Doc Searls's blog

Is free and open code a form of infrastructure? How about the humans who write it?

I was looking at what my friend Stephen Lewis wrote in HakPakSak a few days ago — specifically "...newspapers’ roles as public trusts and cornerstones of our informational infrastructure — i.e. sources of solid information and independent commentary essential to informed citizenry, democratic government, effective public policy, and well-functioning economies".. What this brought up for me is the notion that human beings are themselves infrastructural; especially when they are constuctive contributors to the structure we call civilization. more>>

On valuing freedom more than cushy jail cells

The problem isn't just silos and walled gardens — our names for choiceless dependency on one company's goods and services. The problem is the defaulted belief system that gives us silos and walled gardens in the first place.

In that system suppliers believe that the best customers and users are captive ones. Customers and users believe that a free market naturally restricts choices to silos. It's a value sytem in which VCs like to ask "What's your lock-in?". Even in 2007, long after the Net has become established as an everyday necessity, we still take for granted the assumption that living in a "free market" is to choose among jail cells. May the best prison win. more>>

What could you do with fat fiber?

Two years ago, Bob Frankston wrote Why Settle for Just 1%? while in the midst of his ramp-up as a Verizon FiOS customer. The question is still on the table. I'd like us to help answer it by re-phrasing the question: What could we, as Linux developers and users, do with fiber to our homes and businesses? more>>

How high is the LAMP stack?

When we first started talking about LAMP, it stood for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, Python... and other M and P projects, such as mod_perl, mod_python, PostgreSQL and so on. The letters were arranged horizontally, but many IT builders began talking about them vertically: as a "stack": Linux on the bottom, and a pile of other stuff on top.

So here's a simple question: how high (or wide) is that stack now? Put another way, how many open source projects sit on Linux today?

I just asked Ethan Zuckerman, who said the question was "interesting", and that one approach would be to subtract out the non-Linux projects from SourceForge. Right now there are 154,092 projects on SourceForge. I don't know how many run on Linux, though I'm sure it's a huge percentage. But SourceForge isn't the only place where open source development projects live.

You can go looking with directories such as Linux.org's, collections such as Freshmeat's or Tucows', or code search engines such as Google's, Koders' or Krugle's. But so far I haven't been able to find a number. more>>

Why are privacy and advertising strange bedfellows?

In A Race to the Bottom: Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies, Privacy International spray-paints the façades of landmark companies that line today's Main Street on the Web. The painted colors are assessments of each company's performance on privacy issues. Though the rankings are colorful, what they say isn't pretty.

Nobody in the "interim rankings" (.pdf) gets the top (green) mark for "Privacy-friendly and privacy enhancing". The bottom (black) mark, for "Comprehensive consumer surveillance & entrenched hostility to privacy", goes to just one company: Google. more>>

An open source approach to fixing public media funding

Christopher Lydon's RadioOpenSource is one of the best programs on radio. It's not about open source code, but about radio modeled on open source values and methods. As the show puts it, Open Source has become one of the most talked-about experiments in public media — a civil union of online and on-air communities that trust each other to talk about pretty much anything.

Right now the project is The looking for funding directly from listeners and other participants. So the rescue ships are approaching the harbor, and still the wolf is at the door.

If you listen to the show, you're one of those ships. If you write code, you can float a lot more boats — not just for one show, but for all of public media (a term that encompasses public radio, TV, podcasting and live online streaming).

What we need is an open source project, or code put together from a number of existing projects, to reduce the friction involved in paying for public media — and at the same time to increase the opportunities for participation by listeners, producers and everybody else with something to contribute. more>>

Getting beyond Brad's Paradox

The always provocative Brad Templeton, who hung out with a large cadre of geeks at the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW, or ) last week, has some cautions about new identity systems, even if they are all "user-centric". These cautions lie in a paradox: "The easier it is to give somebody ID information, the more often it will be done. And the easier it is to give ID information, the more palatable it is to ask for, or demand it." The italics are his.

Here he hits on the problem of market power asymmetries (vendors strong, customers weak) that have been with us for the whole Industrial Age, and are with us still. I think we have a way to overcome those, and that Brad's Paradox may provide exactly the conceptual hurdle we need to see before we can make progress.

So let's start with Brad's explanation: more>>

Mike and Tux, sitting in a tree...

Michael Dell Runs Ubuntu, Jim Thompson reports. Sure 'nuff:

The key excerpt... more>>

Thinking Past Platforms: the Next Challenge for Linux

In my first SuitWatch Newsletter, on September 5, 2002, I wrote this: "A funny thing happened to Linux on the way to World Domination: it succeeded. That's the good news; the bad news is its success has hit a few hitches, and it's unclear how long those hitches will last."

The biggest hitch — dominating PCs the way Linux has dominated servers and embedded devices — is still around, almost five years later. And it will remain a hitch as long as hardware OEMs continue to follow Microsoft rather than lead the marketplace.

That's the gauntlet I threw down last Wednesday, in my last SuitWatch. And now I'm throwing it down here. I want to challenge the big hardware OEMs — Dell, HP, Lenovo, Sony and the rest of them — to break free of the only form factors Microsoft will let them make, and start leading the marketplace by making make cool, interesting, fun and useful stuff that isn't limited by any one company's catalog of possibilities. Stop making generic stuff. Grow greener grass beyond the Windows fences. Stop thinking of Linux as "generic" and "a commodity". Start looking at how building only Windows PCs forces you to make generic, commodity products. more>>

A Public Market for Public Music

On the one hand, it's a bummer that the new per-song/per-listener royalty rates threaten to put Internet radio out of business. On the other hand, I don't mind paying Radio Paradise $.0019 (that's under 2/10ths of one cent) to hear Joseph Arthur singing "In the Sun" or to pay the same to RadioKAOS for Jo Jo Gunne singing "Run Run Run". (To name two songs I like that are being played right now.) I can afford that. I also like the idea of paying artists and their friends for their work — but not on coercive terms over which I have no control.

Right now there are only two ways of doing that. One is the advertising based commercial radio model. The other is the donation-based public radio model. The first doesn't involve me at all. The second only barely involves me, and then only as a "member" of a station.

So I have a proposal. Let's turn this thing around. Take it from the point of view of a listener who wouldn't mind using the radio station as an intermediary for paying artists on a voluntary basis. Give radio's consumers an easy way to become customers — with tools that let them pay on a voluntary, a la carte basis for stuff that's available for free but is worth more than that. Let's create a new and truly open market for music that's led by listeners rather than followed by them. Let's solve common problems in ways that work for everybody because they're conceived as common opportunities. more>>

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