Four short links: 20 October 2009

Politics in The Age of Social Software, Ethernet Patents, Free Book Fear, Programming Exercises

  1. Poles, Politeness, and Politics in the Age of Twitter (Stephen Fry) — begins with a discussion of a UK storm but rapidly turns into a discussion of fame in the age of Twitter, modern political discourse, the “deadwood press”, and The Commons in Twitter Assembled. There is an energy abroad in the kingdom, one that yearns for a new openness in our rule making, our justice system and our administration. Do not imagine for a minute that I am saying Twitter is it. Its very name is the clue to its foundation and meaning. It is not, as I have pointed out before, called Ponder or Debate. It is called Twitter. But there again some of the most influential publications of the eighteenth century had titles like Tatler, Rambler, Idler and Spectator. Hardly suggestive of earnest political intent either. History has a habit of choosing the least prepossessing vessels to be agents of change.
  2. Apple and Others Hit With Lawsuit Over 90s Ethernet Patents — unclear whether the plaintiff is 3Com (who filed the patents) or a troll who bought them. “We strongly believe that 3Com’s Ethernet technologies are being regularly infringed by foreign and some US companies,” said David A. Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Ethernet Innovations. “We believe that the continued aggressive enforcement of the fundamental Ethernet technologies developed by 3Com against the waves of cheap, knock-off, foreign manufactured equipment is a necessary step in protecting the competitiveness of this American technology and American companies in general.” (via Slashdot)
  3. The Point — someone’s publishing Mark Pilgrim’s “Dive into Python”, which was published by APress under an open content license. Naturally this freaked out APress (it’s easy to imagine many eyelids would tic nervously should such a thing happen with one of O’Reilly’s open-licensed books). Mark’s response is fantastic. Part of choosing a Free license for your own work is accepting that people may use it in ways you disapprove of. There are no “field of use” restrictions, and there are no “commercial use” restrictions either. In fact, those are two of the fundamental tenets of the “Free” in Free Software. If “others profiting from my work” is something you seek to avoid, then Free Software is not for you. Opt for a Creative Commons “Non-Commercial” license, or a “personal use only” freeware license, or a traditional End User License Agreement. Free Software doesn’t have “end users.” That’s kind of the point.
  4. Programming Praxis — programming exercises to keep your skills razor-sharp, with solutions.
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  • Mark’s comment is fantastic, until you read his response to APress — he doesn’t write for a living.

    It’s easy to be graceful in the face of loss of income when you’re not dependent on the income. Especially when Mark is paid another coin of the realm, getting more attention.

  • I posted a few items on my blog regarding the U.S. Ethernet Innovations patent litigation. 3Com informed me that it sold the patents in question to U.S. Ethernet Innovations. As such, 3Com has no affiliation with the patent litigation or with the plaintiffs pursuing it.

  • Shelley, while Mark’s post makes it clear why he’s not freaking out over the potential loss of income, I don’t think it has been established that there has been any actual loss of income in this case, for Mark or for APress.

  • I do write for a living. I just don’t rely on royalties for my livelihood.

  • On point 3:We’re going through some of the same issues with producing a musical. How do you monetise something that you are giving away?

  • If publishers are going to use copyleft licences they can’t bet *against* people copying the books that they publish. That would be like betting against people buying your books once you’ve gone to the trouble of getting them into bookstores. ORA can turn copying into sales with their reports, lectures, conferences, and subscriptions for updated versions of books for example.

    How do you monetise something that you are giving away?

    Are you giving away the score or a recording of it? In both cases you can use the resulting exposure to drive demand for performances, commissioned work and packaged products or merchandise (in software terms; product support, bespoke services, value added/deluxe/premium products) but the details are slightly different.

  • bowerbird

    millions of authors will soon be giving away their books.

    and, when they are, what will you do, as an author?

    give your book away too? or continue to charge for it?

    because how many copies do you think you will sell,
    when you’re competing against millions of free books?

    to get any kind of readership at all — any kind, at all —
    you will need to offer your book for free. or be ignored.

    at least if you give away your book, someone might read it,
    and they might then reciprocate your gift by gifting you cash.

    and then there will be a million and one authors who are
    giving away their books…