Archive for May, 2007

Ineffective copy-protections not covered by law

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

I think the finnish court did the right decision by declaring CSS (copy protection used in DVDs) ineffective and thus not achieving the protection objective put forward in the law. If that would not be the case, then I would make a simple copy-protection that is easy to crack by anyone and then just sue everyone for breaking it.

Finland court: Breaking “ineffective” copy protection is permissible:

“[S]ince a Norwegian hacker succeeded in circumventing CSS protection used in DVDs in 1999, end-users have been able to get with easy tens of similar circumventing software from the Internet even free of charge,” wrote the court. “Some operating systems come with this kind of software pre-installed…. CSS protection can no longer be held ‘effective’ as defined in law.”

Censoring the censors

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Finland’s State Prosecutor Mika Illman has recently suggested that law should make it mandatory for internet discussion forums to use moderators. These moderators would moderate the conversation and remove any illegal messages.

Once in a while it shocks me to see people throwing around ideas like these in positions where they should atleast exercise fair judgement. Either this is a person who doesn’t know what he is talking about or this is exatly the sort of Brezhnev’s mindset that scares me – the state and the people in the state moderating each other for unlawful behaviour.

Apply the idea to physical world and it sounds ridiculous. No talking on public plazas unless there are moderators around? Who moderates the moderators? C’mon. Welcome to 1984.

Apparently Mr. Illman thinks this is good use for tax payer money. To expose the absurdness of this idea, let me educate a little bit on what kind of discussion forums there are on the internet:

  • Discussion boards: the sort of public plazas where everyone can register a nickname and participate in a coversation around a certain topic. Usually centralized on one server maintained by a single person.
  • IRC and other chatrooms: anyone can setup a discussion channel and anyone can join and comment. The technical protocols have no capability for moderation. What is said, has been said. The conversation is distributed over a network of servers. IRC servers are often maintained by universities and other organizations.
  • Blogs: your voice on the internet. Public discourse is conducted under individual blog posts or between blogs with technologies like trackbacks. Single blogs are often maintained by individuals on platforms maintained by companies like Google or SixApart, but the conversation itself is distributed on a network.
  • Microblogging/mobile presence: something like Jaiku or Twitter, where you use your mobile phone to update your presence and have conversations around presences. A server is used to centralize the conversation, but the conversation is also distributed over multiple different mobile devices over traditional phone networks.
  • Email and mailing lists. One email address is used to distribute messages to a number of subscribers. Each reply is sent to everyone on the mailing list. A network of mail transfer agents distribute the messages.
  • The list goes on… Internet has also different protocols, not just HTTP (WWW). Take for example instant messaging platforms like AIM, MSN, ICQ or Skype that enable chatrooms between multiple individuals. Think of newsgroups. Also, there are massive online multiplayer games like World of Warcraft, where we emulate public plazas for conversation.

It’s not easy to distinct one conversation technology from one another. The internet is the ultimate conversation technology.

Some discussions are located on a single server maintained by a single person, some are distributed on a network of servers and maintained by multiple different people. Some cross over legal boundaries (a law set forward in Finland cannot affect servers located in a different country). The only way to moderate the conversation is to moderate the internet. Sure, we could try to form artificial technical boundaries like China has done, but is that what people really want? Finland would not be the innovative network society we portray ourselves in the future.

When decentralization increases, moderation becomes much harder. The internet is increasingly becoming integrated with our physical world with RFID tags, QR-codes and other technologies, forming an internet of things. The web has no clear boundaries. The conversations going on in the network are like ideas emerging in our neural networks: there is no easy way to locate a single idea and its roots in the network and then censor it.

Bottom line, do the math: taking the number of discussion forums, means, channels, technologies and methods we have on the internet and consider that each one needs to have a moderator and the moderators require moderation, too. We have 5 million people in Finland. We simply don’t have enough people, reason or patience to do all of that.

Mr. Illman has done his dissertation on free speech and I find it strage that with suggestions like this he is showing such a lack of academic understanding on digital technologies.

My birthday and life long learning

Monday, May 7th, 2007

It’s my birthday today icon smile My birthday and life long learning Quite a lot has happened in a quarter of 100 years and things are clearly speeding up. I’m enjoying the ride. Looking back, the best decisions of my life:

  • Practiced various sports when I was young
  • Traveled a lot around the world, in over 30 countries
  • Started using computers early on and setup my own BBS where people could dial in
  • Used a computer to learn programming, graphic design and music composition
  • Founded a Quake clan and played too much online multiplayer games when I was 15
  • Started my own web company when I was 16 together with people from online gaming communities
  • Took the position to teach a semester of IT in highschool when I was 17
  • Got interested in learning and teaching on a theoretical level when I was 17
  • Started an Open Source based virtual learning environment project when I was 17
  • Was eager to find better ways to learn rather than study
  • Met girls, not just computers
  • Learned photography
  • Learned cooking
  • Read a lot of science, technology, psychology & business books
  • Met like minded people from all around the world
  • Asked senior business gurus in the advisory board of my company when I was 19
  • Learned juggling and other weird things through the internet
  • Started building my social capital in addition to human capital
  • Decided not to go to a university but rather work with and within them
  • Got really interested in the social nature of the web when I was 21
  • Started Dicole Knowledge Work Environment project when I was 21
  • Started blogging publicly when I was 23
  • Learned shooting videos

I believe many of the skills I’ve aquired over the years let me be a successful life long learner now and in the future. Expressing your ideas in text, speech, images, code and music and having high level media production, processing and remixing skills are all important. What is needed to unleash the full potential of such abilities is to be curious, open minded and networked. I’m fortunate to have no clear separation of my real interests and the real work I’m doing. You have to love what you do.

My last decision involves the following video on Youtube (in finnish):

ITK 2.0 – Osallistumisen uusi ulottuvuus (3min)

Google slavery

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Online markets are increasingly dependant of search engines and recommendations to run their business. Forbes reports on a phenomena called “Google Hell” and tells a story of an online diamond business dropping sales by $500,000 in three months because Google’s search index dropped the ball.

What does it mean if we are highly dependent of major network hubs like Google to link us with the rest of the world? If a programmer changes the logic of the ranking algorithm or a bug surfaces, a group of businesses could go out of business quickly. We are slaves of the linking machines.

But, we are not just slaves of faceless machines, we are slaves of our own readers, too. For a long time the metrics for valuating an online business has been the number of hits on the site. Along with the new breed of search engines based on tracking links like Technorati, incoming links are increasingly more important than page views. The power is not with those who speak but with those who link.

In the blogosphere, we are becoming slaves of our own readers to link back to us. If no one reads you, that doesn’t matter. If you are in the A-list, then it starts to matter if you have any reason to be dependant of incoming links.

So I sincerely ask you my lord, please link back to me.