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October 29, 2004

Shameless self promotion (sort of)

I've mentioned Joel Spolsky's fine site, Joel on software a few times round here. When one of Joel's too infrequent articles shows up in my RSS Feed reader I am there in a flash.
Joel is editing a book of essays from around the web. And he is calling for nominations and votes.
So, I have shamelessly nominated my "plus ca change" article of a few months back (Joel encouraged self nomination). If you've not read it, I've archived it here, and you might be interested in the Slashdot discussion of it here (for those who don't know, slashdot posting your article is a big deal for us geeks).

If you think it is a worthy read, please feel free to add your vote to my nomination.

And make Joel on Software a regular place to stop by. He has many many articles going back several years, covering all manner of issues in software development, management and business, internet philosophy, interface design, and more.

Thanks,

john

October 29, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 24, 2004

a bit of an update

It's been almost two weeks since my last post so I'd better give an account of myself.

As you might guess, it has been very busy.

I spent a few days in New Zealand with Doug Bowman. You can read Doug's account and see a few photos at stopdesign.

Can I just say in passing I love New Zealand. I've only been there a couple of times, but literally have never had a bad moment there. It is the most spectacular place you have ever seen (and I've been a lot of places) - the Lord of the Rings films don't even do it justice. New Zealanders I find are simply wonderful hosts. Warm, open, helpful, even to Aussies (from time to time we have our differences, usually over Rugby). I'd consider living there but for one thing, I love warm weather, and NZ's climate just isn't quite for me.
Do yourself a favour, get to New Zealand at least once in your life.

Ok, other than that, last week we started the Style Master 4 beta programme. Style Master 4 has some significant improvements and new features that I can't talk about right now, but the app should be out in the next couple of months. I
ll hopefully have more details as we get closer to the date.

LifeSaving, about which I have spoken quite a bit on this blog over the last year or so has kicked off again, and while I am trying to limit the amount of time I volunteer this season (given everything else in my life) I managed to spend the whole of yesterday with lifesaving duties.

A couple of days back, I spoke at the OASIS OpenStandards conference, organised by the delightful Nga and all at Allette. I spoke with Nigel McFarlane, who does really cool things with Mozilla (check out his Book, Rapid Application Development with Mozilla) and Charles McCathie Neville from the W3C, about Semantics and the web, and other such stuff. Hope to have my paper online shortly.

And last but definitely not least, I'll sneak in the fact that Sara and I are getting married. We are running off the Cook Islands in a few weeks and thought it was a lovely place to "tie the knot".

Not to mention plans afoot for Web Essentials events we have on the go, including something big we hope to announce in the coming weeks.

So, that might explain the lack of my usual rantings of late,

A presto,

john

October 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 12, 2004

Quick round up

OK, I won't get side tracked into a rant, or other form of discursion.

Some things happening at westciv as we speak.

Westciv template competition

As you may know, westciv recently held a templates competition

We had 49 entries, of excellent quality, and at present our judges Molly Holzschlag, Paul Scrivener and Andrei Herasimchuk, and results will be announced shortly.
Thanks to all who entered, and we'll have all the entries available for viewing shortly.

Japan and other breaks

Maxine is off to Japan for two weeks, leaving me in charge of the fort. Expect the exceedingly high levels of support to plummet alarmingly. Actually, not really, I'm kinda good at that too.
Expect some marvelous photos and amusing anecdotes on her return

I am off for three days snowboarding with Doug Bowman in New Zealand, though I'll also be handling support and so forth. Amazing this interweb thingy.
Doug and I will be boarding at Mt Hutt, and staying in Methven, so if that's your turf, drop us a line, and we might meet up for a Monteiths. We'll be there Thursday Friday and Saturday, staying Thursday night and Friday night. I'll be in Christchurch Weds night and Saturday night, so again, fancy a beer? drop me a line.
Expect some amusing photos and tedious anecdotes about big air when I return.

Style Master 4

It's official, there will be a Style Master 4 pretty soon, with beta testing to begin in the next week or so. We have two phases of beta testing, a private phase, usually lasting a month, which we restrict to existing customers, and then a shorter public phase. That should begin in the next few weeks, so stay posted.

What's new? I can't tell you just yet, but expect big things from an already fine application, particularly if you are a designer.

Stay tuned

October 12, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

So much to do

Still catching up with the mountain of work left in the wake of Web Essentials, I've not posted much of late, well, except my recent rant on the Free Trade Agreement, which ended up in the Sydney Morning Herald's and the Age's online Technology sections.

Which is about it for me and the mainstream press and media more generally here, or anywhere for that matter, as writer, reader, advertiser, you name it.
Why? In brief (I could write several essays, but will spare you gentle reader) I have long been ambivalent at best about the media.
My few forays into advertising have lead me to believe that in many cases advertising is an utter and complete waste of time money and effort. On the other hand, with online, niche based, non traditional publications our experience the value is definitely there.
But more importantly, "the fourth estate" once an important part of a robust and healthy functioning society, has become nothing more than the mouth piece of its owners, to shape public opinion at will.
With almost all mainstream media clearly supporting the Conservative parties here our recent, dispiriting election, we saw a free ride being given to a tired, increasingly debauched government, with little to offer other than gobs of money for swing voters.

Its a similar story in the US, where regardless of the worst economic performance in living memory, the only president to have every lost jobs over his entire incumbency (think about it, not even the Great Depression saw net job losses for an entire 4 year period), a disastrous war with little chance of a decent resolution, and the President is no only in with any kind of chance, but is likely to be re-elected.

A balanced, functioning media would ensure proper review analysis and criticism of governments, and help hold them accountable for their words and actions. That simply isn't happening

This is not something I can see changing any time soon. The entrenched nature of existing media, in print, radio, television means this is structural.

So should we despair? Give up?

Oh ye of little faith, there is hope.

The rise of web based communities of thought and practice, from open source software projects, to "lobby groups" such as the web standards project, political organizations such as moveon, the extraordinary Wikipedia (you can tell when you are starting to rattle cages, like Wikipedia must be, when you start getting criticized in the mainstream press) are only the beginning.

Dan Gillmor's "We the Media" points to a future of the media, the media being you.

In little over a decade, we have seen the profound changes in business, politics, science, and many other areas of human endeavor brought about by the web. These have only begun.

It's time for the "early adopters" to cut the apron strings, to simply walk away from an increasingly out of touch, increasingly irrelevant media, and create our own.

October 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 04, 2004

Free Trade Agreements, and the future of Australian ideas and technology

Before you read on, a note about me, so that you won't simply dismiss what you read (should you be so inclined) as some "left wing" "anti-US" diatribe.
I am a real capitalist (that is someone who has risked and continues to risk their capital to build an Australian business that develops and sells software and other intellectual property. 95% of our sales are overseas.)

Despite this, I believe the recent US/Australian "free trade agreement" (which is not about free trade, and is no more an agreement than the schoolyard bully and the wimpy nerdy guy "agreeing" that the wimpy guy give all his pocket money to the bully) undermines Australia's ability to adapt to the profoundly changing legal, technical and business landscape created by the current revolutions in intellectual property (IP) thrown up by the increasing digitization of the processes of creation, distribution and use of IP, from software to music to cinema and beyond.

The effect of the IP provisions (patent, trademark, copyright) of this agreement is to "harmonise" Australian and US IP law.
OK, a quick question.
Does that mean the US will adopt Australian copyright, trademark and patent laws?
No
Does that mean that the US and Australia will adopt a negotiated middle ground approach?
No
Does that mean Australia will adopt US copyright, trademark and patent laws?
Now you are getting the picture.

See what I mean about the bully and the pocket money?

And by the way, does that mean if I have an Australian Trademark or Patent it will be recognized in the US? Do I have to even answer that? You should be getting it by now. If I want an extravagantly expensive US patent or trademark, my Australian one is of no good to me whatsoever.

Now, this is not simply a theoretical issue. US IP laws, both copyright, with the appalling DCMA, and the forthcoming truly Orwellian INDUCE act, as well as genuinely out of control US patent law, means that we will have laws foistered on us about which we have no right to debate or decide, laws framed in the interest of US companies, and the US government, laws which may very well be inimical to the interest of Australia and Australians. With essentially nothing we can do about it.

And you think whoever entered this agreement has the interests of Australian industry, consumers, and indeed Australia at heart? The most charitable thing you can say about Nick Minchin, and the rest of those who signed off on this travesty is that they are profoundly ignorant about technology and intellectual property issues. That's bad enough for me. In a profoundly technological age, technological ignorance alone should disqualify you from government.

The world is waking up to just how one sided, and economically damaging these IP laws can be.
The INDUCE act, now before US congress,

... will criminalize the act of inducing another to commit a copyright violation. This is a brand new theory of copyright liability, which, as this floor statement makes clear, is directed at overturning SONY [the 1984 US supreme court case that holds it is not illegal to sell a technology that allows copyright infringement provided it also enables a "substantial, non-infringing use", i.e. stuff that isn't illegal] with respect to p2p. [peer to peer copying]
Laurence Lessig, foremost US expert in IP law.

It has been persuasively argued that the INDUCE act would make the iPod and all such devices illegal.
And yet we want to sign on to this nonsense?

In Europe, a vigorous opposition to the extension of patents to software and business processes, that is simply out of control in the US, has emerged. But here? We meekly fall into line with the US, as we seem to do about so many other issues. With our IP laws "harmonised" with the US, we have no way of making decisions in the interests of Australia when it comes to this rapidly changing, unsettled aspect of culture, technology and law. We have simply abandoned our rights as a society to make decisions in our interests.

Much has been said of late about things being unAustralian, If anything qualifies as "unAustralian" it is this.

It deeply disappoints me the the Labour Party simply capitulated on this. Yes, I know it is kind of complex stuff, difficult to communicate in sound bites, but it is stuff that impacts daily on people's lives, from the price of medicines (which the ALP did touch on) to whether someone can legally buy a multi-region recording DVD player.
But it appalls me that the Liberal Australian Government has simply handed over to the US the right to make laws regarding copyright and patents to the US congress, a body which above all represents the interests of US business (often congressional bills are written by lawyers working for US corporations - the US economic sanctions of Cuba were introduced by the Helms-Burton Act, essentially written by lawyers for Bacardi Rum).

If you believe it is remotely important for Australia to be able to make its own decisions about the social and business implications of the changing nature of intellectual property and technology in our own country, then ask yourself, is that remotely possible with this present government?
And should there be a change of government, we have to get to work to make the next government reverse this wholesale sell-out of our national interest.

October 4, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 02, 2004

Waking from a strange dream

I don't really have the energy or metal acuity to at this stage do more than write just a few words about the just completed Web Essentials.

Simply a marvelous couple of days.

I'll write more tomorrow, but for no a big thanks to Dave Shea, Joe Clark, and Doug Bowman, Dean Jackson, Roger Hudson, and all the other speakers, and all the others who were involved as speakers, organizers, all those who promoted WE04, and all those who had the faith in us to come and be involved.

Thank you all sincerely and profoundly.

But above all, thank you to Russ, Peter and Maxine for your vision, your diligence and perseverance,

We did good.

The WE04 blog has notes and photos

I'll write after a good night's sleep,

John

October 2, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack