Monthly Archives: July 2012

Too much information: links for week ending 27 July 2012

EU: Research funders signal support for open access publishing
In another win for public access to publicly-funded research, Nature reports on a new policy recommendation by the European Commission that all research emerging from its €80 billion Horizon 2020 research funding pot should either be published open access or deposited in the Commission’s open access repository OpenAIRE six months from publication. European Commission vice-President Neelie Kroes has endorsed the policy, while the Guardian reports a 2% drop in the value of academic publisher Reed-Elsevier’s stock following on from the announcement. The Economist places events in the context of wider developments in academic publishing. Meanwhile, Nature also reports that Research Councils UK, which represents seven UK research funding organizations with a total annual research budget of £2.8 billion, have announced that from next April any papers emerging from work they fund must be made free to access within six months of publication. An infographic, produced by Nature, shows existing trends in open access publishing across disciplines in the UK.
Nature (EU) | Neelie Kroes | Guardian | Economist | Nature (UK) | Infographic

UK: Privacy International threatens legal action against government
Privacy International has written to the UK Business Secretary Vince Cable asking why the government has been unable to halt the export of British-made surveillance technology to repressive regimes. The groups says that if Cable does not respond within 21 days, they “will file for judicial review and if appropriate seek an urgent injunction preventing British companies from maintaining and updating systems already previously sold to repressive regimes, and stopping any new exports in their tracks”.

Tajikistan: Government to create web monitoring agency
Global Voices details an announcement made by the government of Tajikistan that it will create a new agency to monitor online publications for “insulting” and “slanderous” content.

US: Nearly 2 million quit Facebook
The Register reports that nearly 2 million US Facebook users have quit the social networking site in the past 6 months, with user numbers in Europe also dropping. The news has continued the slide in Facebook’s share value.

Iceland: Court orders Valitor to process WikiLeaks donations
Bloomberg report that an Icelandic court have ordered payment processing intermediary Valitor hf, the Icelandic partner of Visa and Mastercard, to process donations to WikiLeaks or face fines of over $6,000 a day. The company has indicated it will appeal the ruling.

UK: US pursuing a middleman in copyright infringement case
The New York Times’ reports on the extradition proceedings against UK citizen Richard O’Dwyer being brought by the US on criminal charges of copyright infringement. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has taken up the Briton’s cause.

Stepping out of the system
This feature for the BBC details a new project by Frontline SMS founder Ken Banks called Means of Exchange: “a ‘toolbox’ of web-based and mobile apps that will make it easier for people to engage in things like bartering, swapping and alternative currencies”.

The moral cases for – and against – drones
A short piece for the New York Times outlines the ethical arguments being marshaled in favor of drone use by the US military. John Kaags and Sarah Keeps take issue with the piece in the same paper’s opinion section, arguing that “expediency is not necessarily a virtue”.
For | Against

The threat of secret surveillance orders
The New York Times details a new paper produced by a US judge that investigates the nature of surveillance orders being generated in US courts and highlights the need to reform the law in order to prevent the trend in orders so secret “they might as well be “written in invisible ink”.

The challenges facing Wikipedia
The Washington Post profiles Wikipedia on the occasion of its annual Wikimania conference, highlighting struggles to encourage new members into its community of editors, and soul-searching about its increasing role as an advocate for online freedoms.

The Dark Matter around Open Data
David Eaves’ keynote at the recent World Bank/ International Open Government Data Conference urges delegates to move on from discussing the technicalities of open data and concentrate instead on scalability and impact.

Too much information: Links for week ending 13 July 2012

Russia: Web blackout in protest at censorship law
The New York Times details online protests that took place on the Russian web this week, against a law that would grant the Russian government new powers to censor online content. Wikipedia blocked access to its Russian-language site, while the Russian search engine Yandex, the Russian blogging platform Live Journal and the Russian social networking site VKontakte also joined the protests.

US: mobile phone operators responded to millions of requests for users’ data from law enforcement in 2011
The New York Times reports on revelations that in 2011 mobile phone operators in the United States responded to 1.3 million requests for user data for law enforcement agencies, such as user location or text message content. “The reports also reveal a sometimes uneasy partnership with law enforcement agencies, with the carriers frequently rejecting demands that they considered legally questionable or unjustified”.

Countries express concern over South African secrecy law
This short report for TechPresident details concerns raised by Sweden, the Czech Republic, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the US over South Africa’s proposed new state secrecy law, observing that the law is seemingly incompatible with commitments South Africa has made as part of its membership of the Open Government Partnership.

mySociety release MapIt Global
mySociety have released a new piece of software that relates points on a map to administrative boundaries around the world. The release represents a huge time-saving for organizations like mySociety who want to build websites that help people engage with their local, regional and national governments (so-called “civic hackers”): “As a general user this sort of thing might seem a bit obscure, but you’ve probably indirectly used such a service many times”.

“Leader of 99%” new villain in popular computer game
Game Ranx reports that the next edition of popular military-themed first-person shooter game “Call of Duty” will have as its arch-villain a character called Raul Menendez, whom the game-makers describe as an “idolized Messiah of the 99%” and whom the reporters describe as “a Julian Assange-like character who’s old, experienced, and hell bent on starting a global insurrection against the status quo”.

DeadUshahidi, a self-styled “Ushahidi cemetery”, is a map of maps created using the Ushahidi platform that have since fallen into disuse. The project was started ostensibly to help people make more considered decisions when thinking about deploying crowd-mapping technology themselves. Former Ushahidi staffer Patrick Meier reacts broadly positively to its creation in a post on his iRevolution blog, while David Eaves of TechPresident weighs in with his thoughts.
DeadUshahidi | iRevolution | TechPresident

Are open educational resources the key to global economic growth?
This short op-ed written by UNESCO’s former assistant director-general for education and the US ambassador to UNESCO explains UNESCO’s recent commitment to Open Educational Resources in economic terms: “As policymakers struggle to apply traditional fiscal and monetary tools to mend world markets restrained by weak purchasing power, accelerated learning based on OERs could do more to stimulate global economic demand and growth than all the world’s tax holidays combined”.

Your e-Book is reading you
This Wall Street Journal feature examines the privacy implications of the move to digital reading, and details the “arms race among digital start-ups seeking to cash in on the massive pool of data collected by e-reading devices”.

Putting transparency into practice in Slovakia: What we can learn
In this interview for the blog, Gabriel Šípoš from Transparency International Slovakia explains why it’s a great time to be a transparency activist and provides tips on gaining the most from transparency projects.

Watching how China censors
This short feature for the Wall Street Journal details a social media observatory project in the US that tracks how China’s social media is being censored, and asks whether such software could help predict China’s policy moves.

Future of journalism: “Transfer of Value”
This essay for the Monday Note explores the tricks used by new players in online news to overtake their traditional rivals, detailing in one section the Huffington Post’s use of search engine optimization algorithms to re-write the headlines of pieces originally published by traditional media, and gain the lion’s share of the readership.

In defence of Open Data
John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation responds to criticisms recently leveled at the open data movement by pointing out that transparency is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for empowered knowledge: “We also know that disclosure’s effectiveness needs an informed public in order to succeed”.

The New Inquiry: Game of Drones
This special edition of the New Inquiry features a selection of essays on drones, examining their use in assassinations, and in border policing, and drawing on the history of computing to predict their future.

Audio: Remembering Elinor Ostrom
This Radio Berkman podcast is dedicated to discussion of the work of recently deceased Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, whose economic research into common pool resources challenged the idea of the “tragedy of the commons”. Featuring contributions from Benjamin Mako Hill, Judith Donath, Mayo Fuster Morell and Oliver Goodenough.

Too much information: links for week ending 6 July 2012

European Parliament rejects ACTA
Members of the European Parliament have voted by a huge majority to reject the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secretive treaty that threatened to take intellectual property enforcement measures beyond internationally established norms. As European Digital Rights (EDRi) and La Quadrature du Net report, the vote follows citizen protests against the treaty of an unprecedented scale. In a blog post entitled “The Impossible becomes possible”, Michael Geist provides background and analysis: “ACTA is not yet dead – it may still eke out the necessary six ratifications in a year or two for it to take effect – but it is badly damaged and will seemingly never achieve the goals of its supporters as a model for other countries to adopt and to emerge as a new global standard for IP enforcement”.
EDRi | La Quadrature du Net | Geist

UK: Mass of government data on public services to be published
The Guardian reports on the UK government’s announcement that it will publish hundreds of data sets that can be shared and reused by the public about the performance of public services. In related news, the United States’ Sunlight Foundation has have released a set of guidelines for such government-mandated open data policies.
Government announcement | Sunlight Foundation Guidelines

US: Federal judge deals blow to patent wranglers
Judge Richard Posner has thrown out a case in which Apple and Google had accused each other of infringing software patents contained in their mobile phone technologies. Writing about the decision in the Guardian, technology columnist John Naughton calls the move “striking a blow for common sense in what [has] become a madhouse”.
Report | Naughton

“Declaration of Internet Freedom” launched
The Register reports on the launch of the “Declaration of Internet Freedom”, a short statement of principles aimed at preserving a free and open internet, which has been launched by a group of organizations and individuals to time with the anniversary this week of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776: “So far, its main goal seems to be to open a public dialogue on the issues.”
Report | Declaration

World Bank wins SPARC innovator award
The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) have named the World Bank a “SPARC Innovator” in recognition of the institution’s commitment to Open Access, most recently demonstrated in a new Open Access policy covering all its research outputs: “When an organization as large as the World Bank wholeheartedly embraces openness, many hope the impact will not just be a ripple but a wave”.

Seeing Like a Geek
In this essay for Crooked Timber, open data skeptic Tom Slee warns that the rise of open data will trigger a concurrent rise in the market for complementary data services, a market that will be characterized by “a few, big firms, each with significant market power”. The piece forms part of a series of essays on open data being published by Crooked Timber in the coming weeks.
Slee | Series

3D printing and social change
This paper for First Monday by Matt Ratto and Robert Ree charts the history of 3D printing, looking at its position in the industrial process as well as in hacker subculture, and argues that more sustained attention should be paid to the ways in which 3D printing is entering into creative environments.

Creative Commons licensing in the world of philanthropy
Andrew Blanco blogs about his project to produce best practice guidelines for grant-makers wishing to encourage their grantees to use Creative Commons licenses.

Reports from the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2012
The Global Voices Summit, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya this week, brought together bloggers, activists and technologists from around the world to take part in conversations and workshops about the rise of online citizen media. Reports and videos from the summit have been collected on its blog.

European Parliament rejects ACTA!

Green Party members demonstrate against ACTA at yesterday's vote, photo by Christian Lutz for Associated Press

Just Do It! now out on Creative Commons release!

Almost a year ago, Just Do It!, a film that follows the adventures of direct action environmental activists in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, was unleashed on the world. A joyful romp around the ins and outs of our corrupted political system, the film grants its viewers the kind of access to the young (and not-so-young) ideologues battling the man in their bid to save the planet previously only granted to undercover agents working for the Metropolitan Police. It’s a great movie, and last week its makers released it for free download and sharing under a Creative Commons licence. Visit the Just Do It! website for more information on how to access to film.

It’s been my privilege to advise the makers of Just Do It! from time to time, and I’ve been engaged and inspired to see them experiment with approaches to getting the film out and in front of as many audiences as possible since they first let me in on the project in Summer 2010. The film has been made for the most part outside of the traditional process, with crowd-sourced funding playing a big role during post-production. Since last July, the tireless team at JDI HQ have been working with fans of the project to get the film screened in local cinemas and at universities, and taken up by Netflix. A CC release was initially delayed to allow a window to the cinema, TV, and DVD releases, and to agitate for inclusion on the American film festival circuit. Now that the CC release is finally with us, the one last thing I’d like to see the JDI team able to do is document their experience so that other makers of films as educational and culturally relevant as this one can be encouraged to take the plunge and go CC.

The team are still soliciting donations to help cover their costs, and if you weren’t part of the crew that funded the film up front, you should certainly consider making one. If I can’t convince you, here’s veteran of the movement and star of the film, Marina, with a few stern words: