Grossroots versus AstroTurf
When you can’t earn them, lure them in or buy them. This appears to have been Novell’s strategy (if not motto) when it hired Zonker, chief 'SUSE Booster', who is now inviting some more SUSE boosters. Here is just a portion from his latest blog item. [via Tux Machines]
Some of the things I’d like the marketing team to address:
* Ensure we publicize community events and meetings to maximize turnout and participation
* Create presentations and materials that can be reused to promote openSUSE
* Create artwork, banners, logos, etc. for openSUSE
* Help organize launch parties, local events, installfests, and talks at LUGs
* Support the openSUSE booth at shows
* Give presentations about openSUSE, the openSUSE Build Service, Linux, and other related topics to interested groups
In short, I’m looking for openSUSE contributors (and potential contributors) to help publicize community events more effectively, so anyone who’s interested in contributing to openSUSE knows how they can do so and when meetings are being held, etc — and also to help promote openSUSE to the rest of the world, so everyone has a chance to experience Linux.
Microsoft too has some boosters running around (on the payroll even). This includes activities like posting of comments in ZDNet to advocate Silverlight. Maybe Novell and Microsoft are a good match. They might not be so different after all. █
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Assorted news on a new breed of trolls (software patents)
An issue close to our hearts is the nature of software patents, particularly their impact on Free software and relentless attempts to force the world as a whole (not just a handful of nations) to adopt, accept and and recognise them. So here is a roundup of news and picks.
Free Software Icons Comment on Software Patent
This new column piece from Jeremy Allison was aired by ZDNet and also appeared in Tux Deluxe. He uses an astronomical exploration analogy to explain why software patents are a bad, bad idea.
What innovations are we stifling right now with patents that lock out the scientists, amateur and professional, from research ? What new software can’t be created due to these restrictions. We may never know what we didn’t discover or create due to their chilling effects.
It’s like people claiming ownership on particular areas of the sky, and just as absurd. “You can’t look at that star, it’s mine, I patented looking there. Here’s a coin-operated telescope if you want to peek”. Good luck making scientific progress in astronomy with these restrictions.
Unless you are a lawyer or an economist, it’s unlikely to that this is beneficial to you. Glyn Moody published his exchange on this issue with Mark Shuttleworth. It touches on software patents.
As for patents in software, I think society does a very bad deal when it gives someone a monopoly in exchange for nothing. The traditional patent deal was you gave someone a monopoly in exchange for disclosure of a trade secret. You can’t really have trade secrets in software.
Of course, the entrenched interests like to frame this as “patents are all about innovation”, when they really aren’t. There’s very strong, academic, peer-reviewed research that suggests that patents stifle the pace of change and innovation.
The real insight with patents is that what society is buying with that monopoly is disclosure. And so the real benefit to society is accelerated disclosure of new ideas – not convincing people to invest. People have ideas all the time. You can’t stop the human mind from innovating. People do research and development to win customers, that’s what it’s really about. It’s not to file patents. So the entrenched patent holders really aren’t doing much of a service to society when they articulate their position in very flawed terms.
Watch what he then says about GNOME:
With regard to GNOME and Microsoft, I’m not concerned. My view is that to win, you have to have your own vision. You have to have a very clear idea of what you can deliver that’s unique. You can’t go around sort of chasing someone else’s coat tails. So while I respect the people in the free software community who invest a lot of time in making compatible implementations of other people’s technology, I don’t think that’s the real recipe for success for free software. We have to give people a reason to use our platform for itself, not because it’s a cheap version of someone else’s.
Let’s emphasise this again: “We have to give people a reason to use our platform for itself, not because it’s a cheap version of someone else’s.” Mono developers, are you listening? So while Mark is not overly concerned about legal aspects of this, the technical perspective is one to bear in mind as well. We showed this before.
“Efficient Data Processing” Patent
Another day, another patent lawsuits.
Hewlett-Packard does not agree with a jury’s decision last week to pay damages to Cornell University for infringing on a patent, but the company declined to say Thursday if it will appeal the case.
HP was ordered to pay Cornell damages of US$184 million in the case involving a patent that boosts computer speed by enabling more efficient data processing.
A tireless push for the problematic Community patent [1, 2, 3] seems to continue, according to this new document
[PDF]. Digital Majority identifies fragments of interest in the following article.
Funnily enough, national patent offices look like being one of the major remaining obstacles to the creation of a Community patent. At the same European Council meeting referred to in the FT’s trademark story, it looks like European ministers decided that if there are to be any major breakthroughs with regard to a Community patent and an EU-wide patent litigation system, these will not now happen under the Slovenian presidency. Instead, it will be down to the French to force the pace.
While translations officially remain the major obstacle, it is also the case that a Community patent will mean significantly reduced income for most national patent offices in Europe as they will no longer receive renewal fees in the way that they do currently. So, although a Community patent may be what European industry wants and maybe what many of the EU member states want, individual countries have it in their power to hold things up or to derail progress altogether. In off the record conversations, Austria seems to get a lot of mentions in this regard, as does Spain, as does Finland. Whether this is fair or not I couldn’t say: one of the problems with these negotiations is that they take place behind closed doors and so no-one who is not involved can be certain as to what is happening.
Remember Patent TrollTracker, who was bullied and sued by patent trolls for revealing what they really are [1, 2, 3]? Here is an update covering the patent trolls’ assault on the individual and the company he worked for. As you ought to expect, patent trolls are remorseless when it comes to the legal system; they exploit and take advantage of it. Sue, sue, sue, or at least intimidate to extract royalties. That’s the business model.
Previously, I explained how Rick Frenkel was sued twice for defamation shortly after revealing he was the author of the now-shuttered Patent Troll Tracker blog. One of those plaintiffs is Johnny Ward, Jr., a Longview, Texas lawyer who’s popular as local counsel in E.D. Texas patent lawsuits; he’s also the son of federal judge T. John Ward, the judge largely responsible for building up the Eastern District as the nation’s most popular (or infamous) patent venue. The other lawsuit was brought by Eric Albritton, another Longview lawyer who has partnered with Ward Jr. on many cases, including ESN v. Cisco, the patent litigation that is the subject of the allegedly defamatory PTT posts.
To give you an idea of how scummy patent trolls can get, watch this short report. [via Digital Majority]
Last year, we noted the trend for various patent hoarding entities to set up a group of shell companies with which to sue companies. Part of the reason for doing so was to make it that much more difficult for the companies being sued to even know who they were fighting against. However, one big patent hoarding organization had another plan too… which just backfired. Plutus IP is a somewhat secretive patent holding company that has set up a bunch of shell companies all named after stars — and apparently it tried to pull a little trick by shuffling patents around among the shells.
Nathan “Shell” Myhrvold [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], how much does your former employer (Microsoft) love you? █
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A possible disinformation campaign is observed
Yesterday we published a quick post just to point out the not-so-obvious. We warned readers about Microsoft's systematic denials and attempts to rewrite history. It’s not a new tactic, but it appears to be repeating itself and making a comeback (assuming there was ever a cessation), so prudent bystanders are right to be cautious. Courtesy of some findings from Groklaw, we bring you the latest things that you ought to be aware of (some are new, but some are just very recent).
In a sarcastic fashion we recently wrote about “Agent Alex” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] and “Agent Patrick” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It’s not our own convictions, but a collection of others’ who feel similarly. It’s about influence that Microsoft apparently gains inside circles that instruct and make decisions. Remember Tim Bray's story.
One nugget of information that we almost missed entirely last week is this (Ed’s note: this is not Peter Brown of the FSF):
I found it quite disturbing that Peter Brown, one of the members of the board of directors of the OASIS, was basically saying that multiple standards were a good thing and that it had always work out like that. Then he basically questioned the whole concept of open standards, and in doing so made the point right that coining the term “openness” for everything was diluting the value of that notion. To make a long discussion a short one, Peter Brown’s point was that nothing should change in terms of standardization processes, and that it was not even worth a try, and in trying to convince the audience he used the good old allegory of the plugs and their different formats depending on the country and continent. Apparently not for Mr. Brown who thinks it will always be that way, and that somehow, somehow, it is useless to design too many standards (note the incoherence with his first concept) , because in the end, well, it’s useless. I also noticed that Mr Brown, who sits at the board of directors of an SDO (Standards Development Organization) that fosters the development of many Royalty -Free standards such as ODF, declared that it would be nice to “have all kinds of open standards that come with a Royalty -Free Intellectual Property mode” and “all kinds of open source implementations that will always be free for everybody” practiced some irony that I cannot enjoy as it simply shows a deep misunderstanding of the relationship between FOSS and Open Standards, and more generally, an ignorance of the concept of freedom and the absence of monetary value of software and information.
Peter Brown might be another character worth keeping an eye on.
Moving on to Patrick Durusau who, according to Open Malaysia, can say the darnest things at the worst of times, mind the opening of his latest letter
[PDF] that essnetially protests against the appeal (yes, believe it or not). It reads: “Appealing ISO/IEC 29500 will not benefit anyone, no matter how the appeal turns out.”
A satirical translation of the above would be : “Appeals against a corrupt process are just a waste of time. Let the corruption just be.” Pardon what seems like an impolite response, but when someone sidles with (or buries) the sheer corruption we have witnessed, there is little room for sympathy. In fact, be reminded of what Open Malaysia said just days ago:
“Every single negative letter on ODF received by the Malaysian standards organization was written either by Microsoft, or a Microsoft business partner or a Microsoft affiliated organization (Initiative for Software Choice and IASA).”
A Memo to Patrick Durusau
To add more to this little fire:
“37 letters with exactly the same words. Some of the senders didn’t even care to remove the ‘Type company name here’ text.
Simular letters has been circulating in Denmark as an e-mail from the Danish MD Jørgen Bardenfleth to customers and business partners.
I call it fraud, cheating and disgusting. If I wasn’t anti-Microsoft before, I am now. Disgusting !”
Here is a slightly older rebuttal that addresses Patrick Durusau’s point-of-view, which seems to align with that of Peter Brown.
Patrick’s logic, if not his argument, is based on the idea that the problems that keep FOSS software from including such standards (usually royalty-based), is their own problem, and not the concern of the ISO or any standards body. Basically, if you want to give your software away, then that is your problem, everyone else has wizened up to the idea of charging for software, and paying royalties for standards, why don’t you?
Patrick states that “Microsoft has no obligation to make OpenXML implementable under GPL,” which is a true statement. However, since OpenXML is not implementable under any FOSS software license, isn’t it something the ISO should have considered when approving a standard?
Thanks Patrick, thanks a lot.
This is a very disturbing observation given that Sun Microsystems makes a transition to an open source strategy (including the GPL) while employing this guy who tolerates deliberate exclusion of the GPL. It’s an anti-competitive move against Microsoft’s #1 threat.
Getting back to Durusau’s latest letter, does he not not feel shy in the face of 4 countries that appealed, including the world’s second- and third-largest nations? Does he know better than them? As the following new article from South Africa shows, it goes deeper than “appealing ISO/IEC 29500 will not benefit anyone.” It’s about the right to compete and not be dependent, especially if you live outside the country where Durusau resides.
Emerging markets back SA [South Africa]
“Emerging markets are showing strength, and we are proud that SA was the leader in the appeal initiative. The emerging markets represent the majority of the world’s population, and the ISO is now at a crossroads,” says Shuttleworth Foundation fellow Andrew Rens.
He says the ISO will have to make a decision to either stand firm, or support the appeals of the emerging markets. “If they decide to be objective and independent, they will have the backing of all those who are following the appeal process, and several others over and above that.”
“It will be extraordinary if the secretary-general does not allow the appeals to go through. It would put the ISO in disrepute,” says Rens.
He says the backing of Venezuela, India and Brazil are critical for SA. “The number of countries appealing makes our concerns valid. It shows that we were right to appeal.”
Let the following photo remind you of the role of geography in this debate.
From the Campaign for Document Freedom
You may think that South Africa’s press quoting the Shuttleworth Foundation is no credible thing. But if you want to see something ugly, here is a pro-Microsoft article from India that seemingly just attacks the stance of professors who complained (and eloquently explained) what Microsoft did to them. The article puts in scare quotes their ‘problems’ and indirectly accuses them of ruining India’s industrial image (or “shooting itself in the foot,” as the headline dramatically states).
“To Microsoft and its business partners, there’s a lot of money at stake.”Like many such articles, it selectively weaves Microsoft’s ‘taking heads’ quotes in (Burton Group, Microsoft employees and so forth). Had we known more about the reputation (or lack thereof) of this media source, we would be able to tell if it’s merely a ‘plug’ in the media. It sure happens a lot in the west. We saw similar accusations about parts of the Filipino press too. As stated in the IRC channels a short while ago, “It’s less of an article and more of a protest on behalf of Microsoft. The language is disrespectful in places.” It’s brainwash at best.
Speaking of disinformation, Google News is still filled with some. People have complained on the face of it, but Google is not responsive. Microsoft et al may have gamed the ODF (“opendocument”) feeds for over a year, or so one professor believes. Lots of anti-ODF articles made it in while others were missed, left out.
We wrote about it several times before and offered some evidence. Another person who was in touch at the time complained to Google and also warned friends of his who work there that by recruiting ex-Softies they ‘poison’ themselves (manual intervention and tweaking seems involved with SERPs).
It all comes back to the seminal point of this post: be careful what you read and whom you trust. To Microsoft and its business partners, there’s a lot of money at stake. A lot. The cost of fines and public embarrassment is relatively low. Disinformation is inexpensive and FUD too is a question of economics, as Jim Zemlin emphasised last year. █
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