I’ve been doing a good deal of speaking recently. And in one of my talks, I tell an anecdote about a lesson I learned from my own readers.
It was early in 2005, and a little hackware program called PyMusique was making the rounds of the Internet. PyMusique was written for one reason only: to strip the copy protection off of songs from the iTunes music store.
The program’s existence had triggered an online controversy about the pros, cons and implications of copy protection. But to me, there wasn’t much gray area. “To me, it’s obvious that PyMusique is designed to facilitate illegal song-swapping online,” I wrote. And therefore, it’s wrong to use it.
Readers fired back with an amazingly intelligent array of counterexamples: situations where duplicating a CD or DVD may be illegal, but isn’t necessarily *wrong.* They led me down a garden path of exceptions, proving that what seemed so black-and-white to me is a spectrum of grays.
I was so impressed that I incorporate their examples into my talks, to illustrate how many shades of wrongness there are, and how many different opinions. Almost always, there’s a lot of murmuring, raised eyebrows and chuckling.
Recently, however, I spoke at a college. It was the first time I’d ever addressed an audience of 100 percent young people. And the demonstration bombed.