Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Question: What inspired or motivated you to write this updated Digirata version
of the famous Desiderata?

Answer: I was thinking recently about how the internet has taken
over our lives in many ways, and of the need
to unplug from time to time, to get off the internet and interact with
people face to face, to get out into nature,
and I was inspired by two very good books out this summer by William
Powers and Nicholas Carr about the
need to unplug from time to time. So the feelings came out from there
and I began looking for a way to express them,
and the first line of the famous Max Erhmann poem came to mind. I just
started jotting my thoughts down, but it's
really a rewrite, an updating, the words really belong to Mr Erhmann,
so I am not signing my name to the new version,
and there is no copyright, anyone can freely print or reprint it as
they wish, on paper posters or blogs. This belongs to
the culture at large, not to me.

Question: Who are you?

Answer: Oh, you don't know me, I am sure. Just an honest bloke passing
through life one
day at a time. Don't have a job, don't have a career.
Just an observer of life as it goes along. You could call me a
middle-aged dreamer, who still has ideals. A poet. Unpublished.

Question: What was the purpose of writing this ''Digirata'', and why did
you choose that name for the title?

Answer: A couple of reasons. First, mostly to give readers a quiet
chuckle and a smile. Secondly,
to underline the very real issues of cyberstalking and cyberbullying, among
teenagers, and adults, and about the need to be civil online and in
forums, without
the constant flaming and name-calling! Thirdly, to remind people it's
okay to unplug
from time to time. That's important.
And fourth, to remind people that online life is wonderful, too, yes. Enjoy
it while it's here. Something new might replace the Internet in the
future, and email and Facebook might be dinosaurs in 25 years.
Technology moves fast.

Question: What's your favorite line in the original Desiderata?

Answer: All of them!

Question: What's your favorite line in the new Digirata?

Answer: All of them!

Question: Why did you post this anonymously?

Answer: The ideas in the Digirata belong to many people, to the
culture at large,
and especially to the original words by Mr Erhmann. So my name is not important.
I like standing in the background on things like this. My main work
here is with PR.

Question: Who is the target audience for the Digirata?

Answer: College students, grad students, techies, bloggers, the New
York Times, everyone!

Question: Do you think the Digirata willl go viral -- and maybe have
an impact on people?

Answer: No. And no. It won't even get noticed, unlesss the New York
Times writes about
it. So basically, the Digirata has no future and will
get very few readers. Still,
it was something that called out to be written. So it's done. We shall
see if anyone bites.

Question: Ever been to Terre Haute, Indiana, the home of Max Erhmann?

Answer: Can't say that I have. But I did hear recently that the city
there unveiled
a bronze sculpture of Max Ergmann (1872 - 1945) who was a native son
of Terre Haute -- something like an $80,000 civic renewal project,
with the sculpture done by a man named Bill Wolfe. I hope to visit
that place one day and give me respects to Mr Erhmann in person.

Question: In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Eric Goldman, who
teaches Internet law at
Santa Clara University in California, was quoted as saying: "Most
people have no idea of the liability they face when they publish
something online. A whole new generation can publish now, but
they don't understand the legal dangers they could face. People are
shocked to learn they can be sued for posting something that says, 'My
dentist stinks.' " And while it's true that under federal law,
websites generally are not liable for comments
posted by outsiders, they can, however, be forced to reveal the
poster's identity if the post includes false information presented as
fact. So calling someone a "jerk" and a "buffoon" may be safe from a lawsuit
because it states an opinion. Saying he wrongly "pocketed" public
money could lead to a defamation claim because it asserts something as
a fact. A lot of people don't know how easy it is to track them down once a
lawsuit is filed, according to Sara Rose, an American Civil Liberties Union
lawyer in Pittsburgh. What's your take on all this.

Answer: Everyone should read the Digirata first!

Question: The Supreme Court has said that the 1st Amendment's protection for the
freedom of speech includes the right to publish "anonymous" pamphlets.
But recently, judges have been saying that online speakers do not
always have a right to remain anonymous. In fact, recently, the U.S.
9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Nevada
judge's order requiring the disclosure of the identity of three people
accused of conducting an "Internet smear campaign via anonymous
postings" against Quixtar, the successor to the well-known Amway Corp.
The judge ruled: "The right to speak, whether anonymously or otherwise, is not
unlimited." Quixtar had sued, contending the postings were damaging to its
business. The judge who first ordered the disclosure said the Internet
had "great potential for irresponsible, malicious and harmful
communication." Moreover, the "speed and power of Internet technology
makes it difficult for the truth to 'catch up to the lie,' " he wrote.
What's your take on this?

Answer: More reason to read the Digirata every day before you go
online. We live in a free country, but we aren't free to anonymously
and maliciously hurt innocent people online. It's getting scary out
there. Someone has to draw the line, and there must be some rules.
More than etiquette. Laws, legal rules. Otherwise, it's going to get
worse and worse.

Question: You sound like a lawyer.

Answer. No, I never studied law or went to law school. Like I said, I am just
an observer. But cyberbulling and things like that have led to
teenagers committing
suicide in despair, in over a dozen cases so far, maybe more that we
have not heard about. I worry about the future of the internet for
young kids today. Adults can handle it. But this online cyberbullying
in junior high school and high school is getting bad. Someone must put
a stop to it.

Question: You?

Answer: No. The courts must establish online boundaries and teachers
must enforce them. It;s a legal issue, and a societal issue.

Question: According to Kimberley
Isbell, a lawyer for the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard
University: "There's a false sense of safety on the Internet. If you
think you can be anonymous, you may not exercise
the same judgment" before posting a comment..
Not surprisingly, the target of the online complaints may think he or
she has no choice but to take legal action if the comments are false
and malicious. But thesse can be life-changing lawsuits. They can go
on for years and
cost enormous amounts in legal fees.
Many are concerned about teenagers and what they post
online. Teenagers do what you might expect. They say things they
shouldn't say. They do stupid things. We don't have a legal
standard for defamation that excuses kids. What's your take on this?

Answer: Very big issues. Need to be addressed. Now.

Question: Agree or disagree with this statement: "The first thing
people need to realize, they can be held accountable
for what they say online. Before you speak ill of anyone
online, you should think hard before pressing the 'send' button."

Answer: Agree!

Question: Thank you for your time today, sir.

Answer: My pleasure. Thank you for your good questions. Although the
Digirata is a humorous piece of writing, and really just an homage to
the real Desiderata of 1927, I sort of hope that all this might help
foster national discussions about these issues, balanced discussions,
all sides of the issues. As I said, I am not a legal expert, but I do
think we have entered uncharted waters that need to be charted and the
sooner the better.

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