I want here.

So I’d propose to ask a trusted volunteer to take requests to remove comments by people who believe they’re being uncivilly attacked. If that trusted volunteer agrees, the comment would be removed.

Again, and critically important: No comment attacking me or my work would ever be removed. This would only affect comments that were attacking others (1) uncivilly and (2) unrelated to what others have posted as comments on my blog.

Thoughts?

March 16, 2008  ·  Lessig

Over the years, I’ve sometimes come to this place to ask for tech help. I’m here again. I’ve had some fantastic support from wildly overworked sorts — M. David most recently and most extensively. But I’m now in some desperate need for someone or some few who could commit some cycles to lessig.org development. I’m keen to clean up the mess that is the content on my site — making my presentations more easily available, providing free format versions of everything I can, etc. That means the right sort would have experience with codecs and some design, and a taste for building systems that scale easily.

I can put together a small budget to support some of this, but not a ton. If you can help, drop a note here with your experience and a clear indication of the level of support you could offer.

June 29, 2007  ·  Lessig

My entry July 3, 2006:

Since my [first] kid was born, we’ve tried to have a month alone off the grid every year. That starts this year in 6 hours. I have not asked anyone to guest blog while I’m gone, so this space will be quiet. There are a couple times when I might make a surprise return (they’re all preprogrammed). But my apologies for the silence otherwise. This year has been an especially burdensome year. We really need this time alone.

That happens again this year, again, six hours from now. This year has not been especially burdensome. Indeed, the American Academy in Berlin is heaven, and I’ve gotten lots of good work done. But the promise was for good times and bad, regardless, a month alone with my family.

June 25, 2007  ·  Lessig

Loads of thanks to Ryan Gantz and M. David Peterson for help in the redesign of lessig.org. There are no doubt a bunch of details to finish, but I’m grateful for the amazing work in getting it live. Soon, as promised, the Mixter site will go live with content to use and reuse. So stay tuned to others doing it, better.

Update: ok, a little hiccup. But now we’re back, and so too are the thanks.