Volume 1: November. You can subscribe for updates.
"I teach school -- and I win awards doing it. These are the things I teach, these are the things you pay me to teach. Make of them what you will:"
So begins one of the great essays on the modern school system.
Via Doc Searls.
I just finished reading about how bogus transmogrification conversion on an oscillating harmonic field of glass bells, with green gig and kerosene lamps for diversion, can be solved by beastly incarceration-concatenation. I was reminded of how much the great scienxplorers such as Watterson and others owe to this cloud of novel scientific inquiry from the ’60s and ’70s.
It makes me simultaneously want to immortalize Lem and Kandel in an eternally entangled quantum fringe, and to fire up a Trurlapaucius abstract-generator based on snarXiv code.
On December 21 this year we should all make text posts that sound really apocalyptic but aren’t, like
OH GOD EVERYTHING IS BURNING
because I turned up the heater
ALL I HEAR IS SCREAMING
from my tv
THIS IS GOODBYE BECAUSE WE’RE EVACUATING
I’M UNDER THE BED IN THE DARK I CAN HEAR THEM COMING FOR ME
I might lose this game of hide-and-seek
you thought this would involve SPACE, didn’t you?
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,popular demand
- Cap Watkins
- Duncan Davidson
- Adam Savage’s presentation
- Anil Dash : live transcription (gdoc), later broken up on his blog
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,Too weird for fiction
Global Voices translators speak out about why they do what they do.
Peter Sunde, public face of The Pirate Bay during its publicity and trial over the past six years, recently published a long personal essay about the experience.
It is a hair-raising story of judicial manipulation, international arm-twisting, and companies offering jobs to prosecutors in cases affecting them… breaking the design of the legal system in a few places. The result, for Sunde, has been a ridiculously punitive and overwhelming sentence and fine with, in his case, only circumstantial evidence. (he is asked to pay more in fines than he is likely to make in a lifetime.)
Thanks to Rick Falkvinge for translating the essay; and to Sunde for sharing it. Please read it.
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,international,poetic justice,wikipedia
Today CERN and FERMILAB announced 5σ confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson , inspiring a burst of heady live coverage from the Guardian. (CERN had leaked a video about the discovery the day before, so everyone knew what was coming, and turned up for today’s Higgs seminar. All of the scientists who had worked on early versions of the theory that pointed towards such a boson also flew in the the seminar, which continues tomorrow.)
CERN has posted and archived beautiful 360-degree photos of the day, a video of the press conference (rather dull), and will soon post a recording of the day’s seminar (which was live-streamed and amazing; come back for it tomorrow).
The media as usual tries valiantly to explain things in a down-to-earth way that is both simplistic and true, but is generally failing. As with a few other recent scientific breakthroughs, I am grateful that Wikipedia offers solid explanations of the topics at hand, and through the magic of hyperlinks (which news agencies are still struggling with allows exploration of the topics in as much depth as you like.
 Note the careful, conservative trend in particle physics: the labs making the discovery are all quick to say they’ve discovered the existence of at least one new particle, which matches the profile of the Higgs boson; it could be one or more of its sibling bosons that have been discovered – supersymmetry suggests there could be 5 of them.
Filed under: chain-gang,poetic justice,popular demand,Rogue content editor,Uncategorized
Happy Independence Day!
A few good pieces on the Declaration of Internet Freedom:
* Christian Science Monitor: The Internet needs its own ‘declaration of independence’
* Forbes: Freshly-Minted Declaration of Internet Freedom Demands ‘Free and Open Internet’
* ABC News: For July 4, a Declaration of Internet Freedom
* And an excellent, long piece by The Verge: How the net’s minutemen plan to protect the future
And ACTA was just rejected by the EU Parliament:
* Controversial anti-piracy agreement rejected by EU
Kudos to everyone involved in that turnaround.
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,international,meta,Uncategorized,wikipedia
For ages, learning was assumed to be social, interactive, oral. Written knowledge, where available and somewhat portable, was a specialized complement that few scholars, recordkeepers, explorers and other specialists used or needed.
As long as you needed a tutor or guide to learn, whether or not good static (lifeless) written material was available was a lesser concern.
In the last three millennia, it gradually became cheaper to produce text, commonplace for scholars to learn to write concisely and convey ideas so that others could learn them on their own. In every field, books eventually replaced ritual and oral record as the standard for precipitating knowledge into a lasting, canonical form, and passing it on. This was driven forward by personal memorials and finance and law – pillars of clan- and city-building.
Certain forms of knowledge were considered a shared good of society – from how to find resources to social and practical norms. And some were actively disseminated as necessary, such as legal and religious dictates. Other knowledge was something that could be sought out, or bought and sold. During the time when knowledge about the world was a scarce resource, yet easy enough to write down and transmit, even basic information about the shape of the planet was bartered and sold like any other good.
Today we both have bounteous knowledge, and pressing problems that better global education can address. The opportunities that could result from a more broadly educated world society are far greater than the short-term opportunities of a commodity market for practical texts.
And we will get more thorough, more accurate, and better texts of all sorts – once we think of general knowledge as a part of culture and civic infrastructure, not as something that can be owned and hoarded. We made this transition with scientific discoveries centuries ago, with mathematics before that, and today we reap tremendous benefits from that. It is time for all knowledge to join their ranks as a cornerstone of our civilization.
How can we help this come about? Take a piece of awesome, inspiring, practical knowledge that you currently buy or rent as a commodity, and make a free version of it. Publish it to a shared commons that makes it easy to maintain and update over time. Tell others who get it from the same source you did. Stop using general knowledge that you can’t repurpose, and your use of the alternative will make it the best in the world in its niche.
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,fly-by-wire,international,poetic justice,Rogue content editor
Reed Elsevier’s received a scathing critique by The Street’s Jared Woodward this week, who bets heavily against its stock [RUK] :
“We regard the common stock as an implicit naked short put option because, while the upside potential from the publishing division is limited, the downside risk from any revolt by its customers (libraries), laborers (academics), or funders (governments) is not.“
Woodward incisively covers everything from the academic-run The Cost of Knowledge campaign countering the Elsevier-backed Research Works Act, the Federal Research Public Access Act proposal to enshrine Open Access as a requirement of all government funders, a similar EU mandate, the UK recruiting Jimbo to help draft a similar policy for all UK-funded research by 2014, Harvard’s faculty memo on deep and broad Open Access support, the stunning successes of PLoS One and Rockefeller University Press, and @FakeElsevier‘s tweets and blog.
@FakeElsevier is a pseudonymous academic who has been sharing satirical posts and tweets about Elsevier since February. The subject above is from one of the more popular blog posts: “Dear Elsevier Employees, With Love, From @FakeElsevier.“
Take a look at Woodward’s report: It’s an exhausting and exhilirating read.
Federal Research Public Access Act
AFP breaks down her successful kickstarter project to support an album:
it means i’ll probably buy an abandoned church somewhere and turn it into a free 24-hour circus brunch bar for everybody.
we’re all investing, dollar by dollar, pledge by pledge… not just in the future of my little record and band, but in an idea whose time has come.
David Gerard recently pointed out that despite recent expansion of the global commons of “freely-licensed knowledge”, all license terms still last for much too long. “Free licenses” still rely on copyright laws which impose restrictions on reuse for unreasonably long term lengths: currently “Life of the author + 70 years” in most countries — roughly 10-50x as long as the average commercial lifespan of a new work.
Economists and researchers studying copyright have often noted that copyright terms have been extended with little justification, always on the request of the publishing industry, since the first copyright term (14 years) was set centuries ago. And that there is no data to suggest that longer copyright terms are good for society or useful in encouraging creative work.
The social memes of “free culture” and “free knowledge” have been shaped in large part by a community that bought into the idea of copyleft in the past decades: a derivative of copyright law which defines the copyrights the author wishes to exercise in a way that lets people reuse their work, as long as they release the result under the same license.
We should figure out a reasonable maximum term for the sort of rights that are currently covered by copyright – say, something no more than 14 years – and embed that term into the most-recommended free culture licenses. That includes all Creative Commons and free-culture and other FOSS licenses. All of these licenses should explicitly transition to the Public Domain before the ultralong default term enshrined in international law.
(In practice this could mean automatically switching to a CC0 license at the end of the shorter term.)
Related discussions about license reform
David’s comments started a recent discussion on the Wikimedia-l mailing list, about whether Wikimedians should help push for a saner copyright term. Mike Linksvayer noted similar discussions on the Creative Commons licenses list from last December – part of brainstorming how to improve those licenses.
Two people made comments along these lines: “Shortening the copyright term is totally infeasible in the near term; instead we should encourage people to switch to free licenses.“
This misses two key points. Firstly, free culture groups are now some of the largest around; they include major content providers and platforms; and Creative Commons itself is a powerful global brand. Secondly, while convincing slow, conservative national governments to change their laws is hard, almost everyone who is not working/lobying for content publishers — including the vast majority of content creators — feels copyright terms are too long. So this is an obvious place for citizen innovation to come first, and legislation second.
A few publishers are already adopting limited terms. O’Reilly Books uses a license that switches to CC-BY after 14 years.
Some free culture groups have taken a position here as well: Sweden’s Pirate Party advocates for a maximum term of 5 years. Richard Stallman of the FSF recommends a maximum of 5 or 10 years (though only for society as a whole; and only if it comes with open source requirements for proprietary software).
What can we do? Won’t this make free licenses harder to use?
Adding an explicit term after which works become PD should not complicate the “opt-in commons”, to use Mike’s term. This could be implemented with a few simple changes (I am imagining how CC could implement this; as they have great authority to recommend licensing norms):
- Define “PD-friendly” licenses as those which become PD in at most N years.
- Define the PD-date of a composite work as the latest of its component sources.
- Ask people to use a PD-friendly license.
Within that framework, people can use terms that make sense to them; some may want a license with a fixed PD date, so that a large group can collaborate on a shared work which is set to become PD in 2020. Ongoing collaborations like Wikipedia could use a license set to become PD after 8 years – so the latest version of a project would always be under a CC-SA license, but one from today would become PD in 2020.
Creative Commons and others could then promote the use of PD-friendly licenses. Collaboratives like Wikimedia communities, and publishers like O’Reilly, could switch to those licenses for their projects and works. Together we would return to building a true intellectual and artistic Commons — something which in the US has been starved of almost all works produced in the past 35 years.