flwyd: (spiral staircase to heaven)
[livejournal.com profile] brad et al's decision to build LiveJournal code as open source and let folks access the platform as an API helped content and connections formed on the site survive negative decisions made by the folks who would later lead the company. Defense against future management is a practice that deserves more consideration.

Edit, April 29, 2017: the new LiveJournal Terms of Service was introduced and enforced on April 3rd. I was really busy that week and the following, so I didn't have time to read it. On April 10th, without having accepted the terms, LiveJournal automatically billed me for a year's extension to my paid account. Regardless of whether charge-for-a-service-I-haven't-agreed-to is legal, it suggests that Sup Media didn't put a lot of thought into the user impact of the change. For a service that stores a lot of user content, it's imperative to inform users of changes in terms in advance so that they can consider the change and choose to export their content rather than be subject to the new terms. I think Google did an exemplary job of proactive "Our terms are changing" outreach a few years ago; LiveJournal could at least have sent everyone an email a month in advance.

Reading the terms themselves was a slightly surreal experience. I've read at least one hundred terms of service or end user license agreements. They're normally dry, unnecessarily long, and overbroad, but this is the first time I've read one that didn't seem like it was written by a native English speaker. The page ends with ATTENTION: this translation of the User Agreement is not a legally binding document. The original User Agreement, which is valid, is located at the following address: http://www.livejournal.com/legal/tos-ru.bml which adds further unease to the "I have to accept terms with which I disapprove in order to change my account settings to opt out of your service" situation. (To be fair, non-English speakers face a similar problem when agreeing to the terms of most major websites.)

Finally, I'm quite miffed that the new arrangement forces advertisements onto everyone's journals, even though "ad free" was the main feature I was paying for. After supporting the service financially for over ten years, I'll be discontinuing automatic payments and I don't plan to renew next April.

For anyone still reading my writings on LiveJournal, I'm hereby declaring that https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/ is the primary source for my blog. I'll continue crossposting for now, but who knows when that may break. Userpics will probably revert to a random smaller set once my paid subscription expires, too.
flwyd: (carmen sandiego)
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Over the Edge, the roleplaying game of surreal danger, Atlas Games is open sourcing the game's core rules as WaRP: Wanton Role-Playing System. The Open Game License is a popular "open source" license for role playing games, introduced by Wizards of the Coast when they released Dungeons & Dragons version 3.

Over the Edge has a very simple and flexible rule system that's designed to let you play any character you can imagine and tell any story you like. I've created Over the Edge characters as mundane as a mystical soup-makin' chef from New Orleans and as wacky as a sentient trench coat who psychically controls the person wearing him, questing for his lost wife (a fedora) and their two young boots. I've also wanted to play Count Von Count in a one shot :-)

Over the Edge is set in the imaginary island of Al Amarja. It's a place full of conspiracies and fringe science and street gangs and ancient mysteries. It's a great place to play, and the WaRP system can expand the playground to anywhere you can imagine. Space westerns? High fantasy? Regency romance? International thriller? Blaxploitation? Give it a go! And with the OGL rules, you can send all your players a link to a PDF so they can arrive at your house ready to play.
flwyd: (daemon tux hexley)
There's been a lot of noise in developer circles recently about Apple's new unusual iPhone developers agreement, particularly section 3.3.1. Briefly, Apple declared that you're not allowed to write iPhone/iPad/iPod software unless you use their tools to do it. Specifically, you're not allowed to write it using a level of abstraction that lets the application easily run on other devices like Androids, Windows Mobile phones, and BlackBerries.

A lot of people said this new change was targeted at Adobe, creators of Flash, a system for creating multimedia content that will work the same on any browser with their plugin installed. While the sorts of folks who comment loudly on this sort of thing have no love lost for Flash, being told how not to write software is a good way to rile up whole nests of developers.

Steve Jobs recently wrote an explanation of why he doesn't want Flash on the iPhone. He starts by painting Flash as a closed system -- Adobe controls the authoring tools and the play environment. He contrasts this with the open standards of HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript, the technologies at the front of most websites. The great thing about HTML is that anyone can create stuff in it and anyone can access it with a browser tailored to their device's peculiarities. So far, so good.

But then Jobs completely undermines his discussion of the openness of the web by saying the most important reason they don't want Flash is that they think the applications with the best user experiences were written to take advantage of everything the iPhone (or Mac or whatever) offers. He suggests that it's best for the users if all iPhone apps are developed using Apple's tools:
Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our deAvelopers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen.
In other words, you can stand directly on Apple's shoulders, but you'd better not stand on the shoulders of someone standing on Apple's shoulders. If some clever company invents a new way of writing really great apps, the only way iPhone users will get the benefit of that innovation is if Apple deigns to adopt it.

Yet when you visit a website on the iPad, Apple doesn't stop you because the site's designers didn't adhere to Apple's user interface guidelines or because they used a tool like GWT to make the JavaScript work for all browsers. So if somebody wants to write an app that can run on iPhones, Androids, BlackBerries, and who knows what else, their choices are to write it twice: once for the iPhone and once for everything else. Or they can take Steve Jobs's advice and write it once for the web and bypass Apple's restricted platform. If they do the latter, they don't have to wait in App Store limbo, they can include porn if they want, and Apple doesn't take a cut of their profits. What's the down side?

So which is it, Steve? Are open standards the key to a good development environment and a good software ecosystem? Or is a single company controlling the platform the way to go?

Personally, I'm happy with my Android device which allows you to stand on as many shoulders as you like. It's shoulders all the way down.

Open Source Salsa

Friday, March 13th, 2009 09:38 am
flwyd: (daemon tux hexley)
Someone should create a line of salsas with open-source recipes. The brand would be "GNU Mexican."
flwyd: (what would escher do)
Everybody Loves Eric Raymond: Referential Integrity

I recently added a bunch of comics from the Tapestry Comics feed list. You can see all the comics I read via LJ on my comics friends page. The one above is Everybody Loves Eric Raymond, [livejournal.com profile] lovesraymond. It's only likely to be funny to people who are into open source software, but most of the comics have links explaining the references.

I created [livejournal.com profile] aproposomething which changes the captions on old superhero comics (among other blog postings). Their RSS feed was pretty long, so about half of the page linked above is that backlog.

Other comics I'd like to highlight:
[livejournal.com profile] sfhamlet Stick Figure Hamlet (they're currently wrapping up the play-within-a-play scene)
[livejournal.com profile] catandgirl Cat and Girl
[livejournal.com profile] wondermark_rss Wondermark
[livejournal.com profile] dieselsweet Diesel Sweeties (web version and print version)
[livejournal.com profile] xkcd_rss XKCD
[livejournal.com profile] redmeat_rss Red Meat

Cat and Girl: What We Do is Secret

Late Pun

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007 06:04 pm
flwyd: (daemon tux hexley)
Quite a few people have already thought of the phrase "Open Sourcerer." But I still like it
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
[Transparent Ribbon for Government Accountability]At the Denver Women's Chorus concert all the singers wore awareness ribbons of varying colors. Looking through the program, my thoughts immediately explored the question "What ribbon would I wear if I were in the women's chorus?" My favorite colors are iridescent blue, transparent, and reflective. (I may not be sexually queer, but I've got some pretty queer preferences.) What might a transparent ribbon stand for? Government accountability!

In an energetic mood tonight, I sat down with MacGIMP and a GNU FDL SVG black ribbon graphic. After a few hours of tinkering, I came up with a few versions I like, shown below. I'm soliciting reader feedback. Is the text clear? Are there effects I should consider? Do you like the overlay or side text better? Is the icon (above) readable? You can view this in your journal style instead of mine if you have a color scheme without a white background. (I tested the text over black, white, and several garish 16-bit colors.)

After I've incorporated feedback, I'll post the .xcf files, write a few paragraphs about why government transparency is important, and encourage its copyleft spread. Until I've had a chance to give it a first go around, though, I request that you link to this post rather than the images directly. I'll update this post and make a new one when I feel the ribbon is ready to take flight.

The images (~160KB) )
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