TLF

The deadline for the Google Policy Fellowship is Friday, January 21 (at midnight PST). My new think tank, TechFreedom, just launched yesterday, is participating (as The Progress & Freedom Foundation, my former think tank, did for the last two years)—as are the Competitive Enterprise Institute (home to the TLF’s Ryan RadiaWayne CrewsAlex Harris) and Cato Institute (Jim HarperJulian Sanchez).

The deadline for the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program, run by the Institute for Humane Studies, is Monday January 31. TechFreedom, CEI and Cato are all participating, as are the Pacific Research Institute (Sonia Arrison), the Reason Foundation (Steve Titch) and the Washington Policy Center (Carl Gipson). Descriptions are available here (just select “technology” on the right). Also participating, for the first time, is the Space Frontier Foundation, on whose board I sit and for which I served as Chairman in 2008-2009.

If you look through each of our recent posts, you’ll get a pretty good idea of the diverse array issues we all cover, and who focuses on what. There’s certainly no shortage of interesting technology policy work to be done!

Both programs run 10 weeks and offer stipends. The Koch Program (which I participated in) is specifically geared towards those interested in free market ideas, and includes an excellent retreat, ongoing series of lectures, and group research project. As a “Koch-head” myself (class of 2000), I can attest to the quality of the program and the value of the alumni network. The Google program is in its fourth year and is already developing a valuable alumni network of its own.

Of course, most of our think tanks would probably be happy to have extra help around, so if you’re interested in an internship during the school year or over the summer, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of us. We may not necessarily be able to pay you but, hey, no one ever went into the think tank world to get rich!

This is the 5,000th post on the TLF.  We started on August 14, 2004 with this post, so we celebrated our fifth anniversary last August. As Adam Thierer explained back then:

The idea for the TLF came about after I asked some tech policy wonks whether it was worth putting together a blog dedicated to covering Internet-related issues from a cyber-libertarian perspective.  The model I had in mind was a “Volokh Conspiracy for Tech Issues,” if you will. I wanted to bring together a collection of sharp, liberty-loving wonks (most of whom worked in the think tank world) to talk about their research on this front and to give them a place to post their views on breaking tech policy developments.  It was to be a sort of central clearinghouse for libertarian-oriented tech policy analysis and advocacy.

At first, Tim Lee and I debated whether it even made sense to have that sort of narrow focus, but I think the passage of time and the rise of plenty of competition on this front shows that it was worthwhile.  And I’ve been very pleased with the tag-team effort of all our TLF contributors and the way—without anyone planning it, in true libertarian fashion—we’ve sort of developed a nice division of labor on various tech policy issues.

Our traffic level is roughly in the same place as it was last summer: hovering somewhere around 2600 active Feedburner subscribers measured on a rolling basis (see the little red box at the top right-hand corner of the page under the banner) and our PageRank is still a healthy 7, putting us in the same league (logarithmically speaking) with the Volokh Conspiracy, our model, as well as popular sites like TechMeme, my daily first-stop for tech news. Here are a few key traffic statistics:

Since last August, we’ve had three new bloggers join our merry band, now 21 strong! Continue reading →

It’s a great honor and pleasure for me to welcome Larry Downes to the TLF. Larry coined the term “Killer App” in his 1998 book, Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance. He’s written a few great pieces for CNET recently. And you can find our more about him at his website.

His latest book, The Laws of Disruption, was a rare bright spot in a decade of terrible books about technology and revived a venerable tradition of dynamist classics, including his previous book as well as Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail and Virginia Postrel’s 1999 The Future and its Enemies. The Laws of Disruption expresses both optimism about the capacity of ongoing disruptive innovation to improve our lives and a healthy skepticism about regulation—as Adam noted in his 10 Most Important Info-Tech Policy Books of 2009 review.

Larry’s taught technology law (Northwestern) and business (Chicago, UC-Berkeley) over the years and is currently a nonresident Fellow with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society. He’s a terrifically nice guy, a great writer, and a welcome ally in the fight for cyber-freedom.

Steve TitchIt is my great pleasure to welcome Steve Titch as a contributor to the Technology Liberation Front.  Like me, Steve has some journalism blood in his background but came to find that think tank hours were much better (even if the pay isn’t)! He has been a telecom and IT policy analyst for the Reason Foundation since 2005 and you can find a collection of his past work with Reason here.

Previously he was a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute and managing editor of Heartland IT and Telecom News. He has published research reports and editorials on a wide array of issues that are of interest to TLF readers, including: municipal broadband, network neutrality, universal service and telecom taxes.  We very much look forward to his contributions here.

Welcome to the TLF, Steve!

After over five years of blogging (since August 2004), 20+ TLF contributors have authored over 4,700 posts—creating an enormous repository of writing that provides free-market, market-oriented, skeptical, bottom-up, decentralist, cyber-libertarian, and/or Internet-exceptionalist perspectives on technology, communications, media and Internet news & policy.

To make it easier to sort through all these posts, and find material relevant to your quirkiest interests, just add our new search plug-in to Firefox. Firefox users, click here and then click on “Technology Liberation Front.” Check the box to “start using it right away,” and our custom search engine (powered by Google) will appear immediately in the drop-down of search engines under your search box (without having to restart Firefox), like so:

TLF Firefox search plug-in

You can change where our search engine appears by clicking on “managed search engines” at the bottom of the drop down (not shown here).  Please let us know if you have any problems with the search engine, but it should work exactly the same way the search engine on the TLF itself works (near the top of column 2 just under the clenched fist graphic).

You can create your own search plug-ins, accessible through Mozilla’s database, here. The process should take just a few minutes.

P.S. Microsoft will let users add a custom search engine to Internet Explorer 7 & 8 here (instructions), but hasn’t made it easy for people like me to add the custom search engines to the IE Gallery so that other users can easily find and add the search engine with a single click.

Google has just announced its 2010 Fellowships, open to students 18+ (as of January 1st, 2010) eligible to work U.S. Among the participating organizations are three think tanks home to TLFers:  The Progress & Freedom Foundation (Adam & I), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (Ryan Radia) and Cato (Jim Harper). Applications are due December 28th, 2009, so apply today to help us in the fight for real Internet freedom!

sf-logoTLF friends, I have an announcement: Today the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is launching a new Technology Policy Program, which I will be directing. Perhaps more exciting for TLF readers, though, is that we’re also launching a new blog and podcast.

The new site is called Surprisingly Free, and it will focus on the intersection of technology, policy, and economics. We’ll feature commentary from Mercatus and GMU scholars, guest bloggers, and aggregated posts from other academics around the country.

The podcast is imaginatively called Surprisingly Free Conversations and it’s modeled after Russ Robert’s excellent Econtalk. The format is a weekly in-depth one-on-one conversation with a thinker or entrepreneur in the tech field. The first episode is up and features TLF veteran Tim Lee on bottom-up processes, innovation, and the future of news. Check it out, and please subscribe in iTunes.

We’re looking forward to engaging the tech policy discussion online from a law and econ academic perspective, and we hope you’ll join us for the ride. I look forward to your feedback!

Googles Data Liberation FrontGoogle today unveiled the Data Liberation Front, a team of engineers in Chicago dedicated to ensuring that Google build “liberated products”—ones that have “built in features that make it easy (and free) to remove your data from the product in the event that you’d like to take it elsewhere.” We’ve spent a lot of time here warning about the dangers of Googlephobia, but now that Google has brazenly appropriated the TLF’s unique mock-Communist iconography, we’re starting to think that Jeff Chester and Scott Cleland may be right: Maybe Google really is trying to take over the world!

So we regret to announce our filing of a lawsuit in the Twelfth Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge Google’s infringement of our mark. We demand 50% of the $0.00 Google earns every time they “allow” users to port their application data out of Google to a competitor’s services! We will, of course, dedicate these royalties to the important project of educating and empowering users about how they can determine their own destiny online.

But seriously… We heartily agree with our Data Liberation Front comrades that users should be fully empowered to switch from one service to another online. This kind of competition is clearly the best protection for consumers in the Digital Age. Making switching easy should assuage not just antitrust concerns, but also concerns about how much privacy or security each web service offers to its users, no matter how big its market share: If you don’t like what a service offers, just take your data and leave! Who needs the government micro-managing the Internet when users have that kind of control?

Viva la (Technology) Revolution!

P.S. In case you haven’t seen it the Monty Python video we’re all riffing on:

Continue reading →

It’s my pleasure to welcome Julian Sanchez to the Technology Liberation Front as a regular contributor.  Julian recently joined the Cato Institute as a Research Fellow and he previously spent time at Reason and Ars Technica, where he served as Washington Editor.

Although he won’t be spending all his time writing about technology policy issues at Cato, he will still be active on that front.  With his impressive knowledge of digital technology and his formidable journalistic skills, Julian will make an excellent addition to our merry band of cyber-libertarian rebels here at the Tech Liberation Front.

You can learn more about Julian at his personal blog, from his Cato bio page, and his Wikipedia entry.

We very much look forward to his contributions to the TLF.  Welcome aboard Julian!

You might have noticed that we’ve added a Tweetmeme button at the top of each TLF post showing how many times each post has been “retweeted” on Twitter. If you like a TLF post, please take a second to retweet it. Retweeting is an easy way to spread the TLF’s message that politicians should keep their hands off the ‘Net and everything else related to technology! Here are three ways you can help us with viral marketing the message of technology freedom:

  1. If you’re already signed into Twitter, clicking the green “retweet” button will take you to Twitter with a retweet ready to go (“RT @techliberation <post title> <tinyurl>”). You just have to click “Update.”
  2. You can make retweeting even easier—just one click!—by connecting your Twitter account with Tweetmeme. Just sign in to Tweetmeme with your Twitter log-in and select “Allow” to enable TweetMeme to automatically send your retweets to your Twitter account.
  3. You can tweet your comments on our posts by logging in with your Twitter account or using a Disqus account (assuming you’ve linked Twitter to your Disqus Profile). Each tweeted comment will count as a retweet of the post.

If you click the gray tweetcount button, you’ll be taken to Tweetmeme statistics about that particular post. One of my posts last week really took off, getting over 150 retweets! You can follow the TLF on twitter here and find links to individual TLF authors’ feeds here.

If you’re not already on Twitter, you can use but Tweet counts as an indicator of which TLF posts are hottest. But what are you waiting for, anyway? You’d better claim your name on Twitter before someone else does! It’s easy to set up an account and free, of course, and you can add followers from your webmail contacts. If nothing else, you can easily pipe your Tweets into Facebook as status updates. If you think Twitter is a stupid fad, Kevin Spacey and David Letterman may agree with you. But what do they really know about technology?