Post Open Services

Ride- and car-sharing and computers

Thursday, August 9th, 2012


Underemployed vehicles and land at Fruitvale BART parking lot, the 5th of 11 stations between me and Fremont.

Tuesday I attended Silicon Valley Automotive Open Source presentations on Car- and Ride-sharing. I heard of the group via its organizer, Alison Chaiken, who I noted in February gave the most important talk at LibrePlanet: Why Cars need Free Software.

The talks were non-technical, unlike I gather most previous SVAOS talks (this was the first event in Fremont, which is much more convenient for me than Santa Clara, where most previous talks have been held), but very interesting.

I did not realize how many car- and ride-sharing startups and other initiatives exist. Dozens (in Germany alone?) or hundreds of startups, and all manufacturers, rental companies, and other entities with fleets are at least thinking about planning something. That seems good on its own, and will provide good experience to take advantage of further more intensive/efficient use of vehicles to be enabled by robocars.

Carpooling and other forms of ride-sharing has gone up and down with fuel rationing and prices. Carsharing seems to go back to 1948 at least, but with slow growth, only recently becoming a somewhat mainstream product and practice. Ride- and car-sharing ought be complements. Sharing a taxi, shared vans, and even mass transit, could in some ways been seen as primitive examples of this complementarity.

Rationing is not in effect now, and real prices aren’t that high, so I imagine current activity must be mostly be a result of computers and communications making coordination more efficient. This is highlighted by the reliance and hope of startups and other initiatives on the web and mobile applications and in-car computers and communications for access, control, coordination, reputation, and tracking.

But none of this seems to be open source at the end-user service/product level. Certainly much or even most of it is built on open source components (web as usual, auto internals moving that way). These seem like important arenas to argue against security-through-obscurity in vehicles and their communications systems, and to demand auditability and public benefit for public systems in various senses (one of the startups suggested marketing their platform to municipal governments; if reputation systems are to eventually mediate day-to-day activities, they need scrutiny).

BayHac

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

I attended BayHac over the weekend. There were a bunch of interesting impromptu talks. Notes on all those I recall follow, with other observations at the end.

  • The first talk encouraged people to get up, and demonstrated some hand stretches. Although almost everyone knows sitting hunched up all day is harmful, almost everyone needs an occasional reminder. A mention at any conference is well worthwhile for the individuals and community in question.
  • Plush is a POSIX shell server (in Haskell) with a web UI (Javascript; communication between them with JSON, session initiated with an unguessable URL), which already provides some nice context and control over display not available in a usual table, e.g., the output of each command is collapsible, pieces of the current path are clickable, and there are tooltips for each command argument.
  • You currently have to register (no verification) to see anything, but GitStar is a GitHub clone built on Hails, a framework for hosting mutually untrusted web applications (eg project wiki and source browser in case of GitStar), at least with respect to access to each others’ data, which is controlled via “Labeled IO”, with labels specifying policy around data based on Information Flow Control, a subject I had not heard of. GitStar and Hails source is mirrored on GitHub. An initial research paper and promise of more at the bottom of a README.
  • Visi is a language implemented in Haskell that seems somewhere between a spreadsheet and a traditional programming language read-eval-print-loop (ad hoc, immediate recalculation, but no grid). Spreadsheet programming is something I know almost nothing about, and ought to.
  • Composable Pipes. For readers who care about such things, note author dissuaded from using GPL in linked thread.
  • Something about typesafe reuse of types extending Agda’s typesystem. I understood very little (my fault).
  • cabal branch will checkout source for any Haskell package with source repository annotations — source of the specific version you’re using, if annotation specifies source-repository this.
  • A talk about Lift, a Scala web framework, mostly concerning the benefits of passing around a DOM representation rather than treating templates as blobs of text. I’m impressed by Lift, and played a bit with it a couple years ago, but was in no place to spend time to develop any real application.
  • Implementations of Paxos and parallel builds.
  • Interacting with DBUS (eg GNOME and KDE applications) from Haskell.
  • Shelly, a library for shell scripting in Haskell. Side point made that scripting languages, including Ruby, find initial popularity through scripting by sysadmins, not developer frameworks — true to my experience.
  • Visualizing n-gram relationships with SVG output.
  • Translating simple art pieces in Forth to C.
  • Pingwell is creating apps to bring pricing and other information to consumers when they can act on it, eg in a grocery store. I’m pretty sure this scenario has been imagined thousands of times over the past few decades, good that it will come to exist soon. The talk was mostly about using a Haskell computer vision library.

Other observations:

  • Macbooks in majority, but lower proportion than usual — and many, perhaps a majority, of people with Macbooks seemed to be developing on Linux in a virtual machine.
  • 100% male attendees, which is a bit disturbing, but I detected zero brogrammer vibe.
  • The first day was hosted at Hacker Dojo, which I had heard of but never visited. I was surprised at how large and quiet it was. At least during the day, it seems dozens of people use as a coworking space.
  • Web application development, Yesod in particular, is attracting more people to Haskell (I can’t find a reference, but recall that #haskell and/or /r/haskell watchers increased substantially on the day Yesod 1.0 was released). Newbie attendees (me included) leaning Haskell and Yesod further evidence.
  • Lots of anguish and anguished cries about dependency hell.

Thanks to BayHac organizer Mark Lentczner (also Plush developer and haskell-patform release manager; watch his intro to Haskell video) for putting together such a well run and friendly event. I felt some trepidation about attending, knowing that almost everyone would be both smarter and more experienced than me, but everyone was helpful and patient. I’m glad I went.

Libre Planet 2012

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

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A couple weeks ago I attended the Free Software Foundation’s annual conference, Libre Planet, held at UMass Boston a bit south of downtown. I enjoyed the event considerably, but can only give brief impressions of some of the sessions I saw.

John Sullivan, Matt Lee, Josh Gay started with a welcome and talk about some recent FSF campaigns. I think Sullivan said they exceeded their 2011 membership goal, which is great. Join. (But if I keep to my refutation schedule, I’m due to tell you why you shouldn’t join in less than 5 years.)

Rubén Rodríguez spoke about Trisquel, a distribution that removes non-free software and recommendations from Ubuntu (lagging those releases by about 5 months) and makes other changes its developers consider user-friendly, such as running GNOME 3 in fallback mode and some Web (an IceWeasel-like de-branded Firefox) privacy settings. I also saw a lightning talk from someone associated with ThinkPenguin, which sells computers pre-loaded with Trisquel.

Asheesh Laroia spoke about running events that attract and retain newcomers. You can read about OpenHatch (the organization he runs) events or see a more specific presentation he recently gave at PyCon with Jessica McKellar. The main point of humor in the talk concerned not telling potential developers to download a custom built VM to work with your software: it will take a long time, and often not work.

Joel Izlar’s talk was titled Digital Justice: How Technology and Free Software Can Build Communities and Help Close the Digital Divide about his work with Free IT Athens.

Alison Chaiken gave the most important talk of the conference, Why Cars need Free Software. I was impressed by how many manufacturers are using at least some free software in vehicles and distressed by the state of automotive security and proprietary vendors pitching security through obscurity. Like , get Chaiken in front of as many people as possible.

Brett Smith gave an update on the FSF GPL compliance Lab, including mentioning MPL 2.0 and potential CC-BY-SA 4.0 compatibility with GPLv3 (both of which I’ve blogged about before), but the most interesting part of the talk concerned his participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership Stakeholder Forums; it sounded like software freedom concerns got a more welcome reception than expected.

ginger coons spoke about Libre Graphics Magazine, a graphic arts magazine produced entirely with free software. I subscribed.

Deb Nicholson gave a great, funny presentation on Community Organizing for Free Software Activists. If the topic weren’t free software, Nicholson could make a lot of money as a motivational speaker.

Evan Prodromou spoke on the Decentralized Social Web, using slides the same or very similar to his SXSW deck, which is well worth flipping through.

Chris Webber and I spoke about Creative Commons 4.0 licenses and free software/free culture cooperation. You can view our picture-only slides (odp; pdf; slideshare) but a recent interview with me and post about recent developments in MediaGoblin (Webber’s project) would be more informative and cover similar ground. We also pre-announced an exciting project that Webber will spam the world about tomorrow and sort of reciprocated for an award FSF granted Creative Commons three years ago — the GNU project won the Free Software Project for the Advancement of Free Culture Social Benefit Award 0, including the amount of 100BTC, which John Sullivan said would be used for the aforementioned exciting project.

Yukihiro ‘matz’ Matsumoto spoke on how Emacs changed his life, including introducing him to programming, free software, and influencing the design of Ruby.

Matthew Garrett spoke on Preserving user freedoms in the 21st century. Perhaps the most memorable observation he made concerned how much user modification of software occurs without adequate freedom (making the modifications painful), citing CyanogenMod.

I mostly missed the final presentations in order to catch up with people I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, but note that Matsumoto won the annual Advancement of Free Software award, and GNU Health the Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit. Happy hacking!

Announcing RichClowd: crowdfunding with a $tatus check

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

RichClowd

Oakland, California, USA — 2012 April 1

Today, RichClowd pre-announces the launch of RichClowd.com, an exclusive “crowdfunding” service for the wealthy. Mass crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have demonstrated a business model, but are held back by the high transaction costs of small funds and non-audacious projects proposed by under-capitalized creators. RichClowd will be open exclusively to funders and creators with already substantial access to capital.

The wealthy can fund and create audacious projects without joining together, but mass crowdfunding points to creative, marketing, networking, and status benefits to joint funding. So far mass crowdfunding has improved the marketplace for small projects and trinkets. The wealthy constitute a different strata of the marketplace — in the clouds, relatively — and RichClowd exists to improve the marketplace for monuments, public and personal, and other monumental projects.

“Through exclusivity RichClowd will enable projects with higher class, bigger vision, and that ultimately long-lasting contributions to society”, said RichClowd founder Mike Linksvayer, who continued: “Throughout human history great people have amassed and created the infrastructure, artifacts and knowledge that survives and is celebrated. As the Medicis were to the renaissance, RichClowders will be to the next stage of global society.”

RichClowd will initially have a membership fee of $100,000, which may be applied to project funding pledges. To ensure well-capitalized projects, RichClowd will implement a system called Dominant Assurance Contracts, which align the interests of funders and creators via a refund above the pledged amount for unsuccessful projects. This system will require creators to deposit the potential additional refund amount prior to launching a RichClowd project.

For the intellectual products of RichClowd projects, use of a forthcoming RichClowd Club License (RCCL) will be encouraged, making outputs maximally useful to funders, while maintaining exclusivity. Egalitarian projects will have the option of using a free public license.

The technology powering RichClowd.com will be developed openly and available under an AGPL open source badgeware intellectual property license. “RichClowd believes in public works. In addition to the many that will be created via the RichClowd service, open development of the RichClowd.com technology is the company’s own direct contribution to the extraordinary public work that is the Internet”, said Linksvayer.

About RichClowd

RichClowd is a pre-launch exclusive crowdfunding service with a mission of increasing the efficiency of bringing together great wealth and great projects to make an amazing world. Based in Oakland, California, a city with a reputation for poverty and agitation, RichClowd additionally takes on the local civic duty of pointing out Oakland’s incredible wealth and wealthy residents: to begin with, look up at the hills.

Contact

Mike Linksvayer, Founder
biginfo@richclowd.com

FOSDEM 2012 and computational diversity

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I spent day 1 of FOSDEM in the legal devroom and day 2 mostly talking to a small fraction of the attendees I would’ve liked to meet or catch up with. I didn’t experience the thing I find in concept most interesting about FOSDEM: devrooms (basically 1-day tracks in medium sized classrooms) dedicated to things that haven’t been hyped in ~20 years but are probably still doing very interesting things technically and otherwise, eg microkernels and Ada.

Ada has an interesting history that I’d like to hear more about, with the requirement of highly reliable software (I suspect an undervalued characteristic; I have no idea whether Ada has proven successful in this regard, would appreciate pointers) and fast execution (on microbenchmarks anyway), and even an interesting free software story in that history, some of which is mentioned in a FOSDEM pre-interview.

I suppose FOSDEM’s low cost (volunteer run, no registration) and largeness (5000 attendees) allows for such seemingly surprising, retro, and maybe important tracks — awareness of computational diversity is good at least for fun, and for showing that whatever systems people are attached to or are hyping at the moment are not preordained.

I also wanted to mention one lightning talk I managed to see — Mike Sheldon on Libre.fm [update 20120213: video], which I think is one of the most important software projects for free culture — because it facilitates not production or sharing of “content”, but of popularity (I’ve mentioned as “peer production of [free] cultural relevance”). Sheldon (whose voice you can hear on the occasional Libre.fm podcast) stated that GNU FM (the software libre.fm runs) will support sharing of listener tastes across installations, so that a user of libre.fm or a personal instance might tell another instance (say one set up for a local festival) to recommend music that instance knows about based on a significant history. Sounds neat. You can see what libre music I listen to at alpha.libre.fm/user/mlinksva and more usefully get recommendations for yourself.

Addendum: In preemptive defense of this post’s title, of course I realize neither microkernels nor Ada are remotely weird, retro, alternative, etc. and that there are many other not quite mainstream but still relevant and modern systems and paradigms (hmm, free software desktops)…

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It started snowing as soon as I arrived in Brussels, and was rather cold.

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I got on the wrong train to the airport and got to see the Leuven train station. I made it to the airport half an hour before my flight, and arrived at the gate during pre-boarding. Try that in a US airport.

FOSDEM 2012 Legal Issues DevRoom

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

I attended and spoke at the FOSDEM 2012 Legal Issues DevRoom (Update 20120217: slides, blog posts) organized by Tom Marble, Bradley Kuhn, Karen Sandler, and Richard Fontana. I understand the general idea was to gather people for advanced discussions of free/libre/open source software legal and policy issues, bypassing the “what is copyright?” panel that apparently afflicts such conferences (I haven’t noticed, but don’t go to many FLOSS conferences; I bet presenters usually get the answer only superficially correct). I thought the track mostly succeeded (consider this high praise) — presentations did cover contemporary issues that mostly only people following FLOSS policy would have heard of, but I wished for just a bit more that would be news or really provocative to such people. In part I think 30 minute time slots were to blame — long enough for presenters to belabor background points, short enough for no substantive discussion. Given only 30 minutes, I personally probably would have benefited from a 15 minute speaking limit, thus being forced to state only important points, and leaving a little time for participants to tear those apart. Yes, I should have imposed that discipline on myself, but did not think of it until now.

Philippe Laurent gave an overview of cases involving “Open Licences before European Courts”. He did not list one recent “open content” case, Gerlach vs. DVU.

Ambjörn Elder on “The Methods of FOSS Activism” spoke about political activism; a worthy topic, but I hope for more discussion of activism for software freedom, rather than against ever worse policy.

In place of Armijn Hemel’s “Goes into an Executable? Identifying a Binary’s Sources by Tracing Build Processes” (missed flight) Kuhn and Sandler excerpted from a presentation on and took questions regarding nonprofit homes for free software projects. Writing this reminded me to make a donation to Software Freedom Conservancy, of which Kuhn and Sandler are respectively ED and Secretary of. Somewhat tangentially, I don’t find the topic boring, but I do find the lack of information, informed-ness (including mine), and tools regarding it boring. I don’t know of any libre documentation on running a nonprofit — I’d love to see a series of FLOSS Manuals on this. OneClickOrgs is a fairly new free software project to handle some aspects of governing a small organization, but I don’t know how useful it is at this point. Related to lack of documentation, some of the Q&A emphasized how little people know of these topics across jurisdictions — nevermind rule minutiae, even the existence of relevant “home” organizations.

Dave Neary on “Grey Areas of Software Licensing” questioned whether one could legally do various things, using examples largely drawn from GIMP development. The answer is always maybe. Fortunately developers sometimes take that as yes.

Allison Randal gave an overview of FLOSS history with a focus on legal arrangements in “FLOSSing for Good Legal Hygiene: Stories from the Trenches”.

Michael Meeks on “Risks vs. Benefits on Copyright Assignment” made the case that assignment (and some non-assingment contributor agreements) is harmful to participation, and proprietary re-licensing has not proven a good business, so a corporate sponsored software project ought to either be free (sans assignment and potential for propreitary relicensing) or proprietary, and fully enjoy the benefits of one or the other, rather than neither. He also indicated that permissive licensing can be better than copyleft for a free software project with copyrights held by a corporation, as the former gives all effectively equal rights, while the latter abets proprietary relicensing and ridiculous claims that the corporate sponsor will protect the community. Meeks repeatedly called on the FSF to abandon assingment, as for-profits disingenuously cite FSF’s practice in support of their own (FSF ED John Sullivan responded that they are getting corrections made where FSF practice is inappropriately cited and will work on explaining their practice better). Finally, Meeks requested an “ALGPL” which would require sharing of modified sources used to provide a network service, like the AGPL, but allow modifications that only link to or the equivalent ALGPL codebase to not be shared. I don’t know whether he wants GPL or LGPL behavior if such modificaitons are distributed. I was somewhat chagrined (but understanding; just not enough time, and maybe nobody submitted a decent proposal) that this was the only1 discussion of network services!

Loïc Dachary on “Can for-profit companies enforce copyleft without becoming corrupt like MySQL AB?” said yes, if they aren’t the sole copyright holders; on projects he is hired to work on, he seeks out additional contributors who will hold copyright independently.

John Sullivan in “Is copyleft being framed?” presented some new data, apparently replicable (based on Debian package metadata), showing that GPL-family licenses are used in the vast majority (did I hear 87%?) of Debian packages. Update 20120217: I did hear 87%, in 2009, and 93% in 2011. Note some software available under multiple licenses. Slides.

Richard Fontana on “The (possible) decline of the GPL, and what to do about it” suggested the need to start thinking about GPLv4, but I’m not sure for what issues2 — doesn’t matter; if the particulars of licenses can make a big difference, requirements for the next version of important ones should always be a relevant topic, even if there is no expectation of creating another version for many years. Fontana also indicated that perhaps the next (massively adopted, presumably) copyleft might not be created by an existing steward3 (meaning the FSF, or obviously CC in many non-software fields), which I take as an indication that license innovation is possibly more important than compatibility and non-proliferation.

I don’t remember much of panels with Hugo Roy, Giovanni Battista Gallus, Bradley Kuhn, Richard Fontana on application stores and Ciarán O’Riordan, Benjamin Henrion, Deb Nicholson, Karen Sandler on software patents, as I was probably preparing for my talk, but I trust that free software is still important if mode of delivery changes slightly and that software patents ought be abolished.

I spoke on “⊂ (FLOSS legal/policy ∩ CC [4.0])” (slides: odp, pdf, slideshare). Contrary to my apology I didn’t blog much of the talk beforehand. I will get to all of the topics eventually.

Most of the slides from the day should be available soon on the DevRoom’s page. Some audio might be available as well eventually.

Kuhn demonstrated his qualifications for another fallback career: crowd crontol. Fontana blogged a summary of the devroom. Sandler gave the most important talk on FLOSS policy (but not at FOSDEM). Marble apparently did almost all the organizing. Thanks to all! There will be another legal/policy devroom next year.

Addendum 20120210: Richard Fontana offered these corrections:

1“re network services, I mentioned rise as factor in possible GPL decline, coupled with AGPL pwned by dual-license hucksters”

2“main reason for GPLv4 right now is GPLv3 is needlessly complex, limiting popularity of strong copyleft.”

3“growing concern that anti-license-proliferationism concentrates power in privileged Establishment organizations”

Faded sidebar

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

I’ve occasionally mucked with my blog’s theme with a general aim of removing superfluous crap that makes reading posts harder. A couple weeks ago something Parker Higgins wrote inspired me to try a little harder:

How awesome is @niemanlab’s “faded” sidebar? And zen mode? That’s a site that cares about its readers.

You can view an archived version of the Nieman Lab site should their design change. The top of the sidebar isn’t faded, but overall I think the fading there is makes it a little easier to concentrate on a post without switching to “zen” mode (removing all navigation).

For my theme, I made the sidebar always faded except when hovered over, and float to the right as far away from the main content area as possible. All “header” content is in the sidebar so that there’s nothing preceding a post’s title.

I intended to remove anything hardcoded* for my blog, anything I don’t understand or not used, and anything that doesn’t validate, but I didn’t get very far on any of those. I doubt this will be useful to anyone, but patches welcome.

*Yes it is also a little ironic I’ve never bothered to published modified source used to run this blog until now.

End of the 2011 world

Saturday, December 31st, 2011


I took the above photo near the beginning of 2011. It has spent most of the year near the top (currently #2) of my photos hosted at Flickr ranked by their interestingness metric. Every other photo in the 200 they rank (sadly I don’t think anyone not logged in as me can see this list) has some combination of being on other people’s lists of favorites, comments, or large number of views. The above photo has none of that. Prior to this post it has only been viewed 33 times by other people, according to Flickr, and I don’t think that number has changed in some time. Their (not revealed) code must find something about the image itself interesting. Is their algorithm inaccurate? In any case the image is appropriate as the world of 2011 is ending, and in 2012 I absolutely will migrate my personal media hosting to something autonomous, as since last year someone (happens to be a friend and colleague) has taken on the mantle of building media sharing for the federated social web.

My employer’s office moved from San Francisco to Mountain View in April, contributing to a number of people leaving or transitioning out, which has been a bummer. I’ve been working exclusively from home since May. Still, there have been a number of good developments, which I won’t attempt to catalog here. My favorites include agreement with the Free Software Foundation regarding use of CC0 for public domain software, small improvements in the CC legal user interface, the return and great work of a previous colleague, retirement of two substandard licenses, research, and a global summit/launch of a process toward version 4.0 of the CC licenses, which I hope over the next year prove at least a little bit visionary, long-standing, and have some consideration for how they can make the world a better place.

Speaking of which, I’ve spent more time thinking about social science-y stuff in 2011 than I have in at least several years. I’ll probably have plenty to say regarding this on a range of topics next year, but for now I’ll state one narrow “professionally-related” conclusion: free/libre/open software/culture/etc advocates (me included) have done a wholly inadequate job of characterizing why our preferences matter, both to the general public and to specialists in every social science.

Apart from silly peeves, two moderate ideas unrelated to free/libre/open stuff that I first wrote about in 2011 and I expect I’ll continue to push for years to come: increasing the minimum age and education requirement for soldiers and tearing down highway 980.

I haven’t done much programming in several years, and not full time in about a decade. This has been making me feel like my brain is rotting, and contributes to my lack of prototyping various services that I want to exist. Though I’d been fiddling (that may be generous) with Scala for a couple years, I was never really super excited about tying myself to the JVM. I know and deeply respect lots of people who doing great things with Python, and I’ve occasionally used it for scripts over the past several years because of that, but it leaves me totally non-enthused. I’ve done enough programming in languages that are uglier but more or less the same, time for something new. For a couple months I’ve been learning and doing some prototyping using the Yesod web framework (apparently I had heard of Haskell in 2005 but I didn’t look at it closely until last year). I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like, mostly due to unrelated distractions. The biggest substantive hurdle has not been Haskell (and the concepts it stands for), but a lack of Yesod examples and documentation. This seems to be a common complaint. Yesod is rapidly moving to a 1.0 release, documentation is prioritized, and I expect to be really productive with it over the coming year. Thanks to the people who make Yesod and those who have been making Haskell for two decades.

This year I appreciated three music projects that I hadn’t paid much attention to before, much to my detriment: DNA, Moondog, and especially Harry Partch. I also listened a lot again to one of my favorite bands I discovered in college, Violence and the Sacred, which amazingly has released some of its catalog under the CC BY-SA license. Check them out!

Finally, in 2011 I had the pleasure of getting to know just a little bit some people working to make my neighborhood a better place, attending a conference with my sister, seeing one of my brothers start a new job and the other a new gallery, and with my wife of continuing to grow up (in that respect, the “better half” cliche definitely applies). Now for this world to end!

Namecheap’s savvy anti-SOPA marketing

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

I’m impressed by how much gratis publicity and advertising has gotten via its anti-SOPA marketing (including the Wikipedia article I linked to; it didn’t exist 3 days ago), and completely unimpressed by the failure of approximately every other company to take advantage of the opportunity, which strikes me as easy social media gold. Communications department heads ought roll.

* pro-SOPA marketing failures made Namecheap’s action straightforward relative to companies not directly competing with Go Daddy. However, there are lots of other domain name registrars, none of which has done anything with Namecheap’s marketing savvy. Another registrar, (which I’ve used and recommended for some time, and has supported Creative Commons and other good causes), like Namecheap is donating a portion of domain transfers to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but doesn’t seem to be making a big deal of it, and their anti-SOPA blog post is rather tepid. Compare to Namecheap’s anti-SOPA blog post, which isn’t all that much stronger in terms of substance (contains genuflection to “intellectual property”), it is much more strongly worded and simply more effectively written.

One other company has a support-EFF-against-SOPA tie-in. That company, Zopim, provides website chat services, and doesn’t seem to compete with Go Daddy at all. I’m not interested, but never would have heard of them otherwise. Any company could do that.

(I see that sometime today two other small domain registrars have added support-EFF-against-SOPA deals. Good for Suspicious Networks and Centuric.)

What inspired to me write this post is that Namecheap isn’t only taking gratis publicity. They’re also running presumably paid ads as part of their anti-SOPA marketing campaign:

While trying to get the above ad to load again (noticed out of the corner of my eye but didn’t register until sometime after — I’m oddly trying to recover from ad blindness), I noticed another Namecheap ad, which if you’re already really tuned in, illustrates nicely the imperfect options available from a software freedom perspective for domain registration and other nearly commodity services.

Check out more anti-SOPA and pro-freedom actions.

*Isn’t the name “Go Daddy” ridiculous? That, coupled with a super cheesy website and company logo led me to disregard them long before they started shooting sexy elephants at gladiator events, or whatever got people upset before they supported SOPA.

Invitation systems and the Federated Social Web

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Notes prompted by a conversation, but not in direct response to anything therein.

I have not seen obvious for web sites used much recently, but that could be me not looking for web applications to try. I note three three overlapping purposes when they are used:

  • Promotion. The entity that has set up the invitation system hopes for viral spam; some people have a strongly negative reaction to invitation systems as a result.
  • Rationing. For example, to keep a system usable while resources added.
  • Exclusivity. For purposes regarded as wrong for non-state actors (e.g. discrimination based on birth location) to the suspicious (supposed cabals) to the practical (privacy, working group size, keep out bad actors).

My impression is that at the web site/application level, invitations are used mostly for promotion, a little for rationing, rarely for exclusivity. But invitations are ubiquitous in human interactions, and it seems to me that exclusivity is their main purpose (though I’m ignoring many communications and social purposes independent of the three mentioned; e.g., in some situations a polite communication takes the form of an invitation). One doesn’t even need to step away from “social network” web applications to see this, just into the applications — consider “connection requests” and similar actions among users.

Invitations could be a useful part of the federated social web mix, as the challenges faced by federated sites are at least a little different than those faced by silos in all three of the aforementioned areas, but especially with regard to exclusivity. Consider that bad actors can set up their own federated sites, and that federated sites often represent single users or small communities — roughly requiring the same functionality of a community or individual user of a silo, including the functionalities of the entire silo.

Also, just remembered On The Invitation, a chapter from Collaborative Futures.