☞ Transparency, Privacy and Genius

  • Noble words that, if truly implemented, take Britain down a path to open governmnet and citizen scrutiny. But only if “transparency” actually means “open data”. We don’t need summaries, PDF, printouts and other indigestible publication. We need the data in machine-readable, current form so that citizens can process the data and discover the real-time truth about the country. It’s great that there’s an advisory board (can I join it or is it a closed club?) but there also needs to be an ombudsman with power to fix problems. My summary: fantastic news if it’s true, but Tory opposition to the Digital Economy Act wasn’t and I won’t believe this until I see it either.
  • “There are real privacy issues to be faced in the data collected by web companies. But they are part of a far bigger picture of how the world is changing. We need thoughtful understanding of what the real risks are, not finger pointing by the media (and even more frighteningly, by members of Congress) at companies that are easy targets because they make good political theater.” — Or as Scot NcNealy put it much more concisely, “You have no privacy – get over it.”
  • “Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works. ” – It’s all on a continuous scale, just like other important factors in our psychology.

☞ Transparency and Good Will

☞ Getting The Point

  • This FAQ/debate article with an anonymous BCS spokesbeing make it clear what the issue at the BCS is all about, both directly and through tone.
    (tags: BCS EGM UK)
  • This EFF campaign makes a great point: that ACTA is ironically a counterfeit itself, since it is not mainly about the counterfeiting of goods but has been hijacked as a back-door method to impose controls on the internet that have failed to be imposed by transparent and democratic methods. The campaign is very much focussed on the US but the message seems one worth transplanting elsewhere.

☞ BCS EGM

  • The British Computer Society is in the process of being transformed into The Chartered Institute of IT. This is the wrong direction – it’s becoming a club for the Pointy Haired Boss instead of an association to support Dilbert and Alice. The consequence? It’s full of talk of outsourcing real computer jobs abroad and wants to serve the people who are doing it. It failed to take any public leadership position over the Digital Economy Bill and rejects attempts to embrace open source. It has no connection to the interests of actual computer professionals any more. For me (a Fellow, for now) it has come to symbolise all that’s worst in British IT.

    The last-ditch battle to wrest the BCS away from the budget-and-management apparatchiks is coming, because an Emergency General Meeting has been called for July 1st. I just hope there are enough real computer professionals still involved to rescue it; my experience of the current leadership suggests it’s too late.

[Also in this thread: this post, BCS Faces No-Confidence Vote Crisis, BCS Leadership Targets Member Rights, BCS Rebels Finally Get A Voice]

☞ WebM Data Points

  • Carlo demonstrates that On2 must clearly have analysed the patent context for VP8 since so many of the “sub-optimal choices” called out by H.264 partisans reflect avoidance of patented ideas. This lends weight to Google’s confidence over WebM, as well as highlighting the way software patents hinder innovation (although I recently heard an advocate declare they stimulate innovation by forcing this sort of working-around; ridiculous!)
  • Thus making the reason WebM is a Good Thing as plain as the nose on your face, just as long as MPEG-LA can be totally shut out of taxing it.
  • If you wondered why end users, and not just developers, need protection from MPEG-LA’s patent pool, read this and discover that your publication of H.264 video on your web site might mean you owe MPEG-LA $100,000. We really do need an alternative, safe patent pool with a $0 charge for those promoting freedom instead of fees.
  • So Sun’s secrets were gifted to an insider trader as pillow talk? Great, that makes it so much better. Can’t say I instantly feel “Moffat is the least culpable person charged” on that basis.

☞ The Power of Pedantry

☞ Problems With WebM?

The announcement last week at Google IO of the creation of the WebM project and the release of the VP8 codec was a positive and welcome development, finally offering an alternative to the royalty-liable H.264 and to Theora. WebM arises from Google’s purchase of ON2 last year and had been widely anticipated. Google did their homework, securing endorsements from competing browser vendors Opera and Mozilla and even from Adobe (possibly in exchange for Google’s endorsement of Flash on their TV platform) and, weakly, from Microsoft. The parade is now in full swing, and we can expect many more announcements of support like the one from the Miro Project. Only Apple was painfully absent, pushing the Google-Apple tension further into the spotlight.

There was still more homework to do, though. Once all the hoopla had died down, it became clear there are some serious questions that need considering. Read about them on my ComputerWorldUK blog.

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