Is a Political Endorsement Appropriate for a Technical Site?

A number of people have responded to my endorsement of Barack Obama with complaints that it is inappropriate for a tech publisher to publish on political issues. While most of the people responding to the post have either been supportive, or thoughtfully countered one or more of my arguments, a number of people have threatened to stop buying from O’Reilly as a result of my endorsement.

I thought I’d share my thinking on this issue, in part by elevating the responses I made in the course of the very long comment thread on the original post, and invite you all to debate the issue with me.

To those who said they would not buy from O’Reilly any more simply because of my political views, like Deb S, who said:

From now on every-time I see a O’Reilly book I will think that book is from that Liberal company that supports the Socialist Obama.
I embrace competition and free enterprise (both of which will be restricted or eliminated under Obama). I will choose NOT to buy O’Reilly books because of the negative associations that I have knowing O’Reilly is aligned with Socialists.

I responded:

if you’re going to stop buying O’Reilly books because I support Obama, are you also going to stop using Google because Eric Schmidt does? And I hope you’ll be sure to avoid Geico insurance, and Benajamin Moore Paints, and See’s Candies, and Fruit of the Loom underwear, because Warren Buffett supports him too. Try to be serious. Obama supporters represent at least half of this country. Are you going to avoid businesses owned by any of them? Be my guest.

Now, that was probably not the most politic response, but perhaps justified to someone who complains purely on the basis of my political affiliation. Someone who identified himself as fleab made a different argument:

I don’t care who you endorse but would like to visit the site for books and tech information, not for political opinion. Are there products for sale here or is this now a political editorial column? Keep it up, will lose a customer, I can go to CNN for political drivel.

I replied:

You know perfectly well that this site is my blog, and that books and other technical information are still available on oreilly.com.

I made a strong effort to make my comments relevant to the tech community by arguing that Obama’s presidency would more directly address issues of importance to the tech community. If you disagree with my assessment, I’ve provided you a great platform here in the comments to present a reasoned argument on the issues.

I look forward to your thoughts.

This crystallized the problem for fleab:

I respect your response and your blog, but disagree on your judgement to have it linked under news on oreilly.com. The blemish lies in the correlation of relevancy to opinion rather than that of information in relation to the main site.

Now this seems a point worth considering. I replied:

There is some justice to your complaint. I’ve sent it on to Allen Noren, who runs oreilly.com, to consider. However, I increasingly post on non-tech matters, like climate change and the need to “work on stuff that matters.”

What I think matters to many O’Reilly readers. If you weren’t on the other side of this particular issue – say it were a call for people to participate in a challenge to end world hunger, or build better tools for responding to disasters – would you have the same reaction?

The choice of our next president is one of the biggest issues facing the tech community, as it is the biggest issue facing the rest of the country. Are we to stay on the sidelines with so much at stake?

I think we’d be remiss in not making the case for the right choice, just as we do in any of the other areas we cover.

What’s more, the comments here provide a great platform for anyone who wants to take the opposite point of view to do so. A number of people have addressed specific points – this is a great discussion. But it’s interesting that no one has provided anything like a comprehensive argument as to why McCain would be a good choice for tech voters.
What an opportunity, if you believe in informed debate!

You could draft on my visibility and get your arguments in front of a lot of people. Yet many of the conservative comments on this post are instead about how I shouldn’t have made my arguments.

Take up the challenge! This is, among other things, an experiment in how the new tools of conversation on the net can be handled to enable responsible dialogue.
I’ve tried to respond to commenters because I am trying to model a kind of behavior that I believe we need more of, serious discussion, with links to our sources, the “source code of our thinking.”

So while I agree that it is controversial for some, this is an appropriate use of the platform I’ve built to reach the people who care what I think.

If I were shutting down debate, and making it a one-way channel, or spouting hate, I’d agree with you. But I’m trying to foster dialogue.

There’s still a day before the election. Make your best case!

I believe that’s a reasonable response, and you might say that after tomorrow the subject will be moot for another four years. But it’s clear that this issue deserves some further thought, independent of which candidate you support. Should tech businesses stay out of politics? Was it appropriate for oreilly.com to put a link to my opinions on the election on the front page? Frankly, I was disappointed how few tech blogs even linked to my piece, perhaps afraid to enter the political fray lest they anger some of their customers.

The issues at stake seem important enough for me to take that risk. I hope you agree. But if you don’t, I want to hear from you.

I also want to acknowledge once again that there are employees at O’Reilly who support John McCain, which is why I made clear that this was my personal opinion and not an official company position. It’s important that everyone have a voice, not just those with a big podium. But it’s also important to remember that most of the things I say on subjects from open source to web 2.0 to the role of alpha geeks in emerging technology are not “company positions” but personal opinions. As a great example, we have a great Microsoft publishing program alongside our open source and Mac publishing programs, but I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’m a happy Mac user with deep roots in the open source philosophy of software development. But the fact remains that we use advocacy about positions we believe in to drive our marketing, and we are most successful in areas where we aren’t afraid to make our passionate support known.

Frankly, I’d rather see more companies wearing their opinions on their sleeves rather than expressing them with quiet campaign contributions and inside conversations. Part of what I love about the net is how it encourages openness and dialogue. And in the course of the comment stream, I found myself sharing one idea that seems fairly important to anyone thinking about how the net might change the nature of debate:

Thanks to everyone for wading in, especially those of you who are marshalling reasoned arguments and sharing actual sources and references, showing you’ve done your homework, and helping other people to see the data that helped to shape your point of view.

We need a LOT more of that in this discussion, rather than slinging unsupported allegations back and forth.

Bringing this back to tech – showing the data behind your argument is a lot like open source. It’s a way of verifying the “code” that’s inside your head. If you can’t show us your code, it’s a lot harder to trust your results!

Links as source code for your thinking: that’s a meme that should survive the particulars of this particular debate!

But enough of me. What do you think?

tags:
  • http://www.renodiscontent.com Tracy Viselli

    I am gratified that tech leaders like yourself stepped forward to advocate for the candidate of their choice because it informs the debate. Technology policy is bigger than the sum of its parts–it will inform energy policy, health care policy, government accountability and efficiency. Knowing what leaders in the industry–those with direct knowledge of the hows and the whys–think about the intentions of candidates helps regular citizens understand better what is really at stake. Who better to get this kind of information from than those who make it their life’s work?

  • http://www.TrippingTheGlobe.com Brad

    Plain and simple Tim, I think it’s fine to endorse a canditate, but you will lose business. You comment back and you’ll lose more. It’s your choice. You have a lot of valuable info on your sight – I won’t hold your endorsement against you.

  • http://www.oreilly.com Jason Arnold

    I think what you did was very honest and straight forward. I think its much better to know who you’re buying from than being ignorant. Knowing someone’s political affiliation would never stop me from purchasing from their company. It’d have to be something much more serious. To me, if a product being sold is well made or of high quality, it is worth purchasing. If the company that manufactures or distributes the product is Republican or Democrat, that is negligible.

    What you did opened up some very interesting debates. However, it still brought forth a lot of passionate and misinformed comments. While reading through the comments on your previous post, very few people cited their sources or even vaguely eluded to them. I saw some very compelling arguments, and appreciated those that provided links. Personally, I’m far more likely to accept or even agree with someone if they put forth a reasonable argument backed up by relevant sources.

    PS.
    Any chance you could start using Recaptcha instead? I find it much easier to use and more pleasant to look at.

  • http://www.acemarketingagency.com Scott M. Iseman

    Sir–

    We live in unique times, and are on the eve of the most important Presidential election of modern times, if not in the history of America.

    Years ago, I resigned to the reality that whether in a personal, or business setting, people are going to make their political preferences know, especially as an election is approaching.

    Have found for me, the less I say about politics in everyday life, the better. The problem is, because political discussions can be so heated, when someone shares their views, or continually shares their political views in public, it “can” unfortunately create a dividing line. An us against them situation.

    It really is up to the person whether or not a political endorsement is appropriate for a technical site, or any site. Kind of, use your best judgment, and decide for oneself if putting your views out there is worth your good business standing with a percentage of the crowd, because whether business or personal, public political beliefs risk alienating a portion of a customer base, or potential base.

    So thank you for this question. Must confess, sometimes I just want to lunge out into the public and let my political views be known, but I restrain, and choose instead to watch the wave of history crest tomorrow and accept this country’s destiny, for whatever happens next.

    As I often say, welcome to a brave new world, as things are about to get real interesting, one way, or the other.

    Best,

    Scott – http://twitter.com/ScottSays

  • http://twitter.com/smc90 smc90

    Tim, I think the key lies in positioning. As long as your comments are part of the blog component of your site — where comments are enabled and where discourse/opinions are appropriate — I think it’s fine. The key is in delineating whether these are *your* opinions or *the O’Reilly company* opinions — and I think people probably reacted to that b/c in your case the two entities are conflated, perception-wise.

    When Google officially rejected prop 8 for example, it seemed appropriate b/c it was on their blog and it was their company position. Alternatively it could have been Sergey’s opinion if clearly delineated as such.

    Ultimately, tech leaders are thought leaders so I think it’s appropriate to have opinions that blend these boundaries. Tech is just a way of connecting people, and politics are certainly a part of that!

  • http://www.threatchaos.com Stiennon

    Of course you are free to post your support for whatever candidate you like. Although many blogs are very specific about what they talk about, say knitting, or LOLcats, their authors can say whatever is on their minds. It is the eve of an election in the US so of course that would be on your mind.

    Sometimes it seems like bloggers are overly influenced by the news of the day. While the ‘net is supposed to be an enabler of more diversity of thought it seems to be actually pooling thought. There are little niches of original thinking but you have to search for them and treasure them when you find them. And then, you have to forgive the authors when they get caught up in the moment and endorse a political candidate.

    So endorse all you want, it will all be over in 24 hours.

  • http://www.ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    At a time when New York Times reporters are also nytimes.com bloggers, the line between print publishing and online publishing is quickly blurring.

    Why people can’t grasp that is a mystery to me.

  • http://dannyman.toldme.com/ Daniel Howard

    Hello,

    I have no objection to you endorsing a presidential candidate, even if I disagreed with your conclusion.

    A thought though: does that introduce a slippery slope? What next: Perl versus Python? Dell versus Lenovo? There are plenty of “religious” and “vendor” choices to be made by each of us, they can be deeply personal, they can alienate some folks, and they reveal a bias that might contra-indicate O’Reilly for certain things: like if you endorsed Python would your Perl books be as good? If you endorsed Dell could you get IBM to sponsor a conference?

    Somewhere it should be understood where you draw the line as to what is fair for editorializing. Net neutrality? Perhaps the standard is whether any position obviously favors one segment of the tech community over another segment, but even there one might argue that supporting McCain would favor large business while supporting Obama would implicitly do the opposite . . .

    Personally, I like hearing any opinion that is well-considered, even more so if it gives me occasion to review my own beliefs and assumptions.

    Sincerely,
    -daniel

  • http://userfirstweb.com Jason Grigsby

    As you state, you’re talking increasingly about the need to “work on stuff that matters.” To do that you will need to impose on people.

    Instead of simply talking about Web2.0, you have to impose on the readers by talking about Web 2.0 data centers and the impact on the environment. There are people who don’t believe in climate change. For them, writing about that will be imposing a worldview on them that they don’t agree with.

    So in my mind, it isn’t a question of whether or not the endorsement is appropriate for the site. The question is how strongly do you want to make a difference, and if so, what level of imposition are you comfortable with.

    I have a two-year-old daughter. The stakes have changed for me in this election. It matters enough to me that I’m willing to step beyond my comfort level and share my thoughts on the election.

    If some are offended by that, it can’t be helped. You can’t work on things that matter–you can’t make a difference in the world–without ruffling some feathers.

  • Kyle Ridolfo

    I’m in agreement with you here. Having open dialogs are key to social and technological progress. We don’t live in a vacuum; why should we think in one?

    It’s obvious that this is your personal blog. I’m glad to have an opportunity to see how you approach complex issues, regardless of the subject.

    I think this sums it up for me:

    “So while I agree that it is controversial for some, this is an appropriate use of the platform I’ve built to reach the people who care what I think.”

  • http://robertworstell.com Robert Worstell

    The silly season makes strange bedfellows for the lot of us.

    The good thing is that, as you point out, over 50% of the nation is one way or the other. It’s great that no one is particularly picking on a minority here.

    And the best years in this nation were spent where the Administration and Congress were run by different parties – more sensible reform was accomplished and more people approved of both Congress and the President. Worst times are like the last two we just endured. One party was immensely disliked in the Administration – and all blame was heaped on them. However, the Congress had even lower (single digit) approval ratings because the opposite party was in power (nominally) and got nothing done at all to rectify what the Administration was doing wrong.

    However, yes – people do quit subscriptions over the danged-est reasons. Scobelizer pointed out he could lose a 1,000 followers after one pointed post.

    But within the next year, they come back – more or less – until the next round of silly season pronouncements. It’s the quality of the product that brings them back.

    I’m just glad I live on a farm. I tell my opinions to the dogs and they smile back with their tongues out. I can tell the cat how I vote and they just close their eyes and purr. The cows make the most interesting agreeing nods with their heads as long as I keep scratching between their eyes. And the chickens cluck approvingly as long as I’m bringing fresh feed.

    People – well they have always been a strange breed. No wonder they invented the world’s three greatest controversies: religion, sports, and politics…

  • bowerbird

    first of all, everything is political. _everything_.

    second of all, the political parties are dinosaurs.
    if we are to change the world (us, not barack,
    because he can’t do anything without us), then
    it will be because we left political hacks behind.
    so if obama tries to do politics as usual, we will
    abandon him as if he were another smelly fish.
    time’s too short to waste another 8 years on that.

    third of all, the comments section here is _not_
    “a great platform”, as you put it. i’d say that it’s
    probably largely invisible to the people who read
    this blog in their r.s.s. readers (i.e., most of us).

    nor are people who comment here “drafting on”
    your “visibility”, and you would be wise to notch
    back your opinion of yourself just a little bit, if
    you can take a nobody like me telling you that…

    fourth of all, this is america, land of free speech.
    isn’t it? or did your critics happen to forget that?

    fifth of all, you’re gaining more customers than
    you’re losing when you endorse barack obama,
    compared to if you came out for john mccain…

    six of all, surely you’re not going to let your
    _business_ take away your ability to say what
    you want. are you? you have integrity. don’t you?

    so there’s very little good reason for this post,
    except you happened to have this on your mind.
    (which, by the way, is not a good reason at all.)

    -bowerbird

    p.s. many of your captchas kick back incorrectly.
    might want to check that your “answers” are right.

    p.p.s. just happened again on this one: f4aakg
    that’s what the captcha is, but you kicked it back.

  • http://brooksjordan.name Brooks Jordan

    I think it’s cutting edge to post about a presidential candidate’s influence on the future of technology, but taking a position like this and asking for your readers to comment back is what business has evolved into.

    The truth is that everything you do at O’Reilly – that O’Reilly even exists as a company – is influenced by what you know and think about the world.

    So why not share it with us and give us an opportunity to respond?

    We want to know. We want to contribute. We want to help shape your strategy, your products, and your conferences.

    You’re not imposing your viewpoint on us, exactly the opposite. You’re giving us an opportunity to be part of O’Reilly. Thanks.

  • http://www.benjphoto.com carlos benjamin

    It may be that a candidate’s position has some relevance to the tech community, but I often see the argument (in tech related forums) that a given candidate should be given the nod because they get technology. While I have an interest in tech issues there are other issues that are of graver concern to me.

    I do want to know where a candidate stands on issues such as the DMCA and the Orphaned Works bills, but I also need to understand their other policies. For instance, it would be great if a candidate could hand us good tech legislation but what good would that be if their economic policy spelled financial ruin for businesses across the spectrum. There’s no victory there.

  • Bacigalupe

    It is refreshing to have you an others in the “corporate” to be transparent about your thoughts. What a feast! If there is one compelling legacy of this election is the idea of having actual political discussion across fields, institutions, etc. Somehow, as an immigrant, I always missed the possibility of opening discussing political views. To have public sharing of views is tremendously healthy. Thanks!

  • Dennis

    You are right, this is a technical site and not a political one. I for one would appreciate that stick with your core competency. You mention other sites who’s owners support Obama, but I don’t recall seeing such an overt dialog about something that is truly not appropriate for the business they run. Start your own political blog if you like. It’s pretty easy, just read one of your books.

  • Ray

    Tim,
    I think you have handled this well.

    It is clearly an issue important to you, and fits in with your message that techies should work on Stuff That Matters.

    At the same time, you are not hijacking your company to pursue some kind of personal mission. It is a personal activity on your personal blog. In some respects, not that different than Ellison competing in yacht races.

    Yes, you might lose a few customers, but in other respects it enhances your personal brand and also your company brand — that of a thought leader in the evolving Web. As important as the specific candidate you choose, is the manner in how you present this information and engage with your audience. So far, so good!

  • http://www.penguinsix.com/ Andrew Leyden

    I harken back to the speech by Senator Stevens of Alaska about how the Internet was ‘just a bunch of tubes’. He was rightly hounded by the techies for being a silly politician knowing nothing about technology and sounding every bit the fool.

    Unfortunately, the converse can also be true as well.

    Many techies who blog about politics fall into what I call ‘College Professor Syndrome’–i.e. “I’m an expert on the Birds of the South Pacific, ergo I’m an expert on the bilateral trade negotiations of the Bush Administration.” I know PYTHON, ergo I know Iraqi Political Theory.

    I think where techies fail their readers is when they apply rather simplistic thought processes to their political beliefs and come up with rather dull and uninteresting political commentary. I find myself often saying ‘I hear better theories at a coffee shop from the local C-SPAN junkie’. At the very least a guy who has read every nook and cranny of UNIX code should apply the same level of diligence in coming up with a political viewpoint.

    But I just don’t find much of the techie blog posts on gay marriage or Iraq or gun control all that interesting or informative. Many of their views seem rather shallowly held (though passionately defended). Outside of tech policy, I haven’t really learned anything new, and I certainly haven’t read a thing that was helpful to making my own political choices.

    That’s not to say they shouldn’t do it, and anyone who won’t buy ‘that book because of their endorsement’ is a moron, but I’m not about to change my political views based on some of what I’ve been reading this election cycle.

  • http://www.FloatingBones.com FloatingBones

    TIm, I think that, by the time you wrote your endorsement, the issue was moot for most of your readers.

    The thing I would like to see is to have you write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal making a compelling case for net neutrality. I see a strong business case for net neutrality, but that editorial board does not. You seem to be in a rather unique position to make the business case for neutrality.

    I also am pretty clear that there is currently a rigorous definition of the term — at least in the business community.

    The WSJ definitely has their point of view, but they do welcome op-eds from a diverse group of people. I think you have a valuable contribution as an expert on many high-tech issues to that audience. I would be very happy to see a column from you there every 2-3 months.

    Have you ever tried to contact them to write an editorial?

  • Mahboud

    I thought it was great. Of course, I agree with you, and I think that may be the problem. Those people who didn’t like your endorsement, probably disagree with it. And of course, given the state of political discourse in this country, those who disagree wish the opposition would shut-up.

    Stepping back and trying to be unbiased, I would say that we read your writing because we care what goes on in your mind. If I was just to buy books, I’d go to the storefront. If I wanted to just read about tech, then I would skip your one or few articles on non-tech subjects.

    I’m, in control. I can choose to skip over anything you write. And if I think that because of your political views, the rest of what you say is crap, then I would stop reading you completely. However we all (at least most of us) realize that each person has a complex set of thoughts and while they may be brilliant in some areas, they may be less so in others. It would be a huge mistake to stop reading someone when they have proven great in a field, just because I disagree with a comment.

    Lastly, we have approached a point in this country, where it is hard to ignore how politics is affecting our lives, even our technical lives. Issues such as net neutrality, government investment in tech, a reigning in of monopolies in order to stoke innovation (Korea is running 10G fiber to people’s homes, here in the US Comcast and AT&T limit that possibility), and copyright issues, among others, are going to be debated by our politicians, and it is important that as technorati, we elect politicians that can move our country forward, rather than what we’ve seen in the past 8 years where tech innovation has been stifled by government policies.

    Even issues such as unemployment, healthcare and the economy are important to us. Who will buy the next best product if a good percentage are unemployed and worried more about healthcare? Small start-ups are failing due to the economy, not due to their technical worth. We need to have politicians who don’t think that the economy only consists of a handful of oil, energy and large multinational corps. Those companies will be fine without help (or they need to make way for others), it is the small company that needs the best nurturing from government and policies.

    Thanks for speaking your mind.

  • Andrew

    It may be your personal opinion and blog, but it’s on (or was on) the landing page of http://www.oreilly.com. Half this country might be Obama supporters; but, half are also McCain supporters and you’re going to irritate a lot of your customers.

    I won’t hold it against you and it won’t stop me from buying O’Reilly books; however, I do find it annoying that come elections, everyone from retailers to librarians to bus drivers assume that everyone in earshot wants to hear their political opinions (as if their minds weren’t already made up).

    Vote Obama 2008! (hypocrisy intended)

  • http://dmoore.dmoore.com David Moore

    I would like to preface my comments by saying that I am this year an O’bama supporter as to me he is the obvious choice. That being said:

    There is a saying that goes, don’t sh$% where you eat. I’m sure you’re familiar with its meaning.

    I think this was an unwise move on your part. You are entitled to your opinion and you have a right to cast that opinion.

    I think you provide a brilliant service that many who are beginning and continuing their education receive an immense benefit from. It would be a shame to see your self indulgence cost your company and the rest of us access to such an incredible array of reputable information.

  • Michael

    Tim,

    You betcha it’s appropriate. Thanks for stepping up and taking a stand. I know of few media venues that don’t have an editorial point-of-view and don’t express it in one manner or another.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Dennis -

    You say you haven’t seen any political commentary on other tech blogs. You’re right: it’s rare. But how about Sergey Brin’s post on the Google blog about their opposition to Proposition 8. This was not merely a personal position but expressed as an official company position.

    I say, “Bravo Google.”

    Apple didn’t express their opposition to Proposition 8 on a blog, but they expressed an official company position nonetheless.

    So O’Reilly is not alone among tech companies in expressing political views. And in fact, looking at those two companies, I’d say we’re in good company.

    I really do understand that in general, public posturing by companies on political issues could get quite tiresome. But sometimes issues are important enough that you just need to step forward and say something.

    Add to that O’Reilly’s tradition of advocacy on issues that matter to our readers, and what I hope was a thoughtful approach to the endorsement, and I’m comfortable with the position I’ve taken.

    But I really appreciate frank dialogue with those who think otherwise as well as those who support my choice.

  • Richard Peck

    “I’d rather see more companies wearing their opinions on their sleeves rather than expressing them with quiet campaign contributions and inside conversations” (Tim O’Reilly). Amen.

    And as you said elsewhere, if any of us disagree with you, why not “draft on your visibility” while offering our own views? That’s one of the most clear-headed, generous offers going. Thanks, Tim.

  • http://stormyscorner.com Stormy

    Nobody is neutral. I’d prefer to know where you stand and how it might influence you and your business – and how you think our future president will change the industry.

    Some companies ask employees to contribute to political funds without telling them why they are supporting which candidates. That is wrong.

    I think the biggest danger is the fact that you might make your employees feel like they can’t endorse the candidate of their choice. As long as they still feel like they can speak up, all is good. However, without an anonymous survey, I don’t know how you’d assure that.

  • Steve

    “I will choose NOT to buy O’Reilly books because of the negative associations that I have knowing O’Reilly is aligned with Socialists.”

    Ah, the poor, unfortunate idolaters of hijacked labels! Whoever wrote the above merely revealed they were never bright enough to comprehend O’Reilly books in the first place….

  • Jim Gaus

    Many people feel uncomfortable about buying products or services from companies whose leaders endorse specific candidates. Probably because they feel that a portion of the profits from said product or service go to the candidate in the form of a corporate donation. Writing your own personal check towards support of a specific candidate – that’s a different story.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Jim -

    Just to be clear: O’Reilly Media has made no political donations. I have personally made donations in support of Obama and various senatorial candidates, as well as against California Prop 8, but the company has made no political donations.

    Thanks for raising this issue.

  • http://www.xforms.org Kurt Cagle

    Many engineers in general (and programmers are very typical of the engineering mindset in this regard) find the discussion of politics in their forums distressing for some reason.

    Possibly it has to do with the difficulties in being able to quantize politics to any real degree, possibly because engineers, while they have passions and dislikes as much as the next person, also dislike the emotional display of the political process. Possibly it has to do with a general disdain for politics at any level, because politics by its very nature involves social interaction and communication at the personal level – and because for many engineers, dealing with people at a social level is difficult at best. Possibly it may just have to do with the fact that politics cannot be “solved” with programmers tools or methodologies.

    And quite possibly, politics and government make programmers in particular uncomfortable because it forces programmers to confront the issue of ethics. Are the creators of tools responsible for the use of those tools, even if those tools are used for illicit purposes? Is the creator of a gravity algorithm in a first person shooter contributing to the delinquency of a sixteen year old student and game player who later takes a pistol to the school for “target practice”? Are the creators of software intended to optimize the electrical networks for maximum profit, even if in the process they cause brownouts and blackouts (thinking Enron here) morally responsible for the people who die for lack of power?

    These are, admittedly, extreme decisions, but they are decisions that those of us in programming are having to make increasingly often. Software has a social dimension, and to pretend otherwise is both disingenuous and perhaps unethical, yet that seems to be the default mode for many people in this profession.

    Technocrats within this society have a particularly powerful position – perhaps third only to the strata of senior management and the upper eschelons of the entertainment class. They are typically well educated, highly intelligent and creative, and they are usually quite well rewarded for their efforts, compared to other professionals. More importantly, the technocracy builds, and to a significant effect controls, the technological underpinnings upon which our contemporary society sits.

    For this reason more than any other, the technocracy periodically has to be reminded that “with great power comes great responsibility” to quote the twentieth century sage Stan Lee. Your endorsement should be seen in this light – not only did you lay out the reasons why you felt that technocrats should pay attention to this race from their own interests, but you also laid out the fact that their decision, perhaps more than most, will have ramifications that extend well beyond Election Day.

  • http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10036087-16.html Matt Asay

    I guess I was surprised that you felt the need to broadcast your political preference in this election. Did anyone doubt that you’d be for Obama? You live in Sonoma County, Tim! I don’t think Sebastopol is a haven for hippie-Republicans. :-)

    A lot of people trust your opinion, and perhaps for the very reasons you outline above: you are open. I’d just hate to see people swayed by Tim O’Reilly, the tech icon, instead of Tim O’Reilly’s measured opinion as a political thinker. The two should be separate. I guess I saw too much of the former in your post, but my view is probably colored. I am a conservative, after all.

    That said, I do think you did a good job of distancing your endorsement from O’Reilly Media (much better than Schmidt, whose form of endorsement I found distasteful, just as I thought McCain’s use of Meg Whitman’s and eBay’s names in the second presidential debate disgusting). But perhaps I say that because I didn’t expect you to do anything but endorse Obama.

    Regardless, I think you could have saved your virtual ink. I continue to be surprised by people getting worked up over how “momentous” this election is. Obama has had it won for some time. He’s the better candidate, however much I may find many of his policies wrong-headed or worse.

    The real question is not for whom we should vote, but why our choices are so poor (especially on the Republican side). Why, in the current crisis, are we left with legislators, not executives, as candidates? Romney would have been the sort of leader to pull us through, regardless of his political beliefs (and no, I didn’t vote for him).

    Neither candidate has any sort of a record of actually *doing* things relevant to an executive office, like building or running a company. They’re rule-makers and agitators. I don’t think that’s really what we need right now, but that’s the pathetic choice we’ve given ourselves.

  • Matt Thompson

    Matt A. – unfortunately you’re falling into the trap in which many conservatives have found themselves. This is easily the most important (“momentous”) national election in over 50 years.

    This country is at a crossroads. Certainly you agree that financially what we do next (hopefully stop spending irrationally, start caring for the residents of this country first and foremost [healthcare, infrastructure, jobs, etc.], and reduce our dependence on oil [foreign or domestic]) is going to play a major role in defining what this country turns into over the next decade.

    Obama is indeed the best candidate – but his success/failure will be dependent (like all the presidents who have preceded him) on the leaders in congress. They have a chance to create an environment for real change – to actually address some of the fundamental challenges this country faces.

    This is why this is a historic moment – not because Obama will (and should) win, but because it brings with it a chance for change, at a time when this country needs it more than any time in the last 4+ decades.

  • http://tomacorp.com Tom Anderson

    A while back the CEO of Hewlett-Packard endorsed a Democratic candidate. He got flack from Packard (who had been Nixon’s Defense Secretary), but our CEO’s endorsement made me feel more confident that I was not out-to-lunch or obviously voting against my self-interest when I voted the same way.

    I thought that tech leader endorsements were a big deal back then, and I think that the tech leader Obama endorsements are a big deal today. Rock on.

  • SRLM

    So, now that you have this affiliation, will we get a new “Obamanoid” component in our PC books? I doubt it. Technology is fundamentally based on science, and science is based on facts and clear dialog. So, any endorsement made by any technology company shouldn’t affect their products. Except maybe that we’ll get more red book covers…

  • http://www.softwoehr.com Jack Woehr

    It’s wonderful to see a family business where you can say what you think and devil take the consequences, so more power to Tim O’Reilly. The blandness of big biz these days is repulsive.

    BTW, Tom Anderson, David Packard was never SecDef under Nixon .. see http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/secdef_histories/
    He was Deputy Secretary of Defense under Melvin Laird. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Packard#Defense_Department

  • http://grylls.blogspot.com Gryllsoid

    I get it, and I’m on-board. The Web (whatever subject it’s addressing at any time) is such an exciting medium for objective discussion and should be encouraged at all costs.

    My beef is that I’m British, and we’ve heard so much about the US elections over the last few months that it’s beginning to hurt! Roll on Thursday when we can get back to normal…

  • Roy Umbach

    I am not really involved with your American election, I am dutch. Although I really like your point-of-view. I find it really strange that such a big country like the US has only two people to vote on. It is hard to understand for me that you folks don’t find it strange. You say you are a democratic country, but is that really the truth? I my noble opinion it would be time that the tech world would be more used and involved in political issues. You folks have only ones in the four year an option to vote. But all important issues are voted in a house (or parlement) with only a few hundred people. That’s not democratic at all! A few hundred people deciding for 305 million. What the hack, that’s confusing. So, I would argu to use the internet a lot more to let people vote on all important issues, not just ones in four years. This is a old system, it has proven not to work. The current system is unfair, sensitively for cronyism, fraud and manipulation (and yes, not only in the US) …

  • Geek

    A book on the 8th layer of the OSI Model soon? ;-)

  • http://schestowitz.com Roy Schestowitz

    > A number of people have responded
    > to my endorsement of Barack Obama
    > with complaints that it is
    > inappropriate for a tech publisher
    > to publish on political issues.

    They probably just don’t like Obama.

  • http://www.scottpreston.com Scott Preston

    I don’t really care to hear political rants by people I enjoy reading technical stuff. I read because of the technical. I will now religate this blog to my “C List” of my RSS feeds, which means less traffic for the blog.

  • C Morgan

    I am a software developer who is very active with a political party, and it is truly refreshing to see more tech people voice their opinion on political views. I hope that your readers continue to voice their opinions on how they feel and recognize that the tech industry is truly the new movers and shakers in our democratic society for so many reasons. It is about time that we are recognized not as being anti-social, but as well educated people who deserve the respect of our chosen leaders.

    In addition, for everyone who is thinking of not buying OReilly Press publications anymore- at the very least you are standing for something and not just falling for anything. We still live in America, where in a free society freedom of speech enriches our lives for the better.

    I personally have made a commitment to Safari Books Online (just this week) after purchasing over 20 hard copies of various titles through the years. Tim, you could be a Nader supporter and I still would enjoy your books. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • http://www.Inklingbooks.com/ Mike Perry

    Tim, you’ve simply made yourself look foolish picking such an obviously inexperienced and apparently untalented candidate for our country’s highest office.

    All we need do is examine Sarah Palin’s accomplishments in a year and a half as governor to realize that Obama isn’t up to the job. She stood up to three of the largest oil companies on the planet and pushed through a pipeline the state has wanted for 20 years. Obama doesn’t have a single legislative accomplishment worthy of mentioning, much less something that noteworthy. She got three of the state’s most corrupt politicians disciplined, including the head of her own party. Obama has spent 20 years in corrupt Chicago politics and has never even tried to get one of them disciplined. In fact, he counts some of the city’s most corrupt among his friends.

    The last time we elected a President this talentless was Jimmy Carter. The result of his chatter about our “inordinate fear of communism” was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, their only attempt at direct military aggression during the entire Cold War. That sent two million people into exile and spawned the terrorist movement we battle today. Osama made himself famous fighting in Afghanistan.

    The question is only what miseries Obama’s lack of sense and abilities will bring and what problems we’ll be battling in 2040 because we elected someone so unqualified in experience and in character.

    Don’t pat yourself on the back. You’ve done nothing special. You’re simply illustrated that people who do well in one narrow, technical speciality are clueless outside that field. You support for Obama parallels your quirky enthusiasm for Perot.

  • Erin

    Tim, nice way to blow off fleab for calling you on publishing an opinion under News. Is it really that hard to publish an opinion under an Opinion category? I totally support everyone’s right to speak up on whatever they want to, and I think punishing them for it is silly and childish– “I’m going to boycott you and say mean things to my friends, too!” Get a grip :)

    But you ought to know better on the dividing line between opinion and news.

  • FreeInfo

    I don’t mind you stating your political beliefs at all. As a matter of fact I’m glad you do.
    I also think that O’Reilly books are the greatest tech. books of all.

    I have been a safari bookshelf member for over 7 years and recommend it to all of my co-workers.
    Not only that, I admire the way the company runs.

    Here’s my issue with purchasing your books and services now though.

    Did you know that voters have decided issues by large majority only to have those votes overturned in the courts?

    After the vote, lobbyists with vast amounts of money (and time) take the issues to the courts.

    Judges then decide to overturn the will of the people. Why?

    Isn’t this a gov’t by the people and for the people?
    Isn’t politcs just a comparison of ideas and the majority wins?

    Why do these judges, who are not elected, overturn the will of the people?
    Are a select number of judges smarter than the majority populace?

    This is the major concern I have with Obama.
    We’ve had glimpses of his methods of operation: Turn the issues over to legislators to decide what the people should get.

    That’s where I feel disenfranchised.
    Why vote if it’s just going to get overturned by _people who are smarter than me._

    Now we begin to get a glimpse of the new paradigm: A gov’t by the _rich_ people for the _rich_ people.

    That is why I feel so stuck supporting your company. I know you will donate money to causes I don’t believe in so that even if I do vote on an issue and win, your lobbyists will eventually overturn the issues.

    Meanwhile I’m sitting at work trying to support my family and the America I know is legislated away from me.

    That is not gov’t by the people, for the people.
    It’s no longer the majority that wins, but the almighty dollar.

    And that is not freedom. Freedom shouldn’t have a monetary cost.

    America is freedom, or it is nothing.

    P.S. What would you do if you felt that way? Do you believe that these feelings are unfounded?

    Sincerely,

    Disenfranchised FreeInfo

  • Scott_3

    Tim,

    Glad you had the courage to demonstrate how the openness of the Internet promotes free thinking and debate for those who are open to new ideas.

    I, for one, appreciate the arguments for and against both candidates and am not threatened by any one person’s opinion, as I’m comfortable with my decision of the candidate I’m voting for.

    Scott

  • http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596007171/ Missy Koslosky

    I have no issues with your endorsement – that’s what makes America great – we’re free to have our own opinions and state them. It’s a shame that some who disagree with your opinion are saying they won’t by O’Reilly publications.

  • http://dkretzmann.blogspot.com Doug k

    yes, absolutely.
    It is only in the USA that libertarianism is possible: only in the USA that it’s possible to think of ‘politics’ as something separated from daily life. Everywhere else, people know that government matters. I applaud and thank you for posting your opinion.

    Those who disagree are free to argue. It’s noticeable that they don’t seem to be able to produce any substantive reasons for that disagreement – whiny noises about ‘socialism’ don’t count as an argument.

  • Elizabeth Woods

    Deb S.’s comments remind me of an aquaintence who asked me to join her in boycotting a particular large fast-food chain because they supposedly donated funds to a PAC. Not only did I refuse, but I began frequenting said establishment as this ongoing boycott had for me the effect of guaranteeing asshole-free dining.

  • That Guy

    I do not agree with your endorsement. I do not feel compelled to listen to it, or even debate it because you have done nothing in your whole life to actually be worthy of me to do so. Nothing.

    You publish tech books, most of which in the past few years I’ve have no interest in purchasing. You now support a particular candidate. Great. Good for you. I’ve ignored your political and societal positions before as I await the rare book that will provide me with any utility, and I will do so again.

    Your opinion is unimportant to me. And it will remain so.

  • mrosedale

    I am sort of torn on this issue. On the one hand I thought you did a very good job at presenting the issues as they relate to technology and you certainly did your research, but I don’t come to O’Reilly for political advice. In general I simply don’t care which candidate a person supports (particularly if they are famous). But I also think it is wrong that they are using their fame to try to sway voters (mostly because I know they have probably studied the issues less than I have and because I know their fame works to sway voters simply because they have fame, “well so and so is voting for him so I am” what a dumb reason to vote for a candidate). I know that neither of these fit in your situation, you did your research (better than I) and you weren’t egregious about using your fame to sway a vote (think Oprah). I also think it is a good thing that you were open and honest. It takes a lot to do that and I respect you highly because of that. But it goes back to I don’t come to radar or oreilly.com to get political advice I come to get technology advice.

    What I think would have been better is to present both candidates policies relating to technology and if at the end you drew conclusions and even stated your endorsement it wouldn’t have been so bad. That way we could make an informed decision. Instead we got mostly talking points with a technology bent.

    Ultimately I was more appreciative of your post because it did a good job covering technology. But in general if I wanted an endorsement I would have gone to a political website…if I want technology than I come here.

  • Mike Clinch

    How Sad! People cannot distance them selves from an individuals freedom of speech and how his company serves the best interest of his nation.

    Get a life and think how small minded it is to cut off ones nose to spite your face. Thank God for the freedom of speech. Do vote with your wallet by buying the best you can get.

  • Russ

    I also disagree with the concept. While you may say that this is “your” blog, I think that misses the reason why people come here. As interesting as your perspective on technology is (and I genuinely think it is interesting), I enjoy reading O’Reilly Radar for the high level analysis of all of its authors on technology trends. O’Really (the company, not the person) is in a unique position to view technology trends as they are happening, and it’s great that the company has decided to share that perspective and make intelligent projections on where the future might be headed that the public can consider. That resource is difficult to replicate, and it represents the true value of this forum.

    That’s how I view the O’Reilly Radar: serving a very narrow niche. I think this is easily distinguished from more mainstream media, where I might expect to get generic information on all sorts of topics, and where issues like politics might find their way into otherwise unrelated stories.

    That being the case, I think you were misdirected in posting your political endorsements here, which were only broadly associated with technology. It seemed irrelevant, at best, and slightly offensive at worst. Not offensive in your choice of candidate, but in the subtext of the post, which couldn’t help but attempt to persuade the reader’s vote.

    To the extent that you wanted to discuss the potential benefits an Obama presidency would have for technology, you could have done so without calling it an outright endorsement. Perhaps it comes down to hair-splitting, but I think that is the most abrasive part of your original post. All of this blog’s other posts are much more mature, offering seemingly impartial, hyper-focused analysis. I think you should have saved any attempts at persuasion or endorsement for a truly personal blog (i.e., one that is only written by you, that doesn’t pretend to be the face of a business), and left this forum for purely objective, impartial analysis within O’Reilly’s (again, company) area of proven expertise.

    After all, the authority of the O’Reilly name (at least, your branch of it) doesn’t extend all that far. I would confidently consider your thoughts regarding cutting edge software and web technology, but with all due respect, would not think to consult you regarding politics or government.

  • Petem

    hhmm… i really do not see the problem with your endorsement.. regardless of what it was…

    if you start to read something and you don’t agree then STOP READING IT…. if im listneing to a radio station because im there to listen to music and a political ad comes on.. i switch off or to another station and come back after a minute or two.. so if you did not like Tim’s post.. and the title made it clear as to what it was about.. then you had the option of clicking on to another page.. i really don’t see an issue..

    Moving on.. Tim.. i really like your “source code behind your thinking”.. analogy …

  • http://www.frontseat.org Mike Mathieu

    Many of us in the tech world have followed the trend of the last few decades, outsourcing politics to politicians. Tech makes it so easy (and rewarding!) to indulge our libertarian parts and ignore the stuff happening in the rest of the world.

    I think it’s fitting that a forward-thinker like Tim is again leading the pack, helping bring this era of relative tech community disengagement to a close – with an open and respectful approach – by encouraging us to all work on “Stuff that Matters.” By any measure, Presidential elections matter. What comes after the elections will matter even more.

  • MdH

    “…the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas…that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.” Holmes

    This is one of those issues that seems so transparently obvious to me, that I’m a little startled it even rates discussion. There are only two themes why Tim should muzzle himself on the eve of what everyone (just look at the turn out) seems to agree is one of the most important elections in years.

    There are the rants from the margins. Deb’s argument (& it’s very generous to suggest it’s actually an argument) works like this….”I’m an intolerant person. I’m afraid of/dislike anyone who doesn’t agree with me. You support Obama, so you’re obviously an evil pinko socialist, & I’m going to threaten you (even if I could really use some of the products offer) in the hopes that you’ll shut up & stop saying things I don’t like.” “In political discussion heat is in inverse proportion to knowledge.” J. G. C. Minchin. Frothing, polarizing rhetoric, from the left or the right, is fundamentally unhelpful. Obama is not a socialist. McCain is not a Fascist. Attempts to paint them (& their supporters) as the “evil other” won’t help us address the, very long, list of real problems we have as a nation.

    As a side note, I am NOT saying that McCain supporters are intolerant (as a group). There are a number of thoughtful reasons a person might choose to support McCain.

    The second, more reasonable, complaint works like this. “This is a technology site. I don’t like you dropping POLITICS (nasty stuff that) in the middle of my reading. Start a politics blog if you want to talk about this stuff. Oh, & by the way, it makes me uncomfortable because I don’t agree with you.” This is a more understandable complaint. There’s a guy in downtown Seattle with a sign who like to shout about how “the Seattle Police are COMMUNIST!!!” & he gives me the willies. I generally don’t talk about politics at work (although that has been swamped by this election as well).

    There are only a couple of circumstances (in my mind) under which this complaint makes any sense. The first is being polite to a captive audience. I don’t dump my political opinions on my cube mates (even on this election) at our desks. They’re supposed to be working & it’s lame to talk about things that might make them uncomfortable in spaces were they can’t easily excuse themselves from the discussion. But that doesn’t apply here. Tim didn’t strap people down clockworkorange style & make them view his endorsement. There are lots of articles in a given week on this blog that are uninteresting to me. I scroll on past them without trauma. I think it’s sad that political discussions make a lot of folks uncomfortable. I suspect it’s because the dialogue frequently devolves to hurling partisan hand grenades. But again, that hasn’t been the case here. Save for a few wingnuts, the discussion has been astonishingly civil & issues focused.

    The only other reason to complain, is if you’re constrained from disagreeing with a false or ill informed opinion. That certainly ain’t the case here. Discussion, disagreements, & debates, aren’t just allowed, they’re encouraged.

    If we leave politics & policy making to the politicians, we’ll end up with a framework governed by cronies, the corrupt, & special interests…which is really one of the big issues this election is about.

    “Don’t hate the media, become the media.”
    – Jello Biafra

  • Scott

    I think you did most things right here. You said it was your, not your company’s view. You put it on your blog, not your company’s commerce site.

    I do think there were a few things you did poorly as does much of the blogosphere:

    You presented opinion and even misinformation from the Obama campaign and beyond as fact.

    You tried to do right by calling it your opinion, not that of the company, but an opinion and an endorsement aren’t the same thing.

    You use single issue examples as comparison and contrast against the choice of President which is tied to hundreds of issues and positions. Not very useful. Your endorsement didn’t come with a breakdown of your position on each national or campaign issue.

    As all people do in matters of politics, you left out the parts that aren’t convenient to why you support the candidate…. that’s what invites the worst of the attacks. The woman who called you socialist and said she wouldn’t buy from O’Reilly anymore probably actually likes much of what you like about Obama. But she fears other things that you make no mention of as being good or bad. Do you think it fair, just or patriotic that someone making $250,000 per year have their taxes increased from $87,500 to $97,500 so that the percentage of households paying absolutely no tax can now cross the 50% mark? She thinks you do. I don’t know if you do. For what it is worth, I do not.

    And, if this year’s low water mark on higher taxes is $250,000, what will next year’s be? And in 4 years? Can the country afford to keep buying the vote through such a Robinhood scheme just because there are more people below $250K (or $100K or $80K ….) than above? That’s not the country most of us thought we were raised in. Turns out a lot of people just “above the cutoff” on higher Obama taxes are also deeply mortgaged, have kids in college, are worried about their jobs. Do you support narrowly targeted class warfare? Many view his approach as exactly that. Perhaps the ultra-rich won’t miss some more tax money. The sort-of rich may lose their homes over it.

    On the other hand, most of us do want alternative energy development to quicken, healthcare to be fundamentally repaired and education to improve – accountably and responsibly.

    So, is it about one issue like taxes? Or, is it about all the key issues at this time in our country’s life?

    When you step to the endorsement stage, you invite attack on every issue your candidate is attacked on. If you agree 100% with every one of their opinions, then welcome the debate. If you don’t tell us where you differ and why you still think he (or she) is the best overall choice.

    To say “I’m voting for candidate X” is one thing. To say “everyone should vote for candidate X” is quite another and is bound to come with much more criticism, attack, complaint right along with compliment, joiners and applause. All of which has little to do with the medium or venue through which you endorse.

  • http://monochromementality.com/ Kevin Dean

    People have this odd disconnect between “politics” and “the real world” as if politics happens in a vacuum. It’s impossible to keep them seperated. Period.

    I’m a tech blogger and my philosophy is different than most people’s. I’m a voluntaryist and I think that government itself is legitimized aggression. I’m of the opinion that people compartmentalize “politics” and the real world because if they REALLY integrated the two things, they’d be horrified at the kind of violence and aggression they support. To minimize that damage they make this alternate mental universe where force done by “government” is somehow acceptable.

    I disagree with your endorsement of Barack Obama, and I’m horribly disappointed by the fact that you said you’ve see no retort that McCain would be good for technology, as if arguing for McCain is the ONLY alternative to supporting Barack Obama.

    What about advocating free markets? The same principles that make open source so great (freedom, competition, choices, innovation and meeting the needs of people) would greatly boost technology from medical to computer to fabrication. Government interference stiffles progress everywhere, the tech industry included.

  • Robert

    People will choose to do whatever they want to do. You chose to use your high visibility in the Tech arena to let people know how you were voting. So what? You can’t worry about what some people are going to think and do. I didn’t agree with any of your reasons for voting for Obama. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have made it known.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpGH02DtIws Mark

    If you really want to vote for someone who thinks he has been in 57 states with 1 more to go + AK and HI, … how can someone run a country (be president) and not even know how many states there are? You don’t have to take my word for it, straight from Obama’s mouth

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpGH02DtIws

    What grade level do we learn how many states we have 1st grade or before that? Certainly NOT smarter then a 5th Grader…

  • Noel

    While I don’t agree with who you endorsed, I applaud your choice to endorse a candidate for president. To think that your endorsement (or taking a stand for any issue for that matter) will not have consequences is just silly.

    You knew before you posted that many people would take issue with your endorsement. If you don’t like the responses then don’t take a stand – that is the choice.

  • Scott_3

    As I’ve said before Tim, it’s nice to know that you’ve allowed comments on here so that we can *all* voice our opinions and read them.

    It’s nice to know that free speech is still alive and well. And as I’ve said before, just because you’ve raised issues and have stated your case for Obama, doesn’t mean that I agree with you, but I respect your right to post it and don’t hold it against you or your company.

    It’s your right, and if I didn’t like what I heard, I could easily click off of this Web page and back to another Web page on your site, or any other of the billions of Web sites on the Internet. That’s our freedom of choice to do so.

    Again, I’m not threatened by another person’s opinion and am smart enough not to let it change my mind or sway my vote without serious contemplation.

  • http://www.ericsbinaryworld.com Eric

    If anyone doesn’t want to buy your books because of who you’ve endorsed, they probably are a few fries short of a value meal. They would be hurting the author of the book, not you. Also, who needs ‘em? When I buy my tech books I buy based on whoever writes the best material. Why spend money on an inferior product just to make a point? I thought all of us techies were more rational than that.

  • http://www.itstheroi.com jonah stein

    I think a discussion of the positions of political candidates is perfectly legitimate in a tech blog, as is a discussion of science and even religion (creationism versus evolution)…HOWEVER, you definitely run the risk of alienating people.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Noel -

    I have no problem with possible consequences. As you note, I knew in advance some people would be unhappy.

    But I thought it was important to do, not only because of the importance of the issues, but also because it’s important for everyone to get involved if our democracy is to function.

  • http://www.hillbillyhickhop.com Mel Riser

    I appreciate your candor and stand…

    Obama may indeed win!

    For the people that don’t want to buy and O’Reilly book because of who you support politically, I ask: what country do you think this is?

    Kudos to choosing and making it known…

    To those that are so small minded they want to not buy from you again, I say GET REAL!

    This is the USA where we all are allowed to vote as we want ( I voted Libertarian! ) and also say who and why!

    excellent blog!

  • Michael Tiemann

    Tim,

    I think it makes a ton of sense for you to share your political views, especially considering that you are a pioneer in a movement that is a social movement, a movement that empowers people by helping them better understand technology.

    For better or worse, we live in a society that is governed by laws. Because we live in a democratic society, those laws, at least in theory, are the product of the people–the whole people acting as a large open source community. With the one exception being the freedom to fork: only George W. Bush and Dick Cheney has exercised their freedom to live under their own constitutional interpretations.

    But our social movement has interests, economic interests, social interests, technical interests, and perhaps even democratic interests. Sooner or later it makes sense for the open source movement to recognize that is can and should exercise some of its political muscle. And the first such muscle should be its voice, speaking in political discourse, searching for its own political center.

    The many people who believe that politics can be separated from American life as easily as Church and State can be separated from Government are delusional. (I would have said naive, but they protest too forcefully to be lumped together with mere babies.)

    And by the way, I agree with your endorsement. Obama has proven that he is far more in tune with a technology-driven and socially-driven 21st century. An Obama victory will bode well for the health and growth of open source.

    (Please note that I have posted this speaking for myself, not for any 501(c)3 with which I am associated.)

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Erin -

    My conversation with fleab started on this blog. I recognized the issue he raised with the link to it on oreilly.com.

    At the time I wrote my second response, I didn’t realize that it was categorized as news. Last night, I did notice that, and asked the folks running the site to rename the category News and Opinion.

    Guess what: most of the other stuff that appears there isn’t news either; it’s opinion. Not sure why an opinion about the possible importance of some technology didn’t raise ire about its past miscategorization as news, but in any event, we’ve renamed the category News and Commentary.

    So this was in fact a good general catch about the labeling of that particular widget on the main oreilly.com site, because most of the blogs featured there are in fact commentary rather than news per se.

  • http://wgz.org/chromatic/ chromatic

    Matt and Roy –

    Contrary to popular belief — and certainly contrary to media messages, helped no doubt by the irreparable debate commission — there are more than two candidates for US President. Pretending that you must vote for the least bad of two awful choices perpetuates the current system.

  • yonnie

    Very disappointed. Does this mean I’m going to toss my couple grand worth of books out? No. I’ll just write you off as rather ignorant.

    But honestly, did you read about what Black Ideology is? What they teach about non-blacks? If you are going to read about it, would you still support Obama? Do you support the “New Party”? Do you support the “New Black Panther Party? These party’s and topics were all listed on Obama’s website at one time.

    Didn’t Fidel run on a platform for change? Did he ever say what that change was going to be? Any similarities?

  • Another Grumpy Engineer

    Actually, I find the whole argument silly. I spend many hours already online, reading political statements, opinions and other important issues that should rightfully be addressed and considered. However, when I am done and want to relax, I am ready to drop all the political correctness, namecalling, fabrications, social engineering and opinions. My way of “downshifting” is to come to “my” technical sites, as any good nerd will do, and think about something other than left/right, liberal/conservative, black/white, and just concentrate on what interests me. The LAST thing I need is to be preached to by McCain-ites and Obama-noids all over again.

  • Scott_3

    I would think that most people who visit oreilly.com do so to purchase a book, PDF or ebook about a subject they’re interested in learning about.

    So the fact that there’s a blog here doesn’t bother me. I just clicked on it as it seemed interesting to read.

    It was my choice.

  • Todd Troutman

    I would like to state that I do not like political commentary for either side on the front page of a technical site. I came here today seeking training courses, I left seeking those courses from some other vendor and I canceled my Safari bookshelf subscription.

  • Erin

    “At the time I wrote my second response, I didn’t realize that it was categorized as news. Last night, I did notice that, and asked the folks running the site to rename the category News and Opinion.

    “Guess what: most of the other stuff that appears there isn’t news either; it’s opinion. Not sure why an opinion about the possible importance of some technology didn’t raise ire about its past miscategorization as news, but in any event, we’ve renamed the category News and Commentary.”

    Now really, are you being vague on purpose? Most of the time readers can figure out if a piece is news or opinion. But you still need to make the distinction clear, rather than simply changing a single heading and lumping everything under it. (You might as well just call it Stuff.) That’s where trust and credibility come from. In addition to being trustworthy and credible.

    I don’t know why nobody mentioned it before. But that doesn’t let you off the hook—I’d say someone who has made a career out of journalism and publishing should know better, wouldn’t you?

    Sound principles and standards are the same whether you call it “journalism” or “blogging.” There is a faint blurry line between the two, and I imagine most readers expect a higher standard from O’Reilly.com. In fact the whole is rather a messy jumble, maybe you should have a design contest!

  • Brian

    I see nothing wrong with you using your blog or commercial site as a vehicle to participate in the political process. Granted, freedom of speech is not “free” per se. The exercising of your freedom will often have consequences, but it is your company and thus your perogative.

    As I write this I am looking at my O’Reilly HTTP Pocket Guide. O’Reilly technical publications are exceptional resources and I will continue to add them to my library as the need arises.

    I would actually say that I have more brand affinity toward O’Reilly as a result of your endorsement. Not because you endorsed Obama, but because you had the fortitude to do what you believed to be right. We need more people who are willing to take a stand in this world and I am inclined to support people who have the guts to do so.

    Thank you.

  • Mr Useless

    christmas came early this year – thinking is back – looking forward to the how to harness the web to win elections books

  • bowerbird

    mdh said:
    > Tim didn’t strap people down clockworkorange style
    > & make them view his endorsement.

    evidently the eye-drops made you forget that part… ;+)

    -bowerbird

  • John Styles

    I thought, actually, you got far fewer ‘I am now going to cancel my Safari subscription, not buy any more of your books, look at your bog ever again, and am taking my business over to those God-Fearing Right-Thinking Republicans at Apress’ style comments than I was expecting.

  • Phaedrus

    Tim, I guess you were asking for it. When you posted your honest opinion, there are always those who would be seeing this from a cynical eye.

    I’ve been a long time reader of your blog and just by the nature of the writing on Radar, it is obvious that the writers are polite and considerate. That this is a place where meaningful dialogue is fostered, and that when considered necessary by the blogger there are posts that may not have a direct bearing on technology.

    Those who are expressing outrage on your post are forgetting that Radar is not a technology selling platform it is a blogging platform and by its very nature is a place where opinions are expressed. If you want news or information about O’reilly products there are other places to get them.

    At worst I can understand a mild annoyance factor for the technology junkie who comes to Radar for her daily fix and doesn’t get it, but I don’t get the extreme reactions: someone will stop buying O’Reilly products because Tim endorsed a politician – this is plain weird.

    My advise to these people is: Focus on the value you get from O’reilly products and stop buying them when they don’t deliver anymore or if you can get better from elsewhere. As for Radar, you can always ignore the posts that you find off-message and you’ll save a lot of time and peace of mind.

  • Sean Smith

    Some of the comments to Tim’s post and endorsement of Obama made me think that a lot of us in the technical field still cherish a myth that we exist in a politics free bubble; a playground of our own invention that is self-governing and separate from the political and social structures around us.

    That myth has crumbled as the importance of technology to the greater economy expanded and increased reland as politics began to invade the technical arena. The fact is, like it or not, Washington now has a tech agenda- and often it has been damaging to our technical future. The telecoms deregulation (or remonopolization) , and the DMCA are doing as much to hold back the next wave of web innovation as anything else in the current fabric. Stem cell research and Net neutrality are current issues on the political docket that can have a great effect on our lives.

    We as technologists, can either shape this agenda- or have it shaped for us.

    Furthermore, O’Rielly has often provided comments and prognostication on future technological trends and their social impact- so a policy saying “don’t discuss this here” is rather wierd, particularly when we just had an election that showed the social power of Web 2.0 technologies.

    Rather than descending into nasty campaign terms of “socialistic” or “liberal”, we should use blogs like Tim’s to start a debate about who is better for the key issues that drive technology. I would have been interested to hear a McCain supporter express why they felt their candidate was better innovation, technology and other key issues in our fields. Better yet, what key policies and ideas from either side of the fence can help us maintain our leads in innovation, allow people to continue to start new businesses and initiatives to improve our nation?

    As for content, I don’t like the opinions of Fox News- but I do watch Fox Sports and the Simpsons. The same goes for O’Rielly Associates, I may or may not like the opinions expressed in the network, but the books and articles stand on their own as products as well, and compete in that environment on their own merits.

  • Andrew Ford

    I am an O’Reilly author and I have admired Tim for quite some time firstly for creating the publishing house and secondly for promoting the free exchange of ideas. I am also British, so the American election only impacts upon me indirectly. If starting a political debate on his blog site results in some people avoiding O’Reilly books then so be it – I think the debate is healthy and interesting, and well worthwhile. Furthermore I am sure that the number of people who follow through on such threats will be minimal and probably completely outweighed by others who may be marginally more likely to buy a book (as in some way their brand awareness has been heightened).

  • Conservative Mom

    You are only exercising your First Amendment right of free speech endorsing the now president elect. I will exercise mine by stating that I did not vote for this man for many reasons as I absolutely do not agree with his politics. First of all, I am a Christian and am pro life. I am horrified by Mr. Obama’s opinions about abortion, especially when a child is born in a botched abortion and he does not think the child has a right to life by any means. He will have to answer to his God for that. I also do not believe in the redistribution of wealth or “spreading the wealth” as he so clearly puts it. I am not a wealthy person by any means and do not want a handout from anyone, especially the government. Those are my two major reasons for not voting for Mr. Obama. As a Christian I pray that he does not take this country towards socialism or try to re-write or re-define the Constitution in any way. He plans on taking away our second amendment right – the right to bear arms. When he is done with that he may decide to go back to the first one and take away your right to free speech. Oh that’s right, he does have plans to do something along that line by bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. So anyone who does not think the way he does will not be able to speak on the public airwaves. So, enjoy your rights now because God only knows how long you will have them.

  • Greg

    It’s rather simple. Most business people have to good sense to separate their political opinions from their livelihood. No self-respecting lawyer or doctor would leave political propaganda in their waiting room. It is a matter of respecting your customers. Rational people understand that they interact with people each day that disagree on policy items. By putting your comments on a site very clearly associated with your business you have expressed your right of free speech. Many will likely express their self-determination to act on your decision in a way they feel most appropriate. Nobody would have complained about you going to a political event or contributing to a campaign. You chose to publicize your choice. You have to live with the consequences of your decision.

  • Earthling

    Being brought up Christian, I appreciate the values of respect for others that this religion puts forth, but first-most as a *human being*, I believe that religion has caused more strife and division amongst all people of the world (notice I don’t just identify with my own country, as if the United States is somehow a planet of it’s own.)

    Keep up the good work Tim. Differing opinions don’t threaten me or my beliefs, I embrace diversity.

    Sincerely,

    Citizen of the World

  • jason krac

    Tim,

    Expectations that any person or business (which is owned and run by people for that matter) will be devoid of political or religious perspective or inclination is unrealistic, plainly myopic or an attempt to intimidate.

    I would urge whomever was uncomfortable with your endorsement of the elected president Obama to have some introspection regarding if they would have done equally to the companies and individuals supporting the opposing candidates, like several public figures, newspapers, TV stations, and business owners.

    It would be good for our country that unilateral censorship based on relion, political views or color would no longer be drivers of our thoughts and used as intimidatory propositions.

    It would be great that you and I and all other individuals feel that they have the right of a different opinion, the right to express it and that everybody else has the right to listen or disregard and go their own ways.

    I believe the content and quality of your company’s books are what drives me and other customers to buy them and not your political views. The same applies to goods and services offered by companies and individuals of any other different opinion.

    We are all unique in form, upgringing, experience and personal situation and therefore will act and think differently.

    Keep up your amazing work as a business leader and keep expressing your insights and opinions as our Constitution allows you to do.

    Regards

    Jason
    superavit@twitter

  • Rip Linton

    Tim,

    I think it is fine for someone in your position, or anyone else for that matter, to use their blog to support a political or social position. In fact, I think it is fine to use any form of media at your disposal for that purpose. It is one of the fundamental rights that this country was founded on and one that many have fought to maintain over the years.

    That said however, you should remember that during the time leading up to elections, we are being constantly hit with politics from all forms of media. Sometimes, I want to step away from that for a little while. One of my escape paths has always been to visit sites, such as MAKE, that are good sources of information on things other then politics.

    This year that was not possible. For four days in a row, every visit I made to that site brought a photo with Obama’s name prominently displayed on the front page. After seeing that for four days in a row, combined with the editor claiming that it was not an indication of support for Obama, I chose not to visit that site again until the election was over.

    That choice was not because it appeared to be an endorsement for Obama, it was because the site was not giving me the escape that I was looking for at the time. I would have done the same if I had seen McCain’s name on the front page 4 days in a row.

    The fact that you supported Obama will not influence my reading or buying habits now that the elections are over. I will continue to buy O’Reilly books, when they fill a need. I will go back to visiting the MAKE site, as long as it fills the need for escape from other things. But, when the next election comes, if the same conditions prevail on that site, I will take the same action that I took this time.

    Yes, elections are a very important part of our freedoms and political views should be expressed and discussed. But, everyone needs a break from it at times. If O’Reilly sites don’t provide that break, I will avoid those sites during elections.

    Rip

  • Joan Doyle

    As Jason Krac stated “Keep up your amazing work as a business leader and keep expressing your insights and opinions as our Constitution allows you to do”.

    Do this as long as you can – we all should. Because as the Conservative Mom stated we are going to see our rights stipped away one by one starting with the second. Watch out because slowly socialism will become the norm of this nation and then it will be too late.

    I too will be looking for the O’Reilly publishing label or name and will not be purchasing anything you produce.

  • http://collab.nl Thijs

    I stopped reading every O’Reilly Radar post just because of this reason: it’s all about endorsements, I hate reading at the bottom of every post ‘Disclosure: O’Reilly funds this company blabla’, it seems nothing’s sincere anymore around here. So I wouldn’t worry too much about it, people aren’t forced to read this blog, they’re just hypocrites if they ask you to adjust the way you report or write about things cause it’s the very reason they’re reading your posts in the first place. I’m glad I didn’t miss anything interesting, seems like it’s still the same situation here as before.

  • Matteo

    It’s a sad day for the U.S. and the Western World as well. The election of a militant socialist, openly indulgent to middle-eastern terrorists (and self indulging, by his own admission, with the pot. officially just during his own youth), has been greeted like the consequence of the American Dream. I deem it instead the burial of the American Dream. How many Americans will still be able to dream in four years?

    May the Allmighty Bless America,

    Matteo – Milan, Northern Italy

  • Matthew

    Unfortunately this seems to be a microcosm of the way political debate seems to be conducted in America today. Rather than a forum where ideas are debated (however passionately) it seems to have become a shouting match which immediately degenerates into name calling and general immaturity. Unfortunately, although both political sides seem to take part, this does seem to be most egregiously practised by those on the right side of politics, with the comments from Deb S seemingly typical.

    Does this mean that we should give up on political debate altogether ? No, and it might be naive, but I think that what you’re doing here is a good way to try to redress it, in whatever small way. Provide a forum, and moderate it in such a way that people are encouraged to debate each other rather than abuse each other and perhaps we might see a way to move forward.

    Also, I think that all of the people here who are telling you not to comment on political issues because you will lose business are misguided. Being afraid of political debate because of fear of what will happen if people disagree with you is not the way to go. What happened to the Dixie Chicks is a terrible example of the kind of bullying behavior that we cannot give in to, and we need to foster a society in which everybody can express their opinion freely and without fear, no matter how much some people might disagree with it.

  • Big B

    Tim,
    Man you are one shrewd dude! I can’t believe you actually pulled this off, but here it is in black and white – or rather #333333 and #ffffff! But I finally discovered your ploy, and what a masterpiece:

    Using a simple blog, you generate incredible press around the O’Reilly brand and mine the very readers comments for information for two new titles: “Blogging – The Missing Manual,” and “Blogging Annoyances.” And you do it all without investing a penny in research. Instead you take advantage of your tech savvy audience by using their comments to your baited entry, their adoration of you and their business naivety to generate and analyze your data for you, and all the time them not being the wiser. Just like in Close Encounters! That’s freaking genius, man!

    OK, it’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek, fried hippie conspirator take of the intent behind this whole firestorm that’s erupted around your post.

    I pen tongue-in-cheek but there really is much that can be taken away from this. Because whether intended it or not, in fact you really have a gold mine of information here that’s resulted from this blog. The results show both the strengths and vulnerabilities of the blog and the act of blogging. Your audience does include a whole range of tech-savvy readers from the ones who write the software to “professional” bloggers (you, pudge, chromatic, …) and people who think blogs are important enough that they read and respond. Analysis shows the whole spectrum of thinking that goes into the replies and their proportions from the many supporters that obviously spent a great deal of thought in their responses and are quite good writers to those few anonymous “drive by” replies that leave you scratching your head. (I hate to give any acknowledgment to R Limbaugh here but in this case the term fits and has a kind of delicious irony about it.) And those that agree with the original post have willingly and unwittingly analyzed not only your original post but the replies of others as well.

    It might be reaching WAY TOO FAR here but this is a kind of holy grail of sorts: an experiment that conducts and publishes itself with nothing but a carefully crafted premise, a flexible and transparent framework and slight push to get it going. People have been trying to get search engines (and their users) to do this thing for years and here you do it all by accident – or is it?

    The only thing left is to organize it all (with perhaps a really groovy Bash or Perl editor routine), slap a Rep cover and a clever colophon on it and rake in the bucks … man!

  • Bruce

    Tim,

    I’ve been a loyal customer of your company for years and have no boycott intentions because I disagree with your politics.

    As a customer, my reaction to your openly supporting any political candidate on your storefront was 1) interesting the company would take such a risk and 2) this seems a completely inappropriate venue for pushing a political agenda.

    Regarding 1) this is your company and you are entitled to take whatever risks you wish.
    As for 2) If I had been solicited by a Best Buy clerk at one of their stores to support a political candidate it would leave a lasting impression of unprofessional conduct. This is how I felt and still feel about your making such an open endorsement.

    Best Regards,

    Bruce

  • Les

    “Is a Political Endorsement Appropriate for a Technical Site?”

    No. When people say things like “The issues at stake seem important enough for me to take that risk” is when things get slippery for me. Where do you draw the line? Why is it important for me to know your thoughts on politics when what I’m really interested in is what new resources are available in my Safari subscription to help me dive into my newly installed Adobe CS4 apps? Go ahead and put whatever you want on your personal blog, but don’t include this crap in the email Newsletter I signed up for (that’s how I got here, I don’t read your personal blog).

    And quit whining that not many tech blogs linked to you – perhaps it’s not so much that they were afraid to offend customers, as they simply didn’t agree with your endorsement. It is, after all, a personal opinion, not a matter of general relevance like say, “hey guys, the iPhone firmware has been updated!”.

    Sure, you may read it as some of us just don’t “believe in informed debate”, but that’s a condescending thing to imply. Perhaps that all-too-common condescension puts people off. Perhaps people are just weary of talking about politics. You’ve made it clear you support Obama, so why would anyone want to bother convincing you you’re wrong? I just want to talk Photoshop and javascript with my fellow “tech voters” – I could care less what they, or you, think politically.

  • Ray

    You think Obama will be good for technology?
    How much technology is happening in Cuba?
    How about Venezula? Or any other totalitarian leftist regime? Do I sound extreme? Obama is the most radical leftist ever elected in the US. He is left of Socialist Bernie Sanders! How much technology will there be when the tax-soaked economy tanks and no one has any money to buy technology. For the sake of the country, I hope Obama governs more moderately than his past and his friends indicate.

    ~R

  • Richard

    Yes a personal blog is an appropriate place to express your opinion. No, this blog isn’t personal, when your official company website displays the articles on its homepage. No, changing the title on the homepage to “News and Commentary” doesn’t help, you’re still using company resources to promote your personal political opinion.

    I am sure that O’Reilly has sufficient web expertise to filter the feed and only display articles marked with an appropriate tech tag (or conversely not tagged as ‘justmyopinion’).

  • Robert

    “Is a political endorsement appropriate for a technical site?”

    Well, it depends. If this were Addison Wesley or Wiley the answer might be, “No.” But for a blog by Tim O’Reilly on the O’Reilly website, the answer isn’t just yes, the answer is, “Absolutely!”

    Anybody who “gets” O’Reilly knows that what sets O’Reilly apart from from the rest of the tech publishing community is it’s whole-hearted adoption of the technology it covers. It lives, breathes ,eats, sleeps – and, yes, blogs – tech publishing. And unlike some tech writers these guys (and gals) are really good at what they do.

    Another reader replied that politics is everywhere and pervades everything we do. True. It’s also true that technology does the same. The whole crux of pervasive computing is to put computers everywhere. This includes politics. We’re moving from a president whose answered one or two email messages to one whose campaign thrived on the net. The two can no longer be separated.

    Given this it would be surprising for Tim NOT to take a step into this arena. One also needs to keep in mind not only why he did it but how he did it. He didn’t just state, “Obama’s the only choice, my friends and if you don’t agree you’re a no good so-and-so…” like so many talk show hosts (and isn’t a talk-show just a kind of old-school audio blog?) Rather he set this up so that you could see it coming a mile away – so you could choose to “Skip Intro” before hand if need be – and he treaded lightly the whole time he was there carefully stating why he thought his choice was the best.

    Readers keep saying that O’Reilly will lose business because of this. Says who? As has oft been stated, “You couldn’t BUY this kind of coverage!” For every person that states they are going to burn their O’Reilly books, there may be 10 who were heretofore unaware of O’Reilly that may see this and join the fold. Such myopic speculation about losing business is just that: speculation.

    For my money (and time) I expect to see more of the same. It’s what makes O’Reilly, O’Reilly. And it’s what keeps me coming back.

  • Bruce

    While I may not have agreed with your endorsement or whom you chose to endorse, it’s your website and you should be able to post whatever you want. Yeah, some people may not agree with your choice, but for crying out loud, it was a political endorsement – an opinion, not a how to book on creating IPSec tunnels.

  • Jerome McDonough

    Anyone who has read any of the works by scholars falling into the socio-technical school (Latour, Bijker, Callon, Pinch, etc.) and takes them seriously recognizes that discussions of technology are discussions of politics, and advocating for a particular technological solution is also advocating for a particular set of social arrangements in which that technology is embedded. You have always been discussing politics on this site, whether it was recognized as such or not. I prefer for the political aspects of technology to be openly acknowledge and discussed. Pretending that we aren’t doing politics when we do technology strikes me as an attempt to avoid taking moral responsibility for the social implications of our work, and I think you are to be commended for your efforts to encourage people to realize that technology isn’t an apolitical realm.