April 29, 2004

Minutia

  • Its tax time. My taxes are done. With over 24 hours to spare. This must be a new record.
  • The leafers won last night. Possibly the best game they have played in the playoffs. Up until this point they just didn't seem to care. Based on what I've seen on the ice thus far, I'm surprised they are still in the playoffs.
  • Don Cherry might get the ax from coaches corner. If he does - I expect the response will be the same as when they tried to ax Ron MacLean.
  • I don't have a single interesting thing to say about anything - I'm surprised I even bothered with a post today
  • andre

    Posted by andre at 09:19 AM

April 27, 2004

Intellectual Property Abuse

Seems like every day there is another IP case. Some patent holder is suing someone (anyone) over infringement. Some copyright holder is claiming ownership of something and suing someone for not paying royalties. Some Trade Mark holder is busting everyone's balls for some other infringement.

Why? In some cases its a genuine desire to protect some intellectual property. In some cases to protect against some crook stealing a phrase, process, or trade name.

However - more and more cases have nothing to do with going after crooks. The latest wave of litigation is all about going after honest people that have unknowingly infringed on something that as far as everyone knew was fair game.

While researching categorization schemes I ran across a story about the owners of the Dewey Decimal System trademark suing a new york Theme hotel for advertising that each floor had rooms with themes that coresponded to Dewey Decimal Category Numbers.

The record industry has also been busy suing 12 year old girls for downloading the theme songs to their favourite TV shows.

And, in the Linux community there is a stink over SCO's claim that several lines of its code had been released into the open source community - and that anyone that uses linux that includes that code should be paying SCO licensing fees.

Now there is a story that a patent holder is suing just about everyone on the planet for a patent infringement of image compression. Yup - anyone that has software that compresses an image (say in JPEG format) - is supposed to pay them for the right to do it. More on this story about scum sucking JPEG nazi's here

And a while back the folks behind GIF image compression also insisted that people pay to use their technology and name.

Well fuck me. Its not that the IP holders don't have a case - I'm sure as the law is read they do have a case. But I'm pretty sure this wasn't the spirit of the law.

Its gotten to the point that Venture Capitalists are seeking out patent holders and willing to put up the money to defend their patents. And why not - its a lucrative business . And with the number of IP laws being passed in the US its making it easier and easier to win these cases. The people in the JPEG case said they had $90Million dollars in revenue last year - mostly from a case settled with Sony.

Its virtually free money. Why wouldn't a VC put up a couple of million to file suit against everyone and their brother for a piece of the pie? All of a sudden companies that were virtually bankrupt now have hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues. Not because the company made anything - but because after everyone else did that hard work of expanding an idea (process) which was previously freely available, and established a standard based on the "FREENESS" of that idea (process) - the owner of the idea (process) came back and said "You know what - now that you've done the hard work of establishing a standard - we want to get paid for something we didn't value before it became a standard."

Follow me?

But at least in the SCO case against the Linux world - the VC that are behind them have told them to shape up - because they aren't too fond of the bad press the case has been getting. See this article .

But even if they were to pull their funding, I'm sure someone else would pony up the cash to try and make a buck off of a still unproven case.

We live in a distopic world. Sue we've got it better than most people on the planet - but at what cost? The things that make our part of the world great - (e.g. the rule of law, the freedom to prosper from hard work etc.) also make our part of the world miserable since these great things are so often abused.

Blah - I wish everyone could just play nice and be fair. I wish everone could get some perspective.

Dewey as a trademark is not hurt by a hotel saying that its rooms fit the dewey decimal categorization scheme.

The record industry won't be crippled by kids that like to play the theme to "happy days" on their computer.

JPEG became a standard because it was freely available to use - and data compression is not a unique process that should be owned by anyone.

If you snooze you lose - the Jeni is out of the bottle - if SCO had a problem with the source code they should have said something long before the world made uncountable number of dirivitive works based on it.

Okay - enough of the rant.

andre

p.s. the contents of this article "intellectual property abuse" is hereby released to the public domain. Feel free to distribute it - make derivitive works based on it - profit from it - print it on toilet paper and wipe your nose with it - whatever. If you want karmic brownie points give me some credit or send me a couple of bucks for my trouble - but you don't have to.

Posted by andre at 02:58 AM

April 23, 2004

Log File Analyser

I have been looking for a log file analyser for a while now.

I wanted something that - well... gives me every bit of information on traffic to my sites. Including DNS lookups - and Search Engine stats (query strings, bot visits etc.).

And I was looking for something cheap.

I think I've found my tool of choice. Its not pretty - Its not easy to use - but it is everything I was looking for - and its FREE.

Analog

The site says "The most popular logfile analyser in the world"... I don't know about that - but it sure does the trick.

Its UGLY - the configuration is brutal - but there is good news - its an open source project and a lot of people have developed some helper apps to make your life easier. And there are nice folks out there that have taken it upon themselves to write specialized configuration files for search engine tracking and other tasks that might seem monumental ifyou were to do them yourself using the notepad and the documentation alone.

The website has links to all the helper stuff.

Spread the word -

You can also find them on sourceforge.net.

Maybe because the project is so mature nobody talks about it -
Maybe its the best kept secret on the net....

I've been searching for ages for something like this - and i've never seen it come up in a google search before for terms like web log analyser - or web analytics - or anything... Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough... Maybe these guys just don't like to toot their own horns... Who knows... But I've found it now and I couldn't be happier.

andre

p.s. did i mention that it was OS independent - and it could run right on your web server...

Posted by andre at 03:25 AM

April 21, 2004

Fire Fox

Pretty:

fire fox logo

Go get it.

andre

Posted by andre at 03:44 AM

More Categorization

I was doing some last minute research for my interview - and I hit the strategis web site. For those of you that don't know Strategis is your one stop shopping for Canadian industry statistics. Its an entrepreneurs goldmine of information.

The breadth and depth of the information is quite overwhelming. But they do a pretty good job of organizing information. It takes a while to find things - but they have implemented a categorization scheme.

Its the NAICS or North American Industry Classification System which looks something like this.

11 Forestry
21 Mining and oil and gas extraction
22 Utilities
23 Construction
31–33 Manufacturing
41 Wholesale trade
44–45 Retail trade
48–49 Transportation and warehousing
51 Information and cultural industries
52 Finance and insurance
53 Real estate and rental and leasing
54 Professional, scientific and technical services
55 Management of companies and enterprises
56 Administration, support, waste management and remediation services
61 Educational services
62 Health care and social assistance
71 Arts, entertainment and recreation
72 Accommodation and food services
81 Other services (excluding public administration)
91 Public administration

Its yet another decimal based categorization scheme. Each of these major sectors is further broken down. e.g. 7111-Performing Arts Companies or 7113-Promoters (Presenters) of Performing Arts, Sports and Similar Events

More info on deciding where a company fits into the category here

Why do I bring it up. Just because its another piece to the puzzle of categorizing content on the web. This scheme could be folded into another scheme or could be used all on its own. Something to think about.

andre

Posted by andre at 01:56 AM

April 20, 2004

Conincidences

Well, tomorrow is the day I actually make my final pitch to the SEB program.

I had a number of meetings in the past week discussing this project and others and I have been swamped with work. Not only professional development - but mundane stuff like painting my living room. (not a picture of my living room - just slapping a fresh coat of paint on the walls - a new look for 2004).

On top of all this - its also hockey playoff season. The maple leafs play game 7 tonight in Toronto. I would like to see them move on in the playoffs - but the games take up my time - so I might get more done if they lose. (Don't tell the leafs I said that).

So - what is the point of today's blog. I discovered after blogging about categorization schemes that there is a lot of interest in the topic. A couple of people actually posted comments on my ideas. Then during my meetings - the topic seemed to come up a few times. I'll actually be meeting with a few people to discuss the topic further.

It seems that everyone has their own killer app for a standard categorization scheme. Some are working on knowledge management programs. Others are looking for ways to organize content on their websites (internal links vs. external).

I think I will be building my own database of categories with decimal number equivalents. I will call it the AMDS - the andre molnar decimal system. Its as good as any other name - and if it catches on it might get my name out there. I don't care a bit about attainting some sort of celebrity status - but I figure in the long run people will be more willing to give me their money (and more of it) if they know my name.

Once I have the database - I can finally finish my itty bitty program that has lead me down this path.

andre

Posted by andre at 03:38 PM

April 14, 2004

Meetings Meetings Meetings

As some of you may know I am in the process of starting my own business. And the government of Canada is keen on people starting their own thing - so through HRDC they have a Self Employment Benefit (SEB) Program.

I am in the process of re-applying.

My first attempt failed because I was not specific enough about what I wanted to do. I explained to them that I was a web application developer and I needed help establishing my own web-development company. I told them about niche markets that I hoped to cater to. I told them that I had all the knowledge and experience and a complete understanding of the industry and treds within the industry. I even mentioned a specific niche market that I hoped to cater to as an example.

I didn't want to be too specific for fear that it would sound as if I was a one trick pony. I also didn't want to be too broad for fear they thought I lacked focus and had no idea what I wanted to do.

In the end I chose to pitch my idea somewhere down the middle.

Turns out I should have been more specific.

I was praised for my abillity to present myself and my ideas in a clear fashion. I was told that it was clear that I knew what I was talking about. But, they wanted me to refine my plan and try again. Irony of ironies - they told me they liked the one specific example I had used and that I should tell them more about that the next time I applied.

So now I am refining my pitch and doing some legwork to see if there is support for my idea in the community... i.e. If I go ahead with this business plan are there actually any customers - can I make a buck.

What's the plan?

Wouldn't you like to know.

Ultimately I want to sell my services. I also want to combine my interest in visual arts and my interest in web technologies. Finally, I want to do something for my community - specifically the visual arts community.

I'll blog more on the specifics later as things come together.

So - like I said I have been refining my pitch and I have arranged a few meetings with some local art groups to discuss my idea. I have two of them tormorrow and the possiblity of more later in the week.

I also have some other projects that I am working on through NewPath Consulting. Those projects also require me to have a couple of meetings early next week.

Plus - my web categorization project looks like it will spawn another meeting in the near future.

Long story short - I've got meetings coming out the Wazzzzooo.

I can't tell if this means I am becoming more successful or whether it means that I'm getting good at arranging meetings.

andre

Posted by andre at 04:20 AM

April 07, 2004

Web Catigorization Scheme

One thing that the web can't seem to agree on is how to categorize its contents.

I've been building a fairly straight forward link management system. The plan was to build an application that could easily be integrated into a simple site, blog, or complex content management system: OR it could stand alone. I wanted a way to add, delete and edit links. I also wanted to be able to place those links into categories (not unlike yahoo or dmoz).

The first part of this application is done: I can add, delete, edit links.

The second part: the category manager, is designed (on paper). i.e. the logic is sorted out and the interface is sketched BUT I seem to have hit a roadblock.

At first I thought I would simply create an ad-hoc hierarchical category scheme. A way for users to name their own categories and decide where to place the links within their own categorization scheme. But, after thinking about that for a while I realized that it might not be the best approach. I wanted something a little more robust. What if people wanted to share their link databases? What if people wanted to compare link databases? If everyone uses their own ad-hoc link categories, the application wouldn't lend itself well to sharing of information.

So I thought I would try a different approach. I figured that I would simply find the most standard/universal categorization scheme used on the web and build my app based on that. That way, users of the application could easily share thier work with others and be fairly sure that their categorization schemes would be compatible.

The problem is that there isn't a standard/universal categorization scheme for the web.

WHAT!?!

That's what I said.

You see everyone seems to have a different idea of how the web should be categorized. Yahoo came up with thier own scheme. DMOZ came up with their own scheme. And everyone else came up with their own schemes.

While many of them are similar - they aren't based on any one standard way of categorizing information.

Then I thought - surely people would have looked to library science - Dewey came up with a scheme over 100 years ago and its still used all over the world today. Hasn't someone ported that to the web yet?

The answer is yes and no. Dewy Decimal Categorization (DDC) is often talked about - and looked to - but rarely implemented. One of the reasons is that its not in the public domain.... WHAT?!!?

That's what I said. DDC is controlled by a group and in order to use it you must pay a licensing fee. For that fee you get the right to use the name Dewey. You also get access to anual updates of the categories and corresponding numbers.

But didn't dewy die like a million years ago?

That's what I said.

He did - and technically you can use the scheme without paying a fee - but you can only use or make a derivitive work from a version that is 80 years old. Any updates or changes or advances in the system that have been made since then are covered under new copyrights and trademarks and (I would bet) patents.

Okay - so there must be some sort of alternative.

UDC - universal decimal categorization. Based on Dewey - its a more flexible more (duh) universal system with different rules on how to add contents to categories. But it too is only available for a fee.

Okay - so why not use something like DMOZ or Yahoo as the basis. Because they are ad-hoc systems and can change without notice. Categories get added, changed or dropped on a regular basis. Its not reliable. Its not standardized. Its not practicle.

So what are people doing about it.

Well - there is a large movement to creating a semantic web. The logic is that if people mark up their content with good descriptive meta data - the web organizes itself. The categories are self evident. The content itself tells you what it is. This allows you to organize the web any way you like. Everything can be sorted by the different facets that describe the content.

GREAT! But who decides how to describe the data? Who decides what constitues good meta data? Who decides how to mark up your data?

Right back at square one. Everyone could technically come up with their own metadata schemes and apply them to individual documents (links). Or everyone could come up with their own automated way of extracting meta data from documents (like search engines do).

Thankfully there are some standards emerging. RDF and Dublin Core are leading the pack. In fact they have been adopted by tons of people in the business of sorting massive libraries of files distributed across heterogenious internal networks and differnt machine types.

RDF describe how you mark up the documents. Dublin Core describes the language you should use.

Problem is that we are a long way off from a time when your typical web user is going publish anything that complies to these standards.

Okay so now what.

Well - there is still a lot of people that think that there is room for categorization based on schemes like DDC or UDC or whatever. After all, can't you have a hybrid of both. Neither one gets in the way of the other. In fact they are quite complimentary.

And until the next generation of the web with robust meta data is available - links can still be organized by a standard categorization scheme. And as the technology advances to automatically mark up docuemtns with robust meta data - it will certainly make it easier to do so as the categories themselves are a form of meta data. (i.e. part of the job will already be done).

Okay - so what am I supposed to do. I'm still searching - because I have to believe that there is an open source dirivitive version of DDC or UDC floating around on the web. There has got to be a database that exists that can be used as a starting point.

I refuse to re-invent the wheel. Library science has been at this categorization thing for a long time. Why should I be so vain as to think i can come up with something better on my own?

Next step: While thinking about all this and going down this path of zen learning, I've realized that there is a killer app for what I am doing. Think of it as a distributed DMOZ. An open source directory of the web based on a standerdized categorization scheme. Everyone is allowed to be an editor - but the democratic nature of the web would decide who's link collections get added to their own - and who's get excluded.

Every person that would use this link managment tool automatically provides and RSS feed of their link collection. Anyone can download anyone elses link collection and integrate it with their own if they like. Or you can simply browse a collection of link collections from a central point. Or whatever. The options are limitless.

I will add supporting links to this document and fix up the spelling errors later - but I thought I would publish this now.

Anyone want to help with this project?

andre

Posted by andre at 07:28 AM

April 04, 2004

Copyright Canada

God keep our land glorius and free.

These words are right there in the Canadian national anthem.

And God's apparently been doing a good job of keeping Canadians free of the legal wranglings of copyright holders. In a recent court decision, Canadian Justice Konrad von Finckenstein ruled that P2P file sharing is not illegal. He compared P2P file sharing technology to a photocopier in a library.

Essentially he said there is nothing wrong with a person who puts thier own personal music collection on their computer even if it is in a shared directory. Just because the music is shared does not imply granting the right to download or constitute an act of distribution.

There are a thousand articles about this decision floating around the net right now... but you can read the decision yourself (paragrahs 25-28 are good reading)

But NOW the heritage minister of Canada Hon. Hélène Scherrer, has been quoted as saying that Canada will amend the law to make it illegal to download music from the internet.

So I wrote her a letter. (I also sent one to my own MP and all the NDP MPs.) It goes something like this:

Good day Hélène Scherrer,

A recent report has quoted you (Hélène Scherrer) as saying that Canadian copyright law would be changed to make the download of copyrighted material illegal.

I strongly urge your ministry's to reconsider any proposed changes to Canadian copyright law.

As the law stands today it strikes a perfect balance between the protection of intellectual rights and the rights of individuals to access the intellectual property of others.

In the recent court decision by Justice Konrad von Finckenstein, he compared P2P (peer to peer) file sharing to a photocopier in a public library. I believe that his analogy is 100% correct. Technology itself does not encourage or imply the right to copy material that is protected. The Canadian supreme court has also ruled recently that simply providing the means to create an illegal copy is not an infringement. Please understand that the internet is simply a collection of technologies.

It is clear that the law must protect the rights of content producers, but not at the expense of depriving Canadians access to the knowledge and the whole body of intellectual work.

The concept of fair use is not new to Canadian copyright law. Part VIII paragraph/section 80 of the current Copyright act clearly outlines what constitutes copyright infringement and what does not (when dealing with music). To make a change to the act that is contrary to this section removes the protection of fair use. It is a slippery slope. Changes to the act, if not carefully worded, could result in a society where the intellectual property rights outweigh the rights of individuals to access information. This goes against the spirit of Copyright law. It is also goes against the spirit of shared knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge.

I believe it is the job of government to protect the common good; and to protect the rights of Canadians to pursue knowledge and to use that knowledge to become productive members of society. I also believe that the current Canadian Copyright Act does this while at the same time protects intellectual property rights.

It is not the job of government to protect corporate interests at the expense of individual Canadian's rights.

If you believe in a society that encourages the acquisition of knowledge you must think twice before before amending the copyright act.

One must ask - if something is not broken, then why fix it?

Andre Molnar
Technology Consultant - Intellectual Property Right Holder - Copyright Holder.

***

I encourage you to send your own version of this letter to your own MP before copyright law bars any fair use.

andre

Posted by andre at 07:23 PM