“you’re going to be a douchebag in that class, aren’t you” (aka, confessions of a maybe-gunner)

(Completely personal ramble coming; skip it if you’re not interested in the internal monologue of an IP junkie 1L. I’m writing the post mostly to force myself to think through some options (including trying to understand better both my temptations and revulsions), not because I think it will actually be interesting to anyone.)

Sigh. Quote in subject is from a friend/classmate on the way out of Principles of Intellectual Property. The class is going to be a challenge for me; I love to think about (and talk about) the topic; I’m well versed in it, so I’ll likely be ahead of the game, at least early in the semester; and (generally) there are lots of assumptions that irritate me, so I’m often going to want to (1) correct assumptions or (2) throw something, and (2) is definitely not an option. So yeah… in short, I’m likely to be the gunner for this class. (I’m not that bad. But the link gives you the idea.)

The problem is that I don’t want to be the gunner. Sometimes I look back and feel like I’ve been that guy in virtually every classroom I’ve ever been in. I think I mostly avoided it last semester, and I don’t think I’ll be very tempted in most of my other classes this semester, but it is going to come out with a vengeance in this class. Some part of me says ‘it doesn’t matter’, but most of me says ‘I’d rather not be the central square in everyone’s gunner bingo card’.

I’m really not sure what the best strategy is to control the impulse. The extreme version would be to just never volunteer at all in class and just go to office hours and talk there; the less extreme version might be to only volunteer when I see a really bad assumption- as opposed to answering the inevitable ‘will someone volunteer’ questions. I’m afraid that may still be daily, though. Might just try to limit myself to one comment a week- that is every other class, on average; should be small enough not to irritate my classmates, and would force me to focus on the interesting stuff. Gah… oh well. I’ll figure it out. Off to cure this headache and start on Property reading…

[Ed.: the wisest person I know suggests that if I can just stick to ‘Learn, Not Teach’, I’ll be fine… I think I’ll go tattoo that to my forehead or something. It was never my intent to lecture my classmates, just to ask probing questions so I can better understand, but still… it won’t hurt for me to chant that like a mantra.]

10 thoughts on ““you’re going to be a douchebag in that class, aren’t you” (aka, confessions of a maybe-gunner)”

  1. In this case, being the “gunner” might be a public service. Lawyers thing about “intellectual property” in a funny way, even law profs, and it would be a public service to challenge this thinking.

    To show just how bad it gets, I had a discussion with our corporate attorney about getting clearance for making a very minor contribution to GCC, and it was like pulling teeth. It didn’t impress her that it was in the company’s business interest to have the thing go in, because, she said, we had to balance the company’s business interests against the need to protect intellectual property! (That’s right, she had elevated “intellectual property” to such a level that it could trump business interests).

  2. As I just explained to someone in IM, I don’t want to lecture- I just want to find the bases for the assumptions. I’m so saturated in the copyleft milieu that it will be valuable for me to make sure I’m getting an alternative perspective, and not just mindlessly challenge it.

  3. Be the gunner! Just for this one class it doesn’t seem excessive- It’s an important and pivotal issue you’re passionate about, so I don’t agree with hiding in the crowd in this case. “looking for the bases for assumptions” doesn’t sound like you’re lecturing the class, and I don’t think you’ll miss out on getting the alternative perspective, if anything, you may gain a deeper understanding of it.
    I hope you enjoy the class whatever you decide :)

  4. Go for the Gunner! That was actually quite an enlightening link- I now know what the rest of my classmates must be thinking whenever I explain my various positions which have been completely saturated by the wealth of Free Software. It’s kind of neat to be in that place, sort of like the zone you hear sportscasters talk about, not the one that they advertise as located on the corner of Broadway & 42nd but the mental zone where mistakes are few and perfection is within range. At least that’s what it feels like on the inside, on the outside well, it’s better to be inside.

  5. “If you keep a blog detailing your exciting scholastic career…”

    Oops, too late now. ;-)

    Out of curiosity, how many of your profs do you suppose are former gunners?

    Comment on http://www.jewishbuddha.org/archives/2003/01/socrates_v_budd.php :
    “We’re way beyond gunner bingo. Someone in the section set up a Gunner Fantasy League. You draft a team and get points based on how often they volunteer in class.”

  6. Out of curiosity, how many of your profs do you suppose are former gunners?
    Good question. Last semester, one definitely, one maybe; the remaining one was possibly the smartest of all of them but had too many social graces to be a gunner. Of my profs so far this year… hrm. Two possibly (very smart, slightly nerdy, but both seemingly graceful/sensitive enough in conversation that perhaps they would have picked up on the social cues and avoided it); two others it is too early to tell.

    Interesting question, at any rate, Mark. I’ll poll my classmates and see what they think :)

  7. As a lecturer (Professor) and student in the not-to-distant past (and someone who asks a lot of questions in seminars) I think I may be able to offer some advice.

    (1) Teachers LOVE intelligent questions. It shows that you are paying attention and understand what they are saying.

    (2) Your fellow students will often have the same questions as yourself, but be too shy to ask, so they benefit from your questions also.

    (3) Time in lectures is limited, so resist the urge to engage in CONVERSATION with the lecturer. Just ask your question, listen to the answer, and move on. Do not reply to the answer. If you feel the urge to reply, do so at some later time. This is the way to avoid irritating your teachers and fellow students.

    (4) Limiting yourself to one question per session seems a bit excessive. Two or three per hour is probably OK. One every ten minutes is probably too much.

    (5) Why do you care if your fellow students might think that you are a nerd? Are you trying to have sex with any of them? Do you need their vote? You’ve paid good money for your education. Get the most out of it. Don’t let it be spoiled by brain-dead slackers (if, in fact, that is characteristic of your detractors).

    (6) Rock!

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