Read This Book: “The Windup Girl”

Cover image for The Wondup GirlPaolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, one of the most compelling and thought-provoking books I’ve read in a long time, was awarded Best Novel in the 2010 Hugo awards.

It’s about gene hacking, corporate warfare, energy, and personal loyalty set in a not-too-distant future Bangkok.  Highly recommended.  This one is worth your time.

Click for the full list of this year’s Hugo Award winners.

Goals of the DataPortability.org TOS/EULA Working Group

One of the projects I am involved with is the EULA and TOS working group of dataportability.org. This is some interesting stuff, and I’d like to take a minute to discuss what we’re trying to accomplish and why we think it’s important.

If you were to attend one of our meetings (every other Wednesday at 20:00 UTC), you’d hear that we frequently invoke the Creative Commons. To my eyes, the CC performed two services (both equally important).  The most visible was the legal documents, but what I think is often overlooked is how brilliantly they framed the conversation.  They provided the terms and concepts that allowed the conversation to take place.  With the CC, it was possible for users to quickly determine what their expectations of the service provider were, and what the service provider expected of them in return.  Previously, a user had to understand the specific terms of each site independently.  The CC made it possible for users to quickly evaluate the terms offered by a site, know whether they were in compliance, and determine whether they wanted to take part.

This is, more or less, what we want to provide for Data Portability.  Our ultimate goal is a set of legal “modules” that can inform or be included in TOS and EULA documents.  That’s a way off, though, as right now we’re working through the terms and concepts that will help people understand what they’re agreeing can be done with their data.

It’s a sprawling topic, and touches questions of identity, privacy, individual control, and property.  Our hope is to provide the conceptual tools that help people understand the decisions they’re making when they sign up to a service.

There must be something pretty cool going on in there

On April 24, 2005, Heavy Trash volunteers deposited bright
orange viewing platforms in front of three Los Angeles gated
communities; Brentwood Circle, Park La Brea and Laughlin Park. The
purpose of these viewing platforms is to draw attention to the
phenomenon of gated communities — the fastest growing form of housing
in the United States. “There are now more than 1 million homes behind
such walls in the greater Los Angeles area alone,” according to Setha
Low, a professor at the City University of New York.

heavytrash

heavytrash.jpg

[this one was sent by our old friend DJStinkyMonkey. Welcome back, stink!]