Picking the right frame
So I’ve changed the hed on my patents piece. It used to be “The patent system isn’t broken — we are” and now it’s “The ‘broken patent system’: how we got here and how to fix it.” Everything else remains unchanged.
Why the swap? I struggled mightily to put a title on this piece after I wrote it — my main point was to provide a well-researched foundation to the argument for people, and to identify with some clarity the main issues involved as well as some specific solutions. To that end, my working title was simply “On patents,” which has a certain type of scholarly appeal but is also extremely boring. I also considered “How to fix the broken patent system,” but didn’t want to sound like I knew all the answers, because I simply don’t. After over a day of discussion and hand-wringing, I ended up with “The patent system isn’t broken — we are” because I thought it was a clever way of saying our conversation and debate was just as dysfunctional as the system we’re trying to fix.
I was wrong. I apologize.
I spent weeks trying to paint the perfect picture, only to slap it into the absolutely worst frame possible — a frame that accuses a lot of very smart people of being wrong from the start, and adds a tone to my piece that I never intended. It was a mistake, and I regret it. If you read the piece, I think it’s pretty clear that I believe some parts of the system are indeed broken, particularly the way in which we deal with software patents. But I also believe we can and should try to do better before we pursue a policy that undoes 220 years of American history. I think that’s fairly reasonable.
I realize there’s a terrible irony in saying that I was too combative in trying to elevate our conversation, and I’ll understand if you think I was just trolling you with that original headline, or being unnecessarily sensational — I’ve spent the weekend thinking the same thing. Them’s the breaks. As a technology critic, I spend too much time criticizing other companies and people for stubbornly standing behind broken products to not make the obvious improvement here, and I’m lucky enough to work in a medium that allows for the change.
I hope you give the piece a re-skim under the new headline and realize that I’m trying to fix the same problem as everyone else, but perhaps from a different direction. There is a reasonable balance between protecting real innovation and allowing it to flourish without undue regulation, and our shared industry deserves a real attempt to find it.