Don’t forget, dinner tomorrow night, Henry’s Hunan, SF.
PR Week on Share Your OPML.
I had my pre-BloggerCon talk this morning with John Palfrey, who will lead the pivotal How To Make Money session. I learned my lesson, last time we tried to steer the conversation in a direction away from where the room wanted to go. This time I will put duct tape over my mouth and let JP follow the room. My talk with Elisa Camahort changed my thinking about this session. Let’s see where the room wants to go. Previous DLs on this topic were Doc Searls and Jeff Jarvis.
Also spoke with Lance Knobel who is leading the discussion on Blogging and the 2008 Election. This is another of our perma-threads, the political discussion has been part of BC since the first one in October 2003 in Cambridge. Back then the idea of blogging in politics was in its infancy, today, in 2006 its commonplace; and who knows where it will be in 2008. That’s what we’ll cover in late June in SF.
Here’s what’s great about Berkeley in the summer. The weather is perfect, and there’s no one here. The streets are empty because all the kids have gone home, yet the weather is the best in the entire United States. While its hot and steamy back east, the high today in Berkeley will be 71 with a very nice breeze coming in from the Bay. The main question is do I want to take my walk in the morning when I have to wear a jacket (temp in the mid-upper 50s) or in a t-shirt, in the afternoon when it’s in the high 60s. Meanwhile in Florida it’s 82 degrees, climbing to a high near 90. Thunderstorms in the afternoon. Air conditioning weather. Yuck!
I had my pre-BloggerCon talk yesterday with Chris Pirillo. He’s going to lead a discussion about the power of users.
Sam Ruby spotted a problem with SYO, which we fixed. He also suggests that we disclose, again, that Mike Arrington has, in the past, represented me as an attorney, which is true. I also appreciate the support received from Dare Obasanjo and Gabe Rivera in the thread on Ruby’s site.
I’ve not commented on the Web 2.0 trademark issues because I didn’t want to be part of the flood of discourse. I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of “feedback” and it’s not very productive or pleasant, and runs a predictable course, and I’d like to see us be a little less predictable, and a little wiser, here in the blogosphere. So I waited, and now that things have settled down, I would like to weigh in.
1. The blogs seem to have a knee-jerk opinion that everything involving lawyers is wrong. I don’t agree. There are times when people can’t settle their differences without legal representation. There are also times when all discussion must be handled by lawyers. Just because we have an Internet and blogs doesn’t change this simple fact. We have lawyers because we exist in the context of a legal system. It’s got flaws, but in my limited experience, it usually seems to come to the right conclusion. Lawyers provide important services, which we need to keep our economy and society working.
2. Everything O’Reilly, CMP and Battelle said about protecting trademarks is true. If you want to keep your trademark, the law requires that you challenge all infringing uses of it.
3. However, if they wanted to protect the trademark, it seems to me that they should have been sending demand letters from the beginning. It appears they started when it became clear that the USPTO was going to grant their application to register the mark. That said, I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know whether the lack of consistency weakens their ownership of the trademark.
4. Key point: O’Reilly is a business and it behaves like a business. It is not a political cause. Its purpose is to achieve ROI for its shareholders, and it does this very well. They’ve made millions of dollars commercializing ideas that others gave away for free, while the blogosphere, naively, has bought into the idea that O’Reilly is something other than a business. This is illustrated perfectly by Cory Doctorow’s defense. They created the Web 2.0 name, perhaps (some dispute this), but that’s all. The ideas behind Web 2.0 are other people’s work, and those people, for the most part, haven’t made any money from it. If O’Reilly were to lose control of the trademark they still would be way, way ahead. There’s no reason for their arguments to gain sympathy at an emotional level, even if they gain sympathy at a business level. There’s an important distinction here.
5. The shock came from naivete being awoken by the reality. I don’t think the O’Reilly people fully understand how much the blogosphere has bought into the idea that O’Reilly is sort of a non-profit for great ideas. To see them act so boldly in a commercial fashion is something they needed to be prepared for, and there was no preparation.
Postscript: Jason Calacanis also waited to comment, and came to similar conclusions.
Tim O’Reilly responds.
Everyone loves TinyUrl. It really works, it’s almost like magic, but it’s often a bit too much work. Even so, sometimes you have to use it, for example, when sending a link to a Google Map page in an email message. You never know how the various email handlers are going to deal with the long URL when transferring it.
But what if, when you click on Link To This Page in Google Maps, it generated a short URL as a proxy for the long URL it would normally generate? That is, what if they baked in the TinyUrl functionality? Wouldn’t that be great?
And for extra credit, offer to license the TinyUrl name for say $2 million, as a gesture of goodwill to all the users who love nice little (tiny!) web services that are useful, but want it all to be even more useful, without feeling the guilt of helping a giant to wipe out a cool little company.