danbricklin.com/log

Starting February 12, 2005
Some Open Source postings, Lunch with Gorbachev at the Mass Software Council, Are bloggers journalists? Looking to history, A theory about extreme fear of the GPL, Minor Apple protest, A new blog for my video, Groove and a few other things, The Gates in Central Park, Sworn in to MA IT Advisory Board, My next product, Get Make Magazine
12Feb05-26Apr05
2005_02_12.htm
Tuesday, April 26, 2005 
Some Open Source postings [link]
I posted two items on my Copyright/Open Source training video blog: One about a confusion of the term "Open Standards" with "Open Source" in a wire service news article and another about two interesting podcasts relating to Open Source.


My video is coming along well. It's been sent to the duplicator and I hope to turn on online ordering no later than next week. The confusion about Open Source terms that I discuss in that blog post is just another example of the need for training here (I hope!).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 
Lunch with Gorbachev at the Mass Software Council [link]
One of the amazing benefits that I get for having done something important many years ago and still being around in my industry is that I get to meet all sorts of influential people in other fields. Today was one of the top such times. I ended up sharing a lunch table with ten other people and got to converse with our speaker, Mikhail Gorbachev, his longtime translator, Pavel Palazchenko, and his daughter Irina. When Mr. Gorbachev got up to leave, as seems to be his style, he shook my hand and gave me a hug.


Gorbachev smiling while speaking
Mikhail Gorbachev talking to someone at the reception after speaking to the Mass Software Council

Thursday, April 7, 2005 
Are bloggers journalists? Looking to history [link]
There has been a lot written about Apple going after bloggers and the question about whether or not bloggers have the same protections that journalists do. I just saw a little different answer.

My next door neighbor Chris Daly is an Associate Professor who teaches journalism at Boston University. Previously, he has been the New England correspondent for the Washington Post, a features writer, and an AP editor. On the web he is best known as the main idea person behind the old Good Documents website that I created back in 1999 that was quite popular at Netscape and around the web.

Besides teaching, Chris is working on a book about the history of journalism in the United States.

He just weighed in with an essay titled "Are Bloggers Journalists? Let's Ask Thomas Jefferson". I found his perspectives helpful.

As I read what Chris wrote, these sentences stood out (though the whole thing is worth reading):

Common Sense and other pamphlets like it were precisely the kind of political journalism that Jefferson had in mind when he insisted on a constitutional amendment in 1790 to protect press freedom -- anonymous, highly opinionated writing from diverse, independent sources. In historical terms, today's bloggers are much closer in spirit to the Revolutionary-era pamphleteers than today's giant, conglomerate mainstream media.

So, it's the BigPubs that need to show that they are covered by the First Amendment -- blogs are the easier case, not a harder case that needs to be proven. Newspapers as we know them now are a 19th and 20th century invention, the Constitution is from the 18th century.

The other thing Chris points out is the difference between reporting and other forms of journalism. This is an important distinction and the history matters for legal questions. Saying "journalism" or "journalists" as if they are all doing the same thing is as bad as saying "blogging" is all the same. (There are other terms I think we need to be careful about, such as the different types of "editors" -- some editors pick and choose and may change what you mean while others help you say what you want to say clearer and without grammatical mistakes.) Chris also talks about the difference between prior restraint and liability after the fact.

As blogging is bringing up issues about journalism, having a detailed historical perspective can be quite helpful. After all, journalism has been evolving ever since the printing press was invented, with many additions over the last century or two.

Yet again we have a personal website where a person who knows an awful lot about an issue (in this case, a practitioner, teacher, and historian) shares what they know directly with all who might be interested, without a reporter (and their editor) as an intermediary. I'm looking forward to Chris' book (he tells me that some of the chapters may go up on the web sometime soon for comment).

Thursday, March 24, 2005 
A theory about extreme fear of the GPL [link]
I'm putting my material that is legalistic and narrowly related to Open Source and copyright that comes out of my work on my video on the Software Garden Training Video Blog. I'll try to also mention here some of the more general interest stuff I put there. I just posted an observation I made after attending a conference on best practices in standards setting.


Sunday, March 20, 2005 
Minor Apple protest [link]
I've seen the stories about Apple using the courts to try to find the source of some leaked information. I've seen how they are dragging what are basically bloggers into this, having a potential chilling effect in areas much wider than their narrow complaint. I see how many others have reacted, from Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe, to David Weinberger, to the EFF. Apple complains how "The unauthorized disclosure of Future Product Information causes Apple to lose control over the timing and nature of product releases." Apple has apparently also complained how leaks cost it money. They don't say how fan-blogs help keep the Apple-lovers happy and help sales. I think that needs to be in the cost equation. I think the cost of doing this lawsuit, which is hostile to the blogging community (they must have known that, and if they didn't they are wasting their PR dollars somewhere), needs to be factored in, too.

So here I had a problem. I like Apple's products, and more specifically I have invested in them for my video work. I needed to upgrade some software and buy another, among other things. I had $900 I was about to spend on Apple products yet my heart was telling me to boycott them in some way to protest. If they are talking costs, they should see that their actions had costs, too. What should I do?

I usually buy my Apple products at the local Apple store. By buying a product direct from someone you feel you are giving them more of your money. I thought of going to the store and telling the salesperson how I felt, but if I then spent money, what kind of message was that sending? Anyway, would my complaint go anywhere? I thought of buying a competitor's products, but for an upgrade to a product you've devoted weeks to learning or when you need a specific product for other reasons that's not a viable option.

What I decided to do was this: I bought what I planned, but I bought it from a reseller I like (PC/Mac Connection) that's sort of local (an hour north of me in NH), hoping that Apple will get a smaller piece of the pie (depending upon how much of a loss leader the stores are), and write about it here on my blog. A small protest, but a protest nonetheless. In the future, I'll see Apple as more of a "big bad" thing, and Microsoft (with it's acquisition of Massachusetts-based P2P company Groove and hiring of Ray Ozzie, and support for Scoble and the internal blogging community) as a little more of a "good thing".

I'm sad that I felt I had to do something, but Apple's moves seem less about the revenue they lose and more about a fear of a lack of control. The ability to tolerate a lack of control and being a member of a community, not ruling one, is part of what is exciting about the connected world that Open Source software and blogging exemplify. Those that learn how to be part of a community benefit from it. It's strange to have a situation where Microsoft "gets it" and Apple apparently doesn't. That bodes well for Microsoft and poorly for Apple.

Monday, March 14, 2005 
A new blog for my video [link]
I decided that I need a new place to discuss in detail the training video I'm working on as it is being developed. My personal blog, here, is not the place for it, and the tools I'm currently using here are not well suited to the task. I use those tools for historic reasons and because they work well with pictures and formatting which is less important for discussing the video. The needs I see in the future may require a real blogging tool. So, I've started a new blog on the Software Garden website and am using Movable Type to maintain it.

I have mixed feelings about discussing a product I have in development this way, but my experience with blogging is that it is more valuable to seek out and get feedback from others than hiding from potential competitors or scaring off purchasers with something premature or giving them "almost complete" stuff for free.

I've written about this project a bit already here. I've shown a 90-second demo excerpt to the audience at the Demo conference and gotten some feedback. I have a rough cut of the full video and have started receiving comments from a few alpha testers. Now it's time to go a little wider and get more feedback. I'll use that feedback to reshoot some or all of the tape.

I think the topic of the video, an introduction to copyright law, open source, and the role of lawyers in development, is very important and timely. Too many developers are unaware of the details in these areas. My intended audience consists of corporate developers and my intended purchasers are corporate legal, training, and development groups. I am not aiming this material at independent programmers. I feel that I am an appropriate person to be on the video, given my background as an influential developer and having encountered many aspects of intellectual property law personally.

At this point in the development of the video I want to make sure that I cover the right topics and an appropriate range of viewpoints. Feel free to email comments as listed on the new blog.

Take a look at the Software Garden Training Video Blog, especially the "Detailed synopsis of the draft video". Of course, it has an RSS feed.

Thursday, March 10, 2005 
Groove and a few other things [link]
I saw the announcement today that Groove is being acquired by Microsoft and Ray Ozzie is joining as another CTO. Congratulations to Ray and all the Groove people! I hope this is good for you. For Massachusetts, this is a great thing: Microsoft finally has a real development office here. For the Peer-to-Peer world this is very good. We have Microsoft officially endorsing decentralized communications and personal data sharing. Hopefully we can get rid of the images of illegal song swapping and replace them with images of tsunami relief agencies communicating. For privacy this is good: Groove was built from the ground up with privacy firmly in mind and this is another endorsement of building things that way (Skype is another one but probably less thorough). For taming the "evil empire" this is good, too: Ray is a great, thoughtful, principled, and caring person. He's not a competitive shark looking for food. Having him at that level in Microsoft at the ear of people who clearly respect him and know what they're getting is a good sign.

On another topic, I've completed an alpha copy of my video and am getting comments and working on tweaking it. I hope to have an outline up for comment next week.

The Baby Boomer Blog I mentioned back in January is coming along much better than I expected. Nancy Mills and her husband Mark have really taken to this. Not only are they posting stuff about and for boomers and marketing to them, they are experimenting with audio postings of various sorts. Most recently they've been posting reports from "The Boomer Business Summit" in Philadelphia. (With depressing things like a post and podcast on "Are Men Becoming Irrelevant?") Nancy is from the TV industry and Mark from radio and you can hear it in their voices on their audio postings. (Podcasting and video production is getting me very sensitive to voice affect.) They've turned on comments are looking for feedback and advice.

Monday, February 28, 2005 
The Gates in Central Park [link]
I took a day off last Friday and went down to New York City to walk through Central Park and see "The Gates". I'm glad that I went. There was a lot to like about this work of art. There were so many nice touches to the whole thing that involved you as a person, from forcing you to make time for it (the whole thing is being dismantled today after being first shown 16 days before) to handing out samples of the cool special fabric (which aren't available otherwise and which you end up showing to people like a little treasure and are the only tangible artifact I'll have) to knowing you are sharing the experience with so many others as you walk through. Since it had just snowed the night before, there was a mixture of snow, puddles, and sun to enhance the experience. Here are some of the (many) pictures I took, just to commemorate the day here on my blog:

Looking down a path with the safron colored fabric blowing in the wind and orange puddles

Sun shown through fabric with shadows of all sorts

Orange gates under snow covered trees

Tuesday, February 22, 2005 
Sworn in to MA IT Advisory Board [link]
I was appointed to the Information Technology Advisory Board that is part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' IT department. This is an "official" position, I guess, in that it's "appointed" by the Governor. (It doesn't pay, of course -- it's a volunteer thing and I think means I go to a very few meetings and answer some emails as I have been doing.) I had to send in background information for some department to check. The appointment is void if you don't take an oath of office within 90 days of being appointed. Today I was driving near downtown Boston during the day and stopped in to a government building to be sworn in.

I went to the Office of the "Secretary of the Commonwealth, Commissions Section" up on the 17th floor. I stood in line behind people needing international documents notarized or something and in front of a person about to be sworn in as a notary. When my turn came I went up to the counter and handed my letter from the Governor to the person behind the desk. He had me move over to the next counter and pointed to a sheet of paper they had on a stand to read. I asked him if he'd take my picture, he said "yes", and I handed him my camera. I also placed my MP3 recorder on the counter and started reading. You can listen to the MP3, and here's the picture:

Dan with right hand raised reading  Sheet with: I (name) do solemnly swear...
Dan being sworn in to MA IT Advisory Board and what he read
I always thought you have more of a ceremony for a "swearing in" (like my cousin the judge had, brass band and all), but putting it up here on my blog is the next best thing.

Monday, February 14, 2005 
My next product [link]
I'm writing this on the plane on the way to the Demo conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. As one who has been on the stage at Demo many times over the last 15 years, including announcing a few products and winning two "Demo God" awards, I was invited to attend as one of the "Innovator" honorees at a special ceremony. Also, being known as an innovator for over 25 years, conference host Chris Shipley is interviewing me on Tuesday on stage to ask what things I see coming next.

This put me in a small dilemma. I've been working on something for the last few months but haven't talked publicly about it because I'm not ready to even ship "beta" and don't know when I'll really have something to ship. However, Demo is a great place to announce products. There are lots of press people and industry mavens. It has the history associated with the first announcement of the Palm Pilot among other things. And I have 20 minutes up on stage when I know Chris will want to ask, and other will wonder, "So what are you up to now?" Will I get as good a chance to make an announcement?

Well, I bit the bullet and will announce and show something Tuesday. Then I'll just keep working and try to ship it as soon as possible.

What is it? It's not computer code this time. It's a training video about Intellectual Property for developers. Here's how it came about:

From my speaking gigs I realized that the audience that seems to most consistently want me to speak are, of course, computer people. As an experienced and successful developer I can take their viewpoint and we have much in common. In addition, with my MBA and business experience I can integrate in that type of thinking, too. Finally, I've had lots of experience in the legal world, especially the Intellectual Property part, having been involved in various lawsuits as defendant, plaintiff, expert on both sides, and even once testifying about it in front of a Congressional subcommittee. I've also been involved in the drafting of a variety of proprietary software licenses over the years.

I've spent the last few years learning about the Open Source software world. I released a few products written in Perl and looked at various licensing options, ending up with GPL for my most popular one. I've spoken on panels about the different licenses and listened carefully to the other panelists to refine my knowledge. I've followed the SCO/IBM lawsuit with daily reading of the Groklaw website. I talk about Open Source, SCO, and Intellectual Property with developers and press people all the time.

In mid-November it hit me: There are certain basic things about copyright law, computer software licenses in general, and Open Source in particular, that most developers don't know. In addition, we're seeing an increased need for auditing and due diligence with respect to software licenses that we never seemed to have had in the past. I've sold companies with software assets many times, but I've never encountered the scrutiny that some are going through now, especially in the wake of the SCO lawsuit. I wondered: What type of training is there for developers today? If there isn't much, maybe I'm the right one to do it. Speaking in person would be uneconomical; what's needed are training videos, like the ones lawyers show you before you go through a deposition, or that companies use to teach the latest about the harassment laws or Sarbanes/Oxley.

I checked around. There are some books, and there are some consultants, but nobody knew of any up to date video training material you could buy and give to developers. People I asked thought that I'd get a good reception for anything good I made.

As one of the results of my questioning, I ended up doing some live seminars for Black Duck Software. (Black Duck is a developer of software that helps keep track of software licenses, ferreting out Open Source code in projects and flagging licensing conflicts, among other things.) Through those seminars I got to work with Black Duck's experts and hone my knowledge and practice some of my material. I also got practice preparing for, and being on, the panel I wrote about in December.

When it comes to Open Source, the GPL, and proprietary software, I think I have an approach that will work for most corporate audiences. I'm pragmatic, understanding and believing in much of the benefits of Open Source, but I also come from the realities of the traditional proprietary software world. I explain some of what you need to know, but leave it up to each company and its lawyers to decide which way to go when it comes to making some of the hard decisions. I put those decisions in context, such as those that come out of respecting the GPL, and provide common language for discussions between developers and lawyers. My bottom line is that developers and lawyers need to work together to get the most out of what's available while still living up to each piece of code's license terms. These issues are not just about Open Source. Like usability, internationalization, source code control, and shipping to a schedule, Intellectual Property issues have costs and benefits, and developers have to learn to deal with them even if they weren't things covered in school.

To actually create these videos, I started buying video equipment, learning how to use it, practicing editing, and trying out various styles of delivery. (Looking natural yet crisp on tape is really hard, but I'm getting there.) I have to remember to remove my powder makeup at night (my nose and forehead are shiny). My new glasses are anti-reflective. I'm learning more about audio, which has helped me with some podcast recordings I've done for others. Watching the preflight safety video in the plane, I can't help but look for some techniques to try, and I examine every dissolve, cut, and zoom.

Now I'm finally well into working on my first training video, tentatively titled: "Copyright, Open Source, and Why a Lawyer is a Developer's Friend". I've completed the outline of the whole thing and produced a 90 second excerpt that I'm bringing to show at Demo and get some reactions. Hopefully I'll be able to finish the rest of it in the next month or so and have something to ship in April. Never having produced and shipped a video this long (I've worked with pros in the past on some short tapes), progress is hard for me to judge. I don't want this to be to boring, and I'm doing various types of visual illustrations to break up the "talking head" look and make points as clearly as possible. I've created photo slide shows and Powerpoint presentations for years, but video is quite different.

Here are a couple of screen shots from the excerpt (it's from the "Copyright Law" section discussing "The Variety of Licenses") and a prototype DVD label:

Dan talking to the camera with a carefully lit bookcase in the background  Some license terms in white over a background of 3 printed licenses from software packages  
Dan on tape, an illustration of the variety of software licenses, and a prototype DVD label
For me, this is all very exciting. Software Garden will finally have another packaged product to sell, this time a DVD/videotape. I'm working with a friend who is a producer of some training tapes and he's giving me some pointers. I'm really getting into this editing thing (I use Final Cut Express on my Powerbook), and am looking forward to being a physical-product based business again and hopefully supplementing my consulting and speaking income with product income.

Now that I've gone "public" with this project, I'll write more about it here when I have time (I'm nose to the grindstone on this project, with the rest of my time going to my consulting). If you have any topics you think I should make sure to cover in the videos, though, let me know.

Saturday, February 12, 2005 
Get Make Magazine [link]
Yesterday I received a complimentary copy of a magazine in the mail. Getting comp copies of a book or magazine isn't that uncommon for me. I'm known in the industry, was an O'Reilly author (i.e., my Cornucopia of the Commons essay is in their Peer to Peer book and I shared a few dollars of the royalties) so listed on their mailing lists, etc. I remember getting a new publication many years ago when it was still in "test" circulation not knowing anything about it: PCWeek. I ignored it for a while until I realized it was something really good and important. It turns out an old friend from high school was a major person involved in getting it out.

The magazine I got yesterday came with a letter, like most of the comp copies:

Dear Dan,

I've enclosed a complimentary copy of the premiere issue of MAKE, our new quarterly magazine. I hope you'll enjoy this latest O'Reilly venture.

At O'Reilly, we've seen growing interest in do-it-yourself technology since Dale Dougherty launched our successful Hacks book series. Now Dale and his team have created MAKE, the first magazine for 21st century tinkerers -- people who build, hack, and remix for the fun of it. While a previous generation picked up a saw and bullnose rabbet plane, today's makers are likely to reach for a soldering iron and Cat 5 cable. MAKE shows them how to use digital-age tools to bend technology to their will.

Thanks for taking a look at MAKE. I'd love to hear what you think of it, and if you have ideas for projects or people we should consider for future issues, please pass them along.

Regards,

Tim O'Reilly

Interesting enough. So what is it? It's a 190+ page dense publication, about 6 1/2" x 9 1/2". The cover article: Aerial photography with kites. I looked it up: Detailed directions (and I mean detailed, with pages of pictures) for building this thing that holds a disposable camera and uses Silly Putty as something viscous for making a hack timer. The sample resulting pictures were breath taking. Cool! Then I saw the next project: A $14 video camera stabilizer made out of pipes and a weight. The project after: A 5-in-1 cable that uses a Cat 5 Ethernet cable and a series of adapters to give you a crossover Ethernet cable, RS232 serial, null modem cable, and a Cisco console cable. Then finally the last major project: An under $40 magnetic stripe reader for seeing what's on the cards in your wallet. That's not all: There were dozens of other projects and stuff less documented, like extending the range of an Airport Express, making your car look "official" with hazard tape, police-style spotlights, etc. There were feature articles relating to making things. There were sidebars, like one describing salad-bowl hacking in China were Pizza Hut only lets you have one trip to the salad bar and people figured out techniques for coming away with towers of food.

You get the idea. This is a dream publication for an engineer or an engineer at heart.

As I kid I used to read Popular Electronics magazine. Well, I didn't just read it, I'd count the days until each new issue came out. I rarely built anything in it, but I did build somethings, got inspired to buy and build Heathkits, learned about this newfangled thing called "integrated circuits", and more. I also learned how easy it was to make things yourself that really did things by watching "Mr. Wizard" on TV (getting up at an ungodly hour for me on Sundays). It is often told how Paul Allen and Bill Gates got inspired to start Microsoft when seeing a very early PC on the cover of Popular Electronics. These publications worked for inspiring generations of engineers.

I think MAKE is the new Popular Electronics, and as they say, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics before it. (Editor Dale Dougherty studied Popular Mechanics of the early 20th century and Popular Science of the 1950's, even modeling the compact size on a copy of Popular Science from 1959.) This is very important for society. Many a parent will get the next generation of engineers going by doing some of these projects with their kids or even just reading about them. Just seeing it gives you a feeling of empowerment. This is exactly the attitude many of us have been calling for. This is the "can do" attitude that engineers had that resulted in building radar and helping win WWII, getting to the moon, inventing and growing the Internet, making PCs, etc., etc. I told a teenager and his father about the magazine this afternoon and watched the kid's eyes light up and got such joy when both he and his father spontaneously exclaimed "Cool!" in unison when I told them about the salad stacking. They can't wait to subscribe.

I don't usually get this excited about something I get in the mail (I have a pile of comp copies that went nowhere). But when I started to read MAKE I got goose bumps. There's real hope for the next generation. They can have what I felt when I was a kid. Here's a publication that's not about rich people and not about buying; it's about making, figuring out, and understanding.

I think it's really important to get that next generation of engineers going. Here in the USA we are seeing dropping interest in creating things (other than money) and in becoming an engineer. Give subscriptions to children you know. Make sure your local school subscribes or give them a gift subscription. Don't have your kids read "People" magazine without also seeing MAKE.

I think this is their main website: MakeZine.com. But don't just look on the web, support it by buying it on newsstands or subscribe.


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