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The Longest Now

Gyrovague muses on fast-food franchises in…
Tuesday September 18th 2012, 1:52 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,citation needed,meta,Uncategorized

the age of lawsuits.

you thought this would involve SPACE, didn’t you?

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Digitize it all: from law to code and standard, for public justice
Thursday August 09th 2012, 12:51 pm
Filed under: citation needed,international,metrics,Uncategorized,wikipedia

If you haven’t visited recently, do so now. I’ll wait… you are in for a treat.

Carl Malamud and Friends (soon to be a show on CNN) have kept up the momentum of their early work to digitize and publish technical and other standards, many of which are now online in all their glory.

And there’s a lovely collection of introductions, from the 5-minute summary of why and how to free building codes, to a 20-minute showcase of what the team does. (via boingboing)

This is still rather top-down for my tastes — there’s no obvious way for me to help out, fund the digitization of a particular code, or run a digitizing party in my neighborhood library or FabLab. But I am inspired by the persistent work and vision of the people making this dream a reality.

They also have a lovely site devoted to a national scanning project for scanning all the archives: YesWeScan. Which gave rise to this excellent blog post and commentary from the Archivist of the US, David Ferriero*.

* Recently seen at Wikimania DC saying, in his beautiful closing speech, “If you have any trouble using Wikipedia… tell them, if it’s good enough for the Archivist of the US…”

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Awesome 1-yr Wikipedia Fellowship open at Harvard’s Belfer Center
Thursday April 26th 2012, 10:55 am
Filed under: international,meta,popular demand,wikipedia

Wikimedia and Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs are looking for a Wikipedia Fellow to work on-site in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a year, on topics related to international security.  From the full jobvite posting :

The Wikimedia Foundation and Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs are accepting applications to be a Wikipedia Fellow at the Belfer Center, for one year starting July 1, 2012.

This is a full-time position, tasked with

  •  improving the quality of WP articles related to international security:
  • liaising between the Wikimedia community and Belfer Center experts, facilitating resource sharing;
  • coordinating projects and events, online and in-person, to support improving Wikimedia projects.
  • working with faculty, staff, and fellows at the Center to increase understanding of and participation in Wikipedia and other free content;
  • sharing this experience at Harvard with the global community of Wikipedians, and among academics, via articles, blog posts, and multimedia.

13000 comments 1 post, part 2
Saturday January 21st 2012, 5:14 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,international,popular demand,Uncategorized

Update: see also Clay Shirky’s brilliant talk explaining SOPA and PIPA, and why they were drafted.

More comments on the Wikimedia community blog:

  1. I didn’t even know about the proposed legislation by America until just now reading here about the blackout and I’m sure that most people, including most Americans have no idea about it…  I have been going to Wikipedia since I was little as a site that I could trust not to have an agenda. I have grown up with Wikipedia as a part of my life and I am grateful for your existence.  – Sigrid Anderson
  2. The comments show that Wiki has generated a considerable amount of uninformed hysteria about proposed legislation that is not going to be adopted  – Bill Wood
  3. You should blackout every language version. The whole world is against of this dumb law.  – Jesús Manuel O.
  4. I’m an Australian man facing similar legislation.  I have been hoping that Wikipedia, Google, and similar organizations would make their position known in the form of a black out protest, to say what my little voice can’t get across  – Uriah
  5. “It’s political, but it’s not partisan politics.  SOPA is not a left-right issue. It’s a new media, old media issue. New media has every right to get political about its future. Congress should not be in the business of protecting one business model at the expense of another, especially when the new model is the only true source of growth in the nation’s economy for the last 20 years.” – Factoid (via Reddit)
  6. SOPA in it’s current form is scary, yet preventable, and I support Wikipedia for making a stand. – Brande Kramer
  7. Oh…no…witnessing the gagging and chaining of our only remaining freedoms: healthy freedom of speech and self expression on the internet would surely break my heart!  – Alejandro Bina
  8. A word of advice for everyone, like myself, who will suffer the inconvenience of this black out:
    Don’t Panic.  – Rowdy
  10. Working within an Indigenous community in Australia, it is clear to me that poverty begins and becomes generational, with lack of access to information.  – Ron West
  11. Wikipedia… is a source for great knowledge.
    Wikipedia team is not an ordinary team.
    The protest must be supported in a resounding tone of echoes.   – Karthik Yerramilly
  12. A G R E E !!!  – George MacNabb, M.D.
  13. This message has brought me to tears, literally.  – Carol
  14. These bills restrict not just freedom of expression, but considerably worse, will constrain an individual’s right to knowledge.  – Aisha
  15. America isn’t the world. If members of the American parliament are planning on doing something in America, it’s YOUR problem.  – Thomas Marshall
  17. I don’t really see how protesting a restriction on the free flow of information by restricting the free flow of information is at all helpful. Aren’t you just doing exactly what they want you to do?  – jjs
  18. AWESOME! The internet is a tool for the evolution of our entire species, not just another control mechanis…  – Trevor Allen
  19. about time someone takes action against SOPA and this nonsense!! YOU’RE AWESOME WIKI!  – brittany
  20. Thumbs down to Wikipeida. What’s wrong with you guys? I read the SOPA and I don’t see in any way will harm free speech.  SOPA is about IP and business, different stuff alright.  – James
  21. Wikipedia has created a permanent shift in human awareness, and has probably altered the very structure of our minds by abolishing “I don’t know” from out lives so many billions upon billions of times. Wikipedia going dark will hurt. It will be frightening, and I’m going to hate it. But if they chose to go dark for a month in protest of such terrifyingly dangerous laws, they’d still have my absolute support.  – Ehren Turner
  22. The balls (or ovaries) of the administrators are commendable. As much as it will hurt me if it does happen- I am aware it’d hurt me more if it didn’t  – jUrk
  23. como en mexico como en america latina y no me reservo al todo el mundo, nos sentimos indignados y ultrajados por esta tonta accion, que conlleba a lo que por muchos años idealistas han peleado y han muerto por ello. la libertad, la idea de controlarla de esta manera me parece arrogante y de mal gusto. – gerardo perez
  24. I love Wikipedia, but I think you’re making a big mistake in opposing laws that restrain intellectual theft.  – Hal Barwood
  25. If some industries must rethink their economic models in the face of the fundamental changes the internet has afforded the larger world, then so be it. That is by far the lesser evil  – Steven Burg
  26. Yeah, I get it, but 24 hours, really. How is that a protest. The library closed for 2 days over the weekend every week…big deal. I know your head is in the right place but really, man-up and do something that makes noise.  – Mehnert
  27. From Iran.
    It is very disappointing to see what my people are trying to fight here is emerging in the U.S.
    …we can live one day without Wikipedia to make sure it remains there forever.  – AgentTheGreat
  28. I definitely concur Team Wikipedia. Do what you have to do. ‘Nuff respect!  – Kush Barnes
  29. <quotes Spiro Agnew>
  30. Here in South Africa the government is in the process of passing a secrecy bill, which will, in effect muzsle the media as well as free speech. I definately support the blackout.  – Walter Hutchison
  31. I would also like to offer my country – South Africa – as the potential host if you need to move.  – Adam Brink
  32. Do not disrupt Wikipedia to make a point. Shame on you.  – Kyaa
  33.  dear wiki-world, i experience ms. gardner’s statement and wiki community’s mandate to be nuanced and reasoned—neither overly interventionist/hysterical nor frightened into inaction—not making wiki (this gynormously birthed baby) an overly precious object, nor being so lax as to be w/out any integrity.  – mazal
  34. This is actually a very serious decision. In all its years of existance, i have never seen Wiki go down. Just yesterday, a national stock exchange was DDOSed and hence out of service. I have seen the PSN go down. I have seen gaming clients’ networks go down. I have seen news clippings of “such and such site attacked and compromised”. But never Wiki was attacked or down, because everyone accepts it to be a neutral ground, a safe no-nonsense ground, where everyone turned to for information, regardless of language.This is one of the unwritten rules of the internet.
    This blackout just shows how serious this SOPA and PIPA problem is.
    I completely and unconditionally support Wikimedia in this.   –jmd.akbar
  35. Not only Wikipedia, but also the structure of Wikipedia is quite dependant on the freedom of expression on the [W]eb. Even if wikipedia itself is not blocked in any way, we would still feel the backlash if other websites with legitimate information are blocked… badly defined laws with a broad spectrum such as these tend to be abused for purposes they were not (or perhaps were) intended for.  – Excirial
  36. “We want people to trust Wikipedia, not worry that it is trying to propagandize them.” But then just a few lines down in the same letter it says… “I have increasingly begun to think of Wikipedia’s public voice, and the goodwill people have for Wikipedia, as a resource that wants to be used for the benefit of the public.” So they don’t want people to think they are engaging propaganda, but… want to use the “voice” of Wikipedia to influence public policy? …I imagine I will support many/all of the positions they would support, but I dislike the idea of eroding Wikipedia’s neutrality.  – Dan
  37. If I start replicating Wikipedia pages on a gigantic website of my own, for my own purposes such as to put ads on them generating revenue for myself, you wouldn’t like that would you? Oh, but by your standard, wouldn’t that be “freedom of expression”? I think you need to explain your position a lot better than you have done.  – jrbt2647
  38. I think we can cope without Wikipedia for 24 hours if it is for something like this. We should not be bullied.
  39. Today on MLK day! I’m reminded it’s my duty to continuously keep watch over and non-violently fight for our civil rights. Thank you, Wikipedia!  – Maggie Evan
  40. piracy… is a very real economic threat to the creative community. However, the methods by which these acts combat it are heavy-handed and overreaching; like fighting cancer with grenades. I am an artist who is opposed to piracy, and I applaud Wikipedia for this stand.
  41. “Although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not”, the statement is what strongly influenced on me. Thank you, all Wikipedians, for letting them know what is the right thing to do!  – Jerryz Tschin
  42. Doing a blackout to protest against censorship is like shooting random people in the street to protest against the death penalty.  – Björn
  43. Here in New Zealand we have a similar law. The legislation here means that anyone even suspected of disobeying the current piracy laws can have their internet access withdrawn at the ISP level. No burden of proof is required, just a certain number of unsubstantiated complaints from a copywrite holder. I understand and support the protest and hope that everyone can see the requirement to speak out now before things get any worse.  – Matt
  44. No argument is available why it helps or is good for media companies to not have protection. Who cares anyway, it won’t hurt Wikipedia. Or does Wikipedia now plan to host copyright content.
  45. I agree that the blackout is a good idea, but it is a shame that in its statement, Wikipedia/Wikimedia did not also make a strong statement to distance themselves from online piracy. This would have clearly confirmed that, while we do not condone online piracy, that we do want preservation of online freedom.  – Daeld
  46. I fear a world in which someone might be sued for humming a tune or quoting a line from a movie!
  47. The internet… from the very beginning has always seemed to me like a world mind. From my first log on so many years ago I was amazed at the open sharing on so many levels that was available. Year by year it has matured, with more reliable sources of information becoming available… a rich depth of knowledge, experience, and opinions: brilliant and beautiful bits… The entire festival of words, pictures, history, music, and vidography is like one enormous love poem to ourselves… The idea that we would allow anyone to tamper with this or take it from us without a fight is unconscionable.I find the current trend in this legislation to be highly suspect. I think it has much more to do with inserting fingers of control which can then be tightened into an iron grip than it does with the putative problem of piracy. As someone who is trying to make her living as a writer I rely on Wikipedia among other things as resources but I think I can suck it up for one day.  – Marilyn Melnicoe
  48. It is not advocacy to fight for your survival. Everyone is affected by this legislation, within and outside the US… The WWW is at risk of being ‘enclosed’ (removed from shared public ownership)… vested interests assert ownership of large parts [and] remove them from shared possession. We’ve seen this with land, with music, with software (leading to the need for CopyLeft) and now the right to index knowledge… It is certainly about piracy – the theft of public property for personal gain. – Loftwork
  49. I fully support this shutdown. SOPA, PIPA and NDAA… inflict unjust impediments on freedom of the common person, two online and one in “real” life… justified by exaggerated causes that can’t be fought by that legislation
  50. This is an act NOT of politics, but of self-preservation. Please make sure that, when the site comes back up, there is another banner explaining why it was down, for those who missed this message. – LTL
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SOPA – PIPA math: 61% >> 28%
Thursday January 19th 2012, 10:41 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,metrics,wikipedia

Three cheers for participatory democracy! The percentage of stated opposition to SOPA and PIPA in Congress changed dramatically over the past two days, from 28% to 61%. [If you count people who are “leaning No”, by ProPublica’s estimate, this goes up to 69%.]

How many politicians announced they would be co-sponsoring or otherwise outright supporting SOPA/PIPA on Wednesday? By our count: Zero.

Update: Harry Reid releases Dems in the Senate to vote against PIPA if their conscience demands. And Chris Dodd, former Senator and current MPAA Chairman, just called for a summit between Internet and traditional ‘content’ companies, convened by the White House, to reach a compromise. (He hasn’t yet realized that major content companies today are Internet companies.)

We are experiencing the growth of social unity and a certain moral sense across the Web, among people who have found something wonderful, worth defending with all their heart. This is a small piece; it is thrilling to be part of it. I hope you feel it too.

Blackout Wednesday website screenshots
Wednesday January 18th 2012, 5:31 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,international,wikipedia

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The Wikipedian spirit: Dr. Senghai Poduvan
Saturday December 10th 2011, 5:48 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,international,meta,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Dr. Poduvan is a 75-year old farmer from Tamil Nadu and Wikipedian. He captures everything I love about Wikipedia in a few sentences:

When I purchased my first computer in 2005, just using the mouse was difficult because my hands shake. But by 2009 I had discovered Wikipedia. One day, I created an article about ancient Indian poets. I added about 30 of their names to the page and then I went to sleep. The next morning, I found 473 names on the page. That is what makes Wikipedia work!

So it is. Please remember to contribute to Wikipedia, one list and article at a time. (in Hindi · in Tamil)

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Introducing Afghan families to Wikipedia

OLPC Afghanistan currently works with school in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, and Kandahar.   This is one of our most politically complex and interesting deployments.  The initial schools involved tend to be on the wealthy side, but are still often in areas with poor power and connectivity.

Jalalabad also houses Afghanistan’s only FabLab – which set up the first “FabFi” mesh network to serve the surrounding community.  After the deployment of OLPC laptops to a local school there, families began to have access to the Internet, and to Wikipedia, for the first time.  Here are three generations of one family, outside on their roof, browsing Wikipedia together:

Afghan family browsing Wikipedia together outside

An Afghan family browses Wikipedia together outside

(As it happens, one of the university students who helped localize the software into Dari and Pashto is also a Wikipedian.)

Over a year after that deployment finished, I am working with FabLab folk to figure out what a similar lab and community wifi setup might look like in Herat, where we also have an OLPC school and may add another.  They’re refreshingly fun and competent people to work with, and full of great stories about young Afghans taking interesting ideas and running with them, turning them into amazing art projects or montages or startups.   Any city trying out cool new technical innovations should have a fablab to amplify the joys of being on the cutting edge.

Today we have 4,000 families connected to eachother and to the Internet in Afghanistan through OLPC; we hope to have thousands more by the end of the year.  And now I’m wondering if we can get fablabs started in the US cities where there are significant OLPC projects.

Google to cancel its translate API, citing ‘extensive abuse’
Saturday May 28th 2011, 10:19 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,Not so popular,null,wikipedia

Google’s APIs Product Manager Adam Feldman announced on Thursday they will cancel the Google translate API by December, without replacing it, and that all use of it will be throttled until then.  Any reusers or libraries relying on the translate API to programmatically provide a better multilingual experience will have to switch over to another translation service.  (Some simple services will still be available to users, such as, but APIs will not be available to developers of other sites, libraries, or services.)

Update: As of June 3, Google says that in response to the outcry, they plan to make a paid version of the translate API available. No details yet on what that will look like.

Ouch.  This is a sudden shift, both from their strong earlier support for this API (I was personally encouraged to use it for applications by colleagues at Google), and from their standing policy of supporting deprecated services for up to 3 years.   What could have spooked them?  Why the rush? As of today, the Translate API page reads:

The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests you may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.

Most disappointing to me is the way this announcement was released: buried in a blog post full of minor “Spring Cleaning” updates to a dozen other APIs.  Most of the other deprecated APIs were replaced by reasonable equivalents or alternatives, and were being maintained indefinitely with limits on the rate of requests per user.  None of them is being cancelled within six months, and none of them are half as widely used!

I hope that this obfuscation was an unintentional oversight.  There have been 170 irate replies to that post so far, almost all about the Translate API cancellation.  But it has been three days already without any significant update from Feldman or any mention of the change on the Google Translate blog.  Google’s response to a ZDNet inquiry was that they have no further information to provide on why they made this decision.


Wikimedia Commons: Happy 10 Millionth!
Friday April 15th 2011, 7:58 pm
Filed under: international,metrics,poetic justice,popular demand,wikipedia

Commons hits eight figures of media. The WMF blog post about it is lovely.

Commons growth continues to be geometric and visually stunning. And the extra horsepower running it (and making regular dumps!) marks a great improvement from last year. Now we need to help the community there keep up with its popularity!

Editor-to-Reader ratio on Wikipedia: a visual history
Sunday February 06th 2011, 8:12 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,chain-gang,international,metrics,wikipedia

After early exponential community growth, editing on Wikipedia has slowed recently. The number of readers, on the other hand, grows steadily. Over the past 3 years, the number of active monthly editors in all languages has declined by 12% (and twice that in English). But the effective change in active editors per reader may be 4x as large.

This change in how many readers become editors points to both a problem and a short-term solution: On the one hand, we have many more people coming to the projects who don’t know they can edit, find no reason to do so, or are discouraged before becoming active. On the other, we reach many more people than in the past, so effective changes in messaging, tools, or policy have a larger impact.

Mako and I were discussing this last night, leading to some back-of-the-envelope calculations (using some of the many great stats resources the Foundation maintains) and a heady R + ggplot session, which turned into a beautiful post on copyrighteous:

Unlike all those other [encyclopedia projects] Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wikipedia is powerful because it allow its users to transcend their role as consumers of the information they use to understand the world. Wikipedia allows users to define the reference works that define their understanding of the their environment and each other. But 99.98% of the time, readers do not transcend that role. I think that’s a problem.

Read the full post.

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Wikipedia loves editors: 2011 campaigns?
Saturday February 05th 2011, 10:16 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,popular demand,wikipedia

Wikimedia had a terribly successful fundraising campaign ths year, with a team of stats-loving traffic and feedback analysts learning a lot about our reading audience and how to connect with them. There was diverse support for the idea of running some banners to promote donating time and expertise and edits as well as money, and some general-purpose “discover Wikimedia” banners were run the first week of January, but this was soon overtaken by preparations for the (wickedly fun) 10th anniversary celebrations.

We should do more of this. The idea of inviting people more explicitly to edit, and running campaigns dedicated to this, is more fundamental to the nature of Wikipedia than fundraising itself. We should be thinking about all year round, spending as much time and effort campaigning for meaningful content contributions as we have for funds.

What would that look like? Here is one idea: WikiProjects could be encouraged to write copy for their own banners, from a hook to a detailed call for what they need. These would be run for a % of new visitors proportional to the project’s capacity to absorb new contributors. A few generic projects would be geared up for a larger influx of editors, and established editors would be asked to help work with those newbies (and to set up comfort zones where they can find and help one another).

The generic projects would ramp up slowly; with one month’s newbies helping welcome those who came the next month. Some new policies regarding working with newbies would need to be proposed on the major wikis, possibly with a group like the original Fire Brigade dedicated to helping the ambassadors and welcomers with the extra load. And the specific WikiProjects could continue to draw in as many new editors as they want, and could try out different messages to attract just the right sort of reader (including efforts at targetting specific kinds of readers).

What do you think? How would you reach out to readers if you could change the way the site looks? (What ever happened to the idea of highlighting the “edit this page” tab?) Over 1% of people who saw the best fundraising messages clicked through them — imagine what we could do if we showed all of those people that they could really edit.

Wikipedia Demographics
Saturday February 05th 2011, 4:57 am
Filed under: international,metrics,wikipedia

We still need better demographic data, and an understanding of our own sample biases, as this recent floatingsheep article indicates.

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Mapping global communities
Thursday January 27th 2011, 1:41 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,international,metrics,wikipedia

We’ve been working on a few different visualizations of the OLPC community around the world.  The most enjoyable and colorful is olpcMAP, a collaborative mashup designed by Nick Doiron that blossomed after last month’s map sprint.  (Nick is an avid map hacker and long-time OLPC volunteer who has also written the popular Map activity for offline Map-creation and -marking using XOs.)

Before this map was launched, the sorts of global visualizations we had were limited to large established groups (mapping chapters and major deployments), average statistics by region, or thousands of scattered individuals without a coherent feel.  olpcMAP combines this with personal and class projects from hackers and teachers around the world, adds search and an API for reuse, and feels above all approachable.

At the moment you can import JSON data and can choose between Google Maps and OSM layers.  The search matches both on locations on the map and on keywords used in marker descriptions. It is designed around the Google App Engine, and the growing olpcMAP API lets you request images, iframes, or KML to use this as  backend for further remixing (say, embedding a screenshot or overlay of part of the map elsewhere on the web).

You can browse the olpcMAP code and try setting up your own instance.  The framework is quite general, and it is straightforward to brand it for other communities.

I would love to see this sort of map of Wikimedians around the world, for instance — I suspect that we would see a very different picture of ourselves as a community than our current self-image.  The distribution of 10th Anniversary events this month was a first step in this direction, and was a surprise to many people.

And it would be amazing to see comparative maps of different global communities — Firefox users, Ubuntu hackers, Red Cross volunteers — using this model.   If you’ve tried to set up your own olpcMAP instance (if this becomes a general community-mapping framework, perhaps we should pick a more universal name), or have features you would love to see implemented, please let us know.

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Mozilla’s Drummers: Drumbeat Barcelona, November 3-5
Thursday August 12th 2010, 2:31 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Drumbeat is a new Mozilla umbrella project, consolidating its efforts to support and enhance the open web — the free and transparent elements of the Web that we love and rely on.   It combines earlier work on One Web Day, educational outreach, and direct grants to developers improving the free tools needed to expand the web.

The first global Drumbeat Festival will be held in Barcelona on November 3-5, and creators everywhere are invited.   I have been part of local Drumbeat events in New England this summer (run by Ben and Dharmishta), where the pervasive interest in learning was wonderful and fascinating.   I can’t wait to see a larger festival come together.

This year’s theme is Learning, Freedom and the Web. The open nature of the internet is revolutionizing how we learn, and Drumbeat welcomes teachers, learners and technologists from around the world who are at the heart of this revolution.

Join us in Barcelona for three days of making, teaching, hacking, inventing and shaping the future of education and the web.

Drumbeat Festival 2010: Barcelona Nov 3-5

Drumbeat Festival 2010: Barcelona Nov 3-5

Who will be there?

The festival is designed for makers, writers, hackers — on creation more than discussion.   There are currently over 100 confirmed participants, including:

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s Chief Lizard Wrangler
Manuel Castells, Open University of Catalonia
Joi Ito, Creative Commons
Anya Kamenetz, author, DIY U
Gever Tulley, Tinkering School
Mary Lou Forward, OpenCourseWare Consortium
Brian Behlendorf, Apache Foundation
Connie Yowell, MacArthur Foundation
Johannes Grenzfurthner, monochrom / metalab

A Festival!  Should I bring my best hat?

Hat, HUD, musical instrument… Drumbeat is not your typical conference festival.  Imagine a folk festival combined with a teach-in with a dash of outstanding oratory for good measure. That’s the plan.

You’ll have a chance to propose and invent activities throughout the festival. You can read a small sample of planned activities to get your creative essences flowing.

How do I sign up?

Registration opens on August 25.  You will also be able to apply for a travel scholarship, propose activities, or offer to volunteer.  If you are not already on our email list, you can sign up now.  Reminders will be sent out when registration opens.

Meanwhile, please spread the word – encourage your friends and colleagues to sign up for announcements, start discussing what you’d like to invent or create while there and what you might show off!

Wikimania 2010 registration now open
Thursday June 17th 2010, 11:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

At long last. Please register if you haven’t already!

A Brace of Copyright Dilemmas
Tuesday April 20th 2010, 12:14 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang

Here are two copyright dilemmas that have come up over the past weeks.  I welcome comments and related stories from those of you with experience in these areas.

Streetmap of Cambridge, England

Map of Cambridge, England from OpenStreetMap

1. Can the locations of important places visible from a map, and paths traceable on a map, be extracted from a map to which one does not have copyright?  If so, what are the risks? Many different perspectives tangle with one another. One comprehensive blog posts posits that it may be alright under copyright, but not socially acceptable in open mapping circles (such as OpenStreetMap), nor a protection against being sued by mapping orgs with deep pockets, nor useful if you wish to convince map-data reusers that it is safe to build any sort of application on top of the resulting data without fear of hassle down the line.

Editors of Wikipedia and of OpenStreetMap don’t agree on how important these topics are, so Wikipedians regularly identify geoinformation from uncited map sources that OSM editors by default decide they cannot use.  If the two communities understood one another’s positions and agreed to take different stances, that would be interesting — but at present there are two separate conversations that aren’t considering the same criteria or audiences.

Coca Cola logo

Coca Cola logo, in the public domain

2. Is it risky for an organization that wishes to protect its trademarks (from confusing misuse and dilution) to license those marks under a free copyright license?  If so, what are the risks?  This is a topic that comes up every year or so for Wikimedia, and is recently a hot one, as many Wikimedia projects today refuse to host any images that are not available under a free license, to simplify bulk reuse of dumps.  The Swedish Wikipedians recently removed all instances of the Wikimedia logos from their project, since those logos are not freely licensed.  No clear answers have emerged about what the risks are; the only definitive statement we have worked out is that ”it does not improve one’s trademark protection to release marks under a free license”.  On the other hand, that could be said of most usability improvements we make to the projects, and it would improve overall distributability and reuse of page and media dumps & help avoid these tense annual debates.

For comparison:

  • Mozilla licenses its logos under the MPL and the GPL.  They don’t beat you over the head with that information, and make it abundandtly clear wherever the logos appear that they are protected by trademark; but they freely license them.
  • Debian licenses its logo under the GPL.  (Its community logo, which was designed as something free for the community to use, quickly became its central trademark.)
  • Coca-Cola and other older organizations have logos whose copyright has passed into the public domain.  They seem to remain protected by trademark.
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