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The Voice of Groklaw - page 3

The Scope of Groklaw

  • December 31, 2003
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

LinuxPlanet: What's the origin of the "Groklaw" name?

Jones: I made it up. Grok, as you know, means to deeply understand something, in geekspeak. An attorney I regularly do assignments for was thinking about doing a website of legal news. I suggested the name and he didn't seem enthusiastic. I bought the name, thinking he might come around. He never did, so I kept it for myself to use someday. Later, when I wanted to learn how to blog, for another assignment for a different attorney, I had the name already, so I used it.

It telegraphs that the site is explaining legal news in depth, but from a particular, tech angle. It represents the two sides of me that are in play in doing Groklaw, now that I think about your question. I never actually expected anyone would read Groklaw when I first started. I was just trying to learn how to blog. My field of specialization is IP law, and now that Groklaw became popular and is now a web site, I realize it was a good choice, because trademarks are stronger with an invented name.

LinuxPlanet: When Groklaw expanded from a blog into a Web site, how did this impact the nature of your work?

Jones: Well, I certainly had more of it. If it were not for Peter Roozemaal, my webmaster and behind-the-scenes genius, I'd be in a pickle. The blog I could handle alone, but there are aspects to running a web site I haven't mastered. Then there is slashdotting. And I don't have a lot of time free any more to learn new things, sadly. The audience doubled the first week after we moved to the web site, and then it just kept doing that for weeks. We haven't stopped growing yet. More people means more email (that's an understatement) and more comments and more ideas and more issues and more administrative management. More work.

All of those things mean subtle changes in style. I'm still adjusting to that. As the audience grows, it also widens beyond the tech community. . At first, I was just writing to the air, because nobody read what I wrote. Then, a loyal following formed, blogfolk, mostly geeks like me, and they liked my sense of humor, so I just wrote as I pleased, and people liked it. Now, I have lawyers and journalists and financial analysts and CEOs who read Groklaw regularly, and I feel a real responsibility to write for them too or at least not to offend them. I am more careful, more.... I don't even know the word. I know my "voice" has changed somewhat and it's deliberate. Geek humor isn't always understood by non-geeks, so I have toned it down just a bit. It's not as much fun to write, but hopefully it's more effective and that's my goal, so I make adjustments as needed.

The biggest change is now I have a large group of people helping to do research. The readers are part of Groklaw. It started when I was blogging. We started writing the Open Letter to SCO on the blog, as a group effort, but it was hard to make the software do it. Moving to the website and changing to Geeklog software opened up many possibilities for a large, coordinated group effort. That community aspect of Groklaw is what has made it unique. It's open source legal research, and it works. I am simply amazed at what they dig up. And I know, with no false modesty, that the team effort is more valuable than anything I could do on my own. People who want to imprison their IP have no idea what they are cutting themselves off from, the value you get from pooling knowledge and skills.

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