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Thursday, July 30 2015 @ 11:15 AM CDT

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Standards of Political Civility and Darwin's Finches

On the Media

Better run for cover . . . it's Election Day in the USA

HimselfHeaven help us all (all us Americans, anyway) — it's election time again. That means we've once again descended into a morass of partisan invective, not to mention lies, damn lies, and (of course) statistics. Except that this election year it seems that everyone is behaving even worse than last time, when everyone acted even worse than the time before, when, well, do you sense a trend here?

One hallmark of this year's political "discourse" (to abuse a term) has been the number of astonishingly angry and ill-informed accusations made by some candidates against their opponents (and others). Nothing unusual about that, sad to say. But what is different is the degree of acceptance, and even approval, exhibited by many voters that in earlier years might have rejected these candidates as well as their statements.

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Community Rights and Community Wrongs

Open Source/Open Standards

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

 
Wikibook Header, public domain, courtesy of WikiCommons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Copyright_%28Simple_English%29_Wikibook_header.pngAlthough the continuing debate over the future of Java and OpenOffice should not surprise, the fact that developers have allowed themselves to be caught in this position to begin with should. The reason?   The community has overestimated the power of software licenses – even FOSS licenses – to protect their rights, and opted not to take advantage of other tools that could.
 
Yes, today’s restrictive licenses embody powerful rights, but those rights are no stronger than the ability of their owners to assert them. Placing all one’s defensive reliance on a single legal tool can make no more sense than relying on a single weapons system.  Why?  Because it’s all too easy to be outflanked by an enemy with a more diverse armament.  And ever since Oracle's acquisition of Sun, the traditional defenses of open source developers have been about as effective as France's post-World War I Maginot Line.
 
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If IT Policy is Your Thing, Keep an Eye on Europe

Intellectual property Rights

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

If you’re interested in the intersection of technology, government, standards and open source software, you really want to be paying close attention to Europe these days. That’s because the EU is where all of the really interesting, high-level IT policy action is.

Yes, there are some important things happening in China, but Chinese policy is very narrowly targeted towards achieving industry-specific economic goals. And yes, isolated initiatives and skirmishes pop up in the U.S. from time to time, much to the bewilderment of most legislators.  But it’s in the EU where you find by far and away the greatest sophistication on the part of policy makers, and the most extensive grass-roots engagement by citizen groups.

The reason is not surprising. Unlike those other two huge markets – the U.S. and China – the EU is of course made up of many independent states, and it has taken decades of multidimensional, creative effort to incentivize, cajole and nudge those states into a more cohesive and forceful economic whole.
 
With that by way of background, let’s take a look at a kerfuffle that emerged yesterday when two lobbying associations reacted to a pre-release copy of the latest version of that extremely interesting and much battered document called the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), version 2.0.
 
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Are There Too Many Consortia?

General News

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Companies that participate in hundreds of standard setting organizations (SSOs) often bemoan the continuing launch of more and more such organizations. Why, they are wont to ask, are so many new ones being formed all the time? And indeed, the aggregate participation costs for such companies in terms of membership dues and personnel are very high.

Of course, if you read the press releases of the new consortia launched in any given year, you'll see that almost all include some of the same companies among their founding members. So which is the more accurate picture — that there too many consortia, or too few? The best answer to both questions almost certainly is "yes."

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The Launch of the Document Foundation and the Oxymoron of Corporate Controlled "Community" Projects

Open Source/Open Standards

 

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?
 
Say bye-bye?This morning brought the significant -  and decade overdue – announcement of the launch of an independent foundation to host development of the open source, ODF-compliant OpenOffice productivity suite.  The good news of that lost decade is that under Sun’s ownership and control, the OpenOffice suite became the most successful and widely implemented alternative to Microsoft’s Office, providing at least some degree of competition in a product niche where it had been missing for far too long.

The bad news is that in the same time period the OpenOffice suite could have become so much more.  As with other single-company controlled efforts in the past (e.g., the Eclipse Foundation, before IBM spun it out into an independent organization), other companies that could have, and would have, made significant contributions of personnel, funding and promotion stood aside.  

 

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Google's Ironic Ad Campaign and the Future of Traditional Media

On the Media

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Page through a major newspaper (remember newspapers?) today like the New York Times, and you’re likely to run into two enormous ads, one by Google (almost two full pages) and one by AOL (a full two pages). Leaving aside the irony of Google advertising in a form of media that it has almost competed out of existence, there’s something potentially transformative going on here that’s worth exploring.
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It’s Time to Get Behind the Semantic Web

Semantic & NextGen Web

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?


Courtesy Erik Wilde, CC Attribution 3.0 Unported License, at http://dret.net/lectures/web-fall09/trendsFive years ago I dedicated an issue of Standards Today (then called the Consortium Standards Bulletin) to the future of the Semantic Web. The centerpiece was a very detailed interview (over 5,700 words) with the inventor of both the Web and the Semantic Web, Tim Berners-Lee.
 
That issue had two foci: the importance of Berners-Lee’s vision of the Semantic Web becoming a reality, and the very substantial impediments to that happening. In my interview, I returned again and again to the latter issue. 
 
What were those impediments? Back in June of 2005, simply understanding what the Semantic Web was all about was a real problem; proponents found it hard to articulate its operations and uses in a way that people could get their minds around.  More seriously, though, was the amount of effort that implementing the W3C’s core Semantic Web standards would take, conjoined with the absence of clear examples of what kind of rewards would follow for those that took up this burden. In effect, there was not only a chicken and egg issue, but an absence of people interested in buying either the bird or the egg. 
 
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In Celebration of the Life of John H. Updegrove, M.D.

Monday Witness

Father’s realize certain things as they get older: unless you are a fireman or a high school teacher, your grandparents may never really understand what you do for a living. Few children ever appreciate the degree of skill you bring to your trade or profession, and needless to say, your average spouse is likely to wonder whether anyone that speaks kindly of her husband is really talking about the same person that sometimes forgets to take out the garbage. 

That was never a problem in my family, or at least perhaps less so than is often the case. One of my earliest memories is being asked one question over and over again: “whether I was going to be a doctor, just like my father and grandfather.” If the person asking the question was old enough, they might add, “and your great-grandfather, too.  He delivered me, you know.”
 
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Oracle Sues Google Over Android: What's Up with That?

Intellectual property Rights

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project? 

As most of the technology world knows by now, Oracle has brought a suit for patent infringement against Google, asserting that the Java elements incorporated into Google’s Android operating system infringe patents that Oracle acquired when it took over Sun Microsystems. The basic facts are here, and the complaint can be found here. What no one yet knows for sure yet is why?

My crystal ball isn’t any clearer than the next guy’s but here are a few thoughts to consider.
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Open Source for America Celebrates its First Anniversary with Awards

Open Source/Open Standards

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Last summer, a new organization was announced with the goal of promoting the uptake of open source software by the U.S. federal government.  It's mission was described as follows:

The mission of OSA is to educate decision makers in the U.S. Federal government about the advantages of using free and open source software; to encourage the Federal agencies to give equal priority to procuring free and open source software in all of their procurement decisions; and generally provide an effective voice to the U.S. Federal government on behalf of the open source software community, private industry, academia, and other non-profits.

Now that organization has completed its first quite successful year of operations, and it's decided to celebrate that event by announcing an awards program to recognize those that have been most influential in advancing its goals.