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Moglen on Social Justice and OSS 336

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-weighty-with-your-sunday-morning dept.
NewsCloud writes "What does Firefox have to do with social justice? How will the one laptop per child project discourage genocide? How soon will Microsoft collapse? Watch Eben Moglen's inspiring keynote from the 2006 Plone Conference (Archive.org: mp3 or qt; or YouTube). The video presentation is ordinary, so the mp3 is an equally good format. 'If we know that what we are trying to accomplish is the spread of justice and social equality through the universalization of access to knowledge; If we know that what we are trying to do is build an economy of sharing which will rival the economies of ownership at every point where they directly compete; If we know that we are doing this as an alternative to coercive redistribution, that we have a third way in our hands for dealing with long and deep problems of human injustice; If we are conscious of what we have and know what we are trying to accomplish, when this is the moment for the first time in lifetimes, we can get it done.'"
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Moglen on Social Justice and OSS

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  • Great presentation (Score:3, Informative)

    by byolinux (535260) * on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:26AM (#17184928) Journal
    Especially when he points out that the best efforts of Microsoft can't produce browsers as good as the Free Software community.
    • He forgot about the best browser -- which is not free software: Opera.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by byolinux (535260) *
        What if I want Opera for an architecture they don't compile it for, what if I want to build something upon Opera, what if I want to change Opera?

        I can't. That's not the best browser, that's a maybe a more technically compliant browser than some, but it's not the best.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:28AM (#17184946)
    With what? The traditional economy goes something like: I have something, which you want, and you have something which I want. We trade. This non-concept of "economy of sharing" goes like: I have something, which you want, and I am morally obligated to give it to you, by virtue of the fact that I have it. Where is it in my interest to do so, if I do not accept your premise that I am somehow inherently obligated to?

    The "one laptop per child" mentality is great at giving people the information that they need in order to succeed, but it will not make them succeed. It will ensure that everyone starts the race at the same point, but it will not make everyone a winner.
    • by zogger (617870) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:54AM (#17185146) Homepage Journal
      This is how I finally bingoed to what FLOSS was all about. I had read the words but still didn't get it, I mean I was already using Linux and still didn't get it. But I thought of an analogy. FLOSS is like the olden days community barn raisings. Individually, it was pretty expensive and very difficult for one guy to build his own barn, collectively, members of the community go over on the weekend and help each other out, each contributing the tools and expertise they were the best at, eventually they all have very nice barns, then they can all go about the business of being farmers, were they made their livings at.
      • by quixote9 (999874) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @01:25PM (#17185870) Homepage

        Humans have spent millions of years sharing, and just a few thousand owning. Sharing is what got us, as a species, so rich that we could afford to lock up resources, whether it cost anyone anything for others to use them or not.

        Owning can speed up the pace of innovation by several orders of magnitude, but it can also slow it down. You don't need DMCA, DRM, and other insane intellectual property rights to do that. The medieval guilds in Europe, for instance, also slowed down the pace of innovation by a couple of centuries, and they did it using trade secrecy rules that worked just as well (or badly, depending on your point of view).

        But the important thing is that sharing and owning are NOT mutually exclusive. Buddha had it right: it's the balance that's important. Microsoft shouldn't be allowed to own the ones and the zeroes, but sharing everything absolutely equally doesn't work well outside of a monastery either. The balance point, for me, is where you have the most innovation that benefits the most people and allows compensation to flow to the creators, not everybody except the creators.

        One thing that's always brought up about "sharing economies" is the tragedy of the commons. That's where resources held in common and owned by nobody get trashed because nobody takes care of them. Our current environmental problems fall into this category. But the thing to remember there is that sharing only becomes a tragedy when it's a free-for-all. In that case, sure, it's a rip-off for whoever is the biggest thug. We don't have to let that happen. If the commons is adequately regulated, it can be used by everyone AND retain all its value, like a well-run city park.

        Moglen has articulated the value in the new / old way of sharing, and brought so many separate things into one vision, it's like looking into a prism and seeing glorious rainbows. Love it.

        • by Bertie (87778)
          That was a very well argued, well written post, and I wish there were more like it on Slashdot. However, I have to disagree with you on one point:

          One thing that's always brought up about "sharing economies" is the tragedy of the commons. That's where resources held in common and owned by nobody get trashed because nobody takes care of them. Our current environmental problems fall into this category.

          To my mind, our current environmental problems are more down to the capitalist mentality of exploiting a resource without much thought for how long it's going to last, because when it's all gone, you just move on to making money out of something else. As you say, humanity's spent much longer sharing than owning, and societies with a relatively weak concept of o

      • by ultranova (717540)

        But I thought of an analogy. FLOSS is like the olden days community barn raisings.

        With the additional benefit that with FLOSS, once you have one very nice barn, everyone can get a copy of it with a push of a button.

      • by mdfst13 (664665) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @03:44PM (#17186892)

        FLOSS is like the olden days community barn raisings.
        I think that this analogy still misses it. With a barn raising by twenty people, at the end, just one family has the barn. No one else uses that barn.

        The problem with all these analogies is that software is not analogous to physical things. Software is more analogous to the design of the barn. If I decide that it would make more sense to have a barn with two doors rather than one door, it doesn't hurt me in any way for every other barn to have two doors.

        Open source relies on the following:

        1. Software is near free to duplicate but comparatively expensive to design.

        2. Software is individual. My current needs are different than your current needs. Thus, even with the same base, both of us need to do additional work.

        3. Needs change. Thus, the needs that I have tomorrow may match the needs that you have today. Therefore, giving you my work today may save me work tomorrow.

        4. Bugs happen. If you find a bug and fix it for me, that saves me work. This is especially true of security bugs.

        Where open source falls down (relative to closed source) is that it lacks a good way for non-programmers to pool resources in large groups. Look at MS Windows XP (WinXP) for example. WinXP apparently costs about $25 per user to develop (using an average cost of $50 per user and a profit margin of 50%). Assuming 400,000,000 users, that's $10 billion to develop WinXP (given Win2000 and Win98SE). Using a cost per developer of $200,000 per year, that's 50,000 developer years.

        Open source does well in areas where the software is used by technical people. For example, traditionally (albeit increasingly less so), web servers have been operated by professionals. As a result, it has made sense for those professionals to use a web server that they could modify (Apache). Office suites have traditionally been used by non-technical people. As such, most office suites do not allow modification, only extension (through macros and more modernly, VBScript).

        Barn raisings worked because in small communities, it's possible to get everyone to work together (people who don't go to raise your barn don't get your help with their barn). However, that's a bad model for trying to convince a business. It lacks guarantees (me doing work for you today does not bind you to do work for me tomorrow). To convince a profit minded boss, you have to demonstrate that open source reduces costs.
    • by Aim Here (765712) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:56AM (#17185166)
      You miss the point. It's about marginal costs and the commons.

      The 'economy of ownership' is the one where people say 'This stuff is mine! Give me money or you can't use it, even if it costs me nothing for you to have it.

      The 'economy of sharing' is where people say 'This stuff can't, or shouldn't be owned at all. If anyone wants to use it, they can and if anyone wants to help improve it, bonus!'

      The commons notoriously has problems with things like overgrazing and overfishing, and the notion of sharing what you produce has problems if it costs you something to share. With digital goods shared on the internet, neither of those are a problem. Software doesn't wear out, and it doesn't cost me anything if two people share my work over a website or p2p network. The fixed costs associated with creating free software in the first place do have to be covered, but that hasn't been a problem so far.

      The internet works with a different set of economic rules from the traditional economy. Stuff like Linux and Apache are economic equivalent of bumblebees. They shouldn't work under the old rules, yet they do.

      And because of that, the ethical rules should change too, but they haven't, yet. In a world where Ubuntu and OpenBSD can be made without having policemen to stop them being copied, why should we employ policemen and jails to prevent Windows or OSX being copied? Jailing people is violent and evil, m'kay, and should only ever be used as a last resort. The primary justification for employing copyright protections in the first place was just to produce copyrighted works - if the works are now getting made without those protections, then there's no excuse for attacking and threatening people just to make an equivalent work that might compete with it...

      Umm, I think that's Moglen's point, more or less. I'm still waiting for the *cough*quicktime*cough* movie to download...

      • by NineNine (235196)
        why should we employ policemen and jails to prevent Windows or OSX being copied

        Because they chose not to "share" their work, and that's their right. By forcing them to "share" their work, then that's coercision. That's taking somebody's work from them by force. That's very bad.
    • by Sique (173459) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:58AM (#17185186) Homepage
      Yes... where is the economy in giving birth to children? Where is the economy in giving a present to loved ones? Where is the economy in giving education to minors? Where is the economy in giving directions to a stranger in your town? Where is the economy in giving playing cards to someone who is sitting with you at a table? Where is the economy in giving advise or stating opinions on Slashdot?

      As you can see: We are giving for completely uneconomic reasons all the time. Does that make us bad people?
      • by E++99 (880734) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @01:36PM (#17185978) Homepage
        Yes... where is the economy in giving birth to children? Where is the economy in giving a present to loved ones? Where is the economy in giving education to minors? Where is the economy in giving directions to a stranger in your town? Where is the economy in giving playing cards to someone who is sitting with you at a table? Where is the economy in giving advise or stating opinions on Slashdot?

        Yes, but you see, the ability to do this, i.e. to practice charity, which is the moral way of life, is in many ways dependent upon having the resources to give, which in turn is dependant upon a healthy free market economy. Obviously, you can be just as moral without any resources, but there is dramatically more that you can do for others if you do have resources. I think that Open Source is largely a result of this spirit. However, it is a result, not a cause, and I think it has exactly NOTHING to do with most the ideals mentioned, such as Justice. Justice has more to do with the free market. Charity is about rising above justice.
      • Scientists work hard, harder than you probably realize, and what do they do with their results? They give them away to the entire world in journal articles.

        But then, everything the scientists built on was published by previous scientists.

        Everybody winds up better off than they would if someone were to impose artifical scarcity on knowledge in order to make it work more like a naturally scarce resource such as land.
        • Scientists work hard, harder than you probably realize, and what do they do with their results? They give them away to the entire world in journal articles.

          Pure scientists often do this, but not applied scientists. Some of the best applied scientists in the world work for GE, 3M, DuPont, Toyota, IBM, etc. That scientific work is most definitely NOT given away. Pure scientists give away their information for reasons outside of economic benefit (academia is a different world, entirely), but often, there i
      • Yes... where is the economy in giving birth to children? Where is the economy in giving a present to loved ones? Where is the economy in giving education to minors? Where is the economy in giving directions to a stranger in your town? Where is the economy in giving playing cards to someone who is sitting with you at a table? Where is the economy in giving advise or stating opinions on Slashdot?

        As you can see: We are giving for completely uneconomic reasons all the time. Does that make us bad people

        All the

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sique (173459)
          Lets put it right: You can't build an economy on something that is not scarce. If everyone has unlimited access to something, there is not much of an economy here. Economy happens if something is in limited supply, and then there are strategies to distribute that to those interested. The body of those strategies is called "Economy" (which is actually greek and means 'common naming' = e.g. finding a common price). As long as the common price is zero, there is no actual common pricing. :)

          Information is a stra
      • by vga_init (589198)

        Yes... where is the economy in giving birth to children? Where is the economy in giving a present to loved ones? Where is the economy in giving education to minors? Where is the economy in giving directions to a stranger in your town? Where is the economy in giving playing cards to someone who is sitting with you at a table? Where is the economy in giving advise or stating opinions on Slashdot?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy [wikipedia.org]

        Is that what you meant? The reasons people have for doing things li

    • by radarsat1 (786772) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @12:02PM (#17185210) Homepage
      This non-concept of "economy of sharing" goes like: I have something, which you want, and I am morally obligated to give it to you, by virtue of the fact that I have it.

      You're wrong. You are describing a communist system, where wealth is distributed evenly, rather than according to how much each person is worth.

      That's not open-source. To me, there is a huge difference with open-source: It is specifically about acknowledging how much something is worth, giving credit where it's due, and respecting the wishes of the authors. Thus, if you build something on top of what I have built, and I have shared it, all I ask is that you share it too. There is nothing in open-source that says that if you build something from scratch, you absolutely must open-source it. Only if you use parts of what other people did. Frankly, I think that's a reasonable request.

      What it means is that it's more efficient than traditional innovation, because it means not having to re-invent the wheel. All we ask is that you open your code, too. You're perfectly free to not use what someone else did, but it would be re-doing a lot of work, so I don't recommend it.

      Where is it in my interest to do so, if I do not accept your premise that I am somehow inherently obligated to?

      You're only obligated if you are using something someone else did. Again, how is this not reasonable? If you're going to go and sell some code you wrote, but it includes a bunch of code I wrote, and I stated originally that I'd prefer you to share your code if you use it, then you're not inherently obliged to, you're obliged to according to the license agreement that you chose to comply with.

      The "one laptop per child" mentality is great at giving people the information that they need in order to succeed, but it will not make them succeed. It will ensure that everyone starts the race at the same point, but it will not make everyone a winner.

      Absolutely. However, the hope is that it will, in total, create more winners. Or at least even out the distribution of winners over the globe. Right now there is a serious imbalance in the world that is making it a very unhealthy place to live. We can't just keep giving money to developing countries, hoping that they'll invest it properly and fix all their economic problems. Instead, this is an attempt to help them help themselves, a much better approach IMHO.
      Anyways, notice that the OLPC project isn't exactly a charity. It is an effort to create a machine that is useful, but made in such a way that the target demographic can actually afford it. This is perfectly moral from a capitalist perspective. (Yes it is a non-profit organization, but as far as I'm concerned that doesn't change anything. They are still selling the machines, not giving them away.)
      • by griffjon (14945)
        My favorite was when the MIT Technology Review [technologyreview.com] compared Negroponte (who's received a lot of funding to develop the OLPC and will be selling them in huge batches) to Andrew Carnegie, who used questionable robber-baron business practices to make tons of money, and then funded the building of libraries via grants nationwide, and then set up a maintenance grant provided that the city also contributed funds to the ongoing support of the library.

        Anyhow. They're selling machines, at an overall low cost (though th
        • by ThosLives (686517)

          Kudos on having the wherewithall to participate in the Peace Corps! Based on your post, and because of that bit of info, I have a discussion that is probably going to incite quite a lot of reaction but is, I think, quite necessary:

          How does 'journalism' prevent genocide? In my estimation, things like genocide (or other violent oppressive activities) are also somewhat economic, though with a different flavor: Those that would commit genocide (or other oppressive activity) generally do so as long as the perce

          • by griffjon (14945)
            Oh, I don't personally think it could prevent at all; at best it will reduce the duration by providing media coverage=> increased number of people knowing about it => more of a political issue in governments that have the ability to step in and stop things.

            I mean, there's a LOT, and I mean, more than I've been fortunate enough to see myself ever before, of techno-utopianism that goes with the OLPC (and web2.0 too), and how these things will change the world and save the children and so on. I've gotte
    • by xappax (876447)
      This non-concept of "economy of sharing" goes like: I have something, which you want, and I am morally obligated to give it to you

      I think the "economy of sharing" is more a reference to the "gift economy", in which people exchange things with each other not because they stand to gain personally from the transaction, but because they want to. There's nothing obligatory about the gift economy, quite the opposite. It's the voluntary nature of gift giving that makes it what it is. If a market economy is o
    • With what? The traditional economy goes something like: I have something, which you want, and you have something which I want. We trade.

      No:

      I have something you want, and I won't let you have it unless you have something I want.

      This non-concept of "economy of sharing" goes like: I have something, which you want, and I am morally obligated to give it to you, by virtue of the fact that I have it.

      I have something you want. Here, take it.
      Now, is there anything you have that I want?

    • The traditional economy goes something like: I have something, which you want, and you have something which I want. We trade.

      Yep. Works really great for bread and knives.

      This non-concept of "economy of sharing" goes like: I have something, which you want, and I am morally obligated to give it to you, by virtue of the fact that I have it.

      Nope.

      I have something, which is of use to you. Giving it to you in no way deprives me of that thing. I am therefore going to give it to you, so that, when you have someth
    • ensure that everyone starts the race at the same point

      Not even close.

      Do you think people pay for private schools just for laughs? And there are other issues involved. See this article by Paul Tough
      (or Google for a either a synopsis of it or a cut-and-paste version) for more of what create gaps in education and achievement.

      There are also issues of infrastructure that create huge gaps, as well as social ties (often, to do well, one must leave home--and perhaps abandoning relatives who need your help.)
  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:30AM (#17184956) Homepage Journal
    OK, this guy has some great points, but he's just too educated and high brow for a Sunday morning. He could have covered his points in 1/4 of the time and made them more accessible to the general public (in the audio that is). But then again, since when do lecturing lawyers try to be accessible and understandable?

    The blogger's summary said the speech evoked "memories for me of Martin Luther King's speeches". Ummm ... ok. I think that's going a bit too far. Will anyone remember Eben Moglen's Plone conference keynote 5 years from now? I can't even say that sentence without laughing a little.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kebes (861706)
      He could have covered his points in 1/4 of the time and made them more accessible to the general public

      I think it's worth keeping in mind that the speech we all listened to was an invited keynote address at the Plone Conference in Seattle. [plone.org] His audience was a bunch of free-software experts (Plone [wikipedia.org] is a FLOSS content management system). Making his talk 'more general and accessible' would have bored the audience. The intention of the talk was to remind some free-software developers of the 'why' of free sof
  • Video Format (Score:5, Insightful)

    by draevil (598113) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:30AM (#17184958)
    I suppose there's a certain irony to the fact that the talk is available only in proprietary formats from those links.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvan256 (722131)
      Indeed, I'm still wondering why people haven't switched to MPEG-4/MP3 or H.264/AAC .mp4 files yet.

      And no, DivX/XviD aren't .mp4 files, they're MPEG-4 data inside AVI/ASF containers (sometimes with VBR MP3, which ain't even allowed in a strict AVI file) that just won't play on a Mac without crashing/slowing down the whole system.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        "MPEG-4/MP3" and "H.264/AAC" are still proprietary formats. What I'm upset about is that this video hasn't been made available in an Ogg container with Theora and Vorbis streams.

    • Transcription (Score:5, Informative)

      by Geof (153857) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @04:59PM (#17187390) Homepage

      If you want a non-proprietary format, I have transcribed [geof.net] Moglen's speech.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:31AM (#17184962)
    I know I've wanted to kill a few people after looking at their MySpace pages.
  • Delusional (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Timesprout (579035) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:39AM (#17185026)
    Microsoft are going to collapse in the next couple of years and this somehow will prove the validity of the sharing model? I dont think so, MS will be around for a long time yet. If Microsoft survive and so well for a couple of years will Moglens theory of sharing then be proved false?
  • by transporter_ii (986545) * on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:41AM (#17185042) Homepage
    The laptop was developed under the motto:

    "Because information can save the world"
    I think that in America, there is a long history of beliving that education is our salvation. This was a very popular belief in the mid-1800s, and has continued on to this day. For instance, no matter how bad our schools do, we believe that giving them more money will fix the problem and save us.

    See this quote by Horace Mann:
    "the common school is the greatest discovery ever made by man: we repeat it, the common school is the greatest discovery ever made by man.. .Let the common school be expanded to its capabilities, let it be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged; men would walk more safely by day; every pillow would be more inviolable by night; property, life, and character held by a stronger tenure; all rational hopes respecting the future brightened." (Clarence Carson, A Basic History of the United States, vol. 3, p. 91).
    I think the Laptop program is just an extension of trying to "evangelize" our philosophy on the rest of the world.

    That said, however, I think the more people who can get around the controlled press with these devices, and blog and create their own content, the better off the world is. It's salvation...no.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
      I think that in America, there is a long history of beliving that education is our salvation

      And being the most powerful nation in the world somehow invalidates that sentiment?

      Education *is* the salvation, our very history is proof of that. But there is also a strong tradition of anti-intellectualism masquerading as anti-elitism in this country, and as our wealth encourages laziness and the expectation of success, that sentiment is now the stronger force. The failure of throwing money at a problem as a subst
    • >education is our salvation. This was a very popular belief in the mid-1800s

      1800s, and even earlier. The Massachussetts Education Act of 1647 established schools partly for fear of the results of ignorance.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Education has been valued for a lot longer than the US has existed, and it's got a really good track record.

      You seem to be confusing "throwing money" at schools that fail to educate and the value of education itself. Education can take many forms: it can be formal, in a school, apprenticing to a master or just gaining experience through working.
  • Genocide? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rydia (556444) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:48AM (#17185098)
    You know what stops genocide? Functioning governments with the ability to combat rogue elements within the country, or the diplomatic relations required to get help. Functioning militaries, headed by civilians and not career officers. Strict regulation of trade along with neoliberal economic policies to help ease countries out of depressive states. Ground-up education as both an educational and social tool to create civic awareness and consciousness.

    A bunch of laptops to some starving, poor, thirsty people who live in terror of their government or paramilitary groups the government can't control are going to do a whole freaking lot.

    Please.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      He seems to think that somehow giving everyone a video camera will solve genocide because it will be all over the news. Um, there was a lot of video of the Rwandan genocide and yet it went on. Ditto for Darfur etc. So I fail to see how more video would actually stop the genocide.

      Oh, and the potshot "that the government of the United States chooses to ignore" is complete bullshit. The world (as am I) is already mad enough at the US for intervening where it should not have, why would the rest of the w
    • When you say militaries headed by civilians, you mean an elected official like a secretary of defense, or do you mean civilians in the position of the generals. Deciding tactics and troop movements?
    • >You know what stops genocide? Functioning governments

      Considering cases such as the US government and the native Americans, the Soviet government and the Ukrainians, the Turkish government and the Armenians, and the example that's too hackneyed to mention, it seems that effective governments are a risk factor for genocide. Even the apparently anarchic Rwandan genocide started with government-sponsored pogroms.
  • First time I saw Eben Moglen in from-the-hawai shirt, I had no impression about he's a lawyer and also who's the one behind FSF's legal moves. Later on he started to talk about GPLv3 in a way that he's fighting with audience, then I had my first impression of his lawly background. And now with a suit. Luckily with pink shirt.
    • by rbarreira (836272)
      then I had my first impression of his lawly background. And now with a suit.

      One could almost call it a lawsuit?
  • first understand that we are all consumers and producers.
    With that in mind:

    "Consumer choice rules"

    And when the choice is not acceptable to the consumer, they put on their producer hat and make it for themselves and to share.

    That's OSS!!

    The essence why Richard Stallman wrote the GPL in the first place.
    He was unhappy what rights his employer, at the time, was claiming of his work.
    • He never left academia although his friends did. He created the GPL, FSF, and GNU because to get the source to a buggy printer driver he had to sign an NDA.
    • by westlake (615356)
      And when the choice is not acceptable to the consumer, they put on their producer hat and make it for themselves and to share.
      That's OSS!!

      when did the programmer become the consumer in any ordinary meaning of the word?

      programming is and will remain as alien a skill as brain surgery to the overwhelming majority of users. communication between the OSS programmer and the non-technical end user remains poor.

  • More from Moglen (Score:2, Informative)

    by Fiznarp (233)
    Moglen also spoke recently at the Sakai conference in Atlanta. He is representing the Sakai Foundation in their fight against Blackboard's software patent.

    He gave a keynote Wednesday morning and then appeared during lunch for a debate of sorts with Matthew Small, VP and General Counsel for Blackboard, Inc. It's quite entertaining, IMHO, especially if you have strong feelings about software patents.

    You can listen to the podcasts here (look at the Wednesday schedule, day 2 for download links):
    Conference Sch [sakaiproject.org]
  • Social Justice? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fatboy (6851) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @12:23PM (#17185342)
    I have issues with the concept of "Social Justice" (in this country, the USA). I can understand helping people in poverty. Having the government give them the training and tools to get out of poverty is something anyone can understand.

    That is not what I see when people speak of "Social Justice". I see them attempting to have an even distribution of wealth, by using the government as the enforcer of what is socially just.

    It does not seem fair. Those who sacrifice, save and work hard should be rewarded. Those who do not, should not.

    On a global scale, often, when I see the struggling indigenous people of wherever, they have placed restraints on their economy or their economy is a structured (ie planned) economy that has inefficiencies in it. These types of economies look like the economies proposed by those seeking "Social Justice".

    This is just a Sunday morning rant. As always, I could be wrong :)

    • by Soko (17987)
      It does not seem fair. Those who sacrifice, save and work hard should be rewarded. Those who do not, should not.

      I agree - hard work should be rewarded. I have no problem with people who start a company with a great idea and become very wealthy - I'm very glad for them when it happens. What irks me is that some horde their wealth and effectively take it out of circulation. The only reason anyone would want to hold on to over $1Billion (US) is for POWER, not living well.

      On a global scale, often, when I see th
      • by Etcetera (14711)

        What irks me is that some horde their wealth and effectively take it out of circulation. The only reason anyone would want to hold on to over $1Billion (US) is for POWER, not living well.

        Only an idiot would make $1 Billion and then stick it under their mattress. The way people with money make more money is to invest it. Even if they're putting it in one truly massive CD (heh), that's still money that's being used to give out loans, purchase capital, etc...

        The fact that they're not spending it on a daily bas
    • by PapayaSF (721268)

      You are correct to be suspicious of the term "social justice." Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek [wikipedia.org] demolished the concept in his book Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 2: The Mirage of Social Justice [amazon.com].

    • by Geof (153857) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @01:53PM (#17186112) Homepage

      This (from my transcription [geof.net]) is what he means by social justice:

      There is no moral justification for charging more for bread that costs nothing than the starving can pay.

      His vision has no government or other enforcer. It is realized due to a restructuring of economic production around products based on software which is free. Here is how he describes past efforts to achieve social justice:

      the greatest problem of human inequality is the extraordinary difficulty in prising wealth away from the rich to give it to the poor, without employing levels of coercion or violence which are themselves utterly corrosive to social progress. . . . We cannot make meaningful redistribution fast enough to maintain momentum politically without applying levels of coercion or violence which will destroy what we are attempting.

      An information economy based on free software, however, can be different:

      We find ourselves now in a very different place. . . . It's a place where the primary infrastructure is produced by sharing. The primary technology of production is unowned. . . . We have begun proving the fabric of a twenty-first century society which is egalitarian in its nature, and which is structured to produce for the common benefit more effectively than it can produced for private exclusive proprietary benefit. . . . a world in which the resources of the wealthy came to us, not because we coerced them, not because we demanded, not because we taxed, but because we shared. Even with them, sharing worked better than suing or coercing.

    • by mspohr (589790)
      You seem to fear that social justice will take away your stuff (wealth). It would be nice if you would act in the spirit of the enlightenment and willingly promote social justice to help your fellow man even when it might cost you something but most people do not do that. However, Moglen offers a "painless" path to social justice through FOSS.

      In fact, one of Moglen's main points (I listened to TFA) makes the point that FOSS can bring about social justice without having to resort to the conflict that inev

  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Sunday December 10, 2006 @12:24PM (#17185360) Homepage
    How ironic that the /. headline mentions "OSS" (open source software) yet Prof. Moglen is General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation; an organization that not only predates the Open Source Initiative (which coined the term "open source") by over a decade but has a different philosophy [gnu.org] which sometimes reaches different conclusions about what software is acceptable than the open source philosophy does. For the open source movement, running non-free software is okay (not that an open source proponent would call it that; the open source movement exists in part to not talk about software freedom at all). For a free software proponent, non-free software is avoided except when writing a free replacement for a non-free program. The difference in reaction to non-free software [fsfeurope.org] is quite striking.

    You can see how that plays out in this /. story: none of the formats this talk has been transcoded to can be played by all users with free software even though this could have been accomodated. Instead of including options free software users could use, we have a list of (what are for most users) non-free alternatives. MP3 is patent-encumbered in many countries, so citizens of those countries can't have free MP3 encoding or decoding software. The QuickTime container format can be free, but the codecs most often used with QuickTime are non-free. Flash can be played with free software but the free replacements aren't yet to the point of maturity where it can be used as a drop-in replacement (and even when the job is done, MP3 soundtracks on Flash video+audio files will pose a problem).

    The solution has been around for some time and works well: add Ogg Vorbis audio files and Ogg Theora+Vorbis video+audio files. These files can be played on all platforms and there are implementations which are free software for everyone.
    • If I condense those paragraphs down it appears that all you're really saying is that you would have liked the talk to be in Ogg format. Plenty of conversions on Google, but I do agree they ought to have thought of that - I guess they decided to get the word out first before converting...

      Joking aside, I'm not sure I believe in a conspiracy to snub Free Software. Whatever fork argument you use, I still think that both strands still share more ideas than they care to admit, only the way they approach the wor
      • No, that's not all I'm saying. I don't think it's fair to the topic to condense one's thoughts to sound bites (where one is inevitably constrained to repeating the same cliches which give power to the status quo).

        I appreciate it when open source minded hackers deliver free software to people, and I am grateful when open source advocates stand with the free software community pushing for no software patents and no DRM. We need more social solidarity to make better lives for ourselves, and I'm grateful that
    • I have to agree. I'd hope the Plone group would be "with-it" enough to realize the ethical conflict they've put themselves in by only releasing a video about freedom using proprietary codecs.

      While keeping in mind that 80%+ of Internet users have never heard of Ogg, a vast majority of the people listening to Moglen have & would highly prefer it. Besides, Vorbis is vastly superior quality to MP3.

  • I'm all in favor of the OLPC project. It's a great project, but it shouldn't be seen as a world savior either. OLPC is a project that will make a few Westerners feel good and will help a few thousand (or tens of thousands) people acquire the basics of computing, provided that they are in the right conditions to start with.

    But OLPC is not going to convince warring tribes that they should start loving their neighbors. It's not going to resolve hatreds and conflicts that have been raging for decades, if not l

  • by argoff (142580) * on Sunday December 10, 2006 @12:37PM (#17185462)
    One problem. For the longest time, we have already had more than enough food to feed the world. The primary problem of getting food to the poor was never a cost or distribution problem, it was a political and freedom problem. The fact that we have entered the information age with free software has not changed this problem. While society has advanced greatly in the sciences over the last 150 years. Society has gained nearly nothing in the advancement of freedom and liberty. The US constitution was the cutting edge of that, but has not increased our liberties and powers for a long time.

    Notice that how even though Linux is free, that the place that it is used the most is silicon valley - more than any other place in the world. A free market Mecca. Not Africa, not China, not India. That's because it's not about costs, but about freedom. And free markets are not about markets, but about freedom too and people taking advantage of it to create wealth and prosperity where none existed before.

    Contrary to what he said, the free market still has limits, but now the limit in supply and demand centers around services and not around content controls. The information age is doing for services what the industrial revolution did for production.
    • I agree -- food isn't the issue.

      more food = more people = more conflict.

      more food = less time working to make food, find food = more time to think = more conflict.

      Humans are wired for conflict, especially between the ages of 13 and 30.

      More children = more conflict.

      ---

      As long as we respect other people's rights to raise their children by teaching them other people are not human then the problem.

      Only by teaching their children different beliefs can we change their culture.

      I suppose the laptops might help in t
      • by argoff (142580) *

        I suppose the laptops might help in that regard- the children would see concepts they would otherwise not be exposed to.

        In 1960's China. Millions and millions of people were dying from starvation as the farms were not producing enough food. But, no amount of new farming tools was going to help it. No amount of charity was going to stop the massive death tolls. So what stopped it. Well, the farmers revolted and forced China to switch back to a private property system. The point is that people don't ne

  • stop the socialism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @12:44PM (#17185528) Homepage
    What does "social justice" have to do with open-source software? Or with closed source? Or with anything? Trying to justify cooperative or closed efforts based on what you think their benefit to mankind will be is off-point. The closed source software occurs because someone wants to make money. The cooperative effort exists because people want to volunteer their efforts. Using the government hammer on the people who want to make money because they're detrimental to society by "consuming money" is as smart as beating down the open-source people because they're "destroying the free market".
  • "What does Firefox have to do with social justice?" Dunno. Ask the Debian maintainers...
  • by oldmanmtn (33675) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @12:51PM (#17185594)
    Because what has really been holding back the third world all this time is the lack of source code to their C++ compilers.

    Open Source (or Free, or whatever the f*ck) software is fanstastic, but Jesus, can we have a little perspective please?
    • I think you're misunderstanding what he's saying about software as the "primary underlying commodity" of the 21st century. He's not suggesting that the third world should be developing software. Rather, he's saying that software is now an input to economic development in general. If a poor country is producing textiles, for example, they will need software in order to manage orders, inventory, designs, and so on.

      The parallel with steel in the 20th century is that you need steel to make cars. If you do

  • A friend in the free software community has transcribed this talk:http://plone.org/events/conferences/seattle-2 006/ [plone.org].

  • Maybe I didn't look hard enough but the only download-able format I found was QT. Why do this to us? Why not MPEG? Given the theme, I could understand if they wanted to make it available in Ogg, but QT? I can play MPEG with just about anything. Is there some sort of free codec pack that I could use (on Windows), rather then having to install another annoying proprietary player?
  • ...for not posting anything else for several hours so we all had a chance to watch the nearly hour long video.
  • Access to what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @02:05PM (#17186180)
    Is it really access to knowledge, or just access to more mind degenerating nonsense?

    Too much of what you find on the Internet is garbage. From the web page equivalents of open mike poetry nights at the local coffee house, to vacuumheads like 9/11 or moon landing conspiracy theorists, there's a lot of rubbish.

    Will the network spread truth and liberty, or will the lies just spread faster? Is it a tool of freedom, or a global generator of intelletual smog?

    Here's how you save the world:
    1. Global education with a solid core of scientific method, basic logic and critical thinking skills.
    2. Free access to all known forms off birth control.
    3. Bust up the organized religions. Seriously, we have GOT to wean humanity off that shit. It's like every problem in the world can be traced back to some religious text or another.
  • That speech does a great job of subverting all of the "social justice equals Communism" manure that has been spread.
  • Well, to give you a little perspective,one person, attending varsity on the tip of Africa, decided that there was a gap in the market for a paricular product...so he dropped out of varsity because he believed his idea would work....problem...he had no money.What happened? He and some of his friends started a compnay out of his parents garage...developing with OSS tools..python etc...and because these tools were free they were able to develop a workable and usable product..which a very well known US company

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