Dan Gillmor has posted the outline of "Permission Taken," a new project he's taken on to explain what he's gone through in his journey from using proprietary systems to open and free ones. Gillmor -- one of Silicon Valley's best-respected columnists -- is a sophisticated technology user, and he's always understood that there is value to going free/open, as well as costs in terms of learning how to do things differently. Over the years, Gillmor's experience with technology and technology companies started to tip the scales for him, so that the value outweighed the cost. "Permission Taken" is part philosophical treatise, part practical guide. It looks really interesting and incredibly useful. Dan sent me an earlier draft of this outline for comment and I was immediately impressed. Now, he's inviting public comment from everyone.
Not many years ago, I was a happy acolyte in the Church of Apple. I spent most of the day using a Macintosh laptop. I used an iPhone. I had a Facebook account with hundreds of “friends,” and used Google’s search engine almost exclusively. While I worried about misuse of my information by third parties, I didn’t do much about it. I was so in love with technology that I adopted the latest and greatest without considering the consequences.
I still love technology, and believe it plays a transformative role in our lives. But as I’ve learned more about how it works, and how powerful interests want it to work, the more I’ve realized the need to make some changes.
So, today, I’m writing this on computer running Linux, the free and open operating system. I own an Android smartphone, “hacked” to remove restrictions the manufacturer and carrier would prefer to impose. I have closed my Facebook account, and use search engines in much different ways. And I am much more cautious about what I’ll allow third parties to know about me and my activities.
By making these and many related choices, I have made parts of my life slightly less easy, or at least less convenient. But I have gained something more important: liberty. I use the devices I purchase as I choose; I decline to live in the increasingly restricted environments that so many technology and communications companies have imposed on their customers. And to the extent that I am able, I’m preventing snoops, corporate and governmental, from watching my every move without my consent. On balance, I believe, I’ve made my life better.
That’s why I’m doing this project: to help you make your own decisions.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.