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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) September 14, 2000


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http://www.webreference.com http://www.webreference.com/new/ http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. OPEN PUBLISHING: Submit Your Article Today! 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Scholars Discuss Open Code Benefits 3. NET NEWS: * Mac OS X Beta Hits the Streets * Reports of Windows Me Bugs Already Rolling In * Barnesandnoble.com Gets a Big Head * Computer Keyboard Filth Exposed * 2000 Summer Olympics Coverage

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. OPEN PUBLISHING: Submit Your Article Today!

Every Thursday the Update features a new article contributed by our readers through our Open Publishing Initiative. We encourage you to submit your own article ideas. Your words could be here!


This week, our own Andrew King reports from the recent John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society, held at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus. The topic of the day was Open Code, and these scholars had an mouthful to say in its defense.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Scholars Discuss Open Code Benefits

>Technology Rulings Too Hasty, Open Code Rules

Fans of free software and music found some allies this weekend who said if lawmakers don't understand technology they shouldn't try and regulate it.

Leading constitutional cyber-lawyer Lawrence Lessig led the discussion this past weekend on the future of IP rights and open code on the Net, launching the first John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sponsored by the University of Michigan's School of Information and Dr. Brown, himself a U-M graduate, the symposium is the first of five annual lectures by internationally known scholars on the implications of technological advancement for societies.

Lessig, author of "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace," said judges and legislators are making too many decisions too soon about certain technologies before they fully comprehend their long term effects on society. "The plea is that people have enough humility to understand that their first intuitions about technology aren't always correct," he said. Lessig cited a recent court decision against MP3.com as a reason to worry.

>Open Code's Implications

On Saturday, three speakers discussed "The Implications of Open Source Software": John Seely Brown, U-M alum, chief scientist at Xerox, director of PARC, and author of "The Social Life of Information," Michael D. Cohen, Professor of Information at the U-M and author of "Harnessing Complexity," and Lawrence Lessig, famed Harvard Law professor, special master to the Microsoft trial, and author of "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace." The roundtable was well-attended, with a standing room only crowd at Ann Arbor's Michigan Union. Here are some highlights:

Lessig started off the discussion with a tribute to Richard Stallman, who preached the gospel of open code and its values: the importance of architecture, universal access, and facilitating sharing. Lessig called Stallman our "modern Moses" who succumbed to carpal tunnel syndrome. The torch was then taken up by Linus Torvalds of Linux fame. "In free software, there is an implied philosophical difference between sharable social services and controlled ones," Lessig said. Lessig gave a little history saying "The whole world of science is an open code movement. The university doesn't compile itself and only make itself available to those who compile it."


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"Poems and songs exist in the commons - they are not controlled. Culture and science both are open source projects. However the history of the last 100 years are dominated by control and copyright - controlled by structures of control. To the extent that code is closed, that too is not something we have a right to use and access." This lack of access is the threat of closed code.

Lessig stressed that "Balance is important in each of these contexts. There is a cultural code space in the public domain where people have the right to share ideas and systems. Open code also makes transparent the structure that controls people's lives. Cyberspace will be defined by software and hardware. To the extent that code is closed, it is a sequence of rules that govern your life.

Think about AOL, a closed system. What is being collected? There's no good way to answer that, the rules are secret and hidden. Important values are implied by open code, that's not the world we live in real space. Doors are not locked, we hope. Whether the rules that govern you are transparent, open or closed, the structure facilitates the ability of government to regulate." This is the main theme of his book "Code," reviewed in a previous Update:


"In the digital world there's not necessarily a link to taking physical property. In the commons, with cultural resources, you can take a song or poem and I still have it. Economists called these 'non-rivalrous goods,' which have weird economic properties. What rules do we make that create the greatest sharing and productivity but maintain the wide distribution of the original copyright holder? We need the ability to control the creation of structure to compensate people for what they do, without giving them control."

Michael Cohen, Professor of Information at the U-M, then spoke. "Openness - open code is a thing that instructs us when viewed from different angles. Wallace Stevens wrote about Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, we'll give you three:

1) Inspectability of regulation 2) Consequences of imposing these regulations 3) Appreciation of the commons

For the last two, generally, we have become like the world, characterizations of ourselves. There are deep political issues about our Constitution. The open source movement promotes a lot of thinking. It allows peripheral participation, quintessential learning, and fosters communities.

What are the conditions of success for open software? Various aspects of communities are seen to be important. Communities need:

1) A common language of acting/patches - which allows them (read programmers) to orient each other to facilitate communications 2) Dispute resolution - there has to be a way of standardizing 3) Social acceptance and rejection


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To succeed at openness you need community, open code creates a community. A nice kind of virtual circle. Open code has some other characteristics:

1) The sufficiency of eyeballs principle - when a lot of people look at something it's much easier to fix problems. 2) The ability to test in a uniform way - most successful projects have depended on the informal monopoly of Intel. The wide availability of this standardized environment makes decentralization of testing possible. 3) Criteria for performance are easy, if it's faster, smaller, and doesn't crash my system it's better. For the user interface, however, defining better becomes more difficult."

Dr. Cohen said he has studied other fields like architecture, and found that architects "design open work spaces to foster collaboration. Something as simple as lowering partitions in cubicles can foster better collaboration. Throughout history there's been an alternation between open and close design. A tension between learning and control."

John Seely Brown spoke last - "Larry is interested in how to balance physical and digital commons. The tragedy of the overuse of the comments is the physical commons. You need a balance between structure and spontaneity."

The floor was then opened for questions from the audience, and a live discussion ensued. It was quite an opportunity to hear these scholars discuss the issues involved in Open Source software, and I hope you enjoyed this summary. The gist seems to be don't move too fast with legislation, as we're still in the Net's infancy. Also, we need to strike a balance between complete openness of code, and the rights of copyright holders. A delicate balance indeed.

For more details on this event see:


Andrew B. King Managing Editor, WebReference.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Mac OS X Beta Hits the Streets, Reports of Windows Me Bugs Already Rolling In, Barnesandnoble.com Gets a Big Head, Computer Keyboard Filth Exposed. 2000 Summer Olympics Coverage

>Mac OS X Beta Hits the Streets

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac OS X public beta Wednesday during his keynote presentation at Apple Expo Paris. According to Apple, the new product offers true memory protection, preemptive multi-tasking and symmetric multiprocessing when running on Power Mac G4, the company's new dual processor. http://www.internetnews.com/wd-news/article/0,,10_459251,00.html InternetNews.com, 000913

>Reports of Windows Me Bugs Already Rolling In

It's Windows Me day, as Microsoft launches its newest member of the Windows OS family. Along with all hype, comes some bad news. A bug hunter has announced he has discovered a vulnerability that allows attackers to crash or reboot a Windows Me computer. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1006-200-2770983.html CNet.com, 000913

>Barnesandnoble.com Gets a Big Head

Barnesandnoble.com scoops up Fatbrain.com in a $64 million deal, hoping together, the pair of e-booksellers can survive the dot-com carnage besieging the online retail sector. http://www.internetstockreport.com/dealtracker/article/0,1785,3871_459971,00.html InternetStockReport.com, 000914

>Computer Keyboard Filth Exposed

Research conducted on behalf of AOL UK shows that computer keyboards are accumulating up to two grams of dirt every month. Find out everything you didn't want to know about computer users' disgusting habits. http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_921000/921923.stm BBC.co.uk, 000913

>2000 Summer Olympics Coverage

Yahoo has in-depth coverage of Sydney's summer games, which open Friday. Let the games begin. http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/Sports/2000_Sydney_Summer_Olympics/ http://www.olympics.com - Official Olympics Web site Yahoo.com, 000914


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That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Eric Cook Assistant Editor, WebReference.com ecook@internet.com

Catherine Levy Assistant Editor, WebReference.com clevy@internet.com

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