In the U.S. Congress, the district represented by Zoe Lofgren (D-California) is based in San Jose and includes much of Silicon Valley. That constituency no doubt influences at least some of her thinking about technology-related issues.
Still, it was interesting to read a CNET report by Dara Kerr about Representative Lofgren engaging the Reddit community in a dialogue, not just a scripted Q&A. According to Kerr, Lofgren wanted advice about how to frame “new legislation that would notify Web site owners blamed for copyright violations.”
This is not a small issue. Traditional media businesses have been pushing hard for some time to extend copyright well beyond its historical terms. Bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act, which Lofgren opposed, threaten to introduce sanctions that Harvey Weinstein recently described as “shoot first, ask questions later”.
If anything, engaging in a dialogue is overdue. As Kerr observes:
“While it's not uncommon for politicians and celebrities to talk to users on Reddit, the format is usually a Q&A with the users asking the questions. What's unique about Lofgren's approach is that she will be asking the questions with the hope of crowd-sourcing ideas.”
When it comes to better understanding things like piracy, the efficacy of DRM and the impact of nearly endless copyright, publishers might try engaging communities of their own. Free advice, though: don’t start with Reddit. I hear some of those folks bite.