April 29, 2004


I'm disgusted and angry at many things being done in the name of "security" these days. The more disgusting and angering, the less likely we'll ever know.
Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act

"It is remarkable that a gag provision in the Patriot Act kept the public in the dark about the mere fact that a constitutional challenge had been filed in court," Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said in a statement. "President Bush can talk about extending the life of the Patriot Act, but the ACLU is still gagged from discussing details of our challenge to it."

...The ACLU alleges that a section of the act is unconstitutional because it allows the FBI to request financial records and other documents from businesses without a warrant or judicial approval. The group also says such requests, known as "national security letters," are being used much more broadly than they were before the Patriot Act.

...The ACLU's complaint focuses on the use of national security letters to obtain information held by "electronic communication service providers."

What country is this, again?

Update 5/14: The ACLU press release was itself censored! "One paragraph described the type of information that FBI agents could request under the law, while another merely listed the briefing schedule in the case, according to court documents and the original news release... [the judge] ruled that the briefing schedule could be publicized, along with edited versions of other court filings. But the paragraph describing the information that can be sought remains absent." Un-frickin'-believable.

April 28, 2004


Via Tom Munnecke, this:

Consider... the 1962 outbreak of contagious laughter in Tanganyika. What began as an isolated fit of laughter (and sometimes crying) in a group of 12- to 18-year-old schoolgirls rapidly rose to epidemic proportions. Contagious laughter propagated from one individual to the next, eventually infecting adjacent communities. The epidemic was so severe that it required the closing of schools. It lasted for six months...

April 26, 2004

Work in progress

In our house, everywhere you turn, there's a stack of work to be done. There's a hole in the ceiling. Just right of that, there's a door with no trim. The door needs to be stained. Right of that, the kitchen's in a state of some disrepair. Every room in the house needs at least some redecoration -- paint stripping, drywall replacement, patching, painting -- and some (like the bathroom) are just horrible. Just thinking about all of this is a daunting task. Some of the biggest jobs need the professionals, but money's in short supply.

Down in the basement, I'm stripping paint and varnish from old doors and other bits of trim. Slow work, but as they say, perseverance is its own reward. Keep it moving.

I see plenty of parallels between home renovation and bug-fixing. My (long list of) bugs are mostly in the trim-and-paintjob end of the product; the architects and builders are doing a really great job of making the product just rock. Occasionally they re-plumb some of the infrastructure a little. Meanwhile I'm tracking down a couple of leaks, tidying up rough edges, and fixing some more longstanding issues too.

We're running a regular Beta refresh programme for V3, which is fun: there's at least one daily build, sometimes more, and every week or so one of the dailies is pulled out for beta distribution. So if you're upgrading regularly, you pretty much see things as they happen. Then, suddenly, one day it'll all be done, and we'll throw a party.

April 25, 2004

Wallow in it

Therapy, hereabouts, consists in spinning some ancient vinyl with the volume way up. Meddle, Surfers /Locust. Flux /Strive to Survive. It seems to work. Back with a renewed sense of purpose.

April 23, 2004

I might be wrong

It's so depressing. What am I doing here? Radiohead is exactly the right soundtrack but totally useless.

And this just feels like spinning plates
I'm living in cloud cuckoo land
I'm living in a country run by mendacious fruitcakes (and very few of the citizens seem to notice). Fixing bugs at 10pm (and hey - I earned 50% more three years ago, and that weren't no dotcom boom, it was a proper job). House is a mess - building work incomplete, piles of cruft everywhere (and there's no end in sight). Event the freakin' WiFi is flaking out.

Live on the edge of the universe, but right now, I do need to feel secure.

Bellevilleport in bloom

Last week I was in Pennsylvania: it was definitely springtime. But coming home to Massachusetts still felt like winter: brown grass, maybe the tiniest tips of crocuses. We're probably a couple of weeks behind them. After some rain, and some warm days, the flowers are out in Bellevilleport.

Belleville MA isn't on the maps: it's roughly the part of Newburyport between Atkinson Common and Cashman. There's a church with the name; and the Bresnahan school was the Belleville not so long ago. Nice town.

Bellevilleport is a little more obscure than that. I don't know its boundaries, but we're in the middle of it: several houses around here have plaques "Bellevilleport Historical Society". Ours doesn't: it's probably not old enough (or certainly not distinguished enough). It'd be interesting to find out who's behind that little effort.

Townland names, if cultivated, can last for centuries. In County Dublin (Fingal), we lived in Balcunnin - baile coinín, or "rabbit town". Nice, huh? We saw plenty of rabbits, too.

Now, just down the hill was Lughlochta Logo: Lusk, more notable for its traffic problems than the legendary maiden wooed by Cú Chulainn. But the names are recognisable, 1200 years after the stores were written down.

April 22, 2004

Suite75 rss

A new RSS reader for Groove, from Suite75. This looks really nice.

My wishlist so far: OPML import/export, easier rearranging of folders, RSS1.0 (but Atom support is already there). It's a very promising start.

delicious rss

Or, How to Sip a Firehose.

del.icio.us has a great feature: you can subscribe to RSS feeds from any "tag". Pick any word, there's likely something of interest to follow. So http://del.icio.us/rss/tag/odd, http://del.icio.us/rss/tag/useful, http://del.icio.us/rss/tag/useless...

You can subscribe to "users", too. A few on my list: sebpaquet, cshirky, Robin_Good.

April 19, 2004

The Present and Future of Work

Spend an hour watching this webcast: featuring a panel discussion with Tom Malone (MIT), Ray Ozzie (Groove), John Parkinson (CGEY), John Stenbit (DOD) and Chris Thomas (Intel).

Interesting discussions. Malone says:

I think we are now in the early stages of an increase in human freedom in business that may, in the long run, be as important to business as the transition to democracies was for governments... It's now possible for the first time in history to have the economic benefits of very large organizations - things like economies of scale - without giving up the human benefits of small ones.

April 16, 2004

Page 23

The Future of Work:But time after time, in place after place, our ancestors collectively chose to move to a larger, centralized organization, rather than maintain their freedom and remain isolated.

Here's what the meme suggests you do:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

April 12, 2004

Communication privacy

I think it came as quite a shock to realize that all his online communication could be intercepted. I didn't give him the full run-down on Echelon or Carnivore - let alone the murky world of stealth rootkits, Magic Lantern-type keyloggers, and whatever. A one-minute Ethereal demo was enough.

The context was one of those "political suicide for them if knowledge of their participation were known..." situations: instant messaging with friends who you might not want to be known to talk to very much. Y'know, like, girls?

Which beings me to another Groove blogpost, I suppose. Here's a communications system which I believe is as secure as we can make it. Everything is encrypted for storage and transportation. Peer communication decreases the role of centralized systems (the relays are just cloud-plus-queue). The tech marketing says: despite the FIPS and NIAP and MARC4 and AES and DH key-exchange and all the rest: "users hardly notice it". Complacency-immune. It's really true.

This security makes for some strange bedfellows. There are places I don't have the right to snoop, and there are places in the network where I will promise not to snoop even if I can. Everyone needs private spaces - kids, adults, business colleagues, political organizers; us. Some people and groups probably use that privacy for things you don't approve of. But that's OK - unless, say, they're agencies who should be accountable to us but refuse to be so.

On the ground

Robin Good has an interview with Sanjana Hattotuwa of Info-Share, who instigated a Groove-based environment for mediation in the Sri Lankan conflict resolution process. Some pointed barbs for the marketing folks here... although, I think, this is Groove's single most powerful case-study to date.

I'm sometimes ambivalent about the role of NGOs - see for example a critical recent article from Médecins Sans Frontières. Sri Lanka is different: the workspaces provide a deliberately neutral ground between opposing factions; as Robert says in a comment to Robin's article, "the cool, depersonalized nature of virtual space of any sort lends itself better to the rational articulation of stances, positions, and compromises". Hattotuwa makes a similar point: "because it would be political suicide for them if knowledge of their participation were known to their constituency before the groundwork was fully laid".

I'd like to reply directly to Robin's points that "I was curiouser to find out more was how Groove had been selected over other tools. Unfortunately we are not given to know much about this... it is hard for me to understand why this group chose to go the Groove way". Groove is an unusual toolset: it fosters a unique sort of enthusiasm, which I've seen in several forms over the past few years. The Groove business partners include several people and small companies -- PopG, Computact, and others; I'd probably include Cabezal in that list too -- who saw something special and simply invested everything in it. Yes, v2.5 is slow. Yes, it's still too difficult to build custom applications. But having experienced the hook, they (we) bet the farm.

For me, the hook was the decentralized synchronization model; everything else (architectural depth, extensibility, security, provenance) is gravy. For Hattotuwa, perhaps something similar: "There is no other software application that can match what Groove has to offer to teams of organisations and people involved in a peace building process anywhere in the world. In fact, the more difficult the topography of a region, the better suited Groove is to help in keeping teams in contact with each other". Reading more customer quotes, I'm sure you can see the same thing.

April 09, 2004

Collaborative Tools

EE Kim: A Manifesto for Collaborative Tools:

Consider a basic collaborative task: document-sharing. A number of applications (both commercial and open source) claim to solve the document-sharing problem, and yet, the predominant method for sharing files is to email them back and forth. This is the computational equivalent of sneakernet. If the tools that purport to solve this problem are good, why aren't we using them?    #

We see similar problems in other basic areas. I can walk into any meeting anywhere in the world with a piece of paper in hand, and I can be sure that people will be able to read it, mark it up, pass it around, and file it away. I can't say the same for electronic documents.

Worth reading the whole thing.

He's absolutely right about linking -- the attempts from Xanadu through HyTime, Groves and the XML InfoSet to build a universal addressibility framework -- and that we're not there yet.

April 01, 2004


Yesterday's news includes: Google to offer gigabyte of free email. Wonder if they'll index it?