When I first started bitquabit, I wanted it to be strictly a technology blog. When people wanted to read something about Squeak or db4objects or Copilot, they could come here. When they wanted to read someone writing a meandering essay on farm subsidies and ethanol, they could go somewhere else.
That position is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. On the one hand, technology is inextricably tied to certain political agendas that, I feel, must constantly be discussed—patents and copyright chief among them, but also such topics as freedom of speech or the ethics of invention. Yet these topics are, well, boring, because basically every single prominent tech blogger has exactly the same position on these issues: patents are too broad, last too long, insufficiently investigated for prior art by the USPTO, and, at least in computing, do far more harm than good; copyright is great, but in its current forms last too long, fails in its original purpose, and violates the Constitution; and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its siblings abroad are blatantly unconstitutional due to their de facto destruction of fair use, stifle free speech, and should be at best struck down and at worst kept from spreading to more countries. Because these positions are so widespread, they’re neither controversial nor insightful. Others expound these arguments far better than I and are more up-to-date on the latest goings-on in the beltway. In short, though these topics may be relevant, they are also well-covered and therefore not issues I feel compelled to discuss here.
That leaves The Ugly Topics—the topics nominally only distantly related to technology. Topics like the war, Sarkozy’s election, the heightening tensions in the last month in Israel, the rapidly intensifying atheist-believer debate, and global climate change. These topics, charged though they may be, have profound impacts on technology. Wars divert funding from general science and research, yet fuel technological innovation—provided that the technologies in question are usable for waging war. Sarkozy happens to be sympathetic to digital rights management software and does not seem to support the EU’s drive to force Microsoft to open its networking protocols and file formats. Israel is a miniature Silicon Valley and a major exporter of cryptography and encryption software. The atheist-believer debate has profound impact for artificial intelligence and, indeed, the purpose and future use of technology in general. Global climate change drives ever-more-powerful computing clusters in an attempt to simulate weather patterns, spurs green buildings and high-efficiency solar cells, and may usher in the return of nuclear power. Even if we ignore all of their greater significance, the topics are still relevant.
The problem, of course, is that I cannot discuss just the technology side. Some readers are already fuming that I can touch on the war and step right past all the people dying, others are annoyed that I’m ignoring the “interesting” parts of Sarkozy’s politics, and my good friends, who are well aware of my fascination with religion, are curious why I’ve never touched a single religious topic on this blog. These issues are all so big that I have to discuss parts of them that have nothing to do with technology if I want to cover their technological aspects at all. Yet by attempting to address any of these topics, I will divide my audience.
If I want to speak on these topics, yet doing so costs me readers who are interested in what I have to say on technology, does that make addressing these topics “bad”? Does my hesitancy, however brief, to speak my mind and lose those readers make me a coward? If I honestly care more for this particular blog to reach a technical audience than a political one, does that change the answer? If it did, would the answer change again if I were to split bitquabit into a personal blog and technical blog?
Where is the dividing line?