Saturday, July 15, 2006

Forgive and Forget

I have to give some credit to onetime Google hagiographer and Wired veteran John Battelle this week. Of course, I first have to admit to having held a grudge against him for three reasons:

1) his occasional cheerleading for Google Print
2) his tendency to value free market forces over those that preserve the public sphere
3) the fact that I shared a tiny prep-school class with him, in which John hung out with the jocks and made merciless fun of the kids who spent their afternoons with the old Radio Shak TSR-80s . . . okay, maybe in retrospect I understand that one

Anyway, this week he's saying that it's "cool" that his book The Search has become a pirated street bestseller in Mumbai:

Do I care about the piracy? No. No, no no. I care that someone in Mumbai cared enough to rip it off, and that someone there might be reading my stuff. That is just cool. Commercial markets always follow the free, or, well, the pirates in this case. Always.

I'm not sure I agree with the moral he draws from the story, but I think it's a healthy attitude about authorship, which well deserved its status as a wonderful thing on BoingBoing today.

Besides, he did point out the problem of Google's interest in competitive advantage long before it was of interest to others.

(And for more on teen social dynamics see Paul Graham's interesting essay from Hackers and Painters on "Why Nerds are Unpopular." I think Graham is wrong to devote the first half of the essay to how kids are supposedly divided between the "smart" and the "popular," which as an educator I find to be a false distinction that is eugenically repulsive, but I like his point about how society values teens as consumers rather than as producers and thus makes the lives of "makers" miserable.)


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