Archive for December, 2007

Strongly immoral leaders

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

A recent article in The Economist includes the following chart:

At a glance (apologies for a complete lack of rigor), two perceived traits set the two currently leading candidates (Clinton and Giuliani) apart from the rest: “strong leadership” and lack of “morality”. In other words, voters want an abominable person as their temporary dictator. If I could only ratchet down my cynicism, I would be disappointed and fearful.

My priority for any candidate is to reduce the power of the presidency — i.e., constrain an abominable person in the office.

The chart above in conjunction with the YouGov survey data it is based on make for great fodder for those who believe “the media” is suppressing : he is the only candidate in the relevant part of the survey not presented in the chart.

Steps toward better software and content

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

The Wikimedia Foundation board has passed a resolution that is a step toward Wikipedia migrating to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. I have an uninteresting interest in this due to working at Creative Commons (I do not represent them on this blog), but as someone who wants to see free knowledge “win” and achieve revolutionary impact, I declare this an important step forward. The current fragmentation of the universe of free content along the lines of legally incompatible but similar in spirit licenses delays and endangers the point at which that universe reaches critical mass — when any given project decides to use a copyleft license merely because then being able to include content from the free copyleft universe makes that decision make sense. This has worked fairly well in the software world with the GPL as the copyleft license.

Copyleft was and is a great hack, and useful in many cases. But practically it is a major barrier to collaboration in some contexts and politically it is still based on censorship. So I’m always extremely pleased by any expansion of the public domain. There could hardly be a more welcome expansion than ‘s release of his code (most notably ) into the public domain. Most of the practical benefit (including his code in free software distributions) could have been achieved by released under any free software license, including the GPL. But politically, check out this two minute video of Bernstein pointing out some of the problems of copyright and announcing that his code is in the public domain.

Bernstein (usually referred to as ‘djb’) also recently doubled the reward for finding a security hole in qmail to US$1,000. I highly recommend his Some thoughts on security after ten years of qmail 1.0, also available as something approximating slides (also see an interesting discussion of the paper on cap-talk).