"democracy" entries

Should the patent office open its internal guidelines to the public?

Anyone following policy issues around technological innovation has noticed the power and scope of patents expanding over time. To understand the forces contributing to this, I recommend a thoughtful, readable summary–and highlight the role played by internal documents at the patent office.

Democratic technology and unintended consequences

As the Egyptian protests show, technologies that democratize communications can also centralize control.

As the Egyptian government throttles information flow and citizens fight to maintain access to communications, we are seeing the contours of a struggle that will shape political and policy changes.

Four short links: 8 September 2010

Four short links: 8 September 2010

Mozilla Updated License Draft, Government Problems, T3h Internets, and Online Voting System

  1. Alpha Draft of Mozilla Public License v2 OutThe highlight of this release is new patent language, modeled on Apache’s. We believe that this language should give better protection to MPL-using communities, make it possible for MPL-licensed projects to use Apache code, and be simpler to understand. (via webmink on Twitter)
  2. Challenge.gov — contest-like environment for solving problems. Not all are glowing examples of government innovation: $12,000 for healthy recipes for kids–this is not a previously-unsolved problem. More relevant: NASA Centennial Challenge to build an aircraft that can fly 200 miles in less than two hours using the energy equivalent of less than 1 gallon of gas per occupant. (via scilib on Twitter)
  3. A Virtual Counter-Revolution (The Economist) — It is still too early to say that the internet has fragmented into “internets”, but there is a danger that it may splinter along geographical and commercial boundaries. (via mgeist on Twitter)
  4. Selectricity — open source system to run online votes, from Benjamin Mako Hill.

European Union starts project about economic effects of open government data

Open source advocate Marco Fioretti has just announced the start of a
study on open data for the European Union, with a focus on economic
benefits for local businesses. Related surveys are also mentioned.

Four short links: 4 November 2009

Four short links: 4 November 2009

Electronics Hacking FAQs, Speech-To-Text Democracy, Open Source Column Database, Massive Online Analysis

  1. ChipHacker — collaborative FAQ site for electronics hacking. Based on the same StackExchange software as RedMonk’s FOSS FAQ for open source software.
  2. Democracy Live — BBC launch searchable coverage of parliamentary discussion, using speech-to-text. One aspect we’re particularly proud of is that we’ve managed to deliver good results for speech-to-text in Welsh, which, we’re told, is unique. I think of this as the start of a They Work For You for video coverage. I’d love to be able to scale this to local government coverage, which is disappearing as local newspapers turn into delivery mechanisms for real estate advertisements.
  3. InfiniDB: Open Source Column Database — hooks into MySQL, uses MySQL for SQL parsing, security, etc. The commercial enterprise version has multi-server support (parallel scale-out). (via Brian Aker)
  4. Massive Online AnalysisMOA is a framework for data stream mining. Includes tools for evaluation and a collection of machine learning algorithms. Related to the WEKA project, also written in Java, while scaling to more demanding problems. . (via joshua on Delicious)
Four short links: 3 November 2009

Four short links: 3 November 2009

Electoral Cryptography, Dataless Airport Security, Visualising Transport Data, Mathematically Insecure Social Asymmetry

  1. First Test for Election Cryptography (MIT Technology Review) — The first government election to use a new cryptographic scheme that lets both voters and auditors check that votes were cast and recorded accurately will be held tomorrow in Takoma Park, MD. Founder of the company behind the technology is David Chaum, who ran the first electronic currency company in the 90s. That was ahead of its time (Internet faced a credibility problem, not a convenience problem), but his timing for this seems spot-on. (via timoreilly on Twitter)
  2. Do I Have The Right To Refuse This Search? — a former police officer questions the efficacy of TSA screenings and is doubly worried by by the lack of data collected. For years in policing, we relied on random patrols to curb crime. We relied upon this “strategy” until someone went out and captured some data, and did a study that demonstrated conclusively that random patrols do not work (Kansas City Study). As police have employed other types of “random” interventions, as in DWI checkpoints, they have had to develop policies, procedures and training to ensure that the “random” nature of these intrusions is truly random. Whether every car gets checked, or every tenth car, police must demonstrate that they have attempted to eliminate the effects of active and passive discrimination when using “random” strategies. No such accountability currently exists at TSA. Trend I see lately is a return to quantitative decision making, reality-based data-directed system interventions. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Visualising Transport DataIt can be hard to make meaningful information from huge amounts of data, a graph and a table doesn’t always communicate all it should do. We have been working hard on technology to visualise big datasets into compelling stories that humans can understand. We were really pleased with what we came up with in just one and a half days. Like many places, the UK data.gov ran a dev camp to jumpstart people using their data. These appear to be successful, but I’m not aware of studies into the longterm effects nor the “value” of different types of developers.
  4. Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do — there’s a numerical optical illusion at work here: count your friends, then ask them to count their friends. If you average the friend counts of your peers, it’ll probably be higher than your friend count. The reason for this is also why (on average!) your sexual partners seem to have had more sexual partners than you, and why previous generations seem more fecund than current generations. It’s because connectors (with large numbers of friends) distort the average, so unless you’re the connector (and if you’re reading this, you might well be!) the average will be bigger than a normal person’s friend count. Left unmentioned is what kind of person would count the number of friends they have, then ask their friends for their counts …. (via Hacker News)

ICANN without restraints: the difficulties of coordinating stakeholders

The U.S. Department of Commerce, which is
ICANN’s publicly accountable overseer, announced the most important
decision affecting ICANN since its founding: the U.S. government will

give up its role as overseer

and make ICANN independent.

Computerization in Nilekani's Imagining India

Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation promises to occupy a central position in discussions about India as well as the world economy this year. Author Nandan Nilekani can speak with quite a bit of authority on computers, having founded and led Infosys, an early success story in modern Indian commerce and a major player in the historic rise of outsourcing. Particularly relevant to this blog are the book’s observations on computers’ role in the economy and society.

Privacy and open government: conversations with EPIC and others about OpenID

A few days ago I proposed a way to

offer more privacy to people visiting government web sites
This blog builds on that proposal, which was largely technical, by
examining the policy and organizational issues that swirl around it. My ideas are informed by a discussion I had with Lillie
Coney, Associate Director of the
Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The blog is also inspired by two comments on the earlier blog and
brief email I exchanged with one commenter, which intertwine with
Coney’s in intriguing ways.

Personal Democracy Forum conference: initial themes

“So what’s this conference you’re going to?” asked my friends, not
braced for an explanation that usually took me more than ten minutes.
Ultimately, though, they all ended up excited about the ideas behind

Personal Democracy Forum
. The first day at the Personal Democracy Forum conference revolved around the freedom to experiment, necessary infrastructure, and the
need to change.