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?