If you’re not paying, you’re the product

Thanks for the CC-BY, Geek & Poke

On Joining OIN

I signed up Meshed Insights as an OIN licensee, and was amazed when I told people how few people knew it existed. That was the origin of this week’s InfoWorld column. I realise OIN doesn’t fix everything (how can it when what’s really needed is a return to first principles for the patent system in the meshed internet era?)  But as free a defence that might just work, and which has a huge membership that collectively sends a strong message to the US government that startups need change, it seems obvious to join.

Nokia Attacks

I remain bemused by Nokia’s attack on the prospects of the VP8 video format becoming an open standard. I can’t see what they & their shareholders get as a benefit, but I can see the harm it does to Nokia in the eyes of pretty much anyone who values open source and open standards. Read more in my InfoWorld column today.

Reader Reminder

My Infoworld Open Sources article for this week is now live. It takes the demise of Google Reader as a reminder that without open source software processing open standards, we have no freedom to “rehost and carry on”.

Python Trademark Safe In Europe

Seems all that community pressure worked. The Python Software Foundation confirmed that the UK hoster that was threatening their name has withdrawn its trademark application. More at InfoWorld.

Google, VP8 and Codec Standards

The politics around codecs are complex and the incumbents are prone to deceptive feints, like in 2010 when MPEG-LA claimed that H.264 was available “free” for web uses (but content owners probably still paid multiple fees in the production chain).  So it is perhaps understandable that some people misunderstood Google’s agreement with MPEG-LA and interpreted it as a victory for the patent circus and the end of any claim of freedom for VP8.

In fact, my reading of the available facts suggests Google won. The license with MPEG-LA looks mostly face-saving for the patent pool, and the attacks from the incumbent companies suggest they’re falling back on the next line of defence. The whole situation is an object lesson in why software patents simply must not be tolerated. Read more in InfoWorld.

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Speak Up For SHIELD

If you’re a US citizen, your support for the bipartisan SHIELD Act could strike a decisive blow to patent trolls by making them pay costs if they lose patent actions and allowing judges to require a bond for costs from them before a case can proceed. Striking at their ability to build a fighting fund could well be the key to making the “business” they conduct unprofitable and dangerous.

While advocates of patent maximalism claim this also disadvantages small businesses legitimately prosecuting patents against larger foes, my take is small software businesses should be avoiding patents anyway. There are a few counter examples from the world of hardware (Dyson is frequently cited) but they are an expensive weapon; expensive to wield and likely to bring more value to the vultures who will pick over the wreckage of your business than to you yourself.

Read all about it over on InfoWorld.

Red Hat Picks Up Dropped Java 6

Red Hat put out a press release yesterday that didn’t instantly make sense to me. After a chat with their GM of Middleware, I realised actually they had all done us a favour picking up care of OpenJDK 6 that Oracle had dropped. More on InfoWorld.

A Broken Promise

Microsoft was fined for being a scofflaw and for failing to self-regulate as it had promised, not (just) for a “technical oversight”. I explain more on InfoWorld today.

Certification And Innovation

While there is probably a place for “granular” certifications, especially if their origin is the external accreditation of real-world recognition inside a community-of-practice, abstract profession-wide certifications such as one finds in professions like accounting or civil engineering seem to me to have only a negative role in software engineering. ICT is just too big, too varied, too fast moving for there to be a single wise way.

To assume you can mandate a single approach to all software engineering is to assume a world of sealed, proprietary black boxes that simply need experts to configure and deploy them, as with other regulated professions. In my InfoWorld column this week I explain why I think this is wrong.

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