The Groklaw effect hits Becta. And yes, I am coining a new term

The Groklaw effect hits Becta. And yes, I am coining a new term

Quite a long time ago (maybe in 2000), people started talking about the Slashdot effect. Being Slashdotted meant (and still means) that a truckload of computers online suddenly decide to access your site, because one of your pages was linked from Slashdot's home page. The results on your servers used to be disastrous. I think I ought to attempt something brave: I would like to coin a new word: the Groklaw effect.

While you can't really Groklaw a site, you can definitely Groklaw a company or a court case.

So, what is the Groklaw effect specifically?

Right now Becta ( the UK agency that snubbed the free software community ) is in the process of being Groklawed by the free software community. A source close to the events right now told me quite clearly that Freedom Of Information Act requests are hitting Becta in flurries. In this case, it wasn't Groklaw that Groklawed Becta. Instead, it was The Register with their article on Becta.

In a nutshell, the Groklaw effect will happen to you if you try to play dirty against a well established Internet community. In this case, it was Becta which allegedly awarded an important tender in the UK using shady techniques (for example, by tailoring the tender's mark sheets around Becta). Becta's wrongdoing has not been proved! However, the truth--whichever that is--will surface; in fact it will surface very soon, because there is a huge murder of crows right now circling around Becta's actions and turning every stone in order to find out exactly what happened, why, when, and how.

The law of large numbers tells you (amongst other things) that even if something is statistically very improbable, give it enough tries and that very improbable event will eventually happen. Translated to the Groklaw effect, pointing thousands of eyeballs on a company or a case, it's very likely that somebody at some point will know or discover an important piece of information, which will then in turn be investigated by the community.

Unlike the Slashdot effect, the Groklaw effect is much more dooming for the company receiving it. While the Slashdot effect eventually lessens, and your servers can finally stop working overtime, the Groklaw effect are longer-lasting, and in order to get it to stop you can either straightened your actions, or pay the dearest price for any illegal or unethical action you carried out.

If you're a blogger, I invite you to use this new term. SCO's being Groklawed, OOXML's been Groklawed, and so is Becta.

I feel for Becta somewhat. However, I can't hide that this is definitely going to be a fun ride.



JohnMc's picture
Submitted by JohnMc on

I guess to put a fine point on it, this is already covered in the 'Cathederal & Bazaar'. As I recall the line went something like -- "All errors are transparent with sufficient eyeballs..." So maybe you ought to call this the Groklaw Corollary?

Paul Gaskin's picture

Online collaborative investigation - groklaw is the leading community for this activity.

More generally, slashdotting and groklawing are forms of blogswarming.

Thank goodness for the internet and free software.

Ryan Cartwright's picture

I think I ought to attempt something brave: I would like to coin a new word: the Groklaw effect.

Isn't that three words?

Joking aside I think you've hit on something here. Yes the many eyes theory is nothing new but what Groklaw and -- in this case -- El Reg do is bring the company under the gaze of those eyes. I've seen similar calls for places where a company is immorally using software patents and the "victim" has asked for examples of prior art.

This is yet another example of power changing hands and there being a greater voice for the public thanks to the Internet.

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Tony Mobily's picture


Tony is the founder and the Editor In Chief of Free Software Magazine