Archive for January, 2008

i agree with my favorite webcomic author

January 30, 2008

Given that mainstream American media currently circumscribes candidacy, I have to concede that (at this point) it’s best to follow Randall’s advice. Otherwise, I’d suggest starting at the top of this list. That is, if democracy were healthier.

If you’re not in agreement, at least do yourself a favor by subscribing to his comic.

Guido van Robot

January 29, 2008

I’m currently giving my grade 7/8 technology class a taste of computer programming using GvR on GNU/Linux. From the About:

Guido van Robot is a minimalistic programming language providing just enough syntax to help students learn the concepts of sequencing, conditional branching, looping and procedural abstraction.

GvR is accompanied by a set of lessons and is authored by students and mentors. Very cool.

We’ll move on to Python in a few weeks.

questioning Twitter

January 28, 2008

My friend Alec shares some thoughts on Twitter. To be honest, for me, I’m having a difficult time accepting Twitter as a worthwhile tool. I signed up for a Twitter account but never posted anything of my own. I’m having a hard time seeing why I would do so when I could just use my blog to say what’s on my mind. As for the receiving end, the occasional twitter post of interest came through but I felt that most of what I was reading was publicized social chatting. I also felt (perhaps mistakenly) that if someone posts something valuable or insightful on Twitter, it’s bound to end up surfacing to blogs.

Some questions rolling around in my head…

I already use a blog and an RSS aggregator. Is adding Twitter as a tool to post and receive information going to enhance or burden my learning experience? Is it that I need to follow only those who use Twitter effectively to enhance my learning opportunities? If so, what is “effective” twittering and how does it differ from effective blogging? Is the energy required to add Twitter to my toolbox and follow Twitterers worth the payoff? Are really good ideas and resources found often enough on Twitter that never surface in blogs?


January 25, 2008

What would Bill Gates know about capitalism? If anything, his pioneering work to establish proprietary software is mercantilist in nature. Much of his fortune is a result of a protectionist-like approach. Bill Gates a capitalist? Bah!

On that note, here’s a good read.

a Masnick doubleheader

January 25, 2008

Picked this and this up on Techdirt today. Generally, Mike focuses on the practical/economic advantages (rather than an ethical responsibility) artists have in allowing the public to propagate works freely. It’s sort of an “open source” way of looking at culture and fascinating to boot.

separating fact from fiction

January 23, 2008

I stood in front of the 150 or so secondary students and gave my lil’ ditty on our proposed AUP. When the following point came up in the slideshow, students who had been in my 1st semester tech ethics class chuckled:

Students must not transmit unauthorized, copyrighted works (such as movies, music, games, etc.) over the school network.

“Yeah, I know what you’re thinking”, I said. “But let me be clear on one thing. Regardless of what you or I think of the ethics, the legality is something else. Many of you may now have a solid argument as to why it should be OK to share copyrighted works but the fact for now is, it’s illegal. Doing so is irresponsible in that it puts the school at risk.”

Sorry to let the extremists down. This school won’t be used as a site for civil disobedience (though I freely admit to fantasizing it as such). However, I hope the extremists can take some comfort in knowing that few students leaving my class will mindlessly perpetuate fiction like “stealing” and “piracy”.

IANAL either but…

January 22, 2008

Wes Fryer:

The biggest mistake made in this case was by the Virgin Mobile Australia marketing team that decided to use this image without permission, from either the Flickr user who posted it (Alison’s camp counselor) or from Alison and her parents, since she is a minor.

No. The biggest copyright-related mistake was committed by the person who put the image on the web without permission from the subject (a minor) of the photograph. Virgin was in the right to use the work as dictated by the license they saw. Placing that kind of responsibility on Virgin is unrealistic. A model release is the responsibility of the publisher (update: see comments), not Virgin. Wes asks:

Why did the Virgin Mobile Australia marketing team not send a message to Alison’s counselor, asking for his permission to use the photo he’d published?

Because the CC license said they didn’t need permission so long as they respected attribution.

Wes continues:

While it was true the camp counselor published the photo under a Creative Commons license, the Virgin Mobile Australia marketing team failed to meet the most basic requirement of a Creative Commons license: Providing attribution for the source of the photo.

Is this claim of failure to attribute true? I’m not so sure it is. However, it’s a secondary issue because if it’s true that a model release was never obtained, then the buck stops with the publisher, not Virgin.

While Wes correctly notes the bogus title of this article, it seems that the only lawsuit possible is not one of copyright but of libel. Apparently, the advertisement came with a tag-line “Free text virgin to virgin” – which the plaintiff may (absurdly, IMO) attempt to argue caused suffering to Alison Chang.

Perhaps I’m missing something that someone can point out. Otherwise, I don’t understand Wes’ advice that:

If CC permission is granted and your publication is high-profile, get additional explicit permission.

inspiration freed

January 16, 2008

At the turn of the century I hadn’t given much thought to technology in a social sense. I was blissfully content teaching my students (in Beirut at that time) how to use proprietary operating systems and their related applications. One summer while visiting California I wandered into a bookstore, browsed the tech section, and bought a copy of The Future of Ideas. I returned to Lebanon and cracked it open. To be honest, after reading the first few chapters I was bored. However, the boredom was a product of my own apathy, not the content of the book. I recall getting a little angry with myself. I could sense that what was on the pages was important, but felt frustrated that I wasn’t taking it seriously. I wasn’t listening. I didn’t care to put in the effort to learn or think critically about such matters.

With a stubborn determination, I started again from chapter 1. I used a browser as I read. I researched many of the terms, personalities, and concepts brought up in the text. It started coming together and I began having fun making sense of it all. In short, it was the start of what turned into “GNUosphere”.

Naturally, I was pleased to hear that this inspiring book is now free.

i’m happy and sad today

January 16, 2008

About five months after diagnosis, my dad died. I’m happy he’s free from his “prison” (his understandable descriptor during the last days of his body’s illness) and sad he’s gone from our lives. The bright side of dying this way is getting to say goodbye.

the ethics of sharing and the commercial bargaining chip

January 8, 2008

In comment #8 of this post I ask Tom Hoffman:

[do you] support the noncommercial propagation of cultural works as a bare minimum right individuals should be entitled to without permission?

Tom replies:

Basically, I don’t think the commercial vs. non-commercial distinction is particularly meaningful.

The distinction is important because restricting non-commercial propagation of cultural works (aka “sharing”) is ethically abhorrent. By contrast, restricting commercial use has relatively little ethical significance (for works of a practical nature this is not the case).

While it’s arguable that restricting commercial use may not be the best way to propagate one’s cultural work, the negligible ethical implications of doing so means commercial restrictions should be set apart when defining minimum rights for the public. This leverage is significant.