ph33r. I am now footnotes enabled.1
Using the wp-footnotes plugin.2
thankfully the number of people who will understand this post is small
<hp> your personal mission statement could be like “oGALAXYo of the legal world”
rosen commentary on gpl v3
With the final draft of gpl v3 having been announced, commentary will inevitably trickle out. The first I’ve seen worth noting is from Larry Rosen.
He hits on most of the important improvements: more explicit and comprehensive language (perhaps in places at the expense of clarity for hackers, unfortunately); compatibility with the APL; and more clarity about what sorts of aggregations (linking, putting on a CD, etc.) are and are not permitted.
He also talks about the patent language. He doesn’t appear to think that the language itself is flawed (as some have argued), but primarily that its mere existence might prevent people from using an otherwise superior license. I have mixed feelings about that. He is right that this is a risk that it will drive away some of our corporate partners, but given the diligence that has gone into consulting those partners during the drafting process, and the alternative of continuing to open ourselves up to patent risk, it seems a risk worth taking. We will see soon, at any rate.
link dump, before I brave the torrential downpour
It is pouring out. I’d meant to go to Duke Gardens and start on Wealth of Networks again, but clearly not going to happen today. Instead, a quick linkdump and then a search for some local foraging.
westlaw doesn’t get it- search with gradients, but without relevance
Sigh. So, kudos to westlaw for coming up with a new beta front page. Very clean, very google-like. (If you can’t see it, trust me.) Sadly, westlaw seems to think that the appeal of google is the clean look, rather than the good results.
If you search for ‘ebay v. mercexchange’ on google, you get the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case as the first hit, wikipedia, a blog post, and then the Federal Circuit’s (lower court) ruling on the case. This is pretty reasonable. Every hit on the page is relevant. They also got the ruling as the first hit within weeks of the ruling goes, which beyond reasonable and into ‘fairly impressive.’
When I searched for ‘ebay v. mercexchange’ on the new westlaw beta search a couple weeks after the ruling, I got… well, nothing referring to the Supreme Court. A bunch of commentary on the Federal Circuit’s decision. Some stuff on Indiana cities suing each other, and wills/estates. (WTF?) When I clicked around for a long time, I eventually found both decisions that Google finds immediately. Now, I get to commentary directly (better), but still no direct link to the case (still bad).
Now, I’m obviously not an expert, but I’m guessing someone searching for ‘ebay v. mercexchange’ is searching, 9 times out of 10, for the case itself. In fact, a teacher of legal research will tell you that you should never rely solely on commentaries- you should always read the case, as well as the commentaries, even if your intent is to first read the commentaries. So the should be result #1 (like it is in Google), followed by relevant background information and references (like Google.) That Westlaw still doesn’t get this is mind-boggling.
What makes Westlaw particularly maddening is that they should be able to measure relevance in much greater detail than Google can. Both Google and Westlaw have access to a rich database of documents which link to each other in a measurable, meaningful way. Westlaw has more- they can measure precisely how long people spend looking at documents, and know which results they click, in which order, when they run a search. And legal documents have a strict heirarchy which can be used to infer value when links are weak. And despite that, Westlaw still fails. (Lexis is no better.)
But hey, now the first search page you go to at westlaw has gradients. That counts for something, right?
notes on my adventures in fedora-land
I’ve been irritated for a while by some of Mark’s positions on ‘freedom’ (slamming Red Hat for non-freeness while seriously considering binary drivers and encouraging free software projects to rely on proprietary software for development), and obviously if I’m working for Red Hat, I should eat my own dogfood. So yesterday I spent a few hours installing Fedora for the first time… well, since roughly around when I ate my shorts. (NB: I can’t find a link or picture of that; if someone still has them, I’d like a copy.)
Some notes, good:
Some notes, bad:
Some notes, mixed:
Overall, I can’t say I’m thrilled; I spent lots of yesterday cursing at various things. But I’m pretty much back where I was functionality-wise (or almost); I’m using a very Free distro; and I’m doing the right thing by supporting my employers and giving feedback on our product. Hopefully my experience will lead to a better experience for lots of folks in F8, if I can just bend the right ears :)
I’ve never thought of myself as a horse person, exactly, but the week before work started I went into the mountains and ended up doing a fair amount of horseback riding, and really enjoyed it. Most of my pictures aren’t up yet, but I really like this one, so I thought I’d throw it out there. The gentleman in the picture is the guy who talked me into the riding, with his wife behind him. Thanks so much, Joan and Ershal!
they keep talking about building bridges, but forget that toll booths are optional
“The only way that[ customer-benefiting interoperability is] possible is for companies to really be open to licensing arrangements and building these bridges that people thought were impossible before, among different providers and among different software development models.” –Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s vice president of intellectual property and licensing
Or, you know, you could agree not to assert the IP against your customers, open source, or standards-based projects, and actually benefit your customers like you claim to want to. Wouldn’t that be a wild idea. I think everyone is in favor of bridges, but some of us don’t assume that all bridges have toll booths.
(And I’m still waiting for someone in the mainstream tech media to challenge MS’s assumption here instead of just letting them get away with it. But I probably shouldn’t hold my breath.)
social producers are going to get lawyers whether we like them or not
One of the comments to Matt Asay’s post about me over the winter asked what I think was a pretty good question, and one that has been asked in a couple variations this summer:
…I am usually saddened to see that law becomes a necessarily evil in science (programming in this case). Why can’t we just be?
For better or for worse, social producers (not just software, but wikipedia, etc.) are becoming so successful that we often have to interface with the real world. We’ve got two options. First, we can either stay small and under the radar, allowing us to keep operating on a handshake basis. This will work for some products and some producers, but I think many of us want to have a broader impact than that. For those of us who do think that social production is going to have a serious and broad impact on the world, we can use the tools the rest of the world has developed to relate to that real world- laws and legal experts, aka lawyers. I’m pretty sure there is no third option to ‘be big but somehow still avoid lawyers.’ (Feel free to convince me otherwise; I’ll save at least $90K in school bills if you do. :) At best, we might be able to avoid some of the regulation which has affected every other pervasive industry, but even without regulation by government, when you’re big you have to relate to other private parties- corporations, less trusting individuals, etc. The bigger you get, the more those relationships are mediated by lawyers, in order to make sure that all sides can eventually trust each other once the lawyers are gone. The need to defend and define our success, in part by using the law and legal experts, is a virtually inevitable byproduct of our success- the rest of the world is not just going to let us be if we have the impact we hope we can have.
The types of issues lawyers can and will help social production navigate aren’t just going to be defensive issues, thankfully. If more of our relationships are going to lean away from the purely economic/industrial and begin to include more aspects of the social/cooperative, we’re going to need creative new ways to structure and define those relationships. The GPL is the canonical example of this, of course, but there are other examples too, like the Red Hat sales model. We got lucky in many senses with GPL- while originally intended for a cathedral-like model of production, it happened to provide the reciprocity which turned out to be critical for success in the bazaar. We aren’t likely to be so lucky again- we may never again have the time to allow such relationships to grow slowly and organically. Red Hat’s current sales model couldn’t evolve; it had to be sculpted with the aid of lawyers from day one. Again, then, if we want to have such relationships, we’re going to need to choose the ways we structure them more deliberately and proactively- and lawyers will likely be involved, whether we feel comfortable with that or not.
This isn’t necessarily to say that social producers should give up and let the lawyers have their way with us; they should be viewed with some suspicion, and we should demand that the same principles which tend to govern social production now - values like openness, transparency, simplicity, robustness - should continue to govern social production in the future, even after the lawyers get involved. (Mike Dillon, Sun GC, has a great blog post on the clarity/simplicity thing; and another on aligning provision of services with the needs of customers instead of the needs of providers; great social production lawyers will take both of those to heart and great social producers will demand it of their lawyers.) But denying that law (and with it the lawyers) is coming doesn’t serve anyone well.
So… perhaps unfortunately, our own needs and the needs of the outside world are going to push social producers into the arms of lawyers, whether we like it or not. Fortunately, more lawyers are going to get it as social production becomes more pervasive; the team here at Red Hat certainly seems to, and hopefully I’ll add myself to the pool of such lawyers in another couple years.
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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