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Comment Re:On2 video patents (Score 1) 399

All it takes is for h.264 to infringe one patent that Goggle holds and they are stuffed. Google could then simply require for licensing their patent that any patents held by MPEG-LA against VP8 to not be enforced against any implementation of VP8.

This does seem like a potential approach that Google might take. After all, the licensing terms for the WebM codec seem to (IANAL) boil down to "You can use WebM completely freely, unless you sue us for IP infringement, in which case you lose your license to use our stuff". From the WebM license page:

Google hereby grants to You a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, no-charge, royalty-free, irrevocable (except as stated in this section) patent license to make, have made, use, offer to sell, sell, import, and otherwise transfer implementations of this specification where such license applies only to those patent claims, both currently owned by Google and acquired in the future, licensable by Google that are necessarily infringed by implementation of this specification. If You or your agent or exclusive licensee institute or order or agree to the institution of patent litigation against any entity (including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit) alleging that any implementation of this specification constitutes direct or contributory patent infringement, or inducement of patent infringement, then any rights granted to You under the License for this specification shall terminate as of the date such litigation is filed.

(The above text by Google from the WebM license page seems to be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License)

I'd be surprised if Google didn't have some expert IP lawyers working day and night on this issue, because it's definitely in Google's interest to have a free and open video codec out there. Let's conduct a thought experiment. Which would be more expensive for Google: paying MPEG-LA licensing fees for using all H.264 videos on YouTube, or capacity for a slightly-more-bandwidth-heavy VP8? (Bonus points: by how much?) Of course, this is besides the point: Google generally benefits from an open Internet, so I wouldn't be entirely surprised were this were just one of their general pushes in that direction.

Comment Re: 0.0001%? (Score 2, Insightful) 263

Commons has around 6.5 million media files.

Someone who did a run-through of one of the main categories for such images (and its subcategories) gave an estimate of around 67k sex-related images, or at least images categorized as such. Let's assume, for the sake of it, that we're only getting maybe two-thirds of our sex-related images through categorization, and guess that we have 100k such images. With that assumption, convert 0.1M/6.5M to percentage, and you get ~1.5%.

So with a relatively wild overestimate, we get a small quantity, but not a negligible one. We're looking at on the order of 1% of all images. Considering how much importance our society places on sex (whether to embrace it or to revile it), I'm surprised we don't see more.

I'm divided on the issue, though. It's easy to attack Wales as a censor, (and certainly he deserves some attack for the autocratic position he's taking) but there has been a lot of crap content uploaded to Wikimedia Commons that features nudity, and I agree that even if you support porn, there's plenty that ought to be deleted just because the quality is so low. For example, there's a template with boilerplate for telling people off for uploading penis pictures, because after receiving endless craptastic penis pictures (among, hopefully, some decent ones) there is no point in gathering more.

On the other hand, it's easy to attack porn. "Porn" is stigmatized because sexuality is so taboo in our culture. Calling a lot of the images here "porn" is misleading at best. Many of them may be sex-related, but aren't specifically "prurient" (e.g. anatomical images), and many more may be good examples under very particular educational domains, or particular subjects. The risk is that good images will be deleted, ones that do have redeeming value. But when attacking "porn", everything sounds all right, because suddenly one is taking a moral high road.

Sanger was trying to take a moral high road earlier, saying "OMG CHILD PORN" when there was nothing illegal about (certainly the FBI doesn't seem to care, so far). It's easy to attack something by labelling it as something widely reviled, because by labelling the problem as some such thing you change the focus of the argument. Anyone who says "well, is that actually porn/child porn/whatever?" can be labelled as supportive of porn/child porn/whatever, and the target is put on the defensive, because there is already a social acceptance of attacks on these things (whether that social acceptance is right or wrong—though certainly in the case of child porn it seems obviously right) and the attack merely consists of conflating the undesired idea with the target of the attack. It's fortunate that Sanger was so clumsy in his attempt, taking all-too-obvious pains to mention his (failing?) rival project and to publicize the letter, because through that we can recognize the obvious interest he has in making Wikipedia/Wikimedia out to be evil.

I'm inclined, for now, to let the campaign against "porn" on Commons go. Is it the best road? No, certainly not, because it's based on emotion, not particular objective criteria. But in the long run, an emphasis against poor-quality images portraying sex-related topics is probably a good thing: high-quality images should be preferred, and a strict limit lets the project take its own moral high ground against these sorts of "OMG PORN KILL IT WITH FIRE" discussions. Even if there's a huge purge today, there's always the potential to re-upload this stuff if it's worth the effort.

I don't want to take a particular stand either way on the definition of porn or whether it should be around, but what I urge is a rational consideration of the merits of either approach, without giving so much credence to purely emotive (or moralistic) arguments.

If there's any point I'd like to end with, it's that no solution will satisfy everyone. There will always be the purists who think that all porn is evil, and on the other side the purists who want to avoid all censorship, and every number of points of middle ground.

Disclosure: I'm a volunteer admin on Wikipedia (but *not* on Wikimedia Commons).

Comment Not just cancer! (Score 5, Informative) 260

From comments on TFA, "The Lab" writes: "a science editor would be more capable of pointing out what is really exciting here, which is the ability to stop cells from producing a given protein."

I think the cancer aspect is great (if it works) but this has potential for curing a whole host of diseases.

Now we just need to figure out how to change people's DNA on the fly.

Comment All very nice stuff, but... (Score 2, Interesting) 260

...in practice, do we have the technology to knock this gene out in humans? That's the key thing. Either you have to engineer every human to have the gene before birth, or you have to do a live fix. And a live fix has all sorts of complications.

Of course, I'm completely ignoring potential side effects. This is best if you imagine a drug for it being advertised: "Regrowitol may cause side effects including cancer, accessory limbs, mutation into evil lizard creature..."

We're living in the future, sure. But we don't have all the cheat codes for reality yet.

Comment Re:Step One (Score 1) 116

Or, in other words, [citation needed]. (also, is [citation needed] a meme when discussing Wikipedia? ) There's a wide variety of material that will result in reverts or blocks that isn't really vandalism, though. Behaviour that's disruptive, trolling, a breaching experiment, etc. will elicit roughly the same response as vandalism, and that needs to be taken into account both for automatic vandalism-repair systems (should this process treat it as vandalism?) and for making the statement that vandalism is ill-defined or that it's used for corrupt purposes. My guess is that some people are lumping the disruptive behaviour, etc. into "vandalism" when it really ought to be labelled "trolling" or some such—the response is the same, but the semantics *sigh* (Disclosure: I am an admin on Wikipedia.)

Submission + - Programmers Need To Learn Statistics (zedshaw.com) 2

David Gerard writes: "Zed Shaw writes an impassioned plea to programmers: Programmers Need To Learn Statistics Or I Will Kill Them All. "I go insane when I hear programmers talking about statistics like they know shit when it’s clearly obvious they do not. I’ve been studying it for years and years and still don’t think I know anything. This article is my call for all programmers to finally learn enough about statistics to at least know they don’t know shit. I have no idea why, but their confidence in their lacking knowledge is only surpassed by their lack of confidence in their personal appearance.""

Comment Re:Discussed this earlier with some peeps (Score 1) 412

Take into account, with the dumps, that they're aiming this at technophobes, the kind of people who'd think you were being rude if you told them to fsck their corrupt filesystem. A straightforward one-piece download that users don't have to mess with is exactly what these people need: it's probably more efficient than trying to educate them on using a more efficient diff-based method, and it certainly is far less fragile (technophobes can't troubleshoot). They'd be smart to offer torrent files for the advanced users (they'd save a ton of bandwidth that way) but for the average user, the ease of use of a single straight download is essentially unbeatable.

Comment Re:Project chantology (Score 1) 665

This means that Anonymous from Project chantology now has majority of Wiki admins.

Uh, no. It just means that Wikipedia admins are sick and tired of the bickering and abuse that Scientologists have added. Wikipedia also has occasional issues with Anonymous—it's fallacious to assume that there's a zero-sum game going on here.

Project Chanology is certainly worthwhile, but Wikipedia sets rules that Anonymous won't follow.

Comment Benefits and drawbacks (Score 1) 317

There are benefits and drawbacks to either answer to the question "Should Wikipedia be funded using advertising?".

If yes, the Wikimedia Foundation would have a huge surge in revenue. Donations could play second fiddle to the advertising money that would allow the Foundation enough money to pursue whatever enterprise it wanted, such as launching regular print (or otherwise physical, I imagine Blu-Ray or DVD being ideal) editions of Wikipedia, hosting those Wikipedia Academy events worldwide, or hiring more programmers to improve the MediaWiki software (debugging FlaggedRevs would be high priority). There would be enough money that could buy servers just for the capacity to enable features currently disabled on Wikipedia because of the current lack thereof, like integrated spellcheck, suggestions for search, and dynamic hit counters. With what Wikipedia has achieved on a tiny budget of a few million dollars (consider this relative to Google's billions upon billions), it could achieve so much more if we were to ratchet up the budget by a few orders of magnitude.

On the other hand, advertising can be seen as fundamentally degrading to the content - regardless of whether it actually influences the content, it will influence how the content is seen - content presented with ads beside it is somehow different from content that is simply presented. Visual, intuitive measures of trustworthiness decline when content is accompanied by ads, because there is a sense that someone is doing this for a particular purpose, that there is some sort of corporate motive behind what is presented. Wikipedians who cannot abide advertising beside their work would leave and either fork the project or abandon it; the sense that one's unpaid work earns money for another is frustrating to someone even if that other is merely a beneficent organization seeking to perpetuate that work. The mere suggestion of advertising caused one fork already - should advertising be raised again, the split in the community might be devastating. There is a reason that Wikipedia calls its members "Wikipedians" - a demonym - rather than "Wikipedists" or "members": the community is essential to the maintenance of the resource as a whole, and as one of them (an admin), I certainly know this on a first-hand basis.


If no, the Foundation does maintain some risk of financial trouble - it is expensive merely to maintain the servers and pay for bandwidth, and the database is huge. The risk is of the free content winking out into the dark, to be perpetuated merely by mirrors and forks - many of which (illegally) try to claim that the content is their own and copyrighted (rather than the GFDL under which Wikipedia content is licensed). The key thing is that what's been created is available for anyone - if you have the bandwidth and the time, you can download the database and start your own fork.

It's not completely a doom & gloom scenario yet - the planned $4.6 million budget drawn up included plans for growth, not merely maintenance. By keeping to the baseline, the budget could be successfully slashed.


Overall, it's a bit of drama - while the publicity will certainly be good in that not many people seem to realize that Wikipedia runs on a shoestring budget - the site's relatively professional look and feel, not to mention the lack of ads, would seem to suggest that Wikipedia isn't worried about money, that someone runs the site and people don't have to care.

People do have to care, because ultimately Wikimedia needs a pile of those funny green (or multi-colour, here in Canada) things from your wallet to keep running, to serve up billions of pageviews, to keep a lawyer and an accountant on staff, and those other necessary things.

Personally, if advertising came to Wikipedia, I'd not worry - I know intuitively that it's not about the money, it's about keeping the goodwill going out even if it's hard to get it to come in. I'd certainly be disappointed though: in an ideal situation, Wikipedia would have funding that would let it do the great things for which it has the potential, without having to sell its space and credibility for the money it needs to run. That we can continue our ideals for the moment is good; but we should never forget the baseline goal that's been set out.

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Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun