Sunday, 13 January 2013

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto by Aaron Swartz

    Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.
    There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.
    That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.
    “I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.
    Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.
    Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.
    But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.
    Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.
    There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.
    We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.
    With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?
    Aaron Swartz
    July 2008, Eremo, Italy

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thoughts on: Cory Doctorow: The coming war on general computation [28C3]

I just re-watched Cory Doctorow's talk at 28C3: The coming war on general computation [28C3] and it inspired me to write this blog post with a few thoughts and links to additional material. Enjoy!

I think people should really listen to what Cory is saying in the talk. This way of thinking gives us an acid test of the intentions of the actor behind the development of a given technology or product. Furthermore I think this points right to the heart of whether people are trying to empower you or enslave you. In short choose software and technology that empowers you and boycott those which are trying to enslave and disempower you.

Ask yourself some simple questions: what happens when I want to take my music elsewhere? or "hey they both have the same connector and I have a cable! Is X compatible with Y?

Hint: the reason why you cannot move you music and you cannot interface and mashup / join devices has a very weak basis in engineering feasibility and a very large basis in marketing and the creation of fixed purpose appliances rather than general computers.

In an age where the hard facts of man-made climate change require that we make the most out of the precious resources that we have, can we really afford the luxuary of ephemeral fixed purpose appliance with built-in obsolescence when that same hardware could do so much more in its second and third lifetimes? I can guarantee you 100% and without any doubt that devices often don't inter-operate because they have been designed so. Would it be so hard to add an i2c port to a microwave? Not even necessarily to control it, just to detect it's state! But then again, why not also add the possibility to control it?

Would be be so wrong to use open data formats for music files or for music catalogues? Steve jobs himself though that DRM-free music was a good idea, quite the opposite: "The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players."

And then look at what apple have done as a result of the desires of the music industry to maintain an odd kind of monopoly with their wasteful insistence on proprietary music formats. It is so wrong and one cannot even jump once you 'own' the music / have paid for it. You never own it, you license to play it in a certain context in a certain way. I know I am saying WTF right now. Oh and next time you buy a book, yeah you dont own that either. Read the license in the front cover.

*update* a friend just emailed me with the perspective:  "the book or song you bought is licenced to you within parameters designed to benefit the artist or author, something I think shouldn't change, so I feel it's an incorrect analogy to use."
 So I have quoted Stallman further to provide the counter argument:

quote: “Don't people have a right to control how their creativity is ued?”
“Control over the use of one's ideas” really constitutes control over other people's lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult.
People who have studied the issue of intellectual property rights(8) carefully (such as lawyers) say that there is no intrinsic right to intellectual property. The kinds of supposed intellectual property rights that the government recognizes were created by specific acts of legislation for specific purposes.
For example, the patent system was established to encourage inventors to disclose the details of their inventions. Its purpose was to help society rather than to help inventors. At the time, the life span of 17 years for a patent was short compared with the rate of advance of the state of the art. Since patents are an issue only among manufacturers, for whom the cost and effort of a license agreement are small compared with setting up production, the patents often do not do much harm. They do not obstruct most individuals who use patented products.
The idea of copyright did not exist in ancient times, when authors frequently copied other authors at length in works of nonfiction. This practice was useful, and is the only way many authors' works have survived even in part. The copyright system was created expressly for the purpose of encouraging authorship. In the domain for which it was invented—books, which could be copied economically only on a printing press—it did little harm, and did not obstruct most of the individuals who read the books.
All intellectual property rights are just licenses granted by society because it was thought, rightly or wrongly, that society as a whole would benefit by granting them. But in any particular situation, we have to ask: are we really better off granting such license? What kind of act are we licensing a person to do?
The case of programs today is very different from that of books a hundred years ago. The fact that the easiest way to copy a program is from one neighbor to another, the fact that a program has both source code and object code which are distinct, and the fact that a program is used rather than read and enjoyed, combine to create a situation in which a person who enforces a copyright is harming society as a whole both materially and spiritually; in which a person should not do so regardless of whether the law enables him to."

So lets think about the general problem of formats. Company X invented format Y and then company Z invents format A and Company X's music players dont play format A and company Z's music players don't play format Y and so on and the format wars begin. Or Company Z has the patent to device Z+ and hence company X might not be able to offer a competing alternative which might leverage this amazing new innovation without infringing so their good ideas, technical advances and upgrades may never see the light of day and make things better for the users.

The world and its people deserve better than this. We should all be so glad that there are hackers, open source software engineers, open source hardware engineers and open source developers in the world. These people add their knowledge to the commons. And sometimes they set devices free! These people empower us so please acknowledge and support them because they already support you!

Stallman rejects a common alternative term, open source software, because it does not call to mind what Stallman sees as the value of the software: freedom.[67] Thus it will not inform people of the freedom issues, and will not lead to people valuing and defending their freedom.[68] Two alternatives which Stallman does accept are software libre and unfettered software, but free software is the term he asks people to use in English. For similar reasons, he argues for the term "proprietary software" rather than "closed source software", when referring to software that is not free software. source:

For more depth on the philosophy of the GNU movement read this:

Next, think about the following statement with reference to most consumer computer gadgets like smartphones e.g. iPhones and also Sky HD boxes, Ipods, Windows PCs you name it. Lets call them appliances that have been made from general computers.

"An appliance made from a computer is made by using some combination of rootkits, spyware and codesigning to prevent the user from knowing which processes are running, from installing her own software and from terminating processes that she doesn't want. In other words, an appliance is not a stripped down computer, it is a fully functional computer with spyware on it out of the box."

Finally, sit back and enjoy Cory's awesome talk:

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Response to: "Dear Hacker Community – We Need To Talk."

The following is a response to Asher Wolf's

I want to extend the hand of friendship to Asher and apologise to her for the way she has been collectively treated, as a woman, as a single mother, by others from different social backgrounds. She may have gone a little overboard in her personal criticisms but the anger of her reaction is understandable. Sexism and misogyny are real and, sadly enough, also exist in the hacker community.

I am sympathetic that Asher had to reach out to me for help after a previous webdesigner had let her down with the website and it is a pity that things did not work out again. I had completed everything else on the specification in the contract that Asher and I agreed on apart from 'Site Customisation / Look and feel' and I was, at the time of Asher's blog post, still waiting for feedback and more input from her in order to proceed. As an Electronic Engineer doing a favour for a friend I was not skilled enough to be able to work intuitively when the only guiding information that I had from Asher regarding design was "please make it like Penny Red's blog".

I have publicly asked Asher for her bank details so that I can make a refund but she has failed to get into contact with me which raises a number of questions. It appears that her motivations for including me in her post did not include financial remuneration or even that she was particularly dissatisfied with my work and frankly I feel quite fed up and misrepresented. I really wish that she had just contacted me privately to tell me that she was unhappy, it would have been a lot easier to resolve that way.

Asher told me on a number of occasions that the website was low priority given the other things that we were collaborating on at the time including Cryptoparty, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Hackers and Occupy Sandy. It turns out that this was a bad strategy and it would have been better to finish the project in early November.

Asher, as a friend, how can you conscience letting that blog post and those tweets stand when only a couple of weeks prior to that you wrote this for my MIT application?

“He has volunteered countless hours with Cryptoparty. He personally founded the London chapter of Cryptoparty, hosting successful events at both Google and Mozilla.
Mr Carlisle has also worked tirelessly to edit the Cryptoparty handbook, adding numerous corrections and additions to crowd-sourced manual since it's first publication.
In response to Hurricane Sandy, Mr Carlisle facilitated a Cryptoparty-hosted 'Hurricane Hackers' meetup in London, and donating countless hours of his time online to support tech efforts in the wake of storm damage in the U.S.
Most recently, he represented Cryptoparty at the European Commission's 'No Disconnect Strategy Workshop for European Capability for Situational Awareness.'
Mr Carlisle is a rare kind of individual: he spends a large proportion of his spare time thoughtfully engaged in practical application of new technology for the sake of human rights, creating and implementing initiatives benefiting countless numbers of people.
He is constantly cultivating a network of friends and colleagues throughout the world - including journalists, technologists, thought leaders and activists - seeking input on ways to engage technology with human rights issues and critical feedback on his work.
It is hard not to feel inspired when working with Samuel. He is a thoughtful, highly intelligent young man and a pleasure to work with.”

It is a mystery to me how someone who claims to be my friend could betray me with messages like these:

Asher (re: European Commission) "Not running off to do something more important than the work I paid you to do, or busy flogging my idea to ppl in higher echelons and taking the credit?", "When I tried to talk to you about the E.C. issue, you rage quit the fucking conversation." "@leashless @bendiken I find it even more concerning he represented Cryptoparty at the E.C."

Asher "Busy flogging the idea of Cryptoparty without my involvement. Never asked me ANYTHING, not for a single moment of input before taking massive steps by putting Cryptoparty near Google, Mozilla, the E.C. You just assumed it was okay."

Asher I believe in autonomy and I have acted above reproach and with honour in so far as Cryptoparty is concerned. With the best intentions of the Cryptoparty movement at my heart, I will work autonomously in order to make progress in the absence of a centralised control structure. I consider this to be consistent with the "Sudo Leadership", "Excellence" and "Do-ocracy" values of the Cryptoparty movement. Cryptoparty London has inherited a culture of Do-ocracy, Sudo-Leadership, and Excellence from here which derives from Noisebridge's 'Tripartite Pillars' and, ancestrally, from the international hackspace design patterns (from the 24th CCC in 2007, Cryptoparty is about open and participative dissemination of ideas, building community and sharing of information and techniques around cryptography, not egos and personal agendas. I can't understand how you claim to be the leader of a community project which you have 'quit' several times. Let's put this all behind us and remain focused on building community, having fun and creating a safe space for learning about the usage of crypto tools as has always been the case at Cryptoparty London.

I wish for a sincere apology (public or not, Asher has my email address) for the hateful speech and threats that I received from her and others during #29c3 and the few days following because all that did was perpetuate the violence and anger which we all need to fight against.

With regards to Asher's application to do a panel talk at 29C3, I was very disappointed that it was rejected. When she emailed me to say that the talk had been rejected I was totally gutted. That was the first time that Asher and I would have been able to meet after collaborating online for the last 3 months (Australia / UK) and also a good time for the CCC community and many others to hear about Cryptoparty.

We were all very disappointed that it was not approved. So much so that the first thing I did after arriving at the CCH building in Hamburg (this year's venue for 29c3) was to seek out and complain to several organisers and let them know that they really fucked up by failing to accept the talk and get Asher to Hamburg. They unanimously agreed that it was a mistake that they would have liked to correct.

You know, this whole thing came at a particularly difficult time for me and I can understand how it might have slotted into Asher's experience of men in the system as a whole but at the same time I think it is inappropriate and unprofessional to use that as a justification to trigger a campaign of hatred, threats and libel. Here is an incomplete but reflective summary of the abuse that I and others have received as a result of this; though Asher appears to have deleted some of the less tasteful and libellous tweets. Luckily others have re-tweeted them so they are findable:

  1. "RT @Asher_Wolf: Anyone sitting in on @SamTheTechie's lightening talk at #29c3, ask he'll pay back $700 for the work he never did on my website"
  2. Asher: “Go to hell Sam. You're a complete douche."
  3. Asher: “Well done. Your attitudes destroyed the idea of Cryptoparty for the ppl, by the ppl."
  1. "If @SamTheTechie is currently leading a Cryptoparty at #29c3 and you're a bystander, I will repeat: fuck you."
  2. "What the fuck? @Asher_Wolf rightly calls out the hacker community for sexism and gets d0xed? Wow cool response bro dudes."
  3. "@samthetechie @RitaMartincsek IMHO charging $700 for WP makes you a conman. Even if that's what the contract stipulates.”
  4. @n3rdyg1rl not really looking to get in the middle of @Asher_Wolf's argument with @samthetechie but all he had done was install wordpress
  5. Hey @samthetechie, please return @Asher_Wolf's $700 or explain why it's yours. Thanks, All the Men Who Would Rather See the Asshats Leave.
  6. .@Samthetechie What is going on? Are you repaying @Asher_Wolf the money she paid you? It's time to make this right.
  7. 'Informed via email @SamTheTechie had access to 29c3's NOC and he was removed from the team after he "misbehaved there."'
    Response to 11. Actually I was volunteering at the conference since the 24th December to deploy wireless routers and networking equipment to help setup the conference and I was thrown out from the team purely as a result of your hateful messages online.
    To highlight just what a misrepresentation this was, here is a message from someone that met me at the conference "And thanks again for you advice/connections at the Congress. You're such a kind, positive force in an environment like that, finding ways of bringing people together and treating everybody with respect and openness. You turned every area you were in into a pocket of kindness and productivity -- I was thoroughly impressed!""

Asher it is time that you stop abusing your voice, reach and influence to misrepresent me far and wide for a bit of extra coverage because many find that bullying and exploitative. I know that I am not the only one because others have reached out to me in private to show their support so I am just stating that I simply deserve better than that from the people I choose to call friends and the people I choose to work with.

Lastly, Jacob Applebaum autonomously decided, in presumption of my guilt in the matter, to setup a Paypal fund and which has made a total of 885.00 USD which is equivalent to around 844.71 AUD (a profit of $144.70). At first you seemed happy about it but then you seemed to change your mind and and

I humbly suggest that you reverse your decision to simply let Paypal keep the money because I feel that it is disrespectful to the people that, rightly or wrongly, supported you when you said that you were left out of pocket as a result of things not working out.

So please invest the time and effort to be courageous in making an example of Paypal so that more people will feel encouraged to do the same and then, if you wish, give the money back to those who donated it that's your choice.

Being raised, against all odds, by an amazing single-mum, I have to say, I mostly agree with your post. But we should pool all of our resources and efforts together and face the real problems rather than in-fighting. Women everywhere are being treated as second class citizens, most of the parenting automatically lies with them, whether they want it or not. And women are also missing out in the work place and as of 2009 “women earned on average 17% less gross hourly than men in the European Union” We need to stop this! We also need to take a good look at our own community, in which people think it is fun to ridicule creeper cards, right after yet another woman in the world (she was given the name Damini by the people and she was from India) has been raped, used and killed by a group of guys that I hardly consider to be human

I really wish that Asher and I will be able to resolve this and for our movement to set a milestone for our agenda which features freedom of expression, right to privacy, right to family life and civic empowerment and engagement.