Archive for March, 2006

LimeWire Filtering & Blog

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Just noticed that the current beta (4.11.0) includes optional copyright filtering. See the features history and brief descriptions for users and copyright owners:

In the Filtering System, copyright owners identify files that they don’t want shared and submit them for inclusion in a public list. LimeWire then consults this list and stops users from downloading the identified files “filtering” them from the sharing process.

If you sign up for an account as a copyright owner you can submit files (with file name, file size, SHA1 hash, creator, collection, description) for filtering. Users can turn the filter on and off via a preference. now features a blog with pretty random content. I notice that another PHP Base32 function (which makes a whole lot more sense than the one included in Bitcollider-PHP — I swear PHP’s bitwise operators weren’t giving correct results and worked around that, but was probably insane) is available with a hint that someone is building an “open source Gnutella Server in PHP5.”

Remember that LimeWire is Open Source P2P and thus pretty trustworthy — and you can always fork.

No Inequality In My Backyard

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

I’ve been meaning to write about the recent larger than expected (very pleasant surprise) anti-anti-immigration rallies and in particular yesterday’s idiotic column from Paul Krugman (which I won’t link to as it is behind NYT’s shortsighted “select” service), but I’ve been very busy and Bryan Caplan has better said what I think in fewer words than I would have used in Half Million Rally Against Anti-Foreign Bias, With Critics of Immigration Like This, Who Needs Advocates? and Are Low-Skilled Americans the Master Race?

The comments on these posts are full of idiots, but the estimable Chris Rasch works in one of my favorite links — the Manifesto for the Abolition of International Apartheid.

However, I cannot restrain myself from picking on Krugman’s “Unconfortable facts about immigration” column. Krugman, with emphasis added:

First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small

This from someone who professes to be concerned about inequality. What better way to decrease inequality than to allow very poor people to drastically increase their incomes, merely by living and working across a river or entirely imaginary border? Why shouldn’t someone born in Mexico have the opportunity to earn the same wages as someone born in the United States with identical skills?

If we substitute “born in [jurisdiction]” to “born with [race or gender]” the answer is obvious.

Basic decency requires that we provide immigrants, once they’re here, with essential health care, education for their children, and more.

Here Krugman lets it slip: on one side of an imaginary border, one is human and must be treated with basic decency, whatever one thinks that entails. On the other side of a border, one is subhuman.

Anyone who professes to care about inequality and does not call for complete freedom to move, live and work across jurisdiction borders is deluded by the fog of jurisdicitonism.

As I was writing this Matt McIntosh posted an excellent followup to Caplan, Privileged By Birthright?:

It’s long past time for cosmopolitans everywhere to mount a serious offense against the premise that location of birth is a morally relevant category.

I realized a while ago that one way to tell a true liberal (in the broad philosophical sense, not the narrow North American political sense) from a poseur is whether their moral circle extends to include as much moral consideration to those beyond their border as to those within it.



Sunday, March 26th, 2006

Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas in today’s NYT tantalizes and annoys. Although the article never uses the words prediction market or similar (idea futures, decision market) it seems to describe a wildly successful internal prediction market at Rite-Solutions (see below for link), though I have to wonder whether the company isn’t giving more credit to its internal stock market than is warranted (a product line suggested via the market just a year ago now accounts for 30 percent of sales — either their salespeople are expert at pushing vapor or the product was already under development) for the press.

InnoCentive, the other company profiled, seems to be a site for biologists and chemists, much like RentACoder.

The article attempts to segue between the stories:

The next frontier is to tap the quiet genius that exists outside organizations — to attract innovations from people who are prepared to work with a company, even if they don’t work for it.

I agree that’s an interesting frontier, but contracting out solutions, while good and useful, differs wildly from using a market to make or inform decisions. What could’ve been an interesting story on either company turned into another breezy zeitgeist article.

In any case, a company might want to open parts of its internal prediction market to its customers, suppliers, shareholders, or even the public. I don’t think either mentions prediction markets (I’ve only skimmed), but this would very much be in the spirit of and Collaboration Rules.

Here’s a suggestion for Rite-Solution’s stock market — get a real web site (symbol: WWW). The Flash thing at is from bizarro world — looks a little bit like a web site, but really slow, totally pointless transitions, and utterly unlinkable. A good reminder what the net would be like without open formats and standards.

Bob Ostertag

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Today avant garde musician released digital downloads of all of his recordings that he holds the rights to under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. There will doubtless be a post on the CC weblog about this, but I write here as a fan of Ostertag’s music. To my taste this is the best music to be made available under a CC license so far. It’s too bad he didn’t choose Attribution-ShareAlike instead of Attribution-NonCommercial, but I can’t have everything I want. (Via Steev Hise.)

On a slightly related (see below) note, I’m really looking forward to the performance with April 21 at Yerba Beuna. My review of a Kronos/Asha Bhosle concert last fall, also at YB.

(Ostertag performed with Kronos on All the Rage, unfortunately not one of the recordings he holds the rights to and Matmos was a contributor to the .)

Addenda 20060326: The CC blog post.

On second read I noticed this in Ostertag’s mini-essay (emphasis added):

Saying goodbye to record royalties is in any event no great sacrifice for a musician such as myself, whose music has always been too adventurous to be valued by the mass market anyway. Strangely, many musicians I know whose work lies outside the mainstream remain much more invested in the idea of selling their recordings than their actual experience in the market would seem to justify.

This rings true to me. I’ve often been surprised at just how proprietary some artists are — many being generally suspicious of capitalism and in no position to make more than a pittance selling their art under any regime. Double or triple irony.

Ostertag’s release (but not the above quote) reminds me of a concert he gave February 25, 1998 at Venue 9 in San Francisco. I found myself sitting next to Don Joyce of and tried to convince him to be more radical about IP, in addition to expressing appreciation for his work.


Saturday, March 25th, 2006

I’m ten days late, but finally, a worthwhile holiday: March 15 is Tyrannicide Day!

There are many holidays around the world that have their origins in revolution, e.g., and the Fouth of July, but these are mainly celebrations of the jurisdictions that followed revolution and their supposed national identities.

Tyrannicide Day does not celebrate successful revolution, nor any specific revolution or jurisdiction, so cannot be easily usurped. Charles Johnson, instigator of Tryannicide Day:

What I want to honor today is tyrannicide not as a political strategy but as a moral fact: putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street. Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had this insight at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such. Thus always to tyrants.

Next year I will celebrate on time and in style!

Who’s harmed by (housing) inflation?

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Jason Ruspini writes about a discussion of upcoming housing futures. One of the open questions about this new market is who will buy (buy long that is — use for hedging against price declines is considered obvious). I often see it implied that the only set of people harmed by housing price increases are non-homeowners. Ruspini:

The natural buyers would be prospective home-buyers, trying to ensure that they aren’t priced-out of the market, but the relative wealth of that group is – naturally – very small.

But most homeowners are prospective home-buyers. Though U.S. residents are moving less often (this was a big surprise to me) 1 in 14 homeowners moves each year and the market for second homes is booming. It seems that anyone potentially moving to better, additional, or housing in a more expensive market than their own would be interested in hedging against price increases. Add in parents who want to ensure their children can buy a home nearby, you have a large and very wealthy group.

is quoted making essentially the same mistake in an otherwise excellent article on his work recently published in the NYT Magazine:

Homeowners, he points out, have a strong incentive to stop new development, both because it can be an inconvenience and also because, like any monopolist, stopping supply drives up the price of their own homes. “Lack of affordable housing isn’t a problem to homeowners,” Glaeser says; that’s exactly what they want. “The thing you want most is to make sure that your home is not affordable if you own it. And for that reason, there’s absolutely no reason to think that little suburban communities with no businesses that are run essentially by their homeowners will make the right decisions for the state as a whole, for the business in the area, for the country as a whole.”

Actually I think it is the anti-housing homeowners who are mistaken (or very short-sighted), not Glaeser, who is probably right at least in part about their motivations.

It seems to me that except to the extent one exits the market (by selling vacation homes, trading down, or moving to a less expensive market) rising prices don’t offer homeowners much benefit apart from bragging rights and the ability to obtain larger secondary loans (which have to be paid back).

Consider car owners, or an even more extreme case, food owners. If car or food production was restricted, the price of their assets would increase. However, in a few years, or a few days in the case of food, they would have to pay in some combination of higher prices, lower quality, and lower quantity.

It is pretty clear that everyone benefits from cheaper transportation and food regardless of whether they presently have a car in the garage and bread in the cupboard and that everyone is harmed by more expensive transportation and food. I’d argue housing is much more like cars and food — consumption goods — than most people are ready to admit.

Absurd Sex, Suicide, Migration, and Ugly Apple

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Tyler Cowen asks “What is your most absurd view?” and gets an absurd number of comments.

Yes your comment should be crazy but serious too. It should refer to a view which you actually hold, but many other smart people consider untenable and bizarre.

Four of mine:

Sex and its pursuit is the cause of most personal troubles and most people would be happier with zero sex drive. Watch nearly any movie. If the characters weren’t horny they wouldn’t be in any trouble!

Through most of human history the most rational act for most individuals at any point in time was immediate suicide, given the suffering they should have expected to endure.

With respect to movement, residence and employment all humans should be as free to disregard international jurisdiction borders as they are to disregard intranational (e.g., U.S. state) borders and anything less is morally the same as South African Apartheid.

Nearly every user interface and product from Apple has been aesthetically and functionally ugly, from the orginal MacOS to iTunes. I don’t think I can blame Steve Jobs, as NextStep was wonderful. (Yes, I know OS X is derived from NextStep. They ruined it.)

Note that to the extent readiness to host certain beliefs is under evolutionary pressure my first two beliefs and perhaps the third would be strongly selected against.

Mostly I am an absurd hypocrite: I have a sex drive (but I gather it is less out of control than the average person’s), I have no intention of committing suicide, immediately or otherwise (but I think it is not absurd to expect relatively little suffering in wealthy parts of the 21st century), I live in the national jurisdiction I was born in (do I get any credit for 2000 miles away?), but I have never owned an Apple product.

SXSWi wrap

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

There were a surprising number of panels more or less concerning entrepreneurship. I only attended one of these, Sink or Swim: The Five Most Important Startup Decisions. It was very mildly amusing but as far as I could tell the only important decision discussed was whether to look for outside funding or not, a well-trod topic if there ever was one. There was even one panel on Selling (Big Ideas to Big Clients).

I understand that was mentioned in passing on many panels. Attendees coming to our booth were much better informed than in years past, part of a greater trend.

The Digital Preservation and Blogs panel I was on was interesting for the self-selection of the audience — I imagine every librarian and historian attending were present. A writeup, photo, and my narrow take.

Both accepted panels I helped conceive went very well, especially Open Science. Though an outlier for SXSW the audience Q&A as high quality. Moderator John Wilbanks did a great job of keeping a diverse panel (open access journal editor, synthetic biologist, IT standards person, and VC) on point.

Commons-Based Business Models included Ian Clarke of Revver, which encourages sharing of short videos with an unobtrusive advertisement at the end under a CC license that does not permit derivative works. This licensing choice was made so that stripping out the advertisement is not permitted. Jimmy Wales challenged Clarke to think about opening up some content on an experimental basis. Sounds like a good idea to me. I suggested from the audience that attribution can require a link back to Revver, so even modified videos are valuable. Clarke responded that advertising at a link away is far less valuable. True, but the question is whether derivative works that could not otherwise exist become popular enough to outweigh those that merely remove advertising. I suspect many derivatives would be uploaded directly to Revver, allowing the company and original creators to take full advantage of additional revenue and to become the leading site for explicit remixing of video, a la ccMixter for audio. Seems worth an experiment — Revver is in no danger of becoming the leading video site at the current rate.

I also asked Clarke about interest in his patronage system. He said Revver is aimed at the same problem (funding creators) but was easier to implement. In the same vein I met John Pratt of Fundable, which is based in Austin. I got the impression he didn’t think the service could be viral (I disagree). I’ve written about FairShare, Fundable and related ideas several times in the past, mostly linked to in my Public Goods Group Shopping post and its comments. The field is ripe for a really good service.

The EFF/CC party was very well attended, even not considering its obscure location (an Elks club). In the middle of the facility was a room of Elks members, playing cards and other games, oblivious to the SXSW crowd that outnumbered Elks even in that room. I gave a very brief thank-you speech for CC, which I closed with a prayer (because we were in Texas) to J.R. “Bob” Dobbs (because we were in Austin).

At the end of the trade show Rob Kaye alerted me to the giveaway of every book at a well-respected computer publisher’s booth to “cool geeks” or similar. 5-10 years ago this would’ve really excited me, but this time I was mostly concerned about bulk and weight. I took a few. I suspect they’ll be among the last computer books I obtain, free or otherwise.

James Surowiecki gave a presentation which I did not attend but I hear focused on prediction markets. I should’ve made the time to attend simply to see the crowd reaction. Several of the latest sites cropping up in that field certainly look like they were designed by potential SXSW attendees — circa 2004/5 generically attractive web applications. I should have some posts on that topic soon, starting with Chris F. Masse’s 2005 Awards.


Sunday, March 12th, 2006

Congratulations to for taking care of a longstanding substandard feature — a proprietary and not very scalable acoustic fingerprinting technology (Relatable TRM). Today MusicBrainz announced integration with MusicIP’s MusicDNS fingerprinting service, full details in the announcement.

Funny thing, I just cleared all the (old, mostly gathered in 2001) TRM tags from a couple weeks ago.

Creative Commons license tracking is also now enabled at both MusicBrainz and MusicIP, no doubt more on that at the CC weblog in the near future.

Belated congratulations to MusicBrainz for signing their first commercial deal in January.

I wrote some about MusicBrainz about 15 months ago. I predict the next 15 months will be very good for what I’ll call “open music infrastructure.”

Bitzi as Tagging 1.0 Metacrap

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

On the Tagging 2.0 panel just cited as (more or less) a non-successful predecessor to Tagging 2.0 applications, saying something like “things like Bitzi (mumble) Cory Doctorow called .”

Vander Wal recently explained in a comment at Joho the Blog:

The big thing that was different, from say Bitzi, was people tagging information in their own vocabulary for their own reuse. Tagging information for others as a priority seems to make it far less accurate as a person may not understand the terms they are using (well understand them as other may).

He’s right. There’s too little private benefit to “tagging” at Bitzi, largely because what interfaces to what you have individually contributed are lame to the extent they exist. The Bitzi use case is rather different from and but it can learn a lot from them.