Unrest in French youth

CTE rally

I stumbled upon this after realizing that I’d missed Stewart’s birthday (I’m waiting for his 33 1/3 to celebrate though). Heads down lately, I’ve missed the news that apparently there’s been some crazy shit going on in Paris — at least judging from the photos.

Xyba has an interesting perspective: “French Young people fearing that they may actually have to work for a living have continued their rioting”.

This runs contrary to what photographer Hugo had to say:

The protests of March 18th, all across the country, were joined not only by students but by their families. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, the end of the day was spoiled by 100 to 150 “casseurs” (lit. “breakers”) who provoked the riot police throwing bottles, stones and finally burning down a car.

On March 23rd, a university and college students demonstration also turned even more violent, with various cars and shops burnt, protesters and photographers assaulted and robbed, and the Invalides turned into a battlefield.

After the unrest and riots in the suburbs last year, this is reflecting the growing uneasiness and despair of the youth about the lack of opportunities, and their desillusion towards the politicians.

More than 20% of 18 to 25-year-olds are unemployed (double the national average) and among the poorest communities, it reaches 40%. Half of France’s universities are now under some form of strike or occupation.

Gates 14:00, “We need microformats”

Bill Gates and microformats

Ok, so that’s not exactly how it went down, but Tantek was there and heard it from Capt Bill himself.

If you happen to tune into the Mix ’06 keynote, at around the 14 minute mark, Bill does indeed refer to something that, gee, goes by “microformat” in more savvy circles. And then later on, said:

We need microformats and to get people to agree on them. It is going to bootstrap exchanging data on the Web…

…we need them for things like contact cards, events, directions…

So if you’ve been playing along at home, welcome to the future kids. Microsoft is waking up, is back in the game and ready to deliver some serious innovation. Can open source continue its onslaught against the once great software juggernaut or will it continue to stutter in areas like user experience, graphics technology and hell, its exclusive, elite, Eurogeekwhitetrash bourgeoisie culture that keeps girls (and other minorities) out? (And yes, the speaker acknowledges his privilege as an educated white male.)

One thing is for sure — it’s shaping up to be a very interesting time in the browser space after all.

EFF this, I’m moving to France

EFF the RIAA (clean)

PARIS (Reuters) – France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker’s popular iPod player.

Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.

It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management — the codes that protect music, films and other content — if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.

French plan would open iTunes to other devices — by Astrid Wendlandt

There’s been a lot of interesting discussion related to DRM and Creative Commons (especially this morning’s Commons-based Business Models panel). If France moves forward with this kind of law, I think it’s only going to make this situation better, more open, more transparent and actually… better for Apple.

While perhaps not hugely impactful over the long term (in a globalized world, one country’s laws really don’t make a massive difference in WTO-scheme of things), setting the example (especially given the path to darkness France was previously on) will be tremendously didactic for the various and soon-to-be-obsolete DRM industries (ok, "soon" as in 5 to 12 years).

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My Open Source

Takes one to know one: your privilege blinds you

This growing up stuff, yeah, it’s um.


So what I want to talk about is this nagging feeling I’ve picked up today — today and maybe the last two weeks. The one that tells me that I’m not in kindergarten anymore; where it’s not just each other’s shovels and Tonka trucks that we’re fighting over, but where you’ll get kicked out of the sandbox for being something that everyone else is not, or, more inanely, for standing up for someone else who has been or cumulatively feels kicked out of the sandbox (whether deliberately or through implicit crowding to the edges) by the so-called predominants.

And yes, that perennial topic‘s been on my mind lately, and I’m not going to kid myself by thinking that I have any kind of solutions for the exclusivity politics of technology and engineering (specifically as it relates to minority genders in open source, or in general), but this gender exclusivity shit really bugs the hell out of me and I’ll tell you why. Or just ramble about something else. I dunno, you figure it out.

Not so long ago, I had a dream. Nay, a vision; a vision for what this work — my work — was supposed to all be about. Fill me up with enough Martin Luther King Jr and Amelia Earhart and pre-Bush Colin Powell and Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman and on and on and what do you expect? American education is pathologically filled with stories that champion the plight of the underenabled individual, that offers that inspire hope and optimism, and above all, regurgitate the parable of the scamp and his fits of hard work, of courage, of raw determination — finally landing tremendous success and making it big; being popular, celebrated, probably with a blonde trophy as a thanks-for-coming award. This story illustrates our most dear and unquestionable ; it is the foundation on which we’ve substantiated our participation in wars; it contributes to our desire and perceived righteousness in democracy around the world; it is the belief that all peoples deserve a chance to be great — to share in the greatest of opportunities that life has to offer — to attain what one might never believe possible solely leveraging his wits and sweat-stained perseverance.

Somehow, in the American Dream, everyone’s a winner — yes, even you Timmy!

This is what I grew up on, like Cocoa Puffs or Lucky Charms or Golden Grahams for breakfast every morning with skim milk from robot cows. This was part of the routine, what was given, told, lectured. Consumed. Kachug kachug. Strikes me: it’s funny how the kids who broke the rules were kept after for detention.

Yep, the American Dream is shared — is attainable — by everyone. Ho ho ho.

It’s funny how the kid, trusting and determined, well-meaning and ready to take on the world (right after he finished his homework) was the one who nearly didn’t graduate because of an overly politically-minded principal couldn’t stand for tolerance in his high school.

· · ·

“No pinball! Sit down! Don’t contradict me. Pinball pinball pinball!

· · ·

It’s funny that you never knew what to do with those kids who couldn’t get along in math, or who didn’t show up for class on time, or didn’t speak or sit up just right, for whom homework competed with their after-school job that paid for tomorrow’s school lunch, who wore all black, who didn’t play your games, who listened to loud music, who threatened your reputation… s’funny how they were the ones who were punished and held back; the ones you stuck in remedial lessons in the basement of Building 2 with the rats and the rest of the dredges of society.

It’s funny that they were still spoon-fed the same American Dream docudrama ballfield pat-your-ass wholesomeness when you stuck them in English class so they would know, yes, they would comprehend, that there was still hope for them. Even if you didn’t hold it out for them.

And yeah, I’m dwelling a bit, taking this all back to high school and all — but I can see the dichotomy so clearly now, nothing’s changed — but hey, that’s not just what this is all about. Nor need it be about anyone in particular this day in history, right this second (and if you think this is about you, you’re either thinking too hard or need to take a long look in the mirror, because what I’m saying pertains to me .. go find your own blog on which to ruminate).

· · ·

The question is posed to you, Mr Joe, sitting in row five, third seat in, squarely in the middle of class: “What kind of society do you want to be a part of, Mr Joe?”

You look up from your doodles, hoping that you were invisible, that you were cloaked in an impenetrable shield that had just enough oxygen for you so everyone else would just faint away.

“Well, Mr Joe? The class is waiting; what kind of society do you want to be a part of?

· · ·

And oh I know where I’ve been, and from where I’ve come. Suburbia. Middle class & white: suburbia. I know I’ve grown up with a great deal of privilege — without pain, sickness; without death, without tragedy. The worst I’ve had was 7 stitches from a freak accident at boy scout camp. For fuck’s sake, I’m a white male — moderately attractive, educated. Living in the United States. No dear readers, it doesn’t get much easier for us. Hell, when I’m vice president, I hope I can get away with shooting a man too, just to say that I did it in front of the whole world and got away with it. Because, well, that’s what we’re growing up with — that what the kids are being fed.

“You are what you eat” — remember that one? Real jewel there. You think I’m full of shit? You think I’m full of lies? You think that I see all the privileges that I take for granted? Oh wait, that’s a contradiction.

You think this is the society that I wanted? You think that this is the society that I want? That I continue to want when I wake up every morning? That I really want to keep building out, reinforcing and extending the existing hegemony, keeping the power all locked up in the privileged kids’ parents’ lockboxes and shotgun cabinets?

Going clean seems to have lead to the discovery of contamination deep deep in the coils of our collective psyche. I’m full of lies, false truths, blasphemy, misogyny, ignorance, intolerance, greed, distrust, hatred — pure venom, man, a pure vile toxin. And I’m sick sick sick of it. Sick sick sick by it. I gotta get it out. Gotta get it out, but it’s not just me. It’s gotta be sucked out of our culture like a lethal venom. Sucked out from the marrow of our society.

If it doesn’t start changing here, if it doesn’t start changing now — now as we’re building out the most powerful, interconnected communications network the human species has ever known, there is no god, ungod or interworldly savior that will be able to help us. So it’s gotta start here.

· · ·

“Well? We’re all waiting for you: what kind of society do you want to be a part of? Hmm?”

Open source world liberation

Change of verbiage

Talking to David about his plan for a coworking space mid-peninsula, I realized that my verbiage needs an adjustment… “open source” and “domination” don’t exactly go together all that well. From hence forth, I think I’ll be thinking in terms of liberation — as in, the Freedom for All kind of thing.

Oh yes, cheesy world-takeover hyperbole is so fun to talk in!

Smashing through inequality in education

Smash PodcastersMy good friend Mini Kahlon over at LPFI got some “ink” for a program that she’s running at the Smash Academy “to encourage kids of color to study science and tech in college”.

The idea behind Smash? Give kids of color novel ways of publishing on the web (starting with podcasting) and they’ll naturally build community around formerly geektastic subjects like science and math. I mean think about it — if you blog, you know that you want readers right? And to cultivate that readership, you’ve gotta go out and promote the thing — linking to other people, telling your friends to read your inane rants or (gah) emailing your mother every time you post something new.

This is such a great idea and holds so much promise for the next generation of tech-savvy young people that I’m looking ever more forward to the great things that I hope will come out of Wine Camp (speaking of… hopefully visiting this weekend with Miss Rogue — event date by weekend’s end!).

A Eulogy for the EULA

Use of this product requires that you have read and agree to abide by the terms of use specificed in the end user licensing agreement

Walking home tonight something occurred to me that is strangely disarming and significant, primarily in its simplicity and “oh yeah…” quotient.

I’m no lawyer, but I’d be damned if any software EULA would actually hold up in court anymore. Any EULA for that matter. I mean, think about it. If you install any amount of software, every time you open up a DMG or run an install.exe, you will inevitably click through some lengthy piece of legalese that invariably concludes with you pressing a button that reads “I agree”.

And we all know how blissfully ignorant you are of whatever it is you just agreed to.

Or how about that shrinkwrap EULA? Now there’s a classic.

I mean, look at the Sony Root Kit fiasco. No doubt somewhere on the packaging or some embedded app that launched on CD insertion warned you: “Hey read this, coz we’re telling you explicitly that we’re taking over your system and spying on you. If you agree to these terms by [clicking a button | inserting this CD], hey, well, don’t say later that we didn’t warn you. We disclaim all liability.

“And we’ve got lawyers.

“Lots of ’em.

“And they write this shit all day long. So don’t even think of questioning whether this is legit or not. We say it is. So of course, it is.”

So anyway, this thing, it sprung on me: Holy crap, EULAs are totally against humanity! Yeah, I mean, I have like a million ideas a second so it’s not like I went looking for yet another salvo for my new war against intellectual property, copyright and anti-human laws — no, this idea just came to me clear out of the evening sky (or the three doses of caffeine I consumed today… damnit).

Alright alright, back to this realization. So I want to do something that will have absolutely no effect on anything, but at least shares the warmth of the flame burnin’ under my kettle. I want to call for a moratorium on EULAs. Yeah, you heard me. Uh huh, that’s right. It’s time we pulled the plug on irresponsiblity-perpetuators. It’s about time that I was able to use a tool, play with a toy, implement an idea without the originator of said thing having to shove off all ownership or responsibility for their contribution to the world for fear that I’ll turn around and sue them over something absurd, like becoming depressed because my car is the wrong shade of lemon-chiffon. Or something else. Whatever.

And hey, you litigious folks who won’t take responsibility for yourselves, who think the world owes you something because you woke up this morning…! Sorry, the world doesn’t owe you shit either. Just because it used to be easier for the big corporations to get away with publicly doing bad stuff and hence had to invent EULAs to protect their asses doesn’t mean that we’re off the gold standard. …You get taken advantage of, get disappointed, lose a limb because of your own actions, because of choices you made (or keep making!). If we’re going dump the producer’s ability to disclaim all responsibility for the things they put out into the wild then we as the receivers of their output must make up the difference with self-reliance and self-policing and taking care of ourselves. Hey hey, no one else is going to do it. Even if that chainsaw manufacturer did screw up, you’re still down 50% in appendages are you not? So yeah, don’t lop off your arm in the first place, they include the manuals for a reason!

Whatever whatever, point being, disclaiming responsibility is insulting, it’s cold and it’s not inline with what our parents taught us. Yeah, that vazz? I broke it. Twice!

So here’s a proposal (I’m full of ’em). Just like how there’s fair use in copyright, there ought be reasonable use in products so that I can put out a piece of software or hardware or some inflamatory idea and be generally protected against the possible ineptitude of eventual receivers. At the same time, as a receiver of other people’s output myself, I need those producers to first feel pride and ownership of their work and a commitment to me as a person to vouch for their work; and hey, if they eff up big time, to be culpable for any malicious or otherwise avoidable offenses that they commit. That’s just fair, right?

Banning EULAs as meaningless and unenforceable is one way to raise this issue. Is it a pratical, realistic solution? Who knows! But now you’re thinking about it, right?

I Represent Me

Executive summary: In considering Boris Mann’s recent presentation on “Personal Brand Development”, I suggest that individuals represent themselves first as people and second as employees, if at all. Furthermore, that corporations are increasingly only a figment of law that will eventually become less relevant as individuals decide to work on loosely joined, distributed, collaborative projects. Give it 20 years, you’ll see.

Open Source World DominationConversations swirling lately, mostly about not-a-whole-lot, but then there are kernels of wisdom, little things that prove that the earth is moving underneath you, that the ants haven’t stopped marching, that invisible forces continue to act unabated.

Boris presented on something called “Personal Brand Development”, giving credit to Jame and Kris for sourcing the meme.

While I shudder at the sound of the phrase, the concept is worth investigating, mostly because, as with most things of import, I had similar serendipitous conversations lately about the same concept, not suprisingly with a subtly different thrust. Let me lay out a few quotes to set up my thoughts on this:

A respected, well-known employee is a credit to their employer, just as working for a high-profile company reflects well on the employee. Forward thinking companies should encourage and reward personal brand development.

Web 2.0 and Personal Brand Development Presentation | Bryght


Neville Hobson, Tom Foremski and Mitch Ratcliffe are dispensing advice you should run, not walk, to heed immediately if you work in an organization.

The message: Guard your identity and don’t mix it up with your company’s identity. Otherwise, you risk being “disappeared” if you leave your job or get fired.

Allan Jenkins’ Desirable Roasted Coffee

So now here’s where I diverge.

After the Mena vs Ben deathmatch at Les Blogs (an historic moment for civility online), Ben received some interesting feedback from someone who worked for a rather large software company (no, not Macrosoft, the other one). We’ll call him Mr Cog (I won’t name names since I honestly forget who it was that talked to him). Paraphrased, Mr Cog’s point was this: You’d better shuddup because what you say and how you behave represents your employer.

Since Ben does work for a rather large media organization in the UK, this was rather disheartening to hear. Out of a fear that his words might insult someone who would attribute it to his employer and consequently risk his livelihood, he should go mum? What an awful way to ruin a person, let alone an employee!

Sure, it’s not unprecedented for employees to get fired over their after-hours activities. Given that, Mr Cog has a case. Just maybe he was looking out for Ben’s well being. Conventionally, what each of us does, in some small measure, reflects on our employers. Yeah, duh? Ok ok, but given serious reflection, one begins to realize how disempowering and debilitating this attitude — and the resultant fear — really is.

So you want my take? No, probably not. But I’ll tell you anyway. Here’s the punchline: I don’t represent my employer, who I choose to work for represents me.

Catch that?

Ok, let me explain, because it sure sounds more dangerously egocentric than it needs to: I represent me. I represent me in the work I do, in the thoughts I write down and publish, in the conversations I have with other people, in the mistakes I make, in the Flickr photos I post. Though I’m commonly referred to as “a Flock guy”, that’s only relevant because it’s one of the projects that I choose to spend my time on (and yes, they also happen to pay my rent).

But because I choose to work on Flock, how good it is represents me since it’s my work and my intelligence (or lack thereof) that show through in the final result. And so fundamentally I’m responsible for how good or how bad it is, now and over time.

This statement is true for each one of us who works at Flock. There are no weak links. If Flock does indeed suck, it’s up to the individuals who are collectively represented by this group project to collaboratively remedy it (ideally with the support of our community). We each have providence over our own work to a fundamental level: working in open source guarentees a paper trail in the commit log. And so what we each put in is documented, recorded, added to the collective, public record.

So let’s get down to it. Whatever you want to call it (I’ll pass on “Personal Brand Development” thank you very much — I’m a person and don’t need to be branded, but to each their own), the old command and conquer hierarchy is changing and dissolving. The playing field is not just being pulverized, it’s being opened up to the fans to come and participate, much to the dismay of the coaches and referrees. In a worldwide Cluetrainian orgy, it’s now the employees who speak first for themselves and second for their employer. Even better, first for themselves, second for their friends and social network, third for their employers.

Here it is: I have a voice (have always had a voice, figuring it out how to really use it recently) that I should never be afraid to exert. I speak for me and I’m the only one that I can rely on to speak for me and to authentically represent me. My employer understands that my silence would reflect more seriously upon them and the culture they’re creating than anything I might eventually say. Yes, it’s a big messy and wonderful catastrophe, but in the words of dotBen, That’s life.

Observations on the perceived failure of community after Katrina

Hope - by SALOThe more I read about the crisis in New Orleans, the more I am confused and saddened at what’s happening. And the more I see and hear of the US Government’s response, the more concerned I am for the general and ongoing wellbeing and protection of America’s citizenry.
What’s unfolding in New Orleans is being portrayed as utter chaos and what comes down to a failure of the community to take care of and fend for itself. Rather, it seems, individuals are ruining the relief efforts for everyone by apparently looking out only for themselves and their families:

“Hospitals are trying to evacuate,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. “At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, “You better come get my family.”

While I don’t believe that this behavior is true of everyone or even the majority, it is significant enough to be causing the relief efforts to fail or to become to dangerous for those administering them.

And in the midst of all this, our president has the gall to callously call for a crackdown on the looting:

“I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this — whether it be looting, or price gouging at the gasoline pump, or taking advantage of charitable giving or insurance fraud,” Bush said. “And I’ve made that clear to our attorney general. The citizens ought to be working together.”

This from the man who sold us on a bogus war in a time when the last thing we as a people coming together needed was to crackdown on a minor madman. What we needed was community leadership that brought us together — and that helped us to see our common humanity. The more I hear and see of this president, the more my concerns are confirmed that he is not one who can lead us towards a greater empathic understanding of ourselves or our neighbors. Instead, his example will further encourage divisive behavior against our better nature.
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Harrison Bergeron cited in case against capping taxes

The future of educationIt seems like my good friend Harrison Bergeron is being invoked in an effort to increase school funding allocation in Kansas. School advocates contend that funding is inadequate and unevenly distributed across rich and poor districts. As such is the case, posit that “capping local taxes on schools [is] unconstitutional” and handicaps students’ abilities to receive a decent education.

But apparently aside from the well-written brief that the students’ lawyers prepared, Vonnegut suggests that they didn’t quite get the story: “It’s about intelligence and talent, and wealth is not a demonstration of either one.”.

“Kansas is apparently handicapping schoolchildren, no matter how gifted and talented, with lousy educations if their parents are poor,” he said.

State attorneys had a curious rebuttal to the effort to lift the caps: “I would classify this as the Johnson County viewpoint of the world,” Rupe said. “This kind of viewpoint exists when there is not adequate funding for all schools,” he said.

Hmm. So you’re suggesting that because there is inadequate funding for education, people have unenlightened views? Really… you don’t say.