Archive for November, 2012

4th empty quarter of 2004

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Previously, September.

Inalienable Rights. I thought that I had misunderstood these as impossible-to-remove instead of impossible-to-transfer, but I should not have readily accepted the latter. There seems little agreement over what inalienable rights means, and even if it did refer to impossible-to-transfer, it is not clear why 1:1 transfer is of universal interest (e.g., a murderer doesn’t get to enjoy living their victim’s life directly, but may obtain many other related things) nor why some such things should be described with the politically loaded term “rights” and other such things not: both non-comparability and substitutability and related are rampant; categories such as “inalienable rights” are mere posturing. Ironically for this refutation series, the post claims joy in recantation. But really, it is a pain; loose talk wins assuming a realistically high discount rate.

Divided Attention, Poor Judgement. Bush won the election; the traders were probably correct in judging the debate, but had to incorporate the stupid reactions of pundits, which they could assume may slightly influence electoral outcomes. My “divided attention” speculation had no basis, and even if it did would not hold today, under the assumption that pundits are also always dividing attention between a debate or whatever event is at hand and increasing their klout score.

Best Bitizen. As the post says a “dubious honor”, thus self-refuting. Also note that every single paragraph has a parenthetical, and one an inner parenthetical: difficult to read and atrocious writing.

Intellectual Protectionism amelioration committee criticizes a literal rather than intended reading of a statement. The essence of boring argumentation.

Morpheus with Bitzi “anti-spoofing” put this feature in the best possible light, highlighting a file that had been negatively rated by many Bitzi users. Most likely a very mall proportion of files that a user would encounter were rated at all, and invoking the feature would be a waste of time.

MusicBrainz Discovery (I) and MusicBrainz Discovery (II) claims that “it’s about discovery now” (I probably meant in contrast to to production of new, possibly free, works), but this never happened: music discovery has changed little, and imagined changes have had no appreciable impact on discovery of free works. The sweet spot for metadata is very, very small, and it is not clear MusicBrainz will ever be in it; that sweet spot includes many socio-economic factors, and both industry and the worldwide copyright beuracracy and hangers on, when they occassional have delusions about metadata solutions, play in their own sandboxes.

Brutally Bogus Link Policy Clearinghouse critizes Boing Boing’s probably joking and never enforced anti-anti-linking policy and adds a proposal that assumes linking policies are material and would add fragility to the web long before its time (link shorteners).

World Intellectual Freedom Organization discusses the then-proposed WIPO Development Agenda, which adopted 45 recommendations in 2007. Social welfare is included (but “balanced” with “balance”) in the very last recommendation in genius-named “Cluster F.” Case closed. I also used the word “model” without irony in the post, and have since not carried out a WIFO agenda.

Add 190k libertarian votes to Kerry’s margin based unwarranted (as the post says) extrapolation from an informal survey of quasi-libertarian quasi-celebrities. I don’t know whether a greater percentage of libertarians voted for Kerry than Gore (and that might get into definitional questions concerning whether a supporter of the Iraq invasion could possibly be considered libertarian), but the calculations supporting the +190k margin in the spreadsheet linked to the post, even more strongly indicated that libertarian support for both Nader and the Libertarian Party nominee would plummet. Nader’s support did crater, but libertarians were probably a negligible part of that. However, Badnarik, the LP 2004 candidate, did about as poorly as Browne did in 2000. For the candidate/party the informal survey ought to have been the strongest indicator for, it completely failed; all other calculations based on that data considered refuted.

Spitzer shits to music exploits a mistaken translation. Classy.

Richard Epstein’s open source leavings weakly countered a column Why open source is unsustainable which ought to have been instead titled Why open source is non-scalable. Some open source software is produced, and even plays a significant role in industry — but where it has, is not novel — standards, consortia, and other inter-firm cooperation has been important since before computers existed. All ought be deeply skeptical of a methodology which demands universal application based on mere existence proof. Families, unions, and cooperatives do not support implementation of universal communism, nor do GNU/Linux, Apache, and TuxPaint support universal software freedom. There can be no doubt, excepting extreme critiques of all technology, that software has greatly improved human lives, and most of that software is proprietary. As for my claim that government is a kingmaker in technology markets, and therefore should mandate open source so as to avoid rent seeking — Epstein would surely say that the problem is too big government: fix that rather than adding yet another to its list of favored industries.

Programmers’ National Party berates U.S. computer programmers and last century’s white South African miners for fearing and seeking to exclude competition. Instead, compassion is called for toward the fearful trade workers, and agitation against their bosses who seek to breed and profit from fear and hate on both sides of relative exclusion. What has been the greatest extent of cooperation between groups of workers where one group has obtained relatively vastly superior conditions and compensation to the other group, which is excluded by law and custom from the market the first group trades in? Perhaps this question would be a more effective tool for reducing hatred and grappling with fear among relatively wealthy workers than would impugning their morality.

Mundane floating concrete claimed that the biggest obstacle to seasteads would not be government opposition, but economic viability. While this might seem justified so far (there have been no seastead attempts), it is disingenuous in the long term. Seasteads do not have to become the dominant locus of production or even trading (generally outcompete land-based activity) in order to be “viable” — outcompeting land in even one medium-sized niche would be very exiciting, and could lead to more. But the post also fails to justify its critique of seasteading as “mundane” — not politically revolutionary. If seasteads did meet engineering and economic challenges, they would merely be used by states to stake exclusive claims to all of the planet’s surface (it turns out I have an unpublished draft from 2005 making this claim; I misremembered it being in the Mundane post, but I’m happy to not refute it now).

Kerry for temporary dictator says we must drastically curtail the prerogative of the imperial presidency. If this were a worthy objective, the endorsement of Kerry was a mistake. Had he won, it only would have terminated opposition to executive power four years earlier than actually occurred. But, the premise must also be attacked: a maximum leader is efficient; rather than casting out each in a fit of rage after one term, we must try harder to elect ones that will be beneficient in the first place. Hating the maximum leader for hard choices that a maximum leader must take only deters candidates that are potentially less power mad and more beneficient. We should celebrate democracy and our collective responsibility, not monkeywrench our elected leaders.

The futility of [un]voting uncharitibly and without warrant dismisses the primary contention of unvoting — that being loud about not voting, and one’s reasons for doing so, might be politically powerful — and instead attacks the strawman of merely not voting. One does not even have to speculate about unvoting as if it were something novel — explicitly political boycotts of elections deemed to be utterly corrupt (the elections themselves or the system they legitimize) is a regular occurance around the world. There is no reason to rule out the strategy “here” (wherever that is for you).

Approval Voting substantially reduces the expressive — the dominant — value of voting, and should thus be rejected. Voting for one (or in the ranked case, a #1) candidate promotes forming a very satisfying fantasy bond and group identity with one’s one or #1 and others with the same preference. Merely approving candidates, even if one voluntarily only approves one, kills the animal spirits that keep the economy of democracy at full engagement.

Temporary Dictator Election Prediction. Nader was the only candidate I made an accurate prediction about, and not a very precise one at that. Though probably very few people made any sort of prediction about all six candidates on the ballot in at least half of the states (apart from that implied by only taking two of them seriously) I would guess that most made better guesses than I did.

Major Party Vote Trading looked to increase the number of vote trading matches by facilitating trades across contests (there is a much more elegant way of stating this, but I’m failing to think of it) and directly between major parties — e.g., to coaelesce around relatively “good” executive and legislative candidates of opposite parties, or merely to encourage divided government, as the post suggests — rather than encouraging support of minor party executive candidates. But the increase in matches would be small, for trading across opposite major parties requires trading across an ideological divide, while trading votes between major and minor party candidates of similar leaning is only intra-ideology optimization.

Bush good for terrorist stocks. I already refuted an earlier post making identical points.

Sri Lankan restaurant closed not long after I praised it, and I have not eaten at a Sri Lankan restaurant since.

dx/dt Healthspan/Lifespan > 0 wants us to believe that even as average lifespan increases, average time spent in ill health decreases. This may be true, but does not incorporate magnitude of distress when health finally does fail — this seems highly dependent on how a particular society treats potentially terminal cases, and anecdotes about painful intervention being favored over pain reduction do not bode well. The healthy spin of the post also obscures a more funamental lack of progress — average lifespan has increased very slowly, and maximum lifespan not at all — it is hardly any accomplishment for healthspan to have increased more quickly.

Speculate on Creators. Such schemes have remained speculation or failed for good reasons, eg high coordination costs, low marginal impact. On the other hand, simple sales and donations work well. Useful optimization is along the lines of decreasing costs of those simple transactions, not the introduction of complex intermediation.

Logic of Collective Action can be overcome in maybe surprising (given only the theory) cases, but this misses the point: dominant institutions don’t surprisingly overcome collective action problems, rather they are configured so that collective action is facilitated and mandated. Exceptions prove the rule and are froth. Also see Epstein above.

Ordinary Submissions. In 2012 I am not able to locate let alone download the file mentioned via Gnutella. But there are many “download” web sites that claim to have it, and probably some do. Even better, the track appears to be on YouTube, many times over. Regarding theoretical checks on file quality, see “anti-spoofing” above.

Disunion Hopes bemoaned people bemoaning the sanctity of the unity of the Ukranian state, when there was a very strong (much stronger than “blue/red” state splits in the U.S.) geographical divide, such that many more voters could have their leader preference met if the jurisdiction split into two nations. But reactions of horror at the possibility of splitting of a state, however viscerally-based, ought be acknowledged as capturing much wisdom — and on the flipside, the notion that states ought split in order to maximize voter preference achievement is extremely facile. One could go on for a long time enumerating the pearls captured by pro-unity gut feeling, but to begin: any possibile split introduces a period of costly uncertaintly, and extended uncertainty and perhaps terror (a smaller number of voters do not achieve their leader preferences, but those that still do not are at an even greater disadvantage), and splits in one jurisdiction encourage those elsewhere, and thus create global turmoil. If the community of nations comprised a more efficient, well regulated market (see next), regular realignment according to voter preference might be more feasible.

Becker-Posner for Perpetual War claims quoted authors imply suppport for perpetual war via their justifications terror-on-terror reprisals and preventative interventions. As if this would be a bad thing. Perpetual war is the only way to achieve perpetual peace and human rights. We’re doing a very bad job of it. As I’ve noted recently “The market euphemistically known as the community of nations must do a much better job of self-regulating…or else!” This self-regulation must include a police component, and ought be exercised constantly. Any state which harbors, encourages, or engages in terror (internal or external to jurisdiction) or shows indications of intending to do either should be certain of a violent intervention by other states. At the same time, international courts must be made much more powerful and robust. Non-rouge states will sue each other in these courts prior to military action. Just as within relatively peaceful jurisdictions, most would-be criminal activity is suppressed via norms and relatively certain punishment rather than through what appears on the ground as a war of all-against-all, so will perpetual worldwide peace be achived.

North Korea Time Warp. Some interesting-sounding tidbits in quoted article, but don’t know why I blogged them. Quoted author continues to read the tea leaves and predict change (that’s how to make accurate predictions) to this day. I never added a link, but one can easily find claims regarding the productivity of household plots in the USSR.

Calorie Restriction vs. Accelerating Change. “Virtual worlds are the future!” Indeed. It turns out I don’t have a couple decades of catching up to do (regarding virtual worlds), nor would I have a couple extra decades to do it in.

Center for Decentralization. Romantic. But cancer is at least one of these: easier, more interesting, more pertinent.

Search 2005 both predictions for 2005 (“metadata-enhanced search” and “proliferation of niche web scale search engines”) were utterly wrong, and thus far were not merely early, and require great generosity to predict they will appear ahead of their time at any point in the future.

N-level blog entry references is parodied by the silly social media Curator’s Code. Not really, but consider blog:microblog::multihop backreferences:curator’s code.

ccPublisher 1.0. Close the loop by introducing metadata embedding and uploading via a custom cross-platform desktop application? It should have been obvious then, but certainly is now: skip all that, use web browser upload directly to most relevant website, possibly sites.

Don’t Forget Your Turmeric. Generally you’d mix with, indeed rely upon: other spices, medicines, and blog posts.

Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche. Hongqi, Volvo, Zil.

Individual Rights Management claims national security state and DRM similar in that they both restrict competition. Sure, I can imagine a story supporting such an assertion. But it’s tenuous and far from the most important story. Further, a more pertinent similarity exists: stupidity before malice. Also: both work far better than opponents admit.

Flip a coin, don’t recount, revote, and litigate is too busy being annoyed at the (error-prone) recounting of “every vote” to have bothered imaginging improving recounting (by not usually requiring counting “every vote”!) and the integrity of elections generally.

Deployment Matters uses an odd word to characterize what an article in part contrasting BitTorrent with other filesharing schemes gets wrong — only if read uncharitably. It would have been more clear to praise the article, and make the further point that seemingly global search is often a terrible discovery and trading mechanism. Web search has fooled us. Calibrate.

Future of culture & IP & beating of books in San Jose, Thursday

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I’m looking forward to this “in conversation” event with artist Stephanie Syjuco. The ZERO1 Garage is a neat space, and Syjuco’s installation, FREE TEXTS: An Open Source Reading Room, is just right.

For background on my part of the conversation, perhaps read my bit on the future of copyright and my interview with Lewis Hyde, author of at least one of the treated FREE TEXTS (in the title of this post “beating of books” is a play on “beating of bounds”; see the interview, one of my favorite posts ever to the Creative Commons blog).

One of the things that makes FREE TEXTS just right is that “IP” makes for a cornucopia of irony (Irony Ponies for all?), and one of the specialty fruits therein is literature extolling the commons and free expression and problematizing copyright … subject to unmitigated copyright and expensive in time and/or money to access, let alone modify.

Even when a text is in-theory offered under a public license, thus mitigating copyright (but note, it is rare for any such mitigation to be offered), access to a digital copy is often frustrated, and access to a conveniently modified copy, almost unknown. The probability of these problems occurring reaches near certainty if a remotely traditional publisher is involved.

Two recent examples that I’m second-hand familiar with (I made small contributions). All chapters of Wealth of the Commons (Levellers Press, 2012) with the exception of one are released under the CC-BY-SA license. But only a paper version of the book is now available. I understand that digital copies (presumably for sale and gratis) will be available sometime next year. Some chapters are now available as HTML pages, including mine. The German version of the book (Transcript, 2012), published earlier this year with a slightly different selection of essays, is all CC-BY-SA and available in whole as a PDF, and some chapters as HTML pages, again including mine (but if one were to nitpick, the accompanying photo under CC-BY-NC-SA is incongruous).

The Social Media Reader (New York University Press, 2012) consists mostly of chapters under free licenses (CC-BY and CC-BY-SA) and a couple under CC-BY-NC-SA, with the collection under the last. Apparently it is selling well for such a book, but digital copies are only available with select university affiliation. Fortunately someone uploaded a PDF copy to the Internet Archive, as the licenses permit.

In the long run, these can be just annoyances and make-work, at least to the extent the books consist of material under free licenses. Free-as-in-freedom does not have to mean free-as-in-price. Even without any copyright mitigation, it’s common for digital books to be made available in various places, as FREE TEXTS highlights. Under free licenses, it becomes feasible for people to openly collaborate to make improved, modifiable, annotatable versions available in various formats. This is currently done for select books at Wikibooks (educational, neutral point of view, not original research) and Wikisource (historically significant). I don’t know of a community for this sort of work on other classes of books, but I’d be happy to hear of such, and may eventually have to start doing it if not. Obvious candidate platforms include Mediawiki, Booktype, and source-repository-per-book.

You can register for the event (gratis) in order to help determine seating and refreshments. I expect the conversation to be considerably more wide ranging than the above might imply!


Saturday, November 10th, 2012

Last week I attended CODATA 2012 in Taipei, the biannual conference of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology. I struggled a bit with deciding to go — I am not a “data scientist” nor a scientist and while I know a fair amount about some of the technical and policy issues for data management, specific application to science has never been my expertise, all away from my current focus, and I’m skeptical of travel.

I finally went in order to see through a session on mass collaboration data projects and policies that I developed with Tyng-Ruey Chuang and Shun-Ling Chen. A mere rationalization as they didn’t really need my presence, but I enjoyed the conference and trip anyway.

My favorite moments from the panel:

  • Mikel Maron said approximately “not only don’t silo your data, don’t silo your code” (see a corresponding bullet in his slides), a point woefully and consistently underestimated and ignored by “open” advocates.
  • Chen’s eloquent polemic closing with approximately “mass collaboration challenges not only Ⓒ but distribution of power, authority, credibility”; I hope she publishes her talk content!

My slides from the panel (odp, pdf, slideshare) and from an open data workshop following the conference (odp, pdf, slideshare).

Tracey Lauriault summarized the mass collaboration panel (all of it, check out the parts I do not mention), including:

Mike Linksvayer, was provocative in stating that copyright makes us stupider and is stupid and that it should be abolished all together. I argued that for traditional knowledge where people are seriously marginalized and where TK is exploited, copyright might be the only way to protect themselves.

I’m pretty sure I only claimed that including copyright in one’s thinking about any topic, e.g., data policy, effectively makes one’s thinking about that topic more muddled and indeed stupid. I’ve posted about this before but consider a post enumerating the ways copyright makes people stupid individually and collectively forthcoming.

I didn’t say anything about abolishing copyright, but I’m happy for that conclusion to be drawn — I’d be even happier for the conclusion to be drawn that abolition is a moderate reform and boring (in no-brainer and non-interesting senses) among the possibilities for information and innovation policies — indeed, copyright has made society stupid about these broader issues. I sort of make these points in my future of copyright piece that Lauriault linked to, but will eventually address them directly.

Also, Traditional Knowledge, about which I’ve never posted unless you count my claim that malgovernance of the information commons is ancient, for example cult secrets (mentioned in first paragraph of previous link), though I didn’t have contemporary indigenous peoples in mind, and TK covers a wide range of issues. Indeed, my instinct is to divide these between issues where traditional communities are being excluded from their heritage (e.g., plant patents, institutionally-held data and items, perhaps copyrestricted cultural works building on traditional culture) and where they would like to have a collective right to exclude information from the global public domain.

The theme of CODATA 2012 was “Open Data and Information for a Changing Planet” and the closing plenary appropriately aimed to place the entire conference in that context, and question its impact and followup. That included the inevitable asking whether anyone would notice. At the beginning of the conference attendees were excitedly encouraged to tweet, and if I understood correctly, there were some conference staff to be dedicated to helping people tweet. As usual, I find this sort of exhortation and dedication of resources to social media scary. But what about journalists? How can we make the media care?

Fortunately for (future) CODATA and other science and data related events, there’s a great answer (usually there isn’t one), but one I didn’t hear mentioned at all outside of my own presentation: invite data journalists. They could learn a lot from other attendees, have a meta story about exactly the topic they’re passionate about, and an inside track on general interest data-driven stories developing from data-driven science in a variety of fields — for example the conference featured a number of sessions on disaster data. Usual CODATA science and policy attendees would probably also learn a lot about how to make their work interesting for data journalists, and thus be able to celebrate rather than whinge when talking about media. A start on that learning, and maybe ideas for people to invite might come from The Data Journalism Handbook (disclaimer: I contributed what I hope is the least relevant chapter in the whole book).

Someone asked how to move forward and David Carlson gave some conceptually simple and very good advice, paraphrased:

  • Adopt an open access data publishing policy at the inception of a project.
  • Invest in data staff — human resources are the limiting factor.
  • Start publishing and doing small experiments with data very early in a project’s life.

Someone also asked about “citizen science”, to which Carlson also had a good answer (added to by Jane Hunter and perhaps others), in sum roughly:

  • Community monitoring (data collection) may be a more accurate name for part of what people call citizen science;
  • but the community should be involved in many more aspects of some projects, up to governance;
  • don’t assume “citizen scientists” are non-scientists: often they’ll have scientific training, sometimes full-time scientists contributing to projects outside of work.

To bring this full circle (and very much aligned with the conference’s theme and Carlson’s first recommendation above) would have been consideration of scientist-as-citizen. Fortunately I had serendipitously titled my “open data workshop” presentation for the next day “Open data policy for scientists as citizens and for citizen science”.

Finally, “data citation” was another major topic of the conference, but semantic web/linked open data not explicitly mentioned much, as observed by someone in the plenary. I tend to agree, but may have missed the most relevant sessions, though they may have been my focus if I was actually working in the field. I did really enjoy happening to sit next to Curt Tilmes at a dinner, and catching up a bit on W3C Provenance (I’ve mentioned briefly before) of which he is a working group member.

I got to spend a little time outside the conference. I’d been to Taipei once before, but failed to notice its beautiful setting — surrounded and interspersed with steep and very green hills.

I visited National Palace Museum with Puneet Kishor. I know next to nothing about feng shui, but I was struck by what seemed to be an ultra-favorable setting (and made me think of feng shui, which I never have before in my life, without someone else bringing it up) taking advantage of some of the aforementioned hills. I think the more one knows about Chinese history the more one would get out of the museum, but for someone who loves maps, the map room alone is worth the visit.

It was also fun hanging out a bit with Christopher Adams and Sophie Chiang, catching up with Bob Chao and seeing the booming Mozilla Taiwan offices, and meeting Florence Ko, Lucien Lin, and Rock of Open Source Software Foundry and Emily from Creative Commons Taiwan.

Finally, thanks to Tyng-Ruey Chuang, one of the main CODATA 2012 local organizers, and instigator of our session and workshop. He is one of the people I most enjoyed working with while at Creative Commons (e.g., a panel from last year) and given some overlapping technology and policy interests, one of the people I could most see working with again.

Extra-jurisdictional voting

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Are there any jurisdictions that permit or encourage people who are neither residents nor citizens to vote? Assuming each voter on average contributes something to good governance, why not as many as possible?

Some objections and counters:

  • Sovereignty. Citzenship and statehood are sacred bonds, like marriage between a male and a female. But the world is highly interconnected, and as people’s exclusionary notions about micro human relationships are crumbling, so will their notions about macro relationships. Excluding by default nearly all humans from participating in governance that will effect them is anti-democratic.
  • Meddling. Big city A and little town B are antipodal. Big city A voters swamp town B’s elections, extract all wealth from town B. But voting is primarily expressive, not self-interested.
  • Money. All such campaigns would be very expensive, or at least could be won with an expensive worldwide media campaign. Paradoxically, money would be much less important, as the average voter would pull information, rather than have it pushed to them: most of 7 billion people won’t be reachable by a campaign.
  • Anti-liberal. Most humans disfavor many freedoms for religious and cultural reasons. Liberal jurisdictions have checks and balances that limit state power.
  • Fraud. Prevention of all of fraud, coercion and disenfranchisement is hard; impossible to enforce extra-jurisdictionally. Hardly an excuse for choosing disenfranchisement; there would be different tradeoffs with extra-jurisdictional, even global, voting, but things like pre-registration, crypto-voting, and cross-jurisdictional cooperation could help on some dimensions; also note objections to sovereignty, meddling, and money above.

Furthermore, some general mechanisms to address challenges:

  • In-jurisdiction selection of candidates, extra-jurisdictional voting.
  • Override extra-jurisdictional vote by in-jurisdiction supermajority.
  • Random selection of extra-jurisdictional voters.

I grant that each of the objections above present substantial problems, are not exhaustive, and my counters are overly dismissive (but I claim have interesting substance). Still, why not some experiments? How about in non-state organizational governance? [Added: Some membership organizations are such experiments.]

If you’re itching to tell me that local voting on desired outcomes, global betting on how to achieve same (i.e., futarchy) is another approach to obtaining more inputs into good governance, good for you. But all of the aforementioned is relevant to choosing desired outcomes — in some cases more should be permitted and encouraged to help choose.

A survey suggests that worldwide, Obama would trounce Romney. That’s wholly unsurprising. I’d be curious to see similar polling for many more elections in many jurisdictions.