Monday, 27 February 2006
Stavros the Wonderchicken is thinking about how tags can grow into virtual worlds.
Network engineers draw the Internet as a cloud, because it doesn't matter to endpoints how the packets get there. The packets get routed, but the protocols are designed to cope with messiness, with buffers overflowing, and computers crashing, and wires being unplugged or ripped up by backhoes. This is the mental model the end-to-end principle encourages - the net is just where packets come from and go to, and has a big 'Somebody Else's Problem' field around it. This is one place where engineers and normal people converge - they don't think about how stuff gets there, they just enter a website or email or IM address and there they are.
By contrast, telco's and networking providers, naturally, do see the wires and the complexity, because that's what they do. They can't use the SEP method, so they fall back on thinking hierarchically, which is another way of coping with complexity. This contributes to the difficulty of getting the open network argument across to governments - the hierarchic frame is a good fit for their default approach to organisation and information flow, so regulatory capture is a likely outcome.
There are countervailing ideas in political thought across the political spectrum, from commons theory to anti-trust and deregulation. The immense success of WiFi's tiny slice of free spectrum is promising, but as Doc, Eric and Mitch and Jon point out, the attack on net neutrality is building. We need to keep trying out metaphors of openness and freedom, invisible hands and co-operation, until we find one that fits.
Friday, 24 February 2006
The internet is up for debate again. I'd like to connect the thoughts of 3 smart women and one dead white male.
What I see is a generational divide - there is my generation, who built the internet; the protocols, the applications and are filling it with our thoughts and ramblings. For this generation, I'd claim Douglas Adams, whose 1999 essay I keep returning to. Do go read the whole thing; I'm going to cite a small part of it today:
we are still the first generation of users, and for all that we may have invented the net, we still don't really get it. In The Language Instinct, Stephen Pinker explains the generational difference between pidgin and creole languages. A pidgin language is what you get when you put together a bunch of people — typically slaves — who have already grown up with their own language but don't know each others'. They manage to cobble together a rough and ready lingo made up of bits of each. It lets them get on with things, but has almost no grammatical structure at all.
However, the first generation of children born to the community takes these fractured lumps of language and transforms them into something new, with a rich and organic grammar and vocabulary, which is what we call a Creole. Grammar is just a natural function of children's brains, and they apply it to whatever they find.
The same thing is happening in communication technology. Most of us are stumbling along in a kind of pidgin version of it, squinting myopically at things the size of fridges on our desks, not quite understanding where email goes, and cursing at the beeps of mobile phones. Our children, however, are doing something completely different.
danah boyd has been talking to our children, the MySpace generation, who have grown up with pervasive networking, and are making it their own place, a parallel world interwoven into their real-world lives:
What we're seeing right now is a cultural shift due to the introduction of a new medium and the emergence of greater restrictions on youth mobility and access. The long-term implications of this are unclear. Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture.
Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available.
Suw Charman, of the Open Rights Group, spoke at the RSA on the internet golden age this week (there is a full mp3 recording of the debate). I'm extracting Suw's conclusion:
Our hope is in teenagers, because they have grown up with the internet in a way that none of us have. For them this is all second nature - they will route round the damage that is done, but we have to make sure there is not too much damage for them to try and heal.
Susan Crawford, of OneWebDay, wrote a discussion of framing that talks of the founding fathers who say the Internet is a collection of standards that allow the networking of computers, the users who say the Internet is the collection of interactions and relationships that happen online, and contrasts them with the telcos who say that "the Internet" is about cables and connections that they charge for.
This leads us to a different generation, the politicians and incumbent executives who have prospered in a narrow culture of favours exchanged behind closed doors, of regulatory creation of monopoly rents, and who look at the next two generations with fear. It is up to us to make sure that the dynamic spontaneous orders that are continually being created with the Internet's help are not choked off by a backlash from the old order.
My generation draws the Internet as a cloud that connects everyone; the younger generation experiences it as oxygen that supports their digital lives. The old generation sees this as a poisonous gas that has leaked out of their pipes, and they want to seal it up again. This is why we need to fight for our spontaneous orders.
Ultimately, I believe the our more open way will succeed through it's very creative, positive-sum nature, but that does not mean we should complacently stand by.
Thursday, 23 February 2006
After all, just on my favorite's list I have Gaiman, Sessum, Scalzi, Charman, the Nielsen Haydens, Searls, Weinberger and Locke.
It may seem that you lot have a bit of an unfair advantage, but us amateurs do appreciate your good writing and try to learn from you.
Wednesday, 22 February 2006
Tuesday, 21 February 2006
More interesting for me, is that I can now search just within these, which can be very handy for those 'where did I read that?' questions.
Try it out, read about it on the Technorati blog and let us know what you think.
You can even favour me:
Saturday, 11 February 2006
I webcast and recorded this afternoon:
But only the Audio was recorded, not the video, so it may not make much sense. Here's the Geek Out Audio and here are the Canadian Blogs Power Law animations I showed towards the end (click on the first one for the different stages)
Thursday, 2 February 2006
Suw Charman, as well as presenting for the Open Rights Group, also took phenomenally extensive notes
A few selected quotes, focused on the 'code as law' and 'missing leeway' aspects of DRM:
From my previous submission:
The second principle is the core one of jurisprudence - that due process is a requirement before punishment. I know the Prime Minister has defended devolving summary justice to police constables, but the DRM proponents want to devolve it to computers. The fine details of copyright law have been debated and redefined for centuries, yet the DRM advocates assert that the same computers you wouldn't trust to check your grammar can somehow substitute for the entire legal system in determining and enforcing copyright law.
Each computers' immanent ability to become any kind of machine and the copying of data that happens as part of this, leads the DRM advocates naturally to the point where they want to outlaw computers, or to take them over by stealth, using virus-like techniques.
The reductio ad absurdum of this is to privilege DRM implementers in law above the owners of the computers on which their software runs, without their effective consent. Sadly, this is exactly what is being demanded by the publishers' lobby.
Suw for ORG:
DRM over-enforces the law. It reaches beyond the copy restrictions enshrined in copyright law; restricts fair and legitimate uses of legally acquired materials; and sometimes revokes or reduces ‘rights’ after purchase. It destroys the balance between private interest and public good and damages the public shared culture in our libraries.
DRM limits consumer’s ability to enjoy legitimately purchased materials and punishes behaviour seen by the majority as normal. The industry’s pushes towards more restrictive legislation will serve to do nothing more than criminalise more people. Yet the lawsuits which will clog the courts will do nothing to change people’s behaviour, because they believe what they are doing is fair and reasonable.
Q: If the public understood that DRM was to manage piracy, maybe they’d understand, but they see it as restricting private use. How do you reconcile that?
A: Balance between what people perceive they are entitled to do, and what they actually are. In the past, rights holders have ignored some usage, because it didn’t harm them. But with digital technology, it is damaging, and a new contract needs to be reached with the consumer so they understand what they can and can’t do.
This explicitly states the 'we get to decide what the law is' problem of DRM enforcement.
Simon Wheeler (Beggars Banquet):
As one of the only content owners at this session, we’ve had several licences with insecure businesses and our physical businesses has grown. We choose not to copy protect our CDs, in that we are trying to build trust with the audience, and build loyalty, and in return they respect our rights. Instead of trying to lock things down, which we don’t believe is acceptable, we are trying to go down the third way of building that trust. Companies that do try to lock down music on to CD, and the Sony-BMG rootkit is the most notorious example, and we think they are hurting the business as a whole. We have an obligation to deliver music to our users and consumers, and if we don’t make it available to them they will get it any way possible.
There’s a wide range of opinions throughout the industry and sometimes what you’re hearing and seeing, the loudest voice, is not representative of the industry.
Q: What happens if DRM comes under attack from consumers?
A: We have a proprietary DRM system, we can set the rules, it’s very flexible. But it is fair to say that if we were in a position that we were not able to distribute content with DRM we would have no business.
Note who sets the rules (hint, it's not 300 years of common law precedent in copyright law).
Q: Problem for libraries, is they need to get access after the DRM has become obsolete, and after copyright expired. Could you see a method enabling that?
A: If you’re a library, you want a database of everything that’s ever been recorded and there’s no reason why that can’t be made available to the publc. I would object, however, if they had all our books and made them available in the clear to the public.
Call me old-fashioned, but I thought that was the definition of a library.
Q: Your DRM helps the customer behave legally?
A: Well there’s been some discussion that the consumers don’t understand what their legal rights are, and that there are accepted practices. Benefits of DRM is that it allow people to do what they are allowed to do and no more, so they don’t need to know what the law is.
Again, the assertion that a) copyright law has hard edges and b) that computers can enforce it. Remarkable.
Publishers Association, Periodical Publishers Association:
Q: You can see why noninteroperabilties would be a commercial benefit to some parts of the chain. Is the driving force going to be interoperability?
A: We share some views with the Open Rights Group. Suw highlighted the problems of some companies locking people into to some platforms, but then you made the point of what if the customer rejects this DRM by not buying. In a sense that is the solution. It’s proper that customers should be able to say ‘I don’t like this, I won’t buy it’. That’s a right that the customer has, and industry can create several business models and one will succeed.
We are committed to interoperability and the key is open standards. As an industry we’re opposed to allowing any one tech interest to become a gatekeeper, who can impose themselves between us and our customers.
Louise Ferguson(?) consumer:
As more consumers, and we’re not just consumers, we are citizens who create our own content. Offcom recognises that consumers are creators, but all the systems we see at the moment deny this fact, and any approach to future policy should accept that we are not just passive consumers of corporate content.
FIPR - Ross Anderson:
Someone remarked that the industries [? indies] are getting more power, and I suspect this is because the indies have higher internal rate of return, because they are smaller, and this is more in line with artist aspirations, and this lines up with the public, selling for more money with more rights given to the consumer, rather than cheaper with less rights that the majors do.
Q: What can we do with legislation?
A: Revisit the contract terms legislation, because people have to sign EULAs. Also, look at fruit of the poisoned tree clauses, e.g. clause 42 of the patent act. So you could have a rule saying that you lose your legal protection if your DRM abuses people’s rights.
That would be feasible under current framework.
Now that would be a good restraint on the enforcement over-reach discussed above.
More information on previous submissions at the ORG wiki.