The choice

Dear Colleagues,

By now you are watching the unfolding developments in Iran, along with many that we have shepherded (or alternatively for some of you — been pulled by) into this world of participatory technology mediated communication.

Clay Shirky is calling this the big one. Umair Hague is welcoming Khamenei to the 21st century and invoking Obama’s election victory in highlighting the political upheaval that the tools have helped foster. Portions of the U.S. Government have recognized the role that these tools play, even asking twitter to delay maintenance during daylight in Iran

Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and the thousands of other communication tools we created are wresting control out of the hands that those that seek to control, to shape, to suppress, to manipulate information. One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers is convinced this will bring down the current Iranian leaders.

Like Frankenstein, we created them because it was fun, it was cool, it was a tricky problem to solve. And along the way, the tools that we have created are again changing the world.

Smile for the moment, those of you that did these things have earned that smile.

Be forewarned, You’ll be asked to find ways that will facilitate those that seek to manipulate, to control, to shape this medium too. Ostensibly to “solve information overload” — to “determine user intent” — to “make order out of chaos” or many other things that sound plausible, even good, and better yet are incredible technological challenges.

I’m not saying not to do those things, if history teaches us anything, people will find a way to be free, perhaps not themselves, but they will make the information known that will enable the future generations to be free. They will use the tools we create to do that in incredibly surprising ways. Somtimes enabled by us, often in spite of us.

But remember this, current events are showing that the things we build can enable the passionate, the willing, the able, to use them to change the world.

We can enable that, or we can fight it. We’ll be asked to do both. Choose wisely.