Economist Against DRM

Not bad. The Economist is against DRM making bold statements in a recent article:

Belatedly, music executives have come to realise that DRM simply doesnâ??t work. It is supposed to stop unauthorised copying, but no copy-protection system has yet been devised that cannot be easily defeated. All it does is make life difficult for paying customers, while having little or no effect on clandestine copying plants that churn out pirate copies.

and

While most of todayâ??s DRM schemes that come embedded on CDs and DVDs are likely to disappear over the next year or two, the need to protect copyrighted music and video will remain. Fortunately, there are better ways of doing this than treating customers as if they were criminals.

Nice to see that serious media has begun to realise that rhetoric alone is not enough to legitimize DRM. Articles such as this show that media is beginning to practice journalism and report not only what is written in corporate press releases but are looking at what is happening all around them.

(via Boing Boing)

Social Idiocy

Historian Barbara Tuchman has written several fascinating books (many of which have been top sellers). One of her most interesting books is March of Folly (1984). In which she studies human stupidity in history.

Tuchman sets specific standards to what is to be defined as stupidity (or folly as she prefers to call it). To be understood as folly, acts have to be clearly contrary to the self-interest of the organization or group pursuing them; conducted over a period of time, not just in a single burst of irrational behavior; conducted by a number of individuals, not just one deranged maniac; and, importantly, there have to be people alive at the time who pointed out correctly why the act in question was folly (no 20/20 hindsight allowed).

Itâ??s easy to understand why this book is fascinating. We are often fed with success stories but I believe that we have more to learn from failures. Success can always be attributed to a number of vague and contradictory reasons but never really pinned down â?? success can be a result of dumb luck. Failure on the other hand can be studied.

But Tuchman has a specific type of folly in mind. My thought for today is more concerned with the stupid move the idiot idea. Not quite a total nutcase but more the act of sheer dumbness that is done unintentionally. OK so we have the Darwin Awards for those who manage to remove themselves from the gene pool and phenomenon like Jackass for pubescent humor â?? but who studies the fuck up?

What I am thinking about is the social Darwin awards. People who manage to remove themselves from a social group (friends, job, hobby) through an act of sheer dumbness.

If man is a social animal then how is it that we can be socially so inept? Sorry about this strange rant. If you are still reading this you must be wondering about my weekendâ?¦ It was very nice thanks!

Devil’s Bible on Tour

Devil_medium_small_1News from Humaniorabloggen (the humanist blog) about the Codex Gigas, more often referred to as the Devils Bible.

From the Royal Library website (The Swedish National Library): The Devil’s Bible contains the Old and New Testaments in pre-Vulgate Latin translations, Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae, Josephus’ History of the Jews in a Latin translation, the Chronicle of Bohemia, written by Cosmas of Prague, etc. The manuscript was written in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlazice in Bohemia. It is called the Devil’s Bible after the impressive picture of that potentate. According to legend the scribe was a monk who had been confined to his cell for some breach of monastic discipline and who, by way of penance, finished the manuscript in one single night with the aid of the Devil whom he had summoned to help him. In 1594 the manuscript was acquired by the Imperial Treasury in Prague. When the Swedish army conquered the city in 1648, it was brought to Sweden and presented to the KB the following year.

The Codex (89,5 x 49 cm, weighs 75 kg and is 624 pages long) and was written on, the calf skin vellum (previously believed to be ass skin vellum). During the last year it has been analyzed and digitalized and is now going to be sent to Prague for a few months for an exhibition at the Prague’s Klementinum palace, the National Library seat, from this September till January 2008.

digitalization process at The Royal Library

The name “The Devils Bible” comes from the fact that the Codex Gigas contains images of the devil (pictures above). The Czech Republic will receive copies of the high quality digitalization and will borrow the Codex. The results of the digitalization and analysis are available online at the Royal Library’s website later this year. There has naturally (?) been discussions concerning the return of the work but apparently The Czech Republic does not contest Swedish ownership.

Cultural artifacts are always a sensitive issue in particular if they were taken in times of war or imperialist occupation. Some items in museums are more connected to specific cultures (the Egyptian collections in Berlin and London for example) but works such as the Codex Gigas are much more complicated to associate with one specific nation state.

Offensive Report

Infocult writes about a report from ScanDefender which shows that 80% of the blogosphere contains “potentially offensive content,”  the majority of the medium is seen as threatening. This is the typical kind of scare tactics which is just annoying. What is it that is offensive? According to ScanDefender’s definition this is widely described as “rang[ing] from adult language to pornographic images”.

The focus of the report is on malware but it does find a small space to invoke the dangers of the blogosphere (download the report here). The whole point of the 80% offensive content seems to be only there to create a catchy headline.

Naturally there is offensive content on the Internet and also in blogs. But define your terms! What is offensive? To whom? By which objective standards? The blogosphere is huge so how did you arrive at 80%? etc, etc… The methodological questions are too many to list. Unfortunately this validity of claims such as these are not questioned – people seem to prefer the snappy headlines.

I find reports such as this offensive…

Through the roof

Richard Stallman is going to give a lecture in Göteborg which is really cool. We booked a hall with a capacity for 400 but the amount of registrations has now increased to 600! We had no idea what to expect but with over 600 registrations we are naturally very happy. This can now be classed as a major event.

Naturally this means that we will be moving the venue to a new site. The lecture will now be held at the Draken cinema on Järntorget. The cinema is an old style movie house and seats 700 people. You can see a plan of the theater on their website (in Swedish).

For more information about the talk see the website www.rms2007.se

On writers block

Writing can be a heavy experience but not as difficult as surviving writers block. Writers block is a nasty experience which poisons any creativity left inside the would-be author. In my case it leads to extreme procrastination where cleaning the oven suddenly becomes a vital challenge which must be met before returning to the keyboard.

Scott Berkun has written a list of things which may help the stuck writer to move beyond writers block. It is well worth reading and saving in a safe place for the day when nothing seems to work and the stress begins to choke you.

Here are some of his points (but you should go to the article itself)

  1. Start with a word
  2. Write about how it feels not to be able to write
  3. Have a conversation
  4. Read something you hate
  5. Warm up
  6. Make lists
  7. Switch to something harder
  8. Run like hell
  9. Whiskey
  10. Rummage your scrap pile

I really like his suggestions – except for whiskey, if I was to drink when I was blocked I would just lose another day and return to the keyboard the next day with a higher level of anxiety. Not a good idea for me. Also I would like to add one more to the list: blog. The feeling of producing text is, for me, addictive. When I blog I am more likely to be able to write in other areas. But beware blogging can also be a powerful form of procrastination…

A howto for the Fascist Dictator

Naomi Wolf has written a provocative article entitled Fascist America, 10 Easy Steps in the Guardian Online.

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a gulag
  3. Develop a thug caste
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens’ groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Dissent equals treason
  10. Suspend the rule of law

Her motivations show that the ten easy steps are easily fulfilled by the US administration. It is also interesting that all this is done in the name of freedom and democracy. In other words in order to rescue freedom and democracy we must remove your freedoms and suspend the participatory democracy. This is doublespeak and spin at its best.

Shocking.

Dangerous Blogging

In a local  free paper there was an article about how a job applicant did not get a job since his girlfriend wrote in her blog that that she hoped he did not get the job because she did not want to move. The newspaper angled the story to make it ominous – that the employer had “secretly” (that’s the word they used) read the girlfriends blog.

It’s totally amazing that this is even a story. Isn’t it totally natural that a would-be employer googles job applicants? I think so. It’s strange to think that some people see their public blogs as somehow being private…