Older blog entries for mako (starting at number 292)

Famous in Scratch

A few years ago, I ran into my friend Jay in the MIT Infinite Corridor. He was looking for volunteers to have their pictures taken and then added to the library of freely licensed and remixable media that would ship with every version of Scratch -- the graphical programming language built by Mitch Resnick's Lifelong Kindergarten group that is designed to let kids create animations and interactive games.

Jay suggested I make some emotive faces and I posed for three images that made the final cut:

/copyrighteous/images/scratchlib-mako-laughing.gif/copyrighteous/images/scratchlib-mako-screaming.gif/copyrighteous/images/scratchlib-mako-stop.gif

But although I've spent quite a bit of time studying the Scratch community in the last few years as it is grown to include millions of participants and projects, I forgot about about Jay's photo shoot.

A couple months ago, Acetarium resident Andres Lombana Bermudez pointed out that there was a mako tag on the Scratch website and that a whole bunch of users had been publishing projects using the pictures of me which, apparently, shipped in Scratch under my name. For example, in this project in which I dance in front of a enormous "MAKO" banner:

/copyrighteous/images/scratchweb-dance.png

That said, given the rather emotive nature of the pictures, I seem to usually end up being blown up shot, shrunk, set on fire by dragons, or meeting other similarly unfortunate ends.

/copyrighteous/images/scratchweb-bad_mako.png/copyrighteous/images/scratchweb-looks_arent_everything.png

There's quite many more entertaining examples under the tag and many more elsewhere on the Scratch website although they are a little trickier to track down.

Jonathan Zittrain likes to say that the best technologies are generative in the sense that they encourage their users to make things with them that the designer never forsaw or anticipated. I feel generative.

Syndicated 2011-11-13 23:34:07 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Slouching Toward Autonomy

I care a lot about free network services. Recently, I have been given lots of reasons to be happy with the progress the free software community has made in developing services that live up to my standards. I have personally switched from a few proprietary network services to alternative systems that respect my autonomy and have been very happy both with the freedom I have gained and with the no-longer-rudimentary feature sets that the free tools offer.

Although there is plenty left to do, here are four tools I'm using now instead of the proprietary tools that many people use, or that I used to use myself:

  • StatusNet/identi.ca for microblogging (instead of Twitter): I have had my account since the almost the very beginning and am very happy with the improvements in the recent 1.0 rollout.
  • Diaspora for social networking (instead of Facebook): Diaspora has made important strides forward recently and has become both quite usable and quite useful. Not having used Facebook, I've not managed to totally figure out where the system fits into my life, but I do periodically post updates that are more personal and less polished than the ones on my blog. I still have not set up my own pod but look forward to work that the Diaspora team is putting into making that process easier.
  • NewsBlur for feed reading/sharing (instead of Google Reader): NewsBlur can be thought of as a replacement for Google Reader and is, in my opinion, much better even before one considers issues of autonomy. You can install the code yourself or pay the author a small amount to host it for you (he will do it for free if you are following under 64 feeds).
  • Scuttle for social bookmarking (instead of Delicious): In the wake of Yahoo's sale and shutdown of Delicious, there is a renewed interest in free tools for social bookmarking. Scuttle, a rather mature project, seems to have been one of several beneficiaries. My Scuttle installation is at links.mako.cc.

In trying to switch away from proprietary services, I have found that there still a lack of good information comparing the different systems out there and giving folks advice on who might be able to help with things like setup or hosting. I really value hearing from other people about what they use and what they find useful but finding this information online still seems to be a struggle.

The autonomo.us wiki seems like the natural place to host or summarize this discussion and to collect and share information useful for those of us slouching (or running) toward autonomy in our use of network services. I invite folks to get involved in improving that already useful resource.

For example, this week, I spent a few hours researching free social bookmarking tools and produced a major update to the (already useful) social bookmarking page on the autonomo.us wiki. Of course, I can imagine lots of ways to improve that page and to collect similar information on other classes of network services. Please join me in that effort!

Syndicated 2011-11-02 22:28:57 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Science as Dance

The following selected bibliography showcases only a small portion of the academics who have demonstrated that while it may take two to tango, it only takes one to give a scholarly paper a silly cliche title:

Briganti, G. 2006. “It Takes Two to Tango-The CH-53K is arguably the first serious US attempt to open the defense cooperation NATO has been seeking.Rotor and Wing 40(7):60–63.
Coehran, J. 2006. “It Takes Two to Tango: Problems with Community Property Ownership of Copyrights and Patents in Texas.Baylor L. Rev. 58:407.
Diamond, M.J. 1984. “It takes two to tango: Some thoughts on the neglected importance of the hypnotist in an interactive hypnotherapeutic relationship.American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 27(1):3–13.
Kraack, A. 1999. “It takes two to tango: The place of women in the construction of hegemonic masculinity in a student pub.Masculinities in Aotearoa/New Zealand 153–165.
Lackey, J. 2006. “It takes two to tango: beyond reductionism and non-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony.The Epistemology of testimony 160–89.
Miller, C.A. 1998. “It takes two to tango: understanding and acquiring symmetrical verbs.Journal of psycholinguistic research 27(3):385–411.
Modiano, N. 1984. “It Takes Two to Tango, or… Transmission is a Two-Way Street.Anthropology & Education Quarterly 15(4):326–330.
Ott, M.A. 2008. “It Takes Two to Tango: Ethical Issues Raised by the Study of Topical Microbicides with Adolescent Dyads.The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 42(6):541.
Rubenstein, J.H. 2009. “It takes two to tango: dance steps for diagnosing Barrett’s esophagus.Respiratory Care Clinics of North America 69(6):1011–1013.
Settersten Jr, R.A. 2009. “It takes two to tango: the (un) easy dance between life-course sociology and life-span psychology.Advances in Life Course Research 14(1-2):74–81.
Skaerbaek, E. 2004. “It takes two to tango–on knowledge production and intersubjectivity.NORA: Nordic Journal of Women's Studies 12(2):93–101.
Spencer, M. 2005. “It takes two to tango.Journal of Business Strategy 26(5):62–68.
Vanaerschot, G. 2004. “It Takes Two to Tango: On Empathy With Fragile Processes.Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 41(2):112.
Viskochil, D.H. 2003. “It takes two to tango: mast cell and Schwann cell interactions in neurofibromas.Journal of Clinical Investigation 112(12):1791–1792.
Weiner, A. 2001. “It Takes Two to Tango:: Information, Metabolism, and the Origins of Life.Cell 105(3):307–308.
Wittman, M.L. 1990. It Takes Two to Tango: Your Simplistic System for Self-survival. Witmark Pub. Co.

There are also a few hundred groups who have demonstrated that larger groups can so as well.

Syndicated 2011-09-26 19:20:10 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Anxiety

MailBoxes by nffcnnr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  nffcnnr 

I am haunted by the nagging fear that I have mailboxes, tucked into a dark corner of an office somewhere, and perhaps even full of checks and important documents, that I don't know exist.

Syndicated 2011-09-17 02:09:21 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Software Freedom Day Boston 2011

This year, Software Freedom Day in Boston is being organized by Asheesh and Deb and OpenHatch which means a focus on increasing involvement in free software communities. If you are all interested in getting involved in the free software community in any way and at any level -- or interested in hearing about how that might happen someday -- this is a great event to attend.

For my part, I'll be giving a short talk on getting involved in Debian.

The event will be held on Saturday, September 17 at Cambridge College -- between Harvard and Central squares -- with an after party at Tommy Doyle's in Harvard.

Syndicated 2011-09-17 02:09:21 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Anxiety

MailBoxes by nffcnnr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  nffcnnr 

I am haunted by the nagging fear that I have mailboxes, tucked into a dark corner of an office somewhere, and perhaps even full of checks and important documents, that I don't know exist.

Syndicated 2011-09-15 05:21:00 from Benjamin Mako Hill

In Defense of Negativity

I often hear criticism of "negative campaigning" in the free software movement. For example, in reply to a blog post I once wrote about an FSF campaign, several people argued against, "negative campaigning of any sort, in any realm." Drawing an analogy to political smear campaigns, some members of the free software community have taken the position that negative campaigning in general is not useful and that negativity has no place in our advocacy.

First, it is important to be clear on what we mean by a negative campaigns. I believe that there is a fundamental difference between speaking out against policies or actions and smear campaigns that employ untrue claims, ad hominem attacks, and that attempt to avoid a real conversation about issues. I will categorically condemn the latter form of smear campaigning in campaigns for software freedom or for anything else.

That said, negativity directed at negativity has had a positive effect in many social movements. I have supported and participated in "negative" campaigns against proprietary software, software patents, DRM, centralized network services, and the firms behind these practices. I've done so because I believe that if one is taking an ethical position, it is justified, and often necessary, to not only speak about the benefits of freedom but against acts of dispossession and disenfranchisement.

In some of the most effective social movements, unambiguously negative messages have been central. Should a campaign for abolishing child labor talk only about how valuable adult workers are to their employers or how happy kids are when they don't work? Should a campaign trying to abolish land mines talk only about the benefits of bomb-free fields and intact lower limbs? Should a free speech organization only speak out about the social welfare brought by a free press and never against acts of censorship? These may seem like outlandish comparisons but you can find people writing, only a couple centuries ago, about how slavery should be abolished by arguing in favor of the benefits of paid labor. Even if the economic arguments in favor of paid work are strong, these arguments seems irrelevant and offensive today. Whether slavery is more or less efficient is a moot point. Society has rejected it because it is wrong.

We have made important strides toward eliminating injustices like child labor and slavery because activists waged decidedly negative campaigns against them and convinced others to join in opposition. In doing so, activists declared the status quo unconscionable and created an ethical responsibility to find alternatives and to redefine what was "realistic." While I will not suggest that the movement for software freedom is comparable in ethical weight to these other causes, I know that the free software mission is similar in kind.

Of course, if one does not think that user control over technology is an ethical issue but is instead merely a matter of choice, one will probably oppose negative campaigns. It is also possible that a particular negative campaign is tactically unwise in that it is unlikely to reach a large audience, unlikely to change people's minds, or be difficult to carry out successfully. But such campaigns are a bad idea because they are ineffective, not because they are negative. Additionally, a movement that is purely negative and offers no reasonable alternative to the stated ill may also be unlikely to succeed. This is why, for example, I believe it is good that the FSF uses the large majority of its resources in the "positive" role of supporting free software.

For those that do treat technological empowerment as an ethical ideal, it is both justified and essential to condemn the systematic disempowerment of others through non-free software just as we celebrate the benefits of software freedom. "Negative" campaigns against proprietary software, software patents, and DRM in music have already led our community to important -- if incomplete -- victories. The desire to right wrongs has been a critical part of our movement's success and of many others'. We would be wise not to give it up.

Syndicated 2011-09-04 00:01:35 from Benjamin Mako Hill

In Defense of Negativity

I often hear criticism of "negative campaigning" in the free software movement. For example, in reply to a blog post I once wrote about an FSF campaign, several people argued against, "negative campaigning of any sort, in any realm." Drawing an analogy to political smear campaigns, some members of the free software community have taken the position that negative campaigning in general is not useful and that negativity has no place in our advocacy.

First, it is important to be clear on what we mean by a negative campaigns. I believe that there is a fundamental difference between speaking out against policies or actions and smear campaigns that employ untrue claims, ad hominem attacks, and that attempt to avoid a real conversation about issues. I will categorically condemn the latter form of smear campaigning in campaigns for software freedom or for anything else.

That said, negativity directed at negativity has had a positive effect in many social movements. I have supported and participated in "negative" campaigns against proprietary software, software patents, DRM, centralized network services, and the firms behind these practices. I've done so because I believe that if one is taking an ethical position, it is justified, and often necessary, to not only speak about the benefits of freedom but against acts of dispossession and disenfranchisement.

In some of the most effective social movements, unambiguously negative messages have been central. Should a campaign for abolishing child labor talk only about how valuable adult workers are to their employers or how happy kids are when they don't work? Should a campaign trying to abolish land mines talk only about the benefits of bomb-free fields and intact lower limbs? Should a free speech organization only speak out about the social welfare brought by a free press and never against acts of censorship? These may seem like outlandish comparisons but you can find people writing, only a couple centuries ago, about how slavery should be abolished by arguing in favor of the benefits of paid labor. Even if the economic arguments in favor of paid work are strong, these arguments seems irrelevant and offensive today. Whether slavery is more or less efficient is a moot point. Society has rejected it because it is wrong.

We have made important strides toward eliminating injustices like child labor and slavery because activists waged decidedly negative campaigns against them and convinced others to join in opposition. In doing so, activists declared the status quo unconscionable and created an ethical responsibility to find alternatives and to redefine what was "realistic." While I will not suggest that the movement for software freedom is comparable in ethical weight to these other causes, I know that the free software mission is similar in kind.

Of course, if one does not think that user control over technology is an ethical issue but is instead merely a matter of choice, one will probably oppose negative campaigns. It is also possible that a particular negative campaign is tactically unwise in that it is unlikely to reach a large audience, unlikely to change people's minds, or be difficult to carry out successfully. But such campaigns are a bad idea because they are ineffective, not because they are negative. Additionally, a movement that is purely negative and offers no reasonable alternative to the stated ill may also be unlikely to succeed. This is why, for example, I believe it is good that the FSF uses the large majority of its resources in the "positive" role of supporting free software.

For those that do treat technological empowerment as an ethical ideal, it is both justified and essential to condemn the systematic disempowerment of others through non-free software just as we celebrate the benefits of software freedom. "Negative" campaigns against proprietary software, software patents, and DRM in music have already led our community to important -- if incomplete -- victories. The desire to right wrongs has been a critical part of our movement's success and of many others'. We would be wise not to give it up.

Syndicated 2011-09-03 16:49:28 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Donner Pass

/copyrighteous/images/bierstadt-donner_lake.png

In the Peabody Essex Museum a couple weeks ago, I saw a beautiful landscape by Albert Bierstadt of Donner Pass whose label referenced the famous Donner Party of 1846 and their, "sensational story of privation, cannibalism, and death." I would reorder that sentence.

Syndicated 2011-08-29 20:52:22 from Benjamin Mako Hill

Donner Pass

/copyrighteous/images/bierstadt-donner_lake.png

In the Peabody Essex Museum a couple weeks ago, I a beautiful landscape by Albert Bierstadt of Donner Pass whose label referenced the famous Donner Party of 1846 and their, "sensational story of privation, cannibalism, and death." I would reorder that sentence.

Syndicated 2011-08-29 16:55:07 from Benjamin Mako Hill

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