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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

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Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

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Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Creative Commons make their decision

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Larry Lessig has announced that Creative Commons have decided, after much deliberation, to end their relationship with BzzAgents.

[...] for all the extremely powerful reasons these discussions have mustered, we were wrong to use this tool [BzzAgents] to spread our message. This is not, again, because BzzAgent is evil. It is not because it shouldn’t be used to spread any message. It is not because understanding achieved through networks of humans is worse than the understanding produced through a survey. It is instead because this way of spreading our message weakens the power of our message.

Many people in the post to Larry’s first post commented on how they admired the Spread FireFox campaign, and CC have decided to take that baton up and create something similar for CC. To this end, they have launched a wiki to foster discussion, so there’s no excuse for not taking part.

I am glad that CC have come to this decision, not because of any need for my opinions to be validated or because I’ve been ‘proven right’, but because I truly believe that this is the right decision for CC. A strong, unmediated grass-roots movement is what CC needs - using BzzAgents would have muddied waters that must stay clear.

It also allows people to get involved under their own terms, not under someone else’s. If all someone wants to do is contribute to the wiki, then that is their prerogative. Equally, someone can hop in at the end of deliberations and just use the materials and information provided, without ever having to take part in their creation. It doesn’t matter whether all you do is have a CC button on your coat or whether you devote all your free time to the project. What matters is that now, you can participate in a way that’s good for you.

I left a comment on Larry’s blog in response to his post which contains a few more points, so I shall reproduce it here too.

Excellent news, Larry! I am delighted to see you and your colleagues at CC grasp the nettle and make this decision.

We all make mistakes, but the challenge is always to learn from them and to turn errors into wisdom. The silver lining in this furore for CC is that you have now embarked on a course of action which I believe will prove to be more effective, stronger, and will have more of a long-term benefit for all involved than the relationship with BzzAgents could ever have given you. I have no doubt that there is the enthusiasm out there to make a SpreadCC-style campaign work (although I am sure it will not be without its own hiccups).

Insofar as BzzAgents are concerned, I hope that Dave has learnt that careful consideration before responding to criticism is the way forward. I also hope that, despite how much of himself he puts into his business, he learns that *he is not his business* and criticism of one is not criticism of the other. That’s a hard lesson to learn, and as an entrepreneur, I know just how hard. I also hope that he will be able to see through the anger of some of the comments and be capable of pulling the truths to the fore, as I think there were some valuable points made which could help him improve his modus operandi.

As for me, I certainly have learnt something: I knew that Creative Commons was a cause I supported, but I hadn’t realised just how important it was to me until I thought that it was being threatened. I’ve been planning to volunteer for CC or the EFF for ages now, but haven’t because there never seems to be enough time. With the new wiki, I will be able to contribute a little bit on a regular ongoing basis (a form of support that I think is more important than giving up a chunk of time once in a blue moon).

So, here’s to the future of CC!

UPDATE: Dave Balter blogs about the decision too. I find his post to be very positive and encouraging, and it seems that he’s looked for the truth in the comments that have been made about BzzAgents’ modus operandi, and is working to adjust it so that it is more acceptable to more people. Whilst I agree that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, I do feel that BzzAgents could please more people more of the time, and I’m glad to see Dave working towards this. I am sure he will end up with a stronger company at the end of this process.

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10 Responses to “Creative Commons make their decision”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    I wonder if something new has happened here: has there ever been an Ad campaign that was stopped by its clientele Before it was fully formulated? I would insert a paragraph about “hyper-acceleration” here if it weren’t so damn cliche.

    Instead, I will abuse a quote: “Hell hath no fury like a blogger’s scorn.”

    It is even more fascinating to find that someone at the very cutting edge of marketing is not cutting edge enough to pull the wool over this audiences eyes. In a world where guerrilla marketing is the norm, is this a first? Will the inevitable backlash of people tired of being manipulated by advertising agents begin?

    Questions questions.

  2. George Says:

    We have all lost a good opportunity. “Hell hath no fury like a blogger’s scorn.” … Sure, if you say so. That’s a fine way to see it. We’ve made our bed, now we have to sleep in it. I just hope that CC is able to motivate its members to self-organize and get the word out as well as they are able to self-motivate themselves to cast such a critical eye on potentially beneficial relationships. To date, I see little/no proof of that, and that troubles me. Time to step up, people. You have no excuse.

  3. Suw Says:

    No, I think we have not lost an opportunity, we have gained one. The BzzAgent campaign would only have been 12 weeks long. Not enough time to really get going. By seeking to drive a grass roots campaign in the Spread FireFox style, CC is creating something which can last for years.

    See the glass as half full, and then put *your* money where your mouth is too. The wiki is there for your use, just itching for you to pitch in with your good ideas.

  4. George Says:

    Seeing a free, 12 week campaign from a company with proven results isn’t actually seeing the glass as half full, imho. And btw, I don’t believe the BzzAgent campaign was ever meant to be the only/exclusive CC communications program. No one ever said that.

    In any case, I do see the glass half full. I see this experience as a wake-up call. If nothing else, hopefully this discussion has served to motivate those who might never have considered getting involved in the first place. And that’s a good thing.

  5. tara Says:

    why does this sound so condescending

  6. Shane C. Says:

    Upthread, Lindsey wrote: “It is even more fascinating to find that someone at the very cutting edge of marketing is not cutting edge enough to pull the wool over this audience’s eyes.”

    Say what you will about BzzAgent’s business model (and many have), but to imply that Dave Balter has been anything but *completely* transparent, open and honest — quite literally, to a fault — throughout this process is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

    (And I should know: I made a similar accusation in Prof. Lessig’s original thread…which, so I can sleep tonight, I have since retracted here: .)

  7. phillip torrone Says:

    cross posted on the wiki, joi, and lessig…

    here’s what i’d like to see from bzzagent / dave balter if they’re really going to support the cc with our “spread firefox-like campaign” as joi mentioned. i also think this would help bzzagent build some trust and credibility in the cc community.

    1. dave, can you outline and/or release the timeline of the typical campaign. ideally, a budget and staff you’d would have deployed for the cc, just to give us an idea.

    2. do you distribute “talking points” to the agents? if so, what do they usually address. what would your suggestions be for the creative commons?

    3. can you describe the metrics you provide your clients, and how we could do the same for our efforts? would you suggest we measure new content cc’d, #’s of “word of mouth reports” etc..? if we need to measure interactions, what tools do you suggest we consider? i’m not sure if we need to report interactions, but i think if we get some great new artists, photographers, musicians, authors, etc.. in the cc- we could at least do a few case studies.

    4. this many of us are bloggers, use rss, use flickr, use technorati, del, how do you suggest we use these types of connecting technologies for our campaign. should we do cc meetups? mailing lists? i’m curious about your suggestions.

    5. what content creators do you think we should go after first? real examples would help a lot.

    perhaps you could release this as a pdf / doc / whatever under a cc license and publish it here, the wiki or on

    -phillip torrone
    -feel free to email as well pt at oreilly dot com

  8. Shane C. Says:

    Hmm, no sleep after all….

    phillip torrone also posted his comment above on *BzzAgent’s* weblog. My reply, which should be of interest to anyone concerned about CC’s reputation, now follows it. The page in question is:

  9. Lisa Williams Says:

    George, CC is not a product, it’s a movement, and it doesn’t need to grow any faster than the movement’s proponents can go. A marketing campaign like this one is an utterly artificial way of achieving growth (if it doesn’t backfire). It might temporarily swell the ranks, but I don’t think artificial growth stimuli like these produce any substantive or lasting progress.

  10. Lisa Williams Says:

    George, CC is not a product, it’s a movement, and it doesn’t need to grow any faster than the movement’s proponents can go. A marketing campaign like this one is an utterly artificial way of achieving growth (if it doesn’t backfire). It might temporarily swell the ranks, but I don’t think artificial growth stimuli like these produce any substantive or lasting progress.