Ripeness being all: Snowden’s secret and the web’s New Nihilism
Heller via Yossarian:
He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled…
Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall.
Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage.
The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.
Ad Entrevista: ArchDaily draws meaning from arch Sebastian Gray
Via Vimeo: on national style, the role of architecture in society, and the future of architecture education in Chile.
Plumpy’Nut Patent – Has their “patentleft” option seen wide use so far?
In 1996, two French food scientists, André Briend and Michel Lescanne, developed a nut-based food formulation to serve as an emergency food relief product in famine-stricken areas. The goal was to have a high-density balanced food with a long and robust shelf life – one which, unlike the previous standard of milk-based therapeutic food, could be taken at home rather than in a hospital.
They soon formed the company Nutriset to further develop and commercialize the idea. Their most popular product, Plumpy’Nut, has shipped millions of units and currently makes up roughly 90% of UNICEF’s stocks of ready-to-use therapeutic foods [RUTFs] for famine relief.
In forming their company, they captured their idea in the form of a patent (a standard way to declare ownership of and investment) and went on to build a production chain around it. This included tweaked formulas and a family of products; production and packaging factories; and grant-writing and research to get certification + field-feedback + approval from various UN bodies. This involved few years of up-front investment and reputation-building, and then ramping up mass production of millions of pounds of Plumpy’Nut and its derivatives. They later set up a novel “patentleft” process allowing companies in developing countries to use the patent commercially, and make derivatives from it, at no cost — after a brief online registration. This is something which has received surprisingly little attention since, considering how simple and elegant their solution. Read on for details! (more…)
Kenya’s laptop dream: reaching for the firmament, and rote naysaying
Over at ZeroGeography, Mark Graham shares a prepub version of an essay he wrote for the Guardian, about the new Kenyan drive to provide laptops to its primary students. Firstly, thank you to the author for posting your thoughts on his blog as well.
The argument that “this [money] could be better spent“, however, is a bit stale. I don’t generally go in for critical theory and analysis (despite the obvious rightness of tvtropes!), but sometimes patterns show up so strongly in someone’s writing or argument that they are clearly part of a larger social norm and can be understood as such.
This essay is one part imperialist critique of developing countries investing in new tools, one part assumption of bad implementation, and one part missed context.
Graham worries that Kenya’s new e-learning plan — which extends recent efforts to make laptops available to older students, to all primary schools — is not part of a larger strategy; though the budget speech he cites describes such a strategy. He makes assumptions about how much of the national budget goes to different basic needs which don’t seem to be accurate.
The central argument is one I hear often about why underdeveloped regions should slow down technological & educational change. It runs something like this:
A) don’t introduce new things, fix old things first.
B) come up with a strategy addressing all possible issues before including modern tech.
C) if your country is poorer than mine, there must be something basic and low-tech you need more.
D) technology amplifies existing skills. it is wasteful to subsidize it for the less privileged, who can’t use it properly anyway.
These arguments don’t stand up to a second look. Sure, it would be ideal to fix “all the things” — various underlying inequalities, inadequacies of the existing system of experts and mentors and teachers, gaps in the quality of textbooks and in local job opportunities for better-educated youth. But no single effort will do all of that. If you are lacking many things, your primary long-term bottleneck is often your ability to develop new solutions: you need more seed corn, not more ugali. Outside of an immediate crisis, you need knowledge, tools, factories, and other local capacity, so you can go on to invest in your own community while resolving other problems, basic and complex.
And lastly, the idea of not offering a powerful opportunity to those less privileged, because it might take them some time to make the best use of it… that sort of argument is not even wrong. In the short term, any opportunity would be used ‘more thoroughly’ by the already-privileged. But they have usually had that opportunity to begin with; government programs simply subsidize it for those without. Comparing who could “use it better” is a fallacy.
By definition, when you start bootstrapping you don’t have a lot; you get there step by step. And every individual and community deserves access to bootstrapping tools: Blackboards, electricity, glasses, phones, bikes, computers, and other technology. Not necessarily for free, sometimes requiring sweat and barnraising by the community, but as part of a civil campaign to make this part of society everywhere. These are all generative technologies, catalysing other new work, returning far more than their cost in what they enable. This is true three times over for computers: they are communication devices, creative tools for making and sharing, and factories for new tools. So the results of a community learning to use them includes trying and discovering new things not currently imagined.
Graham does make the following excellent point in his essay:
There is a long history of people and states framing information and communication technologies as a solution to economic, social, political, and even environmental problems.
So there is. Kenya should be clear that having tools, capacity, knowledge, stronger social networks, and access to more markets and jobs is not the same as solving specific problems. This will make it easier to solve some problems; it will create others; it will add to the general standard of living and also the expectations that come with it. It will empower people to do both good and bad things. It will be a boon to gamers and activists and gambling and muckraking and cottage industry and artists and pornography and transparency.
But it will surely prepare the country’s youth to be an active part of the internetworked world in which we live, and to help design its future.
Rep Mark Takano, California Congressman, Internet Hero
There Will Be Charts.
This is what I always assumed the best political minds in our country would spend their time doing, solving difficult problems at the highest level of social- and legal-norm creation. Thank you, Mark Takano.
Wikimedia is protected as a host, Italian courts rule
Former Italian Minister of Defense Cesare Previti, angry that his Wikipedia biography had at one point contained a statement he found offensive, recently filed suit against the Wikimedia Foundation: claiming that it published defamatory statements.
An Italian court ruled that as a hosting provider, not a content provider – allowing others to create content but not creating it – Wikimedia was protected from such claims. Their two considerations – whether the role of the WMF is clear, and whether there are procedures for readers to address errors, both marked Wikimedia as a host.
This is covered in more detail on the WMF blog. Thanks to our Italian counsel Hogan Lovells for their support in this case.
Ilario Valdelli, from the national chapter Wikimedia Italia, commented:
The justice in Italy is really slow in general, but in this case the timeline has been short and the result of the court of justice really good for the future.
The definition that the prosecutor is able to change the definition in Wikipedia and for this reason there is no sense to accuse Wikipedia or WMF, it’s a good way to give an indication for the future.
Colegio De Arquitectos De Chile
El presidente siguiente (2013-2015)… será mi hermano. Felicitaciones, Sebastian!
Future Conduct and the Limits of Class-Action Settlements – James G.
The coruscating James Grimmelmann recently published a crisp, clean exorcism of “future conduct” releases in class action suits, in the North Carolina Law Review. Using a number of recent class actions as motivation, including the Google Books case, he patiently and eloquently dissects the ideas behind such carte blanche releases, and the rare cases in which they might be called for.
This is a gem of a monograph – worth reading even if you are not a copyright geek.
From the opening salvo (emphasis mine):
This Article identifies a new and previously unrecognized trend in class-action settlements: releases for the defendant’s future conduct. Such releases, which hold the defendant harmless for wrongs it will commit in the future, are unusually dangerous to class members and to the public… [F]uture-conduct releases pose severe informational problems for class members and for courts… create moral hazard for the defendant, give it concentrated power, and thrust courts into a prospective planning role they are ill-equipped to handle.
Courts should guard against the dangers of future-conduct releases with a standard and a rule. The standard is heightened scrutiny for all settlements containing such releases; the Article describes the warning signs courts must be alert to and the safeguards courts should insist on. The rule is parity of preclusion: a class-action settlement may release future-conduct claims if and only if they could have been lost in litigation. [...] The Article concludes by applying its recommendations to seven actual future-conduct settlements, in each case yielding a better result or clearer explanation than the court was able to provide.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to savor all 90 pages of finely referenced background and analysis, a handy comparative timeline is on p.410, the standard and rule start on p.431, and the 7 brief case studies start on p.458.
via the Laboratorium.
Wikipedian forced to delete article by the French police
In France, a Wikipedia admin was sought out by France’s homeland intelligence agency, the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur brought physically to their offices, and forced to delete an article about a military base (which they claimed contained classified information) if he did not wish to be held overnight.
This sort of bullying tactic is one up with which we should not put. The issue later became a minor cause célèbre in the French press for a short time.
The Wikidata Revolution: enabling structured data love
A year after its announcement as the first new Wikimedia project since 2006, Wikidata has now begun to serve the over 280 language versions of Wikipedia as a common source of structured data that can be used in more than 25 million articles of the free encyclopedia.
By providing Wikipedia editors with a central venue for their efforts to collect and vet such data, Wikidata leads to a higher level of consistency and quality in Wikipedia articles across the many language editions of the encyclopedia. Beyond Wikipedia, Wikidata’s universal, machine-readable knowledge database will be freely reusable by anyone, enabling numerous external applications.
”Wikidata is a powerful tool for keeping information in Wikipedia current across all language versions. Before Wikidata, Wikipedians needed to manually update hundreds of Wikipedia language versions every time a famous person died or a country’s leader changed. With Wikidata, such new information, entered once, will automatically appear across all Wikipedia language versions. That makes life easier for editors and makes it easier for Wikipedia to stay current.” – Sue Gardner
The development of Wikidata began in March 2012, led by Wikimedia Deutschland, the German chapter of the Wikimedia movement. Since Wikidata.org went live on October 30, a growing community of around 3,000 active contributors started building its database of ‘items’ (e.g. things, people or concepts), first by collecting topics that are already the subject of Wikipedia articles in several languages. An item’s central page on Wikidata replaces the complex web of language links which previously connected these articles about the same topic in different Wikipedia versions. Wikidata’s collection of these items now numbers over 10 million. The community also began to enrich Wikidata’s database with factual statements about these topics (data like the mayor of a city, the ISBN of a book, the languages spoken in a country, etc.). This information has now become available for use on Wikipedia itself.
“It is the goal of Wikidata to collect the world’s complex knowledge in a structured manner so that anybody can benefit from it. Whether that’s readers of Wikipedia who are able to be up to date about certain facts or engineers who can use this data to create new products that improve the way we access knowledge.” - Denny Vrandečić, Wikidata project lead
The next phase of Wikidata will allow for the automatic creation of lists and charts based on the data in Wikidata. Wikimedia Deutschland will continue to support the project with an engineering team that is dedicated to Wikidata’s second year of development and maintenance.
Wikidata is operated by the Wikimedia Foundation and its fact database is published under a Creative Commons 0 public domain dedication. Funding of Wikidata’s initial development was provided by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence [AI]², the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Google, Inc.
More information available here:
Volunteers can get involved with Wikidata in many ways. Some of the first applications demonstrating the potential of Wikidata applications, and as a platform:
- The simia “tree of life” drawn from relations among biological species in Wikidata’s database
- “GeneaWiki” generates a graph showing a person’s family relations as recorded in Wikidata. See for example: the Bach family
Pope Francis is now Q450675 : In WikiData
Wikidata, the newest Wikimedia Project, is now in very active development, and being used on all of the Wikipedias. Here for instance is the item record for Pope Francis:
Paus Fransiskus, Францыск, Папа Рымскі, পোপ ফ্রান্সিস, Pave Frans, Pápa Proinsias, Ferenc pápa, Popiežius Pranciškus, Francés I (papa), Ransisku (Tayta Papa), I. Franciscus, 方濟各 (教宗), …