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Archive for August, 2008

Help the Fight Against Software Patents

If you have a moment to spare, please visit the following page and put your name down. The world needs your support to ensure elimination of the main legal barrier to the triumph of Free software.

You want to get your software association, software company, software consultancy, software project involved in the 24 September World Day Against Software Patents and are able to speak in the name of your organisation? Please give us your contact data below. Your organisation gets the opportunity to be listed as a supporter for the announcement of the World Day Against Software Patents.

Considering the following:

  1. The issue of software patents is a global one, and several governments and patent offices around the world continue to grant software & business method patents on a daily basis; they are pushing for legal codification of the practice, such as currently in New Zealand and India, and via the misappropriation of Free Trade Agreement instruments;
  2. Previous initiatives as the Noepatents.org petition (approx. 400 000) at the EU level are outdated (notably on the issues of the central EU patent court) and not open for signatures anymore.
  3. Companies still view software patents as assets. They have yet to understand that software patents should also be considered liabilities, especially if they are in the hands of trolls.
  4. Time is on our side as litigation gets spread wide: Markets learn the hard way that you may not leave reform to patent professionals. Patent litigation is becoming wide spread in key markets such as the financial sector, and will be more wide spread in the software sector in the forthcoming years due to the number of applications pending;
  5. The United States lacks a coalition of business and civil society against software patents
  • The lobby gap makes Congress and Senate, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and the Supreme Court susceptible to lobbying from patent industries, holders and patent professionals. American software creators have been intimidated by the patent establishment and have failed to make themselves heard.
  • Companies affected by software patent litigation have been lobbying for reform, but their advocacy for “quality” and “lower damages” aims at symptoms rather than the roots of the problem.

For these reasons,

We declare the 24 September as the World Day Against Software Patents, in commemoration of the European Parliament First Reading in 2003 with amendments stopping the harmful patenting of software, guaranteeing that software programmers and businesses can safely benefit from the fruits of their work under copyright law.

A Global Petition will be launched which asks to stop software patents, with some localised versions of the petition for specific regions, such as New Zealand, India, United States and Europe. The public will be invited to comment on the draft between the 1st and the 23rd September.

You can vote for it in Slashdot to help promote the cause.

KDE 4.1 from the Eyes of a KDE Addict

I have been a KDE user for 8 years. KDE 4.1 was only released some weeks ago and I thought about testing and writing about it shortly. I will probably wait though.

I realise that the project has many critics at the moment. Bruce Byfield already handles the controversy side of it.

KDE sees a transformation that’s a simplification. Version 4 is different, very different. It’s revolutionary, not just evolutionary. It’s designed to attract new users rather then scare or overwhelm them and also to integrate a raft of attractive visual elements.

KDE as a power user’s environment will face pressure against change. ‘Toolbox mentality’, where the file manager, Konquerer, is also a Web browser, an FTP client, a photo gallery generator… you get the picture… this needed to end or a substitute offered. Dolphin is now there by default, but Konquerer is still available, so nothing is lost. Why complain?

At this early stage, the latest release (4.1) is available in the form of a Live CD or updates from the repository and it will earn a permanent place on my hard-drives once it is integrated into a major GNU/Linux distribution.

All changes are hard. They require learning and adjustment. Many Mac and GNU/Linux users have gone through the process of change. It now needs to be coped with also at a level of desktop environments, not just operating systems. At the end, you look back and wonder why you liked that old environment all that much. You accept a new home.

My Take on How Digg Works

An article about the way Digg works has just been published. I gave some input to it, which probably reflects on my view of Digg. Here it goes.

1. Can we start briefly with your background, especially with Digg? How long have you been a user, and when and how did you become an active user? About how many links a day do you submit? How many followers do you have? How often do you get stories to the front page?

I joined Digg back in 2006 when it was still a young Web site that attracted GNU/Linux users. I became an active user about a month after I had signed up and habitually submitted around 5-10 stories per day. I am not sure how many followers I have. Over 2000 people marked me as their friend and some of them regularly vote my stories up (digg them). My performance as a Digger probably peaked in mid-2006 when I made the front page about 3 times a day. These days, I rarely perform quite as well because things changed a lot while I was absent in 2007. The site grew.

2. Can you walk me through step by step of a recent instance where you submitted a link and promoted it to the front page? How did you come across the link, what made you think it was right for the Digg community? And once you submitted the link, how did you promote it? Through IM, shout outs, some other method? In other words, what drove it to the front page?

I read many RSS feeds and I stumble upon stories which I think are important to GNU/Linux users like myself (many of whom happen to follow my submissions by choice, so focus is important). My aim is to share these stories with people. Most of them pertain to adoption of Free software, which I care a lot about personally. I do not promote stories artificially. I let Digg just do its thing. The fact that some people keep track of my submissions out of genuine interest helps a lot, too. I would rarely promote a link because it is dishonest, it is a waste of time, and it is not necessary if the submitted story is an important one.

3. What about stories where you’re not the first to submit it — someone else found it first. How do you usually come across these? Do people send you shout outs? Do they IM you? Do you follow the “upcoming” page or the recommended page? Obviously, your answer might be ‘all of the above,’ but what methods do you use more than others?

I always concede submissions if I find that there is already something similar submitted. I do not communicate in order to coordinate anything. Long-time users are systematic only in their passion for the topic/s that they focus on. I personally disabled shout-outs because I perceive them as comprising lots of noise that’s designed to game the site.

4. What is your opinion of all the stories about “bury brigades,” secret groups of power editors and various other conspiracy theories about why certain stories make it to the front page while others don’t? Do you think the algorithms are sufficient enough so that Digg isn’t easily gamed by marketers?

No, and I would love to see Digg tightening the rules, although I fear it’s virtually impossible. I have come across bury brigades, abuses, stalking, and been a victim of them too. There is also plenty of libel being spread. To me, addressing this issue is equally important. I have left about 14,000 comments in Digg but I hardly comment these days due to rampant abuse that’s slanderous. Policing of behaviour in the site is generally disappointing.

5. If you had to give a person advice for how to consistently get stories to the front page, what would it be?

To be perfectly honest, the democracy in Digg is an illusion at best. Staff ‘elites’ enjoy a status that’s skin to editorial control, whereas some lesser-revered users have few eyes on their submissions, so they receive little attention. This is not to say that’ ‘sensior’ users cheat; however, user status by all means plays a significant role.

Why Politics, ‘Science’ Are Daft, Corrupt

Watch this presentation. You won’t regret it.

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