UK Government Launches Open Data Site

The announcement mirrors similar, high profile projects here in the US, spear headed by the Obama administration. The fine folks at Creative Commons point out that the move also changes the access terms to work in a compatible fashion with a CC BY license. This is a nice offset to the stories of expansion of copyright controls that are popping up with alarming frequency around the globe. Congratulations are in order not just for the relevant parties in the British government but also for the CC folks in the UK who helped make this possible.

The project earns further geek credibility for participating in CKAN, a registry of open knowledge projects model after similar repositories of source and binary code in the FLOSS world. CKAN was established and is operated by the Open Knowledge Foundation and this aspect of the story came to my attention via Glyn Moody.

Obama Administration Seeks to Limit Classified Documents

I saw this NYT piece thanks to Xeni at Boing Boing. To me, this reads much more like a letter of intent. The executive order and memo share with the recent open government directive (that I discussed on the podcast) a reliance on agency-by-agency implementation. Also mentioned is a requirement for reporting on classification procedures but no real yard stick for positive progress. I worry that too much discretion is still allowed to the agency heads.

Often enough in the past contentious FOIA requests and other appeals for information have been stone walled with concerns over national security. Given the behavior of this administration in the past, I think that is the real bug bear that needs slaying, not as much procedures around classifying and de-classifying documents.

Malamud’s “By the People”, a Compelling History of the GPO

Cory shares this video of Carl Malamud explaining the historical antecedents of his work, his earlier efforts in opening government data and the results, and the issues and hurdles that still remain. There is also a transcript of this speech that Carl Malamud gave back in September at Government 2.0. It is available in a variety of formats (though no ePub) and you can purchase it as a printed pamphlet from Lulu.

With the recent Open Government Directive from the OMB, this speech is even more appropriate. Carl’s words resonate with the call to institute a culture of participation and collaboration, not just mere access to knowledge.

If you are moved by Carl’s words, come and meet him this Thursday at a special DC CopyNight event.

First Programmable Quantum Computer, Droid Bug Turns Out Mostly Harmless, and More

  • Facebook set to enact its new privacy policy
    Jolie O’Dell has the story at RWW. This is the same draft they published after objections. Apparently not enough users commented to the point where it needed further amendment. Facebook is also claiming much of the feedback was positive.
  • Microsoft official launches Azure
    It won’t be available for general use until early next year according to Ars, but RWW describes the launch event at the Redmond giant’s annual developer gathering. I was surprised to read that Mullenweg of Auttomatic participated though if his claims that Azure runs PHP and MySQL are true, why not?
  • Spain institutes right to broadband
    This will be support apparently through he carrier with the universal service contract. The right would be to a minimum speed service at a regulated price. Spain follows Finland who released announced a similar, though more ambitious, proposal.
  • Rollover bug mistaken for remote control of Droid phones
    I’ve actually professionally encountered this sort of bug in a device, before, similar to what Wired uncovered. I am surprised that this made it into the Droid give its provenance. To counter Gruber’s comments about how the press and public would react differently if this was the iPhone, I’d offer that for quite a bit of the Droid’s software stack, the sources are open for skeptics to audit for themselves.
  • Issues with verifying recovery.gov data
    This post from the Sunlight Foundation is a good basis for tempering enthusiasm for raw or, as Lessig recently put it, naked transparency though for different reasons. Here Hanlon’s Law, the one about incompetence before malice, seems to be in full effect. It does beg the question of how we can improve or establish the checks and audits that would have caught this.
  • First programmable quantum computer
    I hadn’t realized that the prototypes I’ve been reading about for the last few years were so task specific. Casey Johnston has the story at Ars of a new NIST design that is much more directly comparable to the classical, general purpose computers with which most of us are familiar.
  • FCC takes on cable, satellite operators over broadband access
    Cecilia Kang at the Post shares a write up of an FCC presentation taking issue with the lack of innovation and choice with the current cable and satellite operators. My only concern is the focus on television as a network access device, I hope we see this same zeal applied to the lack of choices for traditional broadband, as well.
  • New incubator to help bring technologists, government together
    RWW has an excellent write up of Anil Dash’s newly announced venture. They especially do an excellent job of contrasting Expert Labs to Tim O’Reilly’s similar and perhaps complementary efforts in this space. My only question–Anil, are you hiring?

Shortened Links to Live On, New Supreme Court Case Database, and More

The reguar Friday happy hour at the the $employer tried to break my daily posting streak. I’m not having that.

  • Archiving of url shortened links
    If you wondered about the long term viability of shortened URLS, especially with the third party indexing of Twitter and other social messaging services, this is good news. The shuttering of tr.im initially raise some question though their decision to open source the data dodged the bullet eventually. The Archives cooperation eith bit.ly is a more sustainable solution that points the way, potentially, for other shortening services.
  • New Supreme Court database
    My good friend Kevin from the Life after Law School podcast sent me this link. This builds on some earlier work make the SCOTUS cases easier to search and more accessible for law geeks, well, like me. Further good news, though, in the general vein of access to the information that is critical to our open democracy.
  • New cookie consent law in the EU
    According to the WSJ, the law won’t ban cookies, rather requiring that there is an opt-out mechanism and clear notification. I have to agree with Felten whose view on this in the past is that browser cookies are the devil we know. If this law is indeed specific to cookies, it may encourage the use of less manageable ways of achieving the same end, like Flash cookies.
  • More to consider with Google’s SPDY protocol
    At Ars Iljitsch van Beijnum points out something I had largely overlooked with Google’s new protocol, that fact that it will require SSL. If that’s true, if this is not optional, he’s right. Encryption will interfere with content caching, definitely, and he’s definitely right in terms of less powerful devices like smart phones.
  • Call to restore a key oversight board
    This EFF post explains about a body that in the past has exercised critical oversight and could have headed off perhaps some of the worst abuses. Their petition here makes sense to rollback the re-organization that remove the effect of this board.
  • Verizon to test sending infringement letters to customers
    I am not sure I agree with Cecilia Kang’s extrapolation in this WaPo piece from Verizon’s pilot of what merely sounds like notices to the impending three strikes that may be forced via treaty with ACTA. Still that the carrier is considering cooperating with big content is itself a concern in terms of traction in their companion to deputize third parties.
  • EFF participating in global copyright database
    This is not a project originated with the EFF but clearly in keeping with their focus. I think this may be the first such effort so sweeping in its scope. It makes sense to not only leverage the participating of NGOs and academics, but also libraries which have a strong stake in the public access side of the copyright debate.

Odd Trio Frees the Patent Database, Lulu to Start Offering DRM, and More

  • A coalition of the unlikely frees the patent database
    Carl Malamud explains at O’Reilly Radar how so-called zero dollar deals by government agencies often lead to proprietary lock-in of public data. He then explains how three unlikely comrades–Intellectual Ventures, Google, and the Internet Archive–cooperated to prevent this wholesale capture from happening with the patent office’s database.
  • Surprisingly nuanced understanding of copyright demonstrated by WIPO
    KEI explains this refreshing contrast to the ACTA negotiations that took place at roughly the same time. In several presentations, this WIPO gathering showed that at least some players get how enforcement may be counter to economic development and in some cases piracy may even benefit the original goods.
  • Lulu starts offering DRM
    This is really, really unfortunate especially giving the open source background of Lulu’s founders. It appears to be part of a larger push towards embracing ebook formats beyond PDF but I think it is pretty much inexcusable.
  • Making deterrence more effective through targeted copyright enforcement
    Ed Felten discusses a more behaviorally or psychologically informed approach to using punishment as a deterrence that might have allowed the RIAA to better achieve its stated goals for its law suits with fewer actual cases potentially brought to court.
  • Public interest groups protest rumored merger between Comcast, NBC
    Cecilia Kang has the rumor at the Post along with responses from public interest groups already set to protest. Media consolidation to this concentrated degree is certainly a concern. I am more concerned about the cable operator having a larger stack higher up in the network stack will make it even more aggressive in its attempts to discriminate in favor of its own content and offerings.
  • Inspiration from biology might help Moore’s Law
    According to the MIT Technology Review, the technique is stochastic resonance, a sort of contingent probability applied to build what sounds like a constructive signal in the presence of noise. Increasing noise is one of the less discussed challenges with ever shrinking computing components.
  • New data breach bills
    One prod to get the market to act in better faith towards consumers private data has been the idea of requiring notification when that data is breached. Jacqui Cheung at Ars describes two bills attempting to enact this measure once more, despite past failures when industry has resisted with its lobbying might citing cost and other concerns. Hopefully these bills make it farther, I am not entirely optimistic based on those past failures.
  • Rupert Murdoch is insane in his denial of fair use, removing sites from Google
    Mike Masnick shares the story at Techdirt. I cannot fathom how someone working in media today can be this far removed from reality. The only consolation, really, is that this specific move should damage Murdoch’s properties pretty much exclusively. Google and the rest of the infosphere won’t suffer as the vacuum gets filled by motivated and more clueful competitors.

Open Government Hack Day in Australia, A Command Line Interface for Twitter, and More

  • Australian hack day, working on open government data
    A good write up, found via Gnat’s four short links on O’Reilly Radar, of one of the first endorsed hack-a-thons. Perhaps a good preview of a similar project that Sunlight has already announced for next month.
  • The case for a command line interface for Twitter
    I would hardly disagree with the case Dave Winer is making here. The cost of plugging in parsers and libraries for yet another RESTful API with either JSON or XML isn’t great but it gets to be a drain. If you think about it, the support for using “d username msg” and at-messages is a toehold into a richer command interface that can be run straight from the text box on Twitter’s site, so we aren’t that far off.
  • How hackers can support resilience in society
    Glyn Moody tweeted the link to this piece. This actually makes a great deal of sense, if you think about it, even if you never though to call such people hackers. I want to draw this into a metaphor about hackers as white blood cells but I think John Robb’s post is more nuanced than that.

Assessing Voting Machine Security, Threatened Voices, and More

  • State of the courts on protecting email privacy
    The EFF has posted a nice survey of the state of several recent rulings in a couple of federal circuits. It is a nice backgrounder for the story I linked to yesterday, where a judge ruled that execution of a warrant need not include notification if the email being searched was stored on a third party server.
  • Act now on two critical bills facing committee vote
    The EFF has posted an action alert to contact your Congress critters on a Patriot Act reform bill as well as a states secret reform act. The committee vote for both is schedule for tomorrow, so act now.
  • First hand account of unsecured machines prior to election day
    Professor Felten took an informal survey of his local polling places. He did so in the few days leading up to election day as this has been when many researchers have been able to show windows of opportunity for attack. The results are not good, with only a small minority of an admittedly small sample of locations having the machines adequately locked away.
  • EU softens on open formats for public services
    Ryan Paul has the story at Ars based on a leaked draft of a document previous versions of which showed much stronger promise. In addition to a general dilution of the language around open-ness in this present version, Paul points out a troubling rationalization, emphasizing interoperability over open-ness and using that to advance homogeneity as a now more preferred means to that end.
  • Brazilian sets up adversarial testing of its voting systems
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out that not only is that country’s government setting up this testing that US vendors have roundly resisted, but has also put forward a bounty to whichever research team that successfully hacks the machine.
  • Latest moral panic from Hollywood over net neutrality
    At Techdirt, Mike Masnick has an unusually lengthy and detailed analysis of an FCC filing from the MPAA on the net neutrality rule making currently underway. A lot of this rhetoric is consistent with big content’s panics of the past so it’s not surprising that Masnick concludes that this is all there is to the filing.
  • Map of threatened bloggers around the world
    Ethan Zuckerman of the Berkman Center has a good write up of a solid bit of hacktivism on his blog. Threatened Voices is consistent with several efforts in that it will be an ongoing, of necessity incomplete effort and hopefully a necessary prelude, that of gathering collective knowledge, to further action.

Programs Fixing Programs, Grand Unified Microblogging, and More

  • Petition to Obama to disclose ACTA negotiations
    KEI who also were instrumental in getting the list of folks who did see the draft under NDA now is organizing a petition to the president. I first saw this when Professor Lessig tweeted about his own signature. Cory shares further details about the petition on Boing Boing.
  • MIT research on program to fix bugs in other programs
    I am pretty sure I’ve read about similar efforts and the appeal of this is obvious. In reading through the linked MIT Technology Review article, I did have a thought in the back of my mind about theory of mind in humans and that this sort of modeling of software’s behavior by software seems to me at least to be eerily similar if incredibly limited.
  • Grand unified theory of microblogging
    Glyn Moody points to this OStatic piece about a D-Bus library, Microfeed, that could make aggregation of social messaging easier for desktops that use that particular inter process messaging system, like most of the Linux desktops. I don’t see the value of running multiple clients as the article suggests but I do see a possible acceleration in features on clients which is even more worthwhile in my view if it gets us to better categorization and management of messages.
  • AZ judge rules metadata on public records are also public records
    The case in question was one brought by a police officer trying to investigate his suspicions about reasons for his demotion. In this Ars piece, Jon Stokes not only relates the excellent news, at least for activists and investigators in Arizona, but puts it into context discussing how metadata has helped and hurt other efforts in public debates.
  • FCC considering more control over electronic media
    This is potentially troubling news and I think signifies an unfortunate expansion of outmoded thinking. Past media regulations were predicated on scarcity, starting with broadcast spectrum. Digital media are antithetical to that, representing abundance based models. This also makes me think of the EFF’s criticisms of the FCC’s move to regulate the internet, the examples of sub-optimal regulations of speech and access they’ve made in the past based on specious assumptions about availability and vague notions of decency.
  • A taxonomy of online security and privacy threats
    The Technology Liberation Points to this useful table put together by PFF. In the preamble, they explain they developed this grid to help balance the discussion around privacy risks, to broaden the focus of potential regulations beyond just behavioral advertising. I still wonder if we can come up with a less prescriptive listing and a more descriptive and predictive model, as challenging as that may be to achieve.

Why Ovid Doesn’t Do TDD, Julie Learns to Program, and More

  • Anecdote Driven Development, or why Ovid doesn’t do TDD
    Listener Philip sent me this excellent musing by Perl hacker, Ovid. I think his experience represents the quiet majority. While I don’t share the remorse over not being able to say I strictly adhere to TDD, I do tend to take a more practical view of when and where the benefit of writing automated units tests is really worth the often not inconsiderable cost.
  • Adobe is bad for open government
    My friend Gavin sent me this excellent post by Clay Johnson of the Sunlight Labs. Folks too easily mistake the ease of access and share of PDF as good enough for sharing information from critical sources. Johnson does a good job of highlighting just how difficult PDF as well as Flash make it for analytical projects like Sunlight Labs to parse, extract and re-purpose this information versus even plain old ASCII text. XML is being touted as the gold standard, but any unencumbered, easily computer parsed format would be better than what Adobe is selling, especially since nothing truly prevents them from breaking format compatibility over time.
  • Canadian anti-spam bill passes committee without copyright lobby provisions
    Professor Geist shares the good news as well as explaining how even during the review big content and its captive legislators kept trying to re-introduce these problematic dilutions of the consumer protection bill. It still has to be put to a vote but this is a critical success regardless.
  • Google launches music search
    The NYT does a good job of clarifying exactly what the new service is and what it is not. It is not a music story like iTunes or Amazon but rather another extension of its core search through various partners. For Amazon, at least, there could be an opportunity to play ball and drive more customers into its MP3 store. iTunes’ walled garden would seem to make that pretty much impossible for Apple.
  • Julie learns to program
    Via Nat’s Four Short Links at O’Reilly Radar. This is a very earnest account of a non-programmer tackling the challenge of learning to code. It isn’t a tutorial or any sort of guide, just the engaging story of Julie’s personal progress grappling with her first programming language.
  • Twitter bans satirical, fake persona account
    Mike Masnick has the particulars of the story at Techdirt. You cannot really get all that incensed about this story since Twitter is essentially a private service and can ban whomever they choose for whatever or no reason at all. To me, it provides another reason that reinforces a discussion that went round the blogosphere a few weeks back, that we really need to crack social messaging from private, centralized players like Twitter and Facebook into open, federated systems.
  • Advance in phase change memory
    Jon Stokes at Ars points out some new research buy Intel and its partner Numonyx in increasing the density of a storage technology first proposed over thirty years ago. Unlike a lot of these kinds of stories I follow, this particular technology, the non-stacked version, is already shipping in some projects which makes me optimistic about this new development hitting market faster than some other approaches to increasing storage densities.