Archive for August, 2013

Copy LQDN and Ada Initiative fundraising features

Friday, August 30th, 2013

A couple months ago La Quadrature du Net opened a fundraising campaign. I appreciated that they placed a very easy to understand and very revealing version of their annual budget right on their main fundraising page.

lqdn budget

This should be feasible for arbitrarily large organizations, but to maintain the revealing feature, a drill-down page may be necessary. Sure, one can criticize the choice of chart, or that this is presented as a bitmap, but those are minor details. The information is useful and revealing, and I suspect being capable (operationally and politically) to provide useful and revealing info directly is a positive indicator of organizational health. Donors to organizations that claim to stand for anything like transparency should accept nothing less.

The Ada Initiative has one day remaining in its fundraising drive (donate page). I’ve never seen a better executed blog-why-you-support-us effort. Examples below; even if they don’t convince you that blogging is relevant again, they might convince you to donate to Ada Initiative:

“Executed” is perhaps the wrong word: such strong and personal calls speak to the organization and its constituency being very clear about what the organization is trying to do and how it is doing it. Without this clarity, it is basically impossible to achieve anything but muddled and weak messages, from the organization itself, nevermind its constituency.

I don’t know how effectively LQDN’s constituency is helping it fundraise (I would not expect to, as it’d be mostly in French) nor do I know if Ada Initiative publishes any budget info (I didn’t look hard), but my point is to highlight how well each does on a particular aspect of fundraising, not to evaluate other aspects — though to repeat, I think getting either of these particular aspects right probably indicates a lot of other things are right. Copy rightness.

Flow ∨ incentive 2013 anthology winner

Thursday, August 29th, 2013
Anthology Future of Copyright 2.0 cover

The Futureof Copyright 2.0 contest has a winner, published with 8 other top entries. Read the anthology PDF/EPUB/MOBI ebook, listen to an audiobook version created by me reading each entry (for the purposes of judging) on sight aloud, or individual entries linked below in my review.

A Penny for Your Thoughts by Talllama is the winner, unanimously selected by the jury. It’s a fun transposition of exactly today’s copyright and debates (including wild mischaracterization) into a future with mind uploading. Quotes:

“My mom and dad would get upset at me.” He sent her a copy of his anxiety.
“Well my dad says copyright is stupid,” Helen said, sending back an emotion that was pitying yet vaguely contemptuous. “He says anyone who won’t pirate is a dummy.”
Timothy scowled at her. “My dad says that piracy is stealing.”
“My dad and I have trillions of books and thoughts, so we know better than you,” Helen said.

“You see, Timothy,” his father continued, “If people didn’t have an incentive to think or dream, they wouldn’t. And then no one would have any new thoughts. Everyone would stop thinking because there wouldn’t be any money in it.”
“But you said people had thoughts in 1920 even though there was no copyright.”
“Yes, you’re right. What I mean is that there were no professional thinkers in those days.”
“It would be bad if people stopped thinking,” Timothy said.

Lucy’s Irrevocable, Colossal, Terrible Mistake by Chris Sakkas tells a story in which releasing stuff under a free license has amazing results. Unfortunately free licenses aren’t magic, and it isn’t clear to me what the story says about the future of copyright. Quote:

An alternative bookshop in Sussex, on the other side of the world to Lucy, created a video ad with her favourite song as its backing track. The ad ended with a thanks to Lucy for releasing her music under a free, libre and open licence and a hyperlink. Hundreds more people visited her site, the passive consumers of big business! They used the donate button on her site to spray her with filthy lucre.

Perfect Memory by Jacinto Dávila describes a world of 2089 mediated by perfect memory of all non-intimate events and voting for assignment of credit; copyright plays what role in such future? Quote:

[Socio-mathematics] was also the source of an unprecedented and fundamental agreement. All the stakeholders of the world came, after many unfortunate and even bloody events, to negotiate a new framework for producing and sharing common knowledge. And the basis they found was that to preserve freedom, but also the health of the whole planet and its species, that knowledge had to be shared, easily and readily, among all the stakeholders.

That led to a rebuttal of so-called intellectual property and copyright laws and their replacement with a body of global law acknowledging our common heritage, codependent future and the fundamental right of knowledge everyone has.

Copyrights in Chopin’s future by Krzysztof Blachnicki (English translation by Wojciech Pędzich) has Chopin resurrected in 2015 through unspecified but expensive means, then exploited by and escaping from the current recording industry. A fun idea, but ultimately a stereotypical anti-recording-industry rant. Quote:

I hope that more people will have their own opinions instead of listening to the hissing of those snakes, sucking money out of artists to pay off their new automobiles. Wake up, folks, a good musician will earn his daily bread even if he decides to let his music go for free, for all to share. A poor man will be able to listen to real music, while a wealthy man will make the artist’s effort worthwhile. Isn’t it all about just that? Each may benefit, except the music companies which become redundant, so they turn to lies in order to keep themselves afloat.

What is an author? by refined quotes is a story in which all legal ideas are closely regulated and bland, “old art” outlawed so people consume new, legal stuff, the good stuff and real artists are underground, and with an additional twist that ideas take animal form. Quote:

You see? An artist is a little like an art producer. But he deals with the genuine ideas, as you see. He doesn’t buy them, like the law says he should. He just comes to places like this and spends his time with them. It’s a slow process. No one knows why precisely, but this crazy little ideas are in love with him, well, with all the artists.

The Ambiguous Future of Copyright by HOT TOCO is a snarky take on where copyright and computing are headed, presumably meaning to project ambiguous reception of Ubuntu/Canonical ten years into the future. Quote:

Friend2: “If I can extract info from this rant, I think Commonible, Ltd, is saying they’ve perfected trusted computing, fully protecting you from hacking and making ALL media available, fully compensating all value chains.”

Friend3 (quiet one): “I read about sth like this, Project Xanaxu. Real old stuff. The inventor thought the Web failed to transclude micropayments.”

500 Years of Copyright Law by Holovision embeds current copyright factoids in description of future eras. I can’t tell what its “Copynorm Exchange Decentralization Entente (CEDE)” regime consists of, but maybe that is also a current copyright factoid: someone reading a pamphlet describing copyright and mentioning a few acronyms (eg TRIPs) would not have much sense of the regime. Quote:

Attempts to put digital rights management into 3D printers were sooner or later unsuccessful against hardware hackers. There were open sourced 3D printers but many perceived them to be inferior to the commercially patented ones. When the commercial 3D printers were used to make other printers most companies left the marketplace. This left many still infringing the 3D printers with the excuse that the printers became “abandonware”.

Copyright Protest Song by Tom Konecki doesn’t seem to say anything about the future, but does capture various bits of complaint about the current regime. Quote:

Everybody wants only money and success
And none remembers the idea of open-access
To acquire knowledge and gather information
That is now the object of companies’ manipulation.

Copyright – Real Vision or fantastic vision? by Arkadiusz Janusz (English translation by Kuba Kwiatkowski) contains a proposal of the type “metadata and tracking will get everyone paid” explained in a parent-child lecture. Quote:

The file doesn’t contain a price, only points. In other words, the price is quoted in points. A point has a different monetary value for every country. Here, the minimum wage is about 1000 dollars. We divide the minimum wage by one thousand and receive the amount value of 1 point. If you download a movie, the server checks in which country you are, and converts the points into the appropriate price.

That’s why in our times, pirates are at on the verge of extinction. Most frequently, they’re maniacs or followers of some strange ideologies.

You can also read my review of last year’s future of copyright contest anthology, which links to each selection. This year’s selections are notably less dystopian and take less of a position on what the future of copyright ought be.

I enjoyed judging this year’s contest, and hope it and any future iterations achieve much greater visibility. Current copyright debates seem to me to have an incredibly short-term focus, which can’t be for the good when changes which have supposedly produced the current debate are only speeding up. Additionally, and my one complaint about the contest other than lack of fame, is that “copyright” is a deeply suboptimal frame for thinking about its, and our, future. I will try to address this point directly soon, but some of it can be read from my contest entry of last year (other forms of info regulation with different policy goals being much more pertinent than quibbling over the appropriateness of the word “copyright”).

You may see an embedded player for the audiobook version read by me below. Some of the durations shown may be incorrect; the winner, A Penny for Your Thoughts, is actually slightly less than 15 minutes long. Sadly the player obscures the browser context menu and doesn’t provide a way to increase playback rate, so first, a default HTML5 player loaded with only the winner:


Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Comment by Max Read on one of many articles about the hyperloop idea promoted by Elon Musk (apparently [edit: somewhat] similar ideas have been around for awhile, including the descriptively named vactrain):

Why would we build a “hyperloop” instead of just moving everyone in America to one huge city?

We could fit basically the entire U.S. population into an area around 9,000 square miles (think New Hampshire) at the population density of Brooklyn (35,000 people per square mile), which is more than enough space for public parks and small (and even, for some, single-family) houses.

A good, comprehensive public rapid-transit system could get you from one end of the city to the other in a couple hours at most.

The rest of the country could be turned into national public wilderness and some large-scale industrialized agriculture. We could also eat bugs for protein and grow vegetable gardens.

I don’t know how serious Read is, but why not, and why only “America”? All ought have access to the opportunity and wonder of The City — the opportunity and wonder of all humans.

Though a serious part of me is serious about this, I know that only small progress is possible for now, perhaps until the em era.

Thanks to Max Read for the fun comment, however intended.


Street patrons missing coordination protocol

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Lima, crowdfunded multi-device storage management:

When we designed Lima, privacy was one of our main concerns.

Lima stores your files at Home. So you can be sure you own your storage. Nobody in the world can access your data, but you. And you don’t need to pay monthly fees for that. The storage technology inside Lima was designed so you can get your data back anytime, even if your Lima device is broken.

The security of your Lima device is our first priority. Like a private datacenter, your Lima is far more difficult to hack than your computer. Our team works continuously with security experts to make sure it remains so. Like high security servers, your Lima will be frequently updated with security patches to keep it unaccessible from badly intentioned governments and individuals.

Comment from backer Suraj:

This looks like very great idea. I am definately a backer. I would like to know if there is any plan to open source the code (may be some kind of stretch goal) ? Whatever described as Tech FAQ’s looks great. But without open sourcing how one could be assured that there are no backdoors in the software. This is not matter of trust but it would be great if community can review the code and find out any security risks.

That’s a friendly way to ask, but it is a matter of trust: verify instead. Commenter Markus:

Suraj, you are absolutely right. If I would be the NSA I would also create a kickstarter project and try to convince everybody that this project is the perfect anti-PRISM-tool and implement lots of backdoors and route traffic directly to the NSA. So, open source software is basically a must. But I don’t think that they can afford to make the SW open source because then you could use basically any similar device and don’t have to buy plug.

The fundee responds:

@Suraj: Markus nailed it. We are too fragile as a startup to open source our code, at least now. All the innovation in Plug is software based. However, you’ll still be able to analyze Plug in/out traffic: that’s also a good way to make sure we don’t do bad things with your data.

That’s a stunning answer. Given that this device is managing your local files with remote-updated, non-auditable software, the attack surface is huge. Now remote update of non-auditable software is commonplace, but most purveyors of such don’t market themselves as anti-PRISM solutions, like this image on the fundee’s page:

Non-auditable slash-PRISM Lima

Contrast with a recent announcement from Least Authority:

We don’t even handle the source code of the client! We tell you to go download that from Debian, Ubuntu, or

We can never see your data, and you can always see our code.

Least Authority’s storage product is very different from Lima’s; but the above is excerpt ought be applicable to both as privacy-protecting products.

Of course open source is no panacea for NSA compromise or any other security threat, rather a good practice that should be demanded for anything related to security.

Apologies for the long prelude about something I’m unqualified to speculate about (security), comments about which were the first thing when I went looking for discussion of the fundee’s other answer about open source, which is also not very credible:

The only thing we manage on our side of the equations are updates of our app and the web interface of Lima. In case of company crash, we’ll do our best to open source at least the most critical parts of our code, so the community continues improving the solution every night.

Cheap talk if there ever was.

But I don’t blame the fundee, the company behind Lima; they are responding to what they see as business conditions, including lack of demand for software freedom (or open source, however you wish to characterize it) as a product feature that will change funding/purchase decisions.

Similarly, it is a bit odd, and a bit of trivia, that today’s crowdfunding services are in part descendants of ideas focused on provisioning works without copyrestrictions, but it seems that with minor exceptions, if a project produces works that are both transparent (eg revealed source or design files) and not legally restricted, it is merely a happy coincidence. Again, I don’t blame the platforms or the fundees. I (perhaps with some hubris) assign blame to people who want there to be demand for freedom for failing to stoke it, and failing to organize what exists.

Concentrated funders are very slowly making and coordinating their demands of fundees, eg Open Access mandates. How can crowdfunders/democratic patrons make analogous progress?

Related: lack of demand coordination, libraries, and e-books, a narrow coordination idea that I need to follow up on, and classic background.

Googbye Adalytics

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

I featured a 468×60 Google AdSense block in the footer of this blog since 2004-08-30, and included Google Analytics javascript since 2006-12-29. I failed to note adding either.

I’m behind on my 8 year blog refutation schedule, will probably do a six middle months post rather than Q2 and Q3 separately; see Q1. In the meantime, I’ll note removing AdSense and Analytics now.

I added AdSense as a small way of getting to know a hugely significant part of the net a little better through direct experience. My revenue expectations were met over the years — trivial, due to trivial traffic and relatively innocuous placement. Viewing my blog with a browser sans adblock and with flash for the first time in perhaps years just now prompted the removal and this post, which I had planned to do in the fullness of time — the innocuous placement was still ugly, and with flash enabled all of the ads are graphical and many animated. Clearly I have learned all I am capable of learning via this experiment, which I am glad I did. If I ever have something characterized as third party ads here again, it’ll be via some very different mechanism.

I more dimly recall adding Analytics because I never looked at log analysis generated reports, and maybe if I looked I would find something to optimize. I seldom looked at Analytics, and never discerned anything. If I really feel the urge to look again, I’ll use a log analysis program, and if I want an Analytics-like interface, use Piwik. I realize for some analysis, and especially some experiments, in-page javascript can be very helpful. If I ever really want to do that, Piwik can.

Relatedly, I’ve meant to recommend Don Marti’s blog for a long time, when I got around to saying and doing more about net advertising, but don’t wait for me.