Larry Lessig has announced that Creative Commons have decided, after much deliberation, to end their relationship with BzzAgents.
[…] for all the extremely powerful reasons these discussions have mustered, we were wrong to use this tool [BzzAgents] to spread our message. This is not, again, because BzzAgent is evil. It is not because it shouldn’t be used to spread any message. It is not because understanding achieved through networks of humans is worse than the understanding produced through a survey. It is instead because this way of spreading our message weakens the power of our message.
Many people in the post to Larry’s first post commented on how they admired the Spread FireFox campaign, and CC have decided to take that baton up and create something similar for CC. To this end, they have launched a wiki to foster discussion, so there’s no excuse for not taking part.
I am glad that CC have come to this decision, not because of any need for my opinions to be validated or because I’ve been ‘proven right’, but because I truly believe that this is the right decision for CC. A strong, unmediated grass-roots movement is what CC needs – using BzzAgents would have muddied waters that must stay clear.
It also allows people to get involved under their own terms, not under someone else’s. If all someone wants to do is contribute to the wiki, then that is their prerogative. Equally, someone can hop in at the end of deliberations and just use the materials and information provided, without ever having to take part in their creation. It doesn’t matter whether all you do is have a CC button on your coat or whether you devote all your free time to the project. What matters is that now, you can participate in a way that’s good for you.
I left a comment on Larry’s blog in response to his post which contains a few more points, so I shall reproduce it here too.
Excellent news, Larry! I am delighted to see you and your colleagues at CC grasp the nettle and make this decision.
We all make mistakes, but the challenge is always to learn from them and to turn errors into wisdom. The silver lining in this furore for CC is that you have now embarked on a course of action which I believe will prove to be more effective, stronger, and will have more of a long-term benefit for all involved than the relationship with BzzAgents could ever have given you. I have no doubt that there is the enthusiasm out there to make a SpreadCC-style campaign work (although I am sure it will not be without its own hiccups).
Insofar as BzzAgents are concerned, I hope that Dave has learnt that careful consideration before responding to criticism is the way forward. I also hope that, despite how much of himself he puts into his business, he learns that *he is not his business* and criticism of one is not criticism of the other. That’s a hard lesson to learn, and as an entrepreneur, I know just how hard. I also hope that he will be able to see through the anger of some of the comments and be capable of pulling the truths to the fore, as I think there were some valuable points made which could help him improve his modus operandi.
As for me, I certainly have learnt something: I knew that Creative Commons was a cause I supported, but I hadn’t realised just how important it was to me until I thought that it was being threatened. I’ve been planning to volunteer for CC or the EFF for ages now, but haven’t because there never seems to be enough time. With the new wiki, I will be able to contribute a little bit on a regular ongoing basis (a form of support that I think is more important than giving up a chunk of time once in a blue moon).
So, here’s to the future of CC!
UPDATE: Dave Balter blogs about the decision too. I find his post to be very positive and encouraging, and it seems that he’s looked for the truth in the comments that have been made about BzzAgents’ modus operandi, and is working to adjust it so that it is more acceptable to more people. Whilst I agree that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, I do feel that BzzAgents could please more people more of the time, and I’m glad to see Dave working towards this. I am sure he will end up with a stronger company at the end of this process.