Legal, Laws, and Regs


There’s an odd thing I noticed whenever the discussion gets around to laws or issues even remotely associated with the law. Inevitably, someone or more than one someones will give an opinion, and immediately follow the opinion with the acronym: IANAL. I Am Not A Lawyer.

I even use this myself whenever I talk about arbitration, copyright, or anything along these lines. It makes no sense, though, to use this term.

We give opinions on politics, but we don’t write IANAP (I Am Not A Politician). We also don’t specifically highlight our lack of professional association when discussing photography (IANAPP); cooking (IANAC); finances (IANAA); journalism (IANAJ); squid (IANAMB); or technology (IANAG). Especially technology–mention anything on technology, and everyone is an expert, everyone has an opinion.

For some reason, though, perhaps we’re intimidated by law or lawyers, when we give an opinion on law, legal decisions, legal issues, or anything even remotely associated with the law, normally bold and opinionated people are overwhelmed with a strong urg to self-deprecate: IANAL.

Some would say we use the term to ensure that people don’t mistake us for lawyers, and assume we know more than we do. Here’s a clue: How you can tell who is or is not a lawyer in a discussion thread? The people offering legal advice are not lawyers. The people going, “Wow. Man, that sucks. You should get a lawyer”, are.

Lawyers have to be especially careful with their online interactions because there are some very rigid rules surrounding the profession–more so than many professions. Lawyers also have to be careful because they never know when their words might come back to bite them, in court or other proceedings. Of course, the same could be said for people in any profession.

Identifying whether you’re a lawyer or not to an online discussion really doesn’t add that much to the quality of the discussion. If an opinion given is bad or silly, that fact will soon be made apparent by others in the thread; it will get torn apart by those more knowledgeable. If the opinion is good, or interesting, does is really matter if the person is a lawyer? Consider people like Seth, who has made a passionate study of DMCA and censorware–should we value his opinion less because he’s not a lawyer?

When it comes to discussing legal topics, we shouldn’t feel that we have to attach a disclaimer to our opinion. Anyone who misconstrues a lively debate for a course of action in court really doesn’t deserve our sympathy. The same for anyone following advice given in forums and comment threads by people they don’t know. I marvel all the time how we’ll download software or modify our computers based on the advice of total strangers.

Think of comments with legal advice from unknown people as being the equivalent of a store coupon: valuable only if what’s being offered is really what we need; otherwise, they’re only worth $0.0002 cents, each.

Still, some in the legal profession may be uncomfortable with not establishing their professional affiliation during a legal discussion. Instead of IANAL, what the lawyers should do is use an acronym of their own: IAAL–I Am A Lawyer. Perhaps they can use Esq. after their names (“SexyKitten Esq”).

Or stick with, “Wow. Man, that sucks. You should get a lawyer.”

Diversity People Technology

Being nice: To those intimidated and silenced

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’ve been told in comments associated with a post in the O’Reilly Women in Tech series that I’ve ‘intimidated and silenced’ others, presumably because of my wicked, evil communication skills and general, overall not niceness.

Well, huh.

Do let me know if you’ve felt ‘intimidated or silenced’ by me in the past, and I’ll be sure to send you a warm glass of milk and a cookie.

Here, here’s a fluffy kitten to hold.

I am kitten hear me squeek

(image derived from photo by fieldsbh. Creative Commons)

Photography Weather

Welcome Fall

Happy first day of Fall. Oh, how wonderful to think this miserable summer is drawing to a close.

August went down as the third warmest August since weather history has been kept in this region. A couple of cooler days towards the end kept it from being the hottest. We’re still quite warm and humid, with temperatures today in the 90s and only getting down to about 70 at night. Hopefully, we’re heading into normal temperatures later this week.

I thought I would check the Fall color report and the predictions look dismal for the state. Whatever region didn’t get blasted by our odd thaw-freeze-thaw cycle this spring, got hit with an ice storm in January, and/or the summer drought. This is the first time I remember that all parts of the state are being conservative about their predictions for fall color.

We’ve started feeding neighborhood animals and birds, once I saw the pathetic acorns and other nuts coming from our own neighborhood trees. I’m concerned because we don’t seem to have many birds this year; even the number of squirrels are down. The only critter that has done well in the weather this year are the mosquitoes.


During one of the nicer nights in the last few weeks, I was finally able to open the windows to get some fresh air, only to have the St. Louis pest control come through with the mosquito spraying. Ah, there’s nothing better than the smell of bug spray by moonlight.

Still, Fall is my favorite time of the year. I don’t know if it’s the deeper, richer colors of autumn, the cooler weather, the pleasant walks, but I always feel changes for the good are right around the corner.

color palette

Plus there’s Halloween candy.