~ Archive for H2O ~

H2O Job Opening

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H2O is hiring again. We’re looking for a senior software engineer to lead development of our software. For more details and to apply, see the full job description.

Carla Hesse’s “The Rise of Intellectual Property” and a Gift Economy

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This week’s reading for the IP reading group was Carla Hesse’s “The rise of intellectual property, 700 b.c. – a.d. 2000: an idea in the balance”. Hesse argues that since the enlightenment we have had two inconsistent notions of IP. Some view IP laws from a social utilitarian point of view — we give creators rights over their ideas because in doing so we encourage other creators to generate more ideas. According to this argument, we should give just enough protection for just long enough to original ideas to encourage the creation of new ideas. Others view ownership of an idea as an inherent and inalieabale right that creators should enjoy forever simply because an idea is the most personal of all possessions and therefore should be linked with its creator forever. She cynically points out that countries tend to move from the former view to the latter as they become exporters of ideas (with the United States as the prime example).

Hesse points out there was no such disagreement in the ancient world because ideas were generally seen as divine gifts and an author generally believed it his duty to share his ideas as a gift to the community. This notion of an idea as a gift rather than a commodity brought to my mind the difference between gift economies and our modern commodity economies and how we might use the model of a gift economy as an alternative framework for establishing IP rights. Read more in my response. Even better, join the project to participate in the reading group.

H2O Rotisserie Ring

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Berkman Affiliate Molly Krause has been doing fantastic work leading our Rotisserie Ring project. She is recruiting U.S. and international secondary schools to partiicpate in an academic and cultural exchange using H2O starting at the beginning of March. If you might be interested in participating, let me know.

H2O for Political Discourse

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Jim Moore and I have been talking to the Dean campaign about using our H2O software to facilitate policy discussions among its members. Jim’s observation of the Dean blog commenting system is that it is more akin to chat than to substantive discussions — the overwhelming feeling one gets from reading the posts is that people are mostly jazzed about being in the presence of like minded people rather than about participating in thought provoking discussion. Perhaps more importantly, free-for-all discussion of the type practiced in blog comments and most other online discussion systems simply can’t scale past a few thousand people (and arguable not up to that). It simply becomes impossible for each participant to track anything but a small fraction of the conversation when that many people are involved.

We think that H2O Rotisserie discussions could sovle both of these problems. First, the timing structure that the Rotisserie adds to discussions slows them down enough to give people time to write thoughtfully and concentrate on the substance of the response rather than on simpy posting something quickly to be a part of the crowd. Second, the way that the Rotisserie structures the flow of the discussions — who responds to whom — facilitates the exposure of a much wider vareity of voices and allows unlimited number of people of participate in a single discussion by breaking the discussion up into lots of smaller discussions between individuals, while still allowing conversation within the group as a whole.

We have interested some folks at the Dean campaign enough in our software to get them to pose a question to our existing H2O participants (click here to participate). Hopefully this collaboration will lead to more interesting uses of H2O within the campaign.

We are of course interested in getting H2O as widely used as possible. We are focusing on the Dean campaign becuase 1) we happen to have contacts there, 2) they are the most technically adventurous and therefore the most likely to experiment with new software, and 3) where Dean goes on the Internet, the other campaigns follow. We’d love to see all campaigns using H2O to facilitate thoughtful discussions among their supporters (or detractors!).

Classroom Advantages of H2O

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Henry Farrell has written an interesting story about the various possible uses of blogs in the classroom. H2O would work nicely for some of the scenarios he mentions, particularly the ones involving student participation. For instance, having a student post a reading review as a question once a week as a rotisserie would allow the professor to structure the resulting discussion (ensuring everyone responds by a certain time, how many rounds the discussion takes, etc). Or more interestingly, the rotisserie would allow for each student to prepare a reading summary every week and have that reading summary critiqued by another student, setting up a nice peer review process with very little work on the part of the professor, since H2O takes care of all the details (deadlines, assigning the responses, collecting critiques, etc).

ABCD-TIE group

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I just got word that the first meeting of the Harvard ABCD Technology in Education working group takes place September 8, 12:15-1:45 in Maxwell Dworkin G-125. It’s good to see the formation of such a group. H2O should definitely have a presence in this group and in the “Links” section on the ABCD-TIE group page.

H2O at Columbia Law

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Columbia Law School is using H2O

Library Digital Initiative

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I went to a talk today about the Harvard Library Digital Initiative. Lots of great stuff was on show. The VIA system allows searching of a bunch of visual content. Try searching for “trade cards”. The Harvard Geospatial Library site allows searching of a map database and layering of maps on top of one another for an abitrary region, allowing you to see, for example, population centers and solid waste facilities within any given area.

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