August 2, 2005 | By Matt Zimmerman

EFF15: No Place I'd Rather Be

Contrary to what you might imagine, watching Elvis and Xena the Warrior Princess casually saunter by doesn't necessarily mean that you've lost your mind. For me, it meant that I was finally home.

Rumor has it that working for EFF is a spectacularly cool gig. The secret's out: It really is. EFF works the way it does because it doesn't merely tolerate but actively embraces, cultivates -- even demands -- a sense of wonder at the technological world and a burning desire to fight the good fight, sprinkled with a leavening dose of quirkiness to help you roll with the punches.

(Read on for more after the jump.)

Like many of the folks who support EFF, I had several "click moments." I think back to the good old days when I used to type in page after page of BASIC code to create spectacularly mundane games on the cutting-edge TI-994-A. The hours I spent tying up the family land line connecting to BBS ("Why will you ever need the speed of 14.4 modem??"). The moment I first saw the baby Web, Mosaic, come up on a computer screen. The day I read John Perry Barlow's Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. And that wonderful Wednesday when I stepped into a class by Eben Moglen to learn about a subject with which I would become intimately familiar: Law in the Internet Society.

The thread for me has always been genuine amazement at what's possible with technological progress, a thought that's quickly followed by the inevitable, "Why the hell are people trying to screw this up?" It was always fascinating to watch the digital revolution unfold, even at a distance. It's mind-bendingly fun to be in the thick of it, actually making a difference.

Which brings me back to Elvis and Xena. On the night of October 31, 2004, I was sitting in the sweltering heat on the patio of my Miami Beach hotel, slowly drinking a beer while working to complete about 3,000 last-minute tasks designed to help head off an election day e-voting nightmare. Rick Wiebe, a spectacular attorney and long-time contributor to EFF cases, emailed me to touch base about an election day television interview I had roped him into in Washington, DC, and he asked how I was doing.

I stopped for a minute, took in a welcome breeze, and looked out over the throngs of Halloween night revelers marching down Ocean Drive -- including the Powerpuff Girls and the Lone Ranger, Luke Skywalker and ice skating queens, and of course, Elvis and Xena. The previous months had seen a flurry of lawsuits and committee appearances by EFF in our attempts to head off widespread adoption of paperless e-voting technology. I'd given multiple TV, radio, and newspaper interviews in order to help educate the public. I had helped train our crack team of volunteer e-lawyers who would serve as the rapid response team on election day. I was totally exhausted, and the scene before me was more than a little surreal.

"Not bad," I replied to Rick with amusement. "Hard to think of anywhere else I'd rather be."

Happy birthday EFF! And thanks for the chance to join in the fight?

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