It’s that time again. Ever since 2008, my final post of the year has been a reflection of some sort — not necessarily on stories from the past year, but usually somewhat of an echo of what inspired me to write the original post in 2008. People had highlighted two seemingly contradictory things about me: that I was perpetually optimistic and happy about the state of innovation and future possibilities, but also that I seemed to focus so much attention and energy (some misleadingly have called it “anger”) at efforts to impede, hold back, or simply block important and useful innovations. As I’ve said repeatedly, these two things are not in conflict. It is entirely possible to be optimistic about innovation, while frustrated at those who seek to prevent it, for whatever reasons. If you’d like to look over the stories from the past, they’re all listed here:
2008: On Staying Happy
2009: Creativity, Innovation And Happiness
2010: From Pessimism To Optimism… And The Power Of Innovation
2011: From Optimism And Innovation… To The Power To Make A Difference
2012: Innovation, Optimism And Opportunity: All Coming Together To Make Real Change
2013: Optimism On The Cusp Of Big Changes
2014: Change, Innovation And Optimism, Despite Challenges
2015: Keep Moving Forward
2016: No One Said It Would Be Easy…
2017: Keep On Believing
2018: Do Something Different
In this past year, as the so-called “techlash” narrative has gotten even stronger, and the first major efforts to chip away at intermediary liability (FOSTA in the US and the EU Copyright Directive in the EU) have been successful, even more of the people whose views I appreciate and respect have turned from being optimistic about technology towards being pessimistic and have made some arguments about how innovation has maybe gone too far and needs to be reined in somehow. I believe that, with the benefit of hindsight, we will eventually recognize that this techlash narrative was overblown (and often pushed by those with other agendas) and we will once again recognize that innovation has the power to make everyone better off.
Last year’s message was about experimenting and trying different things — as we did that year in releasing our first game. This past year, we continued to do that in releasing our first fiction anthology, the “Working Futures” collection of science fiction about the future of work. We also did some more gaming work, and you’ll see some details of that very, very soon (so stay tuned). This year also represented the end of a headache for us that has allowed us to finally put more focus on some of these new projects we had been hoping to do.
Indeed, I think the key lesson learned from this year has been that opportunities for amazing things to happen can come from unexpected places — and it’s important to continue to keep an eye out for those opportunities. After all, they’re the easiest ones to miss and let slip by.
For example, I completed my long “Protocols, Not Platforms” article for the Knight 1st Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which has partly inspired Jack Dorsey to have Twitter begin an experiment with protocols that I’m excited to follow closely. You can assume I’ll be writing more on this topic as well, and following developments in this space. At the very least, as a friend told me after Dorsey’s announcement, it showed how the power of writing out ideas can help influence changes in the world. I certainly hope that Techdirt can continue to do exactly that, and again bring about more powerful, useful innovations that make the world a better place for everyone.
This year, we also successfully sued ICE over publicly claiming that it had seized over a million domains, and then saying it had no responsive records when we asked for a list of those domains. Eventually, ICE disclosed to us that its own press release was misleading and it didn’t really seize them. Unfortunately, that didn’t actually stop ICE from making similar claims this year…
Techdirt’s think tank arm, the Copia Institute, also got quite a bit done this year, including releasing two major reports — the 2019 version of The Sky is Rising, all about the state of the entertainment industry, and Don’t Shoot The Message Board, with a quantitative look at how stronger intermediary liability protections drive innovation. We’ve also continued to focus on small gatherings and roundtable events, bringing people to discuss various challenges and opportunities regarding innovation. We’ve got more planned for 2020 as well.
As we head into 2020, we hope to continue to experiment, to try different things, and to seek out those exciting unexpected opportunities. Of course, we can’t continue to do what we do — whether it’s keeping Techdirt going or experimenting with these other ideas — without your support. We’ve put together a handy-dandy page on all the different ways to support us so you can just go check that out. I’d also recommend checking out our Working Futures collection of short science fiction as well, since that’s new this year.
Finally, the last point I make each and every year is that what has always made Techdirt worthwhile was the community of folks here. That is: it’s you reading this right now. In an era where so many journalism operations are pushing people away and chasing the latest trends and “clicks,” we’ve always felt it best to try to focus on building a better community. The discussions by all of you, whether directly on the site or elsewhere, continue to make what we produce better and better each year — and we can see what kind of impact that can have on the world around us. So thank you, again, for making Techdirt a special place where we can share and discuss different ideas. As always, I look forward to find out what you have to say in 2020.
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