SHiFT: Dannie Jost – Patents and software

Legislation was invented in the 18th century, and it’s not able to cope with the 21st century. Worked for the patent office so has a background.

Software should not be patented at all, it should be exempted at all times.

No one in the audience has a patent.
Lots of people have coded.
No one has ever applied for a patent.

Code is language, like literature, mathematic, and belongs to the domain of culture. Code is not a machine, it’s abstract, an intellectual endeavour. Usually code get packaged and is called software. It’s not physical yet it’s made physical.

Intellectual property:

– literature
– scientific
– art
– music

design 5 x 5
Patents 20 + 5
trademarks 10 yrs x X
trade secret – only good way to protect code

Why do you need to know about software patents?

1. Software is patentable in the US
2. Software is not patentable in ‘EP-land’, i.e. ‘European Patent’-land, Swiss are part of the European Patent Convention, also includes Moldavia. (Community patent does not exist yet, but it is a project.)

What is a patent?
“a title issued by a governmental entity that entitles the owner to a geographically and time limited monopoly.”

It’s a deal you do with the government. They let you have a monopoly for a limited time for a specific geographical area and your part of the deal is to disclose your invention, you publish the details.

Different types of knowledge: public domain and proprietary knowledge.

Wipo tells you what you can patent. Picks words very, very carefully – very legal domain. Have to be as exact as possible, terminology is important.

What are patentable inventions?
– new
– industrial application
– involve and inventive step, which must not be obvious to the people who know the field concerned.

Exclusions to the European Patent Convention
i.e. stuff you can’t patent
– discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods
– aesthetic creations
– schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers

This is just for European patents.

Patent paths. How do you get a patent?
– apply
– examination
– grant
– admin

Can file for a patent locally, or in WIPO in Geneva.

Three different groups that regulated. World patents done by PCT, in Geneva, can pick which countries you want to patent in, e.g. China, Portugal, US.

So there are software patents in Europe although they are not allowed, because through the PCT route you can get American specifications turned into European patents. This is why even if you are fully open source, fully free software, and if you are a developer or programmer and are serious about writing an application or starting a business which your intellectual capital is code, you better be aware of what is out there in terms of software patents. This is not about just filing a patent, but being aware of what is out there.

Very expensive. Not friendly to individuals, freelancers or even SMEs. Cost of the EP patent that is one of the driving forces pushing the Community Patent.

Software patents, therefore
– exist
– are enforceable
– part of the public domain

How do you find this stuff?
– open source
– publications
– expired patent applications

Sates of the art
– all publications in any language available up to the filing date.

So if you wrote your algorithm on a napkin and left it in a restaurant, that’s in the public domain. So patent then not valid as ‘novelty’ is destroyed. (Novelty can only be destroyed, it can’t be proven.)

Lots of patent databases.
Several prior art wikis.
Can also use search or metasearch like Clusty.

SHiFT: Stowe Boyd – We make our tools and they shape us

What sort of web doe we want? What sort of world? And how do our tools shape that?

The web is becoming a third place, replacing the third places we had before.

1. home
2. work
3. a place that is neither home nor work, but something else: a library, bar, cafe, park, wherever. Not necessarily with your family or work colleagues.

Movement away from the third place due to the rise of TV. People spend less time in social involvement in the third place. Americans average 4 hours of TV per day… Italians and British also average 4 hours too, so no smugness form the Europeans. Macedonians go for 286 minutes a day.

Television is a disease, because it leads people to sitting passively on a couch having info pushed at them, and are not engaging with people.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is internet. 56% of broadband users watch less tv. People aren’t going back to the pub or cafe or park, but moving on to the net. Using increasingly social tools. Consistent patterns of people’s social interaction within the real world and the virtual world. does not mean that all sociall systems online are equal, or equally good.

So we know this transition is happening. So how do the tools stack up.

Email sucks. Has had a big impact on culture, but it’s terrible. Extremely easy to spam, to treat people homogeneously. People are using less email – proportionately we are using other social tools more. Email changed communications channels in business, and the need for middle-managers went away .

Younger people use email less than older people. People from 13 -19 see email as a corporate evil, a propaganda machine. We’ll see significantly less email in the future.

Instant messaging. The buddy list is the centre of the universe. Average AIM user has the client open for 5 hours a day. Strong advocate of the social cues of IM, status messages etc.

Blogging. All these things came along at once. Biggest impact of blogging is in the US with the dissolution of the traditional media in the US. NYT laid off 400 people this year. Profound impact on journalism, but this isn’t what this talk is about. But blogs are changing what’s happening in the US and it will trickle through to everywhere else too.

Also has impact at individual person level, people communicating with their friends, to make new friends, to participate in the third space online.

Tags. A way for people to create shared meaning.

Explicit social networks, such as Discovered have the musical taste of a 27 year old British woman – she has the most similar taste to me on

Geolocation. Plazes. Where people, and geolocated photos. Bridge from virtual, web world to the real world. Leads to Glocalisation, global products and technology used by a small local network.

Techmeme. Tracks tech memes, and people play the game of jumping on the hottest stories to try to build traffic. Dangerous feedback cycle? Have a piling-on phenomenon, so have a clustering effect. So instead of having 500 stories of interest, it gets narrowed down to 50. Thinks that’s a bad thing because we’re talking about less things, starting to echo each other, talking within the group not to the rest of the world. Bad kind of social model.

If we look at these sorts of social technologies as a group there are certain characteristics that emerge.

Shape of web culture to come, and the potential impact on world culture to come:

– participatory, not passive; people are involved, not just accepting what they’re given or shown.
– open, not closed: anyone can get involved
– inclusive, not exclusive: that’s another reason not to like Techmeme, because it’s an elite group or authors
– edge, not centre: power is moving from the central elite to the edge, to the long tail of millions of people; centralised media organisations are losing control; once you put power in the hands of the people at the edge, it’s unlikely they’ll allow it to go back to the centre.

Our tools have an impact on us, but we can impact them by choosing which tools we use. If you see a tool going in the wrong direction, either complain and say you don’t think it’s going in the right direction, or simply don’t use it.


SHiFT: Martin Röll – Time for a SHIFT

How we need to change our thinking and acting to use information technology sensibly.

At these sorts of conferences, there seems to be quest for identity, to find out who we are, and how we shape the word, and how the world shapes us. Thomas talked about hacking language. Stowe will talk about tools, how we shape them and how they shape us. I’m talking about hacking the human operating system, how we live and how we interact.

Two assumptions in the title: we need to change, and that we aren’t using IT sensibly. Lilia thinks we are using IT sensibly, but what I mean is that we are not using the possibilities we have from the things we’ve invented, there’s a lot more we could do, and there’s a lot of tech that’s not useful at all.

The other assumption is that we need to change, and I’m not going to argue that point. But I do think it’s time for a shift and we do need to change, because I see things that we are doing on this planet that I don’t like, but I’m not going to labour the point about when we need to change.

But these points I am going to make are going to work for you no matter if you think the world is going to change or disintegrate.

Wishes don’t work, no point wishing for change. Need to act ourselves. That’s why he used ‘we’. Also, pointless blaming others for our misfortunes, we have to own that ourselves.

Idea of this talk is that when we look at the tech we’ve invented we can see it helps us get more things done. Can access more information, can find things faster, can communicate with more people, can work more effectively. Question is, what are we going to do with all that now? What work are we going to do? Are we going to use it to fight faster and more dynamically, or are we going to come up with some better ideas?

Two things are important:

– the way we interact with each other when we use IT.
– the way we work, the things we work on, and the type of work we do when working for other companies and the way we earn our money.

There are things we get wrong, specially when we access the web for accessing information. We tend to believe that what is in the browser is the world, don’t take into account that it’s a snapshot of the world, and we don’t think about the state of mind we are in when we access information.

So you’ve just got up and haven’t had coffee and are feeling groggy, then a comment on your blog may read as a stupid comment, but later on when you read it you may realise it’s constructive criticism.

Often we mis-interpret things online because we don’t take into account our own state of mind, we no longer see things the way they are, we see our own emotions in the email we get and the information we process. We react to this information badly when you are in a ‘fight’ mode, or a ‘protect’ mode. But have to think about why you are reacting the way you react.

Our information systems are created in such a way as it’s easy to get drowned in information. When we try to absorb too much information we become ineffective.

Once we’ve found out what we want to do, once we have our thinking clear, we have to go on to the acting part. One of the most important things here is what do we focus on. We tend to multitask, think about email, or what we have to do… when we don’t focus on what we need to do, when we are procrastinating we don’t get anything done. But we are the ones that decide where to put our focus, our attention.

There are lots of tools there to help us find what is interesting… but that’s frequently defined as what’s being linked to a lot. But when we do that we get into mob behaviour. We find something on the net, but we don’t know anything more than what we’ve seen. So we amplify what is happening without really it being important or relevant to us.

We should stop doing that. People will not stop reading a blog because I haven’t linked to popular things. In fact, if I stop for 2 weeks, it doesn’t matter. RSS feeds mean that people will stay, they can see when you start writing again. We should blog less about things that suck. What I get mad about when I see what’s happening in my part of the blogosphere – so many people spend so much time commenting on things that we don’t like, or things that suck.

There is so much stuff that sucks, everyone could easily write a list of 100 things that suck, but a blog entry is not going to change it. We should focus on what’s really important to us, what’s positive, what can make a difference. Don’t waste time on criticising politics or business or user-interfacces on a new gadget. We shouldn’t talk about he things that are irrelevant to our own actions.

Also need to be aware of the consequences of what we do, particularly the economic consequences. At this conference, you’ll meet a lot of people who are inventing new tools or processes. We are innovating. This is important for companies because they are hiring us and paying us. But we need to be aware of the repercussions of what we do. We need to think carefully about where we are going to put our new inventions. In the end it will all be freely available, but we are the ones who decide who gets it first, we shape the first behaviour, we help the first users make use of the tools. And by making this decision of how we use the tools, if we are not giving it to some people we can stop development, and by giving it to others we can speed development, so we need to think about where we apply these tools.

We have a duty too to share what we know and what we are developing. Not enough to just talk amongst ourselves, to show the demo to other geeks, but they can find it themselves anyway. If we really believe in what we do and we think that it’s important we need to go out and show it to people who don’t know yet. Most people don’t care about what we do because they don’t know about what we do.

You won’t find them on Google or Skype or IM, but our duty is to go out there and find people to share with. But we are developing stuff for us, not for people who are not at our conferences. We can work effectively but other people don’t, and some people are getting left behind and we should show what we do to other people and let them participate in this new world that we are creating.

I believe we are not using the tools we have developed effectively today. Much of the time we use our computers we are recreating other tools we already have, or engaging in the same behaviours. We need to think more about why we are doing what we do. We shouldn’t confuse the browser with reality. We should be mindful when we communicate with others through the electronic medium. Too often we misunderstand others because we’re not aware of our own state of mind when we are interfacing with the system. We need to co-exist with everyone.

Also need to be careful who we work for, whose money we take. If we aren’t more careful, we’ll just be the generation that made things faster. But if we do, not only can we get more things done, have better communication, but we can also shape a world in which more people can live together peacefully.


SHiFT: Kevin Cheng – Communicating concepts through comics

Communicating new technologies. We’ve got lots of great tech, but when it comes to talking about the ideas, we need to step back. Communicating using comics. Works at Yahoo Local. Used comic strip to communicate the idea for how the local restaurant search might work.

Started off writing a short script about the story and ideas they wanted to convey. Then put together the flow of the story, then drew it, and put it into Flash. Easy to share. Easy communication. But printing things out better than using Flash, even thought Flash is portable.

Why did they decide to use comics? Why are they interesting and powerful.

Comics are universal, so you can tell that a comic of a dog farting is a dog farting even without any language skills.

Comics need imagination. Comics are abstracted version of person, and are more ‘everyman’ than a photograph (see Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics). Comics give people room to be engaged with the character.

Abstraction can also be used for the user interface. Don’t want to distract people so abstract the UI.

Comics are more expressive. Adding context of images to words changes the meaning of them. Allows you to communicate even body language.

Comics better at telling time and motion. Movie storyboards.

Great for iteration. Quick to draw and redraw.

[Of course, this presentation somewhat depends on images I don’t have here to show you… so ironically you really are only getting half of the story here. How’s that for the point being made for you?]

Who uses comics?
US Postal Service. Comic strip post card about where to buy stamps, but although you throw it out you can absorb it as you glance at it.

Matrix storyboard.

Squid Labs, ‘HowToons’, instructions for kids on how to make projects like air hockey out of a balloon and AOL CD.

Dodgeball. Use comics to explain their service.

Doing comics is not that hard. If you don’t know how to do it, then there are a lot of resources online to help you get started. Look at expressions, changing eyebrows. Wally Wood’s 22 Panels. Trace pictures. Different tools for making comics.

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SHiFT: Euan Semple – The Quiet Revolution

Here at SHiFT in Lisbon, a two day conference on Social and Human Ideas for Technology. Again, not going to blog every session, just a few here and there. First up, Euan Semple.

Words ‘social’ and ‘media’ and ‘business’ help people make assumptions about what is happening, so they then package and dismiss it. People come up with all sorts of reasons why blogs/wikis/etc won’t work in their business, why it is nothing to do with them.Some people are jumpy about ‘social’ in the workplace.

BBC, implemented social software and had ‘globally distributed, near instant, person to person conversations’. Different from the way organisations usually talk. Most businesses try to manage relationships and information, to control communications. The global nature of the net and the uncontrolled nature of the conversation on the net is intimidating to most people. But the thing that scares people the most is the fact that it’s person-to-person. business has sanitised the personal out of business. You try to act as your job title instead of your as a person, and you’re not encouraged to act as a person, to be yourself, and a lot of businesses actively discourage it.

Way BBC implemented social computing was different too. Usually do months of consultancy and user testing and that doesn’t really work. Companies get fleeced by IT people doing that. Decided didn’t want to do that at BBC, so had own ideas, own technology, and wanted to just get on with it.

Created a forum first. No marketing, all word of mouth. Out of 24k staff, 18k had used the forum at some point or another. Most of it’s mundane, people asking questions. Exposed differences within the different parts of the business, which previously they’d pretended didn’t exist. Smart manager engages with the conversation, even when they are negative or critical. E.g. weather graphics were not liked by people in the BBC, and the manager in charge of that came into the conversation and just talked calmly to everyone.

Euan keen not to own the forum, fought off people branding it, or tell people how to behave. When there were problems he’d go and just ask questions about it, to encourage discussion.

Forum talked about big stuff too. Jerry Springer the Opera. Big discussions. First time that they’d had a pan-BBC discussion about something big.

People think it’s just about the technology, but it’s not. Is naturally disruptive. But organisations don’t have a choice – the MySpace generation will demand this if it’s not there – they’ll either not work for you, or they’ll do it on the web which could be really bad for you.

Then put in a social networking tool, Connect.Gateway. Tools helps people get to find people interested in the same things, and empowered people who would otherwise not have had a way of connecting.

Then added blogs. Euan’s still cautious about blogs in business because they work on the basis of having an opinion and expressing it, and that’s not trivial in an organisation. It’s difficult tot say what you think. It’s paradoxical – in business it’s hard to say what you think and there’s no accountability, whereas in the geek world if you don’t say what you think you don’t exist, and there’s a trail behind you that everyone can follow.

Richard Sambrook started to get interested, and wanted to talk directly to a new division of 1500 people and didn’t want to do memos and staff emails and newsletters, so he used a blog instead. Did it well, blogged every day, mix of stuff, allowed comments. Would raise strategic issues and sometimes other senior managers would engage in the conversation in the comments thread. Those conversations would have happened elsewhere, but you wouldn’t have seen them publicly.

His internal blog at one point was being read by 8000 staff, now settled down to 4000 staff. Also humanised him, took him out of the org chart. Has now just started his own public blog. Very challenging for people in an organisation like the BBC. Some of the stuff eh wrote on his internal blog ended up in the press. The edges are getting fuzzier, what can you and can’t you write about.

Then introduced wikis. Adoption curve was steeper, less popular. Firstly, people used it as an easy way to set up a website. Allowed people to publish information that they couldn’t have published any other way, as had no budget for a web designer.

Euan then used the wiki to collaboratively write a policy for employee blogs. Asked 90 BBC bloggers to help work on the policy, using comment son the wiki pages (Confluence). After a couple of weeks it slowed down, as the policy writers reached consensus (with no meetings), and so got given to the management to ratify.

Someone in the forum said that it was frustrating that BBC staff can’t take part in BBC competitions. Set up competition internally, and collaboratively people put together the rules, the criteria, etc, for a photography comp. Now they are using it for organising programmes.

Something about the ownership about it, the self-selection that allows people to really engage with it.

RSS helps. Lots of people talking internally, but need a way to manage all that conversation and RSS does that. Began to see who was interest to who and that showed them who’s interested in what.

Tagging also an important. Tools that replicate delicious inside the organisation.

We have a glimpse of how this works, but when the MySpace generation comes into business, they will expect this, and they will know better how it works, and how to sidestep the red tape that can get in the way of getting things done.


Our second podcast pt 1: A conference roundup

We recorded this on Sunday night, but I’ve really struggled with Odeo’s upload tool. In the end, I gave up, uploaded to the Internet Archive and just linked to it via Odeo. (Note: It does take a second or two to load into the Odeo player) The Creative Commons publisher worked a treat, and I’m happy that we’re using CC licencing anyway.

Suw has been on the conference circuit lately. I so glad that she got a new MacBook so we can do video iChat. Otherwise, I’d rarely see her. She’s been to FooCamp, EuroFoo, and EuroOSCON. It’s got her excited about Second Life among other things. And we talk about the devloper-as-journalist Adrian Holovaty.

She just left this morning to go to Shift in Lisbon.. We’ll have to talk about that later.

powered by ODEO

You can always simply download the podcast here. (20:28 9.8 MB)

We started off thinking that we really didn’t have much to talk about, but in the end, we talked so much that we decided to break up the podcast into two parts. I’ll add the show notes in a bit and post the second part in a bit.

UPDATE: Show notes:

00:30 EuroFoo recap Suw talks about FooCamp and EuroFoo, including talking about the Google Flyover, making a crashed Cylon raider out of beanbags
03:25 Suw talks about a presentation on chocolate. Remember, only losers chew. Real people suck.
07:00 Other topics at EuroFoo, future of spying, Ryan Carson talks about working a four-day week, and ‘Could we build a tricorder?’
08:56 EuroOSCON. Suw discusses Tom Steinberg of MySociety presentation about democratising government. I talk about distributed journalism. I space on the details, but Glyn reminds me in the comments.
11:52 Adrian Holovaty talks about adding structure to the data that journalists gather. Adrian talks about the developer as journalists.
16:40 It’s like Tom Coates who talks about a ‘web of data’. Journalism now is a web of news, Suw says.

The first half ends a bit abruptly, but I’ll post the second half now.

EuroOSCON: Mark Shuttleworth – The challenges facing Ubuntu

Has two talks he could give – collaboration, one of the great challenges facing free software community. Have some dam good tools, and produce world class software, but if we’re going to step up to the next level that our grannies can use, and be confident and comfortable using, we’ll have to amp up the collaboration.

Or… can look at some of the mountains that we have to climb. If we want to establish the norm, there are some key challenges.

Crowd voted for challenges.

Free Software Rules
The web rules – Apache is the no 1 web server; free software CMS; applications.

Reverse auction, start with no 13 and work to 1.

13 – Pretty is a feature.
Absolutely true. When I was able to show someone Firefox and it looked so sweet, less interested in the magical underpinnings, or free software, or extensions… than in the fact that it looked reallly good. Need to look at the real pioneers of classy sofware and see how they use their stuff. So Gnome focused very much on distilling the essence of software and making it good. See same meme in KDE environment, who make things look pretty.

To be de facto, needs to look and feel super-polished. Means we need to accept some contraints, and think about human-computer interaction.

12 – Consistent packaging.
When an industry’s in transition it’s a difficult time. People tell me the difficult thing about Linux is that they don’t know how to install software. No installer like InstallShield. Compounded by numbers of distros and packages.

Installing external software is an old way of thinking, happens in the old world.

Eg. Oracle used to take days to install, but OracleExpress takes minutes. Should basically wish for it and it’s there. We can do that in the free software world far better than in paid, because we can create the alliances between software.

But the packaging is the elephant in the room. Used to be an area of real innovation, but now we need convergance. Debian did well early on, so need to think about commonalities. Ideal: common packaging format that’s easy to work with so that developers have something build into their project. It should be trivial.

Indicator of success is when you see propriorty software guys adopting free software packaging, as Oracle has done.

11 – Simplified licencing.
Whatever you think, they started out with a framework for people to decide how they want to their licence. CC have said there’s a specturm, like it or not, and some people are happy with things others won’t like. This is what the universe of people out there looks like. Consistent licences.

In software, we have 150 – 200 licences. So running into some annoying incompatibilities. Need to understand what the CC guys have done well, and then adopt it.

Essence of success is not OS, but free software. Some people want to be somewhere else on the spectrum than me, but better to have a framework for that .

10 – Pervasive presence
Linux desktop can start to be a genuine thought leader, a genuine innovator, and presence is going to be there. So need a universal addressbook, knowing the channels through which you communicate, give an idea to the user an idea of who’s out there.

meshnet. bunch of laptops in this room, so how hard would it be to figure out who is around? There is work going on, but if we could treat this as a common infrastructure, so that we enable collaboration platforms.

9 – Pervasive support
Or the perception of. People say that ‘Its’ lovely but it’s not supported’, but there are numbers that you can call, but people don’t think it’s supported. So transform support into perception of pervasive support. Cafe guy has a guy who has a phone no. for people to ring. The knowledge is there, so hard to find grads with no Linux experience. Need to get people to tell others.

8 – Govaritye Ra Russki
Translation. If you look at how well software is translated, it’s easy to think we’re doing well. 347 languages who have more than 1 million speakers. So we have to invest in the translation effort. Build the platforms to support the needs of translators. Need to be translated upstream, so it’s easiest to distribute. A lot of effort in building bridges. Need to help the documentation guys, but the infrastructure is written for the Linux people, not the developers.

007 – Great gadgets
Interested in Troll Tech. The gadget world is going to be one fo the next major frontiers for free software adoption. Linux has gone from 0 – 20% market share in 2 years. Palm, Symbian, Windows, but Linux has grown massively in the last two years. But it’s fragmented, large numbers of small manufacturers, who need an OS at low/no cost. So not the sort of momentum.

As a community we could change that. Lot of value in having the same OS for your desktop, phone and other devices. Need a Gadgubuntu.

6 – Sensory immersion
In the audience there was one person who plays World of Warcraft (which was Jim Purbrick… from Second Life). Ten people in Second Life.

Joi Ito has a room in his house for playing WoW, with screens up and he can have as full an immersion as possible.

Need to extend sensory interaction with web and the real world. Make this a goal of free software, and be pioneering ahead of the proprietory world. Need to feed people information, and sensory immersion is going to be an aread where free software can pull ahead.

5 – Getting it together
Collaboration. Think of the things we do as free software developers. We track bugs, exchange translation, project management but it’s ad hoc and organic. If we want to stand up and compete with Redmond we need to elevate that to a higher level. When we do a release it’s backward looking, because we look at what’s lready been done. We can’t get data fro the future… so there’s lag, there’s innefficiency. So we don’t know that Firefox is going to release something at a future date.

I belive that it’s possible to release software predictively, and collaborate across software. Lots of layers in a stack, but don’t have good tools for coordinating work across layers. Would like to see a sort of Basecamp HQ. Build infrastructure to help plan and manage projects. So if OpenOffice release is going to slip, then we can work more efficiently.

Need to think about knock-on consequences when one product’s release date slips.

(4 – Seems to have got a bit intermingled with 5.)

3 – Extra Dimension
Vista. Everyone’s trying to learn how to invent new interface metaphors. Things haven’t changed for 15-20 years. We’re going to see a radical innovation soon. Office 12 is really interesting work, and we need to be equally brave and bold. Because of the shift to a world where windows are transparent and really part of a 3D infrastructure, we can have all sort of new opportunities.

iTunes 7 – that kind of innovation. Were not moving to a true 3D world. bue we do have 2.5D. Right kind of place to have large ammounts of innovation.

Look at FireFox’s extensions. LIke to see same thing in Free Software. Need to expose that extra 0.5D.

2. Granny’s new Camera
Impossible to predict what sort of things people want to connect to, and can’t priedict what is going to be invented. Kernal community really need to hear this message. Got the world’s fastest USB stack, but there are many didfferent stacks, so it’s hard to think of a consistent platform that the next generation USB drivers will work on.

The ability to ship software today and connect it to software in 3 years time is essential.

Start to create interfaces that are stable. Maleability, flexibility, etc. But also standard interfaces for device mfrs.

Can’t expect to have perfect interoperability, but can improve a lot.

1- Keeping it free
Microsoft is experimenting with shared-source, but that’s not enough to see the source. It’s about harnessing the source the way you want to. But as free software gets more pervasive and more powerful there’ll be more temptation to subvert it and send it in different diretions. GPLv3 is important, the discussions are are important; anti-patent groups are important, DRM also and tricky interpretations of licencing are the most dangerous things facing us.

EuroOSCON: Jim Purbrick – Second Life (again)

Jim actually gave two presentations, and this was the first one, which I probably should have blogged before I blogged the second one, but meh, it’s all too late now.

130 million gmae players in the US alone
20 million MMO players
Age of gamer increasing by one year per year, i.e. people start playing games as children and don’t stop.

Tremendous value is being generated online.

Worldwide digital good strade of US$1-2 billion per year – this is paying for items or characters in MMOs, i.e. to take shortcuts.

Typical game is a subscription per month. That means the games tend to be designed so you have to put a lot of time in to playing in order to progress. Can take months to progress and do everything. Money-rich and time-poor people are willing to pay in order to save time. Trade across the boundary.

In-world trade 10 or 20 x the real-world exchange.

$30 billion USD traded internally and across the boundaries, which is twice the size of the games industry itself.

Second Life, is a 3D virtual world.
It is persistant – what you create stays created.
It is massively multi-user – it’s one world, rather than WoW which is a virtual theme park, and after 3000 people the world is full, so they copy the themepark multiple times. SL is a seamless world, so rather than make a copy, just add bits round the edges.
Resident built – compare to other games that are created by the maker. People build, texture, script, animate and *own* what they build. If you sell swords in most games it is illegal. In SL, you can build and sell stuff legally. Can sell for Linden Dollars, and exchange currency. Can records stuff in Second Life, and can sell machinima as video.
Linden Sells land and services, rather than subscriptions. so if you want to make something, you need to buy land so that it persists. If you then want to advertise it, you can stick it in the classifieds.

So this is “not a game”
– no game fiction
– no artificial conflict
– no winning condition

User creation is the big thing. Create objects on the floor out of nothing, like boxes or cones or spheres, etc. Then you colour and texture them and add them together to make things.

A tale of two pianos.

Ultima Online, you could build houses and could fill it full of stuff. But the stuff you could fill it with was the stuff that the games company had build. So you can play with it but they build it. So someone realised that if you took a box and put a chess board on it, then a box, and some t-shirts and then some bear skins, you could create something that looked like a piano… it wasn’t a piano but it looked like a piano. In SL you make a piano out of boxes, but then you create a script so that you make it play like a piano.

140,000 hours of use per day
25% of time is spent creating
140,000 hours * 2000 hours/year = 17.5 user-years a day

To create that sort of development, they’d need 6500 people costing $650 m per year.

That’s what Blizzard and EAA can do, because they have that kind of budget. But Linden Labs could not afford this, which is why it’s all user created.

Can also write code. It’s like C code – well, ‘sub-C code’ – but in a 7 day period, 5000 residents have written origanal scripts – 15% of people. and these people are not programmers.

12,000 distinct scripts written in 7 days, which is
3 million lines of script code

So people get others to help them, or copy other scripts.

Unanticipated consequences
So early on, people decided to be aliens, created a spaceship, abudcted people, probed them, and then gave them a t-shirt saying ‘I got abducted by aliens’. The aliens did this about monthly… and people found it kind of fun.

In WoW or UO that would be scary, but LL love it.

Traditionally ‘hard’ problems:
– making 3D objects – 100 million
– making humans – 10 million
– programming – 30 million

Compare to other user created content

Over 60% of people contribute to the platform. Which is a big deal compared to most others that produce less than 10%… or 0%.

Lots of the stuff people make is just experimenting, making something simple and then deleting it. There are huge sandboxes, but every 3 or 6 hours they get wiped.

Because land is valuable, that reduces the amount of crap that’s lying around. Land is a column – you buy a footprint and it goes up as high as you like (well until your avatar melts).

You also get a ration of prims (i.e. you can only create so many primitive objects such as cubes or spheres), so if you want to make a castle then you need to buy a lot of land so that you can get enough prims together.

People make games. Golf, for example, or Tringo – combination of bingo and Tetris, and instead of numbers, shapes get pulled out, so try to line up the shapes on the grid to make continuous blocks of colour. Social game, lots of fun, but it’s licenced in the real world games company, and to TV.

Beyond games, simulations, so for example FEMA simulating distribution of aid.

Massive experimentation, e.g. AI virtual fish. Serena (??) was an amateur, experimented, and now has started working with professors on the same issues.

Good for mixing up amateurs and professional.

Lots of charitable giving in SL. Sponsored walk in SL, people sold items in SL. Made US$40,000 on last walk.

Spaceport Alpha, every single rocket that’s ever been designed and launched, including ones taht exploded. They did it for a laugh, but it’s a great educational resource now.

Education, real world universities do real world learning in SL, loads of stuff.

Virtual Book signing, Cory Doctorow. Virtual book that could get signed.

Beyond Broadcast, someone in the real conference and the SL version of the conference with a dalek. Everything’s Better With Daleks.

People also make money, someone made US$150,000 from land terraforms and zones real estate.

Who’s in SL.

650,000 residents, 10% increase monthly

older and more gender balance, 50/50
women and older residents demonstrate better skills conversion into second life.

256×256 areas run on Debian servers
3000 CPUs
Area is three times size of Manhattan.
Add 300 servers a month.

Yet more stats… shitloads of stuff is happening, basically.

Why now?

People have been trying to do this for a while.
Broadband, the whole things comes down the wires all the time.
Routing capacity/low pings
Consumer 3d acceleration

But also…

Open Source
Lots of different OS libraries, cross-platform, so clients on Win, Mac, Linux

OS infrastructure. Almost al of it is OS, all the servers, are debian, mySQL, Apache…

Only PayPal, credit card processing and MySQL hot backup and Jira are closed source.

Made contributions to OS projects too.

Integrating Mozilla, any web place on a prim which will mean that you’ll be able to do any web page which can interact with Second Life. Hard to stick Mozilla on a 3D object. Interim result

OS projects in SL.

Such as OS Lightsaber construction kits.
Animation overrider, can upload animation for a golf swing, but some animations that avatars use by default, and they’re a bit rubbish, so some have done the overrider so people could bundle it with shoes, so the shoes actually change the way you walk.
Last Sound System, can stream radio stations into land in SL.
Lots of Creative Commons too, audio, graphics etc. Even a CC machine – touch the object which generates a licensing tag for objects.

Reimplemenation in SL, reverse engineering, people want to modify platform as well as world.
– joystick control
– SL teledilconics

Moving towards OS SL platform.
Still some closed source libraries getting in the way.
Duty to residences – it’s not just an app, it has people working in it, so need to make sure it’s not possibly to destroy it.

Everyone owns the IP of what they make.

EuroOSCON: Adrian Holovaty – Journalism via computer programming

Journalism right now is broken. Several ways – celebrity focus, political bias, circulation declining consistently, stock prices dropping, craisglist taking away classifieds market.

But that’s not the issue. The issues is that newspapers throw away data.

So if there was a burglary, you have the address, the person, the stuff nicked, roughly the time. has key value pairs. But all the journalist does is write an article and throw away most of the data.

News orgs have huge infrastructure, with reporters on the street, specialised. Infrastructure to collect and edit information, verify it. Not every media organisation does that, that they’re not taking advantage of. Have infrastructure to get info out to people, i.e. a printing press originally. Also have the attention of people.

But can’t take advantage of data because they are just creating big blobs – stories.

So contrast to
Google Base, (which is just infrastructure with no data).

All great frameworks desperate for data. Journalists have great data desperate for a framework.

Why is structured data important – because if it’s structured a computer can do cool stuff with it.

Journalism via computer programming.

News people write an article, or create a video. A programmer makes a web app that makes it easy to look at the data.

WaPo, Iraq war, huge issue. Most recent deaths page, total fatalities, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation Enduring Freedom. Collect data on everyone who’s died, but can’t do a story on everyone, but can make that data available.

Faces of the Fallen – get own page, bio, map of home town. Depressing but important. Breakdown of age of deaths, most are 21, look by age, photos, breakdown of state, see all the people from the state and their town. Googlemaps. RSS Feed for every state. Sounds depressing and gory, but people are interested and they are then making their own sites, using for political activism.

Another example:

Type of crime, street, by block, brows by day, by hour, and latest crime RSS feed

Votes Database, representatives in congress, their votes, breakdowns of late night votes, votes missed, get RSS out there. So people can get more interested in government: did you know your representative voted this way today?

Telling a story via an application not words. Being smart about data, dealing with raw data. Badger journalists to get the raw data so we can do cool stuff. End game is not creating an article, but getting data in one place to do cool stuff.

Cultural similarities to this and open source code.

Open source:
– making code available.
– understanding through transparency: can download stuff and look at it.
– encourages derivative work, although depends on licence.

Journalism via code:
– make the data available.
– encourages understanding through transparency: better to look at the data than someone’s opinion.
– encourages derivative work, can take the data from the RSS feed and do stuff with it yourself.

Call to action
Done talks at journalism conferences, and people grumble that this ‘isn’t journalism’, but that’s kinda depressing that the industry thinks that way. It’s not full of passionate people who want to do cool things with technology but full more of people more interested in the ends than the means. So if people are interested, then go out there and do it.

EuroOSCON: Jim Purbrick – Second Life

User Creation. Very big thing. User creation tends to be quite low: Less than 10% of people that read the web create content for it. As difficulty of user creation goes up, so participation goes down.

More people in Second Life contribute than any other platform, but small numbers in absolute terms. Users growing 10% per month, and level of 60% participation is constant.

But just geeks? Community is older, ave age 32. Gender neutral by hours of use. Women and older residents demonstrate greater skills conversion than 18 yr old boys.

Just doing it for money? No, a lot of people do it just because they can.

Nearly all trivial? Yes, but you have to start somewhere.

Nearly all bad? Sturgeon’s Law Applies – 90% of stuff is crap. But ok, stuff isn’t always good, but it might be useful to that person. Creation is an end in itself. People just like to make stuff.

Why participate?
Instant Gratification? If you want to get people to participate they want to get results quickly, see the results, get rid of furstration. SL is not completely free of frustration, but you can make stuff pretty quickly. To make complex or pretty stuff takes time, but easy to hack simple stuff.

Always On Creation. There’s no ‘edit mode’, it’s always on. You can make stuff all the time. People are at parties they are still tinkering at the same time.

Collaborative creation. Can use sandboxes to make stuff, 24/7/365 Maker Fair. You can go and see what people are doing, ask them about it.

Culture of teaching. Ivory Tower of Primatives – how to make stuff. Easy to share and distribute. Unlike with some systems you have to build and then make a conscious effort to distribute it, but there’s little friction because if you mark something freely copiable, then people can just take a copy of it.

Creation engine. Used to think it’s like a bulldozer, but it’s more about the people – being able to communicate, hang out, and be able to participate. That’s what’s important, not the tools.

Another interesting thing – we are potentially coming to a turning point. People have created this vibrant world, so real world companies and organisations are coming into Second Life, e.g. American Apparel. Can buy t-shirts for your avatar and for your real life person. Also Creative Commons are in there.

So what will happen? Will the commercial companies come in and ruin it? Or will it maintain an open scouce feel? Probably will be a mixture. But everything in SL can be open sourced in the way that real things can’t, e.g. you can’t copy a real chair, but you can do that with a SL chair.