July 16, 2024

Book Club

I’m thinking about running a Freedom to Tinker book club. I would choose a book and invite readers to read it along with me, one chapter per week. I would post a reaction to each chapter (or I would ask another reader to do so), and a discussion would follow in the comments section. This would become a regular feature, with a posting every Friday (tentatively).

To start, I’m considering Larry Lessig’s book, Code, and Other Laws of Cyberspace. It’s not a new book, but it’s been hugely influential – perhaps too influential. Larry is now running a wiki, which started with the book’s text, and which will form the basis for a new edition. So we could contribute our ideas to the wiki and help to shape the next edition of the book.

Please let me know what you think of the book club idea in general, and about reading Code specifically.


  1. I just found your site and book club, and I’m psyched. This is the first month of my plan to study (just take notes and read reviews) one book a month. I read alot, but wanted to have some sort of structure and focus, so I look forward to joining you. One of my favorite tips for those books that you want to have read, but know will keep getting put off… Read, and take notes while listening to the audio book version. That much hyped bestseller youre not so sure about is knocked out in a couple of days.

  2. If you’d like to do “Darknet” as one of the books that follow Code, I’d be happy to email each chapter to any book club member who doesn’t have a copy of the book on hand. Just an offer …

  3. Laura,

    To participate in the book club, you can watch this page, or subscribe to this RSS feed.

  4. i wanna join. is this how to do it?

  5. A Code book club seems popular, so I’m going to do it. I’ll announce the details tomorrow.

  6. I’m game (how does one become a chapter captain? I just want to have a reason to say “ahoy mateys” . . .), so count me in for a much needed re-reading of Code.

    As for other/new books, I agree that not everything that might be interesting to read might need or be appropriate for a chapter by chapter review. That’s especially true if you branch out into fiction, like Gibson (Neuromancer — more people should have read this; or even Pattern Recognition) and others.

    In any event, I think it’s a great idea. Let’s read and comment. Do we have an accord?

  7. oz: I think the big benefit would be the publicity for the effort, and reaching an intended audience – A *lot* of people have freedom-to-tinker subscribed, I suspect far more than the wiki (hence we would in fact have “more visibility for discussions”). So having someone take on a publicizing role – since the revision is basically an all-volunteer effort – might be a very helpful contribution. Before you ask why Lessig hasn’t done this, he’s been traveling all over the Earth (literally), plus involved with the Choir case.

    So while you’re correct in that there’s some technical duplication, my view is that’s a small problem, and the social boost might be far more beneficial.

  8. since captains jumped in so eagerly, i have to ask: in which way close reading of CODE
    here would be different than what is being done on its own wiki, and in which way this
    would benefit CODE effort? splitting of reading/commentary will at best force captains
    to collect commentary and material from two (maybe more places) perhaps re-posting
    it so it can be discussed again and so on. hand-merging two streams of commentary? what
    fun. i would suggest that anything we can do here for CODE can just as easily be done in
    its own wiki… less places to visit, more visibility for discussions…

  9. To make a brief book clubish comment – I don’t think _Code_ has been “too influential”. I suspect many people commenting here were not active participants in the net politics debates in the 90’s . There was a *stifling* net.libertarianism which was dominant, with all the characteristics of a fanatical religious cult. To me, _Code_’s importance was an intellectual insider providing *validation* for a way of thinking that previously was likely to get an adherent personally attacked as government-lover. I still have plenty of material around from those days. But if you weren’t there, I doubt it’s clear now, how bad it was then (of course, even though it’s history, I still carry the reputational scars …)

  10. I like the book club idea. You have enough readers that finding
    a book that some number are interested in will probably not
    be a problem. As far as “Code” goes, I’m not a big Lessig fan,
    so personally I’d pass.

    Any book by Bruce Schneider or Privacy on the Line by Whitfield Diffie
    and Susan Landau are books I like.


  11. I’d be in on this. And if any of the timing works, we would discuss some of the stuff coming up in my cyberlaw class, too. I think Code is a good idea – as you note, there’s the influence/too influential idea, and the re-write that make it a perfect choice.

  12. FYI, Code v.2 Wiki:


  13. As the “Chapter Captain”, for _Code_’s chapter 17, I agree with what Ann Bartow says.

  14. i think this sort of close reading is a good idea, though i am not sure about CODE. while it would be nice to to contribute to lessig’s rewrite, code is dated, and i am not sure i want to
    rethread something already a large group is rethreading already.. there are other very sharp books hopping to be read closely, eg. weber “success of open source” comes to mind…

  15. Jordan Vance says

    Another idea, re: Michael, would be to reinvent the class blog as a sub-blog of FtT, and instead of having students comment, have everyone read a case, and one person a week or something gets to lead the commentary on the case.

  16. How do I join?

    Or will it be a follow-the-blog sort of thing?

  17. Turing test: kudos

    Book thingie: stuff whose text is available over the net, like some of Lessig’s stuff, would be preferable to stuff you have to pay or travel to read.

    Conversational: usenet or phpBB for something with proper permanence. IRC for something more real-time, but still loggable.

  18. I think using Code is a FANTASTIC idea! Of course, the fact that I am “Chapter Captain” (ahoy mateys, etc.) for chapters 15 and 16 is part of my motivation :>)

  19. I’m in. That’s a good book. I’ve had my copy sitting on my shelf for awhile now too.

    I’m sure your proposal is a good start, but I had some random thoughts about the details. Is there some other medium that might be more conversational? (On the blog, I think it will promote pontificating rather than back-and-forth discussion.) How many books really warrant chapter-by-chapter analysis? And of course, we’ll have to figure out a way to decide on new books. There must other online book discussion groups to learn from…

  20. I’ve been meaning to read that book, so I would be in at least for the first selection.

    (P.S. I just left a comment on the server change entry… again, some of the letters for the code are being cut off on the reverse Turing test. Fortunately, this time, there was enough to read that I could enter the code).

  21. I’m in. That book has been staring at me from the corner of my desk for far too long.

  22. Jordan Vance says

    I’d be all for it. Of course, I’ve a lot of other books on my plate right now. I’m reading Collapse right now, and then people keep on recommending other books, but as your course got me interested in law and IP and thinking critically again, I’d be all for at least trying it.

  23. Matt Krause says

    That’d be fun; count me in.