Archive for May, 2012

Software Freedom Conservancy Announces new Compliance Launch

Software Freedom Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit that provides a home and a broad range of services to Free Software projects, announced today a unified effort among many of its member projects to ensure compliance with their Free Software licenses. The effort brings together copyright holders, developers, and users of a variety of Conservancy’s projects — old and new — to ensure that the rights embodied in Free Software licenses are fully upheld for all developers, users, and the general public.

Details here

5 (five) Business Days

5 (five) Business Days

Some contracts have a style where any numbers which appear are repeated as words – “You must do this within 5 (five) Business Days”.  I really can’t see the point of this drafting.  Either the “5” and “five” are the same or they aren’t.  If they’re the same, the repetition is redundant.  If they aren’t  (“5 (fourteen) Business Days”), someone has made a mistake.   There is no way to tell which (in this example, of 5 and fourteen) is correct, so it simply makes a poor situation worse – having the wrong number in there is probably better than having the clause being void for uncertainty.

Rather than re-write numbers in words, just use one and take the time to check it properly.

More on AusGOAL lack of Understanding of Formats

More on AusGOAL lack of Understanding of Formats:

The AusGOAL’s statement on open formats is confused.  While the examples given are good, the criteria for identifying whether a format is open or not are of no use.  They say:

An open format is a specification for storing and manipulating content, that is usually maintained by a standards organisation.  In contrast, a proprietary format is usually maintained by a company, with a view to exploiting the format by incorporating it into other products they sell, such as software.

“Which is like, ‘no'”

The fact that a format is “usually maintained by a standards organisation” is hardly a useful criteria.  In that case, every ISO standard would be open, despite being subject to patent claims or permit the inclusion of unspecified binary blobs. The only good thing about this is that it hints at the fact that the standard must have some transparency to its creation.  Compare this to the US government’s description:

“An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information”

This, at least, says something about the format (“is” vs “usually”).

Assessing a format for openness is quite difficult.  I think the criteria should be focussed on the practical implications of the standard.  In particular, if it creates a gatekeeper that people wishing to implement the standard must go to for any reason at any time (eg for getting a reasonable, nondiscriminatory licence), then it is not open.  Other criteria, such as the transparency with which it is developed/maintained go not to whether it is open per se, but to whether it is advisable to adopt it.

Frankly, I think the best test  of whether a format is open or not is whether it has a free software implementation.  This, of course, is not a definition – an open format is still open immediately before the free software implementation is finished.  The existence of such an implementation implies that the rules of the format are now discernable from the code and that there is freedom to implement those rules.



Australian Government and Open Data: They just don’t get it

Australian Government and Open Data: They just don’t get it

Having a look through the AusGOAL site – you know, AusGOAL, the Australian Governments Open Access and Licensing Framework’–  to see what Australian Government is doing in the area.  Did you know that they have a video explaining open data and why it’s so important?

The video is here:

Guess what?

It doesn’t comply with their own guidelines.  When I go to that page I get a black box where the video should be, along with a message:

This video can’t be played with your current setup.
Please switch to a browser that provides native H.264 support or install Adobe Flash Player

Errr… here’s a video telling you how great open formats are but the video is in a closed format?? It’s not at all comforting to know that the very people charged with enabling open formats are using a closed format for their videos. There’s no reason H.264 video can’t be transcoded into an open format and offered (even offered as an alternative).

Knock me down with a feather!


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