Interview: Groklaw Founder Pamela Jones

Over the past two years, Groklaw has become essential reading for IT experts, Linux supporters, legal professionals, and probably one or two SCO emplyees. Tom's Hardware speaks with the woman who started it all.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 23, 2005

4 Min Read

This article appears courtesy of Tom's Hardware.

Westlake Village, CA - Computer geeks following the SCO versus IBM trial have, for the last two years, counted on the commentary given by Groklaw. Founded by Pamela Jones, or simply PJ, Growlaw has grown from it's humble beginnings to a major website. While PJ is modest about the popularity of the site, current estimates show Groklaw getting nearly five million hits a day. The site has become almost daily reading for many IT and legal professionals. PJ was gracious enough to take some time out of her busy schedule and grant us an interview.

Are you surprised at how popular Groklaw has become?

"Totally, but the fact is, I did accurately see a need and try to fill it. I knew from reading Slashdot that there was a hunger to understand legal cases in the news. No one was addressing that interest. I did specifically set out to explain the legal process, so people would be able to understand the news. I wanted to share with people whatever I knew and all I learned, so they could find ways to use that knowledge.

I also believed that the community knew how to disprove the allegations about copyright infringement that were bandied about at first. But I knew that they wouldn't necessarily know what piece of evidence would be useful in a court of law. I also knew that most lawyers are not technically proficient, although there are exceptions to that. I figured I knew enough about the law to know what was and wasn't helpful. And I knew enough about the tech to explain it so a lawyer could understand it. So I was consciously trying to be a bridge.

What I didn't know was that people do find you on the Internet. How it happens is a mystery to me, but it does happen, and it did. I literally never did a single thing to get an audience. That is the part that took me by surprise, the numbers that showed up and wanted to help. And the skills that people have and are willing to contribute. It's very impressive. The community is real."

How many hits per day does Groklaw get?

"I don't track it. A journalist asked me some time ago, and I investigated and it was 2 1/2 million a week then. That was back when SCO seemed like more of a threat, so I believe it would probably be less now on quiet news days, but I don't really know. Would you want to know? Groklaw is noncommercial, so it doesn't much matter. I don't have to impress advertisers. Groklaw doesn't actually need to be big to be effective. In fact, it's the opposite in a way. I've taken steps to keep it as small as I can. Past a point, it becomes more work to administer than is helpful. I need to stay focused on certain elements, and size brings a certain kind of extra work that I'd rather not deal with until the SCO case is over.

You have to admit, numbers like that are intimidating. At least they are to me. I'm shy by nature, and it makes me nervous when I realize how many people are reading Groklaw. I met an executive at LinuxWorld who told me that he knows people on Capitol Hill are reading Groklaw. Some of his employees, he told me, have their phones set up to notify them every time there is a new article. I told him he was making me hyperventilate.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very grateful people like Groklaw, and I'm happy so many want to read it. I'm proud of what we've done. But usually I try not to think about numbers. When I'm writing, I think in my mind like I'm talking to a group of real friends. I know that our membership has continued to grow, though. We have just under 8500 members now, and of course most of our readers are not members. I write an article, go get a cup of tea, and when I come back, there are maybe 100 comments. There is no way to describe that feeling."

When and if the SCO vs. IBM case is finished, what will you do next?

"There are two areas of real significance, patents and standards, both of which Groklaw is covering now more and more, and I feel sure, if there ever is a patent infringement attack on Linux, that Groklaw will try to contribute to a positive outcome. We have the knowledge and the skills to be useful in checking for prior art, for example.

I have some other ideas in my mind as well, but they are not yet ready to share specifically, but it is my hope that Groklaw will play an educational role in the enterprise space."

Do you think the SCO side is reading Groklaw?

"Well, they badmouth us, so I think I can safely say they do. Anyway, the Washington Post some time ago reported that SCO said they use Groklaw as a resource too. And they are welcome to do so. I hope they learn something."

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