The SOPA Fuss: Why the Old Guard is Losing (Relevancy)

Yesterday, history was made. An unprecedented number of ordinary citizens called their Congressional offices to voice their opposition for the anti-piracy bill SOPA. The formidable old guard in Washington was forced to listen as Internet giants backed by activist citizens mobilized across the country through Web blackouts and continuous criticism. The message was clear and lessons were learned. By creating a grass roots community to “Stop SOPA”, ordinary people conveyed the message that people are the innovators capable of making important change. Washington learned that the Internet matters. Citizens were refusing to give them permission to break it. Perhaps the old guard needed to be reminded again what space in time they stood in. Welcome to the New Economy. Hello?

Jonathan Nelson, organizer of the San Francisco/Silicon Valley SOPA rally (and Chris McCann, co-founder of Startup Digest behind him with the big smile)

A substantial number of people convened at the Civic Center in San Francisco for the local SOPA rally organized by Jonathan Nelson, founder of Hackers and Founders. He lined up a group of effective speakers: founders of technology companies, a high-profile Silicon Valley investor, local politician, celebrity, start-up attorney…. It was a group of relevant individuals contributing their thoughts about the historical matter.

MC Hammer: “We need to inform and educate. Government cannot shut down sites with undue process. It’s barbaric.”

The key takeaway from this rally and the national effort was that SOPA is not about creating a deeper divide between government and the people. It’s about reducing the tension, creating a bridge and finding a solution together. Jonathan Nelson and Ron Conway perhaps summed it up best. Mr. Nelson had simply and profoundly stated “We need to educate our legislators.” The intent of SOPA is good. Piracy is bad. But the law is too broadly written by people who are not equipped with the right knowledge and expertise in the (technology) field.

Ron Conway had proposed, “Find a way to innovate a solution. Put together a committee of technologists to solve a problem with technology.” There is no simple solution for a complex matter which involves the Internet, Constitutional rights and the human population. But the relevant discussion should center on educating the lawmakers. How can a law centered on a revolutionary entity called the Internet be effective and do good if it is written by people who are not in the industry? Could it make sense to get the brightest minds in technology who are embedded in the culture – who live, breath and understand the culture, to help come up with a solution for this complex matter?

Ron Conway, high-profile Silicon Valley investor

As we recently observed Martin Luther King Day and as the one year anniversary of the Arab Spring unfolds, we are witnessing a digital community of ordinary citizens mobilizing to stop unfairness. From SOPA to the NDAA, global citizens are trying to create more awareness about social and humanitarian injustices. There is a collective consciousness at work.

These influential citizens of the digital age are the New Establishment. They are the relevant voices. The old guard in Washington and old media are becoming less relevant. Ordinary people are now able to do extraordinary things. They are able to make an impact on society. Hello, extraordinary you. What are you planning to do today to ignite discussion? What are you doing to stay relevant?

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How the World’s Most Powerful Blogger Masters Fear

Sometimes this is what I do on Friday afternoon before an evening out. I seek to entertain and educate myself by checking out YouTube. I had a recent discussion with a date about Arianna Huffington and why she is such a Big Deal in the media and blogosphere. So I decided to find out what Search results YouTube (Google) would produce for “Arianna Huffington”, the woman who has been called the “World’s Most Powerful Blogger.” And I found this piece from 2007 uploaded by GoogleTalks where a very pregnant Sheryl Sandberg then of Google, now the COO of Facebook interviews the New Media titan.

Aside from her explanation of how she transformed from a Conservative to a Liberal what I found interesting was Ms. Huffington’s insight about the concept of fear. Women and men handle the feeling of fear differently. Nothing too earth shattering there. But what kinds of things are women fearful of? Ms. Huffington illustrates her point with the concept of the “Evil Roommate” which lives in our brain and tells us mean or undermining things. The Evil Roommate exists in the minds of both men and women. But here again lies the difference. For example, women wake up in the morning and the Evil Roommate may whisper something like this to them, “Look in the mirror, is that another wrinkle?” or “Those jeans are tighter on you because you threw them in the dryer, right?” She goes on to posit that it’s not about the absence of fear which will move us forward, but of mastering it. I think this thought approach applies to human beings in general. Both men and women have different perceptions of what may cripple them mentally and/or emotionally but  perhaps it’s a matter of first identifying the nature of the fear and why it’s given permission to exist in our minds.

Ms. Huffington is an interesting personality to listen to. Her thoughts about the perception of the “outspoken woman” and what needs to change to move women forward are not revolutionary but she speaks to the themes of human dignity and the democratization of the Voice. Human beings feel valued when they have a Voice that is acknowledged and heard. So regardless of whether you agree or disagree with her political views or maybe just don’t like her, in the big picture she reminds us about the beauty and power of the blogosphere to deliver Truth from ordinary people. The emergence of New Media has granted a voice to ordinary people who can blog about things that matter to them up to a potentially institution-changing and revolutionary way.  I do understand that a double-edged sword exists where any non-Truth can also be broadcast by an ordinary person with evil intentions to destroy the World.  But the global activism that this form of communication  has spawned just in 2011 also amplifies the new era of individual self-fulfillment and attempting to “do good” in the world. So the next time the Evil Roommate rears itself, press the mute button. That Voice does not earn the right to be heard.

You can follow Arianna Huffington @ariannahuff and her Internet Newspaper the Huffington Post @HuffingtonPost