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Showing posts from May, 2013

Fighting to Keep the Web Open

While frontiers represent freedom, they also represent opportunity and potential. The untamed spaces have no limits, rules, or organizing communities, so one can venture into the frontier do as one pleases. The success of the frontier in this traditional context is the establishment of rules, limitations, and organizing communities. To realize any value from the frontier, one needs to establish security, infrastructure, and clear boundaries. To establish these things, the frontier must be domesticated. As such, the opportunity represented by the frontier is its own destruction, or the destruction of those features characteristic of a frontier. 

Yesterday, the EFF released a formal objection to the inclusion of DRM in HTML5. While that sounds pretty technical, the base idea is straightforward. The short version is that there is a proposal to include usage control and digital rights management capabilities in the next version of the markup language used to create web pages and consequen…

A Brief, Non-Spoiling Review of Homeland

My partner and I just finished reading Cory Doctorow's young adult novel Homeland, our copy of which he kindly autographed for us at Octavia Books back in February. I can recommend the book without reservation, for young and old alike, but I wanted to focus on one particular merit. If you haven't read the book, what I am about to say shouldn't spoil anything, but does require taking in the whole of the book to appreciate, so hopefully it form an incentive to pick up and give it a shot. Since Cory Doctorow is also committed to free culture, you can find free copies of his books on his website. Try it for free, then buy one for a friend.

Anyway, in talking over Homeland with Tara, I decided that what I like most about it as a young adult novel is this: among other lessons the main character learns, the central theme is that he needs to learn to take control. Many of the main character's conflicts involve his reactive posture; the world happens to him, and he doesn't …

Obama: Stag Hunter

Yesterday, President Obama delivered an extended address on US national security status and policy. The main theme of his future-oriented policy emphasized the importance of foreign cooperation to long-term stability and security. Throughout the speech, Obama emphasized that the warlike posture the US has adopted since Sept 11, 2001, is doing more harm than good because it is much harder to build alliances. Instead of funneling money into combat/tactical programs, he argued that it makes more sense to funnel money into foreign aid, to build up good will, to support emerging democracies, and help other nations build up their infrastructure and economies. All of these things diffuse violent radicalism because individuals in a free society can focus on cultivating their own opportunities. There is no hopelessness which breed fear and anger, and without fear and anger, no one will be looking around for someone to blame.

To a philosopher, Obama has done a good job of channeling John Rawls. …

The obligation to BCC

Today I got a job-related rejection letter, delivered enmass to 151 candidates. I know it was 151 because the sender hit CC rather than BCC, so all of the recipients know. Furthermore, all of the recipients know who else was competing for the job, can look at their department profiles, and likely their CVs. For private individuals, academics tend to have a lot of Web presence, largely due to university/department websites. To a large extent, that's a good thing, but when combined with a leak like this one, that increased Web presence costs a good bit more privacy. Now, there are 151 candidates who get to take a peek at their competition, maybe stalk them on "the Facebook," maybe judge themselves and each other more harshly for it. At the same time, it is not unusual for departments to announce their new hires, so everyone also knows who got the job, enabling further judgement/comparison/stalking.

Situations like this really highlight how many informational trace…