Hey folks. Mike Masnick here. Been blogging on Techdirt since before blogging was a word (over 45,000 posts!), talking about open internet and internet policy since before "net neutrality" was coined, and generally covering various issues related to the future of the internet (including tech policy, intellectual property, telco policy, business models, economics and more) for the past decade and a half. Have spent lots of time thinking and writing about all this stuff and happy to discuss questions related to any of that or anything else.

Some of my favorite posts on net neutrality:

How telco astroturfers tried to bring down Amazon reviews of a pro-net neutrality book: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130722/17503523891/telco-astroturfing-tries-to-bring-down-reviews-susan-crawfords-book.shtml

How Verizon loves to be classified under Title II to get subsidies and tax breaks, but pretends it would destroy the internet all other times: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140531/06534827423/verizon-begs-to-be-classified-under-title-ii-subsidies-screams-about-parade-horribles-any-other-time.shtml

Questioning why broadband providers keep claiming Netflix gets a "free ride": https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140529/18081527399/if-comcast-ceo-brian-roberts-really-believes-netflix-gets-bandwidth-free-will-he-pay-netflixs-bandwidth-bill.shtml

Also currently running a crowdfunding campaign to help us do more deep dive reporting on net neutrality: http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/the-net-neutrality-battle

That's about it. AMA.

PROOF: https://twitter.com/mmasnick/status/491659027701432320 and/or https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140722/07083127966/doing-ama-reddit-about-net-neutrality-reporting-anything-else.shtml

UPDATE: Okay... it's been nearly 3 hours and I, uh, totally forgot that my plan had been to eat lunch while I do this. :) So I'm going to close it out. I think I got to most of the questions. I know there were a few I couldn't get to, so sorry about that. Gotta get back to tending to Techdirt! Thanks so much for all the great questions.

Comments: 136 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

tdobson11 karma

What is the most useful thing I can do to help Techdirt?

mmasnick10 karma

In the short term, our BeaconReader campaign (link in the original post above) could still use some help to get to the 100% mark. :)

Other than that, though, contributing to the community is the biggest thing. Sharing stories. Telling others about them. Commenting. All that stuff is great....

sybrwookie9 karma

Love the site, love having great articles like yours to point people to, when speaking about these topics. The big question is, what's next? You seem to have a great following, what are you going to do with it all?

mmasnick4 karma

Step 1 is keep what we have going. Don't want to mess with a good thing, and the community around the site is awesome. Keeps me excited working on this stuff, thinking about it, discussing things every single day. It's amazing to me.

Step 2 is looking for ways to expand what we can do. We have some plans (some big, some small) to try to take what we've been successful with at the site and expand the power of the community itself. We actually should have some more details about where that's all going in the next few months, but we're trying to be very careful about making sure that anything we do to make the community itself more powerful doesn't lead to it being destroyed...

fawltywiring8 karma

Lots more people know about net neutrality now thanks to people like John Oliver drawing attention to it, but if you had to pick one, what do you think is a big tech issue that not enough people know about?

mmasnick12 karma

The biggest issue which gets almost zero attention is the limits on people moving jobs due to non-compete agreements. Hell, it just sounds boring reading that sentence. But as I've written about, multiple studies have shown what a MAJOR issue this is in driving innovation forward: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071204/005038.shtml Allowing people to move jobs more easily speeds up information sharing and exchange, leads to the big challenges being solved more quickly, opening up new markets and platforms. And yet, many states still allow noncompetes (and some recently put in place such laws, like Georgia). Perhaps related to that is just the unfortunate stigma against such job hopping.

Of course, a broader answer is that, to some extent, I still think that all of the big tech issues don't get enough attention. Yes, net neutrality is getting some, but it's still not that widespread. Copyright and patent issues I still think are HUGE for the future of innovation and technology, but often get brushed aside. The number of people who don't realize how much over-aggressive copyright and patent laws have stifled innovation is still pretty depressing. I recently had a discussion with someone who said "yeah, copyright is important, I guess, but you know, I don't want to be seen as supporting "pirates"."

That's kind of frustrating to me, because that's how these bad laws and innovation hindering happens in the first place. When all of the "bad things" in the law can just be pinned on "pirates" then suddenly you avoid the discussion of all the important innovations and free speech and whatnot that gets hindered...

tdobson7 karma

What story are you most happy to written/broken?

mmasnick8 karma

The Dajaz1 story is probably the biggest one for me. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111208/08225217010/breaking-news-feds-falsely-censor-popular-blog-over-year-deny-all-due-process-hide-all-details.shtml That one came out on my birthday too. :) But with over 45,000 in the bag, there are lots of stories to be happy about...

I'm still probably most well known for the story that coined "The Streisand Effect," and I still find that to be... kinda strange.

RamboMadCow6 karma

I've been a long time reader of your blog. I used to participate in some of your discussions as well. My question is prefaced with quick background info: I have tried in earnest to explain to both of my parents how dangerous the NSA has become. No matter how many intelligent and logical points I've made(they agree they're smart points), they still take the stance "I have nothing to hide, so I don't care." They essentially agree it's problematic, but don't want to be bothered with trying to fix it. If you could give one (or more if you have them) important reasoning to try and convert someone like this, what would it be?

mmasnick6 karma

Some people will never be convinced. One simple response to the "nothing to hide" quote is to ask people to hand over the passwords to all their accounts. While you might find this guy: http://www.onthemedia.org/story/22-what-happens-when-you-tell-your-password-whole-internet/ most people intrinsically recognize that they want to keep their passwords hidden. Or ask people why they have locks on their doors (or doors at all?). Clearly, some things people like to keep private.

A more sophisticated discussion could involve a simple hypothetical of "what if your worst enemy, who wanted to absolutely destroy you, had access to everything you've ever done." Then think about how they could twist and misrepresent it all to make you an outcast or a criminal (or both). Then recognize that if you get into the crosshairs of certain law enforcement, that's exactly what will happen. And, by then, it's kinda too late to suddenly start caring.

The final level is to appeal to the inherent selfishness of "I've got nothing to hide." There are people who do have things to hide, and we should be happy that those people exist. People who fight for civil rights. People who are whistleblowers. We want those people to do what they do and thus we should be fighting for their rights to not be illegally spied upon.

TheMagicHorsey6 karma

If you could implement your own policy for intellectual property rights for film, music, and books, what would it look like?

Do you believe no exclusive intellectual property rights are necessary, or if some exclusive rights are necessary, what rights would those be, and how long would they last?

mmasnick8 karma

As I've stated elsewhere, I don't know the answer to the "right" amount of protection. I think the systems we have today is broken and much more damaging than good. I think that we should be experimenting with alternatives to see what they do. I think that there's tremendous evidence that you don't need intellectual property to have a functioning marketplace or incentive for these kinds of works, but that doesn't mean that the optimal solution is no protections. The problem is that everything is theoretical in a world where we're mostly blocked from trying any alternatives...

uknowwho_5 karma

I just found your site a few months ago and it's quickly become my favorite tech site. However, I also often find it depressing sometimes. The stories in the 5, 10, and 15 years ago section always seem to be about less serious problems than current ones. Do you think governments and large companies are screwing things up in the tech sector more than they did in the past, and if so, do you feel there is realistic hope that that trend will reverse? If not, how do you keep that from getting you down?

mmasnick5 karma

I get this question frequently enough that I actually started making sure that my yearly "last post of the year" is sort of a response to it. Here was my first response to that question, which I wrote nearly 7 years ago: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20081230/2351323263.shtml

In terms of our coverage changing over the past 15 years... part of that is just me and others who write for the site becoming more knowledgeable about stuff! The 15 years ago posts are almost painful for me to read much of the time. :)

I'd say that over the past 10 years or so there hasn't been a huge change, though. I don't think anyone's screwing things up any more than in the past. It's a somewhat constant push and pull. I still tend to be pretty optimistic that innovation wins out in the end, no matter what obstacles are put in its place, but I do worry about the pace or nature of innovations shifting in dangerous ways...

I actually think that the power of people to speak up and have a voice has been a massively beneficial shift in the last few years and has me very excited and optimistic about the future...

espn14215 karma

Have you seen any noticeable shifts over the past eight years? Telecoms getting bolder? Regulators paying increased focus?

mmasnick8 karma

Broadband access provider consolidation is one major trend, and that's resulted in the recent interconnection fights we've seen (which may or may not be technically considered "net neutrality" depending on where you sit). The power of a very small number of broadband access providers to basically choke off access to the last mile and to use that market power to their advantage is a major change.

The question of whether or not they're getting "bolder" is a bit trickier. In some ways, they've often become more subtle. They claim that they support net neutrality, but then they let interconnection ports get clogged. Then they try to blame others for that. It's sneaky. It's not a technical violation of what most people thought was net neutrality, but the end result is the same (i.e., getting internet companies to pay double for the bandwidth end users already purchased).

For the most part (Verizon may be the exception), the broadband providers now talk a good game about how they don't want to end net neutrality, while positioning everything to get the results they want anyway. It's both bold... and subtle.

The other big shift... the public is much more interested in what's going on. Ten years ago, you wouldn't have seen this kind of response to the FCC. Four years ago you wouldn't have seen anything like this response to the FCC. More of the public is suddenly aware that they can actually speak out about the future of the internet.

Frankly (and this is the truth, not just kissing butt here), Reddit has been a big part of making that happen.

krishnaroskin3 karma

In some ways, they've often become more subtle.

That's why I was surprised to see T-Mobile's Music Freedom (or whatever it's called) ad campaign. It felt like a rare, public anti-net neutrality move.

mmasnick5 karma

Well, that was actually sneaky... because T-Mobile (and others) have presented that as a consumer benefit situation. Basically they point out how they're giving customers something "free" at no additional cost. What they conveniently leave out is that the only reason they need to free up that... is because they set ridiculously low data caps in the first place.

But definitely watch for similar types of programs. AT&T has been most vocal about this... and they'll keep presenting it as a "consumer benefits!" type of program, ignoring that the "benefit" is protecting the consumer from the bad policy that the telco itself set up in the first place!

wooddraw5 karma

Do you think that municipal broadband can play a role in providing competition if the FCC acts, or will it always be a fringe idea?

mmasnick7 karma

Muni broadband is... tricky. I'm totally against the various bans on muni broadband that have been enacted (in some form) in 20 states, because I think those take away the choice of those municipalities to provide a better service. That said, there are stories of failed municipal broadband projects. But just because some choose to do it and fail, doesn't mean that we should ban all muni broadband. The success stories like in Chattanooga are impressive and s how how muni broadband can be done right, providing truly high speed broadband at a good price, providing real competition to the market.

So I'm pro-competition in general in the broadband space, and munibroadband is one way to add at least some competitive pressure. I doubt that it is the answer -- but it's a piece of the puzzle that should be there.

tdobson5 karma

Is techdirt profitable? How do you fund your continued existence? :)

ChurchHatesTucker5 karma

Hi Mike. Have you changed your thinking on the need for Net Neutrality over the past few years? You seem more Pro now. If so, what was the tipping point?

mmasnick4 karma

Yes, to some extent. A decade or so ago, I was mostly worried about what sort of crap laws Congress would write around it, and how many loopholes and easter eggs would be hidden in such legislation. At the same time, I was worried about the FCC claiming a much wider mandate than they ought to have over regulating the internet.

What's changed is a few things. One the market power of the big broadband players has increased massively, as has their willingness to abuse that power. On top of that, the appeals court ruling in February really expanded the interpretation of Section 706, such that it granted the FCC many of the powers that I was afraid of earlier! So it happened via the courts anyway. A third factor is a few court cases have made it easier for the FCC to use the forbearance process to limit its own ability to make use of certain laws.

Finally, I'd long been a believer that if you focused on competition first and foremost, net neutrality would fall by the wayside. I still think that competition is a key part of all of this, but the evidence from Europe and Australia suggests that competition alone isn't really enough to prevent other kinds of abuses by those who have the power over the last mile.

Combine all that and a combination of Title II with forbearance becomes a lot more appealing. I don't think it's a perfect result. I still think net neutrality is a symptom of a larger problem, rather than the problem itself -- but given the power of the broadband companies, it's the right solution for now.

G5ANDY5 karma

What do you think has been the best (or most important) technological innovation in the past 12 months?

mmasnick6 karma

12 months is a really short time frame for judging that. Most important innovations are things you don't recognize until much, much later.

However, I will point to two areas of innovation that I've been spending a lot of time exploring lately (reading mostly, though, writing about them will likely follow): cryptocurrencies and nanosatellites. There are some really interesting things happening in both, and I actually think most of the discussions of both miss the true power of both. So that's exciting...

G5ANDY2 karma

Yeah, you're right about the timespan I provided, good wriggle & answer though. Follow-up, how do you see the role of regulation in terms of one or both of these technologies?

mmasnick3 karma

I'm definitely worried about the regulatory issues with both -- though I think part of what's interesting about both is how they can both more easily route around regulatory difficulties.

kaliedan5 karma

Do you believe that writing our congress person is an effective means of getting trade agreements to be more transparent? What would be the best method for fighting to find out whats in things like TTP?

mmasnick5 karma

It's one tool, and a useful one, but it's an issue that (like net neutrality) doesn't get nearly enough attention. Speaking out on the issue, making more people aware of how the international trade process has become a secret way for corporations to basically pass favorable laws through a totally undemocratic process, without any transparency is really important. The laundering of regulations through international trade agreements has been going on for decades, and one reason is that it works so well. The public is totally bored by "international trade agreements* not realizing what's really involved.

kionae4 karma

If broadband providers DO end up being reclassified as common carriers, do you think that will finally open the door to real, on-going, nation-wide competition in the broadband market?

mmasnick7 karma

I've argued for a long time that the net neutrality fight is a symptom of a larger broadband policy and competition issue. I don't think reclassification ends that larger problem, or guarantees solving the competition issue -- but it is one way to get things moving on that front.

Part of the question (which is often not discussed) is at what layer does the competition make the most sense? Do we want competition at the infrastructure layer with a variety of different players building networks and access systems, or do we want competition at the service level, in which multiple players can compete on a given infrastructure. There are certainly arguments for both ideas, but in the US we've almost wiped out competition at the service level, and that seems unfortunate. Reclassification doesn't automatically bring that back, but it could be a step towards bringing back competition at the service level, which I think would be very helpful in increasing overall competitive pressure on access providers to be more innovative and less crappy...

szadowsz4 karma

Why are we all anonymous cowards?

mmasnick6 karma

In the long run, aren't we all just anonymous cowards?

(More accurate answer: it's a holdover from the old Slashdot days. When we first set up Techdirt as a blog, it was based on Slashcode 0.3, yes, 0.3, and the /.'s default for anyone who didn't put in a name was "Anonymous Coward," which I liked, and so we kept it. Every so often -- including about a month ago -- we get VERY angry emails from someone who discovers that we renamed them Anonymous Coward and they've taken offense. Someone once insisted that it was defamatory.)

dualpersonality4 karma

What makes you really love technology?

mmasnick3 karma

Short answer is that I just love all kinds of innovation. I love seeing cool new things. I'm still a kid in the toy shop, looking at all sorts of amazing things that are possible today that weren't possible when I was born, or when my parents were kids, or when my grand parents were kids.

There's a thought experiment that some economics professors have used: would you want to live a middle-class life today or be one of the richest people in the world 100 years ago. When you begin to think about it, the advantages to being middle class today over super rich a hundred years ago are astounding. That's what excites me. I want to see where we'll be 100 years from now (though I likely won't live that long). Thus, what angers me the most is anything that holds back that kind of innovation.

kapsar4 karma

Hey Mike, I love reading your stuff keep it up.

Based on all the various things that you cover, a lot of it, and I know you've mentioned it, seems to come down to corruption in one form or another. How do you think it best to attack all these different problems with that common source? Net neutrality, business monopolies, NSA, copyright, etc.. all come down to the fact that we aren't really in full control over what our elected leaders are doing. Based on your writing and engagement with other thinkers/doers what are some tools and tactics you think we should do that might make our collective actions more effective?

mmasnick6 karma

This is a great question, though not one with an easy answer, unfortunately. It's why Larry Lessig moved away from focusing on copyright (and some other tech policy issues) to focus on corruption. And after a decade or so of him thinking about it, he's focusing on "moonshot" like solutions, which have a low probability of success, but if they do succeed could fundamentally change things. If he feels that's the only solution, that kinda says something about the alternatives.

Still, I am encouraged by the fact that more of the public is getting engaged and involved. And it does make a difference, even if the public doesn't win every fight. The reason we don't "have control" in so many situations is because they're on issues the public doesn't care about and when that happens, the lobbyists have all the power. But when the public is engaged, then the power of lobbyists really does diminish. For politicians, votes are the most important thing. When the public isn't engaged, they'll focus on the money opportunities from lobbyists, but when the public is engaged, voters will trump lobbyists. And we're seeing more of that happening.

It's not perfect, but getting the public involved really does make change happen. Of course, the worry then is you get "public participation fatigue." The public can't get engaged on every issue -- and the whole idea of representational government was supposed to avoid having the public so constantly engaged. Also, there's always the risk of run away populism where some really dumb idea gets popular support.

So... the unfortunate answer is that there is no easy answer.

charwood4 karma

Is Barbara Streisand aware of her eponymous effect?

mmasnick3 karma

I have no idea. I have to imagine she is by now, but I just don't know.

I do know that the guy who took the photos of her house that became the inspiration for it does know about it and finds it amusing -- but that he also won't publicly comment about it.

MondoGordo3 karma

Isn't it obvious, considering the broad shift to VOIP telephone over POTS copper and the increasing popularity of Skype and similar services that broadband is a telecommunication service and not an information service ? As such isn't it perfectly intuitive that it belongs under Title II ?

mmasnick3 karma

Obviousness may be in the eyes of the beholder. As I've made clear, I believe that Title II, with forbearance, makes a lot of sense today, but there are non-crazy arguments that Title II has a bunch of wacky elements that clearly don't apply to the network today. That's why forbearance is so important -- but also why some can argue that it's not so "obvious."

AlwaysLupus3 karma

I love your blog. One theme I always see, (and agree with) is that copyright terms are too long.

Is there a minimum copyright term that we need? For example, would any author say, "I'd love to write my next book, but 14 years is too short a copyright monopoly."?

mmasnick4 karma

That's a question I don't have an answer to. Rufus Pollock has done some really good research on the "optimal term" in copyright, so I suggest that as a starting point to investigate: http://rufuspollock.org/papers/optimal_copyright_term.pdf I think what would be worthwhile is if different countries were allowed more flexibility to try different experiments and from that we could get more real data on the impact. Unfortunately, that's nearly impossible thanks to the Berne Convention, a truly destructive agreement.

G5ANDY3 karma

How much longer do you believe researchers will be actively debating the effects of violent video games on young people?

avalongod3 karma

I suppose a corollary question is how long will society take serious claims by some that violent video games contribute to societal violence, despite increasing evidence to the contrary (i.e. youth violence rates, newer studies suggesting no links, etc.)

mmasnick4 karma

I think it's a generational thing to some extent. I'm a believer in presenting evidence to change people's opinions, but as we've seen, no matter how much evidence there is, some people will never change their minds. Moral panics seem to really only age out generationally...

mmasnick3 karma

Probably until something else comes along to be the moral panic du jour. As we've covered at points, you can go back throughout history to see moral panics of all sorts of "new" things, including chess and (my favorite) the waltz. A few decades ago it was all about D&D and comic books. Today it's (still) violent video games. Eventually it'll be something else...

Fanfootie3 karma

Okay, so are peering agreements part of net neutrality or not? Personally I think of them as being part of the same issue, but as there is not a PRIORITY problem and peering between companies isn't normally part of net neutrality, lots of informed people (Tom Merrit say) say it isn't. Yet, obviously with the Netflix/Verizon/Level3 fight it certainly has many of the same repurcusions. What are your thoughts on how to deal with this, or is it simply a fight for our money between the two sides?

mmasnick4 karma

I think that it should be considered in the same basket, and said so in my own comments to the FCC. It's a technicality that they're separate, because net neutrality has always been about the last mile. But the broadband guys are smart, and they just moved the debate upstream and end up getting the same effective result (internet companies paying extra for the bandwidth end users are requesting). So, yeah, I think it should be looked at in the same bucket.

concoctedsim3 karma

How is Tom Wheeler still the chairman for the FCC?

mmasnick6 karma

Is that really a question? ;) There are tons of conflicts of interest in politics. It's kind of the nature of the game. That said, I tend to find the repeated line about Wheeler being a "former lobbyist" to be a bit overplayed. We've certainly mentioned it, but it's hardly the defining point concerning his role at the FCC. And, to be fair, when he was in charge of NCTA they were the upstarts competing against the networks, and when he was in charge of CTIA, they were also up and coming, fighting against the dominant telcos. So, his lobbying efforts have mostly been about working with newer, more disruptive players, against legacy players. So I don't think it's possible to just say "oh, former lobbyist, so he shouldn't be there" and leave it at that. I do think there's a reasonable discussion to be had about the dangers of the revolving door between industry and policymakers, but it's unfair to lump all that alone on Wheeler's head.

I have no idea how accurate this is, but my sense (again, just a sense) is that Wheeler believed there wasn't enough political cover to reclassify as Title II, and he also believes that Section 706 would be effective as an alternative. I think that's wrong, but I think he believes it honestly. I also think he honestly does want an "open internet" but doesn't fully realize what that really means, and how these things will impact innovators and entrepreneurs. But it's not because he's a former lobbyist, but because he doesn't have that much experience with what entrepreneurs really have to face these days...

designerfx3 karma

Long time reader, and techdirt is definitely my #1 source to read day to day. What do you think is the biggest issue in tech that is simultaneously the most ignored? difficulty: aside from net neutrality.

mmasnick3 karma

I mentioned elsewhere the issue of non-competes for employees. But probably another one is the nefarious and non-transparent nature of international trade agreements like TPP and TTIP (and many more) that are used as a way to effectively force regulations in via the backdoor with absolutely no transparency or anything resembling a democratic process.

The growing emphasis on "investor state dispute settlement" (what we call "corporate sovereignty") provisions in those agreements is especially worrisome, and it's one of those issues that sounds so boring that most people just ignore it.

Lowestofthekeys3 karma

Hi Mike. Do you think copyright can be rebuilt or amended to be a more effective tool at providing compensation or do you think it should just be done away with?

PS - I think Average Joe skipped this, too many people to break apart his awful arguments.

mmasnick3 karma

The honest answer is that I don't know. I think that today's copyright system is clearly very, very broken. I think that it's very likely that other copyright policies would be much more effective. What I don't know is if "no" copyright policy is better than a totally revamped. I think I'm fairly certain that no copyright would be better than today's copyright, but that doesn't mean there isn't some other copyright policy that might be better than no copyright at all. I'd suspect that there is a better copyright policy out there, but unfortunately we're so far away from evidence-based copyright it will be hard to ever legitimately explore those possibilities.

rome77773 karma

I've been reading your blog for a long time mainly because of your posts on copyright. Keep up the good work!

Since you did a great job of helping the average joe understand SOPA, how can we make him (her?) understand/care about net neutrality?

mmasnick4 karma

It's just more of the same. Keep informing everyone. Different things work for different people. We're trying to report on every angle we can, hoping that that inspires more people to understand how important it is and to get involved in the process...

krishnaroskin2 karma

Has coverage of tech policy in the mainstream media gotten any better as tech has become more of a big thing? Or do you think we'll always have to go to places like Techdirt for coverage of some of the slightly more subtle issues?

mmasnick3 karma

I think it's definitely gotten much better over the last few years. You have more reporters in the mainstream who actually understand the issues. The challenge is often how much they're able to cover, or how dig they're able to dig into some of the issues.

krishnaroskin3 karma

Got any favorite mainstream reporters that you follow?

mmasnick3 karma

Oh man. If I name some here I'm going to leave out someone who then gets offended. :) I'll just say that the big newspapers have some pretty good reporters these days. The NYT, the WSJ and Washington Post have some pretty good folks who get tech policy. Same with the politically focused ones like Politico and National Journal. Wired/Ars Technica/The Verge and Vox may not be "mainstream" but always have great coverage of these issues. And, um, to the people I'm leaving out... sorry... :)

floberticus2 karma

I often see you refer to articles written on sites like ArsTechnica and TorrentFreak. What's your relationship like with the people who write there?

mmasnick5 karma

I like all those guys. Some people in the media business are super competitive, but that's not really my thing. I think the reporters at those sites are really, really good, and we all benefit from each others work. I've known Joe Mullin and Dave Kravets for years (since long before they were at Ars), and I think Cyrus Farivar and John Brodkin do amazing work there as well. TorrentFreak has some really amazing stories, and I chat with Ernesto every so often on a variety of things. There are lots of other great tech policy reporters out there as well. Tim Lee over at Vox (who also wrote for us ages ago) is phenomenal, as is Karl Bode at BroadbandReports (he's also written for us). There are lots of others as well, and I'm going to get in trouble for not naming them... But, generally, I think that there are some really good folks writing on a variety of these kinds of issues these days and that really helps the overall space.

dayz2men2 karma

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your labors with Techdirt and fueling my own interest in law meeting my love of technology.

What is the most rewarding non-monetary compensation you have received for your work on Techdirt?

Do you believe the NSA/other three-letters are capturing and storing all (or as close to all as systemically possible) communications of United States citizens, not just the 'claimed' metadata?

Can you toss me out a few interesting and unique music artists that you enjoy and I might have not heard before?

I believe you are doing good work in your life.

Cheers! Light & Love!

mmasnick3 karma

The most rewarding? Definitely getting to have all sorts of fascinating discussions and getting to meet (either in person or virtually) all sorts of really knowledgeable people. I've had a chance to have discussions and learn from people who I consider heroes and that's amazing to me. For years, no one at all read the site, and then suddenly to find out that people I've admired not only read it, but want to discuss things, kinda blows me away at times.

Music? Everyone's tastes are unique, so I have no idea what you might like. One artist that I've really liked and followed his career (and given him money every chance I've got) is Vic Ruggiero. His "fame" is because he's a big part of the great NYC ska/rocksteady/reggae band The Slackers, but he's also got some amazing solo stuff. I also really like Uniform Motion, a band from Europe that we've written about on the site. They've done some really interesting things on the business model and transparency front, but they also HAVE AMAZING music. I listen to them all the time...

SFWRedditor12 karma

What new technology or technological trend are you most excited about? And which one are you most scared by?

mmasnick3 karma

I mentioned elsewhere cryptocurrency and nanosats are really exciting to me for a variety of reasons I plan to explore in the future... As for scared? Not really scared by too much. Worried about the NSA and surveillance, but I'm hopeful that there are paths to fixing that.

RM_Getaway2 karma

I've written to both my states senators and the representative for my district regarding Net Neutrality, and try to inform people as much as I can, but what else can I do to help the cause?

Edit for spelling, because I type like a drunk person sometimes.

mmasnick3 karma

Education is the key. The more people know, and the more they can take part and speak out, the more likely a real impact can be had. I think that one important issue is changing the politics of the debate. Net neutrality was a non-partisan issue early on, and then became partisan at some point, making it "toxic." I've never understood why it became partisan at all. A free and open internet is good for the public and for innovation and small businesses. The decision by Republicans to be against it seems really counterproductive to me. Losing net neutrality clearly will harm enterpreneurs and small businesses.

Similarly, the line about "keeping the internet free from regulation" is purely bogus. The internet is already regulated. It's a question of how it's going to be regulated, not if.

mematematica1 karma

What impact the net neutrality fight (and outcome) could have internationally? Mexican living in Germany and long time techdirt reader here. Thank you for all this years. I'll certainly donate what I can to the Beacon campaign. Hope you make it! The best of lucks.

mmasnick3 karma

Hey there. Thanks for any support on the Beacon campaign. We're pretty excited about that.

The net neutrality fight right now is very US focused, obviously, but the impact could definitely spread. Not only may it influence how other countries do things and set their policies, but it can lead to various issues in international trade agreements requiring similar types of rules elsewhere. Never doubt the power of sneaky international trade agreements.

Separate from that, there's a more direct impact: if the telcos in the US are able to choke off innovation with tollbooths, that's less innovation on the internet for the entire world to use. Yes, innovation comes from all over the globe, but it would be a shame to cut off or hinder a bunch of US innovation that can be used globally as well...

PerfectDelusion1 karma

What are your thoughts on the potential for economic collapse to occur in the recent future?

mmasnick3 karma

If I could forecast the economy, I'd be a lot wealthier. :) I am, generally speaking, more of an optimist than a pessimist. I worry about a lot of things, but larger paradigm shifting changes like "economic collapse" are beyond the cloudiness of my crystal ball. I'd like to hope it's unlikely, and I probably act accordingly. But I could be wrong.

PerfectDelusion2 karma

A follow-up: If you were given substantial evidence that such an event would occur how might this change your day to day life, if at all?

mmasnick3 karma

Um. I guess I'd be stockpiling canned foods and hunting for a bunker or something. :)

tdobson1 karma

Any ideas on how to make tech issues relevant to a mass audience?

mmasnick4 karma

Same as with most things. Make the issues relevant to them, explaining how it impacts them directly...

chasnleo1 karma

Mike I have been following your site since 2000 or before, what was the start date of Techdirt? I like reading your articles, you have a great style.

mmasnick1 karma

After a few long answers, here's one I can answer quickly (and yet I've already made it longer!). Started as an email newsletter in August of 1997. Became a website in February of 1998. Became a "blog" in March of 1999 -- and has basically remained sorta like that ever since...

ChurchHatesTucker1 karma

Might want to doublecheck those dates.

mmasnick2 karma

You're right... messed them up slightly. Fixed now. :)

Ron_Tam1 karma

Hi Mike! Thanks for doing an AMA!

Two questions:

1.) What can we the public do to help spread the word on net neutrality?

2.) You have been sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit. What would you choose as your last meal?

mmasnick2 karma

  1. Just keep telling people about it. Share the John Oliver video, because at least that's funny! Just let people know how important it is.

  2. Dammit. I've thought about that for a long time and I keep changing my mind. I'm fairly obsessed with good Japanese katsu curry, so it might have to be that. But I reserve the right to change my answer right up until the very, very end.

s0beit1 karma

Speaking on this whole net neutrality issue, don't you ever think the issue is just a band-aid for a much bigger problem?

I mean I won't shed any tears that people want to force the government to control monopolies the government installed, but it seems even if we get network neutrality we still have the issue with internet service monopolies that nobody seems even close to willing to tackle.

To me this whole thing seems like attacking a symptom, rather than the disease. They would not be able to do this in the first place if any real competition existed. So I imagine problems like these will continue to persist, even if we get network neutrality?

Are you interested in any efforts to tackle the problem of government contract bidding or those which are for allowing the consumer more control?

Personally I think a bill which allows governments to formulate contracts with large providers to lay wire and control access for profit only until the lines are built and paid for (with them collecting a fee of sorts I suppose) would be ideal.

After that allowing smaller municipalities to control access to that wire they've paid for however they see fit seems ideal.

Then again corruption can occur here, also. Either way I think the system we have in place now can only result in more problems in the future, and I wish people were attacking the root cause rather than the symptom.

mmasnick2 karma

Yes. I've been arguing almost exactly that (that net neutrality is the symptom rather than the problem) for over a decade. So, yeah, I'm in near total agreement on that. And, yes, I'm interested in all sorts of other ideas and solutions -- including government bidding processes. Your solution is an interesting one that I haven't given much thought to, so I'd need to sit down and spend some time thinking about it. There have been some efforts a different forms of ownership of the networks over the years with some interesting results. Take a look at these two stories as examples: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/11.12/view.html?pg=5 and http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/homes_tails

Random aside: the economist mentioned in that Wired article from 2003, Alan McAdams, was a professor of mine in business school. In 1996, he was teaching me about the economics of open source and the power of Linux. He was in his late 60s at the time. He also was the guy who literally told me to go start Techdirt. I had stayed in touch with him for a few years, but lost touch and when I just went to search for that article discovered that he passed away last year. I feel bad that I only just found out, since he was such an important inspiration for so much of what Techdirt has become.

s1m0n80 karma

There are repeated commentators that always argue with you, seemingly just for the sake of it. Do you know who any of them are IRL?

mmasnick3 karma

Ah, those guys. :) It's a pretty small group. Some of them I know exactly who they are, and some of them I have absolutely no clue at all. Of the "regulars" it's probably about 50/50. Believe it or not, a few have actually reached out directly to me. One of the ones who has been around for a while, and clearly does it for the joy of trolling, once reached out to offer "a deal," claiming that we needed him on the site to generate discussion. Needless to say, I ignored him. Some people are really bizarre in what they think is important.

purplegreendragon0 karma

Hi Mike, What is your favorite breakfast? Anything special, care to share with us?

mmasnick3 karma

My wife is an amazing cook, and likes to bake banana bread that we will often eat for breakfast. So I'm going with that.

Random aside: when we were first dating, my wife went off on a solo road trip (well, with her dog) for about 6 weeks driving around the US. Right before she left, I baked her banana bread (about the only thing I knew how to bake) and was so proud of myself. Only later did I learn that she's an amazing chef who makes astoundingly good baked goods including banana bread. She probably fed mine to her dog.

NSAPR-1 karma

When did you start hating America? What is your current exact location?

mmasnick4 karma

Hey, you guys already know the answers to all such questions, so I'll let you answer it yourself. ;)