Why the Anti-SOPA Movement Matters

I have said before that I am a supporter of Anonymous and all their crazy folks, and today is a good day for a display of fierce, lively internet democracy.

The internet is the only true democracy on the planet, since no one rules it other than its own members, and where everyone has a place to say what they will. While I think Kopimism is an interesting religion, at least on the internet its okay to be atheist. That means a great deal to me, as does the freedom of information. I love the internet, which is why I’ve spent the last hour trying to find out where to install a black-out plug-in for WordPress. I want to show my support for the anti-SOPA/PIPA movement. WordPress has already eloquently explained what it is here, as well as ways to help.

I know that many of my friends will say “but you didn’t give nearly so much of a flying fuck for the Secrecy Bill in SA”. I have given my reasons for that here, but to paraphrase the difference: this is the US government and hundreds of powerful companies, not just the ANC by its misguided self. This battle seeks to repress information internationally, making it possible to arrest people for their fanmade music videos or opinions. Already there’s been an attempt to arrest Occupy protesters who used the #OccupyBoston hashtag on Twitter. What will happen when the government has access to information, and we don’t?

And this isn’t just an American thing; the Mail and Guardian wrote here that there will be a noticeable impact for South Africans. It will give the Secrecy Bill an unprecedented grip on our lives and enable the worst backstabbing since Adam bitched about Eve (metaphorically). Add to this the effect it will have on businesses:

South African businesses could also stand to suffer if the Bills are taken forward. Many companies’ websites are hosted in the US because it is more economical and, in some cases, more reliable than hosting locally. In addition, much of the internet content consumed locally is based in the US.

It is shocking and it should not be shrugged off as “how dare you black-out Wikipedia lol”, which is what is starting to fill my Twitter feed as AnonOps responds to all the fuckwits who can’t see the point of the blackout. This is why I have tried my best to black out my blogs, though my technical knowledge does not match my desire.

I hope that we can all do what we can to keep the Internet free for all, even the evangelists that piss me off. Because on the Internet, everyone gets a voice, and that’s what makes it so special.

Why I’ll Never Make The Freshly Pressed List

I used to really, really want to make that illustrious “Freshly Pressed List” because it would bring followers forth unto my blog, feeding my ego and giving my childhood dreams of being admired for my writing some luster. Yea, it would maketh me a minor god amongst bloggers, or so I had imagined.

But when I do survey that list of blog entries I can’t help thinking that they are remarkably dull. Like the sparrows of the blogging world, they are safe and drab and attract nothing more than a passing glance. The blogosphere is full of mad blogs and interesting thought patterns, so why does the Freshly Pressed list sound like something a rabid Oprah fan would choose? (No respect to the Queen of the Talk Show: I take minor offence with her followers who seem to absorb all of her opinions rather than form their own. The refrain of “I saw it on Oprah” usually preludes the kind of conversation that makes buttered bread look like an olfactory feast.)

Today’s FP blogs include: rhubarb recipes, travel in China, photos of Prague, some unicyclers, a timid religious book review on meat-eating (this person thinks god will cure global warming and eliminate factory farming), art, events and books. Yesterday’s choices included “Do people mispronounce your name?” and “Paper bag mailer tutorial.” Nothing politically controversial, or even left of centre. It is a middle-class blogging nightmare that makes 1984 seem appealing because at least the bland amongst us couldn’t post.

Do I want to be counted amongst these people? No, not any more. I blog about things far more exciting than recipes or “my summer holiday in Venice” which is hardly the kind of fascinating material that blogs can often provide. There are incredible science, art, literature and personal blogs out there that really show up the blandness of the Freshly Pressed list. Perhaps there is an arbitrary algorithm that picks the blogs according to their varying levels of safeness and domesticity, or maybe there’s just one person who really does like to read about what recipes people think are positively delightful.

There are over 377,000 bloggers on WordPress. That’s a lot of bloggers to choose from. But its so rare that I land on the WordPress home page and actually click through to the blogs they suggest. And when I do decide to visit a blog, the writing is so drab as to make porridge practically sparkle with originality in comparison. With so many blogs to choose from, how is it that the same boring topics keep showing up? What about a blog on abortion? Or the misconception that Twitter actually had anything to do with the Arab Spring revolutions? Cracked.com provides blogs a thousand times better and it isn’t even a blogging site. But no, we get people writing about how to be a better writer (ugh) or “I like made this awesome blueberry crumble and everyone was like soooo happy”.

I’ve said it before: blogging is one of the most fantastic ways to say something constructive and brilliant, even if it is about a TV show or standing in a queue. I know not everyone is a great writer, but that’s not the issue here. The point is that WordPress is not showcasing the best blogging it could. It is sticking to safe, boring blogs that do not reflect the amazing potential of the blogosphere. They’re probably doing it because they can’t risk any kind of controversy knocking out their ad-revenue. Admittedly a great number of viewers on the internet are conservative, but not everyone is. In the great democracy of the web, I just think it would speak better to the WordPress team if something a bit more interesting than people’s arts and crafts showed up on that landing page.