Introducing Todo Mundo

December 7th, 2006 by driscoll

After a year, I found that maintaining two sites was actually causing me to write less. In an effort to find focus and a sustainable situation, I’ve begun a new consolidated effort aptly titled, Todo Mundo. I hope you consider following along!


Bringing dollars to viral video

June 24th, 2006 by driscoll

Steven Starr of Revver gave a demo of their “super distribution” model for compensating creators of internet video. By taking advantage of Quicktime HTTP hooks, Revver dynamically serves a single-frame advertisement to the conclusion of a video each time it is played. Apparently, this has resulted in over 20,000$US for the makers of the Mentos/ Diet Coke performance.

Questions linger. How will they verify authorship? How scalable is a human-review model? Starr expressed interest in moving to a sampling, permissive license in the future and alluded to a downstream revenue sharing schema. How would this look and how could it be administered? Is this business model and software patented? Assuming Revver is successful, are we comfortable with a single organization managing the advertising money for all of the web’s viral video? If I transfer videos to my non-networked device, does payment end?

The strongest aspect of the Revver model is its openness. It works almost like piping in the unix commandline interface. Revver can compensate video makers in many different viewing environments. (Democracy, MySpace, Quicktime via email attachment, downloaded from a torrent swarm…)

For now, there is no Linux software. All of their software development has been open except for the QT hook – “that’s the business side” – why can’t the business side be open as well?

Copyright as Social Contract

June 24th, 2006 by driscoll

Today’s keynote panel considered the challenge of building a commons that can accomodate the needs of a diverse groups of creators. Implicit in this conversation is the question of core values. What unifies artists from the Future of Music Coaltion to geneticists working with Science Commons? Amid a lively debate of the criticisms expressed by Prof Elkin-Koren of University of Haifa School of Law, we heard the term “social contract” with regard to intellectual property policy.

In the US, I believe one need look no futher than the Constitution to find a “social contract” for the growth of an intellectual commons. However, as Minister Gil referred to in his address, the 20th century departed from tradition in many respects. Among these errors was a failure to maintain the integrity of this social contract. Creative Commons arose as a response to this failure.

As I listened to Prof Elkin-Koren describe the variety of choice in CC licensing as potentially “self-defeating”, I wondered how differently she might orient her criticism were the social contract changed. 140 million works link back to CC licenses. These works represent creators for whom the traditional, all-rights-reserved protections are not satisfactory. How many more would choose CC if not for its demands of time, energy, interest, and chance?

As I read it, the US Constitution communicates this message: “Creativity and innovation is something we value as a nation. Creators, continue creating. We will protect you.” Does the message of CC communicate a similarly simple commitment? I worry that CC puts the onus too heavily on creators to be their own lawyers.

In Prof Elkin-Koren’s call for a simplification of CC licensing and reduction of choice, I hear a call for a renewal of the social contract. Which nation will first hear this call and update its legal code to reflect this social contract? Where will the burden of finding fair, some-rights-reserved licensing finally be lifted from the creators?

Join iSummit in Second Life

June 23rd, 2006 by driscoll

iSummit in SL

Join us in Second Life!

Follow me around iSummit 2006

June 23rd, 2006 by driscoll

Brasil 4, Japan 1

Sitting now in the precariously-powered computer lab at iSummit 2006 in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I borrowed a digital camera from Rebecca, so I’ll be keeping you updated photographically via my Flickr account.

Check back here in a few hours and I will have begun tapping out my thoughts. Just need a little downtime to get on the “lappy-toppy” and type up my notes.

Reflections on Brain Gain

May 15th, 2006 by driscoll

The Brain Gain discussion last Tuesday was great. Preparing for the talk helped me organize some new thinking around the role of computer science in junior/senior high school curricula that will inform the work I do in the autumn. Next year, grades 6, 7, and 8 will not have a separate CS course. Rather, I will be working with teachers of “core” subjects to integrate the material that was previously housed in my junior high CS classes. For example, can the semantic, organizational principles of XHTML find a place in a Language Arts class? Can we teach online identity and citizenship during our Advisory blocks?

Blurring the boundaries of the nebulous “Computer Science” curriculum is a way for junior high schools to address the online lives of their students. Primary goals of the new, distributed coursework will be similar to the previous years’ CS coursework, however, I think linking it explicity to students’ Math, Science, English and Social Studies classes will lead to more lasting, meaningful learning experiences.

Slides from the Brain Gain talk “Tomorrow’s Learners Today” are available in Powerpoint and HTML formats (love to OpenOffice export features!)

Brain Gain: Tomorrow’s Learner

May 8th, 2006 by driscoll

On Tuesday (5/9), I’ll be visiting the Brain Gain discussions with the HBS Education Technologies & Multimedia Development group (ETMM) to talk about “Tomorrow’s Learner Today.” We’re going to start from a discussion of online identity management and the tremendous value of Myspace before spreading out to other key technological challenges facing students at an urban high school: leapfrogging the digital divide and the state of originality and plagiarism. Take a look at Denis Saulnier’s blog for some more jump-off points.

If you’re free around 2pm, come by with your thoughts and curiosity. The talk is located at Harvard Business School, 25 Travis St, Suite 100 [Directions to ETMM].

Notes: Cory Doctorow at Harvard, Feb 15, 2006

February 16th, 2006 by

Cory Doctorow at Harvard, 15 Feb

Cory Doctorow’s talk at Harvard tonight was titled “Set Top Cops” and worked through the various threats posed by DRM. I use the word “threat” not to take a side in this debate, though my position may be obvious, but rather to stress that this talk largely succeeded in discrediting DRM as sustainable strategy. Over an hour, Doctorow’s presentation constructed a checklist to determine the Internet-readiness of various business models. It roughly reads as follows:

Your business model is NOT Internet-ready IF…

  1. …it criminalizes the behavior of the majority of Internet users.
  2. …suppresses science.
  3. …allows product features to stagnate.
  4. …incurs multi-million dollar lawsuits.
  5. …content is valued over community.
  6. …it sustains the myth that there can ever be a copy-proof bit.

To support this list, Doctorow suggested that the majority of Internet users have participated in activity that infringed on a copyright monopoly. In the cases of anti-circumvention legislation (viz WIPO, DMCA) and permission-based extensibility (DVD tech), short-term protection has led to the loss of unforseen features and added value in long-term. He describes a century-long arc of change in the relationship between creators and consumers that begins with the key value lying in the charisma of performers, shifting toward virtuosity with recorded audio/ video, and arriving now with the conversational vibe of “MySpace bands.”

The success of the conversational creator/consumer relationship is a strange triumph for underground musics. My participation in hardcore/punk through out the 90’s and early-2000’s was largely reliant on friendship-style interaction. I regularly traded tapes and shows with strangers from around the world and the advent of the Internet facilitated an incredible amplification of these values. Entire tours could be booked via email and messageboards; ad-hoc social-networks prior to explicity relational tools such as Myspace, or Friendster. (Though, it should be noted that hardcore kids have always used available tech to step beyond traditional industry models. 15 years ago bands used the same blue box technology that launched Apple to book their tours.)

My thinking is also spurred by Doctorow’s discussion of the mythological “copy-resistant bit.” In true futurist fashion, I am beginning to suspect that now is simply an extension of a larger transitional phase in which we move away from media altogether. As input devices grow more intuitive and network availability edges toward ubiquity, there will be fewer and fewer barriers between our thoughts and their expressions. Where once the former enjoyed considerably more liberty, they may both soon achieve a sense of intangibility and infinite reproducibility. At that point, legal code concerning the copying of any expression ought to look quite different to be of any use to us.

I was pleased to hear the accomplished sci-fi author address his rather privileged position as both an advocate for the arts and a creator in one of the last fields (publishing) to remain relatively safe from the copying-frenzy that follows rampant digitization. “The biggest threat to an author is not piracy,” states Doctorow, “but obscurity.” By licensing his work to be distributed freely online and for dollars offline, he has broken free of this flight from obscurity but he recognizes that it is not a model that can last. “Technology giveth and technology taketh away,” he said, referring to the fact that writers should be considering ways to make money once their work is best distributed as bits.

For its simplicity, Doctorow’s working definition of DRM is worth reproducing here as well. “DRM controls your use of media after you acquire it lawfully.” I like this definition for its clarity in expressing that DRM hurts only those consumers who conform to the law.

He also wore a B * A * S * H shirt and that’s worth a few points alone!

Open code supports local economies

January 23rd, 2006 by

Reviewing my notes from the Maddog talk, I realize that I omitted a critical revelation in my last post. In an argument for f/oss novel to my ears, Maddog explained the benefit that open code can have on local tech economy. If a company deploys an open-source product, they can then hire developers in their area to maintain, support, and extend that software. This localization is meaningful regardless of whether an organization is located in Georgia the state or Georgia the nation.

Recently, charter schools came under fire at the State House and one of the charges was that we have not fulfilled our commitment to sharing successful techniques with the larger public school community. There are many reasons that this communication has not occurred; some political, others circumstantial. Developing and supporting open code might be a powerful move towards rectifying this situation. Software available freely online could help teachers, staff, and administrators at a variety of institutions start to communicate without the morass of scheduled meetings.

Jon “Maddog” Hall at Boston Linux/Unix Group

January 19th, 2006 by

Tonight, I had the opportunity to hear Jon “Maddog” Hall give a high-level talk (appropriately peppered with server-room humor for the crowd) at this month’s BLUG meeting. For an audience familiar with the the free/open-source software movement, the presentation was a thrilling cheerleading session. Maddog (so named by his students at the Hartford State Tech College) is an elegant raconteur with a seemingly limitless number of stories describing applications of free software across the globe. He detailed in passionate terms the development of no-cost computer labs, entrepreneurship, research, and education from Africa to Brazil to Fuji. During his first visit to that last tropical locale, Maddog singlehandedly brought GNU/Linux to a University which had been unable to download any distributions because the entire institution shared a lone 1200bps dial-up connection to the Internet.

Recently, my blogroll has been lit up with newly-stirred debate over the principles behind free software. Maddog, though present for and supportive of the introduction of the term Open Source in 1998, described recently reconsidering the diplomatic nomenclature. He suggests that RMS is correct in asserting the original term, “free software”, along with requisite disambiguation of the troublesome adjective for English speakers. “The actual value [of f/oss] is FREEDOM” and with open source, “they still don’t get it.”

Years of globetrotting shifted Maddog’s focus away from the “gratis” side of free software to the “libre.” Use the code, read the code, change the code, share the code. These are the rights of f/oss users and for users with experience in systemic oppression and bureaucratic control (for example, those behind Iron or Bamboo Curtains), these rights not mere mythology but liberation!

Maddog also announced a fundamental shift for Linux International. After more than 10 years as a vendor organization, it will soon transform to the inverse. He estimates that as an end-user organization representing anyone but the vendors, LI will be able to generate ~$18-20million per year. These funds will be redirected to support efforts in areas such as better documentation which should cycle back to increase the number of end-users and, presumably, the next year’s kitty. Keep an eye out.

In an exciting classroom update, we have succeeded in assembling more than 20 no-cost PCs. The kids have started to take them home; Ubuntu on the boot. Canonical hurried 30 free CDs out to us, so the kids are taking home a pair of nice Ubuntu CD-ROMs in fold-out sleeves rather than more of my burned CD-r’s. Nothing like a little spit’n’shine.